Merging and separateness are both necessary for "immersion." Merging alone has more a palliative than a healing impact, resembling more an isolated experience than a life-changing encounter. Some traditions recognize the positive potential in merged states. Visualization and meditation on certain saints or deities encourage fused identification as a way to attain the object of meditation. This sort of fusion "practice" occurs as the image emerges from consciousness and may help activate the instinctual energies of the image as part of the process of gaining insight. Still, as Jessica Benjamin points out, "The capacity to enter into states in which distinctness and union are reconciled underlies the most intense experiences of adult erotic life." how can we learn to recognize the difference between a restful, delightful fusion and an immersion that births the daimonic image? The difference is subtle. The distinction, I believe, turns on where we find the sense of "I." Has the "I" entered into the experience of the images (fusion), is it part of our own presence (immersion), or is it located in the "third" entity - that of the relationship itself (union or transcendence)? Although, ultimately, each person needs to develop the art of differentiating these states of mind through a feel for such encounters, I offer a few further suggestions for recognizing the difference.
The experience of fusion resembles the relation of a small child to her mother. The mother subsumes the child. "I" am lost in her larger presence, which we may undergo positively (an engulfing divinity), or negatively (a harrowing tormentor) or some combination of the two. The sense of self or ego remains weak, not well formed enough to survive a dissolution in the arms of this larger consciousness. Danger signals flash. Signs that fusion is operative in inner or outer relationship include an obsessive hunger for the Other, a clinging, or desperation, and a tendency to rush into relationship. These signs alternate with panicked flight, withdrawal, and distancing to avoid the seductive engulfment. Often we will need a "hit" of the adored person or a meditative practice to feel okay. Compulsivity sets the tone. Internally, the daimon tends to appear and reappear unchanged, with obsessive force. Finally, while the sensations of union may be blissful, the sense of an alchemical bodily alteration through the contact does not occur, nor does the sense of a third presence form, the presence of the relationship itself.At the first stage in the process of union, as we build a more realistic self-image through insight, some tendencies toward fusion may need to be curtailed until ego-strength builds. However, we easily overemphasize the threat of merging. A related danger presents just as great a difficulty. The insistent warnings against merging (voiced in therapeutic settings), in combination with our collective history of rejecting the dark instinctual, instill such a deep distrust of the unifying urgings of the imaginal that we unknowingly may continue to block the daimon's eroticism, or impulse to merge. Again, what was appropriate at one stage to keep a weak ego from fragmenting or blowing itself up, has now become a defense, hiding a deeper fear of alteration of self that the pending union threatens to bring. When insight needs to be integrated, our failure to surrender to the daimon's embrace blocks the contact we so badly need: the contact with the deep strength, vision, love, and creativity residing in the image.On the other hand, once the instinctual energies have been freed and the mature daimonic image appears, mere fusion with the image stands in the way of true union. Immersion with the energies of the daimonic image can collapse into fusion if it occurs before consciousness has developed sufficiently to bear the erotic tension between a separate identity and union. The entire atmosphere is one hallmark of sustaining the self-sense in face of the numinous other. Once the ego trusts enough to released into larger consciousness, however, immersion brings us into contact with the instinctual roots of the image without relinquishing our own ground. Such culminating unions are rare, often coming after long dark periods. Such an inner union occurs between "equals," as between two lovers in sexual embrace. A tone of surrender surrounds the encounter, and subtle alchemical changes appear to result for both partners. In imaginal realms, the daimon appears to change, too, through its union with the body.The line between immersion in the image and union is then more theoretical than real. Once we enter into union with the image, the image often begins to shape shift. Classically (but not necessarily), the image gains more human features through the union. We are filled with the liquid presence of the daimon, and the sense of "I" now rests in the "third," a palpable presence born of the union that can feel like a god or goddess - a spiritual force (the Holy Ghost?) - forming a triangular relationship with the body-self and the daimonic Other. This radical shift opens the doors to visionary awareness. - Sandra Lee Dennis, Embrace of the Daimon
What is the cause of such conditions? They are the result of our need not only to experience the life of the soul discarnately but also to bring this experience of the discarnate soul down into the physical body. We must allow it to immerse itself consciously. Just as that which I have described to you in the course of these lectures gradually extricates itself from the body between birth and the change of teeth, so also that which is experienced externally, which we could call experience of the astral, immerses itself again in the physical organism between the change of teeth and puberty. And what takes place in puberty is nothing other than this immersion between approximately the seventh and fourteenth years. The independent soul-spirit that man has developed must immerse itself in the body again, and what then emerges as physical love, as sexual desire, is nothing other than the result of this immersion I have described to you. One must come to understand this immersion clearly. Whoever