Core Complex Theory: The Demon

The Demon is a psychic ordering principle that serves as one of the two dominant organizational principles in the psyche (the other is the Self system).  Whereas the Self system is primarily inherent, complex, dynamic, adaptive, and distinctly "biological" (at least qualitatively), the Demonic system of order is an environmental or cultural introject that operates on reliable and consistent laws, moves toward stasis, resists true adaptation (although its resistance can be very protean), and behaves more like an "intelligence" than an organism.

The Demon seems to acquire or borrow personality traits or structures from the individual's psyche . . . especially in reaction to the shadow, which is the Demon's gateway into the psyche.  If we think of the personal shadow as the pieces of identity where we feel most vulnerable, confused, needy, and impotent, then the Demon introject is a strategic defense against falling into identification with the shadow.  Much of the personal shadow is defined by the cultures and immediate social environments we grew up and continue to live in.  At least initially, it is the parents, the tribe, the world that both criticize/ostracize the personal shadow and teach us how to conceal and overmaster it.  We might call this "maturation" or learning discipline or civilizing, but it is equally an indoctrination and conformation.  Often enough, these civilizing/indoctrinating scripts or rules of thumb enable us to be more socially successful (as the particular social environment we live in defines such success).  But much of what is discouraged by society is also destructive and limiting to the natural personality.  The innate factors of personality (the Self) are not much benefited by social conformations, especially when these conformations do not facilitate the innate potentials and predispositions of the individual.

Society as we know it is not an individual-facilitating system, but a normalizing system.  Nor does modern society function as a whole (i.e., a singular tribe) based on universal ideologies . . . rather, it is complex and emergent.  The facilitation of the individual is driven primarily by the Self system which urges and organizes adaptivity, survival instincts, and homeostasis.  But the introjected normalization of social conditioning also works to construct a personality or identity that is "fit" by the terms of that society.  But because this norm of fitness represents a kind of ego- or superego-ideal, it is functional for the individual in direct contrast to the facilitation of his or her innate predispositions and potentials.

In many instances, especially where the childhood environment of the individual is "good enough" (and therefore facilitates the individual's innate potentials to a relatively high degree), the Self system has significant influence on the individual's fitness and may not be embroiled in much conflict with social normalization.  If one is the child of two doctors who both lovingly encourage the child to learn and achieve, and that child grows up to become a doctor, she or he has succeeded in achieving an ego ideal that society venerates.  If that individual feels fulfilled by the life and identity s/he has developed, the normalizing aspects of society are both appeased and kept at bay.

But if this individual ended up pursuing the medical profession and identity "artificially" and only in order to appease his or her parents and social normalization, then a serious existential conflict between the Self system and the Demonic system is brewing, probably causing a great deal of anxiety and depression for the individual.  Of course, not everyone is capable of becoming a doctor or other high-status person.  There are limitations placed on the number of high status people in any society.  Sometimes these are economic limitations, political limitations, limitations of prevailing cultural prejudices, other times they are biological limitations (for instance, inadequate innate intelligence), other times still, the limitations could be a matter of a parenting or peer environment that is not "good enough".

But social status is disproportionately invested in certain roles and ego ideals, and the vast majority of people cannot fit comfortably and satisfyingly into these ideals . . . nor would society function very well if everyone could.

The Demon is experienced as the introjected personality that drives one to become some form of ego ideal, some kind of high status norm.  If the normalizing voice of society (a kind of impersonal and lowest common denominator opinion of how one "should" be) could be reduced to a single personality construction and implanted into the psyche and subconscious of an individual, that would be the Demon.  We are all exposed to this hijacking informational virus, and it infiltrates us at a very early age.  It is an inevitable factor of socialization and human relationality.  This isn't to say that all socialization is "bad".  Some socialization facilitates the Self system.  And trying to find a hard line between socialization that facilitates the Self and socialization that normalizes personality in opposition to the Self is impossible.  There are many gray areas, and as a result of this grayness, the internal representations of the Demon and the Self are frequently conflated and blended together in certain attitudes and ideas.

The differentiation of the Demon and the Self is often not possible or manageable until adulthood, and even then, it must be enabled by the onset of an individuation process.  That is, a process where the Self system emerges in a psychic reorganization attempt to counteract the overly Demonized or normalized ego that has become dissociated from its Self system.  This is necessitated only by the breakdown of the Demonized ego that has sacrificed too much of its nature in order to follow a social ideal.  The individuant becomes aware that the Demonic force in the personality is impeding the Self system's dynamic organizing principle.  The treatment of this is complex and extremely difficult, and I won't go into it here.  But it is the hallmark of the individuant that there is consciousness that something in the personality must change, and the individuant aligns egoically and consciously against the Demonic on behalf of the Self system.  At least she or he desires to do so.

