“When the defect becomes common it is considered as the normal state by the generality.”- Sufi Mystic Hazrat Inyanat Khan
While this piece is in response to the Black Lives Matter movement as an action against the systemic racial problem in America, I will be focusing on a few basic driving spiritual forces underneath this problem.
I do not feel that I, as a non-black person, fully deserve the platform, nor do I know enough about it experientially or academically to say what hasn’t already been said in 10,000 different ways by black Americans.
So, I will be focusing on the following three things as spiritual issues that contribute to the longtime perpetuation of systemic racial inequality in America: collective shadow, fundamental beliefs, and spiritual bypass.
What is important to note is that all three of these subjects are deeply interwoven and responsive to one another, creating a messy and tangled web of fear, blindness, and lack of receptivity.
In the pursuit of unpacking just one of these things, it quickly lends itself to the others anyway.
I am going to define each of these things for you in as clear terms as possible and then we can explore the implications of each and their impact on the collective consciousness.
Here are the definitions:
Collective Shadow: The parts of our collective psyche that we have unfairly shamed, judged, or rejected. As these energies are shoved away by each individual within the societal collective, they move into an archetypal space in the unconscious, called the Shadow. These energies start to change as a result of the unfair ex-communication, perpetuating the problematic behavior in an effort to express themselves.
Fundamental Belief: A belief that is so ingrained within the psyche that no amount of evidence or factual reasoning to the contrary can change the belief.
Spiritual Bypass: A state of complete deference to the mystifying, blinding Love & Light of God/Jesus/The Universe/Whoever to avoid pain, discomfort, fear, and personal responsibility.
Let’s talk about each one in a little more detail.
To truly understand shadow patterns and behavior, one must remove themselves from a binary view of morality, which is difficult to do because it’s seeped into the culture via Christianity.
Everything in the shadow are authentic parts of humanity that have been unfairly accused of being bad and then shoved away into the unconscious where they are ignored.
These energies are the things that people don’t want to see in themselves — the things in you that you fear, shame yourself for, or have conveniently forgotten.
However, just because you don’t want to see them…they’re still here in shadow.
The things we shoved in shadow are not good or bad. That’s an improper assessment. The things in shadow are simply parts of you that you need if you want to express yourself authentically and live well.
The energies in shadow express themselves improperly because they are not given their proper role within you. They resort to drastic measures to get your attention, and those drastic measures can have a devastating impact.
An example of a shadow pattern would be a homosexual who was shamed, judged, and rejected for being gay. This person literally shoves his sexuality into the shadow closet. This energy begins to twist and distort as a result of its isolation and separation, causing homophobic behavior and sexual dysfunction.
As this person judges other homosexuals and perpetuates homophobic behavior, it continues to impact the collective society, until homosexuality is largely in shadow for a high percentage of the human population, resulting in massive societal sexual dysfunction and homosexual prosecution which bleeds into the collective consciousness and causes problematic, global scale patterns.
I personally believe that racism is its own shadow pattern, and whatever that energy would be outside of shadow may be hard to grasp because we’ve dealt with racism as a collective shadow pattern for so long. It could be something as simple as Oneness, unity, love, and connection…or something else that we don’t have a name for because we haven’t met this energy in living history.
Shadow is tricky and manifests itself in a myriad of ways. I see racism quickly bleed into a phenomenal “othering” beyond the scope of people. It’s this same example of the illusion of separation that has caused significant spiritual damage to our natural role as humans within the ecosystem of our planet such as the mistreatment of the animal kingdom, deforestation, and wars over oil drilling.
These shadow patterns often hold each other in dynamic.
One shadow dynamic that has a particular prevalence in this current issue is the victim and the bully. The bully torments others because they fear being victimized. It’s two sides of the same coin.
So, when the police bully black people the way that they are essentially taught to do, and they are called out, they claim that they’re the victims of attack. It’s ludicrous, but they actually believe this.
Far-right extremists (a fundamentalist group in perception and value) claim they’re victims of “sinful yuppy Democrats” while they bully marginalized groups by stripping them of basic human rights. This results in drastically poor socioeconomic systems in contrast to the sickeningly wealthy 1%, the murder of innocent black lives, children in cages, and they have no idea that it’s even an issue.
