On Being God.

Roberto Assagioli, progenitor of Psychosynthesis, tells the story of a patient in the psychiatric wing where he worked in Ancona, who’d been admitted to hospital for the determined conviction that he was God. Apart from this he was entirely  well behaved, so much so that he had been entrusted with the keys to the medicine cabinet.

‘His only lapse in behaviour was the occasional appropriation of sugar to give pleasure to some of the older inmates.” R. Assagioli.

Assagioli makes the observation that the man’s problem was not pathological as such but constituted a confusion of levels, confusion between..

”the metaphysical and the empirical levels of reality, in religious terms, between God and the soul.” ibid

Thankfully the resulting inflation can be quite mundane…

I was playing my cigarbox guitar in the barn. It wouldn’t do what I wanted it to. It should be playing more easily. I was struggling with the music, feeling dissatisfied and frustrated with my instrument..

and I got a sore finger…

Then I realised I had become ‘better’ than my situation.. I was playing God and my morning was not coming up to scratch.

I got annoyed at my whining…..

and wondered just how many folk there were priviledged to be playing in their barn, if they had one, first thing on a Friday morning. People who’d never thought to play or who didn’t have the means. People without a barn, some private space, to get away from it all. Suddenly it was a glorious morning simply by being re-connecting to my situation, to the richness of the day, to the gratitude of being able to take time out, creating the time to create…

and my morning improved.

because I could tell myself off… and not be God.

The proper relationship between ego and Self has plagued Western Civilisation since its inception with a vast array of unfortunate and often mortal consequences..

”If an individual identifies with the [Self], a positive or negative inflation results. Positive inflation comes very near to a more or less conscious megalomania; negative inflation is felt as an annihilation of the ego. The two conditions may alternate.” C. G. Jung.

You tend to notice positive inflation more easily because its narcissistic, in your face and at the head of some cause..or army.  Negative inflation is less easy to spot but just as problematic in that ego and Self are still not in right relation.

for instance..

A man posts a facebook meme of himself playing the dulcimer. All well and good but he starts out with a rambling apology about technical hitches which of course the veiwer at their laptop has not in fact had to endure, though we are indeed now being put upon by this lengthy piece of unwarrented groveling.

So, then he plays the piece and it is truly amazing but when he’s done he shrugs and says, ‘that’s all I’ve got….’ enviously spoiling his performance.

and of course you want to rush up to him and take him in your arms and weep on his shoulder saying, ‘don’t be so silly dahling, you were wonderful, wonderful..’

”Paradoxically, overwhelming desire to please turns us into a walking power principle, by pleasing others we are better able to manipulate them, albeit unconsciously.” M. Woodman.

The heaping of reassurance on top of praise would be doubly insufficient because it is precisely human warmth and affection that erodes the defences of the Eternally Unworthy. So appreciation and gratitude cannot be allowed in.

though it is what he wants most….

… because that would be to acknowledge that he had some worth which immediately challenges the dominant paradigm…

So he’s as wooden headed and unavailable as his boasting brother. And way more numerous. Armies of Ever so ‘Umble.

Collectively, the ego-Self paradox expresses itself in our culture as Christology, the debate about Jesus relationship with ‘the Father’, which seems a bit technical until you consider that there’s something sufficiently significant in the issue for people to kill one another over it in Uncountable Heaps through the Ages.

When the Council of Nicaea met in 325 AD, to agree on the books that you could read without being killed for it, they actually spent most of their time arguing about the relationship of the Self and the ego. Gnostic Arius said that if the son was begotten of the father he came from nothing and only after a while, so… he can’t be Eternal. Orthodox Nicholas of Myra said they were One and the Same and punched Arius in the head to prove it.

At the Synod of Tyre, ten years later, Arius was exonerated and no longer going to be killed if we find you out on a dark night, but only because Constantius II was about to take the Roman throne and liked him. After Constantius died, suddenly, Arius was again anathematised, cursed with looks of death and the waving of pointy sticks at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD, despite the fact that he’d meantime expired in a pool of his own diarrhoea…

under suspicious and bloody circumstances.

poisoned with something that caused him to pass his own spleen…

behind the shambles in the collonade..