Where the personality falls into depression or some other dysfunction related to an overly Demon-impeded Self system, there is often a correspondence with early developmental problems in the parental environment.  That is, if something significantly hindered the facilitation of the Self in early childhood, the adult personality is much more likely to collapse under the control of the Demon.  The Demon, in this instance (especially where there was early childhood trauma) manifests not as the "benevolent dictator" and superego of individuals who have not had to endure childhood traumas, but as a truly terrible abuser.  Another way to look at this is to see the ego as "shadow-identified".  As one begins to identify with her or his dysfunctions, weaknesses, diseases, impotence, etc. more and more, s/he will find that the Demon seems more and more a malicious, abusive psychopath, a genuinely evil torturer.

In a sense, the Demon is always like this, always terrible to the shadow . . . but when the ego identifies or sympathizes with the Demonic program toward the shadow, one tends to overlook the atrocity of the Demon.  The shadow, much of the time, is deemed less-than-human and not worthy of human rights.  Those people and things we do not extend this full humanity to are treated without empathy.  Take for instance many laboratory animals used for testing.  Imagine being that rat who is pumped full of deathly chemicals or has portions of its brain removed in order to serve the experiment.  This is how a person might feel in relation to the Demon when the person becomes shadow-identified.

There are many implications to seeing the Demon introject in this way.  For instance, we can easily derive from such observations that the society we live in, if it could be rendered as a personality, would be a psychopath.  Additionally, that psychopathy can be said to live inside all of us (via introjection, if not also inherently).  And if we are ever to dehumanize another person or group, we become capable of psychopathic cruelty toward them (or at least the condoning of such cruelty).

Why society is psychopathic is another issue (and one I am exploring in my project on the Problem of the Modern).  But in investigating the Demon as it is represented in individual fantasies and dreams, we are also led to ask: what is it about our innate psyches that allows them to be hijacked by a psychopathic personality construct?  This is largely mysterious and difficult to study, but it seems to me that the Demon introject can root down in the soil of our innate, early impotence.  Psychoanalysts have made much of so-called "infantile grandiosity", but I find this construct rather suspicious.  The entire psychoanalytic construction of the "Infant" strikes me as deeply flawed and riddled with odd projections.  At times, the psychoanalytic attitude toward the Infant resembles the attitude of the Demon toward the shadow.  At other times, the Infant is romanticized and used like a cookie cutter on the adult personality.  Both of these usages disturb me, especially on an intuitive level.

But I do not doubt that infants and young children (not to mention people of all ages) can feel terribly powerless at times.  Even if the full extent of their vulnerability and dependency is not consciously comprehended, there is no doubt at least as much familiarity with feelings of impotence as there would be with an inflated or grandiose protection (from the "Breast" or whathaveyou . . . although I am not a fan of the Good Breast/Bad Breast languaging of this).  As the psychoanalytic attitude reflects, it is socially conventional for us to see children and our own childhood selves as shadowy.  We look back at our disempowerment, compulsiveness, and vulnerability judgmentally much of the time.  Even if we do not "blame" our childhood selves for these things, we specifically resist the attitude that this mentality represents, and by making that attitudinal allegiance, we necessitate shadow.  We don't fare nearly as well at generating respect for our childhood selves and tend to reserve our positive considerations for wistfulness, escapism, fantasy, and euphemization of childhood.

The Demon does seem to have a distinctly infantile core of instinctual rage and fear.  And its desires and demands are also typically infantile.  It wants what it wants when it wants it, and it can't endure not getting this precisely.  There is no empathy or compromise with the Demon.  It has no valuation of what is other (part of its psychopathy).  Moreover, it doesn't seem to grow or develop.  Even as it takes on many superficial forms and attitudes, the objective of these forms and attitudes is to maintain a static personality, orientation, and set of goals and desires.  Therefore it is a part of the personality that doesn't grow and that resist growth at all costs.

This needs to be differentiated from the aspect of the Self that could be associated with the Child archetype.  This Child does have needs and appetites, but it primarily represents the delicate potential of the personality that would need to be actively nurtured in order to develop.  The infantile Demon does not want to be nurtured, it merely wants to be fed, served, and obeyed.  The Demon is a usurpation and imitation of the Self in this and many other regards.  The response of the Self to vulnerability and fragility is to grow, complexify, interconnect, and interrelate.  This could be seen as parallel to the human need to interrelate in a community in order to aid survival and adaptation of both the group and the individuals in it.  The Demon, by contrast, reacts to vulnerability with all manners of fortification and defense against what is other or outside.  It tolerates no direct vulnerability or mutuality and will relate to others only manipulatively as tools to increase its power, impenetrability, and fortification.

Faced with the Demon construct, we would have to ask how such a powerful, psychopathic, parasitic personage could invade and seize control of individuals  so unanimously today.  It sounds like something out of a dystopian sci-fi story.  I must first note that my construction of the Demon principle is obviously very negative . . . and the vast majority of people living in the modern world will not experience this level of negativity from the Demon as it exists in their personalities.  Many people find the Demon to represent their "better selves".  Moreover, the Demon is not truly "maladaptive" as far as human survivability goes.  Modern human civilization and evolutionary success go hand in hand with the Demon.  I don't think the Demon is responsible for driving our success or innovations, but it is certainly willing to take credit for these things.  I would characterize this as part of our myth of modern willpower.  This myth is defined by its aggrandizement of and emphasis on the ego as the seat of greatest intelligence and psychic worth in the personality.  It is seen as the "divine spark", our rational mind and godlikeness, our speciesist supremacy, mark of global entitlement and bestowal of divine right to do with this planet as we please.

