The great psychologist Carl Jung said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” We don’t become any brighter by focusing exclusively on the light; we become more fully alive by integrating dark and light, by embracing that which has been rejected. Jung also thought that this is the task of the second half of life: we are to recover and re-integrate the shadow side of ourselves, to become more whole as we age. “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” To live today, in the season of Easter, is to live first through the agony of Good Friday and the anxiety of Easter Saturday. Not to deny them or to ignore them, but to live them in their dark truth: as authentic parts of the human journey.
This is the brilliance of the Christian understanding of who God is: that while any authentic spiritual path acknowledges the darkness that’s in us, we worship a God who has darkness in Him, and who in Jesus was willing to go into that darkness, and by going there to make good come from it. It was only by involving Himself in the darkness– in the suffering, in the pain, in the shame, in the death– only by involving Himself in it, that it could be transformed to serve the end, the goal, the purpose of life. “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” That’s true for God, too: God realizes the fullness of God’s divine being, by fully entering the darkness He contains. As Bonhoeffer said: “Only a suffering God can help.”