Friday, February 13, 2009
Cogito ergo sum – CREDO XLV
“I think therefore I am” is the famous statement made by René Descartes. This set the movement of rationalism in motion and the Age of Reason in the late seventeenth century. The ego came into its own and seems to be still thriving today if one looks at the books being touted by atheists today. To be sure it was followed and challenged in subsequent decades by the rise of Romanticism (which coincided with the discovery of Neptune, which rules the process of dissolving boundaries). By the end of the nineteenth century, the ego became defined by Freud as a psychological factor, and later put in its place by Jung as the “center of consciousness” that was subordinate to the unconscious contents of the psyche and orbiting the center of the Self (Divine Guest).
Given the present public interest in the topic of the ego, I venture to comment on a function I have noticed not much attention has been given to so far: the ego as a protective device!
Have you ever noticed when you are reading a paragraph in a book, for example, your brain turns to cement! And perhaps years later, you come across it and suddenly it makes sense? Or at a lecture, you sneeze or are distracted and miss an important point? Well, my teacher M warned me, when at 21 I was so eager to learn and devour esoteric knowledge, that one was responsible for what one learned, responsible for taking it in, applying it, and later sharing it. As he spoke, I had the image of a cup flowing over, and today I would say that the ego sets the appropriate boundaries for what it has the capacity to contain and, that left to its own devices, it widens naturally to contain more and more.
However, there is a danger of the ego being swamped by the negative aspects (not the positive) of those things ruled by Neptune: alcohol, drugs, fumes, etc., all of which can alter consciousness and dissolve the protective function of the ego. (Astrologically, Uranus rules occultism and Neptune rules mysticism. One is yang, higher octave of Mercury, and the latter is yin, higher octave of Venus.) The prevalence of drugs and their global threat to consciousness is a real concern and addresses a collective yearning to escape a meaningless existence. As William James once remarked, “Alcohol is the poor man’s way to mysticism.”
With the breakdown of some religions, their fundamentalist versions seem to have overreacted with literalistic reinforcing of collective ego boundaries! Therein lies a dilemma, and, I really do believe, Jung and many others are pointing to the importance of symbolic understanding and interpretation of so-called reality. The ultimate quest for every ego is to seek meaning, the source of which is the Self (Divine Guest) because “the unexamined life is not worth living.” And this is where Eckhart Tolle and Oprah come in. Together they are a force! (I can’t resist the esoteric implications and humor of his chosen name. Eckhart alludes to the wise thirteenth-century German mystic Meister Eckhart and Tolle in German, loosely translated, is the feminine adjective meaning “nuts”!—i.e., making him a “Holy Fool” or an unpretentious teacher of wisdom, which he certainly seems to be.)
While I am at it, it might be worth mentioning the three potential states of ego: inflated, negatively inflated, and healthy. A topic I took on in my The Beejum Book in the parable of “The Tale of the Three Donkeys.” The inflated EGO is full of itself; the negatively inflated ego considers itself totally unworthy; and the healthy ego does the best it can, aware of its daily fluctuations. Edinger wrote brilliantly of this in his book Ego and Archetype. I cannot recommend this book too highly. I have read and reread it many times.
The discovery of the Collective Ego was during the Age of Aries, roughly the last 2000 years before our Age of Pisces. Yahweh’s mantra and that of Aries are both “I Am!” which reminds me of the six-year-old Josiah Quincy rushing in to Bronson Alcott’s school in Boston in 1843, joyously exclaiming, “Mr. Alcott! Mr. Alcott! I never knew I had a mind until I came here!”
About twenty years ago, I dreamt in Latin: “Cogito ergo sum ergo scivio Deus est. I think therefore I am, therefore I [can] know that God is.” I was so surprised, I woke my beloved husband Walter and we wrote it down. Have never dreamt in Latin before or since!
Posted by IonaDove