Take a walk on the dark side
“Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light
but making the darkness conscious.”
~ Carl Jung
I want to begin by saying that I am not a regular moviegoer, given that most deal with similar themes without a huge amount of substance or thought-provoking material. It is then ironic that the latest incarnation of one of the biggest movie franchises deals with an issue that lies at the heart of spiritual growth, that is the struggle to accept our dark as well as our light. So whatever our opinion of this movie, the imagery and symbolism cannot be ignored, nor can the theme of self-acceptance through an awareness of our origins.
In the movie, Superman must confront his past in order to understand his present. He must look at the heritage that molded him and the circumstances that influenced his choices so that he can be laid bare to himself and begin the process of self-acceptance. This includes the acceptance of both his light and his shadow, two parts of ourselves that co-exist and command equal respect. The place where all our dark thoughts are stored, according to Jung “everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”
Interestingly, in previous movies we saw Superman fearlessly confront the repressed shadow of others that manifested in the form of violence and crime.Regardless of his opponents’ cunning and determination, Superman was ensured victory, as the light of our hero overcame the shadow of his adversaries. In this new installment, however, our hero must confront and accept his own shadow, at which point he will realise his true power because his shadow will no longer have power over him.
On closer inspection, we see another reason behind Superman’s reluctance to accept his superpowers, and that is because of how different they make him feel to everyone else.The result is Clark Kent,a man whose timid demeanor could not be further removed from his true identity. The tension is virtually palpable between Superman and his alter ego, who could be seen as the manifestation of his fear of rejection. How dreadful for anyone to live like this, to feel they have to keep themselves hidden just to fit into society. But how many of us are equally guilty of dimming our light so that the light of another can shine brighter? How many times have we allowed our power to be taken so that it could be used by those whose love or acknowledgment we desire more? It would not be an understatement to say that to live a power-filled life is a great achievement in a world that has only ever enabled powerlessness. One only has to look at the fate of those individuals who, throughout history, have encouraged us to stand confidently in our power, many of whom were relegated to the peripheries of society, if not removed from it altogether.
There is a final connection that can be made between Superman’s power and our own, and that is the fact that he only experiences his full potential when in service to others. I recall listening to a talk by Neale Donald Walsch on this topic, that if we want to experience a particular quality, we must give it to another. So if we want to experience compassion, then show compassion and the same with love and peace. In which case, our superhero only becomes truly authentic when he is in service. The rest of the time he is just a regular guy. Maybe there is a lesson here for all of us, that only in service can we experience the full magnitude of our own superpowers.
(Gemma Phelan lives in Ireland where she works as an editor. She is also the author of “A Different Understanding,” a book which explores alternative ways of looking at the world.)
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