Tuesday, 18 August 2009
The Dragon of Grandiosity (Part 1)
I have just read an excellent book by Robert Moore entitled Facing the Dragon. Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity. He comes out of a Jungian tradition so you have to be able to work with the archetype theory of the Jungians. I have to admit being a little sceptical about it, although given the utility of the archetypes in a book like this, I could be persuaded to give it a great deal more respect. Made in the image of God we have such energy for life, but universally, it is distorted into grandiosity, thinking we are the centre of everything and the universe needs to bow down to us. This grandiosity shows itself in pride, but it can also show itself in all sorts of ways, including vanity, jealousy, lack of self-esteem and depression. These last two are interesting because we would associate them with the opposite of grandiosity. But Moore says that behind every disintegration of a sense of self is a prior extolling of the self. It's just that some recognise they can't live up to the grandiosity, so end up hating themselves or depressed at their failure. I approach this kind of claim with caution given that the 'presenting problem' is a deflation of self, and the feminist critique of universalising male sin onto women as well. However, it does make a good deal of sense. another example he gives is our dislike of criticism. Most might see this a a lack of self, producing a fragility that is easily shattered. Possibly, but it might also indicate that we don't like people who won't worship us. (archetypally we want people to worship our little king or queen within us. Sounds corny, but there is something in the idea. See p. 146) The tradition is quite strong on this too, and although the feminist critique would say that the tradition is strong on pride because it is a male sin, it can't be that easily dismissed. Grandiosity is hardly restricted to me. so in the Christian tradition despair is a sin of self-centredness: what, you are so beyond help that even God can't help you? Yeah, right, and you're not stuck in grandiosity either.
Anyway, Moore's contention is that unless we are consciously aware of this spiritual energy to greatness, work with it, confront it and harness it (at times), we will be in the thrall of evil. Moore takes seriously the human propensity to evil, and he says that not to do so is to be blind to both history and what we do to each other in our daily lives. So "(w)e either identify with this inner complex of grandiose energies, or we repress it and project it onto others." (201) When we identify with the energy of grandiosity, we inflate the self; when we project our grandiosity we become slaves to others, or demonise them. (A nation can project their grandiosity onto a leader, and demonise another group at the same time. The Fuhrer and the Final Solution come to mind.) Tribal grandiosity displaced the grandiosity from the individual to the group, preventing the individual psychosis that extreme grandiosity can produce. This was fine for the individual while my tribe rarely met any other tribe. But as human 'tribes' (ethnic groups, religions, etc) were forced to live closer and closer together, so tribal grandiosity slipped into demonization of the other tribes. (This demonization is everywhere still. Think of the continuing history of intra-european demonization we saw in Bosnia, or the conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa.)