Author Topic: Preliminary Ideas - Introduction  (Read 10917 times)

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Preliminary Ideas - Introduction
« on: April 30, 2009, 09:35:08 PM »
Some Background on the need for Shadow Differentiation (in Jungian Theory)

This topic is a preliminary run through the proposed article on shadow differentiation.  As I tend to learn 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 involves 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 this website).  Our ability to redeem either ourselves or our tribes from dysfunction and ethical impairment 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 anxious as Jung's descriptions 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.  But 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".  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 genuine shadow figures when the only shadow in the equation actually belongs to the ego and is 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 was personal . . . and belonged, therefore, to the ego.  Not to instinct.  There is no archetypal-instinctual survival/adaptation purpose 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).

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".

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 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" adaptively 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.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Preliminary Ideas - Introduction
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2009, 11:13:31 PM »
Differentiating the Demon and the Problem of Demon/Self Conflation

Inflation, the Demon, and the Hero

It was very clear that the forces in the personality these 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).  Whereas 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 has imagined was much the same as what Jung and other Jungians had also imagined.  The Jungian "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 its 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 sometime seemed to have it); 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 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.

It occurs to me in reading over these last paragraphs that I am biasing my description of the Demon/personal shadow relationship with a decidedly heroic perspective or hero-aligned ego position.  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.


This can be 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 say 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.  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 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 were 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 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 cultural, 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 influence and transmission was 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 recreation of environment.  But invention and innovation in the name of tribal survival and success has led to emergent social phenomena like agriculture, wealth, 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 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.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Preliminary Ideas - Introduction
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2009, 11:45:00 PM »

Kalsched's Daimonic Self-Care System and the Demon

After I began to develop this notion of the Demon, I read Donald Kalsched's book The Inner Life of Trauma, in which he developed a very similar notion (the daimonic "self-care system") in line with his clinical observations.  It was immediately clear that he and I were working from the same kinds of observations . . . and his book provides a nice overview of previous, related ideas.  But Kalsched's focus is limited too much to the Demon in sufferers of early trauma, and he doesn't seem to recognize the universality of the phenomenon (or that the Demon is a factor measurable by degree rather than one unique to specific individual experiences).  More troubling is his tendency to lump numerous psychic phenomena together under the aegis "self-care system" that I feel must be differentiated.  Despite this "archetypalist muddiness" (a signature Jungian trait, no doubt), it is not unreasonable that he (and some of the other analysts he cites) would associate both Demonic and Self-oriented phenomena with the Self and see these behaviors as "archaic defenses of the personal spirit".  The conflation between Demon and Self is always an important psychological issue.  And from the Demon's perspective (if we imagine it), the purpose of its organizational principle it to protect its (and therefore, the personality's) vulnerabilities by freezing them and encasing them in impenetrable stuff.

I would argue that what is being encased, though, is not necessarily best understood as the "personal spirit" . . . nor is the Demonic imprisonment and torture of the personal shadow actually ever a viable way to "save" the personality.  I see the Demonic power over the personality as always a kind of hostile colonization.  If we assume that the personality of any individual is something that must flow in large part from the Self (i.e., our genetic makeup driven by instinct), and the Demon constricts this flow substantially, then we can't see the Demon as in any way facilitating personality or Self.  The personality that the Demon-possessed person exhibits exists as a forcibly occupied colony would exist.  It must, that is, function as the colonial power would see it function (i.e., to serve as a resource for the power's needs and desires) . . . and what resistance and uniqueness it has is buried and harshly oppressed, breaking through only occasionally in small "uprisings" (small, because there is limited libido for such uprisings) that are typically put down by the occupying Demon in terroristic fashion.

Some further differentiation would also be needed in Kalsched's notion of "personal spirit".  On one hand (and as he notes), this figure is often represented spontaneously as a small child-victim (probably along with a controlling parental figure).  Rather than using the term "spirit", I would prefer to see this figure as a Self figure in its brutalized potential aspect.  The Self un-facilitated by the ego and subject to Demonic rule in the personality.  This same kind of figure is often seen at the beginning of the animi work, and it typically represents the unrealized (or disempowered) aspect of Self that can grow, but only with the aid of the ego.  It may be accompanied by another self figure that is more powerful and "chthonic".  For instance, the motif of the child and the serpent is fairly common.  We could say that the serpent aspect of the Self represents the Self's reptilian tenacity (and uroboric rebirthing potential) . . . something that the ego is perhaps afraid of.  The Self's numinous Otherness.  Both the Self and the Demon might be perceived as severely Other by the ego, and that Otherness can lump them together.

The contamination between Self and Demon especially at pre-individuating stages of development can make for dream and fantasy symbols of a figure that cannot itself be easily split into Demon and/or Self.  I suspect that we would have to wait for Self symbols to emerge that are less contaminated with the Demon before (in analysis) we opted to back the impetus of a supposed Self figure.  Typically, a heroic figure will emerge along with a advocatable Self figure . . . as, essentially, Self-advocacy is the same thing as heroism.  So, when the Self take a form (disentangled from the Demon) that the ego can get behind and trust, the hero is already present in the egoic attitude.

Which brings us to the other element to differentiate from Kalsched's notion of "personal spirit".  The psychic figure most often associated with the spirit is the hero.  And what we see in Demon-possessed and -abused personalities is an inoperable hero archetype.  In this sense, the Demon crushes the "personal spirit".  Any glimmer of resistance against the Demon's power will result in a demonstration of how powerless and defeatable the ego really is . . . assuring that any hope of heroic resistance is quashed.  There is a great danger of terrible backlash in any traumatized person who gets a small heroic lift and smells the distant scent of hope.  Kalsched writes about this phenomenon (as other analysts also do) as a "resistance" to analysis.  Getting over this "resistance" hump is perhaps the greatest transition in the treatment of a severely damaged/Demon-ridden personality.


Jungian Demons and Individuation Posturing

But even for less-destroyed people, this threshold is all-important to healing and individuation.  As a rule, we only heal or "individuate" to a point at which we step up to this threshold.  It is fairly common among Jungians (those interested in Jungian thinking, that is) to develop some degree of false-self or Bad Faith around this threshold state.  We don't like to imagine ourselves as stalled or stunted or incapable of progress . . . and since Jungian psychology can be seen as a progressive or attainment-based system, there is inherent pressure on the Jungian individual to "grow up" and be seen as somehow senexy, intuitive, in the know, spiritually-experienced, etc.  In my own experience with lay-Jungians, there is usually some degree of progress-posturing that conceals the fact that the threshold the individual would need to pass through to really begin individuating, healing, or initiation has been avoided like death itself.  In Jungian terms, we would call this an inflation.  In the language I've been using, it would also be seen as a Demonic possession of the ego.  Many Jungians emanate a kind of tangible spiritual hunger and seeming openness . . . but as soon as their threshold (Demonic possession) is glimpsed, they react with surprisingly Demonic resistance or retaliation.

