Excerpts from


Christ in the Shadow: The Light That Shines in the Darkness

Edited by Rosamond Bailey, Amy Bodman, Thayer Cluett, Marjorie Seguin






Persona And Shadow

by Thayer Cluett

... Like the human personality, Christ's personality also has two opposite aspects, persona and shadow. Christ's persona is the aspect which is acknowledged by orthodoxy and tradition. Christ's shadow has not been acknowledged. Yet it contains a great and untamed power - the spirit of religious renewal. Both destructive and creative, both destabilizing and eternally grounded in truth, Christ's shadow is the driving force behind Christianity's continuous moral regeneration. It holds the seeds of Christianity's full potential.

And just as the personal shadow erupts, often brutally, into our lives, forcing us out of habit, stasis and outgrown attitudes, so too, when Christianity has lost its vitality, we can expect the eruption into our world of the shadow of Christ. It is erupting in the world now when change is needed.

As Christians, we must have a discriminating, yet reverent and hopeful attitude to the often shocking eruptions of Christ’s shadow, just as we must have a respectful attitude to the rough and untamed impulses of the personal shadow. For Christians, the work of seeing a redemptive power in Christ’s shadow is the cornerstone of a new relationship to Christ.

When we pay attention to Christ’s shadow, we can hear Christ speaking to us in a variety of ways. He speaks from within us through disturbing dreams, through sudden, surprising impulses, and through seemingly inexplicable periods of inertia and depression. And he speaks to us from outside of ourselves, through emotional outbursts in our family or community, through unexpected and often disruptive events in our lives and through significant and wondrous events in the world of nature.

Thus Christ’s shadow has a voice that speaks in a language that transcends ordinary language. Speaking within us and around us, the voice of Christ in the shadow is the Word that all of us can understand, if we have ears to hear it. It is the light that shines in the darknes.



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Except It Die

by Rosamond Bailey

...The Last Judgement (at right) is a portrait of how the Christian tradition has depicted the mental landscape in which we live. Traditionally, our mental landscape has been divided into levels of spiritual importance, a hierarchy in which our thoughts are either repressed and condemned, or elevated and blessed. Starting with Christ and the angels at the top, The Last Judgement descends through the company of Christ's elect, whose intentions are only good, to earth. From earth we descend to Hell where dark thoughts are locked away in silence for eternity. Here the human souls writhing in the picture are the thoughts which are condemned as evil. They are locked away and cannot be examined, for Hell is the place where reflection is impossible. No thought that exists there can be reflected upon.

The danger in such a mental landscape is that thoughts that are condemned as evil, and cannot be reflected upon, gain destructive energy from their neglect. Thoughts that are condemned as evil and that are not recognized and examined become evil deeds that we enact in the world.

A new way to look at this landscape is to see that the whole of this picture is of Christ. Seen with the eyes of a new understanding, The Last Judgement shows us a Christ who is depicted here in all his terrible divinity: that which we know of him and that which we have never known. He extends from the top of Heaven to the last writhing body in the pit of Hell. Heaven is the image of what is known and seen as good in Christ. Hell is the image of what has never been thought of as Christ: thoughts which we have condemned as evil and locked away, as well as an understanding of him that has never been known.


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The Tyranny Of Consensus

by Marjorie Seguin

There is a sentimental consensus about community in our culture right now. This consensus is rooted in the model of goodness based on the Jesus most widely described today. It is a consensus founded on ideals which are most strongly promoted in the church, but which pervade the culture as a whole. While this consensus might appear benign, the result in the community is a quiet and oppressive tyranny.

This kind of community offers to its members a number of things: a feeling of togetherness, a comfortable familiarity born of associating with a group of people, a feeling of unity through having a shared goal. There is a sense of having one's personal peculiarities blotted out, from participating in a larger unit, where each part is less than the sum of the whole. There is a comfort in this kind of invisibleness, such as you gain when wearing a uniform: an invisibleness which unites you with the group, takes you outside of yourself, and clearly identifies your role and your place in society.

In this sentimental consensus, a community works to uphold these values: peace as a goal, through the holding back of conflict; tolerance as an ideal, adapting social institutions so that we can all be more alike; comforting as a job for the spiritual leaders in our society, who are meant to buffer us against pain; unity as an ideal, through the pressing down of doubt and questions; and kindness as a way of interacting, including smiling and doing thoughtful deeds, while not expressing direct thoughts which might shock or hurt someone. In keeping with this consensus, certain things are assumed to be detrimental to community life: disagreement or anger, the speaking of differences, and questioning the role, goal, or function of the group. A consequence of holding to these ideals without question is the active blocking of truth.

The most important truth that is actively being blocked in this consensus is related to an incompleteness in the culture’s views of Christ’s nature and how he appears in community. This view is incomplete because it leaves out the shadow aspects of Christ’s nature, thus also leaving the community’s shadow. Anger and questioning the role, goal and function of the group are examples of aspects of the shadow which are left outside of the community.

