In a letter, C. G. Jung once wrote that “… the ego should be (as I think) the supreme point of the self… You all seem to be interested in how to get back to the self, instead of looking for what the self wants you to do in the world; where—for the human being at least—we are located, presumably for a certain purpose.”*
Such a misunderstood character, ego. In our time especially it gets a really bad rap, as we see its hubris melting away the world as we have long known it. So, who is this character Jung speaks so highly of? How has it gotten us into such a precarious position? What is its mission now?
Carlos Castaneda titled his last book The Active Side of Infinity. This is an apt description of the ego, and its relation to the self. If the self is the wholeness of our being, the ego is that part of our wholeness where the light shines outwardly, where the world is seen, experienced, reflected and acted upon. In a nutshell, the ego is the daylight time of day, the time of consciousness. The nighttime then is the ego returning to its source, to the wholeness of being, lights out.
The ego is the child of the self. Each morning it is born anew. Immediately it renews its identity in the light of day as it casts away the greater wholeness that enveloped it in the darkness of the night. In the light of a new day the mission begins anew. What is that mission?
Having solidly established itself the ego assumes command of its charge to navigate the day. Decisions, decisions, decisions! What to eat, what not to eat, what to wear, what to read, who to talk to, what to think about, how to organize the day, what to do, what to avoid, how to understand its needs, the needs of others, how to advance its understanding and mastery of both its daily tasks and its deepest truths and challenges wherever it has been able to shine its light.
Thus, the ego is the engine of consciousness. The self, in its wholeness, birthed this active side, the ego, apparently to know itself and to advance itself into new permutations of being. For the self, the ego is its scout, its explorer, its navigator, its thinker, its experiencer, its change agent, its creator. However, in order to be these things, it must be freed from the constraints of its original wholeness, much as all children must leave the home of their parents, go forth, and discover and create a new world for themselves.
This brings us to the permutation of now, where the world ego has asserted full ownership of itself as creator. Sometimes, as anticipated in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, creative possibilities, though they must be explored, do not bear fruit; it’s the end of the line.
Carlos Castaneda was the end of a very long shamanic line because he did not have the right energetic configuration to continue it. The ending of that specific line of shamans led to a new era, a new spiritual permutation, where there are no naguals. Instead, all who are interested must become their own shaman teachers now.
The current presidency in the United States presents another ending of an era. What is revealed in this experiment we are undergoing right now is the permutation of ego completely obsessed with itself, identifying itself as SELF, as all there is. In psychological terms this is termed inflation, ego inflation where ego crowns itself King of Creation, completely ignorant of a self beyond itself.
As this experiment has unfolded in America, and into the world beyond our shores, the emperor simply laughs at the fact that he has no clothes on—he doesn’t care. He hides none of his self-centeredness. This is the experience, as Jung put it, where the ego, as supreme point of the self, only sees itself as all there is. This is an example of Narcissus staring into the water and falling in love with his own countenance, his whole world.
Actually, we must face the fact that as a world our supreme point is currently at its most alienated point from its wholeness. The ego is in a mad love affair with its own godliness. This narcissistic permutation is the world fixation at the moment. The saving grace of these dire straits is the ego’s reflective capacity. We all have the ability, like the best of scientists, to observe the real facts of this experiment. This is challenging, especially in a time of fake news.
The fact is, however, that the ego does have the ability to get to the truth and shift course to meet it. However, getting the ego to lead beyond its current narcissistic fixation is a major evolutionary advance.
I have no doubt that we will get there, but I also believe that the world will be greatly reshaped in the process. The ego was obligated to play out this current scenario before it could release it as all said and done, no longer a viable option. All options must be tested after all. To this point Jung writes elsewhere, “If there was ever a truly apocalyptic era, it is ours. God has put the means for a universal holocaust into the hands of men.”**
Indeed God, or the Self if you will, has insisted that the ego face its capacity for self-destruction and evolve from its decision. Perhaps we will arrive at knowing we have the ability to destroy ourselves but no longer find it interesting and instead choose to move on to new adventures on solid ground.
Be empowered that this ego/Self drama is playing itself out in all of our lives—we are all the active side of infinity, all part of the whole, all energetically involved in some way. But let us all be empowered to fully assume responsibility for a different future wholeness. Let us all advance the ego as the supreme point in the service of something far greater—universal wholeness.
Clearly, at present, the ego is the supreme point of the self at its most extreme. This is obviously a dangerous permutation, however, one which had to be explored, but don’t forget that the ego, as the active side of the self, has the ability and the challenge to solve its messes and take us forward into a safer future.
Part of it all,
* C. G. Jung Letters Vol. 2: 1951-1961 p. 195
**Ibid p. 209