When the seers of ancient Mexico scanned the human body with their “seeing eye” they saw thousands of vortexes of twirling energy.* From this vantage point they discovered that we humans are physically comprised of countless individualistic energy fields functioning as an integrated unit.
Carl Jung discovered that the human psyche is similarly comprised of many complexes: segregated, individualistic sub-personalities, many of whom, though they co-exist in the psyche, remain unaware of the existence of each other. For Jung the dominant problem for modern Western civilization is its near total reliance on one complex within the psyche, that is, the ego complex. In fact, the rationally dominated modern ego complex dismisses, denies, and remains deeply alienated from the greater part of the psyche, appropriately called the unconscious. The vast majority of mental illness and world strife can be traced to this imbalanced condition within the human psyche.
The seers of ancient Mexico saw death as the unifying moment when all separate energy fields of the body become one energy. Jung discovered a method he termed individuation, that enabled the ego to embark on a journey of interaction and synthesis with all its opposing parts, to arrive at a place of psychic wholeness and equilibrium.
Jung himself undertook an intensive journey of self-discovery with his inner complexes or parts, as documented in the recently published primary source: The Red Book. Jung recorded the dialogue between his ego or conscious personality with complexes or characters within his psyche who spoke back to him autonomously with their own voices. Jung later termed this technique active imagination.
Through these dialogues, some of which were intense confrontations, Jung learned many things. He discovered that we have complexes inside our psyches that we acquire during our lifetime as well as complexes that we inherit. In his dialogues Jung spoke to figures from the Middle Ages who possessed ancient knowledge and wisdom and spoke in the vernacular of that time. From these experiences Jung determined that the unconscious was both personal and collective, of this life and beyond.
Jung also discovered that some complexes are quite powerful and can exert a strong effect on the ego. For instance, one complex with a female voice repeatedly attempted to seductively convince Jung that he was a great artist. Jung sternly refused this suggestion, stating in return that his use of art was part of his process of self-discovery. Jung realized how easy it could be for the naive, insecure ego to come under the sway of complexes with their own agendas, attempting to commandeer the ego through bolstering its self-importance. This became the basis of his understanding conditions such as psychic inflation and deflation, or in their extremes, mania and depression.
Inflation is a condition where the ego identifies with a complex, becomes greater than it truly is, and embarks on behaviors driven by the interests of the complex. In deflation the ego feels utterly diminished by an encounter with a complex, shrinking into powerlessness and depression.
Jung realized that his ego had to maintain control as he encountered these powerful complexes or sub-personalities within himself. To do this his ego had to be receptive to listening to points of view and potential truths that challenged completely his conscious attitude. He committed to honest reflection upon these views and submitted to change when he discovered his ego attitude to be limited. However, he refused to automatically accept any new truth without a scrutinous conscious processing.
Ultimately, Jung’s encounters with the perspectives of different complexes modified his personality in a new synthesis with a vastly broadened awareness. This enlarged consciousness was not an inflation, that is, an ego identification with a sub-personality. To the contrary, this new synthesis represents a reconciliation of many opposing parts of the self. The ego, in this new synthesis, accepts its relative but important place as the center of consciousness but not the center of the personality. The ego accepts its role as mediator of the greater forces of the self, with definite challenges to take on in this life. The ego acknowledges that it is not lord and master of the personality but, as a complex with consciousness, is charged with learning the truths of the self and acquiescing to the appropriate needs and expectations of the total self.
In a future blog I will explore in more detail the technique of active imagination. The necessary prerequisites to its practice are to be gleaned from Jung’s personal journey. Engaging directly the unknown self, or the unknown not-self, requires definite safety precautions.
1. The ego self must be ready to engage in dialogue with an entity or a complex within the self that is not part of the ego. Don’t underestimate how tightly the ego holds to the security of seeing itself as the whole personality. We must be ready to accept and make room for the Not I.
2. The ego must stay present and insist on consciousness remaining in control during interactions with other parts of the self. Sub-personalities are allowed a voice, but not a take-over coup of the personality.
3. The ego, with its growing knowledge and awareness, must not identify with any entity; that is, it must not see itself bigger than its humble ego self because of its ability to have contact with other entities or their influences. This would be inflation. Nor must it allow itself to turn over power and guidance of the personality to any entity, no matter how benevolent or helpful. The ego must ultimately take personal responsibility for all decisions. We are in this life to live it, grow from it, and learn from it. We are not here to turn our life over to another. This is an evasion of responsibility and ultimately a predatory arrangement, no matter who the entity is. In contrast, acquiescing to the higher power of the self, or spirit, is a decision rooted in consciousness, a decision based upon the resonance the ego feels in its encounter with spirit. This is not an evasion of responsibility but an acceptance of the appropriate ego position in relation to spirit. In simple terms, this is the ego assuming its proper role in alignment with the total personality versus going off on its own agenda or turning its life over to the control of another.
With these prerequisites in place we are ready to journey deeper into self and beyond, in interactions with infinity.
If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.
Until we meet again,
* Paraphrased from Carlos Castaneda’s Magical Passes, page 91.
NOTE: Books mentioned in this blog are available in our Store.