Deconstructing and Reconstructing Individuation


The following reflections constitute a preliminary dive (or cannonball) into an area of Jungian thinking that is in very dire straits: the construct of individuation.  Why is it in dire straits?  The reasons are many, and I don't intend to systematically delineate all of them in these essays.  To name a few . . . because the Jungian individuation construct is flawed and does not work.  Because the individuation construct is mired in very woolly language and thinking communicable only to "believers".  Because the developmental and archetypal schools of Jungian thought have already moved on to reject or ignore or degeneratively redefine the individuation construct the classical school has always cherished and locked safely in its trophy case to gather dust.

These are perhaps strong accusations, although not truly original ones.  Some of the previous critiques of the individuation construct are quite valid, in my opinion.  But they commonly lead to a debunking and rejection of individuation as a useful psychological or psychotherapeutic paradigm.  Individuation has often been (to its critics) a piece or archaic, useless clutter to be tossed out during any spring cleaning of the Jungian household.  My perspective is different.  What I think we have here is no trophy or tattered antique.  Rather, it is an exquisite, but broken, instrument.  It must be deconstructed, taken apart, carefully cleaned and repaired.  But it can then be reassembled in a functional form.

To recast that analogy, it is as if the instrument of individuation was incorrectly assembled (and perhaps designed) by Jung and his early and more classical followers.  When it was wound up with the hope of spinning into some kind of perpetual motion, it quickly sputtered to a halt.  Since then, the classical true believers in the original assembly of individuation have insisted that it is really a great instrument . . . but with numerous qualifications.  It is-but-is-not X, Y, Z.  It is endless and has only a symbolic/imaginal conclusion.  As a movement toward wholeness, it is always growing and growing asymptotically.  If you are becoming frustrated with its lack of payoff, you simply aren't doing it right . . . although only a qualified Jungian can subjectively assess whether or not you are doing it right (payment for this assessment is much appreciated, although buying the book of said Jungian is the next best alternative).

There is a great deal of mystification and fluff padding the abundant failures of individuation to prove itself equal to the classical Jungian propaganda about its transcendent sublimity and incalculable worth.  Like any god who does not show at the designated time and place, individuation has become mythic, fantastic, arcane, and much abstracted and rationalized.  It's failures are always failures of the believer or pursuer and never of the paradigm itself.

I envision a work of scholarship that systematically analyzes the history and construction of the individuation construct, pulls together various ideas, quotations, social and historical contexts . . . a kind of critical biography of this Jungian deity.  Such a work is, I think, necessary.  But I do not intend to attempt it, certainly not in these essays.  I don't intend to attempt it in part because it is a massive task involving a great deal of tedious scholarly research that would be of minimal interest to me.  But more importantly, I won't attempt it because I have absolutely no expectation that there would really be an audience interested in such a work, no matter how "necessary" I feel it is.  More accurately, I don't think the audience that would be interested in a critical history and analysis of individuation would be very interested in where it would lead.

Where I think it would lead is to the death of a beloved god.  That death would have to be defended against and denied all the more forcefully and delusionally, driving Jungian thinking deeper and deeper into dysfunction, hypocrisy, and ineffective isolation (or occultism).  I do not want to serve that destruction and decline of Jungian thought (although it will probably get there eventually on its own terms).  If an author were to write the kind of historical critique I am envisioning, it would only be embraced by critics of Jungianism, providing more fodder for the condemnation and dismissal of Jung and his ideas.  Jungians would, I feel quite sure, be utterly unable to make any use of it.

As precedent (among many smaller examples) I give the Jung-bashing books of Richard Noll.  Noll's books did indeed stir up the Jungian community and definitely contributed ammunition to opponents of Jungianism.  They even had a subtle but seriously destructive effect on Jungianism, contributing to (although, of course, not originating) the splintering of the Jungian tribe into at least three schools in conflict with one another in complex ways, all diverging from a center.  Noll gave more embodiment to a characterization of Jung that many Jungians want to get away from, to distance their own Jungianism from.  But fleeing from this shadowy Jung and from a point of central convergence in Jungian thought that functioned as a core value system and "origin myth" has led many Jungians into self-conflict with their own Jungian identity.

Noll's books fueled this explosion considerably despite the fact that they themselves were very weak and often misleading in their anti-Jungian arguments . . . despite the fact that, literally speaking, most of Noll's implications and accusations were untrue, and provably so (as Sonu Shamdasani demonstrated in his own debunking of Noll's scholarship, Cult Fictions, 1998).  But if fallacious and antagonistically partisan pseudo-scholarship could wound (or aggravate an old wound in) the Jungian "soul", imagine how much more damage a completely logical, valid, and abundantly evidenced critique of a Jungian "god" would do.

If Jungians could not take any valuable lessons (e.g., some serious shadow examination) from the Noll debacle, how would they recover from a more accurate and penetrating assault?  Richard Noll made a mistake that Jungians should count as a great and miraculous blessing: he imagined that Jung was the weak link in Jungianism.  And if Jung were attacked as a charlatan, those who worshiped him would be defeated.  But Jung, despite his well-advertised shadow, is by no means the weakest link in the Jungian chain.  He even remains as strong as ever, despite brushes with various kinds of "sinfulness", with sexism, colonialism, antisemitism, and inflation.  Jung, the man, weathers these storms, emerging a little more ragged yet all the more impressive for his survival.  The weakest links in the Jungian chain, although they can be said to stem to varying degrees and in complicated ways from Jung's own complexes and personal equation, are those linked on by many of his followers and the creative, intellectual, and social choices they have made.

The Jungians (even the self-declared "post-Jungians") have not convincingly managed to improve upon Jung's theories and attitudes, even as various splinter groups have adopted many means of differentiating themselves.  No splinter tribe has moved along its chosen road without leaving some very valuable ideas and understandings behind.

My own desire is not to destroy Jungianism and Jung's thinking, but to build anew from its center.  That is, a new revisioning.  In this revisioning, various critiques of Jung and Jungianism will be implied.  But my goal is not to merely substitute a new god for an old one, say, to reject Jung's supposed "monotheism" for an alternative "polytheism" as was one staple of James Hillman's revisionism.  I am not, like Hillman, a disenfranchised, prodigal son setting off on his estranged road away from the realm of the father . . . the direction largely defined by that puer escape and defiance.  My goal is to contribute to a (substantially linguistic) repair of Jungian theories, not to their rejection or defiance.  I am not driven by seeking "difference" to father Jung's thinking.  I want to get the old instruments working again.  And this is not in the service of "resurrecting the Father" (at least not directly and intentionally).  It is not the "Father", but the tribe and its utility that I would like to serve.  I would like to see the Jungian tribe become survivable.  I don't care if we are good sons and daughters or prodigals.  What matters to me is that we learn to adapt and not die out.

There is something that Jung started . . . not as much a set of ideas as a set of valuations.  The expression of these valuations is not, for me, the alpha and omega.  It does not need to be purified of its taint and raised up to glory.  It is an ancestor that contributed DNA to us Jungians, and we seek to adapt and mutate and find fitness within our environment.  Our environment is not Jung's environment, and so there are new and other pressures upon us to adapt.

What I want to address and help illuminate is an individuation construct that actually works and is non-delusional.  As ambitious as that sounds, I have to confess up front that reconstructing individuation in this functional way requires the sacrifice of many conventional Jungian sanctities and precious dogmas.  For instance, the idea that individuation is a good in itself, that it is universally to be desired and pursued, that it leads to enlightenment and transcendence, that it saves, that it heals, that it betters the individual.  It is that fantasy of individuation that makes it attractive to most people, and it is this desirability that allows individuation to be commodified for a lay-Jungian, self-help audience and market.

To hear Jungians talk about individuation is to hear an evangel, the Good News of potential salvation through faith.  But individuation (as I will go on to construct it) is more of a heresy, or even sin, than it is a salvation of the individual.  Individuation is a Mark of Cain, not the blessing of the house of Abel.  Individuation is not the transcendent movement of the individual toward wholeness.  It is the excommunication of the individual from the "whole" state of participation and its mystique.

As I reconstruct individuation, the question that a good and obedient Jungian would have to ask is: "Why would I want this cheap and shoddy thing instead of the resplendent numen of classical individuation?"  And the only answer, dissatisfying though it may be, is: "Because it is more real and genuine than the resplendent numen classical individuation imagines."  This genuine individuation will simply not be attractive to most people . . . and it is not prescribable universally for our various modern ills.  Yet it is only this unprescribable, less desirable, and much harder won individuation that can be historically and psychologically studied and validated.

The path of individuation is not a chosen path, and it is not a path for the believer.  It is a path of compulsion, perhaps a "Calling", a path of last resort, a surrender to something destructive.  It does not reward faith with solace and fulfillment.  It can be brutal . . . and there is no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, no treasure mythically awaiting the seeker.  What treasures individuation holds are created by the individuant, not found or won.  There is no manna.  What is gained instead is responsibility, duty.

Jung remarked that the individuation journey never ends while we live.  Only in death can it be completed.  That is too mystical and grand for my tastes, but I will offer a similar aphoristic bone as aperitif:  Individuation's a bitch, and then you die.

Individuation Credentials?

On what basis do I offer a revised individuation construct that (supposedly) contradicts the prevailing (largely classical) Jungian model?  My revision has very similar origins to Jung's original construct.  That is, it derives largely and initially from personal experience.  Jung's individuation model, although he felt it was corroborated by his patients' experiences, derives almost entirely from his own "confrontation with the unconscious" beginning around 1913 after his split with Freud.  This becomes especially clear now that we have the publication of the Red Book, Jung's individuation opus.  The material, characters and narratives of the Red Book serve very neatly to demonstrate the theory of individuation Jung proposes in his scholarly publications.  The attitude Jung prescribes to the would-be individuant is very much the same attitude he adopts in his Red Book experiment.  His scholarly characterizations of the unconscious, the anima, the mana-personality, the persona, the hero, the wise old man, the shadow, and various other staples of his theory all have clear foundations in the Red Book.  For more on this subject, the reader can peruse my essays on the Red Book here at Useless Science.

I don't mean to jauntily claim credibility for my revisions based on some kind of divine revelation or specious spiritual enlightenment or attainment.  My intention is to demonstrate that experience, although extremely important, is only useful in such a revisionary venture to the degree that its artifacts can be logically explained and argued for.  I will attempt to argue that the revised individuation paradigm I will propose is also better supported by texts (many of which Jungians are quite familiar with and have also depended upon for corroboration of Jung's theories), is "more archetypal", and is more elegant and logical than the conventional Jungian paradigm.  Still, there is a very distinct sense in which both Jung's and my individuation paradigms are highly personalized creative works emerging in the specific clothing of our personal languages.  As I will explain later, individuation as a whole owes its shape immensely to a very arbitrary languaging process.

From roughly the age of 16, I began to devote the lion's share of my mental energy to pursuing and understanding individuation.  It was not a whim, a psychedelic trip, a spiritual or philosophical flirtation.  It was an absolute immersion in what I now recognize to be a "Calling".  Although I had a conscious desire to seek self-betterment, to overcome ignorance and "unconsciousness", and (at the very beginning) to "attain" higher states of mind or soul, it never felt like individuation was optional to me.  It was individuate or die (this dire imperative was recognized and validated in tribal cultures, as I will explain in later installments).  This threatened death was both spiritual and potentially literal (in the form of madness and/or suicide).  The feelings Jung describes at the onset of (and during) his confrontation with the unconscious were extremely familiar to me, and they served as one of the primary attractors that brought me to Jungianism.  In Jung I saw a person who had experienced what I was experiencing and who had survived, managing to transmute the dismemberment and dissolution of that confrontation/Calling into more golden stuff.  I sought to walk in his footsteps and orient myself with his field notes.  I wanted to survive and heal from the same disease Jung suffered.

I owe Jung my life for this assistance, as I would have had no idea how to proceed without the initial container of his language and example.  I was familiar with other religious and spiritual traditions (and sampled them), but none of these helped keep my path "true" in the least.  Instead, they fed the looming madness that seemed to trail and taunt (and sometimes control) me.  Jung's language was a panacea, enabling me to find brief but essential moments of clarity.  It is out of gratitude for this "medicine" that I continue to consider myself a Jungian today (despite many deviations and heresies) and work in my shadowy, agonistic fashion to serve the "treatment" of the Jungian tribe.

Another identification factor for me with Jung was his response to the same kind of confrontation/Calling.  Like Jung, I did not merely want to endure and pass through this experience.  I wanted to understand it as thoroughly and accurately as I could.  Not everyone is (and probably very few people are) so analytically inclined.  Certainly, even as Jungianism centers around an "analytic community", most Jungians seem contented with religious artifacts, dogmas, and totems and do not also ask what these things are in themselves, what they are objectively.  But Jungian psychology originated (and was practiced by Jung) as a analytical enterprise.  And it was this analytical orientation that differentiated Jungian psychology from a religion.  Jung was (again, as the Red Book amply demonstrates) an astute and powerfully driven researcher of the "soul".  As much as he championed "experience" with the unconscious, he seemed more motivated by (and more adept at) the desire to know, verifiably, what the nature and artifacts of the unconscious really were.  It is this analytical, objective, and often rationalistic Jung that, in my opinion, has all too often been lost as a guide in Jungian and post-Jungian psychology.  But it is this Jung that is most responsible for Jungian theory . . . and it is this Jung that is, I believe, most extraordinary and rare.  By contrast, Jung the guru and/or spiritual adventurer was merely of a type, a generic personage who did not especially set himself apart from others of his kind.

As I undertook my own self-experiments, even from the first years of my Jung-illuminated individuation event, I began to pencil practical revisions into the margins of Jung's guide book, to note what "worked" and what didn't in the field.  It would be nearly two decades later that these notes were reconstructed into a theory of individuation.  For most of the interim, it never occurred to me that a "theory of individuation" was of any use.  Individuation, like survival in the wild, was a practical art.  My eventual desire to recast my experimental "field notes" into an intellectualized theory came about only because I tried to talk to other Jungians about the stuff of these field notes and found they had no idea whatsoever I was talking about.  Understanding eventually that my practical Jungianism was heretical, I felt a need to better formulate it and describe it as logically and clearly as possible.  Only then did I find myself wearing the shoes of a "revisionist".  Before this, I simply felt that my "revisions" and "heresies" were logical applications of Jung's own ideas and principles.

The stuff of my revisions will be laid out and argued in the following essays, but there is one general difference that I will set down here.  Much of my early individuation work was focused (like Jung's Red Book dialogs) on interactions with anima figures.  I have transcribed and commented upon the highlights of this anima dream series at the Useless Science forum.  This served as the mystical bedrock of my individuation event.  In more recent years, especially as I tried to have discussions with other Jungians about the anima and animus, I came to see that what I had long felt was a very elegant and purely archetypal encounter was largely foreign to many Jungians.  I started calling this stage of individuation in which the animi figure is discovered, engaged with, valuated or redeemed from the shadow, and then eventually initiates the (heroic) ego, the "animi work".  The animi work is (as I experienced it and only very recently found corroborating evidence for) extremely archetypal and should (like all individuation motifs) be traced back to the mythos of shamanic initiation, where the shaman's marriage to a spiritual spouse is a common factor of his or her initiation into full-fledged shaman-hood.

The animi work is also what a great many fairytales describe (typically those that end in marriages that endure "happily ever after").  The shamanic and folk (and alchemical) precedents of the animi work are substantial, but (as I found out) the animi work is not well understood at all among Jungians.  The reasons for this are complex and require careful analysis to explicate (this analysis will follow).  For now, I will posit two potential reasons why the anima work is not adequately understood through the Jungian paradigm of individuation.  First, as much as Jung and Jungians have indulged in the adoration and analysis of fairytales, the archetypal constructions that Jung most used and Jungians inherited tend to derive more from the heroic epics of great patriarchal civilizations, especially ancient Greek, Roman, and Judeo-Christian cultures.  I believe that the renderings of archetypes like the hero and the animi portrayed in fairytales stems from an even more ancient and pre-civilized source.  Perhaps the origin of these heroic archetypal fairytale motifs is the narrativizing of prehistoric shamans who explained (in song, poetry, dance, and theater) just what their spirits were doing in the other world while their bodies remained in the material world of their audiences and patients.

In other words, heroic epics and cultural myths (especially of the patriarchal cultures on which Western civilization was founded) are archetypally degenerate.  Jung did not adequately recognize this, and Jungians are the heirs of this distorted archetypal theory.  It has lead us to (often subtly but importantly) misread the very texts we have used to corroborate Jungian theory.  And of course there are many, as all our texts were written or redesigned in the historical, modern era.  They have been culturally recontextualized, and wherever this cultural recontextualization also served the promotion of a modern, patriarchal ego-ideal (like Gilgamesh or Heracles or Siegfried), distortions of the prehistoric shamanic archetypal structures and dynamics arose.  Many fairytales (even those rewritten in the last few centuries) do not suffer from serious distortions like these because they have never served as vehicles of promoting a cultural ego-ideal.  This is also why fairytales have just as many female as male heroes, while cultural myths and epics depict the journeys of only male heroes.

The second reason that the animi work is not well understood among Jungians is that Jung was extremely ambivalent about his own anima experience.  On one hand, Jung sets a stellar example of the kind of psychic awakening and development that can come out of valuatively engaging with the animi (as personification of the unconscious Other).  Not only did he write the anima dialogues that went into the Red Book, he rewrote them in fancier language and elegant calligraphy and accompanied them with detailed oil paintings.  Not many people would give so much time and consideration to their animi.

