Archive for the ‘Senex and Puer’ tag
I am finding Hillman’s book to be quite challenging and fascinating. He is forcing me to rethink my own muddled ideas about self, and to look at the culture in which I was born and raised. As I read daily in newspapers, editorials and in the social media of Twitter and Facebook, we are, as a culture, caught in a vortex of energy that wants release, wants to escape the messiness of a world we have created. We have “Occupy” movements, we have loud and sometimes violent and destructive protests hoping somehow that we can change the world we have created. But, can we change this bed we have created for ourselves without changing our sustaining myth as a culture? That is the critical question. Certainly, we cannot change that myth if we don’t know what that myth is.
“Were we to be interviewed by an aboriginal anthropologist from Australia for our “dream,” our “Gods,” and our “cosmology,” this would be the story we would tell. We would tell of the struggle each day brings to Ego who must rise and do battle with Depression and Seduction and Entanglement, so as to keep the world safe from Chaos, Evil, and Regression, which coil round it like an oppressive Swallowing Serpent. This gives account to our inquirer of our peculiar irrationalities, why we sweep the streets, why we pay taxes, why we go to school and to war – all with compulsive, ritualistic energy so as to keep the Serpent at bay. This is our true cosmology, for Ego, who changes rivers in their course and shoots to the moon, acts not out of hunger or Gods or tribal persecutions, as the inquiring aboriginal might imagine in his savage mind, so inert and lazy bound to the maternal uroboros, with his “weak ego.” No, our civilization’s excessive activism is all to keep back the night of the Serpent, requiring a single monotheistic single-mindedness, a cyclops’s dynamism of all the God which She and Ego have partaken together at a Western banquet lasting three thousand years and perhaps now coming to it indigestible conclusion as Ego weakens in what we call “neurosis| and the swallowed Gods stir again in the imaginal dark of his shadow and of her belly. Ego and Unconscious, Hero and Serpent, on and Mother, their battle, their bed and their banquet – this is the sustaining myth we must tell to account for our strange ways: why we are always at war, why we have eaten up the world, why we have so little imaginative power, and why we have only one God and He so far away.” (Hillman, Senex & Puer, pp 144-145)
I have been spending a lot of time going over and over James Hollis’ little book called The Eden Project and have been fascinated at that quest to return to the Garden of Eden, that place before consciousness that as humans we somehow project onto our significant others. Of course, as a man, I look at this dynamic and understand it viscerally as a return to womb, not the physical womb of mother, but the womb of soul that is embodied by the Great Mother. I realise that I, as a man that carries this unconscious desire to connect with and be subsumed in soul gets played out in my relationship with my wife. Of course, there is a lot of magic in this and therein lies the biggest danger, disappearing into this web of magic so that I forget who I am and who my wife is.
Following the thread of the quest for wholeness that is the theme of Hollis’ book, I turned to James Hillman’s book, Senex & Puer in hopes of perhaps finding something there that would shed a little more light on the topic. I had expected to find something of clarity but found instead a whole new arena of confusion and messiness to consider, that of the larger nature of the Great Mother:
“We are so used to assuming that the some of the great mother appears as a beautiful ineffectual who has laid his testicles on her altar and nourishes her soul with his blood, and we are used to believing that the hero pattern leads away from her, that we have lost sight of the role of the Great Goddess in what is closest to us: our ego-formation. The adapted ego of reality is in her “yoke,” a meaning of Hera, just as the words hero and Hera are taken by many scholars to be cognate. When outer life or inner life is conceived as a contest for light, an arena of struggles, success versus failure, coping versus collapse, work versus sleep, pleasure vesus love, then we are children of Hera. And the ego that results is the mother-complex in a jockstrap.” (Hillman, Senex and Puer, p 141)
The Eden Project thus takes on a deeper layer for me, one that goes beyond relationship and projections, a mythological level that defies neat and clean answers.
“We can anyway not rid ourselves of complexes until they have given up on us. Their decaying time is longer than the life of the individual personality, since they continue in a kind of autonomous existence long after we have left th scene; they are part of the psychic inheritance of our children and their children, both natural and spiritual. The complexes are our dosage of sin, our karma, which if given up is really only passed on elsewhere.” (Hillman, Senex and Puer, p. 129)
Complexes and archetypes sort of blend in and shift shape as though the boundaries are porous. As I am learning to understand, they aren’t all that clear as each complex bumps into and merges with other complexes as though in a stew of sorts. The same seems to happen within the domain of archetypes where the shape-shifting makes them tough to contain, let alone name. As an example, Eros is considered to be the oldest of the gods yet also the youngest of the gods, the eternal youth from which life emanates and yet also the same youth who is eternally reborn. He is both the seed (masculine) and the container (feminine). On the complex front, the mother complex is twinned with a father-complex and is combined with the great Mother Earth archetype and the Father Sky archetype, a curious blend of personal complex, cultural complex and historical genetic memory as well as primal numinous image. Both are then combined to create a holy union of masculine and feminine that somehow end up being the holistic Self. Tell me you aren’t confused, that things aren’t definitely blurry. I have to admit that I am still in the dark and that it gives me a good feeling to be there. This is a cosmos that is far beyond the capacity of ego and intellect to really “know.”
It’s enough for me to realise that how I am in relation with another person is more about my history as it is about my present. My relationship to Other is a mixture of my relationship to my own unconscious contents (stuff of which I might never become aware) as well as to my relationship to community, to culture and spirituality; and, my relationship to the other person who also has his or her own history, etc., as well as a relationship to self, community, culture and spirituality. When all is said and done, I don’t really know the Other as the other person doesn’t really know him or herself. There is really nothing objective about objective reality, it is all about fuzzy projections.