You and I and AI

Column by Rev. Jim Burklo on 14 December 2023 0 Comments

Artificial Intelligence (AI) presents both dangers and benefits and when viewed from a progressive Christian perspective, it prompts ethical and moral considerations.

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I have been encouraged to do Shadow Work as a healing process. How does this align with being a Christian?


Dear Carla,

Let’s begin with Carl Jung whose shadow theory provides the basis for shadow work you refer to. Wikipedia offers an accurate and simple summation. “[S]hadow theory is a concept that refers to the unknown dark side of the personality that is repressed from childhood. The shadow is instinctive and irrational, and may project its own flaws onto others. The shadow can also manifest in dreams or visions as a symbol of wildness, chaos, or the unknown. Jung believed that confronting and integrating the shadow is essential for self-knowledge and growth.”

In Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, he originally spoke of the unconscious but later moved away from this geographic model to a psychodynamic one of the superego, ego, id, where the id embodies what was previously conceived as constituting the unconscious. Freud recognized that much of the power of the id lay in its capacity to influence the ego without the person being aware. Freud and Jung each appreciated the capacity of the unconscious to significantly influence and shape our lives.

If we look at this matter of conscious and unconscious from the spiritual traditions of east and west, we find a similar appreciation. Buddhism speaks of our being unconscious to the forces of anger, fear, and greed. Gurdjieff recognized how mechanical most human beings are. We act instinctually, not knowing the “why” of our behavior. We sleepwalk through most of life, captive to the instinctual survival, sexual and social drives. We aren’t aware of our lack of freedom.

“Awake, o sleeper,” is a cry surfacing over and again throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Jesus asks his friends, “who do you say that I am?,” which is a question they can answer only if they know who they are; which means they need to awaken from their hearts’ captivity to fear. To take the courageous step to engage in shadow work is to begin the process of waking up. You begin to explore and wonder about your own experiences. You begin to ask questions. You no longer take the word of someone else about who you are (family, friends, society). You embark on the road less travelled of coming to know intimately your own heart, body, and mind. You need a wise and skilled teacher to guide you.

Each of us carries many wounds. When we were small with few coping skills, we often survived by “forgetting” what and who hurt us. Repression is just one of the powerful defense mechanisms we relied on to survive. If we are to awaken, which is a profound act of Christian compassion, we each need to become explorers of our unconscious, befriending whatever lives in the land of our inner shadows. This spiritual practice asks us to be kind with ourselves, being curious but not pushy. In the end, whatever truths we come to know will help to set us free.

~ Kevin G. Thew Forrester, Ph.D.




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