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There’s so much excellent content out there in the domains of self-help, therapy, life coaching, spiritualism, and positive thinking. I’ll call these things collectively “the Traditions” for now.

Among the Traditions, The Four Agreements is perhaps the simplest, most straightforward, and potentially impactful.

But almost none of these Traditional teachings (at least as presented in modern times), including even The Four Agreements, are as effective and impactful as they could be because they too often overlook an essential first step.

In other words, the advice they give and the truths they offer, while brilliant, are only actionable to a whole person. But to everyone else, they are nothing but “a resounding gong or a clanging symbol”. A divided psyche—that is, one with a large Shadow—is simply incapable of acting upon the teachings.

For example, we cannot be impeccable with our word when we have forced parts of ourselves—the part of us that is selfish or angry or needy—into the Shadow of our subconscious. How can we?

We cannot cease to be triggered—that is, we can’t stop taking things personally—when the cause of those triggers is rooted in entirely unconscious and often inaccurate beliefs about ourselves, others, and/or the world.

We cannot resist making assumptions when our most basic and fundamental assumptions are either so familiar to us or so estranged from us as to be invisible to our conscious minds (e.g., a fish doesn’t know that it’s in water, and denial ain’t just a river in Egypt).

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Therefore effective Shadow work—that is, bringing the contents of our subconscious to light—must precede any other self-help teaching in order for that teaching to be effective and actionable. In particular, since the most fundamental (and inaccurate) assumption that we unconsciously hold is our own sense of self, we must first solidify and then refine and purify our identity before proceeding to more advanced teachings.

Alas, doing that is exceedingly painful at first, and so this essential first step is constantly overlooked or avoided as a result.

To quote Jung:

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

In other words…by engaging in effective Shadow work.

Therefore the famous Freemason, W.L. Wilmshurst, had it right when he said:

“Truth…is at all times an open secret, but is a pillar of light [only] to those able to receive and profit by it, and to all others but one of darkness and unintelligibility. [T]he vital secrets of life…protect themselves even though shouted from housetops, because they mean nothing to those as yet unqualified for the knowledge and unready to identify themselves with it ....”

The Four Agreements (and many other Traditions) are true, but they are accessible only to those able to receive and profit by them—that is, those who have progressed sufficiently in Shadow work.

[If you want to think and see more clearly; discern more accurately; predict more reliably and live, love, and understand yourself and the world more fully; or if you just want to watch people who do; then please continue to follow me here.]