THE creation of the ego has obviously had some unpleasant consequences, but it was also an evolutionary development that allowed for an exponential increase in complexity and consciousness.
The ego is a complex structure and difficult or impossible to define. The term itself is inevitably imprecise, as different people understand very different things by ego. The ego serves crucial functions in the human psyche. The ego has been called “the self-organizing principle of the organism,” and necessary self-reference may not be possible without it. From other angles, we see that the ego often carries will to power and destructive intentions. For all the novelty the human ego helped create and its invaluable role in the human psyche, it has also become a dangerous and heavy albatross hanging around the neck of the species. It may now, in its present form at least, have exceeded its evolutionary purpose and be a type of psychic structure due for metamorphosis. But the ego, like all organisms, clings to life and can act from its own will.
The ego as an archetype has a virulent will to power, and it is no more willing to withdraw than Napoleon, at his prime, would be willing to accept life in a retirement home. This dark aspect of the ego, which I will sometimes refer to when I use the loose term “ego,” sees itself as God, and as apart from the rest of the universe. It is driven by a will to bring external objects, animate and inanimate, under its control. This pathologized version of the ego doesn’t see itself as part of a living matrix but rather looks out at an abstracted chessboard consisting of real estate, technology, and livestock waiting to be owned and exploited.
The power-oriented view of the ego is based on the illusion of separateness. Love may be considered the awareness that everything is connected.
Let’s consider two sentences that will illustrate this difference:
“We made love.”
“I screwed Jane.”
In the first example, subject and object are merged; there is an awareness of Eros, connection, and mutuality. In the second example, we have an unerotic world of separated subject and object. The ego is the royal “I” enjoying conquests over beings that are merely objects to be dominated and controlled. The first sentence implies what Martin Buber called the “I-Thou” relationship, while the second sentence implies what he called the “I-It” relationship. An inflated ego will tend toward “I-It” perceptions and relationships.40 Currently, we are suffering a highly contagious plague of this noxious type of ego that uses sex as a metaphor for power and views Mother Earth as real estate.
To frame this in dramatized, semi-mythological language for a paragraph:
For quite some time, the ego has strutted triumphantly across our world consuming and poisoning its mother, the Earth. Like many psychic forces, the ego is able to possess certain individuals. Of some of these, as it’s done in the past, it will create Antichrist-like persons, malignant narcissists and psychopaths who seek to prevent this evolutionary birth and will do whatever possible to destroy consciousness, love, and life. If they sterilize the mother, then she cannot give birth to creatures that might take their place. The ego wants to be the only one sucking on the breast and would much rather see the mother dead than have her give birth to a more favored, usurping child. Antichrists — human puppets of the ego — and the herds of unconscious, fearful people eager to follow them, will likely create a good part of the dark events that will bring us to the edge of extinction. Like Napoleon or Hitler, the ego can be expected to win many costly battles before it gives up the ghost.
Collective consciousness turns up frequently in expressions of the Singularity Archetype. A potent example we’ve already discussed is found in Theodore Sturgeon’s science-fiction novel, More than Human, where a group of mutants, who each have distinctly different strengths and weaknesses, form a collective consciousness while retaining their individuality. Sturgeon coined the term “Homo gestalt” to describe this new entity. Similarly, in ufology, the Greys are typically seen as possessing a hive-like connectivity and consciousness. There are a number of possible reasons for this collective consciousness motif appearing in so many permutations of this archetype. One is that it may be a fairly literal indicator of evolutionary change. If the ego ceases to dominate the human psyche, then the boundaries it creates around the individual will, to varying degrees, dissipate, and we will become more collectively aware. The collective could be two people forming a mutuality or extend to the whole species. The shells of the oysters dissolve, and the pearls lie together. From the ego’s point of view, this would be a catastrophic loss of personal identity. This is also a typical ego view of that other attractor, death. From this pessimistic ego view, humans travel from dust to dust and are simply returned to the undifferentiated source from which they are thought to emerge.
But if this were all the evolutionary step amounted to, it would be regressive. Instead of expanding the immense novelty of individual identity, it would contract it into a homogenous mass with a great decrease in complexity. Certainly, many cycles in nature reverse themselves, oscillating between extremes. Jung called this process of returning to the opposite “enantiodromia,” a term he borrowed from Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher. The ego fears, somewhat reasonably, that the evolutionary process will be an enantiodromia, nature pressing the reset button and erasing all the individual differentiation it sacrificed so much to create. But the Singularity Archetype tells us that the pendulum of enantiodromia, viewed from the right perspective, is an evolutionary spiral. The evolutionary step may not be a loss of individuality but rather an expansion of individual consciousness into collective awareness.
Another possible causation of the collective consciousness motif in these stories is that it is an expression of the boundary dissolution that occurred when the writer’s imagination contacted the collective unconsciousness. This possibility is not mutually exclusive with the aforementioned one, and both are likely to work together synergistically.
A recurring motif in Singularity-Archetype visions involves a new means of communication transcending speech. It is the mode of the collective consciousness. Conventionally, we think of telepathy as projecting a voice into someone’s head. But conventional telepathy wouldn’t be much of an improvement over speaking aloud or calling someone on a phone. More sophisticated visions of this new means of communication allow for a direct (multi-mode–images, words, feelings) transmission of the self, and this becomes the medium through which individual and collective consciousness can merge.
The Singularity Seen through the Eyes of the Ego — The Midwich Cuckoos
John Wyndham’s 1957 novel, The Midwich Cuckoos, presents an interesting spin on this dissolution and transformation of the ego. In classic science-fiction fashion, the novel opens with the appearance of disc-shaped UFOs over the Earth. These spacecraft shut down human consciousness. In a circular area with a very precise perimeter beneath each UFO, all higher animals, including humans, suddenly lapse into sleep. After twenty-four hours, everyone who wasn’t at the wheel of a car, operating a power tool or otherwise in an unfortunate situation for nodding off, wakes up as if nothing happened. Everyone who didn’t have an accident seems unchanged until some days pass, and the village doctor, Zellaby, discovers that every woman of childbearing age, including young virgins and pre-menopausal old maids, has become pregnant. Again, we are seeing an evolutionary change from the ego’s point of view. It sees itself in the helpless, unconscious “little death” of dreamless sleep. And while it is in this helpless, mortal state, it is raped and inseminated by a hostile alien life form. It’s a variation of one of the ego’s primal fears–a total loss of control.
