Love “bears all things” and “endures all things’* (i Cor. 13:7). These words say all there is to be said; nothing can be added to them. For we are in the deepest sense the victims and the instruments of cosmogonic “love.” ~Carl Jung; Memories Dreams and Reflections; Page 354ç
At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
Love . . . is of fundamental importance in human life and . . . of far greater significance than the individual suspects. ~Carl Jung, CW 7, Page 218.
Where there is love, there is life. ~Mahatma Gandhi
Love of the soul. Charity. The love of human for human, God for humans, and humans for God. The highest form of love,the supreme value that sums up and encompasses all the others.
Quan Yin: Goddess of Mercy and Compassion
Emotion is one aspect of agape.The Greeks thought of it as empathy and feelings of lovingkindness for others, like sympathy, familiarity, affection, sentiment, and attraction. But agape is also a choice. We can choose to strive for the highest good of others as well as ourselves, even in the face of extreme adversity.
Yet agape is even more than this, and here we enter the realm of mysticism. For spirit persons throughout the world, agape also comes from outside the human body and ego. It is an intangible living thing that we are all born with and immersed in together.
Like the Self, the psyche’s core and circumference, the supreme form of love is a spiritual life force that we cannot escape. Whatever we want to call it, we’re in agape, agape is in us, and every form of love comes from it. Agape is something we are: the Self within us and the miracle of our life. God, Spirit, Life, Love, and the Self are all the same thing.
This means you are sacred, I am sacred, all life is sacred. Why don’t we know it? Why is there so much suffering in this world? Because we have not yet learned the final kind of love I will discuss in this series.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” ~Nelson Mandela
Love of the self. To have regard for your own happiness or advantage. While this is a basic human necessity, many see it as a moral flaw akin to vanity, selfishness, and egotism.
Every human being yearns for love. But like all life, we are still evolving, and we haven’t come close enough to full consciousness yet. There are two sides to every quality — love and hate, good and evil, pro-social and antisocial — and we still don’t understand that we contain both. We haven’t learned philautia because we are unaware of our core of love and its shadow, hatred.
When we feel an impulse we think is evil, in our fear and ignorance we project it onto others and turn them into our scapegoats, then secretly hate ourselves for it. The more we do this, the more self-hate wins. Believing we are unworthy, we turn our most valuable commodity, our ability to love, into a sin. And in our self-hatred, we destroy ourselves and the capacity for love in those around us.
I cannot love anyone if I hate myself. ~Carl Jung, Psychological Reflections, Page 221.
To love someone else is easy, but to love what you are, the thing that is yourself, is just as if you were embracing a glowing red-hot iron: it burns into you and that is very painful. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 1473.
Throughout history we’ve been furnished with many models of agape: Lao Tsu, Buddha, Quan Yin, Abraham, Leah, Jesus, Muhammad, Fatimah, Hildegard of Bingen, Oshun, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. are among these spiritual warriors. We have yet to fully understand their messages.
Who are your models of agape? What have you learned from them?
Image Credits: Google Images: muslimmatters.org, thespruce.com, she knows, quotes.com.
My last post was about how resisting growth and change perpetuates disorder and chaos. The result is entropy, the inevitable decline of life and civilization. Here I’d like to explore how conscious individuals can reverse this trend and support forward movement. It can happen if we understand The Law of Change.
5. The Law of Change: Energies in both universes (inner and outer) are constantly circulating. Change toward stasis and polarization increases disorder and chaos. Change toward communication and integration increases movement toward perfection and completion.
Your psyche is a universe of unimaginable potential. Like the outer universe in which moons circle planets, planets circle stars, and stars circulate around each other in galaxies, so the energies of your inner universe interact constantly. Nothing remains fixed. The ongoing cooperation between all Mother Nature’s elements creates changes in your psyche and the world.
You see it in your outer life every day. Neighborhoods decay, houses are torn down. Condominiums, parking lots, and strip malls fill the empty spaces. Nations and governments rise and fall. Toxic leaders are voted out and new ones replace them. All life is in constant flux. It’s a basic law of nature.
