Sunday, November 1, 2009

Are We Possessed?

Carl Jung, the great doctor of the soul and one of the most inspired psychologists of the twentieth century, had incredible insight into what is currently playing out; both individually and collectively, in our modern-day world. He writes, "If, for a moment, we look at mankind as one individual, we see that it is like a man carried away by unconscious powers." We are a species carried away – ‘possessed’ by -- and acting out, the unconscious. To condescendingly think that we, as modern-day, rational people, are too sophisticated to believe in something as primitive as demons; is to have fallen under the spell of the very evil spirits we are imagining are nonexistent. What the ancients call demons are a psychic phenomenon which compel us to act out behaviors contrary to our best intentions.

Possession is an interesting word. It conjures up immediate associations of the Devil, who, mythologically speaking, is the one who ‘possesses’ us, in the demonic sense of the word. Possession is to identify with a complex of the unconscious, and become taken over by it to such an extent that we act it out in, as and through our lives. Who among us hasn't done this? Multiple examples of people becoming possessed by and en-acting their unconscious has happened for everyone to see. The claims by the ASA’s chairman Leonard Chuene over the Caster Semenya saga which turned out to be bald faced lies, Glen Agliotti’s dubious testimony in the Jackie Selebi corruption trial, the ongoing spectacle of celebrity scandals from Steve Hofmeyer to Joost van der Westhuizen; and the steady parade of CEO’s and highly placed civil servants making off with obscene financial pay-outs. In their actions these people were all ‘taken over by something’, as we are ourselves.

Once these archetypal contents become activated in the unconscious, it is like they have taken possession of certain individuals, irresistibly drawing them together by mutual attraction and knitting them into smaller or larger groups; which may easily swell into an avalanche. People who have fallen into their unconscious naturally attract and connect with each other, as they reciprocally reinforce each others' madness. An impenetrable bubble of shared, rigid beliefs gets conjured up around them which deflects and resists any self-reflection which threatens their fixed worldview. Anyone who reflects back their unconscious state is demonized and seen as a heretic, blasphemer and enemy. Through using individuals as its instruments, evil needs the unconscious masses for its genesis and proliferation on the world stage. Masses are always breeding grounds of psychic epidemics. In a collective psychosis there is a herd mentality, where people stop thinking for themselves and let others think for them, like sheep (‘sheeple’); that just follow wherever they are being led.

Possession is nowadays described as complexes; such as the power-complex, savior-complex, mother-complex, inferiority-complex etc. They take over the control of the total personality in place of the ego, at least temporarily, to such a degree that the free will of the ego is suspended. Everyone knows nowadays that people have complexes. What is not so well known, though far more important, is that complexes can have us. The more complexes we have, the more we are possessed. That said, we don't need to get rid of our complexes; rather, we need to become consciously aware of them. What is important is what we do with our complexes.

Possession is synonymous with bondage. Possession means being supplanted by something stronger, being taken over and ‘owned’ by something other than ourselves. We've all had moments where we've been possessed by something, where we've felt ‘not ourselves’, where we are no longer identical with ourselves. Some of us may spend our whole lives living someone else's life instead of our own. We've all had moments where ‘something’ has gotten into us, where we feel out of sorts, beside ourselves. At any moment any one of us can become ‘possessed’ by the unconscious in a way such that a more powerful energy than our conscious ego moves and animates us. Then I cannot say I do, but rather it is done through me; something takes possession of me. When I have fallen into my unconscious and compulsively en-act an unconscious complex, I become manipulated by more powerful forces than myself. In Jung's words, a person then becomes “the devil's marionette”. This could happen only because I believe I have abolished the demons by declaring them to be superstition.

Complexes have a possessive and obsessive effect on consciousness. Interestingly, the word ‘obsession’ originally meant to be under the influence of an evil' possession'. Obsession refers to certain ideas that have taken possession of the person. I can become possessed by unshakable ideas of the way things should be or who I think I am, oppressing and tyrannizing both myself and others who hold a different viewpoint in the process. The idea is like an autonomous being that wants a body so much that it even incarnates in my body; I begin to play, to perform the idea; and then people say I am completely mad. The idea has taken possession of me till it is as if I am out of my mind. In this way, millions of our species have killed and been killed over a fixed idea.

Commandeering and colonizing my psyche, a split-off, autonomous complex is; potentially, like a ‘vampiric virus’, in that it is fundamentally ‘dead’ matter; it is only in a living being that it acquires a quasi-life. Just like a vampire re-vitalizes itself by sucking our life-force, when I unconsciously identify with an activated complex, I am literally animating and en-livening the undead. Complicit in my own victimization, I then unwittingly give away my freedom, power and life-force in the process. Like cancer cells ravaging the body, disassociated complexes are like ‘splinter psyches’ that can become overly swollen with psychic energy, and then will propagate and metastasize themselves within the psyche; consuming, devouring and cannibalizing the healthy aspects of my psyche.

