Mining for Gold in the Darkness



Czechoslovakia 1934, 10 Ducats. Wikimedia Commons

As a spiritual neophyte I believed (like everyone else I knew) that repressing my honest emotions, denying my disliked qualities, and generally pretending to be something I was not would make me more spiritual. I started trying to be spiritual at the age of 17 when I was a church camp counselor. After asking for help from the Holy Spirit with a problem I was having, I had a numinous experience of awakening to the symbolic meaning of the Bible verse, “Ye are the  light of the world.” Matthew 5, 14-16.

Flooded with a dizzying new awareness, I believed I had been touched by God. I was so hungry for more that I began to devour the Bible. In the book of Galatians I was thrilled to discover Paul’s descriptions of the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This is it, I thought. This is what I’ve been looking for. These will be my spiritual goals.

I memorized the list, reflected on the qualities, prayed for them, and tried to emulate them. I’m on my way, I thought naively. I believed that developing spirituality was simply a matter of knowing how God wanted me to behave then using my willpower to act that way. Anything I felt or thought that did not conform to “his will” (according to my understanding of these qualities and the biases of my family and religion, of course) I would repress or control with self-discipline. The more strongly I identified with my ideals, the more “spiritual” I felt.

Being “spiritual” alleviated my teenaged angst, maintained the status quo, and made me feel safe and in control. Imagining future glory in a radiant heaven got me through tough times. Ignoring my shadow and acting humble and loving made me feel good about myself. Finding answers to my spiritual questions in conventional beliefs protected me from the loneliness of being an outsider and the terrifying responsibility of free choice.

Perfecting our personas to please a father god who lives the in the light while shunning the darkness from which we are emerging is how immature egos begin the spiritual journey. A young ego doesn’t know it’s afraid or that it’s constructing a mask. It’s convinced it’s free to do anything it wants. But the truth is, we are not free to make original choices until the unconscious is made conscious. If we are unaware of the limiting assumptions and other inner forces that control our behavior, we can’t see the full range of our choices. And if we can’t see our choices, it’s impossible to change our behavior, no matter how much self control or willpower we have.

The shadow is why we, like St. Paul, keep doing things we don’t want to do and don’t do things we think we should. Unfortunately, St. Paul didn’t have access to the psychological understanding we have acquired since his time. Now we know that until we integrate our shadows into our conscious awareness we’ll continue to despise ourselves, alienate others, act in baffling ways, fall short of our spiritual ideals, and wonder why.

Exploring our unconscious and getting acquainted with our shadows brings authentic behavior and spiritual maturity. Mature individuals learn to admit to their “dark sides” so they can defuse them. Admitting doesn’t imply making a public confession, broadcasting, complaining, excusing, wallowing, or surrendering. It just means being honest with ourselves. Other people can see our shadows anyway, and it’s enormously frustrating to them when we deny something so obvious to them. It’s amazing how much conflict we can prevent by simply seeing and accepting responsibility for our disowned selves.

An unimaginable treasure awaits us in the unconscious, and we can find it by digging deep into our subterranean world. A recurring dream I had for a long time clearly demonstrated the truth of this psychological principle to me. In it I was always outdoors following a path, usually at night, when my attention would be attracted to a sparkle of light in the dark earth beside the path. When I bent down to look, I would see that the light was reflecting off the rounded ridge of a half-buried coin. Pulling the coin out of the earth always revealed another one behind it, then another and another until I was delighted to discover an apparently bottomless stash of densely packed coins. It took me years to understand the symbolism. The interesting thing is that once I became fully committed to inner work, I stopped having the dream. I no longer needed the reminder.

Kalgoorlie, The Big Pit. Wikimedia Commons

The work continues. Ten years ago I dreamed about two mothers, one dark and one light, and two daughters—also one dark and one light. I loved the daughters. The dark girl was extraverted and instinctual. The blonde one was introverted and cerebral. Both were sweet and cute and very loving toward each other. That dream showed real progress.

Have you ever had a dream that contrasted light with dark? Or featured a lit candle? Or a scary dark place? Or something you were running from? What did it teach you?

Note: This was adapted from Healing the Sacred Divide (2012). 

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, is available at Schiffer, Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit and wherever books are sold. Subscribe to her newsletter at

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9 Responses

  1. Dear Jeanie,

    Your title “Mining for Gold in the darkness” perfectly describes my three month winter hibernation where I took myself “down below” far away from my ego, persona and social media where I’ve learnt (once more) to reconnect to Self as I released my un/conscious need to being “seen” by others. As I began to emerge, a photographer whose work I greatly admire, wrote a brilliant (in my view) essay on this topic which you and your readers may also enjoy titled “Ending the Numbing”: With ego and shadow running it wasn’t long before Ellen disconnected from her soul, before thankfully, learning to reconnect back again in strange and familiar ways.