You can observe this flow in yourself. Your emotions and moods constantly change. One moment you’re exuding hope and energy, the next you’re sinking under the shame of something somebody said, a painful memory, or bad news. Your opinions and values change depending on your education, health, relationships, and current events. Your family system changes: children are born and grow up, adults fall ill and die, couples marry, new babies are born.
Overall, your ego is aware of only a very small portion of your psyche. Most of your potential sleeps in the darkness Jung called the unconscious. You notice a few changes now and then, ignore others. Approve of some, fight others. Sometimes you fight changes that conflict with your values. Sometimes unfamiliar people and challenging ideas make you uncomfortable. Sometimes you fight change out of habit, or because you fear the unknown.
Psychological change doesn’t end when your ego switches off the light of awareness and sinks into sleep. Your unconscious is a dark and vast ocean beneath your ego awareness. Like the earth’s oceans, its elements move with the winds and tides of change. Since they are nature and therefore not subject to your ego’s will, some elements come unbidden to you in dreams where they appear and disappear at will, morph into expected and sometimes terrifying forms, behave in unpredictable ways, and perform beautiful, shocking and mystifying acts. Like all natural events, some dreams are easily forgotten. Others leave lingering effects. Occasionally an unusually powerful dream influences change in your thoughts and behavior.
Whether or not your ego is aware of this oceanic change, there are forces in your unconscious that resist and fight it. Some are instinctual and archetypal, some are functions of your DNA, and some are aspects of your personality which was shaped by physical trauma and family and social experiences. You can reduce the toxic effects of these forces by noting their consequences. You can accept their presence in you and everyone. You can remove yourself from situations in which they are apt to create problems that are not in anyone’s best interest.
Regardless of where your resistance originates, it takes enormous energy to maintain it. In fact, you can waste so much libido — psychological energy — by fighting change, that you have little left to explore and enjoy your life, your fuller potential, and your loved ones. Your resistance makes your waking life more problematic and your dreams reflect your struggles in terrifying and depressing nightmares. When this happens, you need to get proactive if you want to save your soul. Because it’s telling you it’s time for change.
You can refresh your soul and retrieve libido when you step toward positive change. For example, you might take your dreams seriously enough to study them. You might seek advice from your partner or friends. You might watch a different news channel to see what the opposite political party is saying and seek intersections of agreement. You might see a therapist, body worker, health practitioner, or spiritual guide. None of these things will kill you, and all of them will open your mind to healthy change.
Here are five guidelines for moving forward:
engage in open and honest dialogue with others
listen closely to inner and outer realities you have rejected
challenge habitual responses and consider healthier new options
free your libido to integrate the opposite, yes/no, either/or opinions that have ruled your life into a middle space of dialogue they can share
step toward experiences and values that have the potential to perfect and complete you
Image credits: Google free images: Cornerstoneccs.com, Michael Nichols; The Wheel of Change, Michael Goldsmith, visual, http://www.discoveryinaction.com.du; Change, Managements Models, lucid chart.com.
“The increase of disorder or entropy is what distinguishes the past from the future, giving a direction to time.” Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
Last week I addressed Oneness, an ideal state in which all pairs of opposites are consciously connected and united. Oneness is rare, but worth the effort because it is the path to renewal, peaceful thinking, right action, and the survival of our species.
Like the universe itself, we are in a constant state of flux. Psychologically we are evolving in the direction of greater consciousness. Spiritually we’re evolving toward the highest ideals of every authentic religion: to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This requires awareness — the ability to remember that everyone and everything we meet is our neighbor, and to choose to treat everything with compassion, kindness, forgiveness, honesty, patience, gentleness and self-control.
Most of us aren’t self-aware enough to do this all the time. Despite our best efforts we fall short every day. Yet, there is hope. The disorder can be reversed and we can continue to evolve. But if we refuse to budge from our ego opinions, we will grow more disordered and toxic. We have to surrender before we can evolve. This is the law of entropy.
4.The Law of Entropy: When opposites remain isolated from one another, any disorders within them remain constant or increase.
The law of entropy is a doctrine of inevitable social decline and degeneration. It says that when disorders in us and around us increase, our ability to act in accordance with our highest values decreases. For example, throughout history and until a few hundred years ago in the U.S., it was common for people to have the power of life and death over their slaves. This not only goes against the values of all authentic religions, it goes against the core values of the Self.
