I've shared much over the past few days on the topic of the Shadow which is of great interest to those who value or desire spiritual progress in their lives. The idea of "spiritual progress" is, of course, a subjective variable, but the way I would define it here is "the state of being or moving towards Greater Wholeness and alignment with Life". When the Shadow is left unintegrated in a person, their state of "Wholeness" is of course obstructed by the denied psychic material fragmenting within their total possible expression as a human being. This has dire consequences for all of us. To elaborate here on this topic, I will introduce the concept of "grandiosity" and how we can relate to the primal energies within the psyche that actually want us to do good and to be in alignment with Life.
Grandiosity, by definition, refers to "the quality of being impressive but especially in a pretentious way." This word has a negative connotation as we usually relate it to people who are over-inflated in their Ego. However, I would like to introduce the perspective that grandiose energies are actually connected to the bigger powers within the psyche that influence us towards greatness. The problem is not in the energy itself, but rather how we relate to it. Poor regulation and understanding of grandiosity leads one to think that they are God; this can lead to a variety of problems, most notably of which are the criminal and violent acts inflicted between human beings for the sake of "religion", "belief", or "faith". Humans with unregulated access to power and a lack of understanding about its function are prone to behaving ruthlessly as immoral animals. Even those of us who are not in major positions of influence are still at the mercy of these primal energies. Even the "smallest" fish in the pond can enact unspeakable acts of atrocity and evil; this is IN us. We need to learn about the source of grandiosity and not shun it or make enemies out of those who are caught in its grip.
There is a biological component to of all of this. Neurophysiologically, we all possess a hardwiring for the greatest possible expression of the human being. If and when the chemical balance is thrown off, bad things can happen. The state of the planet -- climate change, excessive waste, accumulation of garbage and toxic byproducts, etc -- this all mirrors to us our own internal biochemical state. For centuries now we have been denying Nature. Our current civilization and the entire Western world has been built on a false and erroneous assumption that we can take everything we need from our planet without learning first how to be in right relationship with it. If we are living our lives like this, even in small ways, we will experience the build up of toxicity in our own system. Because we are Nature. These bodies that we walk around in are complex bio-machines that are the evolutionary sense organs OF the Earth and cosmos. Our relationship to the Natural world IS ur relationship to ourselves, and unless we see this and begin to understand the incredibly deep interconnection of it all, we will continue to behave as selfish children who've inherited a Kingdom but with no rules or guidance on how to take responsibility for what we've received.
Think about it. The human organism that you live in is a million+ year old inheritance of successful evolutionary adaptation. To give an analogy -- imagine if you went back in time and gave a piece of high technology to a caveman without any context, pretext, or guidance. Even if the device you gave him could somehow fit the needs of that moment and benefit them, it may take them a long time to figure out how to adapt it to the time. We have each inherited a highly advanced bio-computer called "human being", complete with highly sophisticated software systems such as language and other pre-installed programs, but there is no instruction manual. At least not in our contemporary world. The "instruction manuals" we have are the public education system, which although it is our best attempt, this system still has many holes and gaps in stewarding the complete development of the human. Tribal societies understood these challenges and attempted to provide the right environments for their subsequent generations. These ancient people's attempts to bring up complete human beings led to the development of what we now know as wisdom teachings, ritual practices, initiatory processes, and other ceremonial functions. The modern world is largely missing these pieces of the puzzle, and we are suffering as a result. A chimpanzee has been given a machine gun.
Grandiosity is the result of a human being plugging into the primal fuel that drives them to succeed and be great in life. This energy allows a person to "fill out", so to speak. To become "big" enough to handle the challenges of life. However, left unchecked, this energy starts to take over. They have the technology, but they don't have the right understanding or relationship to it. We see this mirrored in the advent of AI. I won't get into detail on artificial intelligence, but there is a lesson here for us all. If we are to move forward as a species, what can be done to course correct and ensure we are on the right path? I believe the answer is found in understanding the inner dimensions of the human psyche. Understanding why human beings act out in the ways that they do, and by understanding it collectively we can understand it individually. Or perhaps it is the other way around: understanding it individually allows us to understand it collectively. Or... maybe it doesn't matter ... yet it remains true that we must understand. UNDER-stand. Stand under.
