|Chariot of Apollo, by Odilon Redon|
In my article, Distinguishing Between Soul and Spirit, I mentioned an idea that has been on my mind lately. I made the contention that, perhaps, Ego may function as a bridge between Soul and Spirit. In this article, I will attempt to develop this idea to some extent.
As I understand it, Ego is simply one of many archetypes of Soul. It is via Ego that we know we are conscious of ourselves and others.
So far as we know, consciousness is always ego-consciousness. In order to be conscious of myself, I must be able to distinguish myself from others. Relationship can only take place where this distinction exists (Marriage as a Psychological Relationship” (1925). In C.G. Jung’s CW 17: The Development of the Personality. P.326).
With a balanced Ego, things run smoothly. One does not sink into a miry melancholy nor does one become overinflated, puffed up, pompous, and condescending toward others. Balance seems to be the most desirable state for Soul. Also to be desired is that all archetypes work together within the Soul, i.e. no single Person becomes more important than another.
At some point in Western culture, Ego alone became identifiable with the Self. James Hillman claims it occurred at the beginning of Christianity, due to a “monotheism of ego-consciousness,” influenced, of course, by the new religion’s emergence from Judaism.
This path suits when the consciousness of an era or of an individual senses that its survival is best served by an archetypal pattern of heroism and unity. The early image of Christ was compounded with the military Mithra and the muscular Hercules, and Constantine’s conversion, which finally turned the tide against classical polytheism, was heralded by a martial vision which came to him before he set forth into battle (Revisioning Psychology, p. 28).
For two millennia, the predominant state of consciousness of Western individuals has been that of “an undivided unit of arms-bearing responsibility who stands before God, one to one, the primal encounter” (ibid.).
For most Westerners, the remaining archetypes of Soul have been largely ignored and repressed. Most just assume that any type of psychology is, necessarily, a psychology of the Ego. As we have learned from Freud and Jung, it is disastrous to ignore these other psychic elements.
It can be very dangerous to be possessed by an overinflated Ego. The classic myth of Narcissus is the best example of this. Narcissus fell in love with himself, while gazing at an image of himself in a pool of water. He was doomed to stare at himself the remainder of his life, being totally self-absorbed until he died.
We have discussed the differences between Soul and Spirit. Since our consciousness seems to operate in this world through Ego, I began thinking that Ego may be a kind of bridge to a viable and beneficial experience of Spirit. Or could it be that all the archetypes, working in unison (not as an integrated single reality, but simply in unity), create our consciousness and become a connection to Spirit? Remember, the true spiritual experience is one that transcends our earthly realm and touches a reality beyond what our reason can comprehend.
Since it is beyond comprehension, the best we can do when discussing Spirit is through images. As I said previously, the myth of Icarus is a great example of trying to attain Spirit at all cost. Hillman uses the image of “peaks and vales” to describe Soul and Spirit. Spirit lives in the peaks, Soul in the vales. Any form of transcendent spirituality, such as trying to perfect the body with various yogas or diet, positive thinking and affirmations to get what you want, climbing the corporate ladder, or just going to the gym to have a perfect body are examples of Spirit in manifestation. Curiously, these things are also connected with Ego to some extent. This is why I think it may be a bridge in some way to Spirit.
There must be a connection between these two, one masculine, one feminine. Spirit and Soul must have intercourse, in order for human consciousness to be complete. The current Dalai Lama once wrote something very enlightening. He said,
People need to climb the mountain not simply because it is there but because the soulful divinity needs to be mated with the spirit (qtd. in Peaks and Vales, James Hillman).
In order for humanity to arrive at their destination in this life, there must be interaction between Soul and Spirit. Spirit is indeed masculine, Apollonian, filled with light, intellect, and action. These all must be part of the human composition. Nowadays, we emphasize Soul, which is feminine, because it has been ignored for so long and there is need of compensation. In reality, both must work together and function as equals.
If Ego is to be a bridge between Soul and Spirit, it seems to me it would be due to the fact that our conscious awareness is in the Ego, as well as our decision-making capacities. Perhaps through our will based on our awareness, we can allow Soul and Spirit to commune together, as need be.
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