Tag Archives: spiritual possession

Ego in Fast-Forward

“Though the ego is only one complex of associations in the psyche, it has evolved as a coordinator: what it is drawn to as an object of attention will be where and how its energy is applied. These motives are based on unconscious processes, and only by turning conscious attention to them can we find deeper meaning and purpose beyond the preconceptions of ego and its one-sided, paradoxical intentions.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious

Continuing Erich Neumann’s discussion of ego-inflation, it’s important to note that his observations were written in 1949 as a response to WWII. That spectacle of mass psychosis seems far distant to the current generation, though many of today’s decision-makers were shaped directly by the psychic conditions which produced it. It may seem that modern consciousness is accelerating at warp-speed, but this is an illusion created by ego’s identification with intellect and has little to do with consciousness in the sense of being self-aware. The tradition of repression which characterized the old ethic Neumann described is not so easily disposed of:

The instability of attitude which is caused by the presence of the counter-position in the unconscious is not confined to the average man, who, as a constituent member of the mass, makes up the following of all “movements”; it is also found — and this is even more dangerous — among so-called leading personalities such as educationists, teachers and politicians.”

As compelling as Neumann’s insights were in 1949, we’re in a better position to gauge their accuracy a generation later. The psychic tendencies he observed then are not only confirmed by the modern political landscape, they follow the same pattern collectively that he and Jung mapped out in individual psychology:

The incompetence of the politicians, which has become so cruelly… obvious to modern man, is essentially due to their human inadequacy — that is, to a moral undermining of their psychic structure which culminates in their total breakdown when faced with any real decision. To future ages, the fact that the leading politicians of our period were not required to pass a test of any kind to determine their human and moral qualifications will appear… as grotesque as it would seem to us today if a diphtheria-carrier were to be placed in charge of the children’s ward in a hospital.

Perhaps Neumann gave too much credit to the average man of his day; either way, it becomes more painfully obvious with each new change in the governing process, whether by force or election. There are important psychological reasons for this:

From the point of view of the new ethic, the moral inadequacy of the politician does not reside in the fact that on a conscious level he is not a morally acceptable personality — though there is no guarantee that he will be that, either! It is his total unconsciousness of the shadow and the illusory orientation of consciousness that accompanies this kind of unawareness which is the decisive — and often enough, the fatally decisive — factor.

Here, we enter the new reality show of modern American politics as foreseen by Neumann. The articulate deception which characterized the political process in the last century has devolved into the “sanctimonious hypocrisy and downright lying” mentioned in my last post. Because it’s an initial stage of ego-awareness, it’s rude, undeveloped and appears in negative form. It brings to the surface all that was hidden in the facade personality by exaggerating it to an extent that it becomes visible to all but the most uncritical.

It’s that energy of the unconscious counter-position (the shadow) which, since it exceeds conscious will, pushes the spiritual possession behind the inflated ego into awareness — but only to a reflecting mind.

The only person who is morally acceptable in the eyes of the new ethic is the person who has accepted his shadow problem — the person… who has become conscious of his own negative side. The danger that constantly threatens the human race and which has dominated history up to the present time arises out of the “untestedness” of leaders who may actually be men of integrity as understood by the old ethic but whose unconscious and unheeded counter-reactions have generally made more “history” than their conscious attitudes.

It’s an even more dangerous problem today in this new age of exaggeration and warp-speed intellect. What happens when the new leaders are no longer even men of integrity by the old standards, but the negative exponents of a new ego-driven reality that threatens to consume everything, including itself, for the sake its own image?

It is precisely because we realise today that the unconscious is often, if not always, a more powerful determinant in the life of a man than his conscious attitude, his will and his intentions, that we can no longer pretend to be satisfied with a so-called “positive outlook” which is no more than a symptom of the conscious mind.

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Consciousness in Transition

A large part of education will always be devoted to the formation of a persona, which will make the individual… socially presentable, and will teach him not what is, but what may be regarded as, real; all human societies are at all times far more interested in instructing their members in the techniques of not looking, of overlooking and of looking the other way than in sharpening their observation, increasing their alertness and fostering their love of truth.” — Depth Psychology and a New Ethic — Erich Neumann.

