Alchemical Hermeneutics & The Lifelong Journey to Realize Self
Siddhartha Gautama, the prince that would find enlightenment at the Bodhi Tree and transcend ordinary consciousness to become the Buddha was a man driven to understand the essence of suffering. His mission was singular, and as such, he developed acute skills of FOCUS (Follow One Course Until Successful) through meditative practices. These practices brought him deep levels of self-introspection, knowledge, and ultimately lead him to realize his true nature. Like the process of meditation, the Buddha’s lessons are simple to employ, filled with beautiful symbolism, but can take a lifetime to master the meanings inherent within their context.
However, to realize self, as the Buddha’s life is an example of, is no easy task. As a goal, it encompasses a process that Jung himself thought extremely difficult to attain. Yet our propensity to seek answers for those big, yet somehow unanswerable questions stands as a litmus for the journey we all undertake to develop deep, rich, and expansive Self-meaning. While the Buddha attained this level of consciousness, he also informed us that it is up to us as individuals to reach down, sometimes deep down inside, so we can develop individual meaning within the context of our daily lives, make sense of our personal life journey, and find a path conducive to our individuated Self development.
The Buddha is a a religious figurehead. As such, his life, and the stories associated with it are highly symbolic. As the head of a major world religion, any attempt to understand his journey to become Self-Realized must take into account the rich symbolism present in his life, so that those symbols can be deciphered in ways that interact with, correlate to, and assists us to develop meaning within our own personal storyline. Like the life of major religious figureheads, we as individuals are born to this earth, plan, chart, and explore the context of creation we have been given, and partake in a lifelong developmental journey that is inclusive of birth, death, and the wonderful stories we create in between. Therefore, the symbolism inherent in the religious storylines we find solace within can act as pathways, or even precursory stories to our own developmental journey.
Our human nature is rich with symbolic meaning, that oftentimes correlates to the very storylines religious figureheads have undertaken. In many ways, they act as a beacon of hope for us to emulate, so that we also may find our true nature, and transcend the split nature of a consciousness that has fallen. However, in order to understand the effects of our developmental journey and the journey it takes to mend the divisive nature of consciousness, we must employ introspective and reflective, rational and empirical, scientific, philosophical, and symbolic methodologies as a means to make sense of the ways common symbols affect our daily life.
What follows is the research methodology I employed to understand the symbols presented in Hermann Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha. While methodological in scope, by understanding the steps I took to decipher the symbolism present, others may begin to develop their own way to decipher symbols for their own journey, so they to can begin to make sense of their inner workings and advance confidently in the direction of their dreams.
Research Methodologies. Three research methods are employed in this book to analyze the symbolism present in Siddhartha. Case study methodology is primarily employed as a research method to understand the developmental themes present in Siddhartha’s life and archetypes that affected his developmental journey. I then analyzed and amplified these themes using a philosophical hermeneutic method to produce a developmental outline for Jungian psychology and to correlate its themes to existing developmental literature. I then amplified these themes through the alchemical hermeneutic approach of biographical reflection, calling upon my subjective presence to help amplify the themes present in an archetypal development theory from examples of my personal developmental sequence. By correlating an archetypal outline of development to existing developmental literature, I amplified the themes present within the content of Siddhartha to biological theories of attachment, psychosexual, object relation, and psychosocial models of development using a comparative theoretical approach housed within the tenets of the hermeneutic circle.
Siddhartha sought to understand his personal ontology. Therefore, I viewed the storyline from the perspective of a case study in order to discern what archetypes were present within in his life. By viewing the storyline from an analytical perspective, I was able to to perceive and therefore decipher some of the driving dynamics present that drove the unfolding of Siddhartha’s individuation process. By doing this, I sought to provide answers about the very questions of development that Jung (1931/1969) believed would lead to more than one answer and would ultimately meet with further conjecture as to the validity of the answers ascertained by such an endeavor. Carl Jung’s psychology is dialectic; each archetypal pole presents the psyche with a dilemma, which promotes psychological growth through a process of working the tensions common to the dialectic nature of consciousness. Therefore, I utilized philosophical and alchemical hermeneutic methods to analyze and interpret the dialectic data gathered by reading Hesse’s (2002) story.
As a researcher, I must define the personal history that led to this research inquiry. This will allow me to identify the presuppositions I have towards the subject matter, a necessary component of any qualitative research endeavor. Researchers simply cannot remove their consciousness from the research endeavors they undertake. Because the ability to be conscious and perceive underlies the ability to make meaning about a subject studied, no researcher can truly remain completely objective. One simply cannot remove subjectivity from a consciousness that perceives and assigns value to an object. Therefore, I identified my history with this subject matter to let further researchers know that I am aware of the predispositions I have towards this study so that I may remain objective about the subject material studied. Furthermore, use of the autobiographical material I brought to this research process also helped me to identify the subjective experiences that occurred within the context of personal reveries, a procedure used within the alchemical hermeneutic research methodology, and a process that is imperative for any qualitative researcher to employ to understand the ways there perceptions create the reality they perceive.
Case study, philosophical hermeneutic, and alchemical hermeneutic methods comprise the methodology I utilized to study the archetypal and developmental themes found in the novel Siddhartha. The data gathered by using each method, provided a wealth of information that guided the development of a theoretical outline of archetypal development that promotes individuation. While I use existing developmental theory to amplify the themes present in Siddhartha, this data was gathered using the procedures common to case study, philosophical, and alchemical hermeneutic methods.
The case study method. Case study method has a long history in the social sciences (Creswell, 1998). This is primarily due to this method’s ability to access both quantitative and qualitative factors of analysis (Yin, 2003). Case studies allow a researcher to draw on empirically collected material to develop working hypotheses about human nature; by correlating theoretical material to the real life events, a case study allows the often complex theoretical constructs proposed by the human sciences a means to be seen within a personal context.
In this research, I studied Siddhartha as he underwent individuation. I sought to understand how the archetypes affected our maturation journey and the individuation process as a holistic construct of consciousness. Therefore, I utilized the embedded analysis method to understand the specific archetypal themes that arose in Siddhartha’s life. Embedded analysis is an empirical method of inquiry that allows a researcher the ability to study multiple units of analysis simultaneously to discern the features and context of a described phenomenon (Scholz & Tietje, 2002; Yin, 2003). I then provided a holistic analysis of the archetypal themes that affected Siddhartha’s individuation.
A researcher that utilizes case study method must pay particular attention to the era and the culture of the specific case (Creswell, 1998). Research would appear biased if it attempts to understand specific cultures from a knowledge base that is not common to that culture or if it attempts to understand a phenomenon from the past through the general knowledge base that currently exists. The setting for Siddhartha takes place in India nearly 2500 years prior; however, the psychological theories of Carl Jung developed during the 20th century had great influence on many of the themes present in Hesse’s (2002) story.
Hermann Hesse and Siddhartha inhabited two different worlds and eras. Siddhartha inhabited the Indian subcontinent at a time when religion represented the key means by which individuals made sense of their lives. As was shown prior, Hesse lived during a time in Europe when the vocation of making meaning within one’s life became the subject matter studied by the sciences, philosophy, and religion. These three major schools of inquiry represent the foundation from which Carl Jung based his dualistic psychology. Therefore, I must take into account both periods and present the material with respect to the general historical timelines and cultural systems that underlies the plot and setting of the story. If a researcher does not pay attention to the traditions common to the era studied, a research project can alienate a past knowledge base as being trivial in the light of new knowledge (Romanyshyn, 2001). The acquisition of knowledge is progressive; when new knowledge supersedes past knowledge without crediting its source, the new knowledge base assumes a biased position (Romanyshyn, 2001). Therefore, this study takes into consideration that Hesse’s novel is set in ancient India, but utilizes the theories developed by Carl Jung to inform the way the author portrays the overall process of individuation.
