I guess each of us has experienced at least one or more periods of inner crisis in the course of his life. Melancholy, fear and sometimes even anger dominate your tormented soul, as you feel that for some reasons, you are no longer fit for the world you know as you used to be, but you cannot fully understand why. Even if you don’t want it, there you are, in the middle of an unknown land. Alone. Whether we like it or not, a crisis is an inevitable and important event of our life, as it is often the prelude for a transformation a metamorphosis of the ego, but the point is: can we really redefine the features of our soul and change? I know the answer, you know the answer: actually, nobody really changes, and the following extract from Pereira Maintains, a successful novel written by the Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi can enlighten us upon this point.
Just few words about Pereira, the protagonist, who is an elderly overweight journalist for the culture column of a small Lisbon newspaper. He continuously struggles with his conscience and the restrictions of the fascist regime of Antonio Salazar. This is the narration, in fact, of the protagonist’s reluctant political awakening which will bring him to rebel eventually. Pereira’s acquaintance with Dr Cardoso marks a turning point in the novel as he explains him his theory on the confederartion of souls, and based on that theory, he foresees a deep change in Pereira’s life :
“(..) I have a question for you, said Dr Cardoso, and that is, are you acquainted with the medecins-philosophes? No I’m not, admitted Pereira, who are they? The leaders of this school of thought are Theodule Ribot and Pierre Janet, said Dr Cardoso, it was their work I studied in Paris, they are doctors and psychologists, but also philosopher, and they hold a theory I think interesting, the theory of the confederation of souls. Tell me about it, said Pereira. Well, said Dr Cardoso, it means that to believe in a ‘self’ as a distinct entity, quite distinct from the infinite variety of all the other ‘selves’ that we have within us, is a fallacy, the naive illusion of the single unique soul we inherit from Christian tradition, whereas Dr Ribot and Dr Janet see the personality as a confederation of numerous souls, because within us we each have numerous souls, don’t you think a confederation which agrees to put itself under the government of one ruling ego. Dr Cardoso made a brief pause and then continued: What we think of as ourselves, our inward being, is only an effect, not a cause, and what’s more it is subject to the control of a ruling ego which has to impose its will on the confederation of our souls, so in the case of another ego arising, one stronger and more powerful, this ego overthrows the first ruling ego, takes its place and acquires the chieftainship of the cohort of souls, or rather the confederation, and remains in power until it is in turn overthrown by yet another ruling ego, either by frontal attack or by slow nibbling away.”
According to this theory, therefore, we never change, but we just yield to a new ruling ego, which imposes itself, as a consequence of new external circumstances. We put the old ego aside in the company of the others, which may surface once again and struggle at the right moment and be dominant again. Therefore a crisis marks the passage of one ruling ego to another one and the only thing we can do to get over it is just giving “ a helping hand whenever (we) get the chance” as Dr Cardoso suggests. After all “panta rei” (everything flows), even our ego.