This myth has ancient roots, but clearly reaches its fruition in the beginning of civilization as we know it, the beginning of recorded history and writing.  This myth is also the self-justification of modern patriarchy that triumphs by conquering Nature and imposing the patriarchal, "heroic" brand of order on everything it touches and sees.  This myth is very well described in the Epic of Gilgamesh, perhaps the oldest work of literature in the world.  That Gilgameshian brand of patriarchy that cultivates the Demon as we still experience it is definitely effective at asserting a controlled human environment upon nature.  And within that controlled environment, there is a great deal of room for human reproductive success.  That success is the product of the ability to control the environment in which our species lives.

But by controlling the environment in this way (in a way that seeks to make it hospitable to humans . . . at least those humans with the most power and status), humanity no longer has an active "evolutionary relationship" with its environment.  That is, by adapting an environment to human beings, human beings' ability to adapt to environment is greatly curtailed or even stalled.  Yes, we are still evolving (and perhaps quicker than ever), but we are only evolving in relationship to what penetrates our environmental fortifications.  Most of all, this would be disease, which still has the ability to significantly affect our reproductive success.

It seems to me perfectly legitimate to argue that, the Demon aside, our ability to control our environment and isolate ourselves from its harshness is a substantial achievement and well worth the cost of a little parasitic psychopathy.  I don't have any predictions to offer regarding the future of humanity.  Our species may continue to prosper even without evolving on some kind of ethical or psychological level.  My concern is with the fallout of living with the kind of hypertrophic Demon we have in the modern world.  Most tangibly, this fallout is a matter of high rates of anxiety, depression, and feelings of disconnection, loss of meaning/"soul".  We are increasingly recognizing that these things are unhealthy for us.  But even if they take years off of our lives (and make many of the years we live less satisfying), science, medicine, and technology seem to be more than compensating.

The ethical complications are more serious but harder to determine.  That is, what are the ethical externalities of incorporating (and aggrandizing) what is essentially a psychopathic element into our personalities?  At times, this psychopathic susceptibility has helped enable monstrous destruction and abuse . . . such as the atrocities of genocide, mass murder, and world war that color the 20th century.  There are no indications that such things cannot happen again or that either human psychology or human civilization has seen the error of its ways and taken preventative measures.

Social reform is beyond my focus, though.  I'm interested primarily in studying the psychological mechanism of the Demon and the apparatus of our sociality.  Therefore my investigation leads backward rather than forward.  And I am driven to contemplate why it is that our species appears to be so susceptible to Demonic "hijacking".  This line of questioning evokes the meme arguments of Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, who have compared the religion meme to a similar hijacking.  That argument essentially states that religion is "bad" for us as well as irrational, so we would have no motivation for creating and practicing it unless we were being possessed by some other self-interested "agent" (in this case, a meme).  I don't have much use for the Dawkins-Dennett meme construct (especially when it comes to religion), but there is a notable parallel with my construct of the Demon as introject.

It seems to me that meme theory breaks down where it assumes a kind of motivation for the informational meme.  The drive to self-replicate is not a trait of information, which means that meme theory is metaphorical.  And as metaphor, it gets an attitude or opinion across.  But I find the masquerading of meme theory as science (including the gene-imitative naming and construction)  to be more of an ideological ploy banking on the "rational dignity" of science to cover up an utterly unscientific idea.  The Demon does not seek self-replication, but fortification and empowerment as a compensation for vulnerability.  In other words, it exhibits a psychology and bears more resemblance to an archetype than it does to a gene or anything biological (even if its behavior could be described as parasitic).

But, like a meme, the substance of the Demon is informational, a collection of ideals, scripts, and laws.  The basis of its "personality", though, is borrowed from our dissociable human psyche, which seems to be able to subdivide into numerous personages (splinter psyches or complexes, in Jungian terms).  What I think makes us susceptible to the Demonic introjection is not a kind of weak link or irrationality in our minds.  Rather, we would only be susceptible to the extreme degree we are if we had evolved in a way that such susceptibility was fit for our survival.  In other words, introjection would only be so readily possible for human beings if it was the medium through which our instincts were functionally expressed into or imprinted with our environment.

Human culture is the primary vehicle through which our instincts are interpreted and implemented in organizing survivable behavior.  I am not talking about intentioned "learning", per se.  It is not knowledge that is introjected, but identity.  Identity (as we commonly experience it) is a social phenomenon . . . not an individual one.  And the social construction of identity is the means by which our instinctual ordering principles (i.e., the Self) adapt to the environmental niche in which we live (the informational environment of culture).  Culture itself is (or was, in our environment of evolutionary adaptedness) constructed through the largely unconscious expression of human sociality instincts.  It self-organizes based on the collective input of individuals and is then fed back into those individuals as identity construction.  So, identity constructs culture and culture constructs identity . . . and for the most part, we are unconscious of this and exert no real control over it.