The Buddha was an extraordinary individual who achieved an enlightened state of consciousness. Even if a researcher takes out of the equation the attainment of Nirvana, Buddhist doctrine shows a path in which all individuals can achieve a heightened state of consciousness through learning the discipline associated with the middle way. This researcher believes that other world religions also provide paths that allow for enlightened modes of consciousness to arise within individuals that practice faith within a particular belief system. In this study, I sought to develop the broad outlines of a developmental theory based on the Jungian theoretical tenets of archetypes that underlie the individuation process.
The philosophical and alchemical hermeneutic methods. Hermeneutics seeks to understand the entire meaning of a text through the specific themes that lead to a conclusion (Barrell, Aanstoos, Richards, & Arons, 1987). Hermeneutics offers a means to make sense of the often-opposing themes that are present within a dialectic process. While this study did not seek to provide ultimate truths regarding the nature of human development, it does provide a space for acknowledging the profound effects that dialectic tensions have on the developing psyche. Labouvie-Vief (1994) wrote:
Truth is never final and determined; it is not a product but an ever-evolving process. It is a dance of interactive subjectivities, performed under objective rules of mutual tolerance and respect… individuals surrender to the dialect of interacting subjectivities and permit themselves to be changed in the process. (p. 181)
This correlates to Jung’s (1931/1969) notion that developmental stages often lead to more questions than answers, and answers that inevitably lead to doubt and therefore more questions. In this study, I did not intend to propose ultimate truths; instead, I utilized an approach that honors both the objective and subjective factors of analysis.
Glen Slater (1996) believed that the hermeneutic method brings a researcher into interaction with a text, which in turn provides a greater understanding about the hidden meanings that underlie the text. A researcher attains these meanings through analyzing the symbols (words) present within a text. Within the context of this research, I choose to review a literary story because literature helps crystallize unconscious themes by impregnating the psyche to be open to the symbols found within the plot, setting, and characters of the storyline.
Bildungsroman literature, of which the story Siddhartha (Hesse, 2002) is part, speaks to the psychological and moral development of the protagonist as it occurs throughout the lifespan. Siddhartha underwent a lifelong quest to understand Atman, as it exists within Brahman. In essence, Siddhartha sought to understand his true nature.
The means by which people develop Self understanding relies on the symbols present in the unconscious. Furthermore, the symbolic, archetypal content common to the unconscious is also a theme found in novels, myths, stories, and fairytales. While archetypal themes are primarily unconscious, the plot of a story often speaks to these themes the same way that life unfolds with biological certainty. While a person may relate to the themes present in a story differently than others who read the same story, archetypal themes speak to the consciousness of the reader by allowing them a vision from which to view the story unfolding upon itself. In other words, the symbols within a story speak to the individual psyche of the reader as well as promote collective themes that allow for the passing of generational values through the stories created by each generation concerning its nature of its essence.
Hermeneutic method has a long history that dates to early attempts to formulate meaning about the morals common to biblical texts. Notable philosophers, such as Friedrich Schleiermacher (1959), Wilhelm Dilthey (1924, 1960), Paul Ricoeur (1967, 1970, 1974a, 1974b, 1976) and Hans-Georg Gadamer (2004) adapted biblical hermeneutics to the study of human phenomenon. Gadamer believed that the task of philosophical hermeneutics is ontological and inter-subjective, not methodological.
The philosophical hermeneutic procedure consists of engaging the dialectic tensions common to a studied text. A text consists of individual parts as well as a whole construct that emerges from each part. Martin Heidegger (1927/1962) believed that each concept needed to be understood in reference to the other. The philosophical hermeneutic tradition allows a researcher to work the inherent dialectic that exists between the whole and the parts of a text; by understanding the parts by the whole and the whole by each part allows complex themes to emerge from the text. This forms the concept of the hermeneutic circle.
Romanyshyn (2007) amplified the concept of the hermeneutic circle by allowing the unconscious a place within the hermeneutic research tradition. The alchemical hermeneutic tradition allows a researcher to use the personal workings of the unconscious to further elucidate information from a written text. The procedures that underlie this method consist of using Carl Jung’s concept of active imagination and meditation as methods of induction that drive the research process forward. While the practitioner of philosophical hermeneutic method has the ability to approach the studied subject matter from an objective or subjective level of reasoning, the alchemical hermeneutic method offers the subjective nature of the unconscious a valid place within the research tradition.
In this research, I first conducted a case study of the character Siddhartha. I also utilized procedures from the philosophical hermeneutic and the alchemical hermeneutic research traditions to understand what archetypes drive individuation, paying particular attention to the dialectic phenomena that occurred within each archetype as it arose during the developmental sequence explored in the story. By examining the developmental sequence from a philosophical hermeneutic perspective, I utilized existing literature to amplify the symbols present from a developmental and analytical perspective. By using the alchemical hermeneutic method, I allowed the symbols studied to spontaneously work the unconscious space of my psyche, so that I could gain insight into how archetypal themes foster development forward from an experiential perspective.
Research procedures. Stories of religion are both rich in archetypal symbolism and many explore concepts that relate to the individuation process. One need only turn to the Bible, Koran, or the analects of Buddhist philosophy to see stories about extraordinary individuals that achieved a transcendent level of consciousness. The Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Mohammed are extraordinary individuals that represent what an individuated form of consciousness entails. Their respective religions have provided guidelines for others to follow to ascertain the level of consciousness that is associated with their teachings. The story that I analyzed was Siddhartha. Although not a work of religion, Hesse’s (2002) story presents as a literary masterpiece that is rich in archetypal symbolism. Furthermore, Carl Jung, the researcher whose works form the foundation of this research project, influenced the themes present in Hesse’s story. Hesse was an analysand of the Jungian analyst J. B. Lang and had an analytical relationship with Carl Jung himself after undergoing a period of severe writer’s block that nearly derailed his work on Siddhartha (Morris, 2002). Siddhartha’s life story provided the archetypal motifs that I analyzed to understand the themes common to archetypal development.
Literature provides the source material from which I developed an understanding of the archetypal phenomena that drove Siddhartha’s individuation process. I used case study method to discern the archetypes that were present within the context of the story. This method also allowed me to examine how the specific archetypal themes drove Siddhartha’s individuation. Furthermore, philosophical and alchemical hermeneutic methods provided me with a sense of continuity to the process of delving into the dialectic tensions common to each archetypal symbol. Sadak (1999) stated:
Hermeneutics is a dialectical attempt to articulate a better understanding of particular perspectives, comparing, contrasting, and clarifying them in metaphors of engagement that hold the tension between objective and subjective factors, enabling them to embrace each other without a fantasy of an ultimate and decisive conclusion as they attempt the ever-evolving search for truth. (p. 14)
Philosophical hermeneutics also provides a means by which a researcher can amplify the meaning of a text by utilizing materials both within and independent of a studied text. While philosophical hermeneutics honors the positions of objectivity and subjectivity common to the psyche, Romanyshyn (2007) developed a method that honored the subjective presence the unconscious brings to the research process.
Interpretation at the level of soul is not just about deciphering a hidden meaning, it is also about a hunger for the originary presence that still lingers as an absent presence. For a psychological hermeneutics, it is this lingering absence that fuels the hunger for interpretation, that unfinished business of soul that waits as a weight in the work… Hermeneutics, then, is about a longing to return to the originary presence of the Divine which haunts the human world, a longing for a restored connection to the sacred, to the gods, who, Heidegger says, have fled and whose radiance, therefore, no longer shines in human history, and to the gods, who, Jung says, have become our diseases. (p. 225)
While a researcher that practices objective hermeneutics perceives the text from a removed perspective and interprets the phenomenon studied within the text objectively as written, alchemical hermeneutics allows a researcher the ability to use active imagination to tap into unconscious themes that drive a work.
