Ego and Hero Separation

THE “MYTH OF PATRIARCHAL KINGSHIP” argues Edward C. Whitmont “engendered that particular form of ego consciousness we have come in our time to consider consciousness tout court. It is centered in a rationalizing, abstracting, and controlling I, ego.”[i] In other words, the Nature/Earth Landscape was objectified and rendered an ‘It’ and the ‘I’ of the ego became pivotal to the Anthropocentric Landscape focus of perception.

Whitmont argues that, while we now condemn this separation of Western humanity from its instinctive side, there was nevertheless a psychological need to tear loose from the Great Mother Goddess of Nature:

“For the sake of an independent sense of personality one had to heed the command of the one and only patriarchal “I am that I am”, and forget the powers of the encompassing unitary reality. These powers were the gods who are also animals, plants, stones, places and times. These were henceforth to be considered reasonless dumb creatures and inanimate, even dead matter. Humanity had to subdue the earth and make it serve the I.”[ii]

Jane Roberts (1929-1984), American writer and channeler of “Seth”, puts it this way “The ego … needed to feel its dominance and control, and so it imagined a dominant god apart from nature”.[iii] Concepts of God went hand-in-hand with the development of consciousness.[iv] The ancient Mother-Goddess concept would become “unconscious”.[v]

“God the Father would be recognized and the Earth Goddess forgotten. There would be feudal lords, therefore, not seeresses. Period. Man would believe he did indeed have dominion over the earth as a separate species, for God the Father had given it to him.”[vi]

This growth of ego consciousness set up both challenges and limitations.[vii] Roberts suggests that it would only be much later that the ego could expand, once sure of itself, and realize these limitations and become aware of realities it had earlier ignored.[viii]

The hero myth and hero archetypal image has long been associated with the struggle of ego separation from the Mother Archetype and the natural world, as Carl Jung, philosopher psychologist Erich Neumann (1905-1960), and others have pointed out at length. Neumann argues that “through the masculinization and emancipation of ego consciousness the ego becomes the ‘hero’: [ix]

“With the hero myth we enter upon a new phase of stadial development. A radical shift in the center of gravity has occurred. In all creation myths the dominant feature was the cosmic quality of the myth, its universality; but now the myth focuses attention upon the world as the center of the universe, the spot upon which man stands. This means, in terms of stadial development, not only that man’s ego consciousness has achieved independence, but that his total personality has detached itself from the natural context of the surrounding world and the unconscious… Thus the hero is the archetypal forerunner of mankind in general.”[x]

On the negative side, the hero is often associated with war. Whitmont describes the patriarchal ego as heroic. It can be seen in present and past wars. It is both the glory and the Achilles’ heel of the male ego and male national identity:

“The patriarchal ego is heroic. Its idealized achievement is conquest of self and world by sheer will and bravery. Personal feeling, desire, pain and pleasure are disregarded. Failure to do so is accounted weakness. The resulting psychological achievement is a sense of personal identity vested in a body-limited, separate self, answerable to the law of the group and God-king. Consciously, now it no longer feels organically contained in, or one with, group, world, or the divine. Unconsciously, however, it is still dominated by group values.”[xi]

The individuated ego of the individuated or higher self is the most advanced development of ego as hero. This is to be distinguished from the nascent ego and hero, which are engaged in separation and emancipation from the Mother and Mother Earth Archetype and which characterise the Anthropocentric Landscape.

Interestingly, analogies have been drawn with the Christ story as a paradigm of the individuated ego and hero and the Heavenly God-Father as a superego. Archetypal theorist Edward F. Edinger (1922-1998) has argued that the image of Christ gives a picture of the individuated ego which is conscious of being directed by the higher Self. He states:

“The Christian myth applies to a much higher level of ego development. Christ is both man and God. As man he goes to the cross with anguish but willingly, as part of his destiny. As God he willingly sacrifices himself for the benefit of mankind. Psychologically this means that the ego and the Self are simultaneously crucified.”[xii]

Needless to say however, the ‘Christ Hero’ depiction should not be confused with Christians and their actions in the name of Christianity; and while Christ has been argued to personify the individuated ego or hero, it is argued by theologian and analyst Donald Broadribb (1933-2012) that the moral function of the monotheistic Heavenly God-Father is best described as superego.

[i] Edward C. Whitmont (1982) Return of the Goddess, 79.
[ii] Edward C. Whitmont (1982) Return of the Goddess, 100.
[iii] Jane Roberts, The Unknown Reality, vol.1 (London: Prentice Hall International, Inc., 1977), 112.
[iv] Ibid, 142.
[v] Ibid, 141.
[vi] Ibid, 142.
[vii] Ibid, 269.
[viii] Ibid, 112-113.
[ix] Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness (New York: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series XLII, 1973), 127.
[x] Ibid, 131.
[xi] Edward C. Whitmont (1982) Return of the Goddess, 83.
[xii] Edward Edinger (1973) Ego and Archetype , 152.

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