One of the more interesting theories regarding the structure of the mind I have heard recently is the idea that what we think of as our singular mind is actually the interaction of a number of competing brain systems or “micropersonalities.” This struck a chord with me, because of the model that I believe best explains consciousness.
Imagine, if you will, that all of your thoughts are clouds floating (or storming) around in your head. They drift in, blown by the winds of your senses and the subconscious, and they occupy your mind. Then, as soon as they’ve drifted by, the thought-clouds dissolve back into the darkness of the fringes of your mind.
This is generally how we think, especially if you’re not used to watching your thoughts.
Now, imagine that there is a tiny, tiny island in the center of that storm, and on that island is a person watching the clouds go by. He doesn’t think, talk, act, or do anything except watch the clouds.
That person is you! However, you probably don’t realize that yet in a practical sense. Because we’re so used to experiencing our thoughts, we rarely realize that we aren’t our thoughts.
This might be hard to understand, and if you think it’s easy, you might not get it.
For example, I personally think in words. My internal experience is a running monologue of my thoughts. When I started meditating, it took me a very long time to realize that there’s a difference between me (the observer) and that monologue.
If it helps, think about it like you’re telling someone about yourself. You might be able to explain yourself perfectly (or very poorly, if you’re me,) but the words you’re saying and the content of what you’re speaking aren’t you. In the same sense, the thoughts in your head and the content of those thoughts aren’t you. There are thoughts that are a part of you, and there are thoughts that are yours, but they’re not you.
You’re the observer, the watcher on the island enjoying the clouds.
How does this relate to King Solomon, you might ask? Great question!
Solomon was the son of the famous King David, and was considered to be exceptional in his wisdom. In fact, he is often called Solomon the Wise. During his rule, Israel was exceptionally prosperous and wealthy. According to legend, after Solomon had made a great sacrifice, God appeared to him in a dream and offered him anything his heart desired. Solomon asked only for wisdom. God was pleased by this, because he didn’t choose a petty reward like wealth or power. As such, he became the wisest man in all the land.
(That’s him, in the picture at the top, The Dream of Solomon by Luca Giordano.)
That’s a pretty straightforward legend, but there’s one I always liked much more than that. After the biblical era, Solomon became associated with some more… let’s say, interesting, crowds. These include magicians, occultists, and the esoteric. The stories they have tell that Solomon possessed a magic ring (potentially forged by God himself,) known as the Seal of Solomon, which gave him the power to control 72 demons. He then used the demons to build his temple and to grow the influence of his kingdom across the world.
Now, while that’s a great story, it doesn’t seem to be of any relevance, at least on the surface. However, let’s break it down into symbols.
King Solomon, the Wise becomes a representation of someone who has gained some mastery (or rules himself) through wisdom. This reflects choosing the pursuit of wisdom over power, wealth, or glory.This pleases God, who in the allegory represents the guiding principle of the universe, or the order of the world- because wisdom can advance both the individual and society, whereas power and wealth often only advance those who possess them.
Things get really fascinating when we look at the Seal of Solomon itself. The associated image is generally a modified Star (also called the Shield) of David. Now, it’s important here to note that the Star is not specifically a Jewish symbol. It appears in a number of other disciplines with its true significance emphasized.
(The symbols for the elements as used in Alchemy [which later became Chemistry])
In symbolism, an upward facing triangle is the masculine force– the sword or the phallus. Likewise, the downward facing triangle is the feminine power– the womb or the chalice.
When combined in the Star, they represent union (sexual or spiritual), balance, and creation.
Compare the symbol to the Yin-Yang (this literally translates to dark-bright,) which has a very similar meaning.
So we’ve established that King Solomon (a wise person who has developed mastery) who was granted the Seal (power from the opposing forces of the masculine [order] and the feminine [chaos] in the mind), and he can use this power to command demons.
So what are the demons?
As I mentioned earlier, there is a theory that the brain is composed of micropersonalities that compete for dominance in the brain. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “Oh, everyone has their demons,” or maybe even that someone was “possessed by demons.” My thought is that the idea of demons is actually a symbolic understanding of these forces in the mind that are seemingly independent from ourselves.
Think about the seven deadly sins: Pride, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, and Lust. Historically, these have been associated with demons, but aren’t they all just different circuits in the mind? Envy motivates us to compete with our neighbors for more (or the same) resources, Lust is the mating instinct (as opposed to the more advanced feelings of partnership and romantic love,) and Gluttony and Sloth are both the result of our drives to eat and conserve energy.
With this perspective, it’s easier to understand the whole story.
By balancing the competing forces in the mind with wisdom, we can tame our lesser passions and instincts.
Through this self-sovereignty, we can create our own temple– which here could mean the body or a creative expression of our Self in the world.
All of this begins by watching your thoughts.
When you know the difference between your Self, the clouds, and your “demons,” you can become as wise as Solomon himself.