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Steve Pavlina’s Lightworker/Darkworker Polarity

I’m thinking this will probably be the last article on lightworker/darkworker polarity I’ll write for a long time. The reason is that my ideas, and non-ideas on the subject have pretty much congealed for me. I don’t believe I’m an expert on the subject, but I’m comfortable with my level of understanding.

I basically became obsessed about polarity for a long time because of Steve Pavlina. His articles on the subject were fascinating and confusing. I’ve since discarded a lot of what he wrote as useless or meaningless for me.

The Definition Of Polarity

What I did take away from it, what still makes up an important part of my understanding of myself, is this:

You can choose whether you will attempt to primarily serve yourself, not especially caring about the wellbeing of others, or primarily serve all beings, caring about yourself as a part of that Whole but not putting yourself before anyone else.

There is a lot of meaning in making that choice (and actualising it, because just making the choice means nothing without action). As Pavlina says, I think accurately, most people never really work out where they stand here. Sometimes they do things that put themselves before others, and sometimes they do things which serve the larger whole.

Choosing where you stand in this polarity serves two purposes: one, it gives a meaning to your life, a purpose, a direction. And two, it means that you will be more effective in the path you choose as compared to if you dabble in both paths.

To be absolutely consistent with one path or the other requires you to spend a lot of energy on realigning your life. If you choose to walk the lightworker path, for instance, you’ll find you’ll go through a lot of small depressions (Dark Nights Of The Soul) as old, self serving goals die in you, and you begin to restructure your vision of the future to hold new goals. You need to let go of old parts of your identity which are no longer consistent with who you are. You need to think in the long term, in terms of your entire lifespan or perhaps beyond, and work out what is the most effective course of action at each stage. A polarity decision is a decision about your whole life, and it requires just as much investment as that would suggest.

A Conversation Involving Polarity

I was inspired to write this article after a conversation I had with someone close to me. She brought up an idea that I’ve heard not infrequently; that if we really cared about others we would give away all of what we had to the poor and become poor ourselves.

My response was this: having really thought through how I can best serve the world, I don’t think this is the best path. The best path is increasing my ability to take care of myself until I have spare time, energy and money I can give to others. (Financially unstable and suffering from stress-related illnesses, this is a genuine need; I’m not a healthy, comfortable middle class person who has to choose between the latest iPhone and doing activism). The greater my time, energy and money capacities, the better I can help others.

She said: but that’s the excuse the rich assholes use to accumulate wealth without helping anyone else with it. Power corrupts.

I confidently replied that power would not corrupt me. (Not that I necessarily intend to be rich, I can do a lot of cool stuff just having enough money to live comfortably… but sure, it would help). Power would not corrupt me because I’m clear on my priorities in life; serving the whole, and serving myself only as part of that whole. Power would corrupt if someone had any doubts as to where their priorities lay. Perhaps then they could fool themselves that they are helping others by indulging in luxury cars, yachts and mansions.

Steve Pavlina’s Polarity

It occurred to me that without using the word lightworker or darkworker I was talking about polarity as described by Steve Pavlina. Lightworker patterns of thinking had become so normal for me now that I don’t really think about them much. But when talking about the conundrum of how we can deal with injustice in the world, it became clear to me how differently I think as compared to more conventionally-minded people.

For me, lightworking is taking the desire to contribute and heal injustice which we all have, and trying to bring it to its logical conclusion. If we should be all giving to the poor, why aren’t we? My personal answer now is that I need to care for myself to make myself more effective later. When I have enough money, I won’t immediately give it all away, either; I will be thinking about how I can manage the money and which causes I can give to in order to maximise my overall impact.

It seems like the average person doesn’t really think about all these things. They think, “I should do more about injustice”, but then leave it there. Probably because going down that mental path would lead them to uncomfortable places, e.g. they might have to give up something, some part of their life or identity, that they are just too attached to.

Conformity plays a part too: if it were normal to think in terms of serving the Whole of which we as individuals are only part, then it would be a lot easier to make that commitment. As it is, our culture pulls us in two directions: on the one hand, towards self-serving indulgence (distinguished from self-care in that context is not considered and there is no end to it) and on the other hand, towards caring about others. We’re encouraged to help a person who falls down in the street, and also to spend our money on things we don’t need. We’re encouraged to be considerate to cats, and also to eat pigs and cows as if they were objects.

We’re also not usually encouraged to step on people to get what we want. And we’re not encouraged to act on compassion in any radical way; that would stand out too much, the great conformist sin. Society pressures us all towards mediocrity. It takes strength and a firm decision to break out of that.

My Confusions About Polarity

There are two ways I was previously confused about polarity, particularly because of what Steve Pavlina wrote, which I’ve cleared up now.