In a revitalized Christian community, the shadow aspects of Christ and of the group would be incorporated in community life. In this new community the shadow aspects which were formerly deemed detrimental to community life are seen as holding the seeds of new and life-giving ways of creating community, rooted in a more complete and dynamic understanding of Christ’s nature.

Where in the old definition of community, questioning the role, goal or function of a group was considered corrosive to the communal body, in this new kind of community, the job of holding up to question the commonly held assumptions of the group is a burden that is shared by each individual within the group. In seeking to uncover Christ’s full nature, the Christian community is thus reconnected with Christ’s life-giving truth, the well of living water, the eternally renewing Word.



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Anger and Prophecy

by Holly Gwynne-Timothy and Gordon Gwynne-Timothy

"Don't imagine that I have come to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household! ... If you cling to your life you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me you will find it." (Matthew 10:34 - 39) 

“Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in me and I in him." (John 6:56)

The scriptural references above describe Christ as someone whose call does not necessarily lead to peace, but to the transformation of the individual and of the community. These passages, which describe Christ as complex and passionate, act as an antidote to the conventional churches’ depiction of Christ as one who brings peace and harmony to the world, and whose chief interest is to get us to repress our own wrath and judgment. These scriptural references point to the fact that Christ is the aspect of God that becomes incarnate and dwells in us. So Christ’s truth and judgements are also incarnate in us and press us from within to realize them. His anger arises when such judgments remain unrecognized.

The Matthew 10: 34 - 39 passage depicts Christ, not as the comforting peacemaker promoted by the mainstream church, but as a sword-bearing, divisive power who erupts between familial bonds, and even creates enemies within households. Matthew 10:34 poses the challenging but hopeful possibility that Christ’s redemptive anger could be at the root of our most painful or wrenching conflicts. If we choose to view such momentous conflicts, not as shameful outbursts of our human sin which should be repressed, but as meaningful spurs from Christ himself, then these conflicts, with reflection, can lead us into orientation with His new calling for us. His anger is a necessary part of a complete stripping of habituated attitudes and priorities so that spiritual life, new attitudes and vocation will be placed above worldly aspirations, concerns and even attachments, such as familial bonds.

To discern the thrust of Christ’s judgment behind the anger takes a lot of time and careful analysis, particularly when the anger erupts explosively between members of a household. Christ’s anger overlaps with our own anger, so that it seizes us and, melding with our personal issues, seems at first to be bent on bruising or even destroying our closest human relationships. It fastens on seemingly irresolvable, polarizing issues, which upon reflection, we must be prepared to relinquish our attachment to in order to be moved to the more important spiritual purpose underlying the anger. A disturbing aspect of Christ’s nature is that when it arises it cannot be simply avoided or suppressed. It can only be ridden through and minimized by attempting to recognize it for what it is. We must not increase its destructive power by being too attached to winning the argument.

Christ’s nature includes an element of anger in it that only later can be seen as an agent for positive change. Later, upon discerning the seed of truth which emerged from the argument, we are positively grateful for, but also a little awed or chastened by, the experience of having been a tool in the hands of an angry God. We are left, after contemplating such an experience, with a larger sense of ourselves, and also a sense of being porous – full of spiritual holes that allow Christ to pour himself in.



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Crossroads

by Amy Bodman

There is tremendous volatility in the world today. This volatility is reflected collectively, in global wars and environmental catastrophes, and individually, in the breakdown of the social structures that have held us together for generations: family and the church. As a species, we feel we are caught in an destructive cycle that seems to have a force of its own and yet we are responsible for - a cycle from which we cannot escape or extricate ourselves. Each and every one of us is confronted with a sense of the world's mortality, and that somehow it is humanity's relationship to the world that is killing it. This is a terrifying prospect, one that Christianity has never faced before.

The force that pulls us is often considered “dark”. It is considered dark because it is uncertain and no one knows where it is heading. It is also considered dark because it whittles away at all that has felt secure to us, breaking down structures that we believe have somehow kept us safe and secure throughout time. Our attitude to this dark force is not a healthy one. It is akin to a native elder deciding that the way to protect his child from the bear in the woods is to kill all the bears, or better yet, get rid of all the woods, rather than to teach the child how to act around bears, how to sense them, how to respect them.

The force that drives us now is like that bear. It contains all that can threaten us, and all of the renewing energy that can transform us. The church's attitude to this force, which carries through to the rest of society, is to cut down those woods and pave them over. The church tells us that to stop this destructive cycle we need to become more peaceful, less driven by greed, more considerate of the environment, more generous to the poor - in short, less sinful and more like the peaceful, mild Jesus the church promotes. The church's bias is that the turmoil shouldn't be there: if only we were better people, there would be no conflict, no suffering.

The force that drives us is not a product of our sinful nature. It is a divine force that is much stronger than our sinful nature and is affecting us in this way at this time for a specific reason. This divine force is Christ. He is asking something of us as a species, and until we figure out what that is, the world will continue spinning out of control.

Our collective hunger is not just for money or power. What we really want is to commune with this darker aspect of Christ.

The world is at a crossroads. We must choose to see Christ in the turmoil.



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Marjorie Cluett Seguin, ©2007


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