One of the pleasant side effects of the series of vignettes about America’s magical history I’ve been posting here of late has been the chance to look into some of the odder aspects of this nation’s trajectory through time. The magical heritage of the United States has spread into some very strange corners of our culture and history, and chasing those down has very often been entertaining. That’s what I was doing a week ago, following the track of Theosophy through the colorful realm of 1930s pulp literature, when three pieces of a puzzle I hadn’t known I was working on suddenly clicked together.
As it happens, the puzzle had only a peripheral connection with pulp literature, and not much more of a connection with Theosophy. Nor does it have to do with the magical history of America in any straightforward sense. It centers on a challenging constellation of ideas we’ve already discussed more than once in these notional pages, and the collective response (or nonresponse) to those ideas. What made the pieces of the puzzle click together for me was a single very short phrase. We’re about to do an old-fashioned word association test, dear reader, to see if the phrase has any of the same resonances for you that it did for me. Your task is to see what you think of first when you encounter the phrase. Ready?
The phrase is “the Shadow.”
Did that make you think of:
a) The famous 1930s pulp magazine and radio drama figure with the sinister laugh?
b) The Dark Lord Sauron, the antagonist in J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings?
c) The archetype delineated by Carl Jung in his writings on analytic psychology?
It made me think of all three—and thereby hangs a tale.
Let’s start by filling in a few of the blanks for those of my readers who haven’t encountered these Shadows in their natural habitats. The first Shadow sprang into being unexpectedly in 1930, when Street & Smith, the great pulp-magazine publishing firm, decided to try to boost sales of their popular weekly pulp Detective Story by sponsoring a radio show, “Detective Story Hour,” which dramatized one story from each issue. This was the era of live radio, and performers were expected to ham it up a bit on the air. The narrator of the show thus started calling himself “the Shadow” and leading off with what became a legendary tag line: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…” followed by a laugh soaked in the triple-distilled, charcoal-filtered essence of human wickedness.
Readers immediately began deluging Street & Smith with questions about the mysterious Shadow. Bill Ralston, the firm’s general manager, scented a cash cow, and tapped prolific pulp writer and journalist Walter B. Gibson to bring the Shadow to life in magazine form. A quarterly, The Shadow Magazine, duly appeared. By the end of the first year it was raking in cash at such a rate that Street & Smith changed its schedule to twice a month, where it stayed until wartime paper restrictions slowed things down in 1943. A radio show, a comic book series, a newspaper comic strip, and a flurry of Saturday afternoon movie serials (the precursor of the Saturday morning kiddie shows on television) duly followed.
Great literature? Not a chance. Great fun? Now you’re talking. The Shadow was one of the first imaginary crimefighting heroes with a secret identity. (That identity varied depending on whether you read the pulps or listened to the radio drama: it was Kent Allard in the former and Lamont Cranston in the latter.) He wore a hat pulled down low, a red scarf covering the lower half of his face, and a great swirling black cape; he had a great beak of a nose, and blazing eyes; he had the power to cloud men’s minds, which he’d learned from yogis in India; and he also packed a pair of automatic pistols in case some less mystical option was called for. He lurked in the darkness or paraded around in a galaxy of impenetrable disguises, hunting down a giddy assortment of psychopathic master criminals. What evil lurked in the hearts of men? The Shadow had it down cold.
So that’s Shadow #1. Shadow #2, the Dark Lord Sauron, had his genesis in the same decade as Walter Gibson’s creation. J.R.R. Tolkien, an Oxford professor who told elaborate stories to his own children, began writing one of those down around 1930, and it was published as The Hobbit in 1937. Well stocked with wizards, dwarves, trolls, goblins, hostile elves, and one of the finest dragons in literature, it became an immediate bestseller. Within months of its appearance, buoyed by the enthusiasm of his young readers, Tolkien began working on a sequel, which he intended to be another children’s story. It didn’t stay that way for long. Terrifying Black Riders showed up nearly at once—Tolkien noted later that he was just as surprised by their sudden appearance as his protagonists were—and something else began to loom up behind them, a vast presence blotting out the stars.
“The new Hobbit,” as Tolkien started out calling the sequel, ended up being named after that vast presence: the only Lord of the Rings in the trilogy, of course, is Sauron the Dark Lord, master of the Black Riders and most (though not all) of the evil entities in Tolkien’s sprawling imaginary cosmos. The reader never sees Sauron; Tolkien, a skilled watercolorist, painted him once but had the good literary sense to realize that Sauron was more effective as an absence than he could ever have been as a presence. Even at his closest, he is always just past the edge of the reader’s vision, and he spends most of the trilogy as a looming darkness far away.