Socrates Scholasticus, a bitter rival of Arius who just happened to be strolling by at the time with stylus and clay tablet poised to record his terrible demise, claimed it was an act of God, which of course didn’t mean that he hadn’t been a part of said Divine Plan.

In Single System systems, some confusion arises in the ego’s relationship with the Self, giving rise to murderous Paranoid Anxiety.

Some, because they think they are the right hand of God..

Others, who just want to Help and Are Sorry for any Inconvenience…

Unfortunately, Arius’ veiw that the ego is derivative and subordinate to the Self did not prevail. It was a missed opportunity for ego differentiation. Total identification between the Father and the Son was decreed the order of the day, codified in the Nicene Creed and emperor Constantine, whose forbears were only too used to identifying with the Gods, made saying otherwise hazardous to your health.

And so emerged a regressed Homo Contritiens, a species of humanity characterised by being eternally repentant whilst regretfully hoovering up everyone else’s stuff and then, apologetically and sheepishly, bombing detractors in the name of God to dislodge the eroneous belief that we do anything but come in peace.

”All the wars in this world are not fought over money or material things. They are all fought over belief, more specifically, the primacy of one man’s belief over another man’s.” Golding in Lucky Man.

If you lose you are a martyr to the cause. If you win you are doing God’s will. What could possibly go wrong?

I was trying to locate an old Commando aquaintance of mine and found a gravestone inscribed, ”killed in an ambush.” Its not the same as ‘killed in action’ is it? It implies he was somehow killed unfairly…

because the lowly and coniving enemy pounced on him from behind a rock…

or because he had his fingers crossed at the time..

So there’s no equality, even in death.

which might seem preferable to the isolation and comfortlessness of being God.

For those who feel they have arrived there is only death, as all the blooming of Nature shows us.

Spiritual Awakening and Depression.

The Norse god Thor and his friends Loki and Pjalfi had been travelling for days in the land of Giants.

Eventually they came to a massive stronghold.

The giant king, Útgaroa, greeted them. “Am I mistaken in thinking that this little fellow is Thor the Charioteer? Maybe you’re stronger than you look. In what skill do you excel? We never allow anyone to stay unless he is a master of some craft or pastime.”

Loki stepped forward. “No one can eat faster than I. “Útgaroa called for the giant Logi to step forward to meet the challenge. Servants brought in a trencher and loaded it with meat. Logi sat down at one end and Loki at the other. At a signal from the king, they both began eating, meeting in the middle. While Loki had eaten all the meat, Logi had eaten the meat, the bones, and the trencher. He was declared the winner.

utgard foot raceÚtgaroa asked Pjálfi what he could do. Pjálfi volunteered to run a race against anyone in the hall. Three times, the giant Hugi ran against Pjálfi. Three times, Hugi beat Pjálfi by wide margins.

Útgaroa turned to Thór and asked him which of his skills he would demonstrate. Thór said that he could drink more than anyone in the hall. Immediately, a huge drinking horn was placed in Thór’s hands. The giant king said that a good drinker could drain it in one swallow. Some might take two, but no one was so feeble that he couldn’t finish it in three.

utgard drinking challenge


Thor took three enormous swallows, each larger than the last. Each time, the level in the horn dropped, but never did the horn empty.

The giant king said, “It’s clear your might is not as great as we thought. Would you like to try your hand at another contest? Young giants perform the feat of lifting my cat off the ground. I wouldn’t have suggested it unless I had seen that you’re a much less impressive person than I thought.”

A cat jumped out from under the giant king’s chair and planted itself on the floor. Thór put his arm under the cat’s belly and lifted. The cat simply arched its back such that its four feet stayed on the floor. The giants laughed at the way the cat’s effortless movements frustrated Thór. At last, Thór was able to lift the cat so high that one of its paws left the floor.

utgard cat Útgaroa remarks, “Thór is short and small in comparison to the mighty men here in this hall.”

Thór, beside himself with his failures and the taunts and abuse, spoke. “Small as you say I am, just let someone come out and fight me. Now, I am angry.”

Útgaroa, looking around the room, replied, “I doubt anyone would wrestle you; they’d feel it’s beneath them.” Then, continuing, the giant king exclaimed, “Find Elli, my old wet-nurse. Thór can wrestle her if he likes.”


Thor wrestles with ElliThe giants laughed as a horrible old crone entered the hall. She agreed to wrestle Thór. He threw himself at the woman, but she was stronger than she seemed. She stood firm and unshaken. Then she tried a hold or two on Thór. Catching him off-balance, she forced him to one knee.

“Enough”, cried Útgaroa to Thór. “You’ve shown your true strength. There is no point in Thór’s challenging any one else in the hall.”

Places were found for the travelers. They were given food and drink and bedding for the night.

The next morning, Útgaroa asked, “Well, how do you feel things turned out?”

Thór replied, ” You’ve put me to shame. I have never suffered greater loss of face. It irks me to know that you will say to all that I am a person of little accord.”

The giant king said, “I’ll tell the truth.  Had I known how strong you were, I’d have never let you inside in the first place. You were nearly the end of us all.

Thor's hammer blows“I have deceived you,” he went on…

“Loki ate fast, but Logi was Wildfire itself. He burned up the trencher and the meat. When Pjálfi ran against Hugi, he ran against Thought. Nothing can keep up with the speed of Thought.

“When you, Thór, drank from the horn, you thought you were found wanting. But the other end of that horn connected to the sea. When you get back to the ocean, you’ll see how much it has ebbed from your efforts.

“And the cat was not what it appeared; it was Jörmangandr, the Midgard serpent. You raised it up off the sea bed so high that its back grazed the sky.

“And it’s a marvel that you withstood Elli for so long. Elli is Old Age. No one can withstand Old Age in the end.

We may often feel that our efforts and contribution are of little account. In fact, an encounter with the Self can be so deflating that we assume our personal gifts and skills are irrelevant to the point of despair and dejection.

Spirtual awakening, though it may be experienced as a joyful rush of aliveness, of meaning and purpose, does not last for ever. Moreover, it may well seem that our new perspective throws the relative smallness of the personality into an entirely desultory light…

”characterised by an acute sense of unworthiness, a systematic self-depreciation, and self accusation.” R Assagioli.

These sentiments are echoed in ‘the Dark Night of the Soul’,

”When the rays of divine light shine upon the soul, it perceives itself as so unclean and miserable that it seems as if God had set himself against it.” St John of the Cross.

Of course a negative inflation may well be a cover up for a superiority complex…

”Inferiority is really ambition. One wants to be more than one is. One wants to be a great person and knows one isn’t and therefore feels like the last worm on earth.” ML von Franz.

I once had a client with a very low opinion of himself who came to our first session armed with a sealed ‘to-whom-it-may-concern’ letter from his psychiatrist warning me of his covert superiority. I couldn’t see it at all as he began to systematically demean himself. Not until he asserted that he was the very worst person in the world to which, fore-armed, I was able to reply, ‘that is a very exclusive club.’

So its true that this feeling of being worthless and having no power can be a kind of compensation for hidden arrogance. Its also true that we project our potential onto others as a way of avoiding responsibility. The great leader or personality will do it all for us while we remain dependent and infantile.

Yet it is also true that spiritual awakening can produce a feeling of insignificance which may even border on..

”the impression of going through hell, the delusion that one is irretrievably damned.” R Assagioli

It is impossible to experience the vastness of the Universe, the depth of the Unconscious or the fragility of life without a somewhat crushing sense of one’s own smallness..

”The experience of the Self is always a blow to the ego.” CG Jung.

…which is why it is necessary to remind ourselves of the truly heroic nature of treading upon the path of individuation and to re-frame what we might consider to be our insufficient contribution to Life.

This is an uphill struggle for the western psyche, steeped as it is in the exclusive value placed upon outer acheivement and material success.

”Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.” A Einstein.

For this to happen there has to be something of a revolution within us. The yardstick by which we were raised wants whittling….

Raising a child, trying something new, holding your tounge, standing your ground, saying ‘no’; all these things may be tantamount to a re-inventing of oneself, a forging of one’s own path through the undergrowth that is not unlike facing death itself, requiring courage and resolve that may not be apparent to others but which we should not therefor lose sight of ourselves.