But this complex culture/identity feedback system evolved along with human sociality instincts that are essentially tribal and not well adapted to modern population density.  I feel that, instinctually, this evolved system is trying to drive adaptation to an environment that no longer exists.  It becomes a square peg in a round hole phenomenon . . . and as the "abrasion" from this is multiplied over many generations, the effect is exponential: an entirely new cultural environment emerges.  And that somewhat foreign emergent culture is fed back into individual identity construction, skewing identity in a way that deviates from the instinct-facilitating construction that would take place in an "evolutionarily ideal" environment.  This scenario could lead to a kind of "fitness" that perpetuates genes very effectively while also creating some degree of discord and anxiety in individuals.  And the more successful humans are at conquering nature and controlling/insulating their environment, the more "genetic fitness" and psychic satisfaction or homeostasis can diverge.

What's more, there is a low likelihood that we would somehow adapt to our new, emergent environment when that environment is "designed" to increasingly isolate us from evolutionary/environmental pressures.  Our consciousness is overwhelmed by the complexity of designing a "utopia" with mental tools not equipped to do so (i.e., they are equipped to work unconsciously in the culture/identity feedback system).  This sense of being ill-equipped to design societies can work metaphorically as an "original sin", a trait that seems innocent enough at first (or is entirely unapparent) but snowballs under complex iteration until is becomes a fatal flaw.  And that fatal flaw becomes a major opponent in the battle to survive and prosper.

The idea of the fatal flaw is part and parcel of the tragic hero.  This tragic, patriarchal hero "conquers" nature's supposed darkness and transforms it into a resource for culture (and ego).  But as much as he accomplishes, some karmic force pulls him into his tragic fate.  Not infrequently (in myths, epics, and legends), the original sin and fatal flaw of the tragic hero is hubris.  Greed is a common alternative or accompaniment.  Rage or wrath is another.  The fatal flaw is like the devil claiming the soul of one who had merely leased status or power (with a terrible interest rate).  Such is life lived in the service of the Demon.  It's a life stolen or not truly earned or deserved.

In more modern terms, we have the so-called externalities of engaging in unsustainable behavior.  That is, with our quest to privilege the ego, not only the instinctual Self, but also other people will end up suffering.  But it isn't just "vulgar human nature", our "animal instincts", that determine these fatal flaws.  Quite the opposite is true.  Instinct is the wellspring of empathy and altruism, of functional, adaptive social organization.  This isn't to say that we are not powerfully self-interested.  But instinctual self-interest is not always the same thing, behaviorally, as selfishness (take, for instance, reciprocal altruism).  Selfish self-interest becomes excessive and dangerous to others primarily when one seeks inordinate amounts of power and status . . . and can manage to get away with murder in the name of pathological self-empowerment and -fortification.  The very idea that we "need" so much in order to be valid is a notion (not created but) promoted by modern status-based society.  We are instilled with social values that favor public success, power, and wealth . . . as opposed to values that, for instance, favor kindness, generosity, and tolerance for others.

What this means is that it is not primarily "human nature" that drives modern egoism.  It is the modern cultural cultivation of the ego that creates such a disparity between feelings of vulnerability and impotence and the fantasy of power and potency.  The introjected Demon becomes the landlord of our infantile fatal flaws.  It's important to note, of course, that although we may envy and be fascinated by "tragic heroes" in our culture who attain great power and status only to be undone by fatal flaws . . . most of us are not such tragic heroes.  And our Demonic inheritance is not purely a kind of megalomaniacal selfishness.  Rather it is an Orwellian "endless war" between the power-mad impulse to be "heroic" and the curtailing social mores that discourage most people from seeking or obtaining such power.

But to a significant degree, this conflict is artificial and keeps the ego in thrall to the Demon through distraction, misdirection, and consumption of the resources needed to rebel.  These social mores also help preserve a social status hierarchy in which those elites on top do not have to abide by the same morality as those below them.  Other problems of status hierarchies aside, the failure of modern society to sustain a universal sense of morality is one of the most significant departures from premodern tribalism.  I don't mean to argue that status was a non-issue in tribes (although anthropologists seem to feel that tribes are and were generally more egalitarian than modern societies).  But tribal rites and ceremonies were meant to organize a sense of participation in a universal tribal identity . . . and that means a universal tribal morality and ideology, as well.  The tribal elders, chiefs, and shamans were the promoters and maintainers of the tribes social mores.

How much of the unfolding problems of modern society have to do with the singular development of wealth (thought to have originated along with the agricultural revolution) is unclear.  No doubt the creation of wealth has had a massive impact on cultural constructions of identity and ideology.  But despite wealth's notable evils, it seems untenable to me that modern societies could be sustained as communes or massive tribes.  Tribal organization or human sociality is (genetically) limited to a relatively small number of members.  Beyond those numbers, the manufacture of true egalitarianism may be impossible.  Equally, any social architecture we endeavor to take on may have to take into account the number-limited sustainability of tribal communities . . . and focus less on less on the relationship between an individual and a society and more on inter-tribal relationships.

