I wanted throw in a quick disclaimer. From this point onwards in this series of posts, we are moving firmly into speculation and guesswork. It may later turn out that I am in over my head having jumped in the deep end later to be found to have been swimming naked when the tide goes out. If so, I will take solace in having just won the gold medal for the most number of swimming metaphors in a single paragraph.
Here’s a lightning summary of how I got here. While trying to make sense of the corona hysteria, I found that Jungian archetypal analysis (The Devouring Mother – The Orphan) provided an elegant and effective explanation not just of the events of the last two years but going back at least to Trump – Brexit. Like most people, I had previously been looking for explanations using cause and effect analysis. However, my two main conclusions, The Plague Story and The Devouring Mother, are based on formal analysis. This is the kind of analysis used by Oswald Spengler and it goes back to Goethe. It’s no coincidence that this way of thinking is tied in with the German tradition. As Spengler noted back at the start of the twentieth century, it was a major difference between the English and German traditions at that time. After the Anglosphere won the wars and become the hegemon of the West, the error of analysing everything as cause and effect has come to predominate. I think this is partly what Gregory Bateson set out to rectify in some of his works. He was re-introducing Goetheian science to the Anglosphere and, by extension, the West.
Although I hadn’t thought about it before, this kind of analysis is exactly what I had been trained in during my linguistics degree. Linguistics looks for patterns. It is concerned primarily with morphological analysis i.e. form. So is Jungian psychology. So is Spenglerian history. I think this is why I was able to adapt to Jung’s thinking relatively easily.
The English language is not “causing” me to write these words. It is the form through which the thoughts express themselves. Given an energy source provided by a full pantry, a supply of leisure time and a “will-to-knowledge”, the form gets manifested. In the same way, the growth of a tree is formal. The branches and trunk grow in iterative units that form a pattern as long as there is enough input of resources and the constraints of the environment allow it. Jungian archetypes are forms manifested by the psychic energy of human beings. My analysis states that the forms of The Devouring Mother and The Orphan were already dominant in the West and became massively energised by the hysteria at the start of corona. That’s why all kinds of phenomena that were completely unrelated in terms of cause and effect fitted into the pattern. Most recently we saw the Australian and Canadian governments manifesting The Devouring Mother pattern at the same time that the pandemic is over in many countries. It had nothing to do with cause and effect or practical considerations (and sure as hell nothing to do with public health) and everything to do with the psychic energy, unleashed by Novak Djokovic and the Canadian truckers, channeled into the archetype.
Now that corona is wrapping up and governments around the world are dropping restrictions faster than the English cricket team drops catches, it’s tempting to say that this was another mass hysteria that followed the form of an archetype and that’s that. However, as part of my analysis, I realised that the pattern went back at least to Trump and Brexit. Since then I have been reading Stephen Jenkinson who has a program entitled Orphan Wisdom and who writes on the absence of elders in the modern West. This got me thinking more about the other half of The Devouring Mother dynamic: The Orphans. As I studied the archetype more closely I realised what Jenkinson had intuited which is that The Orphans and The Elders are key parts of the story. Within the archetype, the lack of elders prevents the form from manifesting. This is analogous to an electrical circuit where all the components are there but one is faulty or missing. In that case the circuit will not complete and energy cannot flow. That seems to me to be a good explanation of the current state of Western society and a quick survey of the post war years seems to bear this out.
In the next post, we’ll use the archetype of The Orphan to analyse the post war years with a particular focus on the generation that most explicitly rejected their elders: the baby boomers. We’ll see that the failure of the archetypal mission appears to be due to that rejection of elderhood. From there we can start to ponder what might happen if conditions arise to activate the archetype to achieve its mission and what might happen if they don’t. (As an interesting aside, this would imply that archetypes manifest their shadow forms when the components of the archetype are “faulty”).
Is any of this valid? I’m still not 100% sure. I consider this series of posts a bit like trying on a new suit. Maybe it’ll fit well. Maybe it’ll need some extra tailoring. Maybe it’ll need to be discarded. It may also be that Spengler had already anticipated this analysis. It looks as though the archetypal analysis will lead to the same conclusion as Spengler which that we are well into the “civilisational” phase of the lifecycle of our culture. It may be that the absence of elderhood and the subsequent failure of new generations to individuate is because of this. In that case, the archetypal analysis would be a way of framing the same notions but through a psychological lens. Even if that’s true, it will still make for an interesting journey.
All posts in this series: