On Before the Cult

On Before the Cult: Three Faces of Sandy

Warning: This post will contain huge spoilers, don’t read if you have not read Before the Cult.
Although the ending of the novel allows for many interpretations as to what is meant by “imaginary friends” there is one thing that is clear. Sandy, Macxermillio and Macfearson, work as a single unit. Just how this trinity functions is the interesting part and reveals a lot about the nature of the main character(s) and illuminates some of the things that occur in the story and lends a lot of meaning to how and why the story ended as it did.
The trinity is modelled, in part, over the Freudian concept of the id, ego and the superego. For more information on these go online, I’m going to touch a bit on these here.
Id – the id it is irrational and fantasy orientated. It is pure desire and instinct, all it wants is to fulfil these basic instincts and desire not matter the cost or the consequences. It is the most primitive part of our psyche and it is largely unconscious and impulsive.
Ego – it is orientated around problem-solving; realistic and rational it is. It negotiates ways, between us and our world, which can fulfil the desires or urges exerted by the id while avoiding the most pain it can to the self. However, it does not have a sense of right and wrong.
Superego – it is the voice of conscience and the source of guilt in most of us. It is aware of right and wrong, values and the society at large. If a person gives in to the desires of the id without listening to conscience, it can punish you by guilt and other uncomfortable emotions or thoughts; the reverse of that will be making us feel proud when we do something right.

Now the trinity itself is divided into these functions or a version of them. Instead of these functions being part of one psyche they are personalised and function as three distinct personalities who have their own psyches (or at least they are presented that way).
Macfearson is the id, he is the most primitive and instinct bound of the trinity. He has these erratic energies and passions inside him, obsessive, impatient and not easily influenced by reason. He is brute desire and feelings. The only thing keeping him on check is Macxermillio who Macfearson is subservient to him largely because of the reasons I have elaborated on previously.
Macxermillio is the voice of conscience, reason. He is the superpergo and also part ego. He is the intelligent, meticulous, even-tempered and strategic one of the trinity. Without him, they have no direction and they are bound to self-destruct, he brings order to chaos, calm to the storm and direction to aimlessness. However, sometimes, although rarely, he can get side-tracked because of his tremendous responsibilities that is why he sometimes needs Macfearson to remind him of what they are about (a bit of passion). Macfearson needs him the most though, without Macxermillio he is bound to wind up in trouble; he requires the moderation. Macfearson without Macxermillio is oblivious to the consequences of his actions, he is race car without breaks and gear. Macxermillio without Macfearson is a machine without a soul.

Sandy is part ego and part id and he is also the axis at which these personalities meet. Since he is the one with a body, or the real one, the others depend on him to exist simply because they are ‘in his mind’. Contrary to intuition, that does not make him the strongest force in the trinity or the most significant. He might be the body that moves about in the world but he is not in complete control. He, like Macfearson, is also subservient to Macxermillio. He is also drawn more to Macxermillio because, like Macxermillio, he is rational and pragmatic, at the same time Macfearson is a part of him and he sympathizes with bits of his personality because after all he is half-id.
This is why the death of Macxermillio by the calling is important, it signals the triumph of irrationality, instinct, confusion and brute forces because the force that keeps everyone together and sane is annihilated, namely Macxermillio (the superego and half-ego). Why does that happen? What is it that takes away this element of common sense and conscience? The only element capable of understanding reality or society? The trinity’s, or Sandy’s, only hope of dispelling its delusions? Well, the simple answer is depression. The complicated answer is the calling.
Since Macfearson, being the personification of brute desire and instinct, is the most homicidal and extremely suicidal force, that is also obsessed with the fields/the crop, he is left to reign over the weaker Sandy, who is half-ego and id and no surperego, therefore, no match for Macfearson. This is why the self-destruction creeps in once Macxermillio is removed and the novel takes a somewhat exaggerated erratic turn. There is no moderation, a voice of conscience or a sense of direction remaining. That is why the book ends like it did.
It’s worth noting that although Macxermillio is the voice of conscience and direction, he is a different kind of conscience that holds unusual values, beliefs and moral standards. This is because he is a conscience in a mentally ill mind. A mind that is warped and twisted. Perhaps the most important thing about him is that he represents the capacity to heal. He is the hope because he can initiate change and see the world as it really is.
The trinity, in a sense, is a state of perpetual internal conflict since the others are “imaginary friends” except Sandy. However, in a way, the trinity is Sandy Macxermillian and Sandy Macxermillian is the trinity this is why I titled essay this “Three Faces of Sandy”.

On the next post we look at the calling.

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