On the other hand, Jung spent more time "fighting off", rejecting, chastising, denying, and demonizing his anima during these engagements than he did wooing, valuating, loving, and learning from it.  He ultimately and definitively refused to be initiated by the anima.  And he developed a rationalization of a theory holding that the anima was both essential soul and wicked temptress that had to be approached while maintaining one's stoic autonomy.  This in spite of all he knew about the historical symbols like the alchemical Coniunctio or the hieros gamos.  It appears to me that Jung felt any "unions with the god/goddess" had to be conducted only intellectually and rationally so the ego could maintain its separateness and sanity and not become a victim to the "dark side" of the god.

Here it is absolutely essential to recognize that this attitude of Jung's (right or wrong, we will not argue for the time being) is utterly in defiance of archetypal mysticism, in which the human and the divine Other do in fact unite.  The Jungian method of individuation deviates in this essential factor from conventional mysticisms.  I cannot even begin to express how massive a difference this makes, and how dramatically it snowballs as Jungian theory is spun around this core of "anti-mysticism".  And again, I reiterate what I wrote above regarding Jung as more of a rationalistic, objective, "soul researcher" than a mystic.  The dressing up of Jung postmortem as a mystic or spiritual adept while downplaying (and often even forgetting) his rationalistic proclivities is an act done in bad faith.  It turns out Jung the rationalist dominated Jung the mystic once all the tallies are taken.  Jung the mystic is not a figment of the Jungian imagination, but the predominance of Jung the mystic in Jungian constructions of the founder is simply an unfortunate and self-deceiving wish fulfillment fantasy.

The period of individuation I call the animi work encompasses all of Jungian individuation.  It is not the end of the archetypal process of individuation.  Or rather, whatever we would like to call the instinctually organized process of post-adolescent psychic growth, adaptation, and development . . . Jungian individuation only makes up a small (but very dramatic and important) portion of it.  Moreover, one of the reasons that Jungian individuation is said to have no end or to be cyclical is that the deviations of the conventional Jungian paradigm from the archetypal animi work prevent the process from reaching its completion.  That is, Jungian individuation is habitual or like a complex in the sense that it is destined to fail again and again.

This is also to say that the animi work (and therefore Jungian individuation also, should it revise itself adequately) is a finite episode in the individuation process.  The languaging and relanguaging of the animi work can continue throughout life and until death.  But the event of the animi work itself is not only finite, its duration (when properly facilitated) is often fairly short (often measurable in months rather than years and definitely not in decades).  This brief duration corresponds to the nature of the animi work as a rite of passage or initiation.  How we understand, live out of, and dynamically language that initiation is a massive undertaking that will take years (probably decades) to come to any kind of fruition and usefulness.  But the event of initiation itself is like a scarification, a ritual wound struck once and worn ever after.

There's no sugar coating it.  The implications of this critique and revision are massive.  They suggest that the Jungian house of individuation is built upon sand.  The bad news is that this is, I fear, very much the case.  But the good news (not nearly as dramatic as the bad news, regrettably) is that the phenomenal artifacts of the individuation process Jungians study are very much the right ones.  There is just a fly in the Jungian individuation ointment, a poisonous element (based largely in the two factors just mentioned above).  I believe this "taint" or parasite can be extracted and that the Jungian "waters of life" will then be able to clarify.

Rationally, this revision doesn't ask that much.  To a non-Jungian, it is probably six of one, half-dozen of another.  The real challenge in achieving this clarification of individuation for Jungians, though, is relinquishing the habitual death grip on some very sacred cows.  Cows like "all heroic figures are inherently inflated", or "the anima and animus are always morally equivocal and must be related to with great caution", and most of all "Jung was the Risen Christ and messiah of the modern soul whose gospel is the way, the truth, and the life".

That is, I am arguing that the main thing standing between the prevailing Jungian individuation paradigm and theory and more accurate, more archetypal/historical, and more functional ones is a quasi-deification of Jung.  So long as we believe (even if only unconsciously, as is the case with many "post-Jungians") that Jung was a great mystic who had more or less the last word on individuation, Jungian individuation will flounder, and its waters will remain dark and unsustaining.  Additionally, Jungian individuation theory will remain highly esoteric, arbitrary, cultic, and incompatible with more scientific psychological methods and ideas.

The completion of the animi work is not the "master work" of individuation.  It is an initiating threshold that must be passed through in order to begin the so called Great Work depicted in alchemical mysticism.  So, to put it into those alchemical terms, the animi work (which again, encompasses and transcends all of Jungian individuation) is like the derivation of the alchemist's prima materia.  The culmination of this first and essential process is indeed the Coniunctio, but Coniunctio in alchemy is not a hieros gamos, not some transcendent and elating union of the conscious and the unconscious or of man and God.  Coniunctio, unequivocally, is death . . . the product of dissolution or dismemberment.  And it is followed by Nigredo, blackening, decay, putrefaction.

The skewing of Jungian individuation feeds the perversion and misunderstanding of the alchemical process, where, classically, union (of Sulfur and Mercury, Sol and Luna, or the heroic ego and the animi) is equal to death and NOT some kind of transcendent rebirth.  There is enormous misuse of the alchemical terms Coniunctio and Nigredo in Jungian parlance, and this misuse compounds the dangerous misunderstanding of individuation.

I will argue that the alchemical model is more functional than the Jungian.  The alchemical opus corresponds, like shamanic initiation and fairytale heroism, to the true individuation archetype (which I will generally call, the mysticism).  Alchemy is in fact an inheritor, a true heir, of the shamanic tradition (and no doubt some of its symbolism), as Mircea Eliade makes quite clear in The Forge and the Crucible: The Origins and Structure of Alchemy.  It makes for a difficult situation.  Alchemical allusions and terminology have become signature Jungian affectations, no doubt contributing (along with many other Jungianisms) to a disconnect with other academic and scientific fields.  And yet, despite extensive research on Jung's part (much of it quite thorough if not terribly well organized), Jungian psychologization of alchemical symbols and processes suffers some fatal flaws.  It would be easier for a progressive, revisionary Jungian if alchemy were just a bunch of gibberish and Jung's psychologization of it fundamentally pointless.  Then alchemy and its extreme convolutions and complexities could just be set aside.

But as it turns out, alchemical mysticism or Hermetic philosophy depicted a crucial turning point in the history of human mysticism.  Medieval alchemy (like Jungian psychology) attempted to depict the archetype of mysticism in proto-scientific, quasi-material terms.  Alchemy, which mostly died out with the advent of modern chemistry, recorded the last episode of practical "soul work" in human history before the languaging of the soul fell into ruin.  Jung's valuation of alchemy showed intuitive prowess, but he was still a "modern man in search of a soul".  In search of, not in relationship with.  Jung's ideas suffer from the problem he addressed: reinventing the wheel that had for millennia been mysticism.

The alchemists also carried the torch of the shamanic mystical tradition and symbolism through much of the Christian era, even elucidating the initiatory and shamanic elements resident (but dormant) in the Christian myth.  Alchemy carried and preserved the "material soul" during these centuries of anti-material, Platonic Christianity, until it was relinquished to modern science . . . which regrettably suffered from an overly reductive, positivistic rationalism more directly inherited from dogmatic Christian theology than from highly imaginative and complexity-tolerant alchemy.

Revisioning the psychology of alchemy is a book-length project in itself, so later parts of this essay will only touch briefly upon the relationships between alchemy and individuation.  Additionally, the alchemical opus depicts a much more extensive process than Jung's individuation paradigm does.  This essay will spend much more time reworking the stages of individuation Jung and Jungians have most concerned themselves with than it will on the more esoteric and subtle facets of later individuation.

One last thing to clarify is that I do not, in criticizing Jung's theories, mean to air some kind of general disrespect.  I can think of no higher form of respect to pay Jung than the devoted attempt to build on the foundation that he laid.  It is quite possible to marvel at the accomplishments of the man while also disagreeing on some of the finer points.  That should go without saying.

During most of my 20+ years as a Jungian, I adhered mostly to the letter or Jung's ideas.  I know what it is like to accept and not reflect upon the many Jungianisms Jungians take for granted and do not analyze or evaluate.  It was only gradually that I felt forced to question these assumptions . . . as they began to show their flaws in practice.  If one does not attempt to apply Jung's individuation theory as a kind of quasi-spiritual, psychotherapeutic discipline, I suspect one will not stumble upon the seams and frayed ends of the theory.  But to live and practice individuation is to need it to be a functional instrument and languaging tool.  To take individuation as a totem or object of belief and projection and identity construction, one doesn't need an individuation theory to be robust and highly accurate.  Just as a religious believer doesn't need God to be perfectly defined and beyond reproach.  That's what rationalization and imagination are for.

