The Stoic

dcfghi0Archetypes such as father and mother spring from life’s urgency to reproduce itself but the Stoic encapsulates the evolution of the human brain towards consciousness. There are good arguments for the development of the pre-frontal cortex in human beings developing in conjunction with our capacity to over-ride instinct and emotion in the pursuit of conscious objectives. It is the region of the brain responsible for moderating social behavior. It allow us to detach from our instinctual desires in order to act on conscious will. Without it we would not be able to delay the gratification of immediate consumption for the benefit of storing food over the winter or curtail our desire for revenge for the good of a tribe.

Not surprisingly this practice of detaching from our desires and emotions finds  spiritual expression from the beginning of recorded religion. From the earliest writings of Hinduism we read of the ascetic – the practitioner who would undergo a denial of food, comfort and sexual relations In pursuit of a deeper spirituality. On one level it may seem surprising that a person would deny themselves such basic bodily needs such as food and human intimacy but when one is in the power of an archetype it can dominate basic body needs.

Because Spirit is associated with essence over substance when in the throws of the detached archetype the ascetic will feel spiritually powerful and “pure”. Because spirituality is also associated with the “wholly other” as Otto calls it there often develops a mythology around the expression of this archetype associated with denying this world for the next and the conquest of spirit over body. But it is not just the ascetic who bows to the archetype of the detached but also the puritan who denies the pleasures of this world for that of the next. Even during the Christian reformation when the Protestants were closing down the monasteries to protest the value of the ascetic life the archetype crept up from behind them to find expression in puritanism.

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