Collective shadow creates problems with power, manifested in the tyrant and the inferior, which also keep each other in dynamic. We see this as we project all of our individual power and responsibility on world leaders to solve everything.
We can see this in people who follow Trump, who is a manifestation of our collective fears and shadow patterns.
Folks, the people in power only have it because we gave it to them. They have it because we forfeited our personal power.
We have the power to stop this at any time and rescue the energies we desperately need that we falsely judged, shamed, and rejected. We can reclaim our personal sovereignty and leadership. We can put a stop to this.
To summarize, the collective shadow is a collection of originally unproblematic exiled energies, that, due to their exile, become problematic.
To repeat, a fundamental belief is a thought so ingrained that no amount of evidence or factual reasoning to the contrary can change the belief.
Examples of a directly ingrained fundamental belief could be a mother that tells her son over and over again that homosexuality is a sin, or that you have to earn/deserve God’s love, or that he should avoid black people because they are dangerous.
An example of an indirectly ingrained fundamental belief would be a child growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, who goes to a predominantly white school, who learns a very whitewashed version of American history, who becomes accustomed to the community’s avoidance of the taboo word “racism,” who observes how his mom moves away from the black person in the elevator and clutches her purse…
…who develops two fundamental beliefs as a result:
1) Racism is bad… but 2) Black people are dangerous.
How confusing is that?
And does it sound familiar? E.g. “I’m not racist, but…”
That child then grows up with these ingrained fundamental beliefs and he becomes an adult that displays covertly racist behavior that he is entirely unaware of.
He doesn’t see himself as bad… but racism is bad… therefore he isn’t racist. Yet, black people are also dangerous.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not excusing this person. Thinking black people are dangerous is racist.
But he’s been trained not to see it, because to accept this racist thought is to believe that he is bad, because “racism is bad.” These beliefs hold each other in dynamic, so neither of them can budge. Folks, it’s a trap.
The extreme version of fundamental beliefs is, of course, fundamentalism — the ideas of which are so deeply embedded in fear and shame that they, too, hold each other in dynamic.
You’ve seen it. You’ve been on Facebook or Twitter. You’ve argued with them, you’ve pointed out blatant, obvious facts. They don’t hear it. They repeat their stance… over and over and over again. No amount of education, or kindness, or understanding changes their minds.
Any discussion with fundamentalist people is the very real equivalent of banging your head against a brick wall.
The biggest toxic case of fundamentalism in the United States is in some (not all) branches of Christianity.
We can use this as another example to see how a fundamental belief develops.
Being taught to believe in Heaven versus Hell is an extension of the ‘pleasure versus pain’ or ‘reward versus punishment’ force that drives childhood… but given a terrifying eternal dimension.
From there, it is easy for a group of people to control the behavior of others.
Once the belief in Heaven versus Hell is embedded, a set of principles is learned about what sends one to Hell.
Fear and shame take over the person so forcefully that it turns to hatred towards certain groups.
At the same time, they tout that Jesus is love, without remotely acting in accordance with that principle themselves.
Why does it turn towards hatred toward certain groups? Because they don’t fit the fundamentalist doctrine…
…nor does anyone else because these rules were created by men to control others.
Fear and shame hold each other in dynamic. It’s a trap. I can’t repeat this enough.
Then, you can see how problematic the lens of ‘good versus bad’ estimation becomes. “Racism is bad, I am good (which I have to believe, otherwise I fear going to Hell), therefore I am not racist.”
This doesn’t leave room for making a mistake. This doesn’t leave room for learning from our mistakes. This doesn’t leave room for understanding that racism is a spectrum.
We all have certain degrees of bias based on what we’ve experienced or been taught. We are animals. Our minds are wired to assess danger. But, we are complex animals, therefore many of those dangers are entirely perceived and mostly unreal.
We need to go a step further in our fight against racism. We need to become anti-racist. And that means looking at our own set of biases, prejudices, and unconscious fears. But to do that we need to move beyond “Racism is bad, I am good, therefore I am not racist.”
We need to say, “Racism is bad, who in me is racist, and how can I rectify it,” without moving into a full-blown spiritual crisis about how inherently good we are.
And, in this particular instance of systemic white supremacy, we need to say “White supremacy is bad, in what ways do I experience privilege as a non-black person, and how can I leverage that to create a truly anti-racist culture in my country?”
