This is my first guest article contribution by acclaimed Author, coach and teacher of practical magic, Carolyn Elliot.
1. Amor fati is a Latin phrase that means “the love of one’s fate.”
Amor fati perfectly describes the result of successful shadow integration.
Shadow integration – the unflinching embrace of what is unknown and of what is ordinarily repressed, taboo, or avoided – is the root of all efficacious magic.
Therefore the term amor fati is a useful, poetic term that we might use to substitute for the clunky mouthful of “the empowered magical state that results from successful shadow integration.”
Nietzsche had this to say about amor fati in Ecce Homo:
“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary—but love it.”
And in The Gay Science:
“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse.Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”
We glean from Nietzsche’s enthusiastic description that amor fati can constitute “greatness in a human being” because it’s synonymous with the ability to be fully present with all dimensions of life, including the most terrible ones, without aversive reactivity.
2. Amor fati constitutes an approach towards life that’s utterly free of shame.
Fear, said Frank Herbert in Dune, is the mind-killer.
Shame is the magic-killer. Which is even worse.
Magic, or witch force, is a kind of power-from-within that can only be poetically and subjectively, not rationally or objectively, understood.
Power-from-within, the ability to effect change in the world through the numinous quality of one’s being and actions, is distinct from power-over, the use of coercion or threat to achieve a desired end.
Poetically speaking, we might say that witch force is an electro-magnetic field of synchronicity which surrounds a person, the tone and strength of which is dramatically influenced both by their life experience and their reaction / response to their life experience.
A person’s witch force often acts semi-autonomously, functioning without their ego’s deliberate intention.
With shadow integration and intentional cultivation via symbol and ritual, an individual’s witch force can be harnessed and brought into dynamic relationship with the conscious mind.
This work of integration and cultivation of unconscious witch force with conscious intent is the point of all alchemies, tantras, shamanic and magical initiations throughout various times and cultures.
In human existence, shame often coincides with and prolongs pain and suffering.
In the past two thousand years of history, shame has been relentlessly heaped upon everyone by dogmatic organized religion (including the dogmatic religion of materialist science).
This shaming and its painful consequences have been most violently directed towards and enacted upon women, people of color, and gender nonconforming / LGBQT people, and it also bears note that men – including white, able-bodied, gender-conforming men (who historically have had the highest level of privilege within the shame hierarchy) have also suffered from emotional and spiritual crippling within this state of affairs.
Basically, no one truly wins in the shame hierarchy – because even the “winners” – the privileged white men we just noted – receive the benefits of their “winning” (material prosperity, political clout) – at the high cost of their empathy, capacity for connection, and access to their own intuition and witch force – i.e. within the enactment of conventional, detached “masculinity” that has to be maintained in order for their privilege to be maintained.
3. Amor fati connotes the absence of energetic contraction and the presence of a healed witch force.
Shame surrounding any aspect of your life experience, instinctual energies, or personal qualities is a wound that causes a kind of energetic contraction of your witch force.
Shame, sadly, is a social contagion. It’s a uniquely human disease, passed on from person-to-person. Monkeys, notoriously, lack it.
This energetic contraction of your witch force engendered by the wound of contagious shame creates a kind of magical “limp.” When you have this magical limp – as pretty much all of us do – your surrounding field of synchronicity is hampered in its ability to bring you happy manifestations.
Instead, rather annoyingly, your surrounding field of synchronicity now brings you manifestations that simply re-enact and re-create (with various shades of symbolic finesse and very dark humor) your original situation of wounding.
This is very not-fun, and some would say, “unfair” – and yet, I would venture that it’s actually a kindness – it’s the universe’s way of bringing us face-to-face again and again, with some fucking painful aspect of life-on-earth that we have been unwilling to wholly feel and embrace, until we are willing to finally willing to embrace it.