From the early drafts of the manuscript, accordingly, Sauron, his servants, and everything else related to him came to be summed up by the phrase we’re discussing: “the Shadow.” The Shadow is a pervasive presence all through the story, and the entire action of the plot is based on the idea that if the right person can do the right thing at the right moment, the Shadow will pop like a bubble and go away once and for all. That won’t leave the world perfect—Tolkien was a much better writer and a much more conservative Christian than that—but the terrible threat against which the protagonists must fight will dissolve like mist before the wind.
It was an elegant literary construction, a way of highlighting the moral challenges and choices faced by Tolkien’s other characters by placing them in front of a backdrop made of pure darkness. It became something far more significant, and far more troubling, when Tolkien’s trilogy became a cult classic among the young and hip in the 1960s. We talked two weeks ago about another set of cult classics in that era, the novels of Hermann Hesse; Tolkien appealed to much the same market that Hesse did, but his work suffered a different fate. The severe and serious conservatism that pervades the trilogy—Tolkien was politically on the extreme right, a detail most of his fans have been at great pains to obscure—was first ignored and then erased, with the help of bad movies and an entire industry of shoddy Tolkienesque knockoff novels that plagiarized all his imagery and evaded all the ideas that gave them meaning. The consequences—well, we’ll get to those in a bit.
First we need to encounter Shadow #3, the one that Swiss psychologist Carl Jung anatomized in so troubling a fashion. Jung, as I hope most of my readers are aware, started out as a disciple of Sigmund Freud but broke with him in 1913 over basic disagreements over the nature and meaning of the unconscious mind. To sum those up very briefly, Freud insisted that the unconscious was simply the instinctual, animal mind—the id, in Freudian terms—which was mostly interested in sex, and had to be disciplined and controlled by the ego in obedience to the conscience, the voice of the superego.
Jung found in his own work with himself and his patients that the unconscious mind could not be summed up so simply, and at first saw the unconscious as containing two layers. One of them consisted of those things the ego didn’t want to recognize in itself, and so was entirely personal in nature: the personal unconscious, as Jung called it. The second layer consisted of contents that were not personal, had never been conscious in the first place, and formed the deep structure of the human psyche. This layer he termed the collective unconscious.
Until the start of the 1930s—that decade again—that was Jung’s basic theory. What happened then was that he traced the roots of the conscious self and the personal unconscious right down into the collective unconscious. The basic structures of the collective unconscious, he came to see, were the archetypes: a set of roles or functions that were hardwired into the human mind at a deep level, and served as expressions in consciousness of the basic biological instincts we inherit from our animal ancestors. Once you reach a certain stage of sexual maturity, for example, your mind is hardwired to look for a lover: that’s one of the most obvious archetypes, the one Jung called the anima or animus (depending on your gender and sexual orientation).
For all practical purposes, once it’s triggered by some complex set of psychological stimuli, the anima or animus functions as a prolonged case of beer goggles, projecting itself onto the other person and making them look just like the woman or man of your dreams, no matter how faint the resemblance might be in the eyes of your friends. That’s how all archetypes work: they scoop up the relevant contents of your mind, constellate them (that is, fit them into the archetypal pattern), and project that onto the nearest available target. What Jung came to realize as he pursued his investigations into archetypes is that what he’d been calling the conscious self and the personal unconscious were also archetypes. Who you think you are is a construct made up of all the things you think you ought to be, constellated around the archetype Jung called the ego.
Then there’s all the things you think you shouldn’t be, the contents of the psyche that Freud identified with the whole unconscious mind, which constellate around an archetype of their own. In Freud’s own Victorian setting, among the neurotic middle class women who provided him with most of his patients, most of those contents did in fact have to do with sex, but that was an artifact of his own era and culture. In a society with different hangups, different contents fill the blank slate of the archetype—but those contents always come from within the individual. That’s why Jung, in a series of pathbreaking essays written in 1934 and 1938-9, came to call the archetype in question the Shadow.
