Have recently returned to an amateurish study and consideration of psychology, I found myself frustrated by enormous generalisations and oversimplifications, and drawn back to Plato’s Republic.

In Republic, he writes of a utopia rules by philosopher kings, and made up of a population of soldiers and workers. This is, mostly, a metaphor for a balanced mind, which he believes should be made of three parts, working in harmony but ruled by reason. Plato uses the metaphor of a philosopher, a lion and a dragon to represent Reason, Pride and Instinct/Desire. The parallels in modern psychoanalysis are obvious.

The complexity and controversy in defining an Ego (for example) make it a tricky thing to grasp from a scientific or logical stand point. What exactly is an Ego? What does it do? It is beneficial or harmful? Just exactly how much Ego is healthy? In addition, it cannot be observed or quantified.

Why not just call it a Lion?

Or a soldier, or a guardian, or unicorn or a kitten? The point is to accept that it is a metaphor.

My realisation was that everything is a metaphor or a myth. Science’s invisible atoms and quantum cats are no more real or unreal (in terms of human experience) than Thor and his hammer. The jargon and paradigms of science and psychology are just as much a metaphor as Plato’s Republic or the Gods and monsters of out ancient ancestors. We can no more touch a quantum particle or an Id than we can touch a dragon or a giant. They are all myths and metaphors through which we try to understand life and the universe.

This is the only way in which humans can understand the infinite, beautiful and terrifying universe which surrounds us.

Pictures and stories are all that we can understand, and they help enormously, and that is alright.



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