We all contain these core values — like love, freedom, and justice for all — but fearful and ambitious egos prefer to ignore them. When we focus on our outer needs and separate from the Self’s truths, we perpetuate personal and societal entropy.
In the U.S., many justified slavery until the Civil War ended it. Some still do. Some believe men are preordained to go to work and women to stay home. Some, even if they won’t confess it, believe that rich, white, males are entitled to be bosses and leaders.
Today, our limitless avarice for more power, material objects, status and prestige; our hatred of ourselves and each other; our mindless destruction of the earth’s creatures and resources, are modeled for us daily via television, cell phones, and the internet. Disordered ways of thinking are gaining momentum because we are seeing more of them while being separated from our spiritual cores.
While it seems that people are no longer isolated from one another because of these technological advances, the truth is that technology is neither good nor evil. We are the problem. if we refuse to see the truth about ourselves, help our neighbors, or curtail our daily diet of disordered images and ego-driven role models, our children will learn our disorderedness and civilization will decline and die. It’s inevitable.
“When I began studying the notion of entropy it became clear to me that thermodynamic entropy was merely one instance of a concept with much broader applications … I became convinced that entropy applied to social phenomena as well.” Sociologist Kenneth Bailey
How can we reverse the decline? In graduate school I wrote a term paper on a book called Social Learning Theory (1977), by psychologist Albert Bandura. He formulated his ground-breaking theories in part by putting children in a room containing a variety of toys and watching them play through a hidden mirror. Here’s a summary as best I can remember. (This was 40 years ago!)
The first group of children saw an adult playing with a Bobo doll — one of those large blown-up plastic clowns that’s weighted in the bottom so that it won’t tip over. The adult had a grand time striking it. After telling the children to play with the toys, the adult left the room. Then another group of children entered the room. The adult told them to play with the toys, then left.
Many of the children in the first group immediately went for the Bobo doll and began aggressively punching and kicking it. Most children in the second group dispersed and played with different toys. A few playfully pushed the Bobo doll around.
Bandura formed three main principles of social learning from his research:
You can learn through observation.
Learning a new way of thinking and behaving through observing it will not necessarily change your behavior.
You are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it results in outcomes you value. You can attain your highest level of observational learning by organizing and rehearsing the modeled behavior symbolically and then enacting it overtly.
“The … ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order.” Steven Pinker
Our bodies will decay and die because our genes are subject to the law of entropy. But in every death there is new beginning and unlimited opportunity to better ourselves. We can surrender our ego’s ignoble ambitions. We can evolve while we are still alive and be so renewed that we can “carve out refuges of beneficial order,” and observe our physical bodies die with joy and meaning.
We can aspire to attain our god-like potential through rituals and practices that mature us.We can transform our lead into gold, our suffering into excellence. We can model our growth to our children and neighbors. The more we try, the better our chance of reversing the death of civilization. And even if our current conceptions of civilization die, those who are left can do the work and model their integrity and boldness.
Whatever we choose, our children will learn from us.
Image credits: Amazon.com book cover; Google images, unknown.
“One of the toughest roots of all evil is unconsciousness…” (Carl Jung, CW, Vol. 11, par. 291.)
So far in this series I’ve discussed two sacred laws of the psyche. The Law of Correspondence says the outer universe is a reflection of our inner universe. The Law of Opposites highlights our tendency to see things dualistically — in terms of either/or, right/wrong, good/bad.
Our ignorance of these and other natural laws has caused all the divisiveness, conflict, and suffering the world has ever known. Animals fight and kill each other in obedience to the instinctual needs to survive and procreate. The human animal takes this a step further. We of larger brain and “higher” intellect fight and kill each other in obedience to mental ideals. If we cause divisiveness with our thoughts, the remedy is to see and heal our divisive thinking. In my last post I quoted Carl Jung:
“But when we become aware of the opposites we are driven to seek the way that will resolve them for us…we must go forward to a creation that enables us to attain a third point superior to the pairs of opposites.” (C.G. Jung, Lecture 10 of the Opposites Seminar, 1925)
3. The Law of Oneness: Beneath all apparent dualities lies a fundamental connectedness with All That Is. We can tap into this One Mind by integrating pairs of opposites into partnerships which think and behave holistically.