It’s fashionable to rail against the common consoling saying “Everything happens for a reason” because we want to emphasize that pain and tragedy and grief and violence are senseless. This is often a good and tactful thing to keep in mind when empathizing with someone who is freshly hurt or grieving. Pain certainly feels senseless.
Yet at the risk of being wildly unfashionable and offensive – I am indeed offering – that Everything Happens for a Reason.
The reason is not particularly nice or readily recognizable as benevolent, but it does seem to be an evolutionary principle that human experience is built around: the return of the repressed.
You don’t get to move beyond any flavor of pain this planet has to dish out until you are able to meet it head-on, bravely and shamelessly.
Why is shamelessness such a requirement here? Because shame is the element that will cause you to unconsciously recreate the painful pattern. Experience the pain without shame and you have successfully interrupted the pattern.
This grim pattern-recreation process functions on both individual and societal levels.
But there’s not much use wringing our hands about societal dysfunction beyond our immediate control – the most direct means by which societal dysfunction will eventually be healed is by individuals first doing this work for themselves and supporting their friends and families in this work.
In other words, there’s no way out but through.
Now back to the “limp.”
Just as the physical body compensates for a wound by “borrowing” energy from other systems, the psyche then generates strategies of resentment, regret, greed, aggression, compulsion, addiction – the whole panoply of human vice – as compensations for the energetic, synchronous “limp” engendered by shame’s wound to the witch force.
These strategies, also known as vices – resentment, greed, aggression, compulsion, addiction – function as energy-grabbing mechanisms.
In other words, because the shame wound has created a contraction that’s left you temporarily unable to access a key dimension of your own internal electric-spiritual-sexual energy, the vices seek to “grab” energy from external sources – the approval other people, drugs, alcohol, alienated sex, gambling, compulsive work – to supply you.
This “grabbing” mechanism of vice is the root of what people sometimes refer to as “energy vampirism.” We’re all energy vampires, to some degree, as long as we have these vices operative within us.
We’re also all in a codependent-addictive relationship with the world, other people, and life as long as we’re in this situation.
4. Amor fati points us to the real meaning of shadow integration
The work of shadow integration, as it’s described in nearly every contemporary resource, is often explained as the effort to “own” or take responsibility for negative qualities (i.e., the compensatory strategies / vices) – that one would prefer to deny having.
In this parlance, it’s common to speak of “owning one’s greed” or “owning one’s aggression.”
This strikes me as a rather pathetically weak-sauce version of shadow integration.
Because while coming out of denial regarding one’s compensatory strategies and their consequences is a key step in shadow work, in my experience it’s really only the very first step.
In other words, if you stop at simply coming out of denial about your greed, your aggression, your resentment – you’re still left with the fact that you are full of greed, aggression, and resentment.
So you’ve thereby succeeded in acknowledging the effects of your unintegrated shadow, but you haven’t really yet come close to actually integrating your shadow and its power.
That’s because the essential content of your shadow is not that greed, aggression, resentment, or whatever your psyche’s preferred flavor of vice happens to be.
As we noted, those vices are just compensatory strategies that help you to survive through “grabbing” energy.
The actual content of your shadow, what you’re actually repressing and avoiding, is the overwhelming memory-sensation of encounter with taboo energies.
Often these taboo energies are those of sexual desire (eros), and its more esoteric yet always-accompanying twin, death-desire (thanatos).
These energies are taboo for the very reason that they are indeed overwhelming to the psyche and, left un-contained, deletrious to social relationships.
Half of the work of effective magic is the effort to create solid symbolic and ritual containers within which to encounter and embrace these overwhelming taboo energies. If you look at pretty much any shamanic indigenous tradition, you can see this work of container-creation.
In civilized society ruled by the twin Saturnine dogmas of religion and materialist science, almost no one has access to symbolic and ritual containers for encounter with these overwhelming, yet-unavoidable energies.
So in the absence of deliberate magical containers, the default containing, limiting, and checking mechanism for overwhelming experiences of sexual desire and death-desire in civilized society is shame.