In this study, I honored objective and subjective modes of inquiry. Qualitative research can utilize both subjective and objective modes of inquiry to examine the same phenomenon. While statistics validate quantitative models of investigation, qualitative research does not share this same strength. Because qualitative researchers often conduct research outside of the experimental laboratory through natural observation, it is easy to question the validity of research findings based solely on the perceptions of the researcher. However, recent philosophers such as Robert Romanyshyn (2007) and John Polkinghorne (1994) have drawn into question the ability any research has to remain truly objective. Camic, Rhodes, and Yardley (2003) furthered this point, stating:
Elevating the laboratory and the experimental method—and all that that image entails—onto a “pure” and objective plane where the values and biases of the researcher are supposedly left at the door and where statistical control ensures validity and objectivity is highly problematic… “Objectivity,” as taught in many psychology textbooks and classrooms, is a myth. No experiment, no research question, and certainly no interpretation of data can possibly be truly objective. The types of problems we are interested in, the questions we ask, the kind of data we collect, and the analyses we undertake all emanate from some context, be it socioeconomic, political, cultural, or personal. (p. 6)
The ability to study any phenomenon relies on the ability consciousness has to discern and judge about the nature of events. While I provided subjective factors of analysis within the context of this study, I presented these findings solely to lend periphery evidence to the empirically based themes I gathered by objective research methods.
I utilized Siddhartha (Hesse, 2002) and resource materials from analytical, psychoanalytic, and developmental psychology to develop further understanding of the archetypes that drove the protagonist’s individuation process. My research followed these specific procedures:
- I read Siddhartha (Hesse, 2002) noting the archetypal themes present in order to present the data as a case study. I focused specifically on the developmental tasks the protagonist underwent to understand his personal ontology. Because Siddhartha is a story written in the bildungsroman style, I presented each developmental sequence as it occurred within the context of the text, focusing on specific developmental sequences that arose.
- I utilized personal unconscious material in order to develop experiential understanding of what individuation entails. This procedure is common to the transference dialogues of the alchemical hermeneutic method proposed by Robert Romanyshyn (2007). I undertook the transference dialogues by entering a reflective space of meditative inquiry, which allowed spontaneous subjective materials to arise from my unconscious that helped amplify the themes collected from the case study method; by conducting an alchemical hermeneutic analysis, I wrote from an autobiographical perspective that was inclusive of active imagination. This allowed me to both reflect on the past that underlies this research undertaking and to dream this process forward; which, in turn allowed me to understand the ways I currently work with my personal aging process as it unfolds. I present the data collected from this procedure to lend peripheral evidence for the objective material gathered by the case study.
- I interpreted the archetypal themes present in the story using the process of dialectic reasoning common to the hermeneutic circle proposed by Martin Heidegger (1927/1962). Using the hermeneutic circle, I engaged the subject matter by exploring the archetypes present in the story to the current knowledge that exists in Jungian and post-Jungian developmental theories. I then utilized this procedure to formulate meaning about the archetypal themes present in the text in order to understand the common developmental themes that drive individuation.
- I reviewed the literature from other developmental models to see if an emergent model of Jungian development was similar, or in opposition to established psychoanalytic developmental models.
- In Appendix B, I provide tables that correlates the archetypal theory developed and extant developmental literature to the themes present within the context of Hesse’s (2002) story. I then show how the developmental sequence from both theories unfolds within the context of the Buddha’s life.
By conducting these procedures of research, I examined whether an archetypal development pattern occurred within the sequence of the themes present in Hermann Hesse’s (2002) text. By examining the archetypal themes present in the story from the developmental perspective, I sought to understand whether an outline for a general theory of archetypal development was feasible within the context of a Jungian framework.
Autobiographical reflections and motivations to conduct this research. During my early post-graduate studies, I found myself overtaken by a poem that I had written during a moment of empathic response about grief. The grief was not personal, but secondarily felt through the eyes of a widow. Although this poem did not have personal significance at the time I wrote it, with recollection I now understand that I also wrote about the grief I felt about exiting childhood and entering young adult-life.
Time ticks to sorrows grief.
An acorn fell to earth, but lost its way, falling towards an endless sea.
Yet, the rabbit runs blissfully towards the setting sun (Maples, 2003, p. 1).
While I wrote this poem to help a widow in her grief process, with hindsight, I now see how the emergence of the research passion associated with this study came from the loss of my childhood, which this poem touches upon in its exploration of the life sequence unfolded from a symbolic perspective.
