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❚ shadow ❚ archetypes ❚ individuality ❚ spirituality ✱ Robert A. Johnson

Faust, an encounter with the shadow

Goethe’s Faust, picks up where Hamlet lost the battle and takes us on to that higher consciousness often called redemption.

… guide to lead us out of the morass of the three-dimensional man’s self-consciousness to the enlightenment of the four-dimensional man … from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)

This wager in heaven (play begins with a wager between devil and God) is the prototype of the wager made between Faust and Mephistopheles a little later in the play … this split between the ego (Faust) and the shadow (Mephistopheles, the black poodle, a symbol of his shadow,) is an archetypal reality and is not just local in origin with individual man.

Goethe once commented that if a man raises his head to the stars, then the clouds play with his feet. When one’s “reality function” — the “feet-on-the-ground” ability — is threatened, an encounter with the dark side is the corrective.

The shadow consists of those aspects of your character that belong to you but that have not been given any conscious place in your life.

We are conditioned to think (the conscious hope) that a great vision will bring angelic experience, creativity, delight (peace, love); it does, but its most salient effect is to constellate the shadow! … it is the shadow that brings the energy to live as a human being. Assimilating one’s shadow is the art of catching up on those facets of life that have not been lived out adequately. Wholeness implies that we must find those parts of ourself that are missing in life.

Faust has a shadow now (moment when the black poodle enters his study) through which God can touch him and redeem him! This truth cuts so strongly through our sentimentalized thoughts about goodness and redemption that many people flatly refuse to believe it and automatically stunt their spiritual development for the rest of their lives.