In the novel, the character who personifies the ego is the physician, Zellaby. He is the man of science and reason trying to control this irrational, miraculous event. Zellaby sets out, like the Overlords in Childhood’s End, to be a midwife to this evolutionary birth. Interestingly, the name “Midwich” sounds much like “midwife” but with the emphasis of “witch” modifying the second syllable. In this mutation of the word “midwife,” we see the ego’s xenophobic, witch-hunting view of the evolutionary birth. Rather than being a selfless midwife, it would rather burn the witches, the new children who possess the dangerous magic, and represent evolutionary change.
Note added in 2023: Similarly, the ego is currently anxious about the Midwich Children of our era–AI. However, many of its fears are justified based on its desire to maintain human life as we’ve known it.
See: AI, The Singularity Archetype and the High Possibility of Impending Viral Apocalypse Here’s an excerpt:
Once again, the Singularity Archetype mediates the parallel event horizons of personal death and species metamorphosis. The ego views both of these event horizons as apocalyptic. Technically, this is correct in that etymologically, “apocalypse” means unveiling, but the ego isn’t thinking of that original meaning but of total catastrophe. However, what the ego views as emergency, “the Self” (in the Jungian sense of a transtemporal totality of all parts of the psyche) views as emergence, or what J.R.R. Tolkien called “eucatastrophe.“
But, and this a giant BUT, the ego is not wrong from its more limited point of view, which is grounded in an individual meat body trying to survive in a particular region of space/time. Indeed, there will likely be much emergency, catastrophe, and suffering before the emergence. (end of excerpt)
With inhuman speed, the uncanny pregnancies come to term, and all the women give birth to exceptionally large and healthy babies. But the prodigal infants seem to be racially different and unique; they have large golden eyes and platinum blonde hair. The infants grow and develop, physically and mentally, with anomalous rapidity. They soon exhibit paranormal abilities. For example, after a mother accidentally pricks her daughter with a safety pin, she is found compulsively stabbing herself with the pin. Apparently, the superior alien will of the child mind-pressured her into this self-violence.
From the ego’s perspective, the new children in The Midwich Cuckoos represent a hostile, alien, competing life form. Nature has played a trick, like the cuckoo bird leaving its young in another bird’s nest. It is acknowledged that the children are superior, however, and since they are racially distinct, they must be racially superior. In the classic 1960 film adaptation, Village of the Damned, the children look distinctly Aryan, as if Nazi scientists cloned them. This looks like a case of shadow projection. The Nazis projected their shadow onto the Jews and claimed there was a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world, while the Nazis actively pursued world domination themselves and sought a “thousand-year Reich”. Here we have the British psyche of John Wyndham, born in 1903, creating imperialistic aliens determined to dominate a lesser species.
The fear that a new intelligent species will be bent on our destruction goes beyond the ego. Michael Murphy, in The Future of the Body, discusses speculation about racism postulated by evolutionary biologists. These biologists use the term “pseudospeciation” to refer to the human tendency to view other racial groups as though they were competing hominid species. This pseudospeciation may have biological roots, as it’s possible that Homo sapiens achieved evolutionary dominance by killing off other competing hominid species, like the Neanderthals.
The Midwich Cuckoos children, although perfectly human in appearance and gestated in human mothers, are supposed to be a completely different species. Conversely, in Arthur C. Clarke’s similarly-themed novel, Childhood’s End, the new children are viewed as an evolutionary development of the human species. But they would also have to be considered a new species since a species is defined as a grouping of organisms that can mate and bear live young. Once the new children are born, the old humans become sterile, and the soon-to-be-extinct Homo sapiens species is demoted to the status of living fossils. But at least in Childhood’s End, the new children are acknowledged as descendants, not as completely other or alien. The older humans accept evolution and allow themselves to be supplanted.
In the world of The Midwich Cuckoos, however, this evolutionary change is fought tooth and claw. Besides Midwich, there are other circular areas on the planet that have spawned alien children. But these other places are not as civilized as Britain, and they treat their children more harshly. In the Irkutsk region near the borders of Outer Mongolia, for example, both the children and their mothers, who are presumed to have slept with devils, are killed. This is another interesting overlap with Childhood’s End, where the Overlords look like devils. One colony occurs in a Russian town. At first, the Russians decide to cultivate what seems like a flock of potential geniuses, but when the children’s uncanny powers manifest, they use a nuclear projectile and wipe out the whole town where the children are growing.
Note added in 2023: This is similar to the only scenario the grand master prophet of AI doom, Eliezer Yudkowsky, can foresee as a way to prevent AI doom. There would have to be a worldwide agreement not to create AGI (artificial general intelligence) and then airstrikes on any out-of-compliance facility.
Zellaby personifies an idealized face of the ego with all its civilized veneer. He’s an urbane and charismatic white guy. Though Zellaby is interested in the children for the sake of science, he decides that his group of children must die too.
Note added in 2023: Zellaby is, as Larry Page accused Elon Musk, a “specist.”
His method of xenocide is extremely interesting. He enters the new children’s classroom with a briefcase full of dynamite, and then he visualizes a brick wall in his mind when the children try to probe his psyche. He shuts out communication by conjuring a wall in his mind. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect symbol of repression! The ego feels it can only protect itself by putting up a psychic wall between itself and the collective awareness of the children. In contemporary mythology, the wall represents patriarchal oppression, as in the Berlin Wall and Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Village of the Damned — a New Variation
In the Spring of 1995, horror director John Carpenter released a remake of Village of the Damned. The new version was reasonably faithful to the original but with some interesting variations. Since the new version occurs in the Nineties instead of the Fifties, pregnant mothers face a decision on whether or not to bring their pregnancies to term. Simultaneously, they all have an archetypal dream that influences them to keep the babies. If you interpret the collective archetypal dream as a message from the collective unconscious, it looks like the new evolution is being favored. s
When the new children are born, they all look human except for one, a female infant who looks completely alien and is apparently stillborn. As the infants become children, it is observed that they always walk in male/female pairs and that the pairs are constant as if the children were divided into a series of married couples. One boy, however, walks at the end of the line alone and is the only one without a mate. This boy, whose name is David, is also uniquely empathic, while the other children are impersonal and ruthless.
