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So what does it really mean to be possessed? Remember the Greek myths, with all the Gods playing chess with mortal lives? Why so necessary to manipulate, impregnate, and have adventures with mere mortals? Those Gods, sitting upon their thrones, are absolutely dependent upon human life for their own experience of adventure and life. Otherwise, they remain dormant, eternally waiting for the opportunity to partake in, and find living expression in, human life. Furthermore, each of the Gods has its own personality, with its own distinct interest. Hence, the Gods compete with each other for their own unique dramas to be experienced and lived in human life. Let us define possession as one of the Olympian Gods seizing a human life, forcing upon it the energy and drama that this God seeks to live. From the human side, an individual experiences a taste of the divine while possessed, which can take the form of numinousity, an intense spiritual experience, or overwhelmingly powerful feelings of love, rage, ecstasy, etc. Today, we will explore possession by Eros, the God of romantic love.
Eros enters human life by piercing the heart with his arrow, invited or uninvited. I speak of falling in love, “the thunderbolt,” as demonstrated in The Godfather when Michael Corleone retreats to Sicily and, with one glance, is struck by the arrow of Eros. When Eros strikes there is no need to communicate in words nor, as in Michael’s case, even share a common language. A simple glance, a meeting of eyes, and it’s over, Eros takes total possession. No longer mere mortals, we are energetically transported to Olympus to partake in divine romantic love. This is communion, union with God, the heart of the Christian Eucharist, which, for some, opens the door to divine connection.
Once Eros strikes, a divine play unfolds, a play so played out that most onlookers smile and knowingly laugh at the hackneyed old drama of almost comedic proportions. But, for the humans possessed, the experience is utterly personal and unique. The energetic fullness, calm, and union experienced become the deepest, most meaningful reasons for being alive. Onlookers will recognize this divine possession. There is no point in commenting. No amount of mortal reason can break the spell of this divine play. Those more experienced with Eros’ “visitations” know that as quickly as Eros enters, he will leave, as the details of human reality, such as snoring and morning breath, gradually intrude upon the playing field of romantic love. When Eros leaves, mortals are abandoned, alienated by their God, thrust into bewilderment, depression, and left with an unquenchable thirst for another sip of immorality.
How can ordinary life ever be enough once we have partaken of the divine elixir? Relationships are cast aside, marriages ended, as some go in search of another to recast in the role of the beloved in the romantic play written, directed, and produced by Eros. After all, they reason, are we not entitled to “true love?” Others shut down to any possible return of Eros, so great is the pain of loss and the shame of having been so vulnerable, allowing themselves to be so deeply, fooled, taken, or had, by a God. Ironically, this wall, constructed to keep love at bay, becomes its own state of possession, as one becomes miserably reasonable and controlling, shutting down all possibility for joy.
Jung understood the interdependence of the Gods and mortals. In fact, he brought the Gods down from Olympus and installed them deeply within the psyche of each individual, in a region he called the collective unconscious, in the form of the archetypes. The Gods, the archetypes, then, are part of who we are and, yet, are utterly impersonal and universal. Human life requires a reconciliation of this paradox; on the one hand we must establish our individuality and, on the other, partake in the divine dramas that lend power, depth, and meaning to our human lives. If we allow ourselves to become too intoxicated by the energy of the Gods, and identify with them, we sacrifice our individuality, and our human life is consumed by the Gods, living out their dramas. If we shun the Gods, for the sake of our precious egos, we anoint the ego with the status of God and are subjected to the wrath of the Gods in the forms of psychosis, or deep depression, a veritable barren wasteland of existence, a loveless life.
The challenge is for the ego to find the correct relationship to the archetypes, or, put another way, for the ego to be in the correct relationship with spirit. That relationship requires balance, humility, and awareness. The ego must have the strength to withstand the energy of archetypal encounters, learning to not weaken itself or expose itself to energies that it cannot mediate or funnel safely into human life. For example, the ego must be able to confront an archetype, such as the nanny goat, which seeks to dominate life in a negative way. The nanny goat is an archetypal energy, which might have value in a human life, but the ego, as hero, must first defeat the controlling dominance of its influence. After this encounter, the nanny goat may transform into a nurturing, loving support to the personality in the process of individuation. With respect to the archetypal encounter with Eros, how can we ever find our way to completion, which is another form of individuation, without experiencing the fullness of love? This condition would indeed warrant reincarnation in order to attain completion.
In human life, the experience of Eros is a gateway to the potential for real love. When Eros possesses, our humanness merely acquiesces to a pre-programmed drama; there is nothing individual or truly related about it. We experience our partner as a God or Goddess, yet we truly know nothing about their human form. We are blinded by the glowing golden light of the divine. That is not true love, despite its overwhelming energetic experience of oneness. True human love can only happen with knowledge of, and connection to, all the details of the real human being sitting before you. Taking up the long journey of truly knowing and accepting another is the pathway to love and, yes, Eros can be a vital part of that relationship. The challenge is to integrate both the divine and the human in the proper balance. If Eros is allowed to take possession of the relationship, human relatedness ends and real love stagnates. If Eros is denied entry into the relationship, the relationship may drift into a stale mechanical habit. Once again, our challenge is to use our awareness to accept and integrate the fullness of who we are, both human and divine. Perhaps the term conscious possession might best capture the resolution of the paradox of human/divine, ego/archetype, leading to individuation and completion.
Until we meet again, I send you off with my love,