The Shadow is everything about yourself you hate so much that you’re not willing to admit that it’s part of yourself. Thus, just as inevitably as your anima or animus projects itself on your actual or potential lovers, your Shadow projects itself on your enemies. Still, there’s a difference between the Shadow and the other archetypes. The contents that fill the other archetypes mostly come from other people: every mentor you’ve ever had helps provide raw material for the archetypes of the Wise Old Man and Wise Old Woman, for example, the archetypes that exist for the purpose of getting you to listen and learn from elders, just as whatever aroused your sexual desires most strongly in adolescence provided raw material for your anima or animus.
The Shadow, by contrast, is utterly personal. The contents that it constellates all come from yourself, and there’s good reason for that. Like all the archetypes, the Shadow is the expression of a basic animal instinct. It evolved to whip you into a blind homicidal rage when you have to face an enemy, so that you set aside ordinary human concerns and rip the other person to bloody gobbets. Natural selection being the harsh taskmaster that it is, the aggressive instinct homed in on the things that would produce blind homicidal rage most effectively. Yes, those would most reliably be the things you can’t stand about yourself.
It’s a fascinating synchronicity, to borrow another of Jung’s concepts, that these three Shadows all constellated themselves in the creative imagination of the Western world in the same decade. The 1930s were a good decade for such exercises. As it began, the golden afternoon of delusion that was the 1920s, when people of good will convinced themselves that the War to End Wars really had done the job and an immense economic boom seemed to promise good times forever for everyone who mattered, still hovered close, and the US stock market crash of October 1929 hadn’t yet triggered more than an ordinary recession—the missteps that turned it into the Great Depression were just then being made. Thereafter, year by year and very nearly day by day, everything went wrong, until September 1939 arrived and the world blew itself apart.
What’s more, behind all of it was the Shadow in Jung’s sense, and also in Tolkien’s sense. In Germany, over the course of that decade, one of Europe’s great nations discarded its own grand heritage of humanism and philosophical thought in what amounted to a nationwide psychotic break. There was plenty of history behind that, to be sure. From 1871 on, a great many Germans built their collective ego around the notion that Germany was destined to be a global imperial power. The unwelcome reality was that theirs was a small nation with few natural resources and no defensible borders, hopelessly outmatched in an age of continental powers with vast oilfields.
In 1917 they got slammed face first into that reality when the United States came into the First World War, propped up the French and British armies when those were on the brink of collapse, then flooded the Western Front with a torrent of munitions, supplies, and fuel, and the first wave of an almost unlimited supply of manpower. A year later the war was over and Germany had lost—but that was not something most Germans could accept. Instead, they went looking for scapegoats within Germany who could be blamed for the defeat of their invincible nation, and an unpleasant little man with a toothbrush mustache was happy to provide them with one.
In France and Britain, in turn, a great many people built their collective ego around the notion that their nations were innocent of any wrongdoing while Germany and its allies had started the First World War out of pure unmitigated evil. The unwelcome reality was that France and Britain were brutal imperial powers which treated their colonies around the world the same way the Germans were accused of treating Belgium and France, and which had contributed mightily to the cascade of blunders that caused the First World War. Obsessed with the desire to blame Germany for the war, the French and British goverments demanded terms at the peace treaty negotiations so harsh that they left Germany economically and politically crippled. That made it easy for the unpleasant little man just mentioned to turn a fringe party into one of the twentieth century’s most terrifyingly effective political machines and ride it straight into power.
As the 1930s lurched toward their catastrophic end, in other words, millions of Germans blamed the Jews for Germany’s failures, millions of French and British people blamed the Germans for their own countries’ failures, and both sides proceeded to make a set of moronic blunders indistinguishable from those of 1914 except in detail. The result was the bloodiest war in recorded history, and the transformation of Europe from the imperial center of the planet to a half-ruined wasteland split down the middle and shared out between the United States and the Soviet Union. If this suggests that projecting the Shadow makes for incompetent politics and disastrous outcomes, why, yes, that’s what it suggests to me, too.
Thus the 1930s were a good time to think about the riddle of evil. Two of the Shadows we’ve been discussing represent diametrically opposed answers to that riddle. Tolkien’s answer, an answer he meant as a literary device but became much more than that once his trilogy became part of the mental furnishings of an entire generation, was to see evil as something outside the self, a vast and all-pervading Enemy whose only purpose is to oppose everything that the protagonists think of as good and right and true. Jung’s answer, an answer he didn’t intend as a literary device but became one in the hands of his good friend Hermann Hesse, was to recognize that the Shadow we hate and fear is always cast by the qualities in ourselves that we can’t stand and won’t admit we have.