wishes to gain a true understanding of the basis of consciousness must be able to effect this in a fully conscious, healthy way, using such methods as I shall describe here later. That is to say, he must learn to immerse himself in the physical body. Then he attains an initial experience of what manifests itself as an Imaginative representation of the inner realm. Here a faculty of formal representation framed for an external, three-dimensional world of plastic forms is insufficient. To perform this inner activity one needs a mobile faculty of formal representation: one must be able to overcome gradually everything spatial in Imagination and to immerse oneself in the representation of something intensive, something that radiates activity. In short, one must immerse oneself in such a way that in descending one can still clearly differentiate between oneself and one's body. Whatever inheres in the subject cannot be known. If one can keep what one experiences outside from immersing unconsciously in the physical body, one descends into the physical body and experiences in descending the essence of this body up to the level of consciousness in Imagination, in pictures.Whoever fails to keep these pictures separate, however, and allows them to slip into the physical body, confronting the physical body not as an object but as something subjective, brings the sensation of space down into the physical body with him The astral thereby coalesces with the physical to a greater degree than should be allowed. The experience of the external world coalesces with man's inner life, and because he makes subjective what should have remained objective, he can no longer experience space normally. Fear of empty space, fear of lonely places, fear of the astrality diffused through space, of Storms, perhaps even of the moon and Stars, rise up within one. One lives too deeply within oneself. Thus it is necessary that all exercises leading to the life of Imagination protect one against descending too deeply into the body. One must immerse oneself in the body in such a way that the ego remains outside. One may not take the ego out into the world of Imagination in the way that one must carry the ego out into the world of Inspiration. Although one worked toward Imagination through a process of symbolization, through pictorial representation, in Imagination itself all pictures created by mere fantasy disappear. Now objective pictures emerge instead. Only that which actually lives within the human form ceases to confront one as an object. One loses the outward human form and there emerges a diversity of living forms from the human etheric. One now sees not the unified human form but the profusion of animal forms that interpenetrate and merge to create the human form. One comes to know in an inward way what lives within the realms of plants and minerals. One learns this through introspection. One learns what can never be learned through atomism and molecularism: one learns what actually lives within the realms of plants and minerals. And how is it that we avoid bringing the ego down into the physical body when we strive for Imagination? Only by developing the power of love more nobly than in normal life, where love is led by the powers of the bodily senses. Only by acquiring the selfless power of love, freedom from egotism not only regarding the realm of humanity but also regarding the realm of nature. Only by allowing all that leads to Imagination to be borne by love, by merging this power of love with every object of cognition that we seek in this manner.Again we have divergent tendencies: the healthy tendency to extend the power of love into Imagination or the pathological tendency to expose ourselves to fear of what is outside. We experience what lies outside with our ego and then, without restraining our ego, bear it down into the body, giving rise to agoraphobia, claustrophobia, and astraphobia. Yet we enjoy the prospect of an extremely high mode of cognition if we can develop in a healthy way what threatens humanity in its pathological form and would lead it into barbarism. ... These two faculties, however, those of Inspiration and Imagination, can join together. The one can coalesce with the other, but it must happen in full consciousness and by comprehending the cosmos in love. Then there arises a third faculty, a confluence of Imagination and Inspiration in true, spiritual Intuition. Then we rise up to that which allows us to recognize the external material world to be a spiritual world, the inner realm of the soul and spirit with its material foundations as a continuous whole; we rise up to that which grants us knowledge of the expansion of human existence beyond earthly life, as I have described it to you here in other lectures. One comes thus on the one side to know the realms of plants, animals, and minerals in their inmost essences, in their spiritual content, through Inspiration. By coming to know the human organs through Imagination one creates the basis for a true organology, and by uniting in Intuition what one has learned about plants, animals, and minerals with what Imagination reveals concerning the human organs, one attains a true therapy, a science of medication that knows in a real sense how to apply the external to the internal. The true doctor must understand medications cosmologically; he must understand the human organs anthropologically, or actually anthroposophically. He must come to grasp the external world through Inspiration, the inner world through Imagination, and he must achieve a therapy based upon real Intuition. - Rudolf Steiner, The Boundaries of Natural Science