When using Jung's works as a foundation, we are faced with a great deal of complexity and seeming (as well as actual) self-contradiction.  As frustrating as this is for a reader of Jung. I am sympathetic to the condition and construction of Jung's writings.  He was trying to language a complex, dynamic object (the psyche) in a way that connected ancient religious ideas and terminologies to modern thinking.  Jung's project was a languaging project.  Specifically, it was a psychologizing project.  I believe it was more a languaging project than, for instance, a religious or mystical or even philosophical project.  Jung meant to bring older (often archetypal) ideas about the human soul into a suitable modern dialect.  He was not necessarily trying to tell the world things about the soul that had never been known before.  He was trying to treat a kind of Orwellian wound in modern language that prevented us from being able to talk functionally and with sophistication about the soul.  It is in this sense that Jung was part of the romantic tradition of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But that languaging project was a vast and complicated undertaking, and psychology itself, though modern, was (and remains) in its "pre-paradigmatic" infancy.  Jung's project served the religious and mythopoetic imagination more than it did the rationalistic, scientific, post-Enlightenment, positivistic trend of modern thought.  But his modern intellectual means, his inherited language and culturally constructed selfhood was distinctly rationalistic, scientific, and post-Enlightenment.  We could say (in Jung-speak) then that he was seeking the solution to a union of perceived Opposites.  How does one manage to get archaic mythic thinking and modern scientific rationalism to play nice together?

I don't think Jung solved this problem, but I do think he made some very noble and enterprising attempts to formulate a modern language of the soul.  Sometimes, he did not deconstruct the language of the day well enough to recognize its arbitrary cultural constructions, its prejudices and unfounded assumptions . . . and other times he did not deconstruct older religious and mythic languages well enough.  In Jung's finished product (not a completion of a task, but simply the state of things when he died), many cultural artifacts, both modern and ancient, remain and remain relatively unreflected upon.

With only a few exceptions, Jungians have not engaged in the conjunctive soul-languaging task that Jung devoted himself to.  Instead, they found in some of his attempts comfortable and idyllic grottoes tucked away from the modern world where they could sip a bit from the sacred font.  And this is where most Jungians set down their roots.  But I think that these anti-modern grottoes of thought and language were for Jung more like weigh stations where bits and pieces of his thoughts paused briefly while he figured out how to bring them together and into motion with other thoughts.  This dynamic and ongoing reassociation effort has never been an important (or remotely conscious) thrust in Jungian thinking post-Jung.

A vaguely parallel effort has moved forward in recent years to connect Jungian thinking with postmodern academic theory.  I suspect that the desire behind this is to pick up some of the scraps that fall off the academic table (rather than say, attempt to innovate in either the liberal arts or social sciences . . . occasional declarations of such intentions strike me as overblown and fantastic).  Misguided though this effort might be on some levels, it may inject some languaging awareness into Jungian thought.  The struggle then will be whether Jungians can maintain a sense of Jungian selfhood and not be totally assimilated into postmodern theory and study.  I would prefer to see Jungians glean some languaging awareness from these fields without begging from them or risking assimilation and loss of selfhood . . . but it is hard for Jungians to break out of the habitual complex of oscillating between grandiose puerism and shame-ridden (shadow-identified) dejection.  The relationship with the puer in Jungian culture is home to serious malignancy.

Regardless of whether Jungians will start to pursue a renewal and continuation of Jung's languaging project en masse, that project will be (and has been) my own chosen path.  And what I have found in picking through the Jungian corpus is that Jung has done most of the preliminary work for us.  That is, he has established the prima materia necessary to select and distill from.  Jung's great strength as an intuitive thinker enabled him to sniff out the psychic material one would need to construct a viable, contemporary psychological paradigm.  He had his fingers in all the right cookie jars: myth, fairytales, religion, pre-modern/tribal culture, mysticism, dreams, creativity, art, imagination, spiritual disciplines, psychological pathologies, evolutionary biology, and what is now called complexity theory.  Jung was drawn to these areas and driven to valuate the psychic phenomena or data these realms of human thought and experience produced.  And he not only valuated them separately, but recognized the value of their interrelation.

Jung was a great valuator of psychic phenomenon, and I think it is this pattern of valuation that serves as the thriving root system of Jungian identity.  It is what draws people to Jungian thinking and what sustains the compulsion and numinousness of Jungian ideas and objects of study and wonder.  It is my attraction to and valuation of this same root system that leads me to consider myself a Jungian (even as I have many languaging conflicts with other Jungians).  The problem we face (as a Jungian identity group or tribe) is that we do not have a very conscious appreciation or understanding of our relatedness.  We do not very well understand this root structure of psychic valuation or pay much attention to its survival and growth.  Despite the powerful emphasis on the "unconscious" and the "depth" of the psyche in Jungian dialect, our eyes remain fixed on the manifest, egoic, and superficial constructions of Jungianism.  That is, the terms, beliefs, compulsive identity constructions, totems, taboos, and trends.  We speak frequently of God and gods, of soul and spirit and numen and "anima mundi", but we relate to these things only superficially and to the degree that they forge for us a collective sense of identity.  That is, we respond to their value, but the response is unconscious.  We feel the value of these things, but we don't know what it is we are feeling or why.  Our experience of these valued things is totemic and static, and the things themselves are related to only as language-totems, husks, informational constructs, signifiers loosed from what they signify.  This is the superficial stuff of our tribal identity construction, and we feel only the unconscious drive to preserve these husks, having no insight into the dynamic, complex objects these husks were originally meant to represent.

We remain in a state of fundamentalism, where the text must be preserved vigorously and at all costs . . . a kind of defense of the Word of God.  But we relate to this God only through the defense of its Word, not intimately, not as a dynamic, complex, living entity or system.  We have clung to static informational signifiers at the expense of the very "soul" we so adamantly chant about.  This is what happens when languaging doesn't remain dynamic and responsive to the living and growing complexity of the thing it is designed to express and describe.  Jung spent his life trying to language the soul, and that process was one of continuous evolution and change as he responded to the shifting and many-faceted complexity of the object itself.  We Jungians have spent our decades since engaged in the worship of mere snapshots of the process that Jung himself engaged in.  We have mistaken the text for the object, for the god itself.  And so, we have lost the god, the source of living, dynamic complexity.

Jung, I contend, was a better valuator of psychic phenomena than he was a languager or psychologizer or interpreter.  On a valuative and intuitive level, Jung grasped the relatedness and importance of his object of fascination and study.  But his languaging intelligence trailed behind.  His collected works leave us field notes and piles of loosely organized but relatively unanalyzed data.  Yet it is this languaging Jung that has been deified by Jungians . . . even by those Jungians that struggle with and attempt to reject father Jung, the tribal founder and demigod.  Rejection of a deity (which is usually substitution of one deity for another) is a form of religious behavior, and that rejection or criticism is chosen instead of some kind of relationship to Jung the valuator.  Jung the valuator remains hidden in shadow, a kind of alien or invisible being.

I am essentially saying that we have erected false idols, idols that serve the defense of the Jungian ego and identity construction and do not serve the Jungian tribal Self.  We do not have a communal relationship with the Self.  Our Jungian endeavors are largely determined by the desire to satiate our egoic wants.  The study and valuation of the soul has been eclipsed by our need to have the soul languaged in such and such a way . . .  so that we can feel secure in our adopted sense of tribal identity.

The genuine process of individuation is a psychic movement that would dissolve and reconstruct this state of selfhood.  It would dismember the inflexible and inflated self-interest of prevailing Jungian egoism and reorient the intentional drive of Jungian identity to the facilitation of the Self-as-Other.  Therefore, my critique and revision of Jungian individuation theory is directed not merely at bettering the understanding of the individuation phenomenon, but also at the treatment of the Jungian soul (or Self), which I feel compelled to respond to due to my valuation of it.

Individuation is always directed at this manner of project, is always devoted to the valuation of the Self system and the relanguaging of the Self in highly aware egoic terms (as a Logos).  To individuate is to feel this instinctive compulsion and to follow its organizational thrust until it is no longer truly "optional" or chosen.  For the individuant, the egoic facilitation of the highly valuated Self system principle has become the new seat of identity.  Individuation itself is a finite process of establishing this condition of devotion and responsibility to the Self-as-Other.  It is ultimately an ethical movement.

Go to Individuation, Part 2, "Wholeness and Selfhood"

Core Complex Psychology: Preamble

Wrestling with My Jungianism, a Preamble

What follows is an introduction to and overview of a revised Jungian theory of psychodynamics.  I consider it "under development", and although I feel positive enough about it to use its language to talk about the psyche, my relationship to it is complex, to say the least.  Much of this complexity has to do with my personal relationship with and attitude toward Jungianism.  For instance, it was never my intention to create a theory of psyche.  In fact, it was not initially my intention to be a revisionary or even a "post-" Jungian.  I simply was drawn to Jungianism for the useful tools it provided me in the understanding and "treatment" of my own psyche.  Since these tools were objects of practical application for me, issues of dogma, legacy, and even theory were of minimal concern.  I made small edits as I toured and used Jung's ideas, but thought nothing of them.  Most of these had to do with what I now call the animi work, and I attributed the flaws in Jung's anima and animus constructs to a dated sexism that he had also long fallen under the scrutiny of Jungians for (since the rise of feminism in the 60s and 70s).

