The New Year’s Baby is a tradition that goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, though many of us probably associate it with more recent iterations, such as JC Leyendecker’s vintage covers for the Saturday Evening Post stacked at the antiques store alongside plaster busts of Dionysus, who was symbolically reborn on Jan. 1, bringing fertility for the year ahead.
While hailing Dionysus and philosophizing with a hammer, Nietzsche said that in order to be a creator one must first be a destroyer. And so, armed with New Year’s resolutions and determination to bring forth our stronger and wiser selves, let’s look at what is meant by “ego death,” a common term in spiritual circles.
The process of awakening follows a familiar pattern. We find ourselves in a crisis for which our conventional personality cannot find a solution, because it does not operate in four dimensions. But in this dark night of the soul a glimmer of light appears, the divine spark greater than the troubled ego.
We can experience this in a Pure Consciousness Event, typically triggered by a really bad day with much weeping. When the suffering ego exhausts itself, a rainbow appears through the tears. Staring at the ceiling, or with one’s face buried in a pillow, we suddenly realize we’re alert, wide awake even, but at a level beyond name and form. What happened to that miserable person we were just a few minutes ago? We have now passed through the first gate, and possess an entirely new perspective on what is meant by the word “me.”
In Christianity, this process is called making room for God, while Hinduism might say it’s the realization of the unity of atman, or soul, and braman, or spirit. Alchemists would call it the Great Work, astrologers the realization of the natal chart and Jungian psychologists the relocation of the center of gravity in the personality from the ego to the Self, which includes the shadow and contrasexual dimension, which is called the anima for males and the animus for females.
Bidding farewell to one’s outgrown ego is less an event and more a process. It is a long journey, filled with growing pains and confusion. Consciousness must come to know that many more things comprise the personality than previously imagined, including a flaming energy source at the heart that one intuitively feels comes from somewhere else.
We’ll examine more of the rebirth process in this column throughout January, as we valiantly vow to have a Happy New Year, no matter what life sends our way.