In order to change the self something may have to go. Something may have to be sacrificed. In order to live a more balanced life something may have to be left behind, for if you take it with you it will continue to interfere and progress will be slow to impossible. To move on quickly it may be time to finally shed that which you adhere to, love, and treasure above all else. And yet, what is it really but an attachment? Is it time to finally let it go so that you can really change and become what you have dreamed of? A dream is just a dream until you do something to make it real. Ready to step into the true reality of your dream? It’s up to you. You have the power, only you.
All newborn babies turn their heads toward the nipple and make sucking movements. This is an inborn program called the rootingreflex that prepares the baby to procure nourishment in the form of milk from the breast. Jung called these universal inborn mental programs, that orchestrate such necessary adaptation and survival behaviors, archetypes. At nature’s insistence newborns are born with an entitled energy to suckle nurturance from the breast.
Entitlement has its roots in nature itself. The energy that the archetypes are naturally endowed with is the energy of entitlement. When an archetype is activated it is potentiated with powerful energy, the energy of entitlement, that allows it to achieve its fulfillment.
The entitled energy of the hunger instinct fuels our ability to work and accumulate goods, property, and money, allowing us to meet our most primal of needs. This instinct is quite primitive and has its roots in narcissism, with the primary focus given to the satisfaction of the body’s primary survival needs.
As we grow, our narcissistic fixation naturally enlarges to include the family, a unit dedicated to survival as a group. The family carves out its ownership of its living space, not to be transgressed by non-family members without an invitation. The family is poised to accumulate for itself and defend its ownership against the competing needs of others. Thus, there is a legitimate basis for entitlement in human physical existence: survival.
Jung observed that archetypes also give rise to spiritual values in humans. This spirit instinct in human beings often comes to life as a result of sacrifice. The initiation rituals of yesteryear that brutally tore the young from their entitled dependence upon family and sent them off to experiences outside of the known and familiar—the world of mother, father, and extended family—are one example of such sacrifice.
Through the archetype of ritual sacrifice, youth became adults and took on greater responsibility for the group beyond family of origin. Vestiges of theses archetypal strivings are seen today in the stylized piercings, tattoos, and drug adventures of young people seeking to cross the bridge to adulthood through some kind of self-initiated ritual sacrifice.
When spiritual values emerge they signal a maturity that takes into consideration the needs of others, beyond the narcissism of me and mine, awakening an energy of compassion that extends to all living beings. This spirit entitlement employs its energy to consider and care for everything beyond the self. Spirit orientation is in opposition to the hoarding attitude of the narcissistic orientation. Spirit employs its personal energy to care for the greater whole and accepts itself as part of that greater whole. Spirit orientation acts to extend entitlement as a broader human right.
Narcissistic orientation bemoans having to give away that which it needs and wants. Spirit, on the other hand, can tend to neglect, negate, or even denigrate the needs of the physical body, its working vehicle for this life.
I would propose that we are presently in an energetic World War between these two instinctual orientations: body instinct and spirit instinct. The current world leader, our own President, exemplifies entitlement at a very primal level. That is, its inherent right to consider only the needs of itself over the needs of the more inclusive world. The degree of support accorded this leader reflects how accurately he taps into the narcissistic underpinnings of survival at the primal, animal, level in all human beings.
What has given rise to our current state of world affairs is a breakdown in the application of the technology of sacrifice to effect spiritual transformation. At one extreme is a failure of the institutions of the modern world to provide effective rites of initiation at key stages of life. Without these rites many people fail to individuate into true adulthood and thus remain fixated at a child’s level of orientation toward the world, entitled and demanding.
At the other extreme is a total renunciation of the body for the benefit of the spirit. One example is the requirement of celibacy in the Catholic priesthood; sacrifice the lower for the sake of the higher. Though this technology of sacrifice was successful in establishing a life oriented toward altruistic concerns, it has created a tremendous body-shadow backlash. Just look at the incidences of sexual abuse among the ranks of the Catholic priests. The entitlement of the repressed sexual instinct has emerged from hiding, deviously preying upon the young and innocent.