Zellaby finds David wandering alone in a cemetery. Asked what he is doing, the boy replies, “Looking for the baby. The one who was born with us. The one who died.” Zellaby is astonished because the children were never told about that baby. David reveals that the dead infant was meant to be his mate. Here we have an interesting variation on the human/alien-hybrid theme. This pairing is more polarized than the others, as this boy’s intended mate was much closer to being an alien. Also, this boy is much more human than the other new children as he exhibits an acute empathy for others. This empathy is heightened by his pain and suffering as the one left behind without a mate. Ultimately, when the other children are destroyed, David is rescued by his mother. His survival makes him seem a kind of messianic Subject Zero, gifted in both psychic powers and empathy, and we are left with the hopeful feeling that evolution may somehow continue through him. This new variation is an improvement over the original ending where the ego, personified by Zellaby, destroys all the children in a murder-suicide bombing.
A Troubling Synchronicity
Disturbingly, the John Carpenter version adds a strange unintentional piece to the story. Understanding this additional piece will require a working understanding of a principle that Jung called “synchronicity.” Many of you are no doubt already familiar with the term. If you aren’t, a brief explanation follows, but I would also recommend reading Jung’s Synchronicity: The Acausal Connecting Principle.
Jung defined synchronicity as an “acausal connecting principle.” In other words, synchronicity describes relationships not mediated by cause and effect but by parallel, acausal relationships. Jung was searching for a way to account for those uncanny, completely improbable ‘coincidences” (assumption of randomness) where something from the inner life and something from the outer world would “synch up.” Jung developed this concept of synchronicity after some discussions with Albert Einstein and much closer collaboration with another Nobel prize-winning physicist, Wolfgang Pauli. At the time, Jung’s theory of synchronicity was speculative, but we now know from the findings of quantum mechanics that parallel, acausal relationships do exist in the physical world.
A classic illustration of synchronicity that Jung narrated concerned a female patient of his whose progress in analysis was blocked by her excessive rationalism. As Jung tells the story:
“A young woman I was treating had, at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me this dream, I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the window-pane from the outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), which, contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt the urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment. I must admit that nothing like it ever happened to me before or since.”
This dramatic synchronicity punctured the analysand’s superficial rationalism, and she was able to progress with her analysis. Jung could find no causal agency that would explain why this insect would go against its natural instincts and demand admittance to a darkened room.
Most people reading this can no doubt provide personal examples of such striking synchronicities that are hard to dismiss as meaningless coincidences. They seem to become more frequent when one is exploring the psyche or involved in some creative enterprise, but they can also happen when people are exploring dark paths, etc.
When Jung coined the term synchronicity, it was a speculation. Since then, the findings of quantum mechanics (especially what is referred to as “nonlocality”) demonstrate that acausal parallelisms are a key organizing principle of the universe. Synchronicities reveal that the inner microcosm of the psyche and the outer macrocosm of the external world have parallelisms. Inner and outer are not as separate as we have been conditioned to believe. Synchronicities show us that there is a connecting principle. It also seems that highly charged psychic contents are more likely to be paralleled by synchronicities. Therefore, it should not be surprising that highly charged collective visions of the Singularity Archetype may also have accompanying synchronicities. In the two film versions of Village of the Damned, we see particularly interesting synchronicities involved with the casting of the character Dr. Zellaby (renamed “Dr. Alan Chaffee” in 1995), whom I’ve suggested is a personification of the ego.
Note added in 2023: There is a disturbing history of synchronicities involving archetypal films and bizarre fatalities. See: The Batman Shooting and Crossover Effects.
In the original film, Zellaby is played by George Sanders, who portrays the character as an urbane, dignified, sensitive, and compassionate man. The ego is given the most sympathetic face possible, and the audience is led to identify with Dr. Zellaby as a courageous, intelligent hero facing alien evil. Sanders pulls this off magnificently, but it is interesting to note that in his actual life, he was an almost archetypal personification of the dark side of the ego. Apparently, he was egoistic and sadistic to a degree remarkable even for a film star gone bad. In 1960, the same year Village of the Damned was released, he published his autobiography, entitled: Memoirs of a Professional Cad.41
41 Encarta Dictionary defines “cad”: “An ungentlemanly man: a man who does not behave as a gentleman should, especially toward a woman (dated).”
A biography was written about Sanders posthumously. It was entitled, A Perfectly Awful Man. In 1972 he committed suicide and left behind a suicide note in which he listed boredom as the main reason for his suicide. Sander’s dark side made him, in a mythological sense, an uncannily appropriate choice to play a character who is a personification of the ego. However, a far more striking synchronicity involved the casting of Christopher Reeve as Dr. Chaffee (the Zellaby role renamed) in the remake. I feel some hesitation in pointing out this synchronicity because I don’t want to trifle with the personal tragedy of a real human being. But the synchronicity involved seems so significant that I feel it must be pointed out. Christopher Reeve was an archetypally appropriate choice to represent the idealized face of the ego personified as Dr. Chaffee. Famously, Reeves played Superman in a major Hollywood franchise–Superman I, II, III & IV. It hardly seems necessary to point out that Superman personifies an ego ideal. Reeve was well cast for that purpose. He was highly intelligent, tall, graced with an Olympian physique, and aristocratic looks and bearing. Village of the Damned opened on April 28, 1995. Twenty-nine days later, on May 27, 1995, Reeve suffered a tragic accident that left him a quadriplegic.
Many people were shocked at the irony of the man cast to play Superman becoming a quadriplegic. This particular type of injury seems a far more powerful reminder of human mortality and frailty than someone merely dying, which is almost always an off-stage, abstracted event in our culture. In fact, an early death for a movie or rock star usually results in their being romanticized and idealized. But for the ego, quadriplegia is one of the most frightening mortal scenarios, involving the fears of loss of control, loss of sexual functioning, and completely dependent helplessness. That quadriplegia happened to a man identified in the popular culture as Superman was striking enough irony in itself, but for Reeve, as ego-ideal Dr. Chaffee, to be currently playing in movie theaters when the accident occurred seems like more than a coincidence.
Again, it may seem irresponsible and lacking in compassion to symbolically interpret someone’s personal tragedy. But it seems as though the collective was being sent a profoundly disturbing message of how the mighty ego has fallen. The ego strives arduously to be Superman and to perfect the body and have control, fame, and wealth. Rarely does someone like Christopher Reeve actually manage to achieve all those things. But fate can reverse all ego achievement in an instant. And to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the medium of this disturbing message is a message in itself. A terrible accident occurs with an acausal link to collective mythology. The archetypal realm reveals that it has shocking power in the “real” world.
For this reason, Jung was alarmed when his German patients started to dream about Wotan, a Germanic god of war and mayhem. Jung knew that what emerges in dreams emerges in the world. What emerges in films, which often manifest as technologically amplified collective dreams, also has a tendency to emerge into the “real” world. And the ego, for all its pretensions and efforts to deny mortality, may be fearfully aware that there is strange handwriting on the wall and that its worst fears may come true.
What is particularly disturbing in the case of Christopher Reeves is that, as Dr. Chaffee, he is the character who ultimately destroys the children. Throughout the film, however, it is the children who bring punishment to those who harm them or whom they perceive as a threat. For example, the children force the woman scientist in charge of their colony to show them the preserved body of the infant girl who died. They observe a “T” shaped autopsy incision on the infant’s body. Later in the film, they telekinetically pressure this scientist to make a T-shaped incision on her own body. The children seem to be exacting an eye-for-an-eye version of karmic justice. The only character in the film on whom they are not able to exact this kind of justice is Dr. Chaffee. The synchronistic real-life accident makes it appear as if their power were able to reach beyond the realm of the film fantasy and into the external world.
An interesting approach to this disturbing synchronicity begins with considering how perceptual bias alters external reality. The effect of the observer on what is observed is most obvious in the case of one human psyche perceiving another. If an egoistic psyche perceives a particular child as bad and dangerous, the child will likely act that way. Village of the Damned, with its ego point of view personified by Zellaby/Chaffee, perceives the evolutionary change as bad. Both iterations of the doctor view the new human consciousness as a threat, a competing species bent on dominating and destroying the older form. They are treated in kind by the children but ultimately succeed in destroying them. Their paranoid perspective constellates a world of fear, power, and domination. The triumph of the ego over the new children in the film is bizarrely, disturbingly contradicted by the real-life synchronicity of the actors who portray Zellaby/Chaffee. One way of interpreting this message is as a threatening warning to the ego. If you perceive this evolutionary change from your accustomed vantage of imperialistic dominator, be ready for a fall.
The Post-Singularity Ego in Powder
Other visions of the Singularity Archetype in popular culture view this evolutionary/ego shift more sympathetically as in the 1995 film Powder, about a male adolescent mutant.
Like so many of the mutants portrayed in stories inspired by the Singularity Archetype, Powder is a liminal figure in multiple senses. He is caught between being human and nonhuman, powerful and handicapped, male and female. Visually, Powder is entirely without body hair and looks quite androgynous. He has archetypal masculine qualities of will, courage, and higher thinking but also archetypal feminine qualities of compassion, empathy, shyness, modesty, humility, and healing ability. Most interestingly, though, as a symbol of the metamorphosing ego, Powder exists between birth and death. His life, in fact, begins with death. Unlike Village of the Damned, Powder’s mother is not impregnated by a UFO. However, in an equally cosmic birth scenario, she is struck by lightning while pregnant, which sends her into labor. Lightning is a cosmic phenomenon that connects higher and lower when they become too polarized.
Note added in 2023: As someone born with the name “Zap,” I found Powder a relatable and sympathetic character in many ways!
Powder’s mother dies from the lightning strike, but her unborn son lives and is transformed by this heavenly intervention. From an evolutionary perspective, Powder’s birth blamelessly means the death of the old type of human (his mother). And like the children of Midwich, Powder is inherently feared by the society into which he is born. He is rejected by his father, and though his grandparents raise him, they refuse to touch him.
Similarly, the children of Village of the Damned are born after women who go through a death-like sleep and are impregnated in some unknown way by UFOs. Yet the orientation related to the ego and the collective is exactly reversed. Powder is a sympathetic, loving, non-egoistic, Christ-like martyr persecuted by the old species. In Village of the Damned, the post-singularity children are portrayed as monsters, while the ego, glorified as Dr. Zellaby/Chaffee, is the hero who must destroy them.
The Telepathic Empath
Powder is a post-singularity being. As a result of the divine lightning strike, he possesses both empathic and telepathic abilities. One of his few positive human relationships is with a sympathetic young woman named Lindsey. In conversation, he asks her, “Ever listen to people from the inside?” He then reveals to her that he can locate what people are thinking, including their unconscious thoughts.
Powder as Symbol of Unification
The children of Village of the Damned are personifications of unresolvable difference. They are locked in a savage, zero-sum conflict with Homo sapiens where only one species can survive. Even their Homo gestalt collective awareness is split down the middle. What one child is taught is instantly known by others of their kind, but only of the same gender. As advanced as these children are, gender is seen as an absolute firewall that cannot be crossed, even by telepaths.
Powder, by contrast, is a profoundly unifying personification of the Singularity Archetype. He is strikingly androgynous in both appearance and personality. He unifies the gender split within himself. Powder also seems to be bisexual, another example of his liminality. Although bisexuality is an interpersonal orientation, while androgyny is an intrapsychic orientation, bisexuality can be a personified metaphor for androgyny.
Although Powder’s closest relationship in the movie is with Lindsey, a young woman, there is a very telling scene where Powder stares longingly at a half-naked boy with long hair in the locker room. This causes John Box, Powder’s chief antagonist, who is both homophobic and xenophobic in general, to accuse Powder of being gay and to intensify his persecution of him.
The name “Box” suggests that Powder’s antagonist is emblematic of think-in-the-box, square-peg consciousness. Box is the homophobic alpha of a gang of male adolescents, representing atavistic, patriarchal, dominator consciousness. Box fears Powder’s androgynous, telepathic eyes and tells him, “Don’t look at me. I don’t like your eyes.”
Androgyny, at least a significant lessening of gender differentiation, if not its disappearance, surfaces again and again as an element of the evolutionary change. A good example is the “Greys.” In addition to oversized eyes, telepathic ability, and collective consciousness, they are also notably androgynous in appearance. Gender differentiation has not necessarily disappeared, however, as many who report contact with these creatures will say that they were able to sense gender in them even if they couldn’t visually discern gender characteristics. There are also numerous cases of contactees who claim to have had sex with these creatures. In the Dune Books, the collective consciousness of a Reverend Mother is limited to other female Reverend Mothers. But the whole point of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood’s thousand-year-long plan of genetic manipulation is to create a messianic being they call the Kwitzaz Haderach, a male Reverend Mother whose consciousness will transcend the gender limits that constrain them. Themes and images of androgyny are deeply entwined in many manifestations of the Singularity Archetype. Androgyny is feared by the ego both for its connection to evolutionary change and because it is a state of dissolved boundaries. 42
Powder Bridges Parapsychological Evolution and Near-Death Experience
Powder is connected to a more evolved, telepathic awareness and death. Powder’s divine birth involves the death of his mother, and his life begins at the edge of death in an incubator. He has a corpse-like pallor, and his grandparents keep him hidden underground in their basement.
Powder has an effect on electromagnetic equipment, a phenomenon frequently reported by near-death experiencers. Many NDErs report that electrical devices will malfunction around them, especially if they are emotionally agitated. Computers, which operate on the quantum level and are therefore more susceptible to quantum fluctuations, seem to be the most affected. Dr. van Lommel reports: “There are frequent reports of electrical phenomena: at emotionally charged moments in particular, the body can emit an electromagnetic field that interferes with electrical equipment —
42 For a discussion of androgyny and its significance to personal and collective evolution, see: “Casting Precious into the Cracks of Doom — Androgyny, Alchemy, Evolution and the One Ring” at ZapOracle.com.
-lights go out, the computer crashes, the car starter fails, or the supermarket checkout scanner refuses service.” (CBL 59-60)
Dr. van Lommel quotes an experiencer: “Another strange thing was that after my NDE every piece of equipment I touched, such as lamps, dishwasher, kettle, the light in the cooker hood, it broke. I gave off energy everywhere” (CBL 60).
Dr. van Lommel continues, “Some people do not wear a watch because it stops as soon as they wear it on their wrist. Thinking that the watch is broken, they buy a new one, only to have the same thing happen” (CBL 60).
One of the instances of Powder causing electromagnetic effects has an additional connection to NDEs. Donald Ripley, Powder’s high school physics teacher, sets up a Jacob’s Ladder in class. A Jacob’s Ladder is a high-voltage traveling arc device that uses a spark gap between two wires to create a continuous train of large sparks traveling upwards. We’ve all seen them in old sci-fi movies. What’s especially interesting is that Jacob’s Ladder is named after the “ladder of heaven” that Jacob dreams about in the Bible.43
Because of its name, the device is the most appropriate machine to represent an NDE that I can think of. When the Jacob’s Ladder is activated, both Powder and the device are drastically affected resulting in havoc. Powder and the Jacob’s ladder seem to amplify and intensify each-
43 The Book of Genesis, 28:10-19.
-other, and this climaxes in one of a number of instances where we see Powder emerge as a glorified body. In the presence of the Jacob’s Ladder, he is lifted off the ground and illuminated by blinding light and energy.
In his lecture before powering up the ladder, Ripley states that energy is “always transforming and never-ending.” What Ripley is talking about directly connects to death and the afterlife — the first law of thermodynamics that says that energy is neither created nor destroyed but is continually changing form. Many have attempted to use this physical principle to claim that consciousness is an energy; therefore, it cannot be destroyed but only change form at death.
In one of the climactic episodes of the film, the gang of boys led by John Box that persecutes Powder is out hunting with an aggressive policeman who also doesn’t like Powder. During the course of the hunt, the policeman shoots a deer. Powder, who comes upon the scene, is horrified and tries to put his hands on the dying animal to comfort or heal it. At that moment, Powder personifies the wounded healer, and he empathically feels the helpless agony of the dying animal. While he is in this empathic state, he grabs the arm of the policeman and causes him to feel what the deer is feeling. Powder later explains that he did this because he knew the policeman wasn’t conscious of what he was doing and the suffering he was creating. Powder’s telepathic merger has elements of logos-beheld communication and awareness. Powder says: “I opened him up, and I let him see. He just couldn’t see what he was doing, and I let him see.”
Powder basically forces a vicarious NDE on the policeman, and like someone who has had an NDE, the policeman exhibits a complete spiritual change. He gets rid of his entire gun collection and ceases to be an aggressor. If we accept the policeman/hunter as the personification of the world of the ego — the patriarchal realm of governmental control and dominator mentality — we see that the new form has the ability to transform the ego by forcing empathic awareness into it.
Powder is also called by a more conscious and sympathetic policeman to do hospice-like deathbed service for his wife. Powder forms a telepathic bond with the dying woman allowing her to express her wish that the policeman reconcile with his estranged son. With her last wish expressed, the wife can be released into death, and Powder reports to the policeman, “She didn’t go someplace . . . your wife. I felt her go. Not away, just out . . . everywhere.”
Powder’s statement exemplifies his pantheistic unity consciousness, the opposite of egoistic consciousness. He articulates his unity vision in an exchange with Lindsey:
Powder: “It’s because you have this spot that you can’t see past.
My grams and gramps had it, the spot where they were taught they were disconnected from everything.”
Lindsey: “So that’s what they’d see if they could? That they’re connected?”
Powder: “And how beautiful they really are. And that there’s no need to hide or lie. And that it’s possible to talk to someone without any lies, with no sarcasms, no deceptions, no exaggerations or any of the things that people use to confuse the truth.”
Lindsey: “I don’t know a single person who does that.” Lindsey: “What are people like, on the inside?”
Powder: “Inside most people, there’s a feeling of being separate, separated from everything.”
Powder: “And they’re not. They’re part of absolutely everyone and everything.”
Dream of a Transforming but still Dangerous Ego
In 1996, while I was writing a study about the relationship between the ego and the Singularity Archetype, I had a powerful dream the night before I was ready to complete the study. Although the dream could be read as an unflattering depiction of the state of my own power complex, the timing of the dream, occurring just before I was to wake up and write about the role of the ego in evolution, inclined me to believe that the dream has a collective significance. What follows is the study of the dream I wrote in 1996.
In the dream, I am present only as a witness or disembodied point of view. A group of people is standing before an enormously complex, futuristic control panel that has the curved amphitheater shape of the keyboard of a great pipe organ. Information in the form of rapidly moving green LED numbers is pouring out of the control panel. The control panel has been made to have an aesthetically pleasing “natural” look of polished wood and green transparent panels. But part of the numerical display on the right-hand side is erratic, and there is obviously a malfunction. The control panel is apparently a new prototype.
A man in military garb who is sitting at the control panel is in a state of acute panic. He is afraid because at the center of the small group of white-coated scientists viewing the malfunction of the control panel is Darth Vader. But Darth Vader does not look like he does in the Star Wars films. To my surprise, I see that Vader’s appearance is altered. He is wearing an abbreviated version of his famous black outfit and no breath mask or helmet. His head is exposed, and he has the mustachioed, elegant, intelligent face of an elderly Vincent Price. To be more exact, this is the face of Vincent Price shortly before his death when he appeared in Tim Burton’s film Edward Scissorhands. In the dream, Darth Vader seems uncannily intelligent and patient. He has a visible aura of power that shrouds his head like a hood, but he also seems frail and elderly.
The scene shifts, and we see Darth Vader walking on a dirt road below a wall of natural rock, the side of a small canyon or cliff. He is now elegantly, aristocratically dressed in an immaculate white suit. He seems extremely intelligent, dignified, and in control, but as before, there is the undisguised frailty of age. A bodyguard, a brutal young man wearing a light-colored suit, stands with his hand on his gun. In a very phallic manner, the gun is bulging from his trouser pocket, and he stands ready, even anxious to use it at the first sign of trouble. Vader strolls with perfect composure paying no attention to the bodyguard, who, to him, is merely a background detail. Vader is staring curiously at the wall of rock. There are Egyptian hieroglyphs drawn on the wall in colored chalk. I intuit that the designs were drawn very recently by adolescents. The dream ends with him looking curiously at the hieroglyphs.
As the Star Wars character, Darth Vader is an almost archetypal personification of the demoniac aspect of the ego and the highly related concept of the patriarchy. When we experience him in the first ( film of the series, Star Wars: A New Hope, he appears to be completely motivated by the will to power. He hides his humanity behind a mask, his costume shields him in technology, and the shape of his helmet has an obvious Nazi aesthetic. He seems like a man trying to become a machine. But Vader is also the most complex of the Star Wars characters, and he undergoes the greatest transformation throughout the course of the series.
In The Empire Strikes Back, we see a fascinating glimpse of Vader’s humanity. He is apparently in his private apartment, which is a very small bombproof cubicle with an utterly functional interior of control panels and metal surfaces. This interior is Vader’s cocoon, a small lightproof, airtight container, like a high-tech thermos insulating him from anything alive. Then, for a moment, we get a glimpse of the back of his unhelmeted head, revealing that there is vulnerable, scarred human tissue under the costume. He is a human being and not merely an archetype of evil.
As the original trilogy of films continues, especially as we near the end of The Return of the Jedi, it becomes apparent that Vader, whose psyche at first seemed to be electrified by a pure will to power, is now torn between power and love for his son, Luke Skywalker. In the dramatic duel scene in The Empire Strikes Back, Vader, in an effort to seduce Luke into an alliance, makes the statement, “Join me, and together we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.” The patriarchal will to power, with its pretense of rationalism, is obvious in the phrase, “bring order to the galaxy.” But there is also, for the first time, a suggestion that Vader might be weary of war and does not favor destruction as an end in itself. He is intelligent enough to want to “end this destructive conflict . . . ” Vader, like the ego, may be aware that he is in a conflict with another powerful principle that he cannot fully dominate, and he may be growing weary of the struggle. And then there is the opposing love principle in his statement, the emphasis on “joining” and being “together.”
By the end of The Return of the Jedi, Vader’s transformation is complete, and he has sided decisively with love and surrendered power. He accepts his mortality and, in his death scene, asks his son to remove his breath mask so that they can have a moment of human contact. Vader/ego gives up the power principle, acknowledges love, and immediately thereafter perishes.
Darth Vader’s transformation in the Star Wars films represents one possible developmental track for the ego. From a place of utterly unfeeling will to power, he grows weary, discovers love, surrenders, and dies. There are numerous actual cases in which particular human egos have traveled this exact developmental path. Let’s consider a hypothetical case history of a man in his fifties, a ruthless, hard-driving workaholic businessman. Ambition was more important to this businessman than his family, and his marriage ended in divorce and estrangement from his children. But now he is in the hospital dying of cancer. His only son comes to visit him, and seeing his dying father hooked up to tubes and machines, he feels a sudden empathy for this brutal man that he never experienced before. The father, in return, feels an overwhelming love for his son, who will live after he is gone. He surrenders his ego, accepts mortality, and dies.
In some collective sense, the ego may also be aware that it is aging and has cancer, just as Vincent Price obviously was during the filming of Edward Scissorhands. As an association occurring in my dream, I remember finding Vincent Price’s poignant role in the film made more poignant by my having read that he was ailing from cancer when he played the role and realized it was his last film. His character in the film also dies in a poignant way, and Tim Burton, who had a great personal affection for Vincent Price, cast him aware that he was dying.
The imagery of the dream suggests that the ego is interested in rehabilitating its image. But, obviously, these public-relations efforts to reveal a kinder, gentler ego should be viewed warily. For example, the “natural” green and wood-toned control panel may be viewed as an attempt at subterfuge or misdirection, like British Petroleum trying to greenwash its image after causing the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill.
The control panel is shaped like the keyboard of a giant “pipe organ,” so perhaps it represents a phallic will to control. It is a cosmetic softening of what appears to be a world control panel.
The ego is closely allied with what Jung called the “persona” — the outward, socialized mask we present to the world. The ego wears an immaculate white suit in the second part of the dream, as might befit the British Viceroy of India at the height of Imperialism. The suit, with its aristocratic all-whiteness, carries an association of racial superiority. The immaculate whiteness is also a striking contrast to the natural setting of the dirt road and canyon or cliff wall of raw rock. The ego obviously still feels superior and apart from messy nature, which must be put under control. And for all the ego’s veneer of civilization, and dignified bearing, nearby is the brutal, phallic bodyguard, his hand hoping to draw the gun. The panic of the soldier at the control panel was no doubt an appropriate response to a Vader who still holds an iron fist beneath his white linen gloves.
From one point of view, we could say that the devil hath the power to assume a somewhat more pleasing shape. The ego, no doubt, has cards up its sleeve. Perhaps he’s allowing itself to appear mortal and vulnerable so that we let down our guard. Possibly there is a laboratory on the Death Star where scientists work round the clock building a fully cyborg body for the ego enabling it to achieve technological immortality and everlasting freedom from the organic world. The ego is a resilient function with a genius for creating illusion and deception. One would have to be a really gifted paranoiac to invent motives and subterfuges darker and more devious than those of the power-oriented ego.
Although these suspicions are more than warranted, my inclination is to view the dream as a message about the ego’s transforming duality. Its Luciferian aspect is still clearly present. Call me paranoid, but there’s something about a guy named Darth Vader standing before a world control panel that I can’t fully trust. On the other hand, the ego is not in control of the dream, and there is a feeling that the elderly Vincent Price aspect of him is also real. The dream seems to find the ego in a schizoid state; not sure where he stands. The efforts at power, control, and deception are still there, but he is also aware that the control panel is malfunctioning, that its body is aged and that there is strange adolescent handwriting on the walls. But before we consider the ego’s possibly transformed awareness of mortality, let’s consider the relationship of its Luciferian aspect to nature.
The Ego and Nature
Just as Lucifer, according to the Bible, was once the brightest angel before the fall, the ego was once nature’s brightest, most favored prodigy. According to the Bible, Lucifer was created by God, even though he sets himself apart from God and plays an adversarial role. Similarly, the ego was created by nature, even though it sets itself apart from nature and plays an adversarial role. Is God really separate from Lucifer, his own creation? Is nature really separate from the human ego, its creation?
Nature created an interventional, adversarial species that extrudes technology and environmental toxins. If the human species and its ego are mistakes, then we might as well blame nature. The ego is a child of nature as much as a daisy or a virus. To understand the ego, we must discredit the view that it is unnatural. It is actually the ego itself that wants to view itself as unnatural. Like Lucifer, it’s trying hard to forget where it came from and where it’s going back to.
Many people coming from the ego, use the term “natural” in a way that is filled with deception. I’m not sure that anything is outside of nature. Is the Empire State Building less natural than a beehive, or are they both structures created by earth organisms out of patterned energy? People call “natural” that which they prefer. For example, homosexuality, even though it occurs in hundreds of species and all human societies, will be judged by some people as “unnatural.” Those same people will view manmade social institutions, like the particular institution of marriage approved of by their culture, as “natural.” And, of course, it is claimed that God endorses these ego preferences. The God such people worship is really a man in a white suit who has their identical prejudices.
“Natural” carries an unconscious association with a Rousseau-like, sentimentalized view of kindly, gentle mother nature. For example, many food products boast that they have “all-natural ingredients.” But a soup made of cobra venom, scorpion tails, and bubonic plague could make the identical claim. Poliovirus is natural, and the vaccine is manmade. The ego is natural, if anything is, and the tendency to view it as bad because it is distinctively human is an ego-based illusion.
In its Darth Vader personification in the dream, the ego may be slightly reforming its relationship to nature. Although it stands before the control panel with white-coated scientists and later strolls in a suit of sterile whiteness, it has made, at least, some aesthetic concessions to nature. The “natural” look of the control panel is in striking contrast to the synthetic high-tech look of Vader’s world in the films. Perhaps the natural-looking world control panel reflects the ego’s dawning concern for controlling the environment in a way that doesn’t destroy it. Similarly, many of the corporate, ego, and power-based entities that contributed to the toxification of the environment are beginning to realize that the destruction of the biosphere will eventually be bad for business and the bottom line.
Vader’s willingness to expose his frail, aging face is a much more significant concession to nature. In the dream, this felt like a profound concession to mortality. Vader also shows some interest in stepping out of his cocoon and into the outside world of nature. He walks on a dirt road and looks at a natural rock face. He is seen struggling to understand evolving human nature as expressed by the colored hieroglyphic chalk drawings of the adolescents.
The ego’s personification is dual. He is both Darth Vader, who is in himself dual, and Vincent Price. From the deception point of view, we could suspect the ego of wanting to gain sympathy. Vincent Price was always the camp icon of horror films. His flamboyant portrayal of characters who were supposed to be sinister and ominous always seemed arch and humorously entertaining. Almost no one takes Vincent Price seriously as a personification of evil in the way people do take seriously Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal Lechter, for example. We might, therefore, suspect the ego of wanting to make light of any fears of it as boogeyman.
But I am more inclined to view this Vincent Price aspect of the ego as revelatory rather than deceptive. Although the ego borrows the physiognomy of Price’s face, he doesn’t show a trace of his humor, and there’s nothing campy about his appearance or manner. The face seems more like a revelation of true form rather than a borrowed disguise.
Let’s also consider Vincent Price’s role in Edward Scissorhands, which I believe to be a central and intended association of the dream. In the film, he is some sort of eccentric genius, a fairytale mad scientist who seems as much an alchemist as a technological inventor. Like the actor portraying him, he is at the end of his career and near death. And his final invention is also his only son.
Again, we have a strange duality. From one point of view, Price would seem to be a reincarnation of Dr. Frankenstein, the ego as technological Prometheus seeking to rival and surpass nature’s progenerative power. Like Dr. Frankenstein, he is creating birth completely without the feminine, as he is the father of a son with no mother. But unlike Dr. Frankenstein, Price seems very loving and kind. Perhaps he has made Edward aware that his own demise is approaching and loves him as much as any father loves his only son. Edward, like Frankenstein (remember his gentle affection for the little girl), is an unexpectedly feminine creature despite this all-masculine birth. He is portrayed by Johnny Depp as androgynous, sensitive, gentle, and caring. Price’s meddling with nature has brought something of great value into the world. His role might be like the one the great alchemist, Paracelsus, saw for mankind–“to finish nature.”
However, the first words we hear Edward speak are, “I’m not finished.” He is referring to his mutant, metallic hands that normal-looking hands would have apparently replaced but for the untimely demise of Price before his creation could be finished. These technological hands, which look frightening, are capable of astonishing utility and creativity. But they also make it hard for Edward to do some of the ordinary tasks of daily life, like dressing and eating, and he frequently inadvertently wounds himself.
If the ego is, in a sense, the father, Edward himself is a hybrid. His “unfinished” technological hands give him creative power over nature as when he sculpts hedges into amazing creatures. The creative gardener is an almost archetypal personification of man “finishing” nature. But Edward, unlike the ego, seeks love, not power, and his too powerful, technological hands make this hard for him. Edward, like Powder, is a post-Singularity adolescent mutant unsure of his identity. Like Powder, he has an unnatural pallor as if he were also partly a corpse. In some other ways, however, he is like a shy, alienated teenager. The technological proficiency that is ingrained in his being is much like that of a modern adolescent who has grown up in a world of smartphones and other computerized gadgets; he is innately adept at using these tools and would feel like an amputee without them. But at the same time, there is an awareness that these powerful gifts can be harmful, that they can cause self-inflicted wounds and make love difficult. The ego, in his Vincent Price aspect, is reminding us that he is the father of the mutant and that he cannot be separated from the fate of the next evolutionary step.
Here again, we have a strange paradoxical duality. It is true that new life builds on prior forms, and the present ego-based psyche will have strong familial connections with whatever succeeds it. The patriarchal ego may have a certain paternal claim. But we also have the ego usurping the power of nature and claiming the feminine role in creation. The ego, as the story of Frankenstein reminds us, is not to be trusted in the role of creator. The feminine cannot be left out of creation, but the ego prefers an exclusively masculine world. Dr. Frankenstein and Frankenstein, Price and Edward, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker — each is a father with his only son, and mothers are conspicuously absent. Powder’s mother dies in the cosmic event that creates his transformation. It is revealed in the second Star Wars trilogy that Vader had a female consort, but in the first cycle of films, we never hear of her, and her children don’t know her either. Vader has a daughter, Princess Leia, but he shows little interest in joining with her.
The ego in the dream is surrounded by male scientists, soldiers, and bodyguards. His demeanor and presence personify what Jung referred to as the solar phallic or higher masculine power identified with mind and will. But nearby is the chthonic or lower phallic power of the bodyguard with his relation to power-oriented sex on the level of genitalia, violence, and domination. We see higher and lower phallic principles combined in a typical dream image/word pun in the control panel, which is shaped like a great organ. The ego is as male as ever, and it wants to usurp the feminine role in creation. Perhaps that’s another meaning of the green and wood-toned control panel.
In the waking life, we certainly see the ego standing before control panels altering nature. White-coated or suited ego personifications introduce genetically altered microorganisms, plants, and animals into our world. Once we foraged in the forest, then we learned to use our hands to make gardens and farms, but now ego-driven multinational corporations mediate with nature for us and grow GMO crops in chemical fertilizers, which are sprayed with pesticides, irradiated, and sold in microwaveable plastic at the supermarket. We’ve allowed the ego to be in charge of nature and progeneration and can’t be sure where that process will end. Given the opportunity to fulfill its ambitions, perhaps the ego will create artificial intelligence that will propagate itself in a virtual world that really will be childhood’s end. Is it possible for the ego to create an alternative or parallel evolutionary track to that of the human species? Consider how much computers have evolved in the last fifty years compared to fifty years of human evolution. The ego might seek to avoid mortality by using artificial life to replace or mutate organic evolution. For your next lifetime, why be reborn by messy, inefficient mother nature when you can be rebooted by Turbo-Genesis Incarnater version 7.1? For neurological materialists, at least, consciousness is reducible to wetware, and therefore a digital rebirth seems plausible.
Perhaps the ego has a cybernetic card up its sleeve. In the dream, however, the Vader/Price character seems to be feeling his age and acknowledging his mortality. Similarly, heads of multinational corporations and governments read the statistical projections and know they must content themselves with managing the end of the world. In the dream, the ego sees that there is handwriting on the wall. The hieroglyphic handwriting is colorful and adolescent. Since the markings are made with chalk, they are recent and temporally fragile, but they also resonate with the ancient world and appear Egyptian. Its hieroglyphic expression suggests the archetypes and the collective unconscious. In Jungian literature, there is a famous example of the timeless memory of the collective unconscious in the dream of a modern girl that manifests motifs of ancient Egyptian mythology unknown to her waking self. In Terence McKenna’s most seminal book, The Archaic Revival, he discusses the revival, especially popular with adolescents, of the archaic practices of body piercing, drum circles, paganism, magic, herbal healing, and the use of natural hallucinogens. Aspects of the ancient world are returning through the young, and the ego isn’t sure what to make of them, but it may be intelligent enough to sense that they are harbingers of change beyond its control. The spatial occurrence of the hieroglyphs in the dream is also significant. They are far over the head of the ego and several body lengths out of reach.
The dream tells us that the ego is still powerful and dangerous, yet also a paradoxical, complex entity with conflicting motives and self-ambivalence. It may be nearing the end of its life, but it will not be without a role in the creation of what’s to come.