Wikipedia notes on the entry for Paul’s companion Silas:
Catholic theologian Joseph Fitzmyer points out that Silas is the Greek version of the Aramaic ‘Seila’, a version of the Hebrew ‘Saul’, which is attested in Palmyrene inscriptions.
I wonder if Silas/Silvanus could be Paul’s name for his own alter ego, the “Saul” of his prior persecuting life, his shadow side, his human side, his “sinful” side, prior to perhaps taking a “new name” of Paul after his conversion experience. Peter says Silas is a “faithful brother.” Cicero apparently coined the term “alter ego” in 1st century Rome, calling it “a second self, a trusted friend.”
We are all familiar with Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, or Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, or Spiderman’s alter ego, Peter Parker, or Wonder Woman’s alter ego, Diana Prince. The Hero always has an alternate identity, a secret identity, in which he/she can “hide,” so as not to reveal who they really are in public. There seems to be an archetype in these stories pointing to a very “human” side of the more “super” Hero.
Even Jesus may have been both “Jesus” (human) and “Christ” (divine). There’s also some who speculate that Thomas and Judas were personalities within Jesus, and not really other persons. As it notes on the Wikipedia page for the apocryphal Book of Thomas the Contender:
The dialogue can also be read as an internal conversation between Jesus and his lower self, Judas Thomas, the twin (contender for supremacy of the soul). The New Testament’s “doubting” Thomas and Judas “the betrayer” could also be symbolic and descriptive of this internal battle between the Christ Self and ego identity.
Of course, we also have the case of Siddhartha Gautama who awakened to his true identity/nature as Buddha.
It’s been said that our human self is a kind of mask on the Divine Self within, a way that God has hidden its Self behind the façade of the individual human, as a kind of masquerade. God has hidden its Self so well in us that even we don’t know God is there! The ego-self has veiled God within, has put a mask on the God-Self. Those who realize the God-Self thereafter may play two personas, two identities, but they realize who they really are underneath the ego-self façade. They continue to “hide” behind the mask of their ego identity, occasionally emerging as their true divine Self to help save others from suffering.
Maybe these mythologies are pointing to a real reality in us too. Might we not all have a “human” and a “divine” side to us, the “finite” and the “Infinite,” the individual “self” and the cosmic “Self,” our “dark” shadow side and our “Light” side, the lower self and Higher Self? Might we not all be super Heroes, disguised as our current alter ego-self, our secret identity as a mere human? Might we all have at least two of us in us, a dual identity, in this dualistic sphere of perception?
Perhaps when we transcend duality into nonduality, into oneness, there is only One identity that remains, our true Identity.
(The painting at the top of the post is The Apostle Paul by Rembrandt van Rijn, c1675, oil on canvas.)
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