In the political arena we see a similar eruption of repressed primal instinct asserting its entitlement to accumulate resources for itself only, casting out the unfamiliar ‘other’ to fend for itself. This is the shadow of American altruism, bursting forth now with a vengeance.
The determination of this entitlement is expressed in its blatant use of lies, misinformation, and manipulation as a necessary and acceptable means to care for its basic needs. No amount of reason or scientific proof can shake it from its deeply seated conviction that it is entitled to care only for its own needs.
At present the lines are firmly drawn between body and spirit, it’s either one way or the other. There is no room for compromise, as each side is absolutely in touch with their inalienable right of entitlement. And they are both right; we are animals and we are spirits. Perhaps the ultimate solution is encoded in the axiom: asabove so below. The needs of the body are as important as the needs of the spirit, the needs of the self are as important as the needs of the planet.
Where might there be adjustments to bring these two into better confluence? As the Pope laments the abuses of his church he might consider the fact that nuns have probably almost never committed sexual abuse, despite their same commitment to celibacy as their priestly male counterparts. If the technology of celibacy is to be maintained, perhaps nuns should be invited into the priesthood to lead the way.
On an individual level, we are invited to truly tune in to the wants and needs of our animal selves, as well as our spirit’s longing for greater wholeness with the universe. For instance, the practice of sacred sex joins body, spirit, and other, in joy, pleasure, and union at a physical/spiritual level.
On a planetary level, the Earth’s body has taken the lead. We are in the beginnings of massive transformation at a planetary level that will force us to be more in step with the true needs of the Earth’s body and atmosphere. For humans this is a spirit/body reconciliation. Respecting the body of the planet is both a spiritual love, moving beyond just the narcissism of self, as well as a deep connection to the physical: self and planet.
The key to reconciliation of our warring instincts is recognizing the legitimacy of entitlement for both body and spirit. Behind the off-putting extremism of today’s headlines are individuals identified with either one orientation or the other.
Can you outwardly appreciate the one-sidedness of your neighbor, but also its legitimacy, in some form? Can you inwardly recognize the one-sidedness of your own orientation and, yes, validate it in some form too? Can you give value and a place to the opposite side, whether it be body or spirit? That is the way to become an integrated, balanced whole being.
Real change involves sacrifice. Something must give for something new to take. Something must go for something new to come. Room must be made for something new. With every sacrifice comes a new opportunity. But real change lasts only as long as the intent lasts, only as long as you remain conscious that: “I am changing, I am a changing being.” Staying constantly conscious of the changing process, of each sacrifice and each opening into which something new may step, is the key. Staying conscious is itself a constant sacrifice of all that comes to interrupt the process, and yet such sacrifice is the redemptive process, for it is the opening that is needed for change to step in and takes its place. You can’t have one without the other. Change, you have to give in order to get!
I acknowledge my propensity to see the world through the lens of my right brain, and thus I cannot help but read it as a message from the collective unconscious that ISIS, the acronym assigned to the virulently destructive Islamic terrorist organization, must in some way be related to the ancient Egyptian Moon Goddess Isis. And so I ask myself, “What does it mean?”
The Goddess Isis is the Great Mother, goddess of all material life. She brings the necessary fertility and bounty to nurse all life to maturity. She also has the opposite task, for she is likewise known as Isis the Destroyer, who through typhoon and drought clears the earth of old life in preparation for new life. It is absolutely necessary that all life acquiesce to the life and death duality of nature. Just as the seasons change and evolution proceeds so does the human being.
It is the hubris of modern civilization that refuses to acknowledge the dark side of nature and doggedly clings to the light. In the temple of the Goddess Isis, initiates were introduced to both the dark and the light of their own natures, undergoing rituals that led to a mature integration, resulting in a balancing of the opposing sides that lasted throughout the life cycle.