If a child has not had the feeling for beauty awakened in him, has not been educated to see the world from an aesthetic point of view, then that boy or girl will at this age of life tend to become sensual, perhaps even erotic. There is no better way of restraining eroticism than by a healthy development of the aesthetic sense, a feeling for what is noble and beautiful in nature. When you lead children to feel the beauty and the glory of sunrise and sunset, to be sensitive to the beauty of flowers and to the majesty of thunder and lightning, when, in short, you develop in them the aesthetic sense, you are doing far more for them than if you were to give them the sex education which it has now become customary to give children at the earliest age and which is often carried to absurd lengths. A feeling for beauty, an aesthetic approach to the world - these are the things that restrain eroticism within its proper limits. As a child learn to perceive the world in all its beauty, he learns also to stand as a free being over against his body; he is not oppressed by it. And that is what eroticism is - to be oppressed and tormented by one's own body.Nor is it any less important that by this age the children should have developed certain moral and religious feelings. Such feelings always have a strengthening effect upon astral body and ego. These grow weak if there has been little development of moral and religious impulses. The child grows lethargic, as if physically paralyzed. And this will show itself particularly at the age with which we are dealing. Lack of moral and religious impulse will come to expression in irregularity in the sexual life.In all this preparation for the age of puberty we have to take into account also of the differences between boys and girls. For the girl, the moral and ethical impressions we give her should incline to the aesthetic. We must do our best to present the moral, the good and the religious side of life so as to make them attractive, so that the girl feels them to be beautiful. She should feel joy in the knowledge that the whole world is permeated with the supersensory; her imagination should be richly supplied with pictures that are expressive of the divine that feels the world, expressive also of the beauty that reveals itself in the human being when he is good.For the boy, on the other hand, it is the power that is at work in religion and morality that we must have more in mind. The girl needs to look at the religious and moral and see its beauty. With the body we have rather to stress the courage and the sense of power that radiate from them. We must not of course push this to extremes, imagining we are to train girls to become so aesthetic as to see everything in that light alone, and boys to become bullies, as they would if we were to excite their egotism by appealing on all occasions to a feeling of power. We do right to arouse in the body a sense of his own power, but it must be in association with things that are good and beautiful, and religious in the true sense.We have to be careful to avoid letting the girls become superficial, mere spurious devotees of beauty in the awkward years; and withe boys we must take care that they do not develop into young hooligans. These are the dangers that threaten from both sides, as it were. And we need to be fully conscious of them, even while the children are still in the younger classes. We should lead the girls to find pleasure in what is good in the world, and to feel the beauty of what belongs to true religion. To the boys we should make a rather different appeal. We should constantly be telling them: 'See, if you do this, your muscles will grow taut, and you will be a fine, strong lad!' It is in such ways that a boy can be roused to a sense of the presence of the divine within him. - Rudolf Steiner, A Modern Art of Education
The ego isn't a bad thing. If we didn't develop a strong ego, a strong sense of self, we shouldn't be able to relate to and engage with the extremely powerful and archetypal forces (both dark and light) of the unconscious. If we don't have a strongly developed sense of self (even though it is not, ultimately speaking, the true self), we will get overwhelmed and taken over by the powers of the unconscious such that we will compulsively act them out. We have to develop a sense of an egoic self in order to be able, when the time is right, to offer it to something greater than ourselves. In order to surrender, we must have something to let go of. The development of the ego is part of the growth and evolution of the Self, as if the Self realized it needed and thereby created the instrument of the ego in order to actualize itself. The birth and formation of the ego, however contrary to our nature it seems, is not an aberration, but rather, is the very vehicle through which our nature evolves into ever-newly emerging and creative forms. This is to say that the ego plays a key function in the divine plan of awakening. It is incredibly important to develop a sense of self, even though in the ultimate sense, any reference point for who we are needs to be seen through for the relative illusion that it is. This is analogous to becoming lucid in a dream and realizing that we are not the "dream ego" with which we've been identifying, which we recognize as simply being an assumed model, an unreflected-upon "stand-in" for who we really are. Though the construct of the ego has served us well, helping us to get to where we are, we needn't hold onto it after it has outlived its usefulness. An arbitrary construction, the ego is a convenience that can serve us in many different circumstances, helping us navigate situations in the world that require us to play different roles. When we understand the illusory nature of the ego, we can play whatever role the field is calling for us to step into, without overly identifying with or being caught by the role. We are then in the dream but not of the dream, bringing to mind Christ's words "to be in the world, but not of the world." - Paul Levy, Dispelling Wetiko
In addition it should be realized that one community is never utterly and completely like another, nor one member within a community like any other member. Instead unanimous and harmonious variety of all exists, and these variations have been so ordered by the Lord that they strive towards one single end, which is attained through love and faith in Him. From this arises their unity. For the same reason one heaven and form of heavenly joy is never utterly and completely like another. Indeed variations in love and faith are what determine the nature of heaven and its joy. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 690