This inevitably happens in dream work to all of us . . . if the dream work is any good, in any way valid and not merely a masturbation activity.  Dream work will lead us to the Demon's door, and each of us who engages in such work will find a time (hopefully, if the work is progressing, many times) in which we must either throw ourselves through the gaping jaws of the threshold, perhaps expecting repercussions, or pack our bags and go home.  Regardless of any spiritualistic posturing, I've always been surprised at how many Jungians will turn tail as soon as their Demon is really illuminated.  This attitude, though perfectly human and typical, just seems contrary to the Jungian spirit to me.  The frequency with which this happens among Jungians is tragic.  I don't mean "shameful".  We are all entitled to our failures and most of us find eventually that we are merely tourists in our own psyches . . . and prefer it that way.  What is tragic is that the ethic behind Jungian individuation and thinking is based on a fairly heroic principle in which such Falls and descents are engaged in and valuated.  Yet, it seems like the individuals drawn to Jungian thought are somewhat more likely than average to fail the heroic Call.  That is, I see much more heroism in my day to day life with non-Jungians than I have in my sojourns into the Jungian community.  For some time now, I've been asking myself why this curiosity might be (and I've written about this issue elsewhere).

There are many ways to resist the hero . . . but they all share in common a servitude to the Demon.  Perhaps the common Jungian attitude toward the hero helps explain the rise and increase of developmental Jungianism.  Many of us are seeking some form of Parenting . . . and doing so at the expense of growth or in lieu of genuine healing.  We wear our spiritualities like overblown childhood fantasies that we want a mommy or daddy to approve of.  We are not creators of ourselves.  That is, we are not truly interested in individuation, only in mirroring (narcissistically desired).  We don't want, therefore, to engage with an Other or to transform through any relationship with a genuine Other.  We want merely to find our true tribe and be accepted and identified as we want to see ourselves.

I have mixed feelings about this mindset, which is rather epidemic in the Jungian community.  I empathize with the desire to find a "true tribe".  I, too, would like to belong to some kind of group Eros (this forum and my attempts at writing being a questionably executed but obvious way of expressing this).  I, too, would like to be mirrored (everyone does) . . . but not absolutely as my fantasy of myself would have it.  I'm not sure I have such a fantasy . . . at least not one I take very seriously.  I would like to be allowed to be as I am and held only to the same restrictions that other tribe members must uphold (general decency, concern for others, an aptitude for penitence, the ability to apologize successfully once in a while).  I don't want to be held to anything more limiting than this, though.  That is, I don't want to be typed or scapegoated or forced to bear shadow projections for others.  Beyond that, I aspire to no special position of power or acclaim in the tribe.  I don't need to see my theories and revisions made into policy.  I would merely like to be heard and evaluated fairly.

Anyways, I guess that's my fantasy . . . and I don't have any idea if it's possible.  But it doesn't seem all that grandiose to me . . . especially as I don't see it as any burden to extend the same rights to others.  No doubt, though, there is a longing behind this, even a woundedness.  So, I do empathize with such longings and desires, such woundedness.  But I was drawn to Jungianism for its unique ability to valuate shadow and things shadowed in the psyche.  In many other psychological, spiritual, and philosophical systems, such dark things cannot be unearthed and made use of (without a component of condemnation).  Jungianism has an openness and tolerance for shadow work.  It is less super-egoic (and I have a pretty menacing Demon to contend with, so super-egoic condemnation tends to be so omnipresent in my personality that all progress tends to lead away from it).  It asks much more of the individual than other psychologies usually do.  And it doesn't just ask for conformity; it asks for creativity.  Self-creation.  I've always seen it as a "more pain, more gain" kind of system.  You suffer the wounds more, but you can also actually heal.  You rise and fall and rise again.  The "I" I am or am becoming in the Jungian perspective is dynamic and evolving, not fixed (except in the Demonic attainment inflations that tells us we can and must become our "true selves").

In other words, all the things I love most about Jungian thinking are the things that make it individually rigorous but not collectively conforming or Demonic.  I like that Jungianism is progressive and the only obstacle to progress is that which we create for ourselves.  There is no law, no set of arbitrary rules that tells us what we are or can or cannot be.  Jungianism shines a light on the gremlins, pitfalls, and devouring beasts in out potential path and leaves it up to us how we want to navigate them.  Coming to see that many members of the Jungian community don't value these same things as much as I do has been an admitted disappointment to me.  My attempts at joining up with the Jungian tribe I always felt I belonged to have shown me even greater levels of loneliness or alienness than I previously felt.  I don't really know if I am such an oddity or if Jungians have lost their souls.  I have no way of making this decision, and so I oscillate between these two options as I write.  Am I really a Jungian?  Am I made of the stuff that Jungians identify with?  Is it just that I refuse to belong to any club that would have me as a member?  I don't know.

So, I empathize, but I am still let down by what I have seen in both the professional and the lay Jungian communities.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Preliminary Ideas - Introduction
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2009, 04:17:39 PM »

Why the Demon?

Back to 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 and the 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 has 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 the 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 sense of helplessness and vulnerability which the ego forms around.  That is, strategic self-protection and self-facilitation are the stuff from which the ego is made.  This ego personality mediates between Self and 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.  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 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 ego programs is the Demon.  It is the force that resists individuating 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 dissolutions "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 Demons 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.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Preliminary Ideas - Introduction
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2009, 05:12:57 PM »

Revisiting Evil and the Demonic


Above, I have argued against the common Jungian notion that there is an archetypal or instinctual "evil" in the Self.  Without revising that position I would like to address a way in which we could say that evil has something like its own archetype.  I see these opinions as compatible, because I don't define archetype as something innate and inherited, but rather as an abstracted categorization of psychic experiences that usually suggest inherent, structural aspects of the psyche (sometimes indirectly).  But sometimes what is both "archaic" and "typical" is not so much instinctual/biological as it is cultural but always related to instinctual processes, perhaps in an emergent way.  If we observe the behavior of the Demon across numerous individuals (and especially in those who have suffered early traumas), we will note a pattern of behavior that we would certainly call amoral . . . and probably call sociopathic.  In representations of the Demon, we will see murder, senseless brutality, terrorizing, absence of empathy, sadism, dehumanizing and vicious hatred, etc.  Generally, these are classic (and probably typical) figurations of what we would call evil.  Of course, we also tend to call violations of tribal Eros (taboo-breaking, god-disrespecting, atheism, heresy, etc.) evil . . . but today, we usually better see the tribal relativism in these "sins".

If the Demon is or typically exhibits evil, where does its evil come from?  The danger I mentioned above of seeing evil or other negative and destructive traits as inherent and biological/instinctual should be reexamined as we delve into this issue.  Does the Demon adapt its propensity for evil from some primal instinctuality in us?  Unlikely, since (again) we don't see the aggressive and un-empathic behaviors of animals as "evil" (traumatized and "neurotic" animals, notably, could be considered capable of evil at times) . . . and our instincts are not significantly different than those of other primates (or mammals in general).  Where, then does the evil of the Demon come from?  The obvious alternative to instinct is, of course, society.  But this is a complex matter and, mishandled, it can lead us to a utopian naturalism with its neo-primitive pitfalls and romantic noble savagery.  It is too simplistic and ultimately unfair to call society "evil" . . . and the way in which it can be seen as "evil-making" is extremely complex.