In Christian doctrine, our evolutionary drive toward oneness is symbolized by Father/Spirit and Son/Body united in a third entity — Holy Spirit. Oneness is inherent in our physical/instinctual nature in which male sperm and female egg unite to create new life. And it is fundamental to the way we were made to think. As Jung writes:
“Although good and evil are unshakeable as moral values, they still need to be subjected to a bit of psychological revision. Much…that proves to be abysmally evil in its ultimate effects does not come from man’s wickedness but from his stupidity and unconsciousness. One has only to think of the devastating effects of Prohibition in America or of the hundred thousand autos-da-fe’ in Spain [the burning of heretics by the Spanish Inquisition], which arose from a praiseworthy zeal to save people’s souls. One of the toughest roots of all evil is unconsciousness…” (Carl Jung, CW, Vol. 11, par. 291.)
The end-goal of your psyche is to become more conscious and self-aware. You were made to want oneness, an attainable antidote to the divisiveness that plagues today’s world. Self-awareness — by which I mean the acceptance of the opposites within ourselves — when combined with a sincere desire to unite the divides separating them, is the bridge to consciousness. And consciousness is the bridge to psychological and spiritual oneness. Your purpose in life is to do whatever you can to build these bridges. You’ll never be happy if you don’t at least try.
Your imagination can bring you closer to this goal. Jung imagined the endpoint of human evolution as a mandala, a circle with a centerpoint that represents the core and circumference of the psyche. He called this place of oneness the Self. When you understand the universality of this and other archetypal symbols like the spiral, square, elephant, horse, tree, snake, ocean, and numbers, it is no longer a stretch to accept that they represent actual forces and potential lying dormant in you. You don’t have to be a Christian believer to understand that trinity is one way to describe your religious function, and you don’t have to be a mathematician or sage to find a third way to resolve your conflicts. You were born with a yearning for oneness. You have the capacity to transcend artificial divides.
What exactly is oneness? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as the quality, state, or fact of being one. It suggests synonyms such as singleness, integrity, wholeness, harmony, sameness, identity, unity, union. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines oneness as a state of being joined as one thing that is no longer separate; for example, having a sense of oneness with the moment, or being one single thing, or experiencing the oneness of God. Jungians call this individuation. Some spirit people call it salvation. Others call it enlightenment.
All humanity longs for oneness. The only thing keeping us from it is psychological ignorance. We can correct it by noticing our divisive tendencies, opening to both sides, and raising our sights beyond one religion, one God-image, one gender, or one nation. We can marry psyche and spirit in ourselves. We can think psychologically and live spiritually. Then everything we say and do will be in harmony with the Law of Oneness.
Given the current political climate in the United States and abroad, I’d like to conclude with a summation of this law which was the favorite toast of political orators from Benjamin Franklin to Abraham Lincoln. Popularized in 1768 by John Dickinson’s Liberty Song, it reads, “United we stand, divided we fall.”
The universal hope for peace on Earth rests with oneness. What have you done to acquire more self-knowledge? When do you experience oneness?
A few years back I wrote a post about eight sacred laws of the psyche and how our lack of understanding of them is responsible for the mess our world is in today. In this post and a few to follow, I’d like to explore these laws more deeply in the hope of raising awareness about the interconnectedness of all things in One Mind and One God. The ability to think psychologically and live spiritually is a skill we desperately need to learn if we hope to heal ourselves and the world.
The inner universe of the mind is, like the physical universe, a living organism that functions according to natural laws. Deciphering them has been the work of holy fools, for who can presume to understand the sacred inner workings of creation? Yet everyone from scientists to artists to gurus tries to understand these autonomous patterns of energy (archetypes) in our minds (the psyche) and in the mystery of the One Mind beyond ordinary consciousness (the psychoid) because we feel their profound influence.
