The Devious Imp

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the shadow.

TS Eliot, The Hollow Men

the_lincoln_impIn a previous post I talked about some of the glories of Lincoln Cathedral. The angel choir is one of its many magnificent features – an architectural hymn to the glory of God. If you explore the nether reaches of the ambulatory region around the west end of the choir you can find, there high up on a pillar, what is now known as the Lincoln Imp. At first you look and see nothing, the small imp dwarfed by the glorious surroundings. But then you see it nestling there in the angle of two arches, hiding in plain sight.

The imp was the ultimate reminder of the dangers of complacency – there in those beautiful and peaceful surroundings was a symbol of the devil that is always lurking, even when most unexpected. Psychologically, the devil is similar to CG Jung’s concept of the shadow, the unknown dark side of the personality.

The shadow is that part of the personality that we do not consciously accept. Indeed we deny and suppress it, banishing it to the subconscious, where it forever causes trouble. Jung particularly identified the shadow as the source of psychological projection, whereby a perceived personal deficiency is projected onto someone else – so that they are seen as having that very deficiency. Of course, with such projections we increasingly no longer see others/ourselves as they/we really are.

[As an aside, one can ony marvel at the level of projection going on when politicians righteously accuse each other of lying in the current UK referendum campaign.]

The shadow only loses its power when it comes to the surface, is seen for what it is, accepted and integrated into the personality – sounds simple, but probably takes a lifetime.

As we survey the glory of the magnificent ego we have built, it is so difficult to see that imp/devil that is there. Only when we actually become aware, do we realise that it was hiding in plain sight all the time.


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