Still, that is the very basic position I will take.  But before I explore that in more detail, I would like to bring back into focus the idea that morality is relative, and that we do not exhibit universal morality, but rather, selective morality.  What we consider "wrong" to do to members of our own tribe, we might not see as amoral when committed against a member of another tribe.  If not tribe, than species.  We do unspeakable things to other species that we would not find conscionable to do to other human beings.  Also, we often lose all sense of our morality when acting within complex systems.  We tend to treat our environment, ecosystems, and planet as if they can abide all the destructive waste we throw at them.  Or else, we mistreat an ecosystem that we live in in a way that doesn't effect us directly, but has severe effects on our neighbors or other species involved in that ecosystem.  I am not simply wagging my finger at us.  I mean mostly to say that morality is not innately universal . . . and the empathy and ethicality we reserve for others is entirely a product of how "like-me" they are (or we can imagine them to be).  We have evolved to behave ethically only toward those we consider "like-me".

So there is a kind of precedent in our psychic makeup for evil-doing.  But this evil-doing must develop indirectly as a product of our restriction of definition of what constitutes an Us (or a Me) and a Them.  We set these arbitrary restrictions based primarily on our socialization and experience of Otherness.  If we grow up in a tribe where people of a certain ethnicity or skin color or social demographic or religion are deemed Other, then we will probably fail or at least struggle to apply our sense of empathy and ethics to them.  But if we develop a sense of Otherness that is more empathic and can conceptualize others in a way that is "like-me", then our ethics can be applied more universally.  The primary human ethics-making factor, then, is conceptualization.  And the Demon is likely to strangulate this ethical conceptualizing as much as possible, exploiting the loophole of our innate tribalism.  The problem, after all, of seeing many different kinds of others as "like-me" is that we must then have more complex and far-reaching relationality with these others.  They must be allowed to affect us . . . and the Demon hates to be affected by any Otherness.  So, universalizing movements of conceptualized ethics are themselves anti-Demonic . . . and will therefore be resisted by the Demon.

This characterization of the Demon suggests that the introjected socialization or Demonic meme that civilization presents individuals with is inhuman and unempathic ("evil") . . . which would make it a rather startling contrast to our "intuition" that civilization deconditions innate and instinctual predispositions toward evil ("original sin").  If it is the case that civilization is the major force behind evil-making, how is it that civilization becomes so evil?  Or how is it that the net of culture that feeds back into us seems to catch the "evil" dispositions more so than the "good"?  I don't mean to suggest that all good is absent in modern society . . . but it is evil and the Demon I am presently concerned with.  The simple answer is that we have not been constructing our culture very ethically . . . and that this lapse of ethics in cultural creation has been going on for a long time, gradually compounding the lack of ethics.  Why this might be the case is very complex and open to substantial argument.  My take is that this is part of what I've been calling the Problem of the Modern.  In short, we no longer live in our environment of evolutionary adaptedness and the kind of tribal culture we co-evolved with and within.


Demon as Patriarchy

In the modern, we no longer feed culture with enough of the behaviors and attitudes that facilitate a model of the tribe as Self-system.  I don't think this is really some kind of degeneracy.  It is merely a side-effect of the increasing complexification and emergence in our cultural formation.  I associate much of this cultural transformation with what I'll (perhaps provocatively . . . or else muddily) call patriarchy.  Therefore, I associate the rise of modernism with the rise of patriarchy.  We have heard the patriarchy-bashing arguments a great deal over the last decades, especially from left-leaning, university-stationed humanists of "postmodern" bent.  Even as I will go on to very literally Demonize patriarchy, I don't wish to entirely align myself with the brand of quasi-feminist, purportedly "multicultural" so-called liberalism that has been a dominate elite cultural dogma in recent years.  I'm not saying I see it as wholly wrong-headed or corrupt, but it is largely superficial, unpsychological, and inadequate.  Primarily, it misunderstands the "complex" behind patriarchy, and fallaciously tries to disown patriarchy's Demons onto designated others (who must then be labeled as offenders).  Regardless of the offenses (both legitimate and projected) of these "patriarchs", I see the real problem as lying in patriarchal acculturation . . . a thing to which we are all subject . . . and not in the abuses of "a few bad apples".  The problem, in other words, is systemic . . . and it is perpetuated just as much by "feminists" as it is by "masculinists".  We would do well, I feel, to avoid the tribalistic trap of such anti-patriarchal postmodernism that allows unexamined tribal hostility at the Other to be projected on specific demographics and mindsets.

That said, there is a very good reason that most (but certainly not all) representations of the Demon (in men and in women) are male.  This more common maleness in the Demon has led to a great deal of Jungian nonsense about an archetype of the "negative animus".  This "negative animus" idea (still so prevalent in Jungianisms of all stripe) is not absolutely without basis in data, but it fails (as Jungian anima and animus theory always has) to effectively differentiate cultural associations from instinctual/biological representations.  The Demon is usually a man, because the Demon is characterized by patriarchy.  It is an introject of patriarchy (or a specific aspect of patriarchy).  But to understand what this really means (or why it is), we have to have a better psychological understanding of patriarchy than we generally do today.  The study of the Demon can, I would argue, help us understand the psychology of patriarchy (and modernism) because the Demon is patriarchy distilled into an agentic personification.  If everything that differentiated patriarchy from pre-modern, evolutionarily adapted tribalism was extracted, magnified, and given personhood, we would have the Demon.

An interesting parallel to the introjection of the Demon as its own personified agent can be seen in the subject matter of the the 2004 documentary film, The Corporation.  The filmmakers examine the issue of giving corporrations in American legal rights that are normally only extended to human individuals.  They then catalog a list of "personality traits" of these corporate "individuals" (who are prohibited by law from behaving ethically when such ethics contradict the financial interest of the corporation's shareholders) and submit this to a DSM analysis of psychopathology.  The conclusion is that corporate individuals are sociopaths who are legally protected and empowered to be sociopathic by law.  This is a fairly clear example of how an introjected Demon, given agency, becomes "evil", even without that being the original social intention.


This is a huge topic and I don't intend to even attempt to do it justice here, but some more reflections are in order.  One of the primary things that characterizes patriarchal psychology is its emphasis on the conquering, "heroic" ego (always male) that rises above its instinctual means and limitations to subdue wild nature and convert it into sustaining resources (for patriarchy).  Again, I will have more to say about this in the article on differentiating the hero.  The myth of patriarchy is that nature is "dumb", is raw material to be used, and Man is semi-divine.  He is the great User, the inheritor of the earth.  He has divine right to take and change at whim . . . for his will is Good and Just.  Sometimes he has a god who sanctions this and other times he overthrows a god to triumph.  The great enemy (and victim) of patriarchy is the "Dark Feminine" . . . which essentially amounts to all that has the potential to castrate egoic man and quell his perpetual rise to power.  Patriarchal man has a very severe puer/senex dissociation in which "successful men" are senexes while "failed men" are usually puers.  But really, the whole patriarchal program is a puer flight that is tied to the Maternal Breast.  That Breast is a natural resource, the sense of providence and entitlement that sanctions patriarchal ascent and transcendence.  Natural resource can be almost anything used by patriarchal man to obtain and increase his power.  It could be lumber (Gilgamesh), or might (Hercules), or it could be the subjection or colonization of other peoples (Roman Empire, Britain, United States, and numerous other colonial powers).  The conceptualization of these "natural" resources shares a common mentality, which is that any suffering or damage caused in the name of employing these resources is justified by the end result: the empowerment of the conquering patriarchy.