Even as I had a fairly well developed (and recorded) conception of my anima work experience that was not altogether on the Jungian map, I assumed for years that what I had undergone was "entirely Jungian" and would be understood and embraced without anxiety by other Jungians if they had the opportunity to hear it out.  It was, in other words, not really a revision of Jungian theory, but another piece of data to add to the massive pile of similar data the anima theory was already reacting to.  It was a nicely elegant, very Jungian case study.

I would be lying if I said that I never had any interest in or attraction to innovation.  I am a poet (or was . . . it's complicated), and creation seems to drive me more than any other force.  But, like many Jungians, I came to Jungianism to find my tribe and to find healing through it.  Only in the last few years and since returning to Jungianism after nearly a decade where it played only a back burner role in my life did I start to recognize that my stance as a Jungian was unusual . . . and even in some ways radical.  With the creation of Useless Science and my ragged, spiraling brainstorms, investigations, and sermons, I pursued the innovator's path reluctantly.  It may not seem so due to my "verbal enthusiasm" (or vitriol, if you prefer), but I have pursued this path with great reluctance and much consternation, and I have proceeded thus for a fairly logical reason.  Namely, like so many others drawn to Jungianism, my dream was to find my true tribe, to find others like me, to find home and familiarity and a way to participate, an group-acceptable identity to participate through.  But I have found myself trapped between the practical drive to innovate and to pursue psychology with honesty and integrity on one hand and on the other hand to fit in and find fellows, companions, and collaborators who are enthused by the same mission I am.

It is an impossible place to be, especially for a compulsive innovator, a poet.  To give up innovation would be to assume a false self . . . and lose my soul.  That is not an option.  So I grudgingly follow my own path and agonize conventional Jungianisms.  There are two main reasons that I have taken such an agonistic tack in my attempts to contribute and survive.  Firstly and mostly, it is a matter of my complex or emergent personal myth, a kind of hero/scapegoat compulsion charged with instigation, innovation, and confrontation of unexamined norms .  Where my attempts to forge identity run into this archetypal dynamic, my gears grind and my anxiety increases "irrationally", but I also receive a turbo boost of drive (i.e., the survival instincts kick in).  This complex is my repeated undoing . . . and also my center of gravity, my engine.

The second main reason I persist agonistically is no doubt that I am scarred from my rather innocent fantasy of finding my true tribe in Jungianism.  Still, it would not be fully accurate to say that my agonistic writing is a product of bitterness due to my exclusion from the group Eros.  I know myself well enough to know that I would never be happy with the simple things I wished for.  To belong . . . it is an impossible dream for an innovator (see above re: losing my soul).  My relationship with Jungianism is more complex than this pop-psych diagnosis of bitterness.

My own diagnosis would be that I have projected into Jungianism a woundedness that is parallel to my own personal woundedness.  And this projection makes Jungianism a kind of clay or workable material through which I project the work on myself.  But this is no blind or utterly misguided transference.  It is the same kind of functional transference that successful analyses are based on . . . and it allows me to have empathy for the Jungian disease.  I have come to see Jungianism as if it was a living thing, a kind of ecosystem that suffers and struggles (with the modern and with its own shadow issues) and needs to find a way to adapt and evolve.  In this evolutionary survival process, I feel like a part of the tribe, a piece of the system . . . and a piece aligned on the side of survivability, adaptation, transformation.  An ally to the Self system's principle of organization.

In that role, I bring my numerous flaws and hold back the system with my egoic frailties, my selfishness and detrimental desires.  But I see the value in trying to work through these and find a way to contribute to the Self's ordering principle.  My fight with Jungianism, therefore, is primarily a fight with myself, a fight between my heroism and my Demon-beaten shadow.  And this kind of fight (as I have often noted on the forum) is one in which the heroic only manages to prevail if it can find empathy for the very shadow that is constantly tripping up heroic intentions.

Therefore, in my at times ferocious critiques of Jungian attitudes and ideas, I find myself caught between the heroic drive to contribute innovatively (and perhaps therapeutically) to the survivability of Jungianism . . . and the Demonic drive to chastise and punish the Jungian shadow (and my own Jungian-like shadow) for its weakness.  To the degree that I fail in my critiques by being too Demonic, I come to feel a deep regret for stepping on my own toes and on the toes of the heroic or adaptive drive of the tribe I feel linked into.  I have failed often.  But to be fair, it is a very fine line one must walk in this matter, because I remain utterly and rationally convinced that Jungianism needs to change some of its ways in order to make it in the modern world, in the future.  To make these changes, Jungianism will have to do its shadow work, look into its darkest mirrors, and stop pursuing and worshiping some of the things it currently holds sacred and unquestionable.  Healthy innovation in this case is critical by its nature, reformative . . . and some degree of passion, lamentation, and sermonizing is essential.  Such things cannot be expressed with cold dispassion, because the intent of the criticism is to spark adaptation and survival.  These are Eros issues, not intellectualisms.

As one of very few individuals who seems to be backing such a Jungian horse at this time, I must admit that I feel I have not done as well in my advocacy as I would have liked to.  My actions have not often matched my intentions.  Granted, heroic quests are not for real human beings . . . but I have no expectation to carry the tribe on my back.  I am more like a "concerned citizen" hoping to contribute a voice or a pair of hands to a just cause.  But I also have a citizen's outrage to bear, an outrage that belongs also to the tribe, to the Demonized Jungian shadow.  Balancing this archetypal/personal outrage with a desire to contribute to and help facilitate a tribal psyche is not an easy task . . . perhaps not even a human task.  Even in my repeated failures to find an ideal equilibrium, I suspect I manage to do this as well as anyone could.

Well, that's my preamble . . . and I have expressed, if nothing else, my consternation with my own theory-making.  But with that out of the way, I will proceed to the conception of a theory I have been calling Core Complex psychology . . . a moniker I am significantly dissatisfied with but have not been able to improve upon.  As a creative writer, I have always believed in the value of titles.  In my poetry, I have depended on the creation of titles to bring some degree of order to the formations that followed them.  But a title like Core Complex psychology feels like little more than a fog that obscures a conglomeration of some very complex archetypal psychodynamic weavings.


Differentiating the Shadow: Demon, Development, and Individuation

Why the Demon?

One other thing that occurred to me to question further in this construct of the Demon is what it is about us (humans) that makes us susceptible to this Demon and its possession of personality.  It's easy for this construction to sound very mythopoetic (using a term like "Demon", and all).  But I don't want this to be an abstraction that one must either believe or disbelieve.  It needs to be understood and understandable.  When I speak of Demonic "possession", I'm being colorful.  This is how it feels or seems to an observer (and to a sufferer who has begun differentiating the Demon).  But what really does Demonic possession mean . . . and how does it happen?  My guess is that this will make better and better sense the more we learn about the brain from neuroscientific studies.  The Demon is not only facilitated by our susceptibility to "mimetic" cultural indoctrination (which I don't see as innately insidious).  The introjection of the Demon must also be dependent on a psychic structure prone to rather hypertrophic self-protection.  What is it then about human personality that is so fragile and vulnerable that it would fairly easily give itself over to terroristic "protection"?

Infants and Affect

Of course, among all other animals our species is perhaps the one that produces the most helpless young.  Our babies are born essentially before they have finished developing in utero (compared to many other mammals).  For many years after birth, we are not very capable of survival or self-sustenance.  Even as adults, despite our ingenuity, we need others to help facilitate our survivability and confirm our validity and social contributions in a very powerful and tangible way.  That is, we can't just be parented for a few years and then released into the wild.  Throughout our whole lives we must rely on and relate to numerous others if we want to satisfy our self-interested needs.  The more we can successfully socialize with others, forming bonds and alliances and relationships of one kind or another, the more likely we are to be successful at "perpetuating ourselves" (both genetically and culturally).  The human ideal toward which our evolutionary process has driven us is one in which we are highly connected and related.  I think it is fairly likely and logical that our culture or the patterns of our sociality have co-evolved along with our genetics.