We're standing on the back of giants, but most of the time we take credit for our achievements as if we were the ones doing it. A talented athlete inherited the genetic material necessary to excel at their sport. Of course, they may have worked hard to manifest their potential, but the hardwiring and coding was already there, and not due to anything that they "did". The Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture older than the Bible, offers a profound wisdom teaching to remedy this: "You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty. Bg 2.47
Krishna is instructing Arjuna on the Laws of Karma. He [Krishna] is explaining how you can either do or not do, but either way you must make a choice. To live in a body on Earth is to be bound by the great cycle of things (the Law of Karma). Yet our freedom lies in releasing our attachment to being overly-identified with the actions we are seemingly bound by. It is said that one discovers how release themselves from the grip of karma through right knowledge, or right understanding: that is to say, by understanding the primal energies lying 'beneath' the show of life. This can look, practically, like giving thanks to our ancestors for the work that they did to bring us here... giving thanks to our environment for providing us what we need... giving thanks to the forces beyond our immediate knowing that are driving the ship... In doing so, we begin to "stand under" the bigger picture. And, in our "under-standing", our inflated grandiose energies start to find their place.
The image of the King being sacrificed for the well-being and renewal of the community is a common mythological motif. This story here is offering a great nugget of wisdom. Metaphorically, symbolically, we need to sacrifice our own grandiosity in order for the community of our Self to benefit. When the ego assumes a wrongful position on the "throne" (i.e. God-complex), the ego is now positioning itself at the center of the Universe. This manifested historically as the commonly accepted view that everything revolved around the Earth (Geocentrism). When this was questioned, people were shamed, shunned, and even killed. The same thing happens in our ego when we start to question its position "at the center of the Universe". The ego, in its control-freak tendencies, tries to "kill" anything that opposes it. This is an ego that has not yet "under-stood" its relationship to the cosmos. This ego still assumes the Earth is the center of the solar system. When, by sufficient purification and right knowledge, the ego sees and experiences the Sun as the true center of the solar system, there is a radical revolution of thought and behavior. The Sun here represents the Self, also known as the "objective psyche". The part of us that does not belong to us, and yet is very much informing our every decision and thought. When this clarity dawns on an individual, one's entire worldview must change. The "sacrifice" of the ego, if it is done effectively, will result in this outcome.
However, the ego isn't destroyed.... it is only re-positioned and re-organized into its rightful place. Our ego is the entire composition of beliefs, ideas, and perceptions. When the ego is looking out from its place and assuming that everything around it somehow belongs to it, we've just fallen from the Garden of Eden. This is what is meant by eating the fruit of knowledge. Original sin is the concept that explains what happens when the ego assumes control over the knowledge of life. Grandiosity suddenly rears its ugly head, and now "man" has dominion over all the animals, etc etc. People who are really caught in the grip of this are the ones who commit the supreme acts of evil like we see in examples like the Holocaust. The psychological components of this must be understood to help us heal from these collective wounds.
If we are sincere about doing our healing work and making "spiritual progress", I feel it is wise to examine and investigate our own grandiosity. Yes, we all have a capacity for greatness, but what does that look like for each of us? How do we establish a real, living relationship to the primal energies within us? How do we build our vessels so that they don't short-circuit when we plug into 220,000 volts of cosmic intelligence? How do we come into right relationship to the forces beyond us?
Grandiosity has its place, but we need to learn why and what for. Just like we need to learn the why and what for towards expressions like anger, sadness, grief, despair, etc. There is a greater intelligence behind every function within us. Creation has imbued us with everything we have and experience for a reason, but it is up to us to ask the hard questions, do the inner work, and figure it out. Don't be a chimpanzee with a machine gun. Don't be a teenager with a Ferrari. Awaken the true inner King/ Queen, and observe your community flourish.