Both approaches have their political dimension. We’ve discussed that dimension of Tolkien’s Shadow above, and seen its results. The political dimension of Jung’s Shadow was set out crisply by Hermann Hesse in his essay “O Friends, Not These Tones,” written at the beginning of the First World War, which tried to convince other German authors not to join in the demonization of France and England that pervaded Germany just then (and was mirrored precisely by the demonization of Germany that pervaded France and England at the same time). It wasn’t a pacifist tract—that’s the most significant thing about it. Hesse was ready to support his country in war, and went on to do so. He simply argued that whipping up blind rage toward the enemy wasn’t useful. He spoke for a calm, reasoned, effective foreign policy in war as well as peace.
Of course he was shouted down in vicious terms. Thomas Mann, later one of Hesse’s closest friends, disgraced himself with a tirade condemning Hesse as little better than a traitor, and his was far from the worst response Hesse got. Hesse was right, and history shows with agonizing clarity just how right he was, but no one cared about that at the time.
All that was long ago, of course. Two weeks ago, however, we talked about the novels of Hermann Hesse: how they and Tolkien’s great trilogy became the cynosures of a generation of youth, and how Hesse then got dropped like a hot rock while Tolkien, or at least a stuffed and mounted facsimile thereof, stayed fashionable. At the heart of that difference, I’m convinced, is the radical difference in the Shadows the two authors portrayed. In Hesse’s novels, when you have two characters that are moral opposites, they contend with one another until something new is born. In Tolkien, when you have two characters that are moral opposites, one of them must die. We know which of those became the common currency of popular thought in our time.
So if you’re wondering, dear reader, why those of us in the USA live in a country where one party accuses the other of being full-blown goose-stepping Nazis and the other party insists that the first are Satan-worshiping pedophiles, where compromise has become a swear word and both sides have convinced themselves that all they have to do is come up with the right gimmick and the Shadow they hate so much will pop like a bubble, now you know. The bitter irony, of course, is that they’re both wrong. No matter how many self-proclaimed Frodos drop surrogate Rings into notional equivalents of Mount Doom, the Shadow will not go away, because it’s being projected by the people on both sides who have convinced themselves that they’re fighting it.
If there’s a solution—other than mutual slaughter, that is—maybe it’s to be found in the first Shadow we discussed, the one who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. (Not, please note, their minds—it’s in the heart, the seat of unbalanced passion and distorted love, where the evil that matters has its root.) That tremendous, mordant, terrifying laugh is only possible for one who has already confronted the unbalanced passion and distorted love in his own heart. If there’s a way forward for us here in the United States, that knowledge might just provide it.
This is my last substantive post before the US presidential election on November 3. I’ll have an open post on the 28th, and my regular post on the 4th will be written over the week preceding the election. If you come here on the morning of the 4th expecting to see a review of the carnage, in other words, you’ll be disappointed—but then, astonishing as it may seem to those who have allowed politics to devour their lives, there are things other than presidential elections worth discussing! See you then.
While I was reading I saw the Tolkien painting, and it struck me that I had seen something very similar before. A work of animation that started production in the late 30s, and which has one of the most impressive depictions of the Shadow in the 20th century. I´m talking about Fantasia, and more specifically the Night on Bald Mountain segment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLCuL-K39eQ
The concept of shadow is an incredibly one. I see it in my life, making ridiculous decisions that I cannot imagine making now.
I have two questions about shadows. Since I haven’t read Jung yet, forgive me if they are nonsensical
– How do shadow projection changes in one life? Can we discard them, control them or they just hide and wait for a target? As an example, can we learn from falling in love with the wrong people?
– If I understand correctly, there is a personal shadow specific to each individual but there can be societal shadows too. Each culture defines its own “other”. How do the personal and group shadow relate?
This may be a good subject for meditation but maybe your response might further that process. I find moderate austerities useful such as fasting, celibacy, and various kinds of cold exposure. How does one prevent the animal impulses that make up the opposite of these practices, such as gluttony, or excessive lust from getting buried into the shadow? I think the austerities work if you acknowledge the desires your repressing as parts of yourself that you need to get under control and they subsequently do not become part of the shadow unless one starts adding ideas of how great you are for practicing austerities into your ego. I’d love to hear your thoughts JMG, and anyone else in the commentariat.
Talking about word associations with ‘the shadow’, I came up with a different one. When Jung says ‘meeting the shadow’ we know what that means. World War One fighter pilots used the same phrase as a euphemism for a plane crash. They had some other suprising terminology as well. If you say someone is ‘waiting for you in the sun’ that sounds like a good thing. Not if it’s the Red Baron.
