Core Complex Theory: The Demon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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.