An historical view of our development will attest the fact that we’re currently entering a new stage of consciousness. A brief look at the scientific advances of the last century ought well convince the most hardened skeptic. The intellectual creativity and focus required for them are truly astounding. But, the increase in focus they represent is at the expense of another vital function of a more diffuse nature, a different kind of awareness: the religious function.

While Neumann’s quote may not apply to the relatively few specialists who’ve thrust intellectual objectivity into the collective spotlight, their love of truth is restricted mainly to the material world. Another reality lurks behind today’s fascination with objectivity. Psychic law dictates that the greater our focus on objects, the more we lose sight of the subject — ourselves: what we do with things and how we relate to life, its purposes and meaning. Human instincts are finely tuned to an irrational earthly existence, now obscured by rational truths — yet still driven by age-old spiritual fantasies. Neumann:

Every kind of restriction may be imposed by the collective. But whether it is a case of a taboo in a primitive tribe, a social convention or a moral prohibition, whether it is a question of not mentioning certain subjects or of not admitting certain facts or of behaving as if certain non-existent entities in fact existed or of saying things which one does not mean or not saying things which one does mean — every time it makes one of these demands the collective will be guided be certain principles which are vital to…  the development of consciousness. Without these values it could not exist — or such, at least, is its firm conviction.

Neumann here puts his finger on the modern dilemma; for, these same values, without which we’re convinced humanity can’t exist, now threaten to destroy the civilized world. From constant global tensions to open hostilities to outright war; from the willful destruction of our habitat for no more than our own greed and convenience to the sheer waste of finite resources built into it (all of which would be deemed psychotic in the individual), the shadow-side of our collective natures — the regressive ideologies, stunted politics, run-away technologies, fake news, and all the rest — conspires against us.

The ego will receive the reward of moral recognition… to the exact extent to which it succeeds in identifying with the persona, the collectivised facade personality — the… reason being that this facade personality is the visible sign of agreement with the values of the collectiveFrom this point of view, it makes no difference whether the persona-personality by means of which ego identifies itself with the demands and values of society… belongs to a medicine man or a solicitor, a chieftain or a party functionary, a king or an artist. It is equally irrelevant whether the society which imposes this collective mask… is primitive or civilised, democratic or Fascist.”

Neumann goes on to discuss the “contrast between “conscience” and the “inner voice” as a basic conflict between the individual and society which creative design is to raise consciousness beyond the torpor of convention and adapt it to ever-changing conditions, internally as well as externally, for consciousness evolved to adapt in two directions at once. “This contrast is most clearly exemplified in the founders of new religions and ethical movements; these were invariably “criminals”, and it was inevitable that they should be treated as such. Abraham… Jesus and Luther… all these were regarded as criminals…

On the authority of conscience, the persona excludes a number of psychic components. In part, these are repressed into the unconscious, but in part, too, they are controlled by the ego and consciously eliminated from the life of the personality. All those qualities, capacities and tendencies which do not harmonise with the collective values — everything that shuns the light of public opinion, in fact — now come together to form the shadow, that dark region of the personality which is unknown and unrecognised by the ego.”

These psychic facts are “the expression of our own imperfection and earthliness, the negative which is incompatible with the absolute values… our inferior corporeality in contradistinction to the absoluteness and eternity of a soul which “does not belong to this world”. Such has been our general history up to the last generation…

But, it can also appear in the opposite capacity as “spirit”, for instance when the conscious mind only recognises the material values of this life. The shadow represents the uniqueness and transitoriness of our natures… it is our own state of limitation and subjection to the conditions of time and space.

Here we enter a modern phase of spiritual possession in which the old values and ideals begin the transition into their opposites — in full accordance with psychic law. Since the shadow contains all that’s incompatible with the collective values with which the ego-facade identifies; and since these values have unconsciously shifted from a subjective search for truth to the ‘objective’ world through a symptomatic (and symbolic) obsession with it, ego identifies not only with the forgotten gods of its projected history, but seeks to further transcend its nature by identifying with the new god of it’s own intellect.

(My next post will be a continuation of this one.)

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