Saturday, May 8, 2010

Religion, Politics and Modern Day Demon Possession

“Possession by an archetype turns a man into a flat collective figure, a mask behind which he can no longer develop as a human being, but becomes increasingly stunted. One must therefore beware of the danger of falling victim to the dominant of the mana-personality (powerful completed all wise being).” Jung CW &, pars. 387-90

I'd like to briefly examine this comment from Carl Jung and share my reflections.

This statement reminds me of myself when frozen in an idea or point of view. The Wizard of OZ behind his screen comes to mind--a man who has forgotten his dynamic nature, a man who has 'unbecome' an evolving human, a person who has frozen into a single ideological image. I believe this phenomenon was called "demon possession" or "spirit possession" in the ancient world. It begins with a single issue or idea which becomes the central issue. Obsession on the idea or issue leads to possession, and such possession always leads to higher and higher emotional actions and reactions.

Rightly or wrongly, I think of people like Sean Hannity, John Stewart, Glen Beck, Keith Olberman, Al Sharpton, Rush Limbaugh, Rosie O'Donnell and Ann Coulter. From this list you can see it is neither a Conservative nor Progressive issue, but an ideological issue, a frozen archetype implanted in a human psyche. This seems to be the case with most long term politicians, social activists and religious leaders. This is especially true when their public identity and financial security become dependent on their frozen ideologies. Rare exceptions have been people like Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the Apostle, CS Lewis and Anthony Flew who moved from atheism to theistic perspectives, Ronald Reagan who shifted from the democratic party to the republican point of view, or Malcolm X who converted from militant politics to a position of love and tolerance.

When we are not aware that our various ego-selves throughout life are meant to be transitory and provisional, human existence becomes flat, painful and all consuming. This happens especially to people after they turn fifty, but can be easily found in younger people too. This occurs when we are not aware that there are many eternal archetypal patterns with many ideas and points of view that seek to merge with our growing personality. There is nothing odd or wrong with becoming fixed or frozen for a time, but dynamic life always nudges us beyond every ego mask we create and wear.

Those who become solidified in a "permanent personality" are often at the forefront of violent or aggressive movements that gain momentum from a build-up of myopic archetypal energy. They are like raging waters gathering behind a wall that finally bursts forth. A psyche that has both eyes glued to the binoculars of a single powerful archetypal image is an explosion waiting to happen. One thinks of the Republican or Democrat who spends his/her life "gathering evidence" to prove that the opponents are wrong. One thinks of the theist or atheist who obsesses about the enemy, examining all of life, from news headlines to daily experiences in order to confirm their "theory of reality." They are blindly led everywhere with their pet archetypal seeing eye dog on a psychic leash. They are no longer conscious of being a "human becoming," but are a "human has become." Wars, minor or major, are always caused by such people. Without self reflection and integration of "the other," there is always aggression. The aggression typically leads to some form of empathic integration, eventually, if total annihilation is not the result.

How would a person know if s/he were such a person? Here is a quiz:

1. Can you think of a religious point of view you really hate? Be careful to guard against self deception on this question. Most of us do not want to think we are such people. Be honest. Is there a religious point of view you really hate?

2. Is there a political point of view you really hate? Is there a politician that causes a visceral reaction in you when you hear their name or see their face?

3. Do you keep attracting the same kind of friends, lovers or people into your life? Do these relationships keep ending in a similar, unsatisfying way?

Intense emotional resistance is the best indicator. To see this requires an act of honest, self reflective, usually painful awareness. Our resentments are sure signs of this painful archetypal myopia. "Resent" means to re-feel, and carries the idea that it is literally re-sent (sent back again and again) because it contains the nucleus of your soul's next evolutionary stage. Resentments are spot lights shining down into the dark cavern of your unconsciousness which holds the next phase in your growth as a human being. The pain and discomfort of resentments always carry the seeds of your flourishing soul. If you want to make life interesting again, and experience freedom, joy and peace, identify the people, ideas or situations you hate and find them in yourself. It takes a rare person to do this. Most are too lazy or too frozen in what Jung called "their dominant mana-personality." But if we do not follow the spot light into the cavern, we will grow more and more bitter, flat and bored. The end is always some sort of addiction, insanity or a life of lonely self righteousness.

This pathology of frozen consciousness or static identity became more widespread with the invention of writing. Prior to that, stories were dynamic, fluid and evolving with the oral story teller's words and the listeners mind. There was no opportunity to look back over the text, examine the details, comb through the syntax, examine each word and idea in order to form a more or less fixed image of what was meant. There could have been no "world religion" until writing was invented.

Perhaps the internet will thaw this tendency. Of course for those really stuck in the ideological concrete, the internet will allow them wide access to confirm their singular point of view.

When Jesus told his followers to "love their enemies," he was reminding them that our psychological hatred of someone or something holds the key to entering into God's next phase for the making of our infinite souls.

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