The two hemispheres of your brain know two languages: logic and imagination. They interact every moment of every day to help you understand and respond to all you see and experience. Separately, each language has limits, together, they aid your journey to intelligence, wisdom, competence, centeredness, and consciousness. Wise people from every age have deliberately used both to make inroads into the mysteries of life. Albert Einstein was one such person. He said,
“Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell were others. Jung explored his inner life and that of his clients with the help of archetypal myths and symbols from various wisdom traditions. Campbell developed some of Jung’s themes in his own extensive research. Together, their imaginative work has shed much-needed light into the darkness of the psychoid.
Following are some natural laws they midwifed into collective consciousness. As your logical mind attempts to make sense of the words, allow your imaginative mind to wander freely. Play with these ideas instead of automatically rejecting them.
1. The Law of Correspondence: The outer universe is a reflection of the inner universe.
This intuition gave rise to the ancient adages, “As above, so below,” and “As without, so within.” Humanity has expressed this relationship in symbol systems like mythology, religion, tarot, alchemy, astrology, magic, literature, and film. Imaginative languages like this have always awakened minds that are trapped in prisons of dry reason, tight logic, and literal belief.
This law means that if we believe in a spiritual reality “up there” or “out there,” it’s because our minds are furnished with an archetype Jung called the Self — our religious function. As long as we don’t understand that this is a very real force in us — an inner instinctual need for love, compassion, creativity and connectedness we share with every human being — we automatically (unconsciously) project it onto outer deities whom we then worship to earn favor and protection. We think our belief will “save” us. We don’t realize we have used our imaginations to create ideas about our gods that have been prompted by the inner archetype. We think some higher, more powerful reality apart from us made us and rules us. We think our very lives depend on propitiating it with literal belief.
We’re right in a way, but not in the way we think. The reality is not an inflated, grandiose, anthropomorphic image of the human ego in the sky. It is an unimaginably vast and diverse field of love and connectedness in which our puny, minimally conscious ego is immersed but to which it is not consciously connected. A universe that is both outside and within us. A universe that contains inner forces (archetypes) that influence and shape us just as the outer forces of gravity, magnetic fields, weather, our environments, our families, and our religions shape us from the outside.
Fortunately, your ego can develop a broader consciousness capable of seeing this reality. For this to occur you need to make room in your mind for new ideas about what is sacred. In the early stages of your psyche’s remodeling project you may suffer crippling doubt, dread, and loss of faith. It’s only a phase. Let it happen.
Because if you persist, you will discover that the only thing you lost faith in was the incomplete and inadequate idea you learned from your religion about a vast and mysterious field of reality. What you thought was the truth about God was a tiny piece of a giant puzzle at the core of everything that is.
Lifting your gaze to the bigger picture will take you to the state of peace, trust, wonder, and love sought by every individual and religion. You can’t get there without using your imagination.
Happy New Year to my dear reader friends. Thank you for following Matrignosis. May the new year bring you increasing health, prosperity, joy, and wisdom. Today a friend sent me this wonderful article by Mary Pipher. I share her sentiments and could not have said it better. Enjoy.
We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias. –Maya Angelou
This article originally appeared in the New York Times Sunday Review, on January 12th, 2019.
When I told my friends I was writing a book on older women like us, they immediately protested, “I am not old.” What they meant was that they didn’t act or feel like the cultural stereotypes of women their age. Old meant bossy, useless, unhappy and in the way. Our country’s ideas about old women are so toxic that almost no one, no matter her age, will admit she is old.
In America, ageism is a bigger problem for women than aging. Our bodies and our sexuality are devalued, we are denigrated by mother-in-law jokes, and we’re rendered invisible in the media. Yet, most of the women I know describe themselves as being in a vibrant and happy life stage. We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins. Our happiness comes from self-knowledge, emotional intelligence and empathy for others.
Most of us don’t miss the male gaze. It came with catcalls, harassment and unwanted attention. Instead, we feel free from the tyranny of worrying about our looks. For the first time since we were 10, we can feel relaxed about our appearance. We can wear yoga tights instead of nylons and bluejeans instead of business suits.
Yet, in this developmental stage, we are confronted by great challenges. We are unlikely to escape great sorrow for long. We all suffer, but not all of us grow. Those of us who grow do so by developing our moral imaginations and expanding our carrying capacities for pain and bliss. In fact, this pendulum between joy and despair is what makes old age catalytic for spiritual and emotional growth.
