(Our Mother, Our Brother )
Our Other, whose heart be heaven
Hallowed be thy pain
Thy kingdom’s won
If we be one
On earth as it is in heaven.
(Anima, Animas, Animamus)
For Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
This excerpt from “Under Saturn’s Shadow” by analytic psychologist James Hollis speaks to me anyway – I’ve been working on the “deficit” he speaks of much of my life…
All imagos are two-sided. If an image has a depth dimension it must express the dual character of reality. Acknowledging and maintaining the tension of opposites is a fundamental Jungian tenet. One-sidedness begets distortion, perversion, neurosis. Thus, for example, the archetype of the mother expresses the dual aspect of nature, that which giveth and that which taketh away. The Great Mother represents a life force that both begets and destroys, gestates and annihilates. As Dylan Thomas so succinctly put it, “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower… is my destroyer”.
So , too, the archetype of the father is dual. Father gives life, light, energy – no wonder he has historically been associated with the sun. But father can also blast, wither, crush. The preliterate mind, playing with the image of the sun as centre of energy, the vitalising principle, evolved God the Father who energises and fecundates the feminine earth. Patriarchy replaced the worship of Earth Mother with that of Sky Father. (The halo associated with Christ is a relic of the solar aura of the Father even as the serpent associated with the maternal deities is spurned by the emergent patriarchy in Genesis.). When the experience of the father is positive, the child experiences strength, support, the energising of his own resources and modelling in the outer world. When the experience of the father is negative, the fragile psyche is crushed.
To use a modern metaphor, the child’s psyche is a set of potentialities, a data base to be shaped by the affirmation and modelling of the parents. Through his mother he may experience the world as a nurturing and protective environment. From father he may receive the empowerment to enter the world and to fight for his life. Of course mother can help empower him and father nurture him, but archetypally they play specific roles. Mother also actives the mother complex, which must be transformed and transcended lest he remain childlike and dependent. He must leave the world of the mother and enter that of the fathers. All mythology is a playing out of some variant of two great mythologems. The mythology of the Great Mother is the great circle, the death-rebirth motif, the Eternal Return. The mythology of the Sky Father is the quest, the journey from innocence to experience, from dark to light, from home to horizon. Each mythic cycle must be served.
When the parental imagos in the child are inadequately modelled by the parents, he carries the deficit throughout his life…
As we enter the world we are infinite. We have no boundary. We are also zero. At three months, or so, we begin to distinguish that there is an “other” – the breast as part object. By 6 months old the boundary between us and the other (usually mother) is clear; and often frightening. Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present. Our world is strait, though we do not know it. As we age and explore we push the boundary back; and back. If we are fortunate, and conquer our fear, we realise once more that there is no boundary. We are existence and all of existence is us. Death is an illusion. When we leave the world we can then fade to white and lose the loneliness and fear that haunts life, to experience all that is directly once more.
Let us go gentle into that good light,
Old age should turn to brave the close of day;
Courage guag’d against the flighting of its wight.
As we enter the world we are infinite. We have no boundary. We are zero. At three months, or so, we begin to distinguish that there is an “other” – the breast as part object. By 6 months old the boundary between us and the other (usually mother) is clear; and often frightening. Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present. Our world is strait, though we do not know it. As we age and explore we push the boundary back; and back. If we are fortunate, and conquer our fear, we realise once more that there is no boundary. We are existence and all of existence is us. Death is an illusion. When we leave the world we can then fade to white and lose the loneliness and fear that haunts life, to experience all that is directly once more.
“We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do” Einstein (in relation to wave-particle duality)
Quantum mechanics has repeatedly proved that energy and matter is contradictory – it is both a wave and a particle at the same time. In addition, it is observation that crystallises out our particular reality from the infinity of possibilities.
“When bodies to their graves, souls from their graves remove” John Donne
There is almost incontrivertible evidence that there is meaning within the universe. The physical constants are incredibly finely tuned to allow even atoms to form, never mind reflective consciousness. There are those who fervently wish to deny this meaning. (Why?). Their only defence is what is called the multiple universe proposition – that there are infinity universes and we happen to live in the one that has these constants aligned. Their problems are these. Firstly, there is not a shred of evidence for the proposition. Secondly it fails the test of simplicity (this is certainly not the simplest solution). Thirdly, even were it true – what then is the origin of the multiverses? Indeed, by definition Universe is all that is, and so multiverses are subsets of that. I personally dismiss this concept for what it is, materialist desperation. The Universe is significant and not simply material.
Material is but one aspect of reality, there is another a dual aspect. John Donne would call that “soul” as distinct from “body”…
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“The attitude of the “I” towards an “It”, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience. The attitude of the “I” towards “Thou”, in a relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds…human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships” Ich und Du, Martin Buber
Martin Buber expresses this duality in his wonderful verse-philosophy “Ich und Du”. Not only is there duality in all-that-is, but it is in the dance – the relationships between the Within-Without, the wave-particle, the Ich-Du – that meaning exists.
People have called that meaning by all sorts of names. Who cares about semantics – a rose is still a rose by any name. If you’ve felt the connectedness of the Universe, then you’ve known joy in all its emphemerality, within the life of this body at least.
Dual, we certainly are, and inexplicably so. Although maybe…
“And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well When the tongues of flames are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one” TS Elliot
* There is a tradition of theft within evolutionary science. Dawkins stole the concept of evolution in the noosphere and clothed in the language of the “meme”. He did not credit Teilhard de Chardin. Charles Darwin stole the concept of evolution by natural selection from James Hutton, who in 1794 wrote “in conceiving an indefinite variety among the individuals of that species, we must be assured, that, on the one hand, those which depart most from the best adapted constitution, will be most liable to perish, while on the other hand, those organized bodies, which most approach to the best consitution for the present circumstances, will be best adapted to continue, in preserving themselves and multiplying the individuals of their race”.