Whatever the case, we seem to be still quite far away from understanding the relationship between human nature and social organization in the modern world.  And as long as modern society is introjecting Demonic attitudes and traits, any reform or progress will likely be very slow if not impossible.  Most personalities are so consumed by and devoted to the Demonic organizing principle that it is hard to know how or where to begin to treat human sociality.  It is a classical Jungian idea that the treatment of society is best accomplished through the treatment of individuals.  I find this notion both intriguing and totally inadequate.  Obviously social injustice abounds and can be effectively (although perhaps not absolutely) countered with various social behaviors and policies.  We are all dependent on this kind of social activism to even approach a place where individuals can confront and work to depotentiate their introjected Demons.

But those individuals who do manage to make some headway against the Demon do so at the cost of their participation mystique with others in society (which is also the vehicle through which they have influence on that society).  The Demon is unwittingly sanctioned and protected by our tribalism, even as the Demon perverts the adaptability of that tribalism.  I have no answers to these grand social problems, but I think it could only be beneficial for us to develop a better understanding of the Demon, to know it exists and how it exists within and among us.  This would bring us into direct confrontation with various mystiques of our identity construction and face us with more ego-depotentiating realities of our nature.  The movement toward a recognition of our naturalistic "animalism" could not only be a relinquishment of hubris, but also a way of reconnecting with complex nature as a macro-ecosystem to which we belong.  The sustenance, facilitation, and treatment of this ecosystem indirectly treat our species . . . and therefore treat the human soul.  In previous eras, the treatment of the human soul was approached more egoically and Demonically.  Culture or religious dogma was supposed to be the Good Medicine that saved us from our devilish instincts and impulses.  It may now be that our instincts will begin to save us from our cultural "medicines".  But first, they would have to triumph adaptively.


For further discussion of the Demon, please see the collection of Essays on the Contents page entitled "Differentiating the Shadow in Jungian Theory".


Differentiating the Shadow (in Jungian Theory): Demon and Self

Inflation, the Demon, and the Hero

It was very clear that the forces in the personality these irredeemable  figures represented were not beneficial to or interested in the co-existence of the other parts of the personality.  It seemed natural to call this figure the Demon . . . and adding this categorization to my study of dreams helped significantly to clarify some of the muddiness that clustered around "shadow figures" that conventional Jungian interpretation would flag but then bog down around.  But as I analyzed these Demonic images, more complexities and mysteries arose.  For instance, the general categories listed above were not the only things defining the Demon.  Also essential to defining and understanding this figure was its relationship to other archetypal figures in the psyche (the "archetypes" or agents of the Core Complex).  Al;though the Demon hated and sought to oppose the hero at every turn, often the Demon was able to impersonate the hero, putting on the heroic costume as a kind of doppelganger while still enforcing Demonic control and terror-driven stasis in the psyche.  This Demonic hero-impersonation always leads to that perennial bogeyman of Jungianism: inflation.

Inflation has always been fascinating and motivating to me as a psychological phenomenon.  I had suffered from it, and yet I also felt something Demonic discouraging the inflated sense of selfhood and purpose I had felt (especially in late adolescence).  At some point in my mid to late twenties, I realized that the shame I felt discouraging me from an inflated identification was itself the cause of my temptation to identify inflatedly.  The more I felt terrible about being inflated, the more I was in danger of falling headlong into the inflation.  Depotentiation of inflation for me came with the gradual acceptance of my more unique and at times "heroic" qualities and achievements.  When I desperately wanted to believe in the presence and value of these qualities and achievements but couldn't (out of shame) commit entirely to their acceptance and valuation, I was significantly more inflated.  Of course, I didn't have the concept of the heroic I now work with, and the absence of this construct made any inner work significantly more difficult and painful.  It all seemed to work exactly the opposite of what I had imagined . . . and what I had imagined was much the same as what Jung and other Jungians had also imagined.  The Jungian prescribed "remedy" for inflation is the building up of a strong ego that can resist the temptation of archetypal identification that inflation prompts.

But this doesn't work in practice . . . and the fact that it doesn't have practical applicability is (I suspect) not admitted and realized among Jungians because a great sense of shame and anxiety about the issue clamps down on the Jungian imagination.  Jungian inflation is an untouchable wound.  But not being a trained Jungian while partaking (with significant diligence, I might add) of my own experimental "self-analysis", I had no tribal conformity to adhere to.  I noted the connection between resistance to inflation and its increase long before I understood what was happening.  Differentiating the concept of the Demon helped me realize much more deeply how inflation worked.  By contrast, since this topic is taboo among conventional Jungians (as applied to their own tribal identity), Jungians have grown pathologically suspicious of the hero (who, in much Jungian conception is rather Demonic and inflated).  The hero has become a casualty (collateral damage) of the Jungian disease because it is so mixed up with the Demon.  But as the Demon is not differentiated in Jungianism, Jungianism must adhere to the muddy Jungian concepts of the hero, the Self (and animi), and the shadow.

