Recently a student asked me about the prevalence of “dark energies”, and showed me some varying blog articles and so forth from people claiming that everything we do is as a result of (evil archons, ET’s, demonic forces, sorcery, occult black magic, possessing spirits, curses… insert more words here).

Over the years I have watched as students who are unwilling to be a part of reality, often for very good reason (severe trauma) have experienced breaks of the mind and a projection of their inner demons onto the Other.

If someone experiences trauma severe enough in early infancy or childhood, they will break from reality. To paraphrase Nietzsche, they will lie their way out of reality because they have been hurt by reality.

When we are born, our brains go through a period of exponential growth. This is because to make it out of the birth canal, our heads (and thus brains) can only be a certain size. We differ from other animals in that we experience substantial brain growth after birth.

After a period of growth, what happens is a neurological pruning process. What happens is that the “tracks” or dominant “loops” of our brains begin to set. They do this through mirroring the loops of our parents– their trauma and ways of being– as well as that of our environment.

These loops are at the base of our being– they confer specific beliefs about the nature of the world that are at our “ocean floor”.

What this means is that our basic approach to the world, to other people, and to ourselves is set during this time. Significant beliefs that color what we believe to be true about the world are created during this time.

We do not come into this world a blank slate. We are a grouping of consciousness, or energies, coming together. See my book, The Body Deva, for this, but our past lives, ancestral trauma, in utero experience, as well as societal, cultural, and everything from the time we were born to where we were born to what was going on in history when we were born causes for us to become who we are.

This is all set within a dominant matrix of energies– that of our in utero and early childhood experiences, which sets up our beliefs about the nature of reality based on our experiences in early childhood and in utero states of our dominant caregivers as well as our very early childhood environment.

Put more simply, if we had appropriate loving nurturing and felt safe in utero as well as in early childhood, we are likely to have faith in the world, to be able to connect to others readily, to be willing to be nurtured by the world and the people in it.

If we did not, and we experienced the horrors and violence that this world can bring to an innocent child from parents and/or an environment that was not safe, was filled with violence, and in which the primary caregivers could not be counted on to safely nurture, or did not have the skills/tools to nurture, the trauma creates large rifts in the mind, large loops that set the base of our reality, and our projections onto reality.

For example, one of the most common outcomes of people who believe that they have experienced ET encounters is early childhood sexual abuse, particularly incest. The mind cannot fathom that those who were intended to protect us committed such an atrocity, and so the mind shelters itself in the largest “other” that it can find– ET’s.

This is also true for many students who have had significant breaks from reality that I have encountered who feel as if all of their life difficulties are a result of supernatural forces– dark entities, attached spirits, occult forces, evil cabals, archons, and so forth.

The Other is a convenient place to project trauma that we are unable to deal with– it contains the mental breaks, the projections, and the issues within our subconscious that we have pushed outwards.

When we experience severe trauma, our minds cannot process the reality of the situation, especially in early childhood, and so we create a separated mythic reality to cope.

Those myths can confer superiority or specialness (instead of believing that nobody loves me there can be a belief that we are too special for others to appreciate, for example) and they also can create a world of pain and darkness, in which the dark forces of the world are set against the infant self, who does not have the understanding that the entirety of the world is not its mother, its father, or its early childhood environment.

One of the very first spiritual principles that people realize (or should realize) is that what is within is what is without.

What that means is that there certainly is darkness out there, all sorts of odd spiritual things that can happen, all sorts of strange beings and Otherness. There is no denying that sort of thing with any type of perspective. There is no denying that such things need a skilled spiritual practitioner to assist with, and that there are a dearth of individuals who can competently take care of such things in the modern world.

But there are also a dearth of practitioners who can discern between mental breaks, mythic realities created out of trauma to deny the world, and spiritual occurrences.

If we are hyper-focused on outer darkness being the reason that we have any type of difficulty in this world, we are spiritual bypassing, not participating in any form of grounded spirituality, or clarity about reality.

If we are hyper-focused on such things, it indicates a basic shadow projection outward. An unwillingness to contend with the messiness and ugliness of humanity.

Within us we have the forces of hatred, of violence, the clouds of confusion and trauma creating loops that we mindlessly repeat again and again. We seek control over what is uncontrollable, to know what is unknowable to feel in control.

The conspiracy theories allow for us to feel in control of what is unknowable. To feel special, as if we have special knowledge. Our human minds can only fathom so much, and there is frustration in that.

Yes, of course there are dark forces out there. But the idea that a human mind, bent on the Western idealism of superiority and control guiding all of its efforts (for example, believing that one can fathom such forces and thus control a fear narrative for others and within ourselves, as well as displace any darkness within outward) is yet more illusion.

It is a distraction away from the self, away from reconciling the atavistic instincts, the darkness within; that within humans lies darkness, deception, the capability to enslave, demean, control, and enact great violence against one another.

It is a question of if we are turning towards reality or have split away from it. The spiritual path, the path of awakening, is about turning inward. Looking towards our human, messy bits. It is about becoming more and more human.

It is the arduous and daily task of taking more and more responsibility for oneself. It is a daily questioning (self-inquiry) about what motivates us, about what we are continually pointing fingers at, and looking inward to see if we are casting our shadows outward, if what we are doing is mere illusion to distract ourselves, to create chaos for ourselves, to prevent us from looking within.

What is within is without. It is by healing what is within that we can see the full spectrum of humanity, as well as the Other. We can let go of our need to be in control of things much larger than ourselves and ultimately unknowable. We can realize when and where our minds have split by seeing how they are taking us away from being embodied, from being human.

We can surrender to all that is– the entirety of the ocean– instead of attempting to control any part (dark or light) of it with our tiny, human brains and its misguided notions.

The process of spiritual awakening is the process of becoming deeply human. It is about becoming ordinary. Rather than conferring some sort of prize for specialness or superiority, it causes for someone to question every single belief that they have, every single notion of superiority, control, and what lies unhealed behind the need to be seen as special and different than others. All of these notions come from trauma; they come from confusion and lack of clarity about spiritual reality and what the direct, sustained experience of the ocean is like.

We live in an ocean of energy, some of it treacherous, some of it unfortunate. The direct experience of that ocean is one of humility, of awe, a surrender of the idea of knowledge, of knowing everything, of being able to fathom everything. Western idealism has taught us a myth of superiority, of rugged individualism, and we take that individualism into our spiritual studies, not understanding that the experience of infinity destroys any illusions about being a separate being.

Not understanding that while we are individuals, that awakening means the perspective of seeing things as they are, as seeing ourselves as part of greater and greater webs in which we are part.

If we are denying any part of that web, we are denying an aspect of ourselves.

Those dark forces are a part of you. So is the light. So is everything in between. While any spiritual worker should educate themselves, while any spiritual seeker should know about the continuum of light to darkness (and it is a huge arrogance for those fixated solely on the “light” to think that they need not know anything about the dark) the experience of that ocean teaches that all is within, and that is where our focus should lie.

The removal of belief, the looking at what we are hyper-focused on, what we continually point fingers at, reveals our largest wounds, our largest blind spots. We project them onto the world, onto one another, onto the Other.

It is by taking back our projections, by looking at what takes us away from embodied reality, from being able to interact with all that is (people, thoughts, the world) by seeing ourselves and them as part of a web, a small part of us seeing ourselves within another, that we can move beyond such illusions.

I am the person I hate. I am the evil archon. I am the darkness I seek to deny or cast onto the Other. I am the beliefs that have been created out of trauma. “There are no others”– Ramana Maharshi

When we take back our projections, we can see and experience the totality of that ocean. It is by reconciling the continuum of humanity within ourselves that we can awaken, and move beyond the projections outward of what we cannot reconcile within.


Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual healer, teacher, and author. You can find more information on spiritual awakening in her book, The Spiritual Awakening Guide: Kundalini, Psychic Abilities, and The Conditioned Layers of Reality.