So long as I live, my ego is indestructible. It is a condition of being a finite being of the sort we call human that an ego is part of the complex called Self (albeit only a part, and not even the greatest).
I have often advocated for the destruction of the ego. Then realizing this brought me little peace, I have advocated for its curtailing, hemming in, restricting. In short, advocated for controlling and regulating the ego. I could not see how ironic it was that activities such as controlling and regulating (and destroying for that matter) are all very much par for the ego’s course. No wonder I have struggled with myself despite the rich spiritual life I have been gifted.
Thor gave me a valuable lesson. I kneeled, and he stood behind me. “You want to be free of the ego’s insanity?” He asked. “You want to stop trying to force reality to fit your lazy wish-fulfillment childishness by sheer force of thinking and emoting?” (he knows that I have found such mental activity to bring nothing but suffering and pessimism).
“So!” he cried, and struck my head clean from my shoulders with his hammer.
But immediately, my head grew back, good as new.
“Again!” He cried, and Mjolnir’s reverse sweep decapitated me again. A new head immediately popped out of the gaping cavity of my neck.
“And again!” He was laughing now, as his hammer swished back and forth as though light as a switch of birch. With each swing, he sent my head flying. Yet by the time the backswing was on its way, a new head had appeared, ready to be knocked off again.
Finally, his point made, Thor stopped. “So,” he declared, “now you see that as soon as the ego is in any way attacked, it reappears. Its roots run deep, and at a certain point cannot be destroyed without ending your life.” I realized that the addiction to ego is like an addictive relationship to food (what we might call compulsive overeating). A food addiction is trickier than, say, a drug addiction, because you cannot quit food as an aid to overcoming the addiction. You have to manage a stable relationship with food, while constantly placing your hand in the wolf’s maw.
Now, how then to deal with the ego, its endless complaining, whining, raging, resenting, fearing, overthinking, superstitions, paranoia, and all the rest? How, if not by controlling or abolishing it?
“Just hand it over to me, or whoever you wish to hand it over to,” Thor says, reading my mind. “Just say, ‘Thor, I’m handing this over. I’m letting go.’ You can trust me that I’ll put your ego in a nice safe place for the duration, and you can get on with developing all the other parts of your psyche that have been atrophied in the shadow of your ego’s unruly canopy.”
Just hand it over? Just hand it over. Mind turns to powerless worrying? Hand it over. Mind turns to self-righteous pomposity (designed to inflate a feeling of well-being with little merit of effort)? Hand it over. Even the need to always let go…can be let go.
Like all human beings, I am lopsided, uneven, in my psychic anatomy. It is very hard to straighten a crooked spine when the load that bent it is still on your shoulder. Better to give it to the Divine so that your posture can be healed. The gods want us to be hale in order to better serve and celebrate them. They want to help. But we have to ask (know you how?).
How do we ask? The simplest formula I have heard is the prayer that goes, “God – help.” And then the trick is not to immediately look for the magical solution of all your problems. Causality doesn’t work like that. Let that go. And the need to let it go. And then in the next moment, whatever comes up – let it go. And that too. And that objection. And that digression. And that worry that you digressed. And so on.
Thor reminded me of his Marvel Comics incarnation. The comic book Thor flies, but not through force of will, not through effortful thinking, not through having a specific flying power.
No, how he flies is by whirling his hammer violently, around and around, until it builds up tremendous centrifugal force. Then he throws it, which actually amounts to releasing its circular momentum into a straight line. Just as it leaps away, he grabs the strap on the end of the handle and the hammer carries him with it.
So! This, Thor told me, is the ideal model for how to proceed. If we want to advance, if we want to fly, the way to do it is not through direct effort. No, instead we build momentum, or find momentum, or tap into momentum. When the time comes to move, we do not provide the power ourselves, we just channel the energy we have invoked through right action, self care, sensitivity, intuition, and all the rest.
If we overthink this at all then it will not work. Thor is a god of action (this is what makes him such a profound mystic). Overthinking, egoism whether self-aggrandizing or self-destroying, has a way of subtly creeping back into the mind. Vigilance but also self-compassion are necessary. It will never totally subside, but it can become more and more easily sated and salved – and therefore gradually takes up less space that could otherwise be held by happiness, laughter, play, and power.
So! Whirl the psychic hammer – do not try to somehow force forward. Instead, when the time is right just – let go, and catch the strap. The inner Mjolnir will do the rest. Our job is not to be big, strong, heroic, and striving. Our job is to make ourselves available for forces much more powerful and playful.