[Religious Types 6] Fate

19 04 2012

[Previous Post in the Series]

As we turn to examine the operation of fate on its own terms, we need to take care to maintain its proper character. It is tempting to describe it as the inverse of the system of destiny, but this is wrongheaded. Whereas destiny is a system of growth and development, fate is a pattern of limitation and differentiation.

Up to this point, operating from the perspective of our self-identity and agency, we have viewed the shadow functions primarily as the underdeveloped yet insistent dimensions of our consciousness; this is often how they are experienced. This is not all they are, though. From a different angle, they appear as the manifestation in our consciousness of the world beyond our conscious understanding.

Pause on that last bit. Think about the world, then think about yourself. That should be humbling. No matter how great our faculties, they are dwarfed by the breadth, depth, and complexity of the world beyond us. The shadow functions are the trace of this awareness on our consciousness.

Over the course of our lives, we encounter events which limit and confine us, impressing upon us that we lack the capacity to do something. Some of these moments will have a significant impact on how we develop consciously, discouraging us from using one function and thus encouraging us to make use of another function. This is the other side of capacity and opportunity.

The pattern of those encounters comes to define our shadow functions, such that they, too, take on a character of their own. While we tend to conceptualize this character as our own, a ‘weakness’ in us, it has another face as the strength of the world.

From the perspective of fate, the low valuation we place on the shadow function is the result of a willful denial and displacement. We project our sense of inadequacy before life, the universe, and everything, onto our shadow function so that we may similarly displace our despair. While this is easier to grasp when we look at how others behave, we can usually achieve some degree of awareness of this in ourselves as well.

We often pull away from this perspective because it seems bleak and doom-ridden. This is because we do not take the effort far enough. The limitations of fate have a profoundly constructive dimension, too. We owe the character of our conscious life to these limitations. That life is very real and engaging, even if focused on an incredibly small set of objects.

If we want to play with the metaphor of sun and shadow a bit, we could say that the shadow function develops more by the shadow the world casts on our sense of agency, than by the after-image of our agency in our own narrow sphere. The shadow function as I have described it in the previous posts, is one shadow cast atop another, more encompassing shadow.

The shadow functions mediate between our conscious experience and our sense of the immense world beyond. As our experience with the the shadow functions deepen, so to does our sense of the world’s complexity and depth. The more fully we appreciate that joint, the more fully we are changed.

It is on this point that I want to remind the reader of Jung and Dick, whose work initiated this series of posts. The struggles we find in their private writings bear all the signs of being a struggle with their shadow functions. They are overwhelming, powerful, spurred by direct encounters with the failure of their own capacity to realize their goals and desires. Through their work with their shadow function, they find solace and strength. At the same time, they both treated their encounters as personal, constraining themselves from a still deeper engagement.

Over the next several posts, I am going to discuss the shadow functions in more detail, with the goal of providing some sense of what a deeper engagement might have looked like, as well as a better sense of what prevented them from achieving it.

[Next Post in the Series: Shadow Functions in Light of Fate]

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