In other words, we have evolved a separated, non-material organ in our culture.  And as that organ has evolved and emerged, it has fed back into our biological evolution.  It is this co-developed environment in which we have adapted.  It is not in us like Platonic/Kantian/Jungian "pure forms", but we are biologically shaped as if we were meant to fit perfectly with this cultural/informational environment.  At least, mentally, we are . . .  (and when I speak of culture here, I mean something like original culture or tribal culture, not modern culture).  I don't know how this compares to other social or herd mammals, but our newborns take at least three years for their brains to "wire-up" and their synapses to be pruned to what is perhaps a most efficient state of functionality.  In that time, a massive environmental influence helps establish the individual structures of our brains.  That we would have vast and extensive "introjects" should not come as any surprise and would seem to be highly compatible with our scientific understanding of the brain.

The Demon seems to function like a program ("computer virus", perhaps) that hijacks the inevitable sense of helplessness and vulnerability which the ego forms around during our extensive childhoods.  That is, strategic self-protection and self-facilitation are the stuff from which the ego is made.  And so much of our personalities, our relationalities, are constructed during a period of severe disempowerment.  We learn so well what it is like to be weak and small and dependent on other, more powerful people . . . and therefore we learn first to develop a kind of empowerment that it based in this position of weakness, perhaps a kind of manipulation of others out of self-protection and self-enablement . . . or we fortify ourselves by flocking into more empowering identity groups.

But self-enabling, especially in infants and children, is also infused with Self-enabling or Self-facilitation.  The Self, I believe, represents a natural complex system that seeks to flourish and to flow into life, others, environment.  It is dynamic, adaptive and it genuinely requires access to connections, outlets, Eros.  The connectedness of a social/relational Eros provides avenues for the Self to be facilitated.  The ideal, I suppose, is for every individual to be engaged in a complex two-way (or multi-way) relationship with others and with the group or tribe.  The Self system in each individual does not want to be disenfranchised or cut off from others.  It needs to give and receive, to be a part of a greater whole as well as its own microcosmic whole.  That is the nature of our species.  It's a somewhat poetic, even slightly spiritualistic language to express it in . . . but there is a very legitimate and easily observed biological reality to this need to contribute to the group, to influence and be influence, to share one's sense of self and purpose with an adaptive survival task.  The dated, abstract term "libido", although it has fallen out of favor scientifically, is a metaphor for something complex ("quantum" or made of of unobservably small parts that by themselves do not add up to the whole they are part of) in the nature of dynamic, adaptive living that seeks (with a sense of "energy" or desire or drive) a functional state of organization that facilitates adaptive fitness for a group or genetic pool.  We don't understand what this is, but we can observe its effects (much like other complex, quantum behaviors in matter).  Psychologically, we need to call it something, even if that placeholder term is a poeticism.

The emerging ego personality mediates between the dynamic, "libidinous" Self-system (or principle of organization) and the environment and is co-constructed by these two powers.  The Demon is the introjected personality/attitude/intelligence/agent that represents environmental constructionism that is opposed to the Self's principle of organization (much environmental constructionism is necessary for the functional development and facilitation of the Self-system).  This is the major disagreement I have with Kalsched and numerous other Jungians and psychoanalysts.  The Demon is not of the Self, but is a kind of Anti-Self derived from the difficulties the Self has imprinting with the environment the individual lives in.  I think it is a terrible mistake to imagine that this Anti-Self is the "dark half of the Self" and has some kind of inherited existence in the human individual's psyche.  I see no cause to propose some kind of theological/metaphysical dualism as Jung does.  I also don't see the psychopathic evil that the Demon exhibits in some people as any kind of primal infantile rage or unchecked id (that strikes me as a prejudiced projection onto infant behavior that serves as a common component of the developmentalist/psychoanalytic fantasy of the infant).  That is, the actual infant's personality and affective-psychic existence does not innately give birth to the Demon.  The Demon does exhibit infantile qualities . . . but this kind of infantilism is abstracted from the more complex and systemic affect responses in an actual infant.  Those genuine infant affects are connected to a Self system that has other and more complex motivations.  in other words, I do not see infant emotions and desires as inherently self-damaging to the psyche or Self system.

Genuine infant rage, hunger, need, and other vulnerabilities cannot destroy or wound the Self system.  It is the imprinting or association with malicious environmental forces that makes the desires and hungers of the infant resound with Demonic, destructive presence.  I think it is a fallacy to see the obvious emotionality expressed by infants through the lens of adult emotional expression.  When an infant is hungry, cold, lonely, or scared and cries (even rages) terribly, I think this is merely the only languaging the Self system has available to the expression of its needs.  It is not trauma.  As adults, we have more "civilized" ways of languaging our desires and delaying their gratification.  Some of that linguistic filtering of pure affect can be championed by the Demon . . . the Demon can use shame and terror at times to bully the ego into repressing the expression of affect (affect is an expression of dynamic ordering in the psyche).  Our modern sense of adult, "civilized", affect-control is, I would argue, severely perverted.  We like to pretend that affect isn't there behind our expressions and actions, but it is just as present as it is in the wailing infant . . . and as Jung said, it will come out in diseases and neurotic complexes if it is not given a suitable language of expression (and the expression couched within these diseases is just as "divine" as it is infantile and "animal").  The lack of such a suitable language (resulting in symptoms of disease) is a sure sign that the Demon is clogging up the works of the Self system.

I do agree with the developmentalists and psychoanalysts that we have a kind of "infantility" in our psyches . . . or a more or less vague impression of an "inner Child".  I disagree, though, with the tendency of these analysts to reduce the psyche to this construct (which is as much fantasy projection as valid).  Instead, I would suggest that we have a culturally skewed lens with which we regard our own affect.  That lens encourages us to look at affect as if it were "infantile" (as it is easy for adults to associate pure affective response to infants).  But this characterization cannot be seen as scientifically valid.  It is only a metaphor.  Our affect, I think, remains foundationally the same throughout our lives (only a very small portion of which we spend as infants).  The so-called "infantile" affect is fundamentally the same in infants, children, adolescents, and adults . . . the same whether the adult is "individuated" and "psychologically mature/healthy" or extremely dysfunctional and "childish".  I think we have to stop thinking of affect in this reductive and prejudicial way . . . as inherently bad, problematic, or immature.  Affect is not a mistake, nor is it an expression of an "animalistic id".  It is simply what drives and organizes behavior.  If the affective Self is allowed to imprint with functional environmental factors, affect will be functional and adaptive and motivate both individual survivability and tribal Eros and ethics.  If the affective Self cannot imprint functionally with the environment, the Self system will be contaminated and perhaps dissociated (compartmentalized).  When affect is poisoned in this way (by Demonic determination and static introjection), we will experience a confusion between the sense of impulse and the functional achievement of the goal the impulse is directed at.  It is as if we disrupt our own functionality and survival success with our "neediness" . . . . behaving self-destructively when all we want to do is be and to function effectively.

The Demon will exhibit infantile rage and aggression as it is abstracted to an adult personality construct.  We could perhaps understand the infantility of the Demon as though it was derived from a construct of infantile vulnerability.  It is vulnerability looked at through a very long and distorting scope . . . a kind of telescope turned backwards, making the object seem much more distant and indistinct.  The Demon can never and will never approach its distanced sense of vulnerability.  It is constructed with the sole purpose of defending against this vulnerability.  But in the effort to differentiate the Demon from the Self, we must question whether this vulnerability is really as terrible as the Demon thinks it is.  I believe that the Demon's take on this abstracted vulnerability is severely paranoid.  It is hard to see this when looking at a person in the grip of their Demon (or when looking at our own Demon when it is highly empowered).  But one of the conventional experiences of individuation is the revelation that the things we are morbidly terrified of are not as horrendous as they seem from a distance.  Typically, many aspects of the functional Self-system (like the affect discussed above) are viewed by the socialized, adult ego with extreme prejudice.  The entire 19th century style conception of the Freudian id is a study in unscientific paranoia and cultural prejudice.  The hundreds of years of Christianized belief that we are creatures of "original sin" that must purify themselves by right faith and belief (or in later, more-humanistic materialism, right civilization) is not biologically sound.  Not only Freudian id constructs are subject to this cultural distortion, but Jungian theological dualism (polarization of archetypes), as well.

Individuation and the Demon

During the individuation process, many instinctual forces and patterns of organization are valuated, and valuated at the expense of the Demon and of tribal affiliations.  Much of this work requires making difficult ethical decisions and even some sacrifices of various social and relational benefits and protections.  These changes and sacrifices are made by "de-programming" constructions in the ego that are destructive to the functional operation of the Self system.  The constructed "agent" behind those Self-destructive ego programs is the Demon.  It is the force that resists individuaton's de-programming . . . and it can drive this resistance both by force of habit and by accentuating the fear we feel of change and transformation, fear of the new and the Other.  The newly adopted "ways of the Self" often seem very foreign and "irrational" to the ego.  But despite this sense of their irrationality, these Self-facilitating ego positions actually have a very strong sense of logic and purpose . . . one that is distinctly biological, material, instinctual, and dynamic.