Wow. Just like it says in the Old Testament:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
Writing “what you think of first” limited the scope of the search, and this was the most important factor.
I thought of the pulp character. You mentioned it in older posts.
The Jungian concept of shadow is not capitalized in Portuguese, my forst language. My inner Portuguese teacher killed the alternative – estado, cognate to state, is an administrative division in Brazil, like California; Estado, capitalized, means “government” or “country.”
I read “The Lord of the Rings” in a Portugal translation, somewhat different from the Brazilian Portuguese, and I never would associate “the Shadow” to Sauron.
I happen to know all three. I’m afraid the point of the assignment was lost in translation. This answer is provided on the hope that it will be useful.
Well put. These are indeed Shadowy times.
I wish to introduce you to another group of Shadows; they are from J. Michael Straczynski’s epic television science-fiction series, “Babylon 5”. In B5, the Shadows are an ancient race of space-farers. They, with their best frenemies the Vorlons, are charged with the task of guiding the evolution of the younger sentient races; but the Shadows and the Vorlons have a philosophical disagreement.
The Vorlons believe in order and discipline. They show up at each planet and telepathically present themselves as the natives’ holy men and culture heroes. They build civilizations and enforce norms.
The Shadows believe in chaos and conflict. When they arrive at a planet, they privately offer to grant wishes, but they always do so in the most disruptive way. They spark civilization-destroying wars which only the strong, the smart, and the lucky survive, thus improving the breed.
By the end of the series, their shenanigans force the younger races to unite against them. John Sheridan tells both Vorlons and Shadows to “Get the hell out of our galaxy”.
Part of the genius of JMS’s vision is that both Vorlons and Shadows had good reasons for doing what they did; but each falsely thought themselves entirely in the right, and they had both lost their way.
Thank you so much for this! For many years I’ve watched the errant shadow projections in the United States get loonier and loonier and I’ve observed with an increasing sense of horror. The Tolkien shadow approach is part of the reason I’ve always been really turned off by Tolkien, and incidentally, why I really like Dostoyevsky. Dostoyevsky really doesn’t spare anyone their shadow, at least as I read him.
Recently a friend and I discussed how books leave different imprints in their readers, and I think that Manichean worldview of Tolkien and his many imitators really has cast a pall over the entire political process, as you outlined. Especially when I attended public school, I noticed that my friend who was the biggest Tolkien fan also had the easiest of times painting his political opponents in terms of total evil.
Incidentally, this is why I find magical realist literature so important in how I orient myself: the characters in Marquez’s books are people. In fact, he doesn’t even have villains in any substantial sense. Likewise, I recently read quite a few Chandler novellas and I found the same principle operative, even with so many people getting shot in grubby circumstances, Chandler makes it clear that there’s only a hair’s breadth difference between the heroes and the anti-heroes!
Point being, another question might be _why_ did Tolkien’s work become as popular as they did? There are other books one can grok, after all. I feel the thing is, as Jung points out in his essays, the Shadow is impossible for the ego to see, and the raw homicidal fury is quite a bit easier to muster unreflectively than the Hesse approach of the integration. Furthermore, Hesse is rather painful to read. Harry Haller and his first encounter with Hermine are so sad and pathetic! If the reader can see him or herself in the situation than it does not make pretty reading — neither if one plays the part of Haller revealed as babyish, incapable, stiff, and wanting to slavishly devote himself; nor Hermine cool, aloof, contemptuous, and utterly morbid; nor if one plays both of them in one’s head as different aspects of one’s Self.
If there’s just some arch-baddy to destroy, it really does make for an easier world, and there’s not the whole problem of human incapacity, stupidity, morbidity, or what have you. That becomes the problem of the Enemy, not of the individual. It’s also a very disturbing thing to finally see clearly one’s own _implication_ in the accusation that one throws, and see all of one’s scorn return right into one’s heart and one must see the filth that one has thrown never left one’s chest and there it festers until the character actually changes.
That is, at least, what I’ve seen. The problem is that it is so easy to project the Shadow and turn it into a _social game_, a transactional game even, that we may call War. It’s much harder to sit there alone and pick up that pen and open that new journal and write on the top of the page “What are the ways that I am similar to Sauron?”
JMG – this is such good writing, I’m speechless (maybe a way to accept our personal Shadow – just shutup and think)?
