I started blogging almost a year and a half ago. So far I’ve avoided repeating any posts, but recent events in Libya prompt me to reconsider. Originally published on March 12 of this year, this post addresses the traditional interpretation of the hero myth which elevates “masculine” values and represses “feminine” ones. In my next post I will describe other toxic aspects of the old version and describe characteristics of the newly emerging one.
In an early post 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 Mohamar Qaddafi don’t you think?), fails because of his resistance to the Na’vi and their spiritual leader, Queen Mo’at, and his determination to destroy whatever threatens his power.
Quaritch and Qaddafi exemplify the Old King/Warrior ego. This is the part of us which attains power and success with two primary strategies: first, by believing we are the supreme authority of the psyche and 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.
This way of thinking gave rise to, and still supports, patriarchal cultures with their hierarchies of authority. The old ego believes that climbing to the top to become a colonel or king will immunize it from the suffering, victimization and failure experienced by all that is below. Thus, being forced to surrender to the corporals of the world feels like a mortal, humiliating blow administered by a cruel enemy. Likewise, for many people including Job and Jung, an experience of God — the ultimate Other above everything — 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.
I imagine Colonel Qaddafi might be feeling some uncomfortable emotions himself about now as he faces growing rebellion in Libya. Perhaps in the secret places of his soul he’s even questioning his God-image. After all, if he who did everything right (from the perspective of his ego) can be threatened by the loss of control of his country, what has his life been all about? This is exactly how every ego feels when confronted with the divine 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 the 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, and losing power, money, status, loved ones, health. So he deludes himself into believing that controlling 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.” Our world is in trouble. Dying to the old ways and birthing a stronger and wiser ego is the great work to which each of us is called today. Will we, like Corporal Sully, attain our heroic destiny by embracing otherness in ourselves and the world, or will we, like Colonel Quaritch and Colonel Qaddafi, ultimately fail?
Mandorla Consciousness: Part II
There is a time for everything. The dualism that gave rise to our evolving ego and developing Christ potential has become our worst enemy: the anti- Christ. And as long as we repress unwanted parts of ourselves and project them onto others—whether these be our compulsive instincts, dangerous emotions, or frightening aspects of our masculine and feminine sides—we will struggle through the darkness of confusion and the world will be a dangerous place.
Do you ever send these to our elected officials? This one hits ‘home’ in so many ways in the most recent stand-off between the Congress and the Administration. One side especially believes they have the ‘right’ answer. They might not ever ‘get it,’ but it will possibly plant a seed. Beautiful analysis! Thanks again. Sandy Ochin
Thank you, Sandy. No, I don’t send them to our elected officials, but if there’s someone you’d like to read it, feel free to pass it on! I agree most probably wouldn’t get it — I suspect the egos of most politicians are so firmly entrenched in the will to power as to be virtually impenetrable — but there’s always hope: life has a way of bringing us all to our knees eventually. I very much appreciate your kind words. Jeanie
Thank you Jean for this thought provoking essay. I am largely out of touch with world events, so thanks for the enlightenment. Here is what your piece nudged from me:
Kali whirls and smashes entire villages asunder. She devours forests and rivers, mountain ranges, and planets. She crushes egos and tyrants, holy fools, and prophets. She smears the blood of the innocents across the slate gray sky. She runs, like a wild elephant through the glass houses of our lives.
Kali is the great transformer. She rearranges and reassembles, yet never destroys. She knows the temple needs to be torn down in order to be rebuilt.
And the fury in her eyes is the fire of passion—the passion of her ultimate goal—to aid in the evolution of souls, to fashion them into children of purpose. She is the author of our faith, and we are the finisher.
And I like to remember that Kali and Shiva work together—the feminine and the masculine. More importantly to me is that they both dance. They whirl and wave their arms like the arms of the galaxy. They perform their dark pirouettes to the music of love and love alone, and love can never be destroyed. The gods and goddesses do not destroy what they create. They revolutionize and transfigure.
They are ever seeking to give birth to children of Light by pulling them into the twisters of their black storms and replacing them on dry ground, perhaps miles or decades, or lifetimes away– fresh faced and gleaming, ready to really live.
This is beautiful, Joseph. Your imagery and insights are remarkable. Thank you for adding so much depth to this piece. The work of the gods is, indeed, all about living and loving. Jeanie
You wrote “After all, if he who did everything right (from the perspective of his ego) can be threatened by the loss of control of his country, what has his life been all about?”
I often think about that. I think about that with regard to myself and others. “What has this life been about?” Can the perpetrator of the most heinous crimes live in denial up to the last moment of his or her life? Does being captured, imprisoned, tried and convicted change their minds. Do they continue on in denial? I often wonder if they finally see things for what they are and if so, what must that feel like?
On a somewhat different note, I suppose you might call it the flip-side, what about the person who has built a life around something positive and then, at or near the end of their life, it all falls apart. I remember watching the Ric Burns’ series “New York.” A large portion of the last segment is dedicated to one of the men who designed and built the World Trade Center. He talked about the years of blood and toil it took to imagine and build the Towers, and then, in a flash, a lifetime of work was gone. i felt intensely sorry for that man as I watched the film. What must that feel like?
A little divergent Jeanie, but I tend to do that. You make me think.
I wonder about the same things, Charlie. Hopefully neither you nor I will learn from personal experience what it feels like to walk in the shoes of either of your sad examples. Jeanie
Hi, an apropos contrast, as Kali is known to slay the warring Asuras; this article reminded me of the one I wrote recently: http://bit.ly/rkdLtH
Thanks for stopping by, David. Thanks also for the link to your article, which is quite interesting.
Thank you Jeanie! Looking forward to the next article.
You’re very welcome, David. I appreciate your dropping by!