My graduate studies in psychology coincide with the emergence of my adult-life. In particular, the founders of the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement and the theories of Carl Gustav Jung helped shape the interests of my early adult-life. While attending postgraduate studies in psychology, I learned a number of theories concerning human development. However, one class in particular stands out as I look back upon my post-graduate educational experiences. During a class on aging and dying, I met with a Jungian analyst that greatly affected my life. The research I began during this class formed the foundation of this research study.
From my initial research into the fields of Jungian analysis, Buddhist philosophy, and human development, I became aware that minimal research exists within the field of analytical psychology, which provides a detailed account of the developmental sequence that drives individuation. A wealth of literatures exists about the topics of individuation (Blazina, & Watkins, 2000; Elise, 2001; Garbarino, Gaa, McPherson, & Gratch, 1995), the development of personality in conjunction with individuation (Fordham, 1969; Gordon, 1986; Redfearn, 1977), archetypes and masculine development (Dreifuss, 2001; Knox, 2004; Moore & Gillette, 1990), and developmental stages of life (Erikson, 1956, 1959, 1963, 1982; Freud 1905/1989a). However, the lack of a Jungian theory of development constitutes one of four core controversies in Jungian literature (Withers, 2003). While the lack of a developmental theory represents a current controversy in analytical psychology, as I read Siddhartha, I realized that a developmental sequence driven by archetypal themes was apparent in the structure of Hesse’s (2002) story.
As I have continued my postgraduate studies in Jungian, psychoanalytic, and theories of transcendental and depth psychology, I have found that, many synchronistic events occurred that allowed my psyche to grow. One such synchronistic event occurred when I traveled to Sipapu, New Mexico, at a time that I found myself questioning the essence of my being as a young adult of 25 years of age.
While attending a three-day conference entitled Love Letters to the Flowering Earth, I entered a period of disorganization that I believed at the time to be a psychotic break. This culminated during my twenty-fifth year of life, when for the first time my adolescent views of immortality began to fail me. This realization compounded after I faced my mother’s mortality after she developed breast cancer for a second time in her life. While she luckily recovered, facing the concept of mortality proved to be an enlightening experience that prompted my personal maturation.
During this conference, I began to take inventory of the unconscious processes that affected my life. The poet and author Robert Bly (1990, 1991, 1996), the shaman, author, and artist Martín Prechtel (1998, 1999), and the storyteller and author Gioia Timpanelli (1998) hosted the three-day conference. During this conference, I recollected dreams and aspirations from my adolescence, felt the power of the Wild-Man, and became lost in a world that seemed very different from the one I had known just days before. From a Jungian perspective, I had come face-to-face with the dreams and ashes that formed the foundation of my shadow.
The nearer we approach to the middle of life, and the better we have succeeded in entrenching ourselves in our personal attitudes and social positions, the more it appears as if we had discovered the right course and the right ideals and principles of behaviour [sic]. For this reason we suppose them to be eternally valid, and make a virtue of unchangeably clinging to them. We overlook the essential fact that the social goal is attained only at the cost of a diminution of personality. Many – far too many – aspects of life which should also have been experienced lie in the lumber-room among dusty memories; but sometimes, too, they are glowing coals under grey ashes. (Jung, 1931/1969, p. 395)
During this conference, I feared I was going psychotic; however, with hindsight, I now believe I entered a period of spiritual emergence that fostered growth within my psyche. I became open to the arcane mysteries of the unconscious that my ego had yet to be willing to explore in a personal sense. Glimpses of the shadow that I had formed during my early childhood years began to emerge within the growing ashes my adult psyche was producing; however, I had yet to find the glowing ambers left behind in the growing pile of ashes from my past.
I underwent brief periods of lucidity intermixed with periods of insanity. I found myself grasping for any aspect of reality that would lead me home to the world I had once known. While I can now look back on this event with clarity, I found myself overtaken by unconscious contents that battled to overtake my conscious sensibility during the time these events took place. “Am I insane,” I thought as I grasped for those periods of lucidity. What I did not realize was that I had slowly slipped into the depths of the unconscious, undergoing a hero’s quest (Campbell, 1949) and a night sea’s journey (Jung, 1967/1911-1912). Although I did not have an understanding of what God had in store for me by providing me this experience, through faith and a little help from an acquaintance I met at the conference, I proceeded with the closing ritual of the three-day shamanic conference.
