What is the dark? And why does it exist? In our polarized thinking we have the Light (good) and the Dark (bad). “Come to the Dark side,” says Darth Vader. There is a sinister dread of the darkness. Consider the connotations of darkness or blackness in our language and cultural myths. The hero rides a white horse while the villain wears black. Black is worn to funerals and in mourning while white is worn to weddings and baptisms. Witches wear black hats. We say: “she is pure as driven snow” or “he has a black heart.” The face of fear is hidden in shadows while goodness is illuminated by the Sun (Son).
We are polarized to think in terms of good and evil. It’s true the darkness holds secrets. Things happen under the cover of darkness that the Sun’s unblinking eye may never see. It is no surprise that the lady of secrets is the Moon herself. She sees all that happens in the night yet reflects it back purified in the silvery light of non-judgment.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) yin is the feminine principle and is represented by those things most deep and by the darkness. The deeper and darker one goes the more feminine the principle. Yang is the masculine principle, which are those things most surface and bright. And so when we polarize our world into light=good and dark=bad we implicitly demonize the feminine principle. The fact that the feminine lunar principle is the mistress of night in most cultures reinforces this sexism. The traditional reading of the Moon tarot card warns of illusion, delusion, and mistruths. Lilith, the Hebrew mother of demons who was created as Adam’s first wife, is said to rule the night. She is a succubus who rapes men in their sleep and bears their demonic children. The word sinister itself is related to left handed, which ceremonially is the feminine side of the body. The left hand path becomes the path of darkness while the right hand path is the path of light.
Implicit racism also underlays fear of that which is dark. Africa is referred to as the dark continent: home of voodoo, demonic beings, and frightening magics. Unfortunately humans have grown an innate fear of the Other and that tends to show in bigoted ways of being. The devil is often called the prince of darkness. He is known as the “black man” with his “black book” with followers who practice “black magic.”
Why are we so fearful of the dark? In the dark there are things our conscious mind cannot control. From a practical point of view humans do not see well in the dark. And so wild predator attacks, run-ins with other humans with ill-intent, and even innocent accidents can occur in the dark. We cannot easily see what may be in the shadows so the mind busily invents the boogeyman that goes bump in the night. The conscious egoic self does not innately have a sense of control over the dark. Our equilibrium is thrown and the visual senses on which humans so often rely are limited. The dark effectively blinds us.
It is in the night that our bodies naturally shut down and we sleep. This is an extension of the egoic self’s lack of control. When we sleep the conscious closes shop and the subconscious takes over our dreamspaces. We step into our dreams, which show us our deepest desires, fears, and connect us to the realms of Light. The consciousness relinquishes control and we are submerged in another less controllable way of being.
The dark is the night. It is the space of the Moon. It is when we rest our weary hearts and heads and allow ourselves to breathe in dreams. Yes, it holds secrets and protects our eyes from seeing that which is too frightening for our conscious selves to accept; but as we become friends with the dark our vision slowly adjusts and we begin to see in the shadows. Our eyes may take on the luminescent glow of an animal who observes with clarity in both day and night. But first we must open those eyes with the understanding that maybe we will see things we wished we didn’t know about ourselves or others. We may experience frightening faces, voices, and mysterious shadows against the walls. But as we look closer we see these goblins of our fears are the same beings we meet during the day.
As bright as the day is as dark as the night. As bright as we are is as dark as we are. All things are in balance. When we open our eyes in the night we learn to see in the dark. The dark is the unknown, the feminine, the “Other.” The dark is the Underworld, keeper of secrets, dreams, and healing. The dark holds our shadow selves in her keeping until we are ready to see.