The trick, of course, is to figure out how to accept those things about oneself that one finds unacceptable, which rather sounds like the classic question of unstoppable forces and immovable objects–or, in terms more relevant to this blog, like the unresolved Contending Forces of Taumiel. How does one resolve the unresolvable?
(As to the election, I think the 4th would be too soon anyway–I expect it’ll be closer to a week before the final votes get tallied and the end result is known.)
By the way, I saw that you have become a minor celebrity recently in an award-winning documentary!
I am startled in today’s socio-political climate that such a documentary would be seen by the chattering classes in entertainment let alone win an award!
One thing about Tolkien’s works that always struck me as odd is how he constantly kept up the pretense that the Numenoreans were innately the Kings of Men – both literally and figuratively. This despite the entire sweep of the history of Arda showed no such thing about them. Such “kingly men” can and did at regular intervals rise and fall as a culture just like any other. Ditto with all the other sentient beings that populated Middle Earth.
He always said his books were set on our earth within the span of human history (albeit an alt history I guess). He really made a big deal about the Dunedain were still the kings of men, no matter how many times their various imperial endeavors brought about their own ruin. Numenor was a thinly disguised Atlantis. The Dunedain of Arnor couldn’t even keep it together enough to retain a civilization that merited a king. These “kings” declined so much they progressed straight from kingship to chiefdom.
More than a little I admit I think Tolkein was one of those Brits Yogiraj Satgurunath said were reincarnated Romans. And he says they repeated their karmic desire for empire all over again in Britain.
Of course I get it those were different times when nationalism wasn’t the ‘dirty-word’ it’s since become. But I still find it somewhat odd that Tolkien’s own written alt-earth-history showed his “kings of men” were just as ordinary as any other peoples in Arda.
Thank you for this! It’s a topic near and dear to my, uh…heart. When I read the title, I immediately thought of the radio program.
“It’s a fascinating synchronicity, to borrow another of Jung’s concepts, that these three Shadows all constellated themselves in the creative imagination of the Western world in the same decade. The 1930s were a good decade for such exercises.”
The discovery and naming of Pluto (the former planet, as opposed to the god-concept) in 1930 has to figure in here somewhere, synchronistically and archetypally speaking. A minor footnote in the evolution of the human psyche? An ancient, powerful and enduring influence, whether conscious or unconscious? The Shadow knows….
On a lighter note, the Disney character Pluto was also synchronistically created in 1930.
Only the shadow knows……yes its what is always cast. When one faces the sun the shadow follows one walks away it leads. It is in the arts where it is very thick in the astral sludge, Especially the field of music, but how does vibration display a shadow? wondering what you see and feel JMG,
In the hearts of men . . . alas, I can’t participate in the question of which Shadow comes to mind first because the title already had one in mind.
The funny part of this is that I’ve never read nor watched nor heard anything of The Shadow, I simply hang out with fans enough to know the line. I have read Tolkien, of course, and some Jung, who is not at all present at my local public library, making reading him much harder.
Yes, Brother Greer, you have more books on the shelves at the library than Jung does!
You’ve really, really given us a lot to think about here.
I’m glad you point out that Tolkien’s Shadow was less of a serious philosophical idea than a literary device, and not the only literary device he could use – i.e. he also wrote the Hobbit, where there’s almost a whole galaxy of characters acting on their own motives without a neat division between good and evil, and the Silmarillion, where Morgoth is just as monotonically sinister as Sauron, but the fanaticism and internal conflicts among his enemies – Fëanor, Túrin Turambar, and all the rest – lead to most of their stories ending tragically.
I can’t really comment on Herman Hesse since I haven’t read any of his works yet (my copy of Demian is in the mail; for some reason my library doesn’t stock it). As for Jung’s shadow, I think it’s too simplistic to just look at real-world conflicts and say: “Both sides are projecting the shadow, and the bitter experiences of early 20th century Europe shows why we shouldn’t do that.”
Like you said in your post, the Shadow archetype evolved for a reason, and there are times when a fight to the death – or until one party surrenders – makes sense. (In 1940, Britain needed Winston Churchill and “never, never, never, never, never give in!”)
So this really just opens up the big question of when it is, and when it isn’t, a good idea to do everything you can to avoid conflict. Which will then probably turn out to be a “golden mean” thing – i.e. whether the virtue you’re talking about is courage or patience, it isn’t the opposite of one vice, it’s the midpoint between two.
