Light, Shadow and Dark Work
Part Five of the Second Interview with Craig Berry on Modern Shamanism and it's Foundations
Now sounds like a good time to define some of those terms like light and shadow work; can you start us off?
There is a good deal of confusion about terms used in shamanic practice and especially in these descriptions. Most of the confusion comes from Judeo-Christian definitions. When a shaman uses terms like light, shadow and dark work, they are describing a depth of work and the commitment needed to safely and effectively conduct that work.
Think of these as descriptions of depth of practice rather than in the good and evil terms often associated through popular definition with light and dark; shaman tend to describe practice as clean or dirty when applying a moral angle to a practice As an aside, many bad things have been done in the name of good and light; think of the Venetian and Spanish inquisitions for a start! Even the church confuses their own definitions of light and dark.
Light work is the safest and most used type of shamanic work. Shadow work is a deeper and more esoteric form and a calling to this level is needed to practice safely. Dark work is the deepest and most arcane of all. Without following a calling, a person working in these depths faces real mental, psychological and physical dangers. As always, the calling defines the level of practice.
Very important to understand here is that this is not about ego. There is nothing more worthy of someone who does dark work like exorcism and one who does only light work like guidance and journeying. Both are valuable when needed. If ego drives one to think of dark work as more worthy, of having more spiritual credibility, one has already proven the lack of an honest calling and the baseness of one's thought process.
Time for some definitions?
Let's start with light work. The most common forms of shamanic work and the most generally useful. Practices include journeying for guidance for another, sometimes just counselling and generally working on behalf of another if entering the shamanic journey states of consciousness. Herbal medicine, physical therapy and the like are also in the realm of light work.
Shadow work is where one starts to work with other agents and other entities on behalf of a client. Soul retrievals are one of the best known of the shadow practices. This work is deeper, requiring not just work on behalf of those being aided but often with those being aided and other forces and entities within that person's life. Healing in normal terms is light or shadow work.
Dark work is the deepest or most arcane of the shamanic practices. This is where one is dealing directly with entities other than the client, or in realms where the client is lost. Possessions, clearings, exorcisms and the like are the realm of dark work.
Think of water, the deeper it gets, the darker it gets.
So light work is the easiest?
This stuff does not have a scale where a thing or action is easier or harder. Some things are more involved, but not necessarily easier or harder. To journey for a person to find an answer that makes sense and is relevant and accurate on something that is very important to them is just as worthy and impacting on their life as a soul retrieval. It just depends on what that person needs.
Let me ask another way. Is dark work harder?
It takes more training, more commitment and presents greater personal risk, but if that is what you are called to, then how could you not be just as prepared to train and prepare as someone called to journey for guidance or even help another through herbal remedy? Harder is a definition that does not fit. Let me see if I can explain…
If your total being, who you are and who you need to be is a surgeon, then is the training daunting or is it more likely to feel totally 'right'. If your calling is towards a specific role, then it is often harder and more challenging to ignore that calling. In this way, there is no harder or easier.
It is this quasi-objective impartiality which marks clean shamanic practice and often takes a long time to develop during an apprenticeship. I say 'quasi' because even deciding what definition of objective you will use is a subjective process. Total impartiality (objectivity) is a condition reserved for psychopaths and sociopaths. Say I was journeying for someone who was trying to make a crucial life decision and gain insight into the impact each alternative will have on those around them. It is very hard to go into that journey impartially, as an accurate observer but not with preconception underlying intent. To do this effectively is just as 'hard' as negotiating for the release of a person from a possession.
'Negotiating' a Release?
Remember that every part of shamanic practice when clean, is about finding peace and happiness and health for all involved. If I am trying to have a sentient being release their grip on a person, I have to find a solution which does not harm anyone involved at the very least, and hopefully, benefits all, the entity included.
Hang on,.. I can see you bursting here! Think of it like this. What we refer to [popularly] as negative energy in common terms is shamanically described as stagnant energy. Now all energy wants to do, in physics and in life, is move. It wants to express its potential and resolve into probability. If I find a person with a negative thought form which is sitting on them like a glugged up pile of crap, I will find a way to offer movement and freedom to that energy. This is good for the stuck energy and it is good for the client.
That may be a little over-simplified, but you get the idea. Shamanic work is not about teaching a thing a lesson, never about cosmically kicking butt and never about bullying, power or control of others.
Hang on, I have seen you work at keeping a circle energetically secure. Isn't that power?
A conditional, 'kind of'. Sorry. Let me try that again. When I am keeping those in a circle secure, it is not about making a psychic barbed wire fence and electric barrier. I work instead to make a physical area so flooded with positive intent that it essentially becomes invisible to negative energy and intent. Imagine trying to grab water effectively with two fingers; the harder you try, the harder you press, the less effective you become.
Most negative attacks are all about force, so making everything mobile and supple is a form of psychic Aikido; the more force applied, the less effective the attack.
So what about a soft negative attack?
Now you hit the paradox. An attack which lacks force and intent has no energy. An attack with no stagnation is not an attack. Remember that energy, when released and mobile, is positive in perception. Energy itself cares nothing about how we view it. Energy is neither positive nor negative. It is how we view it, use it and are effected by it that give us a subjective value of positive or negative.
Effective shamanic defense is all about using the force applied against one as free energy to increase the dynamic field and defense of the shaman involved. It is not about creating shields and spells and walls. To create these types of structures IS stagnation by definition, and the creator of that stagnation has become his or her own attacker. When an Ayahuascero in the Amazon builds his or her arcana to protect a ceremony, this is a space of positive intent guarded by the assistant spirits of the shaman and sometimes, those involved. If a spirit chooses to exert force, that is their business. If a shaman exerts force, they have lost their fight already. The shaman's role is that of the fulcrum, the axle; never the lever or the force applied.
This is probably all best left for expansion when we discuss some of the specific shamanic technique groups rather than now, if that's ok?