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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

the bird as an archetype of the soul


It is late afternoon on the waterfront and the flock of sparrows prepares to roost for the night. As the evening approaches the sparrows take off as a group and perform these amazing synchronized movements; dancing and darting through the cool lake air as one body. I've often watched enraptured and wondered how they can perform as a unity. 

The idea we have of being separate and unique is ingrained in us from birth. The severance begins almost right away though it is probably not until after the age of two that it manifests as the ego. I can remember a distinct me at an age just before my third birthday. From that time on I am alone and separate, and for most of us we then spend the rest of our lives with a longing to connect with others in some sort of a meaningful bond. Some are more successful at this then others. For a lot of people the feeling of separation turns to desperation leading to habitual abuses as a way to cope, which then turns to innate sadness, depression, and for some suicide as an act of escape from the despair they feel.

I don't believe it is in our natures to live as ego driven personalities and living as such is the cause of much suffering. Ego seems to be a late addition to human consciousness; a development that came after the breakdown of tribal structures. Our evolution as humans occurred in groups and we lived much like animals in the sense we did everything together in order to survive. The totem connected us as we identified ourselves with the tribe and its perceived spiritual guide. This is such a powerful notion ingrained into our psyche that I look around and see people with such an attachment to club sports that rally around the wolf or bear for example. The strength of that entity is projected onto the collective team and gives an idea of a collective consciousness contained within the unit. It manifests at a larger level in the form of nationalism and patriotism. It is the fundamental urge and necessity to belong.

The experiences I have shared with canines seem to confirm this. They have a fundamental need to share in the family structure in order to be well adjusted. Anyone who has raised a dog from pup to adult will have similar stories of leaving the dog at home by itself as they run out to do errands. The dog will whine and howl and then become destructive. This is due to separation anxiety. A dog does not have ego and views itself as a loyal member of a group. When the group abandons the animal, however temporary, the animal suffers a profound loss of group identity which in essence is the only identity it has. Any idea of self a dog may have is solely generated by us humans and the re-enforcement of that concept. In this same regard, the idea of the human individual and separation leads to a profound feeling of despair within us if we are not able to reconcile it with our desire to belong.  

Upon reflection, the idea of having a separate ego seems artificial to my thinking. My concept of who I am is based on feedback from others within my social group. I am defined by others in a context where I have to hide my true self in order to fit in. This multiplies to the point where I lose the ability to even discern who I am. I don't know who I am and I have so many filters operating at this level, I cannot possibly make an honest account of myself. The truth is somewhere between my perception and others perception of me. Could it possibly be that 'I am' is a survival mechanism brought upon by separation; separation felt not only at this level but by separation from the fount or eternal oneness?

I am reminded of the scene surrounding the burial of the pharaoh in early dynastic ancient Egypt. Upon death of the king and at his burial, his courtiers would join him. How horrifying is that concept to us? It is unfathomable to consider joining in this act. Why did they do it back 5,000 years ago then? To me the answer lies in a lack of ego development and a lack of any feelings of separation. Like worker bees or ants of the natural world, humans once were able to function as one. We have lost that ability as it lies dormant now within us. Taking this concept further, I would think to build pyramids in today's world minus heavy machinery would necessitate the need to redevelop this lost connection and shared consciousness.

Birds are individual physical beings that have been separated but can still function as one. They have retained the remarkable ability and sense to stay connected though they are operating in the physical realm. It is the archetype of our souls in this plane. As souls we have become separated from this unity but in essence we are still one and to this unity we shall return. The eternal beacon is always present; we just need to reconnect.