By our 70s, we’ve had decades to develop resilience. Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice. We don’t need to look at our horoscopes to know how our day will go. We know how to create a good day.
We have learned to look every day for humor, love and beauty. We’ve acquired an aptitude for appreciating life. Gratitude is not a virtue but a survival skill, and our capacity for it grows with our suffering. That is why it is the least privileged, not the most, who excel in appreciating the smallest of offerings.
Many women flourish as we learn how to make everything workable. Yes, everything. As we walk out of a friend’s funeral, we can smell wood smoke in the air and taste snowflakes on our tongues.
Our happiness is built by attitude and intention. Attitude is not everything, but it’s almost everything. I visited the jazz great Jane Jarvis when she was old, crippled and living in a tiny apartment with a window facing a brick wall. I asked if she was happy and she replied, “I have everything I need to be happy right between my ears.”
We may not have control, but we have choices. With intention and focused attention, we can always find a forward path. We discover what we are looking for. If we look for evidence of love in the universe, we will find it. If we seek beauty, it will spill into our lives any moment we wish. If we search for events to appreciate, we discover them to be abundant.
There is an amazing calculus in old age. As much is taken away, we find more to love and appreciate. We experience bliss on a regular basis. As one friend said: “When I was young I needed sexual ecstasy or a hike to the top of a mountain to experience bliss. Now I can feel it when I look at a caterpillar on my garden path.”
Older women have learned the importance of reasonable expectations. We know that all our desires will not be fulfilled, that the world isn’t organized around pleasing us and that others, especially our children, are not waiting for our opinions and judgments. We know that the joys and sorrows of life are as mixed together as salt and water in the sea. We don’t expect perfection or even relief from suffering. A good book, a piece of homemade pie or a call from a friend can make us happy. As my aunt Grace, who lived in the Ozarks, put it, “I get what I want, but I know what to want.”
We can be kinder to ourselves as well as more honest and authentic. Our people-pleasing selves soften their voices and our true selves speak more loudly and more often. We don’t need to pretend to ourselves and others that we don’t have needs. We can say no to anything we don’t want to do. We can listen to our hearts and act in our own best interest. We are less angst-filled and more content, less driven and more able to live in the moment with all its lovely possibilities.
Many of us have a shelterbelt of good friends and long-term partners. There is a sweetness to 50-year-old friendships and marriages that can’t be described in language. We know each other’s vulnerabilities, flaws and gifts; we’ve had our battles royal and yet are grateful to be together. A word or a look can signal so much meaning. Lucky women are connected to a rich web of women friends. Those friends can be our emotional health insurance policies.
The only constant in our lives is change. But if we are growing in wisdom and empathy, we can take the long view. We’ve lived through seven decades of our country’s history, from Truman to Trump. I knew my great-grandmother, and if I live long enough, will meet my great-grandchildren. I will have known seven generations of family. I see where I belong in a long line of Scotch-Irish ancestors. I am alive today only because thousands of generations of resilient homo sapiens managed to procreate and raise their children. I come from, we all come from, resilient stock, or we wouldn’t be here.
By the time we are 70, we have all had more tragedy and more bliss in our lives than we could have foreseen. If we are wise, we realize that we are but one drop in the great river we call life and that it has been a miracle and a privilege to be alive.
In an early post from 2011 titled Qaddafi Vs. Kali: Who Will Win?, I wrote that the film Avatar highlights the differences between the heroic and immature ego. Avatar’s hero, Corporal Jake Sully, succeeds because of his bravery, receptivity to Princess Neytiri and her culture, and willingness to heed his wise and truth-pursuing mentor, Dr. Grace Augustine. His adversary, the obsessive and soulless Colonel Miles Quaritch (there’s an interesting similarity between his name and Colonel Muammar Qaddafi don’t you think?), fails because of his resistance to the Na’vi and their spiritual leader, Queen Mo’as, and his determination to destroy whatever threatens his power.
Some of you might not remember Muammar Qaddafi, so here are a few excepts from Wikipedia. Qaddafi
“…was a Libyan revolutionary, politician and political theorist.
