St. George & the dragon. ex Intimations pages 62 64 . Bennett
“You know the picture of George and the Dragon. One traditional treatment of the subject is that the lady, who represents the soul, is there, and that St. George is there, and he is just looking at the dragon, and the dragon, as long as his spear is just touching him, is obedient, and the lady is able to lead him. The dragon, of course, represents the nafs al ammarah (one’s own personal ego). How can we master this dragon in ourselves? The dragon is a necessary part of the drama. Eternal vigilance is required; that is represented by St. George on his horse, with his Spear, just touching the dragon’s neck. That is all that is required. As long as the dragon knows that he is watched, he is quiet and peaceful. Then the soul, the ruh, represented by the woman, can lead him on a silken thread. That is the state that we have to learn to establish in ourselves. So long as the dragon was in the cave, he was the treat. He could not be seen: what he would do next was unpredictable. When he was brought out of the cave and made visible; the whole of him to be seen, then this situation arose that St. George was able to control him. He was able to make him peaceful, make him quiet.
How does this allegory apply to our own spiritual life? The ordinary state of man is one in which he is identified with his dragon. His dragon is I. The desires of his dragon are his desires. That is the state when the dragon is in the cave. There is no possibility even of fighting with him. The dragon is inside us and we are the dragon, that is the nafs al ammarah. This dragon will obey no one. It takes over; everything is done by it, it has taken command; it has usurped the position of rightful ruler. How to see this; how to come to the point where one sees one’s dragon as not oneself; how to strive at having one’s own St. George?
St. George did not come on this scene, you understand, a novice in the matter of dealing with dragons; he had probably been to a dragon taming school. We have to learn little by little how to master what we can see in ourselves, how to master our destructive and negative impulses; our self loving impulses. The dragon becomes weak in front of St. George. then, a dreadful thing can happen: it can happen that St. George himself turns into a dragon. You must know that this is a dreadful risk that is run. If he ever thinks that he is the real beneficiary of the taming of the dragon, that the dragon has become his domestic animal, he will be in great danger. That is why the lady is there, representing the soul, the ruh, ruhani, the highest principle in man. Why is it feminine? Because it is obedient, it is loving; it is receptive, it is not seeking for power. She only holds the dragon with a silken thread. One can meditate on that picture. If you can see this in yourself, that your task in mastering your own negative part is not in order to gain command, but in order to be able to make this obedient, not to yourself, but to something other, that threefold situation is really the key to understanding about nafs al ammarah. You have heard about the nafs al ammarah, and I see that you all know about it.
Very good. if you could only really know about it!
- Mr. Bennett, could I ask you to explain what you meant when you said that there could be danger from the transformation of St. George into a dragon?
A. It is not easy, if you’ve conquered a dragon, not to swagger a bit. The real meaning of this is that one must have power as if not having it. There must be no satisfaction in having mastery of oneself. People attain mastery over themselves; they overcome fear, or anger, or some weakness in themselves, and then they ascribe this to their own merit. They begin to feel they are something, because they have overcome these things in themselves. That is how the danger arises, and it can be that this then becomes a worse dragon than the other.”