We experience the process of individuation as an ongoing, revisionary, never-static valuation of Self principles.  This valuation not only unearths and integrates Self principles into egoic functioning, it increasingly languages them with an evolving language that is structured to best facilitate the Self.  We might experience this as going through transformations of attitude in which it seems like first the Self needs one things and later something completely different.  But it is our language (or Logos) that is transforming, not the Self, per se.  The Self changes and evolves as we continuously re-language it, but there is always a sense that on some level, the Self-system is much the same in infancy as it is in old age and every step in between (we might experience this is a shift from an unrealized potential to an ability to actualize that potential to a realization that the actualized potential is not really what we most need . . . and therefore the potential or Goal associated with the Self is redefined, the Self can be continuously re-conceptualized through the developing Logos).  It is the same, yet it is never static (like the Demon).  Of course, here we are talking about the construct of the Self that is personified as an archetypal agent.  If we look at the Self as a more detached principle, it evolves as the ego evolves.  Still, there is the sense that the Self always represents the same set of potentials and structures that we were born with (thus the feeling of materiality and biological substance to the Self).  I do not think there is a "True Self" to become.  Our selfhood is always a factor of our environment, memories, and choices.  But we work with a fixed set of inherent potentials, the "quantum" elements of personality.  There are always numerous possibilities for the expression and actualization of these potentials (which are not inherently "good" or transcendent, but merely morally and valuatively neutral ways of being which can be collectively constructed and reconstructed to various purposes).

The attitude promoted by the Self during progressive individuation is one in which the "horrors" of change/dynamism are not treated as very significant (at least not negatively).  The urging from the Self for the ego's reconstruction (including its initial dissolution) can be perceived as "demonic" or threatening to stability (and certainly the Demon will seize onto such fears and accelerate them).  And there is a very real danger to succumbing to dissolution urges . . . namely, that the Demon will find a way to take even more extensive control of the personality . . . and also that our social and relational lives will be damaged due to the introversion of libido (which is like stealing or killing a tribal/totemic god from the collective) and reorientation that dissolution demands.  But as many analysts have noted, there can be a surprising "answer to prayer" from the Self in dissolution's "darkest hours".  This "answer to prayer" is not likely to be anything like "salvation" or divine mana.  More commonly, the grace of the Self is delivered as an increased definition of the Syzygy.  That is, the hero and animi pair.  The hero is the thing that can survive the dissolution experience by devoting itself to the Self system's principles.  The animi is a prefiguration of the personified Self as it seems especially and numinously attractive to the heroic ego.  In other words, the grace the Self gives in the dissolution is the retooled erotic desire for the partner-Other (and the partner-Other's mirrored love for what is heroic and potential in the ego) . . . which stands absolutely against the Demonic force of stasis in the ("old") personality.  The young hero doesn't care so much about the deceptions and abuses of the Demon, because it loves the animi so devotedly that it (the hero) would gladly suffer and even die for that love.  As the Syzygy is potentiated, the Demon is depotentiated until it can seem (at least until the conclusion of the animi work) like no serious threat at all.  Of course, this heroic attitude toward the Demon is often short lived, as the Demon still has many resources and devices at its beck and call.  One of the mysterious patternings of the individuation process is the eventual union and depotentiation of the Syzygy (if the instinctual drive they represent is engaged with and facilitated), allowing the Demon to reestablish some control in the personality.  This is something the alchemists seem to have understood and captured symbolically in their Art (that Jungians have not yet managed to adequately understand, although they borrow and frequently misuse the alchemical language).  In alchemy, this is often called the Coniunctio, and it is followed by a Nigredo or Blackening . . . not (immediately) by any kind of redemption or resurrection in the psyche.

We can say of this post-Coniunctio Nigredo period that, as there is no viable Syzygy to counteract the Demon, the Demon will get its second chance at control of the personality.  The individual may experience this Demonic resurgence more poignantly than the original Demonic possession, not because it is more "severe", but because it is more acutely observed and consciously opposed.  Despite this consciousness and opposition, the individual is inclined to feel more or less helpless during the Nigredo to fend off the assaults of the Demon.  What felt like a "God-given" holy weapon against the Demon during the animi work has dissolved back into the abysses of the psyche, ungraspable by egoic hands.  I have written about this process elsewhere and won't revisit it in detail again here.  But my general theory as to why this "mythopoetic" development occurs is that the entire process is subject to the constrictions of the reorganization of a complex system.  A system that experiences a state change (symbolically, a kind of "birth-death") is not immediately capable of high level functionality.  All of its organizational resources were expended (as in birthing labor) in the process of bringing on the state change.  After this, a period of reinforcing the conditions of the new systemic state, a building up or re-toning of "muscle and durability", must take place.

The Coniunctio of the animi work functions as a kind of jump start of the instinctual Self system, and a surge of valuation for the Self spurts through the egoic attitudinal structure.  But there is much, much more work to do to dissociate the Self-system's dynamic instincts from the blackening they have long suffered under (even if that blackening was just recently recognized).  Essentially, the instinctual Self's principles of organization will need to be thoroughly (and continuously) re-storied in order for the ego to invest them with functional value and find a way to actualize them in the process of living in the world.  This newly discovered "ignorance" and "weakness" is an opportunity for the Demon to set up a competing firm on the other side of the street.  Generally, the Demonic wares for sale will not be so seductive as to throw the personality back to a pre-Coniunctio state . . . but they can easily continue to thwart full facilitation of the Self system indefinitely.

Moreover, as the heroic attitude is gradually rekindled and re-potentiated post-Coniunctio, the heroic ego will have to come to terms with the fact that it cannot reestablish its "youthful" task of fighting romantically against the Demon or for the redemption of its "true love" (the animi).  The Demon can now only be tolerated and relatively depotentiated.  To imagine that it can be conquered by the spiritual heroism that was activated during the animi work would be equivalent to imagining the ego could conquer the world/environment, subduing it and conforming it entirely to its narcissistic plan.  Such an attitude would be megalomaniacal . . . and would constitute a re-possession of the ego by the Demon (in hero's garb).  Such megalomaniacal inflation is actually common throughout the animi work as well as after . . . and represents the Demon's best effort to keep the personality static and under a severe super-egoic imprisonment.  I will discuss this problem more extensively when I have a chance to start working on the article about differentiating the true from the conquering hero.


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.


Differentiating the Shadow (in Jungian Theory): Introduction

This series of posts is a preliminary run through an article on shadow differentiation I proposed (and hope to write if I can ever bring an elegance to this system of ideas).  As I tend to learn from and develop my thinking primarily through the act of writing (i.e., creating and failing), I figured I would just meander my way through the topics involved in this article to see what would be unearthed (in the hope that this practice would help me better understand what I should write in the article).  I made no attempt to organize and order or to resist any temptation for digression.  Digression in creative writing can be a threshold through which the Other or Self can enter into the work.  I know whatever it is I know today because I have wandered into many cordoned off areas to have a look see.  It doesn't make for elegant finished products, though.

The impetus behind the proposed article generates (like all of my ideas, I guess) from the necessities of personal experience.  I had used the Jungian concept of shadow extensively in my thinking and writing for many years, accepting its muddiness as part of the quasi-mystical intuitive comprehension required of all things Jungian.  Eventually, after striving to valuate the shadow in my own Work for years, I came to feel that the Jungian concept of shadow was flawed.  It was difficult for me to see this at first because I have always felt that Jung's construct of the shadow was probably the most important and fertile aspect of his psychological theory.  Both individuation (spirituality) and relationship (Eros) are extremely dependent on the "shadow work" we do (i.e., on our attempts to know, understand, and valuate our shadowy personality traits and the spontaneous psychic shadow phenomena of our dreams and imaginings).  Shadow binds and prefigures all things psychic.  Out of the shadow emerge the animi, the hero, and the Self . . . not to mention many functional parts of the ego.  In Jungian thinking, affect resounds in and is "lost" into the shadow . . . but as the psychic process, the Self system, is largely affective, this shadowing of affect is dysfunctional.  What shadow "means" to psyche is still inadequately understood, and I think, undervalued.

All psychotherapy and dream work involve extensive shadow work.  Our ability to understand, tolerate, and intimately relate to others requires a great deal of shadow work (or valuation of what is hidden in or discarded into the shadow as well as acceptance that those elements of personality that will stay shadowy will still have some kind of value and integration in the whole psychic system).  Our ability to peer into the "souls" of our tribes and grasp their dysfunctions requires significant shadow work (thus the Group Shadow Forum on the Useless Science Forum).  Our ability to treat either our own or our tribes' dysfunctions and ethical impairments demands devoted shadow work.  At first, the experience of the Self is largely shrouded in shadow, then we differentiate it somewhat . . . only to later realize that the Self is distinctly Other to the ego and will never be rendered fully egoic.  In Jung's concept of the shadow all Jungian ethics lie.  Jungian ethics are not often discussed . . . but due to the shadow construct, ethicality and Jungianism should be devoted intimates.  They aren't, of course . . . and this suggests that Jungians, as a tribe, have not done enough of their due shadow work.