    Another brilliant book on the subject of Shadow that I can highly recommend is “How to Befriend Your Shadow: Welcoming Your Unloved Side” by John Monbourquette, which for me is one of the best books on its subject, written by a Jungian loving priest, psychologist and retired professor of many years.

    Okay, back to today’s post, thank you so much Jeanie for sharing your insights, intuitions and wisdom with us. I agree, ignoring our shadow is a huge mistake in life, as it only serves to draw the exact experiences and people we’ve been avoiding all our lives, even closer. And yet … and yet, this seems all part of the journey too!

    I love what you wrote about not being able to make choices freely until the unconscious has been made conscious and this is where journaling, dreamwork and active imagination has personally helps me. In fact until I met Carl Jung in midlife my learning seemed to be such a sluggish unfolding, there but barely noticeable, if you know what I mean. Oh, how pregnant our darkness truly is, if only we would look!

    Within my dream journals I’ve recorded many dark dreams, nightmares and frightening visions yet instead of being terrified, I’ve found by using a Jungian lens I can often see sometimes a glimmer of gold in the darkness. Other times, it’s more obvious. Last night for example, I dreamt that I put a golden coin into a fruit machine and three pink cherries turned up and I won the jackpot … hmm, a reminder for sure! In pure synchronicity when I saw this, your new post, in my mail I had to laugh out loud! That’s the second time this has happened in this week alone. Okay, okay, I tell my psyche … I’m listening!

    Love and light, Deborah.

    1. Thank you for the book recommendation, Deborah. I haven’t read it and will check it out. And I loved Ellen’s blog post. I resonate with so much she says. Just before coming here to comment I read another article with the same theme, with the difference that it was about the dehumanizing process so many writers have to go through these days to market their books on social media. This is supposed to be the job of publishers, not authors who only want to write.

      Technology has done miraculous things in my lifetime and I’m grateful for most of them. Just not the ones that are destroying our planet and its climate. I’m especially grateful for the soul-enriching connections I’ve made with like-minded individuals like you and Susan on the internet via this blog. But I too have noticed a diminishment in my beloved reading and writing time and skills over the last years because of my other social media involvements and I’m ready to back way off. My life is too precious to waste it doing things I don’t love.

      Writing and dreamwork have also been the practices that opened up my unconscious, and I’m constantly amazed at the wealth I found there and still do. And OMG, you dreamed of a golden coin last night? That is just so amazing. It delights me that we keep having these extraordinary synchronicities. I had a similar experience today with a dream last night that prepared me to respond fully and efficiently to a request for a workshop proposal! Receiving this kind of guidance from the unconscious is the best possible treasure!

      I’m enjoying your poetry so much and will be sending you a glowing review soon.

      Much love, and thank you for writing,


      1. I found myself nodding throughout your generous reply Jeanie and do wonder how many authors are having to really dig into their shadows (especially introverted ones) and enter the social media circus in order to promote their books. Yes, there’s gold in there but how exhausting and unrelenting this experience is for many. Dehumanising indeed! I would love to read the article you mention.

        I think Ellen has found the right path for herself to “end the numbing” as she calls it, in that today she only works from her blog and this is where her followers can find her. I resonated powerfully to her post last week yet totally appreciate the positive ways that social media platforms can also promote your new book far and wide. As always, it’s about finding the right balance for ourselves.

        The joy of meeting like-minded souls online has been one of my greatest joys too! And on the technological front, I’m challenging myself to write a new essay old school, using pen and notepad. The first days were deeply frustrating but I’m into a rhythm now that’s taking me back nearly twenty years and “something old” in me seems to be returning. Of course, I’ll be typing the pages out in due course but it’s the first time I’ve written by hand for years!

        Okay, back to my morning pages.

        1. Thank you Deborah, Here’s the article I read just before I read your comment. My agent sent it to me hoping I’d feel better. I really struggled with all the self-promotion I had to do. You’re right. I’m an introvert and that makes me deeply uncomfortable.

          I love how you challenge yourself to do difficult things that you know will be good for you. I think that’s exactly how we keep growing, and we must keep growing. There’s something in us that compels us to. Otherwise it’s too easy to get pulled back into old dysfunctional attitudes and habits. Plus, extending your boundaries into new areas just makes you feel so good! I Growth is naturally affirming and rewarding in and of itself.

          Okay, so does this mean I can expect a long handwritten comment from you next time? Haahahaha. 🙂

          1. What a brilliant article, thanks Jeanie for posting the link! I had no idea how much (ridiculous!) work was involved for each author. I loved your reply had been wondering myself if you were exhausted too. Hope you’re feeling better now and that your energy is returning in leaps and bounds.