When I ‘see’ a demon, I know its name, which helps me to get a ‘handle’ on it. Naming is exorcistic, as it dis-spells the demon's power over me. The act of naming is, like baptism, extremely important as regards the creation of personality, for a magical power has been attributed to the name since time immemorial. To know the secret name of a person [or a demon] is to have power over them. For mankind it was always like a deliverance from a nightmare when the new name was found. Finding the name is an act of power. The moment I can designate the lived archetype by its symbol, I feel relieved; that is a good and positive moment even if it is horrible. Therefore, old Egyptian medicine consisted in giving the thing the right name. A new name always produces an extraordinary effect; I cannot rationalize these things, they cast a spell, they are symbols, they really do influence the unconscious as the unconscious influences me.

It is very important for me to re-introduce the words ‘demon’ and ‘possession’ back into my vocabulary; minus the fear that I will be seen as being primitive, crazy or even possessed myself if I use such words. I need to expand my psycho-spiritual fluency to enable me to navigate the living waters of my inner and outer landscapes. Being ‘possessed by demons’ - taken over by unconscious, psychic forces - is something that happens to all of us, and it is to our great advantage to be able to properly name our experience. Finding the name empowers me to creatively engage with those parts of myself that are emerging from the shadows ‘in the name of healing’.

This is why the greatest protection against demons is to be in touch with my intrinsic wholeness, which is to be ‘self-possessed’, in possession of the part of myself that is not possess-able; which is the Self, the wholeness of my being. The antonym of diabolic is the word symbolic, which, in addition to being the language of dreams; means to unite, bring together and integrate. The demonic is a quantum phenomenon, in that it contains both the symbolic and diabolic encoded within it in a superposed state, which is to say that hidden within the demonic is the creative seeds of its own transformation. Both constructive and destructive forces are fully present in the demonic simultaneously; and either energy can potentially manifest, depending upon how an observing consciousness interacts with it.

One of the main ways that demons become empowered within me is when I am unconscious of my shadow. Jung says, "Anyone who is unaware of his shadow is too wonderful, too good; he has a wrong idea of himself, and to that extent such a person is possessed." The extent to which I am unconscious of my shadow is the extent to which I am unaware of my potential to unwittingly enact my unconscious in a way which could be hurtful. If I don't see the negative side of what I do; what I am, I am possessed. Only through understanding of unconscious aspects, as a rule, can I liberate myself from possession. Understanding ‘unconscious aspects’ is to shed light on darker, asleep parts of myself - ‘the negative side of what I do’ - which is essentially the act of becoming conscious. The demons act themselves out through my psychic blind-spots.

The demon that is always with me is the shadow following after me, and it is always where my eyes are not. The places where I are possessed by my unconscious are the places in myself where I are not able to see, where ‘my eyes are not’, where I are unable to self-reflectively speculate. Symbolically, this is like a vampire who casts no reflection in the mirror. Since nobody is capable of recognizing just where and how much he himself is possessed and unconscious, he simply projects his own condition upon his neighbor; and thus it becomes a competition to have the most knowledge and the final answer. Interestingly, Jung simply refers to ‘shadow projection’, a process in which I project my own un-embraced aspects onto my neighbor, as ‘the lie’.

When I become possessed by the unconscious, I become unconsciously taken over by my primal, animal-like instincts in such a way that I regress, devolve and fall into my own lower nature. Only the animal man can be is easier to talk or to argue with a dog or a cow than with someone possessed by such a figure. For nothing that is said permeates, it is impossible to pierce the wall that is put up; it is a wall of unconscious beliefs, and the human behind the wall cannot be reached. There is no access because the human being is degraded to the state of an animal, and the thing that seems to function is not a divine being, it is a ghost.

Having fallen under such a spell, I will only strengthen and solidify my spell-bound conviction by acting as if there are no other possible outcomes. Apathy is the breeding ground of the possessed. If I am not investing my creative imagination in ways for me to heal and wake up, then what am I thinking? Just like in a dream at night, when I become lucid in the waking dream of life, I can connect with another and put our lucidity together; changing the world in positive ways in the process. If people tell me I am a ‘dreamer’ when I profess these idealistic and seemingly na├»ve beliefs; I will simply say, to quote the late John Lennon, “I am not the only one.”