Modern humanity has lost its way to reconcile good and evil, unable to reconcile that light and dark are the necessary halves of the same whole. Instead, modern humanity has disavowed its own dark shadow side and projected it xenophobically upon it neighbors of difference. Thus, we find ourselves constantly at war with some new evil.
The modern world’s overindulgence in the light manifests in the mad dashes of technology, in the ever-increasing demand for greater economic growth, and in the unprecedented exploitation of the environment to feed the insatiable demand for more energy.
The overarching value of the modern world is unchecked progress, a refusal to incorporate the necessary balance of nature that insists upon a moderation that nurtures all life.
Esther Harding writes, in Woman’s Mysteries: “Isis [the Goddess] is shown as decreeing that there should not be perpetual harmony, with the good always in ascendant. On the contrary she desires that there should always be a conflict between the powers of growth and those of destruction. The process of life consists not in unchecked progress but in the conflict between growth and decay.”
The destructive side of the Goddess Isis has been roused from its slumber in the collective unconscious, taking a myriad of forms to address the one-sided, unchecked progress that rules the present world. Her aim is destruction of humanity’s unbridled attachment to progress. Her means of achieving her intent is ruthless, but so does the necessity for radical change call for ruthlessness if our world is to survive.
Most recently, the destructive actions of the Goddess—working through factions of humankind and the environment, producing terrorism and drought—have resulted in mass migrations of hundreds of thousands of refugees into Europe.
Germany, who once housed evil incarnate, has taken the leadership role in welcoming refugees to shelter in her homeland. Soon these migrations will reach the shores of America as well, as the world is now pressured to transcend its xenophobic borders and compassionately welcome all life into its cauldron of a melting pot. *
The destructive side of the Goddess Isis is now forcing the world to place compassion above progress. Surely the task of assimilation will require a great relocation of world resources to properly accommodate the great migrations that will only increase in numbers as destruction continues to ravage the earth.
In America, itself a cauldron of change, a growing momentum for a $15 per hour minimum wage asks Wall Street to accept less profit that all might be able to earn a sustainable living. Once again, compassion over unchecked gain is a movement to calm the wrath of the Goddess Isis, who ultimately seeks to nurture life. Acquiescence to limitation, even in profit, might appease this angry Goddess.
As with all initiations, sacrifice is required to appease the gods and goddesses, who then allow the initiate greater preparedness to move through the deeper challenges of life. This was certainly true in the temple of the Goddess Isis where initiates surrendered something they coveted; their hair or their virginity for women, circumcision for men.
Sacrifice is what is needed now to right the world, sacrifice of unchecked progress in the forms of greed, growth, and exploitation. Within the microcosms of our individual psyche’s we are all confronted with the wrath of the Goddess Isis, who demands that we too sacrifice our attachment to unchecked progress in our individual lives. That is, our attachment to that which we covet to excess, that which we refuse to moderate, whether that be texting, Facebook, substance, food, sex, love, money, power, fear—the list is endless.
Every time we sacrifice that which we covet we appease the Goddess who then ushers us into new and renewed life. May we all partake in embracing compassion over unchecked progress that we might bring an end to the intensity of Isis the Destroyer’s wrath and find ourselves back in balance with our own natures, the continuance of life assured.
For more on ISIS the Islamic state as destroyer, and its intent of destruction, see the article in The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants, from which the following quote comes: “The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.”
I lived in Sweden in the 1970s. One day there was a knock at the apartment door. I answered it and saw three little girls standing there.
Dressed in long skirts, with kerchiefs around their heads and brightly painted red cheeks, they held out copper kettles, singing something indecipherable in lilting voices. It looked a lot like Halloween to me, but it was Pink Thursday, the day before Good Friday.
Luckily, I was baking cookies for the guests who would be arriving the next day. I couldn’t speak Swedish very well at the time, so I held up a finger—wait a sec—and went into the kitchen to grab a handful of warm chocolate chip cookies, a rarity in Sweden at the time. (I’d had the chocolate chips sent to me by my parents as they were not available there.)
“Kakor?” I asked, reappearing with cookies in hand.