I am painting in broad strokes here that emphasize the negativity of the patriarchal mindset, because these are the the characteristics distilled into the Demon.  For the Demon, all "natural resources" in the personality should serve its perpetuation.  The ends (Demonic perpetuation as stasis or "perpetual erection") always justify the means, because Demonic colonization is the divine right of the Demon.  What is weak (by patriarchal standards) warrants abuse . . . and the victim is therefore to blame from the Demon's perspective.  Its sadism is part of its divine right.  The power and glory of the Demon must always be increased (to compensate for a lack of genuine strength), and its desire to bring stasis to the psyche is also like the erection of a vast monument to Demonic power . . . meant to strike awe and fear into any resistant bit of psyche.

I could go on and on about the terrible traits of patriarchal psychology, but I think we could fill in the blanks without assistance.  What matters is that this Demon is a monstrosity of our own (unconscious) creation.  And it creates all of us just as we have created (and continue to perpetuate) it.  We may not identify with the full blown Demon of patriarchy, but it is not hard to see how we are all subject to its introjection.  Of course, the female patriarch, who is both master and backstage uber-patron of the patriarchal Demon can also serve as the representation of the Demon.  We should not fall into the trap of thinking that the Demon only wears the male disguise.  There are many constructions of femininity that serve to perpetuate patriarchy just as much (and often much more invisibly or insidiously) as the full blown construction of the infantile king and patriarch sadistically dominating his subjects.  These Demonic constructs reside in all of us.  It is not just the "other guy" causing the problem.  We are carrying and perpetuating the Demon simply by being unconscious of patriarchal psychology . . . or simply by being modernized.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Preliminary Ideas - Introduction
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2009, 03:38:52 PM »

The Problem of the Demon Lover

One of the most serious conflations of Demon and Self can be observed in the problem of the demon lover.  The Demon in the demon lover figure is a logical extension of the introjection of an agent of distilled patriarchy to the role of sexual(ized) partner.  Another way of phrasing this is that the kind of power the Demon exercises over the ego (in demon lover form) is a sexual power.  It need not be "attractive", but it is often seductive.  The promise of the Demonic demon lover is a kind of sheltered numbness, a petrification in which life's barbs can't penetrate (although, of course, the Demon is likely to repeatedly abuse the shadow-identified ego to remind it of how incapable the ego is of enduring "real" penetration).

The demon lover is a psychic figure frequently noted by analysts both Jungian and psychoanalytic (and Kalsched notes a number of those who emphasize the construct in The Inner World of Trauma).  There is, though (at least in my opinion) an excessive tendency to see any demon lover (and also trickster) figure as entirely negative.  When this is done in error (as I feel it too often is), the result is extremely damning for the female analysand, because it can effectively banish the animus or even turn the ego into an agent of the Demon set on terrorizing the animus (see my write up of the fairytale The Nixie of the Mill-Pond for some further reflections and speculations on this).  The problem of Demonizing the demon lover is conveyed in the common practice (among Jungians) of depicting the animus as a negative/destructive figure or even using the term "negative animus" for almost all animus representations.  I have always found this habit one of the most dismaying Jungian errors, as the negativization of the animus is nothing other than a tribal prejudice.  A woman who enters analysis with a Jungian (or any kind of analyst) who exerts this prejudice against the animus is likely to have no success at individuation (or success only in spite of the analysis).  What's more, the prejudice against the animus runs a very high risk of associating the analyst with the patient's Demon (and therefore, associating the analytic/individuating process with submission to the Demonic ordering principle).

In practice, analysis (especially Jungian analysis) can take significant shape and direction from the patient's unconscious (i.e., from the transference) . . . and I would imagine that this is enough in many cases to overcome any dogmatic errors and prejudices against the animus that a Jungian might bring to the lens she or he offers to the patient.  Any analyst of even modest ability and a normal sense of ethics will try to do what is in his or her power not to harm the patient, and this "common sense intuition" can and should trump the tribal prejudices of the methodology and theory the analyst identifies with.  But the fact remains that Jungian analysis, interpreted by the book, cannot function adequately in the individuation advocacy of women (so long as the animus is demonized) . . . and this is a very serious problem.

And yet, to be fair, the differentiation of the Demon from the animus in a demon lover "possession" is often extremely difficult.  The patient is unlikely to be able to tell the difference at first, and her dreams might reflect this conflation and confusion.  It is in such situations that the analyst must have an adequate theory of both Demon and animus from which to begin a differentiation.  The theory itself (when applied to analysis of dreams or any discussion of the demon lover figures possessing/obsessing the patient) can help model a healthy animus and differentiate Demonic qualities . . . so a serious flaw in the theory will end up doing harm to the patient.

The root of the difficulty in a Demon/animus conflation is largely a matter of attraction.  We might say that in women who have possessing demon lover figures in their psyches (dreams and fantasies), the very nature of relationality is poisoned.  This doesn't (as perhaps a more psychoanalytic thinker would presume) begin with sexuality, in my opinion.  It begins with poisoned relationality and spreads from that core to the individual's sexuality, and perhaps also to friendships (with members of either sex), parent/child relationships, and even more abstract relationships "to the world" (or the tribe).  It is therefore a problem of Eros.  The animi figures are representations of the individual's Eros or relationality with others (and Otherness of all kinds).  Perhaps, with this condensed characterization of the animi, it will become more apparent why I have claimed that negativizing the animus is potentially so destructive.

Demon-poisoned relationality (even as it is experienced in a specific sexual way) is not a sign of some deep inner defect or perversity . . . but it is often perceived this way by those who suffer from it.  In fact, poisoning of one's relationality is the most common way in which Demonic possession will manifest.  This is due to the fact that the Demon is so preoccupied with (and resentful of) any Otherness.  As Eros is the medium through which we could say culture is "introjected" and environmental factors imprint with instinctual structures in the individual, the marred imprinting that leads to the formation of the Demon in the psyche is always going to involving some degree of Eros poisoning.  Even people who have not experienced significant trauma in childhood or adulthood are typically "Demonic" when it comes to their sense of intimacy and vulnerability.  Intimacy is, for most people, a preciously guarded "natural resource" that we often experience as "all mine" (hoarding).  We can see the Demonic principle in the common attitude toward intimacy characterized by the expression "once bitten, twice shy".  Of course, many of us are "shy" even when they have never been "bitten".  I would even argue that, in order to become truly functional on an intimate level of relationality, some degree of "being bitten" is necessary in order to prove to us (against Demonic propaganda) that intimate contact with others need not destroy the precious sense of self we sometimes guard so ferociously.  Relational experiences of the Self-as-Other tell us that there is no reason to fear being washed away by Erotic affect.  We are not really a mere spec of dust in the ocean of Eros.  We are indigenous to the relational environment.  Sometimes the modern experience of having no "true tribe" leads to the feeling of tininess and dissociation.  But those individuals who grow up in a healthy "relational ecosystem" are less likely to fall for the Demon's sermons about guarding one's intimacy against "all intruders".

But Demon-poisoned relationality that has been met with some degree of consciousness in an individual can become a kind of "Mark of Cain" of which the individual feels and "knows" that deep down, she or he is tainted, twisted, fucked up, sick.  It is even likely that the individual will be led (compulsively) toward relationships in which this "truth" is Demonically rubbed in his or her face.  Sometimes it becomes a fetish . . . other times a "repetition compulsion" that is undesirably destructive.  In these cases, the only "cure" is the establishment and heroic "redemption" of a healthy animi.  That healing work is equivalent to individuation . . . and it will therefore require reliance on the heroic ego.  The redemption of the animi commingled into a demon lover figure is no small task, and it is likely only to create an alternative to the Demonic "lover", not a cure or eradication of the Demon in the psyche.  The process may be workable in analysis (through the vessel of transference) or a healthy relationship with someone who gives the true animi figure a hook to pull it out of the Demon's snare could do the trick (probably something of both will be needed).

The poisoning of Eros by the Demon has a precise equivalent in the language of fairytales, where it is typically called "enchantment" (or bewitchment).  A great many animi fairytales depict the animi figure as subject to some kind of enchantment that associated the animi with an animalism or even a Demonic persona (the Beauty and the Beast or "enchanted bridegroom" motif, for instance).  This can also be interpreted as a devaluation of instinct, which can then only be seen as base, vulgar, animalistic, and dangerous to super-egoic civilization.  The common fairytale cure for a poisoned Eros (animi figure) is heroic acceptance of the enchanted animi's Otherness or wound.  To free the Beast from his Demonic enchantment, the Beast must be loved and accepted in spite of his woundedness or devalued shadowiness and the way it tends to create reactionary and "unlovable" affect in him.  In other words, the hero must see that the "beastly" affect exists in her own heart and is a kind of projection onto the animus (figure of relationality).  The relationality is not poisoned at the source . . . but by the Demonic pattern that has imprinted with the instinctual relational drive.  The ego (as hero) must recognize that it has the power to "redeem" the animus . . . which is also a recognition that the Demon does not have absolute power in the psyche.

We must be careful in any talk of enchanted animus fairytales to differentiate true animus figures from "Bluebeard" figures that represent the Demon as the unredeemable groom who imprisons and threatens to murder his brides*.  I am tempted to argue that these should not actually be considered animus stories at all, as they usually do not contain animus figures.  In those stories in which a Bluebeard-like figure is differentiated from a redeemable animus figure by the heroine, the distinction must still be made between the two figures.  This is a differentiation we have to assert or interpret into the collective of animus and Bluebeard texts, as it is not clearly indicated in every single tale.  Why make this assertive interpretation?  1.) Because on the whole, the signature characters of these tales do break down along these lines more often than not.  2.) Because it is essential for any clear understanding of the psychic phenomena these tales reflect to make this differentiation.  3.) Because making this distinction (as part of a psychology of folktales rather than a purely literary taxonomy like the Aarne-Thompson system) allows us to develop a more accurate (less mystical) paradigm of psychic structure (as the distinction contributes to understanding the hero, personal shadow, and ego as they are commonly represented . . . and not only the Demon and animus).  4.) This differentiation is essential for psychotherapies that deal with those (many) patients whose psychic material reflects a conflation between the Demon and the animus . . . i.e., the differentiation has therapeutic benefits when applied to practical analysis.

* Animus tales usually end with the heroine and animus bridegroom living happily ever after, at least after the redemption of the animus from his enchantment.  In Bluebeard tales, the Demonic groom is typically destroyed either by himself or by some "healthier" expression of masculinity (such as the bride's brothers).  The bride then inherits the great wealth that the Bluebeard Demon has hoarded.  We could interpret this as a gaining of access to all the valuation (and once-poisoned Eros or libido) that the Demon had locked away.  But in most Bluebeard stories, the heroine does not end up with a valid animus figure.  Therefore they do not depict individuation events as complete as conventional enchanted bridegroom tales do.  We could say that many Bluebeard tales end in a Catharsis of affect-driven retaliation against the Demon, but not necessarily in full transformations of personality.  So, if a patient in analysis had experiences paralleling the heroine's from "Bluebeard", she would not actually be "healed" by the emotive events that corresponded to the murder of Bluebeard by the heroine's brothers.  She may even move from identification with the victim to identification with the wounder . . . which does not depotentiate the Demon at all.  Still, I don't wish to suggest any rules governing the scenario here, as every case is unique.


Against these reasons, we have the fact that in many cases, spontaneous psychic representations in women's dreams and fantasies demonstrate some degree of conflation between animus and Demon.  But in many other cases, the differentiation is quite clear.  I suspect that there is a correlation between the degree of this conflation and two factors in an individual woman's personality: 1.) destructive impact of trauma suffered (especially in early childhood), and 2.) extent to which an individuation/healing process has progressed for the individual.  In other words, the more traumatized the psyche, the more conflation between animus and Demon, but the more effective individuation/healing the woman has done, the more this conflation will be sorted out and a functional differentiation made.

I can't look at the kind of conflation between Demon and Self figure (animi) that Kalsched and other analysts have made as at all illogical.  This observation of conflation is an accurate one in many instances . . . probably most instances.  But the interpretive paradigm Kalsched and others have assembled to account for this (a paradigm that essentially suggests that the Self is both light and dark, good and evil, creative and destructive) is a fallacy.  As extensive as the data set of traumatized and suffering patients' Self/Demon conflated psychic material is, the analysts who are using this data set to determine their proposed paradigms are not using an extensive enough collection of data.  What the samples seem to lack is the psychic material from those individuals who have differentiated the Demon and Self to a more significant degree and the experience of differentiation they had.  Also missing is the usage of fairytales that not only demonstrate differentiation of Demon and animus, but are explicitly about this (i.e., the hero's task in the tale is equivalent to this differentiation).  These Demon/animus differentiation tales predominate in the enchanted bridegroom type of tale.  This cannot be ignored, and we cannot simply discard data that doesn't seem to fit with our hypotheses when this data is clearly part of the same data pool the accepted data was also from.

The challenge to this revision is not a matter of its logic, nor is there any issue with lack of textual data (where folktales are concerned).  The challenge is a matter of allowing the revision to also revise the way we have been thinking about individuation a bit.  This attitude toward individuation seems to be largely a post-Jungian problem in practice . . . although the ideological precedent is clearly set by Jung himself in his frequent demonizations of the animi.  Despite Jung's push for seeing the Self as "half dark", I get the feeling that the demonization of instinctual ordering processes is actually more psychoanalytic than Jungian . . . and the conflations between Demon and Self increasingly common in Jungian texts are related to the increase of psychoanalytic attitudes in Jungian thinking.  By which I mean, for instance, the idea of the id (if we assume that by id, we mean something with biological/instinctual definition) as aggressive, infantile, immoral, narcissistic, etc.  Contrasted with this is the psychoanalytic tendency to see civilization as "super-egoic" and corrective of id excesses.  But in Jung's paradigm, the Self is the seat of spiritual revelation, numinousness, "higher order", and perhaps morality . . . not merely unchecked aggression and sexual desire.  I would also argue that even in Jung's attempts to assign the Self a "dark half" resembling either the Yahweh of destructive "acting out" or the idea of the Antichrist, he is not giving it the same reductive and belittling treatment that Freud gave instinct and the id (although to be fair, Freud also sometimes wrote about the id like Jung wrote about the collective unconscious).

