Verses 29–31: “For Jesus was already ordering the unclean spirit to come out of the man. Many a time it had seized him, and then, for safety’s sake, they would secure him with chains and fetters; but, each time he broke loose, and with the devil in charge made off to the solitary places. Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Legion’, he replied. This was because so many devils had taken possession of him. And they begged him not to banish them to the Abyss.”
Throughout history, humans have labeled forces and powers that seemed larger than human as spirit entities, good or bad. The Greeks personified these forces as the gods and goddesses in mythology. These gods and goddesses manifest within us as affects or strong feeling states. They are “legion”; there are many affective states we must learn to mediate and humanize.
In mythology, the gods and goddesses have both their light or creative side and their dark or destructive side. Our religious heritage split the creative and destructive forces into separate beings. Only the creative, life-giving, and life-sustaining energies are attributed to God. Chaotic, dark, destructive, or reflexive energies are seen as the realm of Satan, demons, or devils. The wholeness of creation, which includes birth/creation, death/destruction, and resurrection/rebirth/equilibrium, continues to be split into opposites.
Splitting shows up in how we relate to our selves. Our felt experience includes many opposites: love and hate, desire and repulsion, joy and sadness (to name a few). Think of how many times you have been told, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” We learn to censor our feelings or affects according to what is “acceptable.” What we dismiss, deny, or cut off does not go away. It becomes unconscious; it is disconnected from our ego or sense of self and inaccessible at will.
When psychic/soul energies are split apart, it disrupts the naturally occurring equilibrium of light and dark aspects. The feelings appear in extremes, or larger than life proportion, because the natural tempering that occurs when connected to the other half is lost. We find ourselves like the man in today’s Scripture. Affects relegated to the unconscious appear without our invitation. Feelings surface at the most inconvenient of times. The affects or feelings often feel alien, as if they are of some thing other than our self. We may feel like, or be perceived as, the devil-possessed man in the Scripture.
Extreme affective states may argue on their behalf to find a place to continue living. For example, our unmediated anger may fuel a resentment or grudge that resides in the back of our mind. A feeling of abandonment may linger in a pattern of mistrust. Our conscious willingness to hold opposite feelings simultaneously, to acknowledge both sides, is what allows us to encounter the healing of Jesus. We must be willing to go into the Abyss that is “the world without form and void.” It is the state of unknowing that precedes the birth of any new life.
The healing power of God exists within our psyche/soul as an innate intelligence that we may call the Self. The Self (with a capital S) refers to the organizing principle of the psyche that Carl Jung said, “is a part of God that God put in us so we will know there is a God.”
When we seek to live in conscious relationship to the Self/God Within, the natural order and equilibrium of our psyche/soul is reestablished. The chaotic, unmanageable feeling states become connected to the whole of the Self and the self/ego. We are able to live with the totality of our inner states, giving expression to each in its rightful way. Our task is to consciously acknowledge, explore, understand, and relate to our inner “gods and devils” as they show up in our affects.
Take a few minutes to be aware of what’s stirring inside of you. What thoughts, feelings, sensations, and intuitions feel like you? What feels alien to you? Ask the Self/God Within to give you the courage to get to know these aspects of your psyche/soul. Be willing to open to the tempering power of the Self as you hold the nuances of opposing thoughts, feelings, etc.