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The Resurrection Of A Symbol: A Dark Brown Earth-Christ

Thomas Atum O'Kane

This past Easter I was in Bhutan surrounded by incredible sacred Buddhist images and blessed by the people who radiate an atmosphere of loving kindness. Still my heart remembered the vision of Christ I saw in Brasillia, the capital of Brazil, some years ago. St Teresa of Avilla was deeply awakened to her mystical path by passing a familiar statue of Christ on the cross. One day, the statue came alive for her and revealed the profound depths of forgiveness. For me it was a cross with a life-size Christ made out of dark brown wood. As I looked at the face a door opened for me revealing the global suffering of brown- skinned people from discrimination, diminishment and poverty. As a concept I was aware of the plight of brown-skinned people but now it became a reality of the heart.

 Dark-Skinned Christ

At age 17 my daughter Rose accompanied me on a pilgrimage to India. Soon after we arrived in Verinasi, the center of the Hindu world, a girl about ten began to follow Rose everywhere. After several days the wide-eyed girl asked Rose if she was a movie star. Rose smiled and said, “No, why do you think so?” The girl responded, “Because you are so beautiful and your skin is so light, just like the movie stars.” The conversation mirrored one I heard in the late sixties at a poor urban middle school in America. Both the Indian and Afro-American girls felt at a young age that they did not meet the cultural image of feminine beauty and success. No matter how much Rose and I tried to reflect their radiance and beauty, they had already internalized the negative judgment with accompanying limitations. To question the validity of such assumptions had painfully never occurred to them since the projections were constantly and consistently mirrored into them.

In Bankok, Thailand, there are three upscale malls in a row. Almost all the stores have American and European expensive brands. In one there is the most amazing food court and store with delicious things from all over the world. While eating I noticed all most all of the shoppers and diners were light-skinned Asians. I mentioned this to my son Emanuel. He was not surprised. This was in sharp contrast to those who do manual labor or drive taxies and tuck-tucks. The latter almost always migrate to the city to support their families living in rural and farming areas. Having spent the last 16 months in Asia, Emmanuel noted how difficult it is to try any skin product in India that does not automatically have whitener in it. Bangkok is filled with signs for dentist who will whiten your teeth.

In Mexico I have listened to a repeated conversation with several people. They comment on the light color of my skin in comparison to their darker brown tone. When I try to explain that many light skinned tourists have spent a lot on money

to have skin like theirs, it goes completely unheard. The conditioning is so strong. In Mexico skin color is also reflective of class, like so many other countries. Even describing brothers and sisters a separation has been made between the lighter ones and the darker relatives. What makes it all the more painful is the speaker is usually completely unaware of how they have internalized this prejudice and devalued themselves and others like them.

I have been told by someone I respect that the desire among the younger generation of brown-skinned people is not to look white but rather have a golden tan tone like the singer Jennifer Lopez. This is certainly reflected in advertisements for beauty products. The distinction appears to be based upon exposure to the sun in various kinds of work and lifestyles, which in many places is manifested in the class structures.

I remember one beautiful evening at Hollyhock sitting with a small group from the guidance training. We were appreciating the delicious and nutritious food. Then one member referred to the church dinners she went to during her youth in the Midwest and how all the food would be white. Several others spoke up with similar stories and with much laughter they recalled how tasteless all the “white” food was.

Much has changed in certain places concerning the elevation of the while-light and the demeaning of the brown-dark. But on a global scale the crucified Christ, (the divine in human beings that is denied, diminished, abused, assaulted, and nailed to the cross) is lived by billions of brown skin people usually in poverty.

I believe this devaluating of the dark brown is also reflected in our ecological crises. This color and shade are most present in the dark rich earth and we speak of cleanliness as next to godliness- meaning removing all the “dirt.” The “white collar” job and life-style have a higher class status than manual labor that gets “dirty.”

I remember an English friend who went to Africa with an associate who had been raised there. When my friend returned, he spoke of experiencing a profound transformation. I asked what happened, and to my great surprise he said, “ I touched the dirt, I came to Earth. My whole childhood I was told never get dirty. But dirt is wonderful. While in the wilderness, we even washed the dishes with dried dung. I feel profoundly liberated and claim the Earth.”

Hopefully removing the collective shadow projections on brown, dark, (and all colors of skin), dirt and Earth will be part of the process leading us to greater consciousness and eventually the living realization of the divine in every member of the human family. When that occurs it will be a great Easter Sunday for the resurrected Planetary Christ.

Carl Jung drew our attention to significance of shadow work if humanity is to survive a nuclear war. This must be practiced by individuals, groups, nations, institutions, genders, generations, religious traditions, cultures, political parties, etc. It must become a continual practice of awareness in all levels of humanity for the tendency to project the shadow onto others has so far been inherent in our history. We will need to be vigilant in our awareness and mutual accountability so the shadow is made consciousness and the practice integrated rather than just seeking another target.

A few days after writing the above article I was in the Amsterdam airport. I went to buy a tea and saw a chocolate covered donut that I liked in my childhood and had not tasted in decades. As I went to pay the cashier said to me, “if you eat too many of those you will become my color.” I looked at his shining dark brown face with a brilliant smile and the silver white in his hair and responded, “I like your color.” He answered, “I started to eat them in my childhood and could not stop and see what happened.” We both laughed. In leaving the counter I said to him, “you made my day,” and he smilingly responded, “you made mine too.” May we all find our way to such joyous meetings as the gold in the shadow is redeemed and celebrated.

May the god of Transformation living in the soul of every person carry us into the emerging planetary consciousness. Amen!




The Deeper Story Archive

1 - Ancient Archetypes and Myths in Our Time

2 - Mexico: My Teacher of Vivid Life

3 - What The Soul Of The World Needs Most

4 - The Center Must Hold

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This site was last updated 07/17/08