Jung's light and dark halves to the Self are a theological interpretation of it . . . a particular, and clearly unscientific, perspective on the Self that tells us how one (of theological disposition) like Jung might feel about the way the Self is not confined to the same sense of morality as the civilized ego might be.  The Self, for instance, doesn't necessarily show restraint or concern itself with self-image.  It is dynamic and active/reactive and seeks what I would consider equilibrium with environment (and homeostasis within its system), but what others might interpret as narcissistic desire or greed (an interpretation which requires the assignment of an egoic agency to the Self that is, in my opinion, inappropriate).  The aspects of the Self that Jung felt compelled to call "dark" are not, I think, those aspects that drive human behavior to commit what we would probably call "evil" acts.  Rather, what is "dark" in the Self is its disregard for human civilizing conventions that are at odds with the functional operation of the Self system.  The Self can stand against the ego with rage, disease, withdrawal of "resources" (libido), compulsion that seems to invite disaster in the environment . . . but these instinctual drives are not inherently evil.  They are only interpreted as such when the drives of the Self in an individual come into conflict with social organization and expectations, taboos, totems, and dogmas.  We shouldn't forget that the rationales we apply to our behavior are not necessarily what the Self dictates or needs in order to pursue its homeostasis.  "Acting out" affective eruptions requires some degree of interpretation.  If I feel dehumanized and "castrated" by something another person does to me, and I choose to express this with aggressive retaliation (perhaps even physical violence), it is not the Self, per se, that dictated such a reaction or drove such violence.  The Self can only be held responsible for producing the reflexive affect.  That the actor-interpreter of this affect "goes unconscious" and opts to express it in violence (or a passive-aggressive kind of assault, more commonly) is not the fault of the Self or what Jung called the "Collective Unconscious".  These "abaissment du niveau mental" episodes are due to "design flaws" in the construction of the ego that were precipitated by inadequate socialization or environmental imprinting.  Instinct does not engender these reactions . . . and the fact that we have been blaming instinct for these actings out for centuries demonstrates a particular kind of egoic prejudice toward and devaluation of our "animal" instinctuality.  It is a shadow projection onto instinct or a scapegoating that means to disown responsibility for our destructive acting out.

The functioning of personality is, of course, much more complex than the example above would suggest, but I mean merely to remind that we often exhibit (and psychoanalytically-inclined psychotherapists most of all) a cultural prejudice against our instinctual drives that does not necessarily accord with a more scientific assessment of the function and "meaning" of those drives.  We must be careful not to criminalize our instinctual systems . . . especially before we make a more precise assessment of the environmental forces acting on and introjected into the psyche.  One of the most important differences between Jung's psychology and Freud's can be seen in the attitude of each toward modernism and civilization.  Jung was significantly more critical of modernism's trends and systems of order.  Freud was critical (or reductively "analytical") about various human civil institutions, but he very much aligned himself with modern materialistic rationalism.  He at least aspired to this mindset.  Jung, probably in part as a reaction against Freud's extreme stance on this matter, was very critical of modern rationalism and materialism and took a more "romantic" attitude.

This is not a black and white case, of course.  For instance, Freud always aspired to and claimed a much higher level of rationalistic materialism and scientific credibility than he achieved in the conception of psychoanalysis.  This "concealed impotence" in the science department has always functioned as a powerful motivating factor for psychoanalysts to defensively compensate with (at worst) scientistic spin or (at best) an over-valuation of Father Science as approver of the Good Son's rightness and achievement/offering (which is coupled to a undervaluation of that which the Father would less likely approve of).  This particular disease is not common in the Jungian "genetic stock", but Jung himself, in voicing numerous attacks against science and rationalism doth (I think ) protest too much.  In fact, Jung was mostly a very competent rationalist and scientific investigator.  A few of his theoretical digressions are metaphysical and can't be substantiated scientifically, but his sense of reasoning and intellectual self-criticism was at least as rigorous as that of Freud (who had a weakness for dogmatizing and noticeably more zeal for packaging and selling his theory).  But Jung reacted against this side of himself with suspicion and at times antagonism.  Equally, he seems to have reacted from this stance against his own romanticism and spiritualism with suspicion at times.  His negativity toward the anima and her "temptations" is perhaps a case in point.  He mistrusted her urgings for him to identify as an artist (rather than a scientist) . . . and ultimately, he was much more comfortable with his Philemons and wise old man figures than he was with the artistic emotiveness of his anima.  I think that was more than a cultural misogyny.  Jung was a creature of a science vs. religion conflict . . . and he managed to strike a complex and surprisingly stable (if still far from perfect) balance between the two.

I pursued this digression into a revisitation of a dream of Jung's I had previously discussed on the forum (and which Jung discusses in MDR).  I will extract this digression and replant it in the thread already devoted to the discussion of that dream.  In the extracted digression, I give a partial interpretation of Jung's dream (which I refrained from doing previously).  This may be of interest to anyone who was intrigued by that dream previously, but it is off topic in this discussion of the demon lover, so I've removed it in the present essay.  I will also reproduce the previous two paragraphs above along with the rest of the digression to give the post some introductory orientation.  The new post in that topic can be found here:

http://uselessscience.com/forum/index.php?topic=96.msg1986#msg1986


To return to the figure of the demon lover, we will commonly find genuine and functional animus figures in the dreams and fantasies of women that manifest as demon lovers but are not Demonic.  The demon lover is characterized by seduction, and sometimes this seduction is expressed or perceived as "overpowering".  But before we Demonize all animus seduction, we need to look at it more carefully.  We cannot, I feel, apply the same standards and interpretations to animus seduction that we might apply to literal erotic seduction of women by men.  For instance, in real life we might say that the attempt of the seducer to get the seducee to do something against her will (and in service of the male seducer) dangerously borders on rape.  If a woman says no to the seduction, she should be respected in her request, and any deviation from this respect would be perceived as a violation.  But when the seducer is the animus and the seducee is the ego, this dynamic changes.  The Self (represented in this case by the animus) is always throwing compulsions, affects, and demands at the ego in a compensatory fashion (as Jung often noted, especially of dreams).  The Self can be seen as largely a reactive organism that typically rebounds against whatever impedance the ego tries to exert against the dynamic complexity of the Self's principle of organization.  This rebounding is like a reflex that typically reflects the magnitude of the egoic impedance.  So if the ego is especially rigid or defensive or otherwise Demon-possessed, the response of the Self is likely to be more extreme.

