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The Light/Shadow Contrast




Intelligence:Unintelligent, Dim-witted Intelligent, brilliant, bright; a bright idea
Culture:The Dark Ages The Enlightenment
Consciousness:Unconscious or unaware Conscious or aware:
In the dark; blacked out Enlightened, sees the light
Shadow (repressed or evil parts) Shed light on; The light of reason
My dark side. My sunnier side
Opaque, murky, obscure Clear, lucid
Mood: A dark mood My mood brightened
Dim prospects; hope dimmed Bright prospects; a bright picture
Dark humor Sunny disposition
Cast a shadow on Put in a good light
Fame and talent: A lesser light A star, a luminary

The value connotations of the Light/Shadow contrast are:

    • knowledge of the world,
    • knowledge of oneself,
    • spiritual knowledge (enlightenment),
    • light as radiating love

Phrases that mediate this contrast:
Shading instead of black and white, chiaroscuro
Complementarity. Can't have one without the other
Me and my shadow (Dancing together as complementary parts)

Discussion

As pointed out in Five Big Clusters of Metaphors, which is about what I call concrete organizing notions or CONS, light and vision are the basis of a number of important metaphors, including perspective and point of view. The remarks here stress the contrast between light as a symbol of awareness, consciousness, enlightenment and reason, and shadow as a representation of ignorance, unconsciousness and the non-rational part of the self. A lightbulb is a common cartoon representation of having a good idea, while metaphors like "seeing the light," "brilliant mind" and "dimwit" stand for intelligence and stupidity. Carl Jung used the term "shadow" to represent the unconscious, which has not only the negative connotation of bad or neglected parts of the self but also the positive suggestion that these parts will evolve positively if brought to light in the right way.

In spiritual traditions that emphasize fertility and agriculture, sun and sunlight stand for the divine power to make things grow. More abstractly, they represent divine knowledge and love. Thus, while a figurative light goes on in the head of an individual, there is another experience of light, one that to some people, at least, is much more than figurative. It's a light found in their reports of near-death experiences, a light that radiates from figures in a realm that has no shadows at all. This light suffuses these people with love and sometimes brings a sense of infinite knowledge or understanding.

In the MetaSelf model, the front to back axis through our body or through the box-frame diagram can be seen as a ray of light that illumines the self. It makes clear the contents of the unconscious, usually represented by the shadowed space behind the box-frame; the whole self becomes transparent. This axis stretches from other people in the world, through the self and its body and personal unconscious, out through nature which surrounds us (represented by the wall on which the box-frame hangs), and further out into the space outside the room, a space which for some people will represent the figurative location of the collective unconscious, the soul, the transpersonal Self and a transcendent, Divine Light. Thus this axis runs through and connects the visible, tangible world with the invisible world we try to capture in metaphors and which always remains in part an unknown, transcendent mystery.

Phrases that counter this contrast:

Shades of gray, tones, chiaroscuro.