Thursday, February 24, 2005

Id, Superego, Ego, Self

Something re God came to me in the shower this morning; that sort of thing is to be shared if possible.

Since Nov. 2 I've been brooding about the parlous state of the Church: how could they? Could this morning's inspiration be a part of the answer?

Do you know what a retarded adolescent is? In my early thirties, having spent most of my twenties in Uncle Sam's wars, I began to attend a young adult spiritual/social activity on Sunday evenings. We often spent 4 hours or more together and wound up in the French Quarter, which makes it sound more social than otherwise.

I was struck by the presence of several men in their late thirties, and it occured to me that they must be still playing the games of immature men. (I had a better excuse, I thought.) I designated them as retarded adolescents.

Well this morning it occured to me that many church members must be retarded egoists. Why otherwise would they support a war? Perhaps the generality of the American public are stuck at the ego stage.

But Christianity offers something better than that: Paul said, I am crucified with Christ, yet I live, but not myself; it is Christ that lives in me (rough translation).

Some modern psychologists have picked up on that to the point of talking about the crucifixion of the ego. It seems to bear a close resemblance to what Jesus was talking about when he said you must be reborn. We can't really be reborn until we die.

If we can crucify the ego, we will find that something much more wonderful has taken its place: Jung called it the self.


Liz Opp said...

Larry, I am struck by what you offer here, and I find something bubbling up in me about your last line: If we can crucify the ego, we will find that something much more wonderful has taken its place: Jung called it the self..

Woolman too writes about the death of his ego, though he calls it the death of his will.

As a Friend who has a concern for how the secular world intrudes on our faith tradition and practice as Friends, I reframe the idea of "death of the ego" into "submission and yielding to the will of the Spirit."

Oh, dear, there is so much more I could write, about living under the Cross, etc etc. I think I shall have to find some time and consider if I am to post something more about the secularism/secularization of our Quaker faith.

For now, here's an excerpt from Woolman's journal about the dying of his will:

In a time of sickness, a little more than two years and a half ago, I was brought so near the gates of death that I forgot my name... In this state I remained several hours. I then heard a soft melodious voice, more pure and harmonious than any I had heard with my ears before; I believed it was the voice of an angel who spake to the other angels; the words were, "John Woolman is dead." I soon remembered that I was once John Woolman, and being assured that I was alive in the body, I greatly wondered what that heavenly voice could mean. I believed beyond doubting that it was the voice of an holy angel, but as yet it was a mystery to me... My tongue was often so dry that I could not speak till I had moved it about and gathered some moisture, and as I lay still for a time I at length felt a divine power prepare my mouth that I could speak, and I then said, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Then the mystery was opened and I perceived there was joy in heaven over a sinner who had repented, and that the language "John Woolman is dead," meant no more than the death of my own will.Blessings,

Larry said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Liz. I am certainly delighted with your comment.

It was especially pleasing to see Woolman using the same quote in his journal.
My readers now have access to his journal, thanks to you.

I appreciate your concern about the secular world and our faith tradition. With me it kind of works backward. I start with the faith tradition and try to make it intellible to the secular population.

We are both engaged in a ministry of reconciliation. It was God's good pleasure to bring us together.

Jon said...

I guess my quick-and-dirty definition of ego is:

the "surface tension" of the soul.

Larry said...

Could you elaborate a bit on that, Jon; some of us are a bit slow. It's a very poetic statement, and our associations may be cloudy in various ways.

The soul has always been kind of undefined in my mind. What is it exactly?

Anyway, thanks for your comment.

Al said...

"the "surface tension" of the soul."

Very nice image.
It instantly struck me as the surface tension being the "friction" resulting from our resistance to "the way things are".
Whether we believe in a transmigrating soul or not, I think we might all agree that there is work to be done. Whether we are polishing the jewel in our hearts or "yielding to the will of the Spirit." at some level we are talking about the same thing. When we resist the way things are, the will of god, for a Buddhist: when we are attached, we suffer. The ego as that which resists, that which is attached, that forms the heat that we all know as suffering.
May be?

Larry said...

In Jung's theory the crucified ego does not resist; it becomes the servant of the self. The whole thing is called the process of individuation, and the self of course, for a Christian is the Christ within.

Marjorie said...

Why do they support the war? Because they don't think about the war. Because they want to believe the leadership of this country is good and decent and right because to think otherwise is utterly terrifying. To look into the situation and see the lies and the brutality and inhumanity that are being perpetrated by us, the good guys, is horrifying. The 'evil ones' deserve what they get, right? The 'evil ones' are them, it can't possibly be us. We can sit in our Sunday best in our pews and draw our paychecks from the defense contractors that employ us and simply trust in the goodness of the U.S.

Not so.