            Hahaha! If only I could! Xxx

  2. Thank you Jeanie for sharing your early experiences of wanting to be a good girl, forever seeking the light and a loving God who would see us through thick and thin. For me, being willing to look into the underside of life brought its depths and a willingness to be like an archeologist, forever seeking through that delicate debris to find its treasures. Yes, I’ve had dreams where there are black women sometimes by a bedside. My first dream when I began analysis many years ago and concluded many years ago, was of a real life Jungian analyst (not mine who is a woman but a man who I hadn’t actually met. I did meet him thereafter on several occasions), my friend who was an anaesthetist (she died 3 years ago), standing in front of a deep and wide cave. As I always said to my friend, she makes people unconscious in order for the operation to be performed. It was an unbelievable dream to bring to my first analytic session .. Lynda, who was my dearest friend, was a Gemini, as I am … somehow that also meant something, Castor and Pollux always in search of the other..

    We always have to question ourselves as to any hidden agendas we may have. This is for me like unearthing hidden treasures and being able to make a choice in as much consciousness as possible. Thank you Jeanie, lovely post. Love, Susan

    1. Thank you, Susan. My dreams have been such extraordinary gifts of guidance and hope and affirmation and guidance. Really. What and who could possibly know what I need better than my own unconscious self with its magnificently dark and loving core that contains all my soul’s treasure: the Self? it’s so terribly short-sighted of us to be so afraid of the dark in every sense. Night is every bit as valuable and important to our well-being as day. We could not exist without the complementary interaction of both. Likewise, ego and shadow must meet and become friends if new life is to be born and sustained.

      The first dream you brought to your analytic session is extraordinary. What more beautiful invitation to the unconscious and affirmation of its value to you could you have ever received? Had someone else tried to say that, it would likely have had very little effect, but the fact that it came from your own unconscious Self gave you an unforgettable numinous experience that told you you were doing the right thing. That’s the sort of thing I wish I could convey to others in my writing. But of course, I can’t. Everyone has to experience that for themselves.

      Thank you for writing. With much love, Jeanie

  3. You have the most amazing dreams, Jeanie. In recent dreams, the issue of light vs dark doesn’t seem big for me. I remember frequent dreams from decades ago of having sex with my high school boyfriend in the basement. It was a private place and no one would bother us there. But recently, my duality theme is extroversion vs introversion. I was strongly extroverted as a young woman and mother–by all appearances and according to testing. That began to change in my 50s, along with the beginnings of hearing loss. Then more introversion with extreme hearing loss in my 60s, Vic’s death, living alone in the country, and covid. Nearly half my recent dreams are about being with large groups of people–parties, banquets, social gatherings, and all the things we/I don’t do now. The darkness comes as I look for bathrooms in these situations and only finding dirty or primitive ones.

    My dreams often (not always) feel they could happen in regular daily life, and it feels that my conscious self is struggling with being forced into introversion and the limits of my physical situation. So far there is no resolution. Just the oddness of a woman who lives a bit like a nun at big dream parties with many people I don’t know. Blessings and safety to you, Elaine

    1. Re. my dreams, I wish I could take credit for them. Unfortunately, I don’t have anywhere near the wisdom to create one of these treasures, let alone thousands. I have deep respect for Dream Mother, who seems to know exactly who I am and what I need. I’m humbled by how she tosses original dreams out so effortlessly. No human being could ever be so creative or insightful.

      Your recent dreams certainly speak to your current struggles. Being with people but not being able to enjoy them or understand them must be so terribly difficult, not just for your dream ego, but for your waking ego which it represents. Many of my dreams these days also deal with things I don’t know: Who are these people? Where am I? Where are we going? Why am I here? What is this task about that they are asking me to do? Why am I doing it? How will I clean up this mess, or get back home? Certainly some of these dreams come with age and experience: the awareness of our limitations, the need to draw firmer boundaries, the awareness of our increasing vulnerability, the questioning of old attitudes that no longer serve us well and norms that no longer apply. The longing for our spiritual home.

      I recently had a dirty bathroom dream. Two men, one of whom I know from years ago, came in while I was there and I firmly told them to get out. They didn’t. It didn’t scare me because I knew one of the men and he’s always been a friend, but it did make me mad that they wouldn’t give me my privacy.

      Thanks for writing. I love talking dreams with you. I’ve recently acquired a dreamwork partner with whom I’ll work on dreams for two hours once a month. Our first session was very rich with insights.

      Blessings, safety, and maybe some human companionship to you! xoxo

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