“Amid the 2011 Arab Spring, protests against widespread corruption and unemployment broke out in eastern Libya. The situation descended into civil war, in which Nato intervened militarily on the side of the anti-Gaddafist National Transitional Council (NTC). The government was overthrown, and Gaddafi retreated to Sirte, only to be captured and killed by by NTC militants.
“A highly divisive figure, Gaddafi dominated Libya’s politics for four decades and was the subject of a pervasive cult of personality….he was posthumously accused of sexual abuse. He was condemned by many as a dictator whose authoritarian administration violated human rights and financed global terrorism.”
Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of cult of personality:
“A cult of personality, or cult of the leader, arises when a country’s regime – or, more rarely, an individual – uses the techniques of mass media, propaganda, the big lie, spectacle, the arts, patriotism, and government-organised demonstrations and rallies to create an idealized, heroic, and worshipful image of a leader, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. A cult of personality is similar to apotheosis, except that it is established by modern social engineering techniques, usually by the state or the party in one-party states and dominant-party states. It is often seen in totalitarian or authoritarian countries.”
Is this what we’re seeing in the U.S. today? If so, why? Here’s a psychological explanation. Quaritch and Qaddafi exemplify the Old King/Warrior ego. It attains power and success with two primary strategies: first, by believing it is the supreme authority of the psyche and the center of the world around us; and second, by rejecting otherness, which in Jungian psychology is associated with the feminine unconscious. As long as we function in this mode, sharing our power and trusting the wisdom of forces we consider inferior is unthinkable.
The old ego’s belief in its superiority created, and still supports, patriarchal cultures with their hierarchies of authority. In extreme cases, hierarchies can create a cult of personality surrounding an inflated ego which fought its way to the top believing its powerful position would immunize it from the suffering and failures of those below. To someone like this, losing to the corporals of the world feels like a mortal, humiliating blow administered by a cruel enemy. Likewise, for many people, including the Biblical Job and Jung, an experience of God — the ultimate Other — as a force with far more power than our puny ego, is, in Jung’s words, an “unvarnished spectacle of divine savagery and ruthlessness” that produces shattering emotion.
In my original post about Qaddaffi, published when he was still alive, I imagined he might be feeling some uncomfortable emotions as he faced growing rebellion in Libya. Perhaps in the secret places of his soul he even questioned his God. After all, if he who did everything right to gain such a wondrous position of power could be threatened by the loss of control of his country, what had his life been all about? This is how every ego feels when confronted with the power of repressed otherness. Losing control feels like a violation. Like utter unfairness. Like death, the ultimate feminine mystery.
In Hinduism this mystery is symbolized by an aspect of the Great Mother known as Kali, the Mistress of the Dead who reminds us that when new healing is required, the old ways must change or die. Her natural cycles of birth/death/rebirth terrify the Old King/Warrior/Ego who wants to escape the darker demands of growing up: things like aging, becoming vulnerable in relationships, being humbled by a loss of power, money, status, loved ones, or health. So he deludes himself into believing that controlling, banishing or destroying otherness proves his omnipotence and protects him from the Great Mother’s power. It doesn’t. The Old King/Ego aided the survival of our species, but the rules have changed. Now he is a dinosaur whose dominator mind-set is rapidly becoming extinct.
Einstein said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Fearful, immature egos currently control the U.S. government, hoping to delude, confuse, and attract followers via divisive tactics and a cult of personality. Stalin, Hitler, and Qadaffi did the same and lost. Why? Because humans are wired to grow into wisdom and maturity. To rise above our self-centered egos, to become less fearful and more humble and respectful. To befriend the otherness of our unconscious selves and other people, religions, races, genders, and nations. And if we can’t manage that, Kali — who lives in each of us and in the collective unconscious of our country — will force us to. It’s nature’s way.
The U.S. has been infected by the cult of personality and we are in desperate need of change. Dying to the old patriarchal ego and aiding the birth of a nation with a heroic ego is the great work to which each of us is called. What kinds of leaders will we vote into office next November? Will we, like the brave Corporal Sully, attain our heroic destiny by embracing the otherness in ourselves and others? Or will we bring the wrath of Kali down upon our nation because our egos are too frightened of the darker demands of growing up?
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.