As I have always focused on (and often identified more or less pathologically and compulsively with) the shadow so extensively, I have wandered into numerous avenues where the Jungian shadow concept, though rich, is too vague to be useful in application.  It became clear to me that a differentiation in the shadow concept was necessary in order for the concept to be truly useful as a metaphorical tool for understanding the psyche.  I'm not sure precisely how and when the differentiations presented themselves to me, but I suspect my first differentiation of shadow came in my critical reaction to the Jungian tendency to demonize anima and animus.  As my own experience of anima had never been as anxiety-laden as Jung's writings suggest Jungian attitudes should be, it long ago became clear to me that Jung (and many Jungians) had fused some kind of blackening shadow element to the anima that was not actually inherent to the anima.  Both extrapolation and experience with others' psychology and dreams (women, that is) showed me that the same tainted fusion was true of the animus . . . although the animus was significantly more blackened by the fusion with shadow, even to the degree that no positive value whatsoever was typically associated with the animus figure.

I saw this tainted fusion of shadow and animi as largely a twofold matter.  Primarily, the darkness attributed to the animi had to do merely with their inherent, numinous Otherness . . . and did not really deserve to be called "shadow" (where various negative connotations are implied).  Also, the shadowy aspects of many animi figures were often clearly projections of prejudice and fear from the ego that misinterpreted the "motivation" of the animi as hostile, seductive, destructive, humiliating, shameful, etc.  We could not, I felt, call these figure s genuine shadow figures when the only shadow in the equation actually belonged to the ego and was merely projected onto the strange animi figures.  Realizing this led me to chip away at the conventional Jungian notion of an "archetypal shadow".  There is no doubt an "archetypal" Otherness to the animi, but it needn't take on a shadowy form unless the ego disposes of its own shadow onto the animi.  In other words, much of the archetypal shadow is more accurately personal . . . and belongs, therefore, to the ego.  Not to instinct.  There is no archetypal-instinctual survival/adaptation purpose attributed to "shadow" as it is conceived in conventional Jungianism.  It doesn't provide a clear survival function (except perhaps to help the tribal individual feel greater anxiety toward and differentiation from an individual from another foreign tribe . . . but that still doesn't explain much of the behavior of the phenomenon).  The "purpose" most commonly attributed to shadow by Jungians is that of an innate capacity for "evil" in the human animal . . . but this is a religious or metaphysical idea (like original Sin) that is not viable in a scientifically reasoned theory.

Yet there is no doubt that conventional Jungianism, when talking about the personal shadow or the shadow that is "cast" by the ego, has characterized this phenomenon accurately.  But take this personal shadow (as a kind of collection of personality traits the ego specifically does not identify with and which are seen by the ego as inferior or undesirable) and try to make it accord with the idea of "archetypal shadow" (as a primal figure of pure darkness? evil?), and we are suddenly waist deep in the mud.  Although Jung and subsequent Jungians certainly have made a distinction between personal and archetypal shadow on an intellectual and rationalistic level (i.e., in linguistic categories), I don't believe any detailed study of purposive and non-dogmatic differentiation has been done by a Jungian . . . nor has the problem of conflating the personal and archetypal shadows been much discussed.  But it doesn't take a genius to see that a confusion of "archetypal evil/darkness" with personal, egoic undesirability/inferiority would lead to not only misunderstanding of Otherness, but probably severe dysfunction.  I.e., we cannot assume that our neighbor who has a different skin color, religious background, or lifestyle than us is Satan Incarnate, is something truly "evil" (of course, this does in fact happen unconsciously in many people's prejudices, but it cannot be seen as a functional or ideal psychological state).  Therefore, therapeutically, it would be important to differentiate the personal from the archetypal very clearly.  On the other end of the stick, we also have individuals who identify with their personal shadows and by extension, with "archetypal darkness" (a somewhat perverse ego-fortification strategy).

Although I feel Jung should be commended for his realization that each and every human individual is capable of unthinkable "evil" . . . his desire to dualistically see a dark or evil pole to every archetype was not, in my opinion, scientifically of logically valid.  It is a bit of theology.  Jung himself will admit at times that evil is, of course, relative.  What Jung dwelt less on was the fact that the relativity of evil (or morality in general) is a matter of tribal identity or membership.  What is "evil" to do to another member of one's tribe is legitimate to do to a member of another "competing" tribe.  What defines this kind of "right and wrong" is tribal dogma and indoctrination.  But archetypes (I would argue) are representations of instinctual processes that drive survivability and adaptation to environment.  There is a reason that only human beings can be "evil" while no other species is extended this dubious honor.  Tribal civilization defines evil and good.  Instinctually speaking, we have aggression, conformity (tribal self/other differentiation), self-interest, self-defense . . . but none of this deserves to be called an archetype of evil.  Yes, it can be bent to "evil" purposes (as we collectively define them) . . . but such archetypal evil is not innate.  And to say that it is is theological and belief-based, not truly psychological.

And yet, it also occurred to me that there was something that could be said to be archetypally Other.  There is plenty of instinctual Will in us that is not egoic . . . and is even frequently anti-egoic.  Jung saw this in his theory of dreams as compensations of the ego position.  We are beings of contradicting impulses and desires.  We are not of one mind.  In dream, fantasy, and artistic representations, we will commonly see figures that are non-evil others who seemed to be aligned against us.  Sometimes we will note a transformation within a given narrative of opposed Otherness into cooperative Otherness.  This is also a common fairytale theme: a dangerous, opposed Other is transformed by the hero into a cooperative Other perhaps because the hero doesn't fear the Other or because s/he helps the Other with some task.  Frequently these fairytale Others are animals, but they might also be Baba Yagas, witches, wizards, or wild men.

In one of my favorite types of Russian folktales, the Ivan and the Firebird stories, Ivan is aided by the super-powered, shapeshifting Gray Wolf after Ivan allows it to devour his horse.  The Gray Wolf helps Ivan obtain the treasures he is looking for in far away tsardoms, but each time Ivan does not listen to the Wolf's advice and is apprehended as a thief.  Still, he is pardoned by the tsars in exchange for going on a treasure quest for them.  In every encounter his Foolishness (and tricksterism) allow him to avoid the potential destructive conflict with an Other.  He is eventually murdered by his older brothers who are envious of his success (and coveted the beautiful princess Ivan had also acquired).  These brothers are not true archetypal Others, though.

This (often "animal" or instinctual) quality of Otherness in these tales and in many other dreams and artistic renderings that coordinates with and often facilitates the hero or heroic attitude is clearly a symbol of the Self.  That is, it is an instinctual organizing principle that drives the transformation of personality from a more static and decayed (dysfunctional) state to a more dynamic and reinvigorated state in which what we might call "libido" can flow throughout the system "animating" adaptivity and satisfying homeostasis.  This vision of the Self (so common in dreams and fairytales) is potentially antagonistic to the ego position, and seems to have the power to thwart if not destroy the ego.  But, to the degree that the ego adopts the heroic attitude, the relationship between the ego and the Self becomes cooperative and mutually facilitating.

Some time ago, I began calling this oppositional but cooperative portrayal of the Self, the Shadow-Self or Self-as-Other.  In psychic phenomena (dreams, fairytales, art, religious texts, etc.), there are innumerable representations of the personal shadow and the Shadow-Self.  That these figures deserve archetypal classifications among depth psychologists is unquestionable . . . and these classifications should be distinct from one another.

There are, of course, in dreams and fairytales also many representations of villains who are utterly unredeemable and cause no shortage of harm and conflict for the hero.  These figures are noted by Jungians as "shadow figures" just as those figures I would call personal shadow figures and Shadow-Self figures are also called "shadow figures" by Jungians.  It eventually became clear to me as I did more dream work with other people that it was incorrect to see these villain figures as in any way Self-like.  And it was not legitimate to call them personal shadows, because they were far too atrocious to fit such a categorization.  Moreover, in many dreams and fairytales, these villains are differentiated from both personal shadow figures and Shadow-Self figures.  As I began to try to map psychic phenomena to these characterized representations of villains, I started to see a very consistent theme to their portrayal.  1.) They are always imprisoning or controlling something or someone "sacred" (usually a beautiful princess or spiritual being, object, or resource).  2.) They seek ever more power, are terribly tempted by power, and this power lust is driven by a feeling of incredible impotence which they conceal at all costs.  3.) They hate, fear, and envy (potent) heroes and will do anything to eliminate heroic meddling (thereby attracting heroes to them and their precious guarded secrets unintentionally).  4.) In their "cause" (self-empowerment or fortification of their impotence), they will commit any atrocity, no matter how evil; they see any behavior as justified in the name of their "cause" . . . and they specialize in acts of terror.  5.) They are more frequently male.