What a lovely essay! Even though I’m only 58, my mind went immediately to the The Shadow of radio fame. I was almost afraid, JMG, you had forgotten about us old-media buffs until the very end.
I found your assessment of 1930s as a foundry of big (bad) ideas to be very shrewd. I’ve been thinking and sharing with friends that I believe our decade will have a similar, mostly negative, output for future generations even before you mapped the ’30s assessment with such clarity.
As to projections of evil across the great divide, I have yet to learn my lesson. Every time I believe I can “speak sensibly” with a partisan of either stripe, I come away scorched and smoking. I just will not / cannot learn. There can be no understanding, let alone defending, the points or arguments of one side to the other side. The dragon’s breath is all I will ever receive. These are times run by completely blind, unreasoning emotional responses. Complete sentences are NOT welcome.
Pedro, it’s not impossible that Tolkien was influenced by the movie. His imagination was much more heavily shaped by the popular culture of his time than most people realize; some of the core themes of his fiction, for example, were all over a mostly forgotten children’s book by L. Frank Baum of Wizard of Oz fame that was readily available in Britain during his childhood.
NomadicBeer. good! Those are important questions. The answer to the first is that you can learn to become conscious of your own Shadow and acknowledge what it’s telling you — that this, too, is part of who you are. When you do that the Shadow becomes your ally, a source of unexpected insight and strength. The answer to the second is that the relationship between your individual Shadow and that of your society determines, more than anything else, your relationship with your society. If your Shadow fits comfortably into the collective Shadow, you’re a well-integrated member of society; if your Shadow is in conflict with the collective Shadow, you’re at odds with your society.
Youngelephant, austerities are actually a good way to keep things from getting into the Shadow. Fasting, for example, keeps you constantly aware of just how large a role the desire for food plays in your life — it brings that desire right out there into the forefront of your consciousness, because in the early stages of a fast (at least this is true for me) thoughts related to food pop up all the time. So you can’t pretend that you don’t have gluttonous desires! Any desire you know about, and accept as part of yourself, is by definition not part of the Shadow. The desires that belong to the Shadow are the ones you can’t let yourself notice you have.
Yorkshire, good heavens. I didn’t know that — though it makes sense, of course, because when you’re flying a World War I-style plane, your shadow is usually on the ground, and meeting it has an obvious implication. As for “waiting for you in the sun,” that was one I’d heard, though in a Second World War setting; if you could come screaming down out of the sun at your enemy, whether you were a fighter pilot going after Messerschmidts or a dive bomber plunging toward the Japanese carriers near Midway, they wouldn’t be able to see you clearly until it was much too late.
Steve, true enough.
Anonymous, so noted, and thank you for the data points.
Paradoctor, interesting. Thanks for this.
Violet, Tolkien really has cast a very long Shadow! You’re quite right about Chandler, of course, and the same is equally true of Dashiell Hammett, the other foundational noir author; his heroes, if anything, are more ambivalent than Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, who has his own code and follows it fairly strictly. The sad thing is that Tolkien did make room, plenty of it, for an exploration of human flaws and failings — the Shadow in his novels was a way of highlighting the complex moral dilemmas his characters constantly face. In the popular reception of Tolkien, that was erased just as thoroughly as his reactionary political views.
Darrell, thank you!
David BTL, it’s a fine paradox, but like most paradoxes, there’s an easy solution once you step outside the limited terms on which it’s based. Most of us learn to accept what we once thought unacceptable in various ways; all that’s needed is a willingness to accept it of oneself, too.
Aidan, it was a very odd experience!
Panda, politically speaking, Tolkien was a royalist — as I said, he was on the extreme right. So his support for kingship and the supposed virtue of royal houses expressed itself in his fiction as well. If I ever get around to writing my epistolary novel The King of the Crimson Land, which is a Tolkienesque story told partly from the perspective of the Dark Lord, the alleged grandeur and fitness to rule of the Kings of Men will be among the central targets.
Goldenhawk, synchronistically enough, when I get to work writing today, I’ll be doing final edits on my book on Pluto, in which Pluto the Pup (named after the planet!) also gets a bit part.
Hawk, music is the most difficult of the arts to analyze psychologically because it relates directly to the emotions, where other arts have to rely on the indirect means of imagery and symbolism. As for what I see and feel, the only possible answer would involve whacking you with a Zen master’s stick, and I don’t have one long enough to reach through the internet. 😉
Sister BoysMom, good heavens. I’m sorry to hear that — glad that I have a lot of books there, of course, but Jung wrote some very good things and deserves some shelf space.