With hindsight, I realize that the trickster had played a volatile game with my psyche during this three-day period. I became overly fatigued after climbing one of the mountain peaks close to the resort. I had almost missed the final ceremony, as I rested on my bed, waiting for the final hours of the day to end so that I could go home and be with my family. However, the kind words of a stranger convinced me to attend this ceremony. I attended the final ceremony primarily to obtain a book signing from Mr. Martin Prechtel, the Mayan shaman who was one of the three teachers of the conference. He wrote, “For Tom: This fist isn’t a fist, but flowers with eloquent words with a fire whose wage is love” (personal communication, 2001). While I did not understand the meaning of these words when they were written, I now realize that this message represented a metaphor of the journey I was about to undertake to understand my personal ontology. I had always considered myself a warrior—the carrier of a heavy fist. However, I had lost my way, and now I was not open to a path of love. Since this time, the passion that love inspired has helped me to understand that personal growth occurs in relationship with other individuals. The shaman had seen my inner daemon well before I was even open to the idea, and provided me an alternative path.
During this conference, I had entered a psychological state in which I projected archetypal themes onto other individuals. However, being conscious of this forced me to confront the daemons of my unconscious narcissistic attitudes of adolescent and early adult-life. I needed to reconcile the attitudes of my adolescent and emergent adult-life. Although I was well aware of the collective unconscious at this stage of my post-graduate studies, I was not open to the experiential effects it could have on the individual. Life is relational; both conscious and unconscious events occur intra and interpersonally. This lesson proved to be a humbling experience to a highly ego-driven young man.
During those three days, I underwent a psychological transformation that would stand to have long-lasting repercussions in my life. Because I was a practicing psychotherapist, I immediately labeled the symptoms that I had suffered a psychotic break. I realized that I was hallucinating, splitting at the psychological level between absolute constructs of holy and evil, projecting upon others traits that were inherently mine, and assuming traits in a delusional pattern that led to fear of whether I had entered a psychotic break. Furthermore, this was not induced by any foreign substance. As I look back on this powerful initiatory experience into adult-life, I now realize that an individual who enters and exits stages of development incurs a substantial amount of psychological distress. I cannot conjecture whether I would have found lucidity if I did not attend the final ritual. However, only through having experienced the true effect of this psychological journey, I now know that it is the ritual that gave me a sense of closure towards an alternatively scary time within my life. Through the ritual, I was more open to tend to the unconscious workings of my soul.
When a developmental stage ends, a therapeutic closure occurs within the confines of the psyche. This allows for a state of equilibrium to exist within the individual. Just as the cellular wall helps to protect the DNA within its boundaries, the psyche offers a level of containment to a person that enters a new stage of psychological development. During this three-day conference, I saw the daemons inherent in my shadow, the effects that narcissism has on the developing psyche, worked with some of the tenets of my unconscious psyche, and found that an inherent duality exists within the archetype itself, which ultimately found its way into my personal views about consciousness. Furthermore, this belief system continues to perpetuate my therapeutic understanding about how psychopathology differs from normal developmental patterns; and has helped me to help others integrate the bothersome polarities of consciousness that drives their personal journey to become a whole person.
Joseph Campbell (1949) believed that people enter a circular process known as the hero’s journey. Although I had written on this topic during my graduate school studies, I had never experienced it firsthand. Psychological and physiological maturation occurs through a process deintegration and reintegration (Fordham, 1969, 1976, 1993; Fordham, Hubback, & Wilke, 1971). This process is similar to the paranoid schizoid and the depressive positions proposed by the object relation school of psychoanalysis (Segal, 1990). The processes of deintegration and reintegration are similar to the death and rebirth motifs proposed by analytical psychology, occur throughout the lifecycle, and propel psychological and physiological development. Childhood must die for adolescence to take fruition, just as adolescence must die to the emerging pressures of adult-life. This position towards the death and rebirth motif is similar to the position taken in fairy tales; in fairy tales, a hero never truly dies, only their inferior sense of self gives way to a new and improved sense of Self. However, this process cannot occur unless the individual works the dual nature of the archetype in order to mend it by the neutral third entity that Jung (1951/1969g) stated unites the two opposing themes. Virgil (1916/1999) stated:
faciles descensus Averno:
Noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis;
Sed revocare gadum superasque evadere ad auras,
Hoc opus, hic labor est. (pp. 540-541)
The descent into Hell:
For nights and days, long the door of gloomy wealth stands open.