That is a big question that most people are scared to explore because:
1) It requires responsibility to take action in new ways.
2) It requires that we fess up to the legacy of slavery and segregation that has plagued this country since its inception.
To address and change our own fundamental beliefs, we have to accept that we have them and really want to change them, which means we have to question our perceptions and face our own fears.
Let’s explore why that is so difficult for many people.
Again, spiritual bypass is the state of deferring to the mystifying, blinding ‘Love & Light’ of God/Jesus/The Universe/Whatever to avoid pain, discomfort, shadow, and personal responsibility.
I see this often among both the religious (dogmatic or doctrine inclined) and among the privileged, predominantly white, New Age spiritual community.
For the New Age people… yes, we all remember our first spiritual awakening, and admittedly, it is a struggle to come back to Earth afterward. Spiritual bypass is safe. Spiritual bypass is comfortable. Spiritual bypass says, “Hey, everything is always okay, God’s got this, you don’t have to worry. We are all One. Love and Light. Good vibes only.”
And while none of the above statements are entirely wrong, they’re also one-dimensional.
Spiritual bypass is sneaky because existence is multidimensional, which we often don’t fully understand the implications of.
Living in a multidimensional reality gives us access to amazing resources in higher frequency realities…and…we live in this one.
Yes, God’s got this…and “God’s got this” includes entrusting the free will of humanity with upholding what that entails.
Yes, Love & Light…and your personal responsibility to uphold what that requires, which sometimes means a fight for justice.
Yes, good vibes only…after we’ve made a space for that to be possible for everyone.
Yes, we are all One…and that includes the parts of your collective humanity that are currently black people suffering from systemic racism in America… and the parts of your collective humanity that are perpetuating that problem.
Why does this matter?
Because you need to make this your business!
Systemic racism should make you very uncomfortable… because it’s a problem and it needs to be solved.
And putting a Snoopy bandaid over that discomfort by sitting in the ‘Light & Love’ of God/The Universe/Whoever without confronting your own anger, rage, hatred, biases, prejudices, and judgments, while waiting for “good vibes” to solve this is not good enough.
We cannot be silent. We cannot sit here, do nothing, and be “love & light and good vibes only” while enormous amounts of people are suffering.
That is spiritual bypass. It is not spiritual warriorship.
And it’s time for spiritual warriorship.
Among qualities such as taking right action, showing up with integrity, and being authentic, spiritual warriorship also requires a facet that I spoke to earlier: accepting discomfort.
First of all, spiritual bypass is its own form of privilege. Not everybody gets to stay in ‘love & light,’ complacency, and pacifism because the very structure of their lives is violent…
…because the very structure (our structure) of white supremacy is violent.
Consider the heteropatriarchal aspect of the white supremacist society that favors domination over qualities like compassion, receptivity, and femininity.
Over time it has constructed a very limited approach towards feelings like sadness, anger, shame, guilt, fear, and whatever else you can name.
When women are made to feel hysterical for their emotional expression and men are made to feel weak, we can’t have a truly emotionally-oriented adult conversation…
…even though we’re running on emotional fumes that have been repressed for so long that anger turns into rage, sadness turns into deep grief, and fear keeps the same anti-emotional dialogue running.
We, with our collective shadows, traumas, and narratives, are children in adult bodies having very adult-sized temper tantrums.
While we, as a culture, continue to judge and fear our less than “ideal” feelings we continue to banish our own truths, ignore very real problems, and ignore the traumas we have stored in our own bodies that result in poor physical health and repeating the same problematic narratives in our lives over and over and over again.
That’s why children in abusive households often end up in abusive romantic relationships. They’re seeking emotional resolution in the same structure that caused the problem.
We can’t seek resolution from white supremacy in the same structure that caused it.
True spiritual warriorship embraces the whole self: messy, complex, and afraid.
True spiritual warriorship feels emotions in their totality because it doesn’t back down from what is real.
True spiritual warriorship says, “I’m angry because capitalist systemic white supremacy has clouded my perceptions, lied to my face, and taught me not to see the extent of which my dark-skinned brethren are suffering by its hand.”
Collectively, we do not cultivate the strength or resilience to sit in the discomfort of suffering and address it. We turn away. We drink, we shop, we watch television. We run the program that the system has created for us.
But our emotions are having a life without us. They’re not gone just because we ignore them. And it’s festering, paralyzing us, and shoving itself more deeply into shadow because we refuse to address it.
You should be angry. You should be sad. You should be scared. And that should fuel you. It’s these emotions that are screaming at you, “get off your ass and do something about this!”
It’s these emotions that, when truly felt, pull us out of complacency and into action.
But we do not. Because our spiritual warriorship is in shadow. Our sovereignty is in shadow. Our emotional life force is in shadow. Our leadership is in shadow.
Only we can get it out. Only we can reclaim the parts of ourselves that have been rejected and lost…
..and it starts with you.
If we accept that God is Universal Energy — that we are all One as a manifold — then the collective experience of humanity is within us all.
We must engage with life as The Teacher that is always showing us things to address within ourselves, first and foremost.
When you find yourself in judgment — rioting, looting, “black lives matter,” or “all lives matter,” your uncle because he never stops talking — ask yourself where you are holding yourself in dynamic to that judgment.
Who in you is judging and who in you is being judged? Who, in you, is the looter, the rioter, the excessive talker? And what do they need?
We are smoke and mirrors and projections and everything you see is you.
So, use what you see as an indicator of how you can clear these problematic patterns within you. Even if racism is dormant in you, it’s still within you because it is in the collective. Get it out.
We need to challenge our own ideas, perceptions, and perspectives. We need to cultivate a better relationship with uncomfortable emotions and fears.
Yes, shame, sadness, grief, anger, and fear are all hard to feel, but none of those feelings will kill you.
On the flip side, black people are being murdered by a brutal police state because we are too afraid to face the discomfort of feeling for them. Life is hard. Get a fucking helmet.
Challenge your fundamental beliefs (we all have them).
We all think we’re right all the time and we all think that people that disagree with us are evil in some way. In reality, we are all human. It requires acceptance — and then work — to address the biases and limited perceptions that we all carry… and it’s a path of wisdom that we never stop walking.
We need to shed light on our collective shadows. But we can’t shed light by bypassing them with the ‘love & light’ bandaid. We need to shed light like a blacklight to a crime scene. We need to rescue that energy and transform it.
“Racism is bad, I am good, therefore I am not racist,” is not productive dialogue.
Try, “Racism is bad, I have inherited privilege, therefore I need to address the heteropatriarchal white supremacist within me so that I can be better.”
Or, make your own new belief in your own words. You have the personal sovereignty to do so.
Think about the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re paying any attention, you know what healthcare workers recommend that you do. You need to assume that you already have it as an asymptomatic carrier and take precautions to minimize risk to other people.
If you are non-black in today’s America, you need to assume that you are racist — “asymptomatic carrier,” you may be.
But being asymptomatic doesn’t cure COVID-19 by itself just because it isn’t overtly a problem.
Systemic racial prejudice is in all of us because that is the legacy our forebears left us. It bleeds through the walls of our schools, offices, governments, and infrastructure.
Even wearing a mask doesn’t create the vaccine. And that’s what we need to do: create the vaccine for systemic racism. It’s going to take time, and the first step is accepting that we’re sick.
We need to break the taboo that the shame of slavery has left in its wake. If we can barely even say the word “racist,” then of course we can pretend like it isn’t really there, even if it’s right in our faces.
It’s not about all the ways in which you, as an individual, have been racist and why. It’s not about us versus them. It’s not about who is bad and who is good.
It’s about accepting our fallibility as humans and learning from our mistakes so that we can become better humans. It’s about accepting that we’re in this together and, therefore, it’s everyone’s responsibility.
The only true sin here is being entirely unwilling to change.
We have the shame of our ancestors to accept and grieving to do, and it’s long overdue. We need to fess up and feel these feelings so that we can let them go. Otherwise, they will just rise up again and repeat the same pattern over and over and over again.
Frankly, we need to see people as people instead of the net income they pump into a capitalist system that is foolishly designed to grow ‘bigger, faster, better, forever’ on a planet with limited resources…because the land of melted ice caps and no resources is the land we’re passing to our children. [I’ve steered from my main point, but I’m leaving it.]
We have been trained not to see this issue and have therefore normalized an extremely problematic system.
We need to be anti-racist. We need to be proactive. We need to fight for change in ourselves and in the world.
The problem is so much bigger than just you. But we need your help to solve it.
Start with these links: