This article is concerned with the phenomenological reality of being in between two states of consciousness, drawing from the psychological understanding of Exodus.
But first, I need to make explicit the context of this article.
Borrowing from James P. Driscoll’s Jung’s Cartography of the Psyche, the human psyche is undergoing a Copernican revolution of monumental consequences. The old way was man affirming his independent and sovereign existence through the use of his will. The Faustian bargain “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” defined an entire psychological era of the imposition of the ego’s will over reality.
But what happens when the will (and by extension the ego) fails? What happens when no matter how much one sacrifices, nothing happens? What happens when reality conspires against you to not let you get what you want? What happens when one faces utter defeat in the face of insurmountable challenges?
The will is the amount of libido (i.e., psychic energy) that the ego has freely available over its own instinctual nature. But the will is by no means the entirety of the libido. From automatic behavior, instinctual drives, reflexes, compulsive behaviors, Freudian lapsus, etc. the ego is surrounded from all sides by things that are outside its control.
With the emergence of depth psychology, we are in the collective process of discovering that the ego is not alone in the psyche. There are tremendous forces hidden in the unconscious: Freud established the presence of the id and the super-ego, whereas Jung established the existence of the self and the dual interplay of archetypes and instincts. Following Jung’s lead, the ego has to realize that it is sharing reality at all times with an Other, a second psychic center, that contributes to the homeostasis of the psyche. This Other, the self, is in a paradoxical relationship to consciousness, being at the same time much larger and much smaller than the ego.
From a historical perspective, the existence of the self is nothing new. In Aion, Jung refers to two texts. The first one is a passage from Monoïmos, a second-century (!) Gnostic.
Seek him from out thyself, and learn who it is that taketh possession of everything in thee, saying: my god, my spirit, my understanding, my soul, my body; and learn whence is sorrow and joy, and love and hate, and waking though one would not, and sleeping though one would not, and getting angry though one would not, and falling in love though one would not. And if thou shouldst closely investigate these things, thou wilt find Him in thyself, the One and the Many, like to that little point [kereia], for it is in thee that he hath his origin and his deliverance.
Carl Jung, Aion, CW 9ii, par 347
Edinger comments: “A modern psychologist could not put it more succinctly. This tells us that we should make a discrimination between our own will and the unconscious. The ability to make that distinction is the crucial discovery in the process of an encounter with the Self. We first have to realize that we are not one, but two; there is an Other inside. As this dawns on us, we discover at the same time that much of what we do in our daily life is not our choice at all. We discover ourselves doing things that we had not intended, not to mention overt slips and accidents and other very crude challenges to our inclination. As we become more and more aware of this twoness, we realize the reality of the Self. This is what Monoïmos states.” (Edward Edinger, The Aion Lectures, pp. 162-163)
The second text is The Upanishads, written around between 800 and 500 BC (!!!).
He who dwells in all beings but is separate from all beings, whom no being knows, whose body all beings are, and who controls all beings from within—he, the Self, is the Inner Ruler, the Immortal. (Brihadakanyaka Upanishad, trans. Swami Prabhavananda and F. Manchester)
Notably, it is from the Upanishads that Jung took the word “self”. It should be now clear to the reader that, if the framework by which we now attempt to understand the self appears new, analytical psychology is a contemporary reformulation of ideas that are much older. I have written more about the self in another article.