Identity And Illusion

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Painting by William Blake

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One way of using the ancient wisdom stories as a map or guide for the times, when the outer world seems so beset with wild aggressions and big lies, is to consider that we have to look inside ourselves for a deep sense of creativity, wisdom, and the potential for renewal. If we consider the overly simplified current argument between opening up to save the economy, or continuing to distance in order to save lives, wisdom stories can help reveal how what we really need is not a false courage or lies that obscure what the true dangers are. What we need is more wisdom about how to do both things, keeping ourselves healthy and safe, while also finding wise and honest ways to return to the work and activity of society. Unfortunately, the most common way to deal with a persistent dilemma tends to be to dissociate from the issue by turning away or turning to the outer world of daily activity.

- Michael Meade

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“Following your own star means isolation, not knowing where to go, having to find out a completely new way for yourself instead of just going on the trodden path everybody else runs along. That’s why there’s always been a tendency in humans to project the uniqueness and the greatness of their own inner self onto outer personalities and become the servants, the devoted servants, admirers, and imitators of outer personalities. It is much easier to admire a great personality and become a pupil or follower of a guru or a religious prophet, or an admirer of a big, official personality — a President of the United States — or live your life for some military general whom you admire. That is much easier than following your own star.”

— Marie Louise von Franz

No one is a single unitary being. We are compositions of different energies that flow through us from past and future, from family history and sub personalities. We add a little to the mix from our unique talents and reactions to our challenges, but we usually don’t suspect the different beings that lie dormant under the surface we’ve cultivated.

The world is anything but sane. We hardly know how to deal with it, partly because we have forced ourselves to adapt to it without knowing ourselves well enough to appreciate what we have to kill in ourselves to accomplish it.

In our society, most advice comes in the form of how to succeed in the madhouse we recreate for ourselves every day. Following your own star? That requires being a friend to yourself. It involves turning inward and listening. We all have diverse people living inside us and most of the time we have succeeded in pushing them out of sight. Not being in touch with ourselves makes it impossible to follow our own star.

Our culture is excessively extroverted. To look inward is considered morbid. Introverts learn to imitate extroverts so they won’t be criticized so much. We learn to fix our gaze on the surface of life and keep it there.

The only problem with that way of living is it’s superficiality. Not knowing yourself is dangerous for the individual and for society as well. At the moment we have large numbers of people so out of touch with themselves, so willing to follow a high profile criminal, that serious crimes are committed.

Following someone else’s star is only possible when you’ve severed your connection to yourself. In that case, you’re no longer living your own life. You’re subject to the moods of the crowd. You’re moved by externals. You don’t have roots in reality.

This state of affairs is not being addressed in our culture. We’ve organized our society to banish sensitivity, empathy, self reflection and creativity.

Is success, profit and ambition a good substitute? Not for me.

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