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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.