One is that I think Steve Pavlina created a false duality: serving yourself, vs. serving others.

I see it more in the way I’ve already described it; putting yourself before others, vs. serving the Whole and serving yourself only as part of it.

Seeing it in such simplistic terms as “serving yourself” and “serving others” sets you up with the misconception that you can really serve the Whole without serving yourself, or conversely, that you can serve yourself without sometimes giving back to others.

Steve Pavlina addresses this, suggesting that good lightworkers and darkworkers evolve towards a more non-dual perception of things, but it strikes me that this whole confusion would never have happened in the first place if we hadn’t defined lightworkers and darkworkers in dualist terms.

Serving the whole does require serving yourself quite a lot, because you are the primary person responsible for your own wellbeing, and frankly, caring for any one person is a lot of work (just ask a parent). If you neglect yourself, you become a relative drain on the whole, needing help from your friends and perhaps the government (in terms of welfare, for instance, or avoidable healthcare costs). If, on the other hand, you care for yourself so well you have a lot of extra time, energy, and money, you can dedicate those things to serving the rest of the whole asides from yourself.

Self Care

I think having an identity as a lightworker caused me problems for a long time because I somehow felt that serving myself was in conflict with serving the whole. I had these silly thoughts along the lines of “what would a lightworker do?” which in retrospect were never really going to help me that much.

The fact is, in this early stage of my life I need a lot of self care, and there is little I can do that really looks like what a lightworker would do in the way most people would imagine it. But everything I do now fits into the larger context of my life, which ultimately involves doing the best I can to help the world around me heal and evolve. That, rather than any individual action, defines my polarity, as I see it.

Energy And Polarity

The other way I was confused about polarity has to do with energy.

Nowadays, I don’t think too much about the energy component of lightworking. Actually I don’t really think about lightworking at all; all I know is that I dedicate my life to serving the Whole of which I am only a part.

Steve Pavlina called lightworking “the out-breath” and darkworking “the in-breath”. But if you imagine that, you just end up with a person suffocating. No one can only breathe in or only breathe out. That’s not just me taking a metaphor too literally; I believe the metaphor actually does extend this far. At some point I tried only giving, or giving as much as possible, and just as you can’t breathe out continuously, this showed itself to be impractical very fast.

A self-identified darkworker whose writings I read said that lightworkers are like wellsprings of light energy, and darkworkers are like sinks which absorb the energy. Both are necessary, because otherwise there would be too much light in the world. Or something.

In reality, I can’t see these metaphors matching up with the simple, almost mundane idea of dedicating one’s life to serving the Whole, or to putting oneself first. Darkworkers, according to my definition, don’t help the world, at least not as much as a lightworker would. They either take a lot more than they give, or they wise up to karma and take about as much as they give. A lightworker intends to get to a point where the world is a lot better off for having them in it.

If there is such a thing as “light” energy (corresponding to lightworkers) and “dark” energy (corresponding to darkworkers) then those would be the energies of love/peace and fear/separation, respectively. Love energy naturally allows us to see ourselves as part of a greater whole, while fear energy tends to make us feel separate and in need of getting one up on the people around ourselves, out of a need for self-preservation.

However, I don’t see why anyone would purposefully fill themselves with fear energy. Fear energy is poison, and anyone who is smart enough to consider the idea of polarity can probably see that too. The idea of intentionally poisoning yourself is disturbing to me. But then, I make no secret of the fact that I don’t really understand darkworkers very well. So who knows.

Self Identified Darkworkers

All this gets confusing when you talk to a lot of self-identified darkworkers, whose philosophies often seem to imply a fundamental “dark” energy which isn’t actually bad which you can use for spells and motivation and stuff. These are nicely represented by the people who write at darkworkers.com.

After reading and listening to what these self-identified darkworkers had to say, I came to two conclusions:

1. The more I take their theories seriously, the more confused I get, which brings me to the conclusion that whatever their belief system is, I just don’t agree with it. In my opinion, if their belief system had logical coherence, it would become clearer the more I studied it, and not more confusing.

2. Whatever they are, they are not darkworkers in the simple definition of people who (consistently) put themselves first. Or at least, some of them might be that, but not all of them, and that doesn’t seem to be the focus of their philosophy. They are something else, and just happen to inconveniently share the same name.

I simplified things a lot in my head by reducing lightworkers and darkworkers to the definition given at the beginning of this article. In my head, that is the basis, and nothing else is absolutely necessary to the concept. Love and Fear might be connected to it. Other interesting ideas might be relevant to it. But if they contradict the basic definition, I tune out; I’m just not interested anymore.

My Identity As A Lightworker

These days, being a lightworker is not a big part of my identity. Perhaps it’s just because I don’t have many others to talk about the subject with (the circles I hang out in don’t tend to react well to New Age thought, sadly), and perhaps it’s because I don’t have much more to think about regarding the label in itself. All I know is that I structure my life, my goals, my desires in a certain way. A way that gives me strength and meaning for my life. I’m quite comfortable with that aspect of myself, now. So I’m happy to leave that there.


A little addition a week later: I decided to look up the definition of “the left hand path”, something that is often equated with darkworking. This seemed to clear a little bit of confusion up for me: I think the main issue is conflating these two things. “The left hand path” is mostly an occult/magickal term, and involves the rejection of religious authority and social taboos. The right hand path, then, would involve submitting to religious authority and social mores. By this definition, I’d be a follower of the left hand path, though that’s meaningless to me really as I don’t feel like taking on another label which doesn’t add anything to my life.

And I don’t see what this has to do with putting yourself first / serving the Whole of which you are only a part, unless of course you consider that Western religion – well, Christianity – tends to encourage sacrifice. In any case, I’m someone who serves the Whole and who also tends to reject authority and social mores. It seems strange to me that in some people’s definition of polarity, it’s somehow impossible to do both of these things at once.

Besides this, it seems I’m already breaking my resolution to not write about lightworker and darkworker stuff anymore. I think writing this article set off a load of new thoughts in my head. Well, that can’t be a bad thing.



Darkworkers And Lightworkers

Becoming A Lightworker

The Lightworker Game

The False Trichotomy: Spirituality Vs. Money Vs. Activism

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • John Higgins March 24, 2015, 4:52 am

    Hi Sophia,

    I’m an Indigo college student and a huge fan of yours! I know you’re tired of talking about the lightworker/darkworker polarities, but I wanted to share my two cents:
    As you’ve pointed out, the distinction between service-to-self and service-to-others can be really confusing. Lightworkers do in fact serve themselves (by serving the whole), plus whose to say that the things associated with the service-to-self path (fear, domination, hierarchy etc.) are even desirable for most people?
    However, something to remember is that the individual self is an illusion. We read that all the time, but at higher levels of awareness (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) you really start to feel it. ‘Service-to-self’ thus means service-to-illusion, or service to darkness. Darkworkers fully identify with the ego and its feeling of being separate from all that is. That’s why they’re obsessed with being on top, dominating others, doing perverse things, etc. They want to feel separate. Of course it’s all an illusion, but it’s still an experience you can choose if you want.
    Lightworkers, on the other hand, don’t serve the individual self (i.e. they serve the truth). However, this looks a bit different from the mainstream idea of what being a ‘good person’ entails. As you said, often times the best way to help others is to help yourself. Yes lightworkers can be self sacrificing sometimes, but they also create beautiful art (amongst other things) and inspire others by being extremely happy and strong themselves.
    Also, unfortunately I believe that Darkworkers do serve the whole. As you and Steve have said, 99% of people put out mixed intentions and aren’t polarized. In fact, most people give away their power and actually want to live in a controlled society where they don’t have to take full responsibility for themselves. This is why we manifest dictators and oppressive governments; large amounts of people, on some level, actually want to be told what to do.

    Any ways, those are just my opinions. Keep up the mind blowing, amazingly awesome work!

    John Higgins

  • Cado October 25, 2015, 8:26 am

    “‘The left hand path’ is mostly an occult/magickal term, and involves the rejection of religious authority and social taboos. The right hand path, then, would involve submitting to religious authority and social mores. By this definition, I’d be a follower of the left hand path, though that’s meaningless to me really as I don’t feel like taking on another label which doesn’t add anything to my life.”

    Traditionally, right-hand path religions emphasized the whole over the individual (and they still do, in word if not in deed), thus to rebel one had to be self-serving in some capacity, and would be rejected by most as being supremely selfish and having no regard for their tribe or society as a whole. Now, what about when the establishment actually isn’t serving the whole and someone from that side of the fence decides to rebel? Does that make them a left-hand pather? No, and it’s possible to list several reasons why; the individual vs. the collective is the basis for the distinction, but it’s the foundation, not the end point. It’s also worth noting that left-hand practices in certain cultures and religions would include cannibalism, sex rituals, and otherwise embracing the flesh and all its desires. That last part is what’s most relevant in the modern day as that’s what most people are practicing and advocating by adopting the left-hand path label, the idea being that to embrace the primal is to embrace the divine.

