Photograph by Emma McEvoy

Photograph by Emma McEvoy

There’s a famous story that Robert Bly tells about Carl Jung who, whenever a friend reported enthusiastically, ‘I have just been promoted!’ Jung would say, ‘I’m very sorry to hear that; but if we all stick together, I think we will get through it.’ On the other hand, if a friend arrived depressed and ashamed, saying, ‘I’ve just been fired,’ Jung would say, ‘Let’s open a bottle of wine; this is wonderful news; something good will happen now.’

Now this may seem like backwards thinking to the rational mind, but to the soul it makes wonderful sense. These kinds of promotions in social stature set the ego into inflation, believing itself to have finally been recognized as the supreme ruler it was meant to be (!)  The ego’s survival depends upon the belief that it is in control and it doesn’t like to think that it might lose its ascendancy. But in those moments of trembling loss, it is forced to face its smallness.

Jung wrote, “… the experience of the Self is always a defeat for the ego.” Indeed, in those initiations by illness, loss or depression, when we are dragged into the underworld to pass through the gates of intensifying vulnerability, we are being stripped of our outer world clothing, prepared for to meet the Divine.

We’ve all had those dreams of losing our wallet or purse, which contains our ‘identity’ and money – a symbolic ‘self worth’ –  and this is where the ego panics; it says, “Who am I without these things?” And it is right to be struck with fear, because there is a greater Self who finally has a chance at being encountered now with the ego demoted, but it will require your willingness to be wholly disoriented for a while.

Just as there are times on a winding walk when you can not the see the road ahead, so too will you lose visibility on your soul’s unfolding.

If you can find solace in your surrendering to that groundlessness, there is a pleasure possible in this depth of not-knowing, where creativity can use you as a vessel and, for a moment, you can know real freedom in your acquiescence to the numinous.


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