Every Christmas my family likes to see a wonderful production of Dickens’ Christmas Carol at the University of Tennessee theater. It doesn’t feel like Christmas with out some ”bah-humbug” from our favorite curmudgeon Ebeneezer Scrooge. Early in the play is the scariest part when his dead business partner Jacob Marley comes to visit Ebeneezer with a dire warning. Jacob is gray, dirty and exhausted for he is caring a huge chain around his neck that trails after him, making loud clanging noises. Jacob delivers the memorable line “I wear the chain I forged in life, I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” Jacob goes on to tell Ebeneezer ”the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full and heavy and long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have labored on it since. It is a ponderous chain.”
On the Devil card the man and woman are wearing ponderous chains attached the devil’s perch. Like Ebeneezer they have forged these chains with their own poor choices, selfishness, addictions and ignorance. We saw this couple as the Lovers in card 6 where they were happy and ready for adventures together but by card 15, The Devil, they are in big trouble and have work to do to get back on the path of enlightenment.
When we first encounter this card the Devil is the overwhelming scary creature we have been taught to fear. We were told that he controls us and tempts us to be cruel and self-absorbed, vindictive and manipulative. But the poor guy, he is just a personification of illusion and we have made him ugly so we can forget he is ourselves. He is our shadow, the part of ourselves we don’t want to see or own. It is time to stop making him the scapegoat for our misdeeds. How many children have been scared by threats of the devil when he is a caricature of adult’s control issues.
So let’s put this scary beast in his place by first kicking him off his tiny platform and get these poor lovers to take off their chains which are loose around their necks. But you can see by their tails they have given into their animal nature. They must face their fears—fears of losing money, status, relationships. They must face their shadow—power, bigotry, manipulation, shaming, vindictiveness, domination, stubbornness, greed, jealousy. They must face their addictions—-control, substance abuse, materialism, gluttony.
When we cling to these self-defeating desires and patterns we feel we are owned by the Devil but it is our lower self running the show. This bondage to the dark side or our nature doesn’t bring us happiness or contentment. It just brings sorrow and pain to ourselves, our loved ones and the world. So much of the suffering in this world we have brought on ourselves by allowing “the Devil” in our nature allow us to lead unconscious lives.
So take time and ponder your ponderous chains, look at your shadow and see what you can bring into the light of your consciousness and leave behind. Fortunately Jacob Marley gave Ebeneezer the antidote for his misery and fate:
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge… “Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
So take Marley’s sage advice and get down to the business of mankind and begin to heal yourself so that you can get on with the business of being kind to man. And I don’t know about you but I’m terribly afraid of ghosts and I’d prefer none visit me in the middle of the night to get me to straighten out my life.
Resources on the Shadow
Owning Your Own Shadow Robert A. Johnson
Romancing The Shadow Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf
Meeting The Shadow–The hidden power of the dark side of human nature
Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams