Once we’ve managed to incorporate what was rejected by the conscious, the kingdom can be established as our inner center. This is both a surrender of the ego to the supremacy of the kingdom, Sanford says, and the fulfillment of the ego and its establishment in a position of strength and importance as the representative of the totality of the personality.
Jesus says, “Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:30/Luke 9:24/Mark 8:35
“Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12/Luke 14:11Once again his sayings can be applied both inwardly and outwardly. Outwardly it is a call by Christ to a life marked by commitment rather than self-seeking, which is possible only if the same event has happened within and the ego has sacrificed its egocentricity to the larger life within.
“This is not a call to extinguish, nullify, or devalue the ego,” Sanford says, because the ego is important to the total personality. “There can be no wholeness, no strength, no capacity to be used by God without a strong ego,” he continues. “It is only an ego made strong by inner confrontation that is capable of performing the act of self-sacrifice.”
He says that a weak ego feels compelled to fight and struggle for its very existence, and since we cannot sacrifice what we do not have, if we are not in possession of ourselves, we cannot turn ourselves over to God. A person with a strong ego is humble, not proud, because they have no need for self-pride. They are confident in their authenticity, their totality.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus says in Matthew 5:3, KJV and Luke 6:20.
As ‘poor’ in Greek literally means ‘beggarly,’ the ‘poor in spirit’ are those who recognize that they must beg for their spirit from a source beyond themselves. If one is too self-sufficient, they sacrifice their chance at the kingdom.
Unfortunately, most humans are all too willing to do this because it is our unconscious inclination to seek power for ourselves and to try and exploit life to our own purposes. In fear of losing our ego, we become anxious, which prevents us from doing the very work necessary to die to the old ego so that the new ego may be born.
Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14/Luke 13:24.
The narrow way is the anxious way,” Sanford says, “and the anxious way occurs when the ego must give place to the kingdom.”
This giving way of the ego to the greater reality within is often portrayed in our dreams as a death. We might dream of dying, or of having a mortal illness, or of finding ourselves under sentence of death. If we are working on this inner process, yet deny this “death,” it is not unusual to experience compulsive thoughts about dying or be convinced that we have cancer or some other deadly disease.
It is only the death of the ego, not actual physical death, which is symbolized by death in our dreams, and death of the ego is symbolic of the psychological process. Jesus often represents the new personality in his sayings as a child.
“At this time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” Matthew 18:1-4/Luke 9:46-48/Mark 9:33-37
Jesus uses the example of a child as one who has entered the kingdom because, as I noted earlier, children have not yet developed their mask—they are what they seem to be. Children also have a free connection to the inner world. So, one must enter the kingdom as a little child—with no false façade, a newborn (ego), and closely connected to the inner world, from which spring imagination, spontaneity and creativity.
We all have a child-self within us, which is partly a remnant of our own childhood psyche and partly archetypal in nature. The inner child is an important part of our psychology. If we deny the inner child, we become childish, which is the opposite of what we want. When we become childish we are infantile, regressive and dependent. But, if recognize the legitimacy of the child-self in the positive sense, then it is expressed in our personalities as freedom, creativity, and the continual generation within us of new life.
That is why the appearance of a child in our dreams is always important. If the child appears as forlorn, orphaned, neglected, or crippled in some way, our subconscious is calling our attention to the need to recognize and accept the child-self. If the child is a happy companion, takes us by the hand, or is seen at play, for example, it represents inner creativity. If the dream shows the birth of a child or a newborn infant, it represents new life within. Another alternative is one of a group of mischievous children, which shows creative elements within us which are likely to be disturbing the status quo of consciousness, but are valuable for the future growth of the personality. The child can also symbolize the kingdom itself, as in Isaiah 11:6-8: “The wolf lives with the lamb . . . with a little boy to lead them . . .”
Ordinarily, Sanford says, our personality is fragmented because it is split up into pairs of opposites that are hostile and antagonistic. This is expressed in dreams in which there is a motif or war, violence, enmity, or opposition in one form or another.
“The kingdom comes as a unity,” he says, “a paradoxical unity since it is the union of factors that are different from each other and so have a natural inclination to opposition.”
It is for this reason that the most important single image of the kingdom is the image of a wedding since it is here that opposing elements are united. In his parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:2-14/Luke 14:15-24), Jesus notes:
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding.” Matthew 22:2The king may be likened to God as the Father, and the son likened to Christ; those who would not come are the Jews. This allegorical interpretation is not particularly edifying. But there is a deeper meaning to its inner significance. God is the king, and the wedding we are called to is the inner wedding, and the union of the opposites within us.
“But the great bulk of humanity is too concerned with outward things to appreciate the value of the inner realm,” Sanford says. “Only those forced by God to come in, good and bad alike, join the wedding feast.”
Another wedding parable Jesus uses is the parable of the ten bridesmaids:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. “ Matthew 25:1
Of the ten (once again, the number of totality), only half are prepared with oil ready to go in their lamps. While the others hurry out to get oil, the bridegroom arrives, and doors are closed against them.
The parable ends:
“So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13
Taken outwardly, the parable suggests the need for constantly being on the alert so that we will be ready to receive the Lord when he comes at the Last Day. Once again, the passage fits with inner reality more readily than outer. The parable speaks of the approach of the kingdom from within. As the kingdom is a wedding, the union of opposites, initiated by God, the bridegroom is the larger Christ-like personality who unites the soul in the inner mystery of coming into selfhood.
But the ego must remain alert (or conscious) so that the lamps, which symbolize the light of consciousness, remain ready to constantly shine that light on our ongoing relationship to the inner life. Events happen from within quite unexpectedly. One never knows what will trigger them to begin the wedding of unification. If we are not prepared, we may miss it and languish far too long in unconsciousness where we will remain forever shut out from the wedding feast because our inner darkness is too great to overcome.
The motif of being too late is often seen in our dreams when we arrive to late to catch a plane or train, ship or bus. Or, we may find ourselves starting a journey but with the feeling of being far behind, or alternately, have a great task set before us that we are overwhelmed by because it is too late to start it, and variations on those themes.
Next Week: The Coming of the Kingdom, Part II