Ontology of the Shadow

   This paper argues that Stanislav Grof’s perinatal theory, in resolving the ambiguous ontological status of the shadow, even more importantly explains the shadow’s force in the world.

   Jung’s archetypes reflect Plato’s universals through the mirror of psychology.  Grof maintains that although Jungian psychology identifies the birth-death-rebirth archetype, it does not seem to recognize that certain specific characteristics distinguish the archetype from all others. The dark aspects of these characteristics establish the shadow’s ontological origin, and the experiential singularity of birth provides the shadow’s force.

Ontology of the Shadow full paper.doc

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  • Interesting article Roland!


    Thank you for sharing. I am busy with a dissertation on the subject: Is shadow influencing our workchoice? I think people unconscioussly choose for growth by choosing a certain job & company.

  • At your instigation, Ed, I discovered Jung's statement that "in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity." My focus in this paper was on the darkness, obviously. A successor paper would emphasize that the birth archetype in its fullness is the birth-death-rebirth archetype. The essence of birth, of course, is creativity. This would lead to considering the philosophical issue of the Many add the One, which I think Jung touches on in some of his discussions of mandala.
  • I enjoyed reading the paper. A few comments and questions.
    I appreciated Grof's stages and the potential experiential roots to archetypal forms/processes. Very interesting.
    I did wonder however about the Shadow always being used with "negative" human experiences. If I'm not mistaken, under certain circumstances, the Shadow can be filled with positive human experiences and imaginings. Example: Using Grof's stages, let's say that the child in stage one is being born to a crack addict (Hell), the child then goes through the Hell of the second stage, the Death of the third stage and emerges in the fourth stage. The assumption is that such a child will experience "release and relaxation" upon encountering all the sensations of his/her new being. Barring alternative birthing methods (such as birth under water which your reflections would greatly support - I suppose), why would such a child not experience the fourth stage's sensations as just some more Hell? Failure-to-thrive babies come to mind, though I am no doctor. It would seem that such a baby would have a Shadow filled with images of calm, peace, assurance, support, etc. Would enjoy your response.

    Also, I greatly enjoyed the anthroplogical piece related to women asking for help during birth. The importance of community becomes essential to life itself. (Always felt this but appreciate an extra reference! :) )

    Ed Koffenberger
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