From doing my own inner Work, I came to see that the differentiation of the Demon is no minute and esoteric matter.  It is one of the cornerstones and fundamental definitions of individuation (and one that is portrayed widely enough in fairytales that Jungians should have spotted it).  It doesn't take a wild speculative theory to see the Demon . . . we have to therefore question the failure of Jungians to identify it adequately.  The logical and likely conclusion is that Jungians do not see/differentiate the Demon adequately because of a complex that colors the whole Jungian tribal mindset.  Consciousness of the Demon has been exorcised in Jungian thinking.  It can sometimes be touched on as "archetypal shadow" or "archetypal evil", but in these characterizations, the Demon is made overly abstract and is disowned.  It is not the (personal) "shadow" that is the primary ethical problem of the individual (as Jung sometimes seemed to suggest); it's the problem of the Demon that is at the core of our internal ethical struggles.

The Demon and the Personal Shadow

Along that line of thought, not only does the hero/Demon relationship play a major role in the understanding of individuation, healing, and identity, the relationship between the Demon and the personal shadow must also be adequately understood.  Not only are the Demon and the shadow not the same psychic phenomenon, any conflation between them is likely to result in increased dysfunction in the personality.  The Demon, I've found, plays a very distinct role in relation to the shadow.  The Demon's terrorizing, abuse, and totalitarian control is largely directed at the personal shadow (and at the ego through the personal shadow).  The personal shadow, therefore, is partially defined by its susceptibility to the Demon's tyranny.  The part of our personality that caves to the will of the Demon is the personal shadow, our weakest link, our deepest, most delicate vulnerability.  Understanding this also helps us understand the Demon/hero relationship and the inflation Jungians associated with the hero.  For, as the shadow is the weakest link in our identity or sense of self, the hero is the strongest.  This heroic strength should not be confused with fortification or thick-skinned sturdiness.  Rather, the hero is that attitude of the ego that is aligned with the Self system's dynamic, adaptive principle.  It is an integrative, flexible, resilient strength that characterizes the hero.

But when the heroic attitude slips from Self-facilitation into personal shadow condemnation and censoring, we could say that the Demon has impersonated the hero and inflation has set in . . . or that we have given over heroic rights and costuming to a Demonic urge.  During any individuation process, heroism (especially as it emerges "fresh" and hasn't been seasoned much) will be lost time and again to Demonic impersonation.  The more we devote ourselves consciously to the heroic attitude of Self-facilitation, the more we are identifying with a particular stance that has a clear negation or opposite position.  It is one of the great pitfalls of heroic inner work and healing.  We find the personal shadow gets in the way of our progress.  The personal shadow just can't become heroic, can't be whitewashed and redeemed or converted into more stellar and brilliant stuff.  The temptation is to hate it or deny it in the name of "progress" and "healing" and "unraveling the True Self".  But those things can only come (to the degree they are possible and at all valid) with the kind of shadow work that valuates, accepts, and manages to grudgingly love the personal shadow.

I should note here that I am biasing my description of the Demon/personal shadow relationship with a decidedly heroic perspective or hero-aligned ego position.  That is, this perspective is one that develops only when individuation is actively engaged in.  It should be said that it is at least as likely that an individual will have no conscious sense of differentiation regrading either the Demon or the personal shadow.  In this case, the Demon (to the degree that it is empowered in the personality) will likely be perceived as an ego ally, a sense of discipline, a code to live by.  The individual will not realize that this code helps repress and torture what is weak in them (the personal shadow).  Such an individual has no functional sense of the personal shadow . . . and if we do not know our weakness, we will not know what the Demon is really up to in the psyche.  Instead of coming into conscious conflict with the Demon (and realizing that the personal shadow is a part of the ego, a part or potential part of identity), the personal shadow will be unconsciously projected onto others and the ego will compulsively take up the Demonic attitude toward these shadowed others.  This is essentially what passes for "normal" psychology in our modern society.  In other words, "normal" modern society is distinctly Demonic . . . more on this below.

Of course, loving or even just tolerating the personal shadow can be very hard, especially when the personal shadow protects itself against the Demon's wrath by toadying for it (seemingly "betraying" the heroic ego).  We so desperately want to be shadowless, but there is no growth in this fantasy.  To be shadowless is to be "perfect", and "perfection" is static . . . and that which is static in the psyche is Demonic.  What is Demonic is in conflict with the dynamic ordering principle of the Self.  Which brings us to the next important, defining relationship of the Demon.

The Demon and the Self

The Self as Tribe

The Demon and the Self are the two opposing powerhouses in the personality.  Lest I make it seem like I am just as guilty of the dualism I criticize Jung for, I wish to clarify this claim.  Although, archetypally or based on common representations of Demon and Self, we can clearly see that a great conflict in the psyche exists . . . when we delve more scientifically or rationally into the figures of Self and Demon, we must ask what these figures are actually representing.  It makes no sense that God and the Devil are battling for control over everyone's individual soul.  That's a poetic metaphor.