However, this leads to the upper air.
This is work, Here it is.
We descend through the black door of the unconscious psyche. We yearn to escape the depths of the ever pressing soul, to soar freely in the air, determined to chart, follow, and realize the dreams we encompass. As Virgil alludes to in this quote, the work of deintegration and reintegration so common to the individuation process is a work of descent and ascent. It is a work, hell, a work of flight, a work of love, and a work of being.
In order to complete this research, I must toil with the presuppositions I bring to the study in order to pass on to the “upper air” that will be ascertained by completing the task that has called upon me. This quote from Virgil is a poetic example of the circular process known as the hero’s quest (Campbell, 1949). Being such, it was imperative that I identify the predispositions I have towards this research so that I can remain objective towards the subject material. What I am conscious of when I conduct this study allows me to learn and grow at the experiential level. However, as with any undertaking of consciousness, unconscious motifs can also affect the opinions I draw from conducting this research.
In Jungian psychology, it is imperative to bring the unconscious into conscious awareness in order to work the polarities present. This prompts the maturation of the psyche. Researchers formulate opinions based on evidence. However, an opinion, even when based on evidence remains just that, an opinion based on subjective factors of analysis. Research has both conscious and unconscious components. Because unconscious motifs underlie the reasons why a researcher chooses to study a phenomenon, the theory of objectivity seems obsolete. Furthermore, a research study is also dependent on past knowledge. Therefore, it is imperative that researchers honor and cite past authors that have studied similar lines of thought. By identifying one’s predispositions, the researcher can engage the studied phenomenon in an objective and qualitative manner. By identifying the unconscious processes that underlie a research study, a researcher can also actively engage the subject matter in a manner that honors the unconscious growth attainable through employing self introspective methods common to the alchemical hermeneutic method (2007).
My personal predispositions to this study center on the respect I have for the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement. Robert Bly’s (1990) work, Iron John: A Book about Men, provided me with a glimpse into what it means to feel as a man. This book also provided me with an understanding of the complex nature of my psyche. Through this book, I was able to understand that the anger and narcissism associated with adolescence is a natural response to the lack of socially sanctioned adult initiations that is common to the American culture. The male psyche has a mythological core; Iron John: A Book about Men spoke to my mythological core by offering an account of the inclusion that I sought as a young man from a mythological perspective. By conducting this study, I hope to provide other men a means to understand the mythological symbols that drive our development during the lifespan.
The methods of induction utilized in this study honor factors of objectivity and subjectivity. I wrote the above autobiographical account to show the personal history I have with this subject matter. I cannot remove myself from my conscious that perceives this research process forward. Nor can I remove the events of my past that unconsciously drive this research passion forward. I can only strive to become conscious of the unconscious events that drive this process, so that I can remain aware of, identify, and bring to light these themes not only from a position that may or may not taint the research process itself, but to also be open to possible other underlying archetypal themes that can drive our individuated development forward. The research that underlies this study will forever remain a part of the work that will be associated with who I become. From the perspective of a legacy that one leaves behind, no person can truly remain objective about the passions that drive their undertakings. This research endeavor remains part of the storyline I create about my life’s journey, and is part of my subjective experience.
I wrote this section from an autobiographical perspective to help prepare the reader for the following sections that utilize transference dialogues, a subjective research method that allows a place for self-analysis to decipher and objectify common human themes. These dialogues will take the form of personal reveries from the past, present, and the future dreams of this researcher as I delve into the subject matter present in Siddhartha (Hesse, 2002). My goal in this undertaking is to understand whether there is a developmental sequence from which individuated development unfolds.
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