“Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions.”
Step 1.) Realize that imagination is superior to reason:
“Necessary illusions enable us to live.” ~Ingmar Bergman
Before transformation, before self-empowerment, even before courage, there must be imagination. If you cannot even think outside your tiny lamb’s box, how will you ever be able to transform yourself into a lion powerful enough to trample it?
Thus, imagination is foremost. It is even more important than reason. Because reason is telling you that you’re just a little lamb stuck in a little lamb world with mighty wolf laws keeping you in check, docile, and immure. So, you will have to sacrifice reason to imagination in order to gain the wherewithal to challenge the system. Most of which is religious smoke and mirrors, a political song and dance, and merely a cultural cartoon playing itself out in your brain.
You must be able to transcend the box that has you thinking like a lamb before you can gain the courage to crush it. Mind must come before matter in this matter. It’s a delicate epistemological balancing act, a precarious existential highwire show, an intellectually Herculean task requiring Promethean audacity. And it is one that you will probably fail at.
This is because cognitive dissonance itself will be your greatest enemy. Which means you will be your greatest enemy. Therefore, the most important part of realizing that imagination is superior to reason is understanding the importance of staying ahead of the curve of your own human conditioning. In short: it means getting out of—and then staying out of—your own way.
This will require putting your Ego on a leash. Which will require resurrecting the only thing that can keep it on a leash: your Soul.
Step 2.) Take a leap of courage out of faith:
“It is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel.” ~Anatole France
After you’ve managed to think outside your tiny lamb’s box through the power of imagination, it’s time to crawl out of it. But how do you do that? The simple answer is courage. In particular: a leap of courage. In more particular: a leap of courage out of faith (rigid certainty) and into fortitude (flexible curiosity).
But first, we need some context. What exactly is it that’s buttressing your lamb’s faith? What is it in particular that’s propping up your lamb’s rigid certainty? What is it precisely that is keeping you conditioned, indoctrinated, and/or brainwashed into believing a certain way?
Put simply: it’s the pettiness of your ego. Put a bit more complexly: it’s the culturally conditioned aspect of yourself projected onto the world. Put concisely: It’s the socially constructed part of you that you have subconsciously used as an identity to engage with reality.
But what happens when—having used the power of imagination over reason—you finally realize that this culturally conditioned aspect of you is limiting you and keeping you inside the box? What happens when you finally see how it is the culturally constructed ego that is keeping you meek, weak, and courage-less in your lamb-hood? What happens when you finally understand what’s preventing you from becoming a lion?
Now enter Ego Death. Most people falsely assume that Ego Death means killing off the ego. This is not what it means. Ego Death means annihilation. The ego is annihilated in the “cocoon” of “death” in order to emerge as the “butterfly” of the soul. Ego Death is more of a rebirth than it is a destruction.
The metaphor of the cocoon is trite but important. The invulnerable ego must die in order for the vulnerable soul to be born. Certainty must die for curiosity to be born. Attachment must die for detachment to be born. Rigidity must die for flexibility to be born.
Taking a leap of courage out of your tiny lamb’s box (faith) must take place in order to cure the disease of certainty with the medicine of curiosity. Without curiosity there is no openness to new knowledge, there is no flexibility of thought, there is no plasticity of spirit. Without curiosity there is no way you will be able to integrate your shadow. Which is the next vital step in how to transform a lamb into a lion.
3.) Integrate the shadow:
“My devil had long been caged; he came out roaring.” ~Dr. Jekyll
With your curiosity in front of you and your certainty behind you, you now have the existential plasticity to face the Underdark of Yourself. Your certainty is shattered glass behind you as you walk “barefoot” into yourself. Your curiosity is a blazing light inside you, shining into the darkness, making the darkest parts of yourself light up into glorious conscious awareness.
Having been hidden, hushed, and repressed for so long, the shadows come alive. They dance with fierce revivification. They laugh with thirsty desire. They sing with jovial howls. They are finally seen, felt, heard. And they are hungry. Their appetite slams together inside you, a soul-quaking shockwave, shaking you to the core. They join forces to become the shadow aspect, the inner beast reborn, primal darkness incarnate.
It rises up inside you, an alien demon taking over, seemingly separate at first, but finally coalescent. In the end, you realize that it is more you than your previous self could have ever hoped to be. More real. More primal. More vital to becoming the best version of yourself than anything that could have come before. It transforms your delicate sheepishness into fierce lionheartedness.
You feel more alive than ever. A sacred alignment manifests. The pieces of your puzzled self-paradoxically click together. You feel whole, actualized, aware. Most of all, you feel hungry, thirsty, ravenous, voracious. Your lion appetite swallows your tiny sheep stomach whole. It’s finally time to eat—and eat well.
4.) Grow your teeth; sharpen your claws:
“We should go to heaven for form and to hell for energy and marry the two.” ~William Blake
Now that your shadow has been aligned with your light, it’s time to transform fear into fuel for the fire to come. It’s time to grow those teeth and sharpen those claws. It’s time for fierceness over pettiness, absolute vulnerability over resolute invulnerability, and courage over cowardice. In short: it’s time to start living a courage-based lifestyle rather than a fear-based one.
You do this by first honoring what came before. Honor the death of your Ego and its painful transformation into Soul. Honor the death of your naivete and its painful transformation into shadow alignment. Honor the death of your sheepishness and its painful transformation into lionheartedness.
Second, you must transform your roots into a crown. You must force your mortal coil into a vital halo. You must dig deep into the humus of your humanity and strike the primal lodestone. From the spark will come an energy that will sharpen your teeth, claws, and soul. It will propel you into animal greatness. It will teach you honor, humility, and humor. But it will also teach you fierceness, courage, and audaciousness.
It’s finally time to crush that outdated sheep’s box with your mighty lion’s paw.
5.) Draw a line in the sand; challenge all comers:
“The increasing dependence on the State is anything but a healthy symptom, it means that the whole nation is in a fair way to becoming a herd of sheep, constantly relying on a shepherd to drive them into good pastures. The shepherd’s staff soon becomes a rod of iron, and the shepherds turn into wolves.” ~Carl Jung
How does a lamb transform fear into courage and become the brave lion who is capable of keeping wolves in check? The lamb must first put itself in check by questioning why it believes what it believes about the way the world works.
The lamb must ask itself: Are my beliefs culturally conditioned by a sick society? Have I been brainwashed into believing a certain way by a religious or political party? Do I just blindly obey out of fear of losing my comfort, safety and security? And, most importantly of all, once I realize I’ve been mistaken, will I cease being mistaken or will I cease being honest?
It’s a tricky tightrope between fear and courage. The way toward freedom is not for the faint of heart. Which is probably why there are so few lions among men.
A lamb that can manage to question its fear-based lifestyle—a lifestyle built upon blind obedience, addiction to comfort, and reliance on wolves to keep them “safe”—is a lamb that has the potential to become a courageous lion.
If a lamb can manage to become a courageous lion, then the next step is to reveal its courage to the world. This requires a complex recipe of trust, vulnerability, adaptability, and risk-taking.
Lions realize that life is a risk. They embrace that risk with honor and courage. Where sheep fear making waves, lions relish in it. For they realize that sometimes you must rock the boat to keep it afloat.
Life is too short to be a bystander. Lions take a stand. They draw a line in the sand. They bare their teeth. They show their claws. They crush ultimatums through the power of their own moral autonomy. They ruthlessly reveal why the buck must stop here.
Lions are all too willing to cause trouble when the culture itself is troubled. They must. Trouble be damned! When society fails to regulate itself, the lionhearted must regulate society. This has always been the task of lions.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (How to Transform Lambs into Lions) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.