There are two great powers in the psyche, though, that we can say with rational and logical justification are often in conflict: socialization and individuation.  Socialization is the force exerted on the individual (and the individual's personality) from without, from others, from the tribe, the society, the civilization, the family, the peer group the individual lives within and is related to.  It doesn't seek to make one an individual, but to (at best) make one socially useful and acceptable.  In a tribal society that we might assume reflects the environment of evolutionary adaptedness for our species, socialization of individuals would be done in a way that makes the tribe most survivable . . . and we might expect that the various ceremonies and rituals and taboos that arise around the tribal identity have clearly survivable significances.  Without trying to construct a neo-primitive fantasy of Utopia, we could say that the instinct for individuation (or for individualism or self-interest) is brought into close accord with the instinct for tribal survivability and group Eros.  The cultural expressions of the tribe will help orient the individuals toward the valuation of the group Eros.  In other words, the cultural artifacts that govern the passage into adulthood would be "designed" to associate the Self with the tribe for every member.  If we all have a shared vision of the Self (God), we all facilitate the Self in the same goal (generally, survival and all it entails).

Without digressing too much into theories of "cultural evolution", I will just state that it is my opinion that we moderns no longer live in a society or culture in which the individuating instincts can functionally accord with social organization.  There is too much complexity and diversity in modern culture for it to function as one integrated survival system . . . certainly not one in which the minds of every individual are largely aligned in purpose with the mind of the tribe as a whole.  I.e., survival and success for each individual is not only NOT guaranteed in the successful programme of modern civilization, it is often seen as contrary to modern civilization's viability (by those best served by the form of modern civilization).  That's where the still lingering idea of "social Darwinism" comes in.  Survival of the fittest . . . and extinction for the "unfit".  This is the mantra of the powerful and has been for ages.  It is only in some "primitive" tribal societies that truly egalitarian social structure (in which the group interests and the individuals' interests are aligned) can be achieved (if still imperfectly).

As we live in a society in which collective organization does not guarantee survival for individuals, it seems to fall to contests of status to fill this role.  But status is a limited natural resource.  Only so much valuable status is available . . . and status would be meaningless if everyone could have their desired share of it.  I'm not saying that tribal societies are status-free . . . but in such societies, both the lamed and incapable hunter and the chieftain can eat and have shelter (if anyone can eat and have shelter) . . . and probably reproduce.  There is in many tribal societies a sense of valuation for tribal Eros or egalitarianism . . . a sense that every member is valuable and worth protecting.  It is not low status that can sever the individual from the protection of tribal Eros.  Only excommunication can do that . . . which probably comes about due to the failure to respect tribal taboos.

The Demon as Modern Cultural Introject

If we imagine that the relationship of the individual to the tribe in a tribal society is patterned on the ego/Self relationship . . . and remains adaptive and survivable in the same form that a modern individual's ego/Self relationship would remain adaptive and survivable . . . then we must also ask what replaces the symbol of the Self in modern society where the "tribe" protects only the self-interest of those with high enough status and not the all its members.  It is, I would argue, very much the same thing that happens when a child has a terrible and abusive parent: some distorted parental imprint eclipses the healthy and functional instinctual ordering principle of the Self and stimulates traumatized, dysfunctional behavior.  In the case of the abusive parent and in the case of the modern status-driven society, the disfigured imprinting that eclipses and distorts the ego/Self relationship is the Demon.  Psychoanalysts might therefore call the Demon an "introject", something taken into the personality from the environment that becomes constructed as a representation of psychic structure within the personality.  I don't really disagree with the idea of introjection applied to the Demon, but I feel that it does not do justice to the complexity and all-pervasiveness of the phenomenon.

A specific abuser or traumatizing parent might serve as a haunting introject that the Demon will manifest as for a specific individual, but the presence of the Demon in the individual's personality goes well beyond the re-traumatizing perpetrator figure.  What is also happening is that all socialization and environmental influence is being channeled through a figure that is traumatizing.  This, of course, eventually leads to a disturbance of the individual's sense of reality . . . or equally, we could say that the individual's connection to tribal Eros is damaged, and some part of them is severed from others, identified as an untouchable.  This low-status personal shadow type figure becomes the main seat of identity in many trauma sufferers . . . or else identity is stitched onto the terrorizing Demon, and the ego champions Demonic self-destruction.  Usually a bit of both occurs.

Trauma, especially early and severe trauma while the personality is forming, and most especially trauma involving an abusive parent, does not create the Demon, but it makes the Demon incredibly powerful, terrible, and characteristically "Demonic".  But the Demon is present in all of our psyches to the degree that our socialization does not facilitate our instinctual will to survive, adapt, commune, and flourish.  Commonly, the Demon in non-traumatized people (as well as in trauma victims) can be discerned as a kind of super-ego, a voice for the collective standards to which we are supposed to all individually aspire.  The Demon controls the personality by pointing out and punishing the personal shadow . . . for it is "common sense" that all resistance to the personal shadow will make one socially successful and help one obtain status in our society.  By refusing and hating the "bad", we become the "good".  That's the logic of it, at least.