    I don’t know how valuable the distinctions are. I reached a point where they were more a hindrance to me than anything; I used darkworking as a tool to multiply my sufferings rather than follow my bliss, and I think it’s an easy trap to fall into. If I were forced at gunpoint to pick a side I’d still call myself a left-hand pather. If I have a patron it’s still Lucifer as the lightbringer/rebel king archetype resonates very deeply with me. However, it seems that picking a side isn’t nearly as important as committing to a course of action that moves you closer to being who you want to be and achieving what you want to achieve in this world. Polarity is only a useful concept if it moves you outside of your comfort zone. For me, my comfort zone was within polarity, and I had to put it aside.

    How can you explain the concept? I could do it easily early on, but I caught myself doing mental tricks to force it to make sense as my understanding grew. Left-hand path and right-hand path practices are fairly simple to grasp and explain. Supposed energetic currents are not. If lightworkers and darkworkers can’t be defined by their actions and practices, then what bloody use is the theoretical framework? That’s not to say certain concepts within that framework aren’t useful, but more often than not they’re fairly mundane psychological phenomenon dressed up in mysticism that makes them harder to grasp rather than making them more accessible, and there’s a strong tendency in these circles toward self-delusion and self-defeating behaviors.

    Of course, that could just be a natural byproduct of dealing with one’s karma.

    One reason I gravitated away from darkworking is that the loose stance on ethics started rubbing me the wrong way; that wasn’t who I am. I needed to – and still need to – explore that subject on my own time and on my own terms. I still don’t believe in a universal morality imposed from on high; that would be the height of human arrogance, to think that whatever higher powers might exist have the same priorities humans do. I don’t think it’s impossible that an all-loving benevolent force exists in the universe, but I don’t think it would stop me from being consumed in fire were the sun to explode tomorrow because my life – and by extension, the lives of every person and organism on this planet – probably isn’t very significant in the grand scheme of things. That’s the only conclusion that makes any sense if there is some grand plan considering how commonplace extinction level events are just on our own planet. Even though I desire universal morality, I think of it more as an extension of my will and an ambition of my soul rather than an iron-clad fact by which all must abide. The practical offshoot is that I reject relativism and advocate for a human ethic grounded in reason. It’s my job to argue the point; no one is obligated to accept it.

    None of that has anything to do with karma. Karma is the repetition of patterns that lead to suffering due to attachment. That’s it. It’s not moral judgement, and it’s not a matter of getting what you give. You get what you are. In this framework, darkworkers wouldn’t alter their behaviors because they’re afraid of blowback. The modus operandi of the darkworker is to use the ego and the primal energies associated with it to break past paralysis and act within the here and now. This by necessity lessens attachment to the outcomes of actions and puts the focus square on repeating actions that are likely to yield results in time. Counterintuitively, this also forces the darkworker to loosen the grip of the ego’s desire for control as trying to micromanage every aspect of life is a sure way to defeat yourself in the face of trials and challenges. The less attached you are, the more malleable your ego becomes, and when you can essentially become whoever you want to be, you master life’s game and thus achieve the same end the lightworker pursues – enlightenment, or the blurring of the lines between the higher consciousness and the human self.

    The nastiness tends to dissipate because that’s generally something that comes from small-minded and weak people trying to make themselves appear stronger than they are. When they no longer need that mask to protect themselves they discard it. The same goes for the kind of overbearing paternalism that tends to be associated with weak or unhealthy lightworkers.

    There are exceptions, but they prove what I’ve said above. Look at someone like Donald Trump. Putting all judgement of him and what he advocates aside, he’s a man who is living in the moment. He has nothing to lose and isn’t attached to the outcome. That allows him to act in ways that give him a huge edge over his competition. He can focus on winning without suffering a blow to his ego if he loses or makes enemies. If you think he hurts people, it would be hard to give him what he dishes out because so much of it would roll right off his back. If you want to know why people like him get attention and acquire power despite their blowhard idiocy, it’s because he’s more enlightened than the new age love-n’-night gurus and the overweight, hedonistic, basement-dwelling Satanists.

    Enlightenment isn’t measured in terms of money or success. It’s not even measured in terms of love and compassion. It’s measured by attachment and the amount of self-inflicted suffering one endures, and the truth is almost all suffering is self-inflicted as it exists only in relation to how you perceive events within your mind. With that realization comes freedom; freedom to choose, and freedom to be whoever you want and do as you please.

    Ironically, tasting that freedom has led me to focusing a lot more on my loved ones, and releasing old pains and grudges. I find these days most of my happiness stems from making others happy. It gets me out of my head and puts me in the moment. I have no idea where I’d fall. I don’t think I’d take lightworking and darkworking very seriously if I’d first been exposed to the concepts as I am now. For the people who find value in it more power to them. For me, bearing the Mark of Cain has less to do with following a specific path and more to do with making my own way in this world.

    If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

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