If we map this reflexiveness to the stirrings of the animus work stage, any Demonically-derived resistance to the animus will rebound reflexively and be perceived (by the ego) as forceful seduction.  To make matters worse, where the Demon is strong in a woman's personality, it will very likely supplement any animus approach to the ego by coloring this as terrifyingly as it can.  This is how the Demon perverts and "enchants" the animus.  It always requires a complex unraveling of thoughts and feelings (of affects) to determine where the various impulses associated with animus and Demon are coming from.  We tend to think about these intertwined motivations too simplistically . . . and this allows us to Demonize the animus more often and more severely than is healthy.

Added to this problem is the fact that the animus is an archetypal representation of an unrealized instinctual push for relationality.  This means that the animus is likely to have a distinctly erotic/sexual as well as Erotic aspect.  Sexuality usually means intimacy, and intimacy is terrifying for many people, even when it is meant as fostering or empowering.  Any engagement with an other requires that we risk not only exposure and vulnerability, but injury and loss.  There is simply no way around this.  And both anima and animus represent a kind of new Otherness and potential intimacy that is far beyond anything the individual has dared experience before.  The potency that an animus figure offers demands that the ego position change (become more fluid, dynamic, and also more heroic or open to the dangers of intimacy and empathy).  These things cannot be Demonized without rendering a woman's eros severely dysfunctional.  It is precisely the same for men who have come to the beginning of the anima work.

There are a number of common scenarios in which the demon lover can be truly dangerous (i.e., in which the Demon is significantly present in it).  When this happens, it is highly probably that the woman has suffered some kind of relational trauma, probably sexual in nature.  Among these scenarios where Demonic demon lovers can contaminate the healthy animus, two specifically come to mind.  In the first, the woman probably suffers from a kind of repetition compulsion in which she is drawn into and may be unable to comprehend and then escape abusive relationships with men.  Male sexuality, then, can be perceived as a kind of terrorizing power play to which the only defense is increasing numbness and dissociation.  At the same time, the woman may experience her own sexuality as dangerously "responsible" for attracting abusive men to it . . . and so it becomes an inescapable weapon used against her by the Demon (who tells her that she brings it on herself and deserves what she gets).  Alternatively, she may completely dissociate from her sexuality, because to allow herself to feel any sexual pleasure or longing (or to imagine any) is to invite punishment.  In a woman with this kind of wound, the Demon can use sex to control and intimidate her.

The other Demon/animus conflation scenario we see frequently manifests as a fantasy of the demon lover that is often extremely elaborate and mythical/fantastic.  This figure is like a god or devil or perhaps a vampire.  Its darkness is probably mostly superficial, and the woman fantasizes about an endless pursuit where she plays the role of woodland nymph forever tempting and barely evading him.  There is always a great deal of innocence to this construction of sexuality with its gothic fantasy dimension.  The girlish sense of sexuality the woman imagines in the fantasy never penetrates her or roots down.  The flower never unfolds.  The fantasy of male sexuality never "grows up" and the demon lover that pursues the nymph never gets to actually touch her in a way that would "awaken" her from the fantasy.  Sometimes a component of this personality construct is a father who projected his erotic anima onto his daughter in a way that crippled her.  Equally, an absent father who might have "mysterious secrets" could engender a daughter who falls into the snare of this demon lover fantasy.  She remains untouchable, because no one can live up to the father-animus as a figure of mystery and power (and equally, no one can obtain her, because she identifies with the elusive anima of which no mortal man is really worthy).  Sexuality here never gains any earthiness, any body . . . and when it does, it may be experienced as a violation of something sacred and taboo.

This psychology becomes especially dangerous when it leads the woman into relationships with "bad boys" whose true "badness" she underestimates.  These men might not play along with her ethereal and untouchable fantasy sexuality, and the woman may be either too falsely naive to recognize impending physical danger or else too starry eyed to be able to enter into her body to join with a true and valuating lover (who would then feel she is suspiciously absent in the flesh).  Such absence will encourage some men to tire of her and leave her to her impenetrable fantasies, while other men will pursue her presence more and more voraciously.  Her Demonic ideal is to keep a demon lover as a pet that she can take out to play act with and then put away before any consummation occurs.  If this state of "enchantment" persists, the woman's animus will respond by seeking to bring her into her body in a functional way . . . but any movement into the body is perceived by the ego as terrifying and violating.  In this fear of bodily violation, the Demon can keep the animus/Self and its dynamic, instinctual reorganizing force at bay.

The great problem with either of these (or other) constructs of Demon/animus conflation is that they present very real and unworkable problems in actual relationships with men.  The kinds of relationships the woman is drawn to are the very ones that will perpetuate the Demon's power over her personality.  And therefore most brushes with sex or love will seem to punish her and reinforce the Demonization of the animus and masculine sexuality.  The path out of the woods of such a complex is very convoluted . . . and it will probably not prove followable unless and until the Self sends the animus to the ego with great affect behind it.  The woman, then, will have to work through the Demon before getting to the animus . . . and she will probably only deepen her woundedness before she finds any healing.  Of course, we see this theme in many fairytales . . . where the heroine must endure or see through the Demonic beastliness of her groom before that beastliness can be redeemed.  Regrettably, in real life relationships, it is very very rare to find the "handsome prince" beneath the beastly fur and fangs of a man.  More often, this works the other way around.

In other scenarios, the positive animus may approach the ego of a woman terrorized by Demonic men/masculinity in a non-sexual or wounded sexual form.  The challenge in this construction of the animus can be one of seeing functional male sexuality in a devalued image.  Here the woman has to take responsibility for her own Demon to progress/heal, because the Demon will invade the ego and stimulate it to look down upon the wounded animus.  The Demon will tell the ego that this animus is ugly, impotent, disgusting, worthless . . . and it will encourage her to construct a fantasy of a "real man" who is viral, powerful, beautiful . . . but who will inevitably control and imprison the woman (or her ego).  It becomes her own Demonically driven disdain for her shadow (projected onto the animus) that leads her into the danger of being seduced by the very kind of man who will retraumatize her.  The heroic impulse in this scenario might manifest as a desire to imbue the wounded animus figure with healthy and healing eroticism.  The fantasy of the super-potent lover who is yet semi-divine, untouchable, and inflexible or impenetrable by the woman's eroticism or intimacy often goes along with a Demonic inflation.

All of this is very difficult territory to get into, especially while wielding these generalizations and averaged constructions.  These construction should not be used reductively, and any individual woman doing dream work, analysis, or dedicated inner work is going to have her own relatively unique mixture of constructions like these or numerous others.  One of the overriding issues that complicates (and darkens) animus work of any kind in our culture is that the idea and ideals of "the Masculine" are deeply perverted in our patriarchal society.  This Masculine is just as damaged in men as it is in women . . . and that compounds the problems that arise in relationships between the sexes (and same sex relationships as well).  We have a prejudice in our society today that essentially claims a person's sexuality is their own.  It is something "true" about us that we possess and which belongs exclusively to us.  But this is absurd.  Our sexualities are just as subject to cultural/environmental construction as every other aspect of our personalities.  Perhaps we make this error because we think of sexuality as innate, biological, and instinctual.  And there is no doubt that sexual attraction has an instinctual element.  But the construction of our individual sexuality is subject to environmental imprinting and can easily be "created" by our culture, just as any trait of the ego can.