“Ja!” they replied, quite happily.
Grabbing the cookies they gobbled them down, making pleasing sounds while I smiled at them and nodded, saying, “Ja, ja,” or something like that. We waved goodbye as they turned to knock on my neighbor’s door. I shut the door and ran back into the kitchen, just in time to rescue the next batch of cookies from being burned in the oven.
Those little girls were enacting a tradition, playing the witches who supposedly cavorted with the devil on that day; all part of the springtime rituals, I was to learn. Usually coins were placed in the tea kettles but, as I told my husband, those little girls didn’t mind the cookies at all!
A few weeks later, at the end of April, another spring ritual was enacted. We’d traveled to spend a few days with my in-laws at their summer house on the West coast of Sweden. A bonfire ensued, the natural consequences of doing winter cleanup of the yard, but this too had significance. It was Walpurgis Night, the annual ritual to greet spring’s arrival. Many bonfires were lit that night along the coast, songs were sung and a lot of alcohol, another part of the tradition, was consumed.
It was the first time I was being exposed to ancient traditions outside of those of my Catholic upbringing. I found them intriguing. It was an eyeopener that nature itself was not only leading the way, but was actually being celebrated as the most significant guide in breaking through to new life. It made perfect sense to me, but I’d never encountered it before. Everyone knew the ritual, and everyone participated. Without judgment, it was a tradition that just was, nature allowed its place in a celebratory, honest, and most practical manner. As that Walpurgis Night fire burned, the ritual of the witches cavorting with Satan made perfect sense too. All of a sudden, I understood that nature was a real and powerful ally and entity, and it needed to be paid attention to, honored, and reckoned with.
I’m ready for my own bonfire now. It’s been on my mind that we should have a fire soon in our outdoor pit. The idea has been stirring for weeks, as we’ve waited for the snow to melt so that we could actually see the fire pit! It’s time to intentionally enact the ancient ritual of shedding and burning that which we no longer need. It’s time to begin anew.
Last night I dreamed. My skin was cracking and peeling away. Not like skin that has been sunburned and peels in thin layers. No, this skin was about an inch or two thick. It was old crusty skin. I knew, as I dreamed, that it symbolized that which is no longer necessary, a protective layer that no longer has any use. I was wearing it for no good reason, only out of habit. Beneath the thick old skin lies new pink skin, the tender, innocent and true self. It’s time to fully expose her, to let her live all the time, not just when it feels safe or appropriate, because I suddenly understood that it is always appropriate to live from the tender and real self.
My dream reminded me of a dream I’d had when doing my recapitulation. At that time I’d dreamed of removing a layer of the same kind of thick crusty skin from the soles of my feet. I still cringe as I recall peeling it off only to find beautiful pink soles underneath. In that dream, I put the crusty soles back on because I still had a lot of recapitulation work to do. But it was enough to know what lay in store for me, the innocent and pure self revealed by those tender pink soles. I wasn’t ready at the time to do more than hold the secret of this true self, but last night’s dream tells me that I’m more than ready now. I’ve been walking on the soles of that tender self for a long time now, but as my dream tells me, it’s time to shed everything else I’ve used to keep her protected and let her fully live!
And so, in celebration of spring, I intend to shed the trappings and ideas of an old self. I intend to set upon the altar that which is no longer necessary or desirable. In lighting the pyre, I intend to sacrifice that which oppresses and keeps me from experiencing my fuller self, all the thoughts and ideas that no longer belong in my life. I also set the intent to no longer hide the pure tender soul of who I am. I will be burning that crusty old coat of skin that I no longer need to wear!
I will allow nature to be my guide, both through this ritual burning and in the next steps. I have no idea where I’m going, but in this shedding and burning process I declare that I am open, willing, and ready for new life.
We’ve all come so far in our lives and in our work. Let us not be held back. Let us light the fire on the altar and raise a glass to nature and to spring, to renewal of the true self, and many happy new beginnings.
As I light the fire and raise a glass to spring, I hope you will too,