And as we have noted, shame wounds. It’s basically the shittiest, most harmful containing mechanism ever.
In other words – while Freud had a severe self-centered blindness afflicting much of his interpretation of psychological experience – especially his interpretation of women’s experience of trauma – I would offer that he was very correct in his attribution of pretty much all neurosis (the energetic “limp” we’re talking about) to repressed and shamed sexual sensation and death-desire.
Jung’s theory of the shadow (upon which pretty much all of the weak-sauce modern day versions of shadow work are based) failed to fully take the rather scandalous sex-‘n’-death shame basis of the shadow into account, probably due to Jung’s own understandable yet self-centered need to distance his work from that of Freud’s, his mentor-turned-rival.
As a result of this evasion-of-the-sensational-shame-nature-of-the-shadow, Jung’s own process of integration, which he practiced himself in his now-famous Red Book and worked on with his clients….
…. while a beautiful and often an ultimately effective process….
… is un-necessarily oblique, arduous, long-winded, and arcane.
In other words: symbol, dreaming, ritual, and imagination will always be elements of effective communication with the unconscious – Jung was certainly right about that – but I would argue that Jung’s total reliance on these tools for the work of integration was also in part due to his unwillingness to simply confront his shadow and all its scandalous sensations head-on.
Freud, for all his failures of interpretation due to his narcissism, did have the virtue of a relentless willingness to confront and name the content of the shadow for what it is: sex and death, eros and thanatos, the realm of the taboo.
5. Amor fati means the embrace of all sexual-sensation and death-sensation, past and present
When one is willing to deliberately (we could say “ritually”) consciously, shamelessly confront and fully feel all sensation, including the overwhelming ones of remembered encounters with taboo eros and thanatos, one attains amor fati by affirming the essential, mysterious “goodness” of all one’s life experience, including very painful and traumatic experience.
I want to be clear: what I am talking about is absolutely not a fluffy-bunny, spiritually-bypassing, passive “acceptance” of life’s hardships or a resignation to violence and the myriad oppressions of our society.
What I am talking about is a way of creating a massive healing “pattern interrupt” in the painful cycle of shame and its compensatory vice strategies, which always create… more pain and more shame.
This “pattern interrupt” is at the heart of tantra and alchemy, the “lightning” paths to nondual awakening. The lightning paths are widely recognized to be both rapid, and also potentially dangerous – because sheer indulgence in taboo sensation doth not enlightenment make.
The process of wisely, shamelessly confronting and fully feeling overwhelming taboo sensation is obviously not an easy one. If it were fun and easy, we wouldn’t have spent thousands of years investing our collective energies in avoiding it.
In my experience it’s tremendously challenging, and requires immense courage, strength, and a giant urgent willingness to divest oneself of compensatory strategies.
Some people are capable of doing this work in solitude, some require support. I don’t suggest attempting it unless you are of sound mind and truly ready to take fullest adult responsibility for seeing the work the whole way through.
I teach a meditative method of doing this kind of shadow integration called Existential Kink, and while it’s super-intense and not at all for everyone, it can also be immensely and rapidly effective, as many of my clients and course participants attest.
6. Amor fati is the most efficacious magical state to inhabit
Amor fati, the total ecstatic love of one’s fate, including the most painful dimensions of one’s fate, is a liberated condition.
It’s the condition that Jung called “individuation” – because in order to inhabitamor fati, you have to do the work of separating (i.e., individuating) yourself from familial and societal shaming of eros and thanatos.
It’s also a rather worthwhile and dynamic mode of nondual awareness.
Amor fati lends one immense magical power, first, because it’s the ability to have a non-contracted (non-emotionally crippled, aversive, reactive) relationship to pain and adversity.
So just think about that for a minute. Imagine that you have power to meet any circumstance, any emotion, with an undaunted, responsive attention.
Imagine that there is nothing that you shrink from, nothing you avoid.