In America, especially, we live in a sexually dysfunctional society where puritanical patriarchal images of male and female, masculine and feminine, a man's sexuality and a woman's sexuality are created and introjected into us from partially Demonic stuff.  I think that part of our prudishness regarding sexuality can be seen in our tendency to claim so much creative ownership of it and treat it like a special object we keep locked away in a box from the rest of our personalities.  Is sexuality really as divisible from our personalities as we make it out to be . . . or is this a pathological dissociation?

When I write about the underestimated cultural construction of sexuality, I don't mean to apply this to some kind of commentary on homosexuality and heterosexuality.  On that issue, I'm really not certain.  I do suspect that the fervent insistence of liberal intellectuals that homosexuality is biologically predetermined and not culturally constructed is overestimated in the name of political correctness.  It seems more likely to me that both homosexual and heterosexual orientations undergo substantial cultural construction and environmental conditioning, and that in no circumstance is all of this certifiably "healthy" or "functional".  I'm not sure it is possible to have absolutely healthy sexualities in a society where sexuality is so collectively diseased.  But to the degree a healthy sexuality is possible, I suspect it would take some kind of heroic effort to heal/create it.  That is, sexuality in our modern world would need to be individuated just like every other aspect of identity in order for it to derive its sense of organization largely from the Self (from instinct)*.  Psychologists cannot be squeamish about confronting this.  The alternative to seeing sexuality as part of individuation is to see sexuality as a kind of dark and mysterious inner object from which identity is dissociated.

This need for our sexualities to individuate (along with the rest of the ego) is precisely why all the animi fairytales we encounter are filled with patterns of sexual awakening and healing.  I don't mean to reduce identity to sexuality in a Freudian way here.  I mean merely to suggest that sexuality or sexual identity is a part of who we are, and a non-detachable part, at that.  As we are human, there is no non-sexual Self . . . there is no relationship with Self that has no sexual element . . . and there is no expression of Self in the world that is desexualized.

One thing worth devoting ourselves to, woman or man, is the reconstruction of non-patriarchal sexuality.  What this might look like, I don't know . . . and that is an example in itself of how deeply the cultural construction of sexuality runs.  We can no more conceive of non-patriarchal sexuality than we can conceive of a non-patriarchal world.  That is, even in our fantasies of difference, we will unconscious drag in patriarchal constructs and assumption that we remain unaware of.

* Many evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and cultural anthropologists have noted that sexual "neurosis", tabooing, and taboo-breaking are common in all human societies, even tribal ones.  Various "biological" reasons have been given for this.  For instance, the incest taboo as an institution of genetic fitness which people were originally unconscious of.  Other "biological" ideas have been proposed that purport to explain (and justify) monogamy or various double standards in sexual behavior between men and women.  I have a hunch that these biological thinkers are approaching human culture too reductively and simplistically.  I really don't have a personal counter-theory on this subject.  But there may be something to the biologism that suggests there is no absolutely "healthy and natural" sexuality free from anxiety and unconscious "acting out".  One good reason I can think of to support this perspective is simply that sexual relationships are governed by extreme genetic and social importance and are therefore subject to tremendous competition, qualification, and resultant anxiety (clashes of will).  Since most of human existence saw sexuality "curtailed" by the complication of pregnancy, it is perhaps only in an era of widespread birth control that sexuality can emerge a bit from beneath its historical anxiety (as has been suggested by others).  But as the "free love" era has taught us, what emerges from previously repressed sexuality that is unfettered is not necessarily healthy, is not necessarily a pure and natural instinct of the Self system.

Sexuality is still subject to the "laws" that govern all relationships with others.  Specifically, valuation of the other must be part of any sexual relationship deemed "healthy".  Such valuation of the other is just as ancient and ingrained a human problem as sexual anxiety.  I have previously proposed that our instinctual sociality is structured by a differentiation of self and other that determines who is granted fully human status.  Prejudice is built into our sociality systems . . . and to the degree that we remain unconscious of this operation, prejudice governs our socializing behavior and will likely set self/other definitions very severely and restrictively (and arbitrarily).  Only when treated with conceptualization can we transform this innate prejudice against others into something like humanistic ethics.  That is, we must be able not only to valuate the other and see how we are like him or her, we must find a way of broadening our definitions of self and other so they are not so severely restrictive and tribalistic.  The conceptualizing power of human intelligence is also instinctually driven.  And our projection of agency (and therefore some degree of "like-me-ness") into others most likely has some connection to our sense of empathy (which is at the root of ethics).

But here we have only elaborated two instinctual trends that are destined to create conflict in practice.  There is also, I believe, a genuine and instinctual need to feel connected to others and to something (to a tribe) . . . an Eros instinct.  In the pursuit of this Eros drive, we must make discriminations regarding who we are like and who we are not like.  None of these complexities have a perfect or perfectly healthy expression in unconsciousness.  Only our conscious minds can find a way to reconcile these drives or tendencies . . . and experience shows that we fail more than we succeed in this reconciliation.

My guess is that something similar operates in our sexual instincts and drives, and sorting these conflicts out requires inner work and reckoning and the implementation of novel (conceptualized) solutions.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Multivoxmuse

  • Known Members
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Re: Preliminary Ideas - Introduction
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2013, 11:03:19 PM »
How much of David Lynch's work have you watched? His films, every one of them I've seen, feature the shadow work extensively.

I feel like I didn't understand the shadow until I watched mulholland drive, inland empire, and twin peaks. Through the art he creates Lynch should definitely be considered an authority on the shadow, especially in that he is able to express how it feels to encounter that darker part of yourself.

The way he describes his work is that he has to get it out before it consumes him. As an artist myself, watching his films usually inspires an unshakable (see: gripping) feeling in me me to write music, lyrics, or even fiction, before it consumes me as well.

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Preliminary Ideas - Introduction
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2013, 03:02:35 PM »
I have seen Blue Velvet, Mulholland Dr., and The Elephant Man, but it's been a while for all of them.  I don't remember them very well.  I haven't seen Inland Empire.  I think I saw an episode or two of Twin Peaks back in the 90s.  I don't think I've seen any of his films since the early 90s.

I can't comment on Lynch's work, but I relate to the cathartic creative process he describes.  And I do think art can be therapeutic.  My book of poems, What the Road Can Afford, was like a struggle to express something that was consuming me.  In general, when I don't write, I feel like I'm being eaten away from within.

When I was maybe 19 years old I also wrote a kind of absurd, black comedic, punk, blues song called "Black Lasagna" about a guy who was totally obsessed with a woman (dark anima figure) who fed him an intoxicating dish (black lasagna).  The only catch was that he had to give up part of his body every time she made it for him.  But in his addiction/craving, he was willing to sacrifice everything he had/was up until his very end.

It was a partial joke song, but the shamanic dismemberment/dissolution theme was there (before I knew anything about shamanism or dismemberment).  I knew some Jung by then, though . . . and a few things about the anima.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]