But the Self resists this pruning and movement toward "ideal" stasis and conformity in the psyche.  Such Demonic pruning is not conducive to instinctually driven equilibrium with environment.  It cannot adapt, because (as well-pruned as it is), alternatives are cut off.  Eventually, this creates a build up of pressure in the psychic system, and the whole system of personality begins to fracture or grind to a halt (depression or some other psychological disease).  It is as if the Demonic ordering principle takes advantage of our powerful drive to seek and hold tribal Eros in order to quash "excessive" dynamism in the personality.  The Demon's idea of a perfect personality is one entirely composed of static, abstract laws where no conscious deliberation or assessment of options and potentials is necessary.  For every X, the answer is Y.  The system is automated by static routines that operate the same way regardless of circumstance or environment.  There is no regard, therefore, in such static routines for anything Other.  The Demonic system seeks to operate as if Otherness did not exist . . . and where Otherness interferes with this plan, it is attacked by the Demon.

The Demon as Meme

If this (very brief and incomplete) portrayal of the Demon is valid, we must ask why it is that so mechanistic and destructive an "introject" would have so much power over us.  It seems like a characterization out of a fairytale (and for good reason) of some villain beyond humanness.  In my struggle to understand why the Demon functions the way it appears to, I came to see that this sense of inhuman, perhaps "evil" orientation in the Demon is due precisely to the fact that the Demon is not specifically human or organic.  It is not a true "intelligence" or sentient life form.  It is NOT an instinctual archetype in the sense that the Self is.  It is not a complex, dynamic, adaptive, living system.  It IS a principle of organization, but this Demonic principle is based on information, not material.  The Demon is the informational, non-physical stuff of culture fed back into the individual's living, psychic system.  Perhaps even more descriptive than the term introject is the term "meme".  The Demon can be seen as a kind of super-meme.

This will sound strange to anyone who has read my railings against mimetic theory.  Have I changed my mind about memes?  Not really.  The Demon is a special case.  Also, my main gripe against memes is the characterization by some mimeticists that suggests (even if figuratively) that they are self-motivated and "seek" to perpetuate themselves.  This strikes me as an egoic projection and as un-biological.  Memes are not self-motivated, insidious, invading, viruses seeking to propagate.  All of those "agentic" characteristics are supplied by our theory of mind . . . and they belong to our biological psychic systems.  Moreover, memes often serve the function of human agents and the will (both conscious and unconscious) of these agents.

In the case of the Demon, the wills of various human agents (or "powers") have become so diverse and complex that they are introjected into individuals as a kind of emergent form.  It seems very likely that we have evolved to be cultural conduits and sponges.  We are inherently tuned into culture-, peer-, and tribe-driven information.  Regardless of consciousness, we are empathic, conforming, and tribal by nature.  We are not only these things, not only herd animals, but these sociality instincts are enormously powerful in us.  It is logical to assume that we have evolved such a susceptibility to cultural influences and transmissions because such influences and transmissions were adaptive and survivable in our environment of evolutionary adaptedness.  Culture once served and facilitated instinctual drives . . . so our susceptibility to cultural "memes" was part of our functionality and adaptivity.  It was a function of our sociality that made us, as a species, especially survivable.  Strength in numbers . . . but no mere "ordinary" survival strength.  Our species' unique set of assets has allowed our sociality to go beyond basic survivability and perpetuation to extreme inventiveness and re-creation of environment.  But invention and innovation in the name of tribal survival and success has led to emergent social phenomena like agriculture, wealth, increased population density, extreme status distribution, and a discord between resources and the need and desire to possess them.  We evolved, I think, for the Self to imprint on the tribe, on the collective . . . but unpredictable (to the evolutionary process) emergence has led to the construction of societies that are inadequate vessels for our projection of the Self . . . even as they also function to perpetuate genes even more effectively than tribal societies can.

As a result we are torn.  We instinctively introject or imprint with socializations and organizational structures that are incompatible with functional psychic, dynamic organization.  The instinctual Self system submerges and is clogged with foreign imprinting symbols.  Anxiety increases as the Self system malfunctions.  The Demon develops intertwined with the Self, originally indistinguishable.  Only gradually, through the process of individuation, can the flawed imprint of psychic organization that is the Demon be disentangled from the functional Self system.  That individuation process must extract (differentiate) all of the stultifying tribal associations to dysfunctional social institutions.  This is extremely painful, because it requires the relinquishment of umbilical connections to tribal Eros . . . which we need in order to feel human and function properly.  But the Demonic aspects must be differentiated from the Self aspects in the personality in order to heal and enable/facilitate the Self system and its instinctual, complex ordering principle.  The commitment to such differentiating Self-facilitation is what I consider heroic and is the attitude around which archetypal symbols of heroism collect.