It’s relatively easy to see how this ability confers an openness to life and other people and to the unknown which is the ideal condition for “good luck.”
Fortune favors the brave, goes the saying.
And it’s very true – the more brave you are in your willingness to fully feel and be present to even the most extreme sensations, the more open you are to the whole field of life, and therefore you are vastly more available for good fortune to reach you.
Good fortune is not able to easily contact those who spend their lives avoiding eros and thanatos, limping along in compensatory vices.
In fact, good fortune itself is highly sensational – and if you habitually numb sensation through compensatory vices, you will also unconsciously repel the gifts good fortune, because your being won’t even see them as good: it will see them as simply sensational, and your being has learned to regard high sensation as unacceptable and dangerous.
So a key to a high “havingness” level for good fortune, health, prosperity, etc., is this kind of full-on shadow work in which you learn to receive high sensation.
Secondly, amor fati lends one immense magical power because it’s the state of having a healed synchronous energetic field that’s non-debilitated by shame, not grimly re-creating the original painful scene in order to compel you to deal with it.
In other words, in amor fati, your witch-force is now able to perform a more cheerful function of generating positive relationships and situations around you. In this condition you don’t need compensatory strategies to “grab” energy – so you’re able to have a non-grasping, supportive relationship with reality.
When you have an amor fati witch-force, you’re vastly more attractive to allies of all kinds: humans, deities, animals, elements – for the very reason that you’re no longer grab-y, you’re rooted in your own strength.
Consider this: “vir” is a Latin root that literally means “strength.” When you’re “virgin”, you are self-fertilizing, full of your own strength. When you’re “virgin” you’re also “virtuous” rather than “vice-ful” because you’re not unconsciously stealing energy from other people and substances.
Magically speaking, being virgin and being virtuous don’t anything to do with any specific form of sexual behavior or inexperience or righteous goody-two-shoes-ness. They have to do with being in a condition of amor fati, united with one’s own divinely-given strength.
7. Amor fati is an affirmation of divine identity
Who do you think you are?
I mean, really? As in, what do your actions, choices, relationships, responses to life’s situations reveal about who you most deeply believe yourself to be?
If you’re like most of us humans, it’s likely that at some level you deeply believe yourself to be incapable of meeting life and death.
That’s false, and it’s a major part of the social contagion of shame. Shame, as we noted earlier, is a really lousy effort at creating containment for overwhelming encounters with the sensations of eros and thanatos.
Part of what makes shame so very lousy as a container-strategy is that it’s an attitude of “whoah, can’t deal with this! avoid! avoid!” rather than an attitude of “this very intense experience is part of life, let’s see what we can do to wisely meet it without going insane.”
As long as we deeply believe ourselves to be incapable, it’s inevitable that we sink into self-pity.
Since synchronicity is a patterning of meaning, and identity is what we take ourselves to “mean,” when we identify ourselves with this illusion of piteous incapability, we generate synchronous circumstances in our lives that signify: piteous incapability.
So one way of understanding the value of amor fati is by recognizing that the embrace of amor fati is a divine attitude.
And when we whole-heartedly practice this divine attitude, moving from a stance of self-pity to one of clear-eyed capability, we fundamentally alter who we believe ourselves to be, what we take ourselves to “mean.” We change thesignification, and the energetic signature, of our being.
Since synchronicity, again, is a patterning of meaning, when we identify ourselves with this divine truth of astounding power to meet anything with deep embrace within a wise container, we generate synchronous circumstances that signify: astounding power.
So: there you have it. Today’s take-away: Amor fati. It’s awesome, go get it, power up your witch force. And also: Nietzsche and Freud, like many of us, were often assholes – and they also happened to be totally correct on some important points.
Carolyn Elliott is the editor of WITCH magazine, a sought-after coach, the acclaimed author of Awaken Your Genius: A Seven-Step Path to Freeing Your Creativity and Manifesting Your Dreams, and the teacher of INFLUENCE: the life-altering course on mastering practical magic.