Wesley, that was exactly Hesse’s point in “O Friends, Not These Tones” — sometimes it’s necessary to fight, but to surrender your mind and will to the unconscious promptings of the Shadow is a further step that’s far from necessary. Of course there are times when conflict can’t be avoided — nor did my post suggest there weren’t.
KevPilot, that’s what Hesse found out in 1914, too. Sometimes you just have to wait until the rubble stops bouncing.
I remember the radio show from my childhood (I was born in 1935) with it’s eerie laugh! But my first though was the RLStevenson poem:” I have a little shadow, that goes in and out with me, and what can be the use of him is more than I can see…..”
My mind made the following associations to the Shadow, in this order:
The radio drama.
Regarding Babylon 5– I came here to bring up the Shadows from that series, but paradoctor beat me to it! I’m aware of course, JMG, that this sort of thing isn’t up your alley. But Babylon 5 was an extraordinary show, in my view– one of the view television shows in which, I think, something from the higher planes came pouring through. It was an exceedingly clever show– it began by presenting itself as a Star Trek knockoff, but then slowly introduced ideas that drew more from Tolkien, Lovecraft and Orwell than from Gene Roddenberry. More than that, the writer drew on themes from classical mythology, religion and even occultism– After one of the first on-screen appearances of the Shadows, one of the aliens sits down with another and reads from Yeats’s Second Coming.
Trickster phenomena regularly occurred in relation to the show. The original lead actor– the Captain Kirk figure– lost his mind during the first season and had to be replaced. By the third season, there was apparently a rule instated that the writer would no longer reference characters’ body parts in scripts, as the actors tended to injure themselves in real life when their characters did so. And, most tellingly and yet saddest of all, a great many, perhaps most, of the actors that had lead roles on the show are now dead. By comparison, Star Trek: Deep Space 9 premiered a year before Babylon 5 (and stole many of its ideas, which were originally presented to Paramount); its equally large cast is still entirely alive, as far as I can tell.
This isn’t a post about Babylon 5 and JMG is probably already annoyed that I’m talking about a tv show. I am convinced, though, that J. Michael Straczynski was, like his fellow atheist HP Lovecraft, acting as a channel for forces he himself couldn’t believe in, and his treatment of the Shadows bears comparison with the other three Shadows mentioned in this post.
One of the other things I thought about–
Evil lurks in “the heart,” “the seat of unbalanced passion and distorted love.”
I have read that Eastern Orthodox theologians identify the heart with the Nous, so that Nous is translated as “heart” rather than “mind” or “intellect,” and “metanoia,” “repentance” means “to change the heart.”
Nous, of course, is the level of the Forms in Platonic thought; our personal Nous could be thought of as our Mental Sheath in Dion Fortune terms.
So, combining these thoughts, the evil that lurks in our hearts can be seen as a distorted or lower-astral reflection of what is actually intended as the higher aspect of ourself– our existence as a unique Form or Nous. And so the work of facing our own Shadow becomes the work of repentance or metanoia, by way of which we can make contact with our Individuality and become who and what we are meant to be. In a similar way, the Dolmen Arch describes the element of Fire– the element of the Heart Center– as representing the passions in the unawakened soul, but the Will in the initiate.
In this case, Dante’s journey makes a better metaphor for the process of initiation than does Frodo’s.
Finally, on Tolkien– Maybe it’s obvious, but it just occurred to me that the reason that Sauron works is precisely that he’s kept off-screen, in the same way that Lovecraft’s beasties become terrifying by being described as unimaginable. I saw several of the Harry Potter movies, and thought that the “dark lord” was the worst thing about them– precisely because he spends so much time hanging around being a jerk for no good reason.
I cataloged this kids book in between reading paragraphs of your essay: I See a Shadow by Laura Breen. I love the cute tentacles in the shadow on the cover.
Must be a synchronicity or something 😉
You may want to look again at your history in support of this argument.
The French and British armies didn’t need any propping up in 1917: the battles of the Somme and Verdun had effectively destroyed the German Army by the end of 1916. The collapse of Russia bought them a bit more time, but the war was essentially lost before the US even entered it. The German surrender (a product of a nervous breakdown among the General Staff) was essentially brought about by the collapse of Austria-Hungary, as French troops advanced from the Balkans. This was never explained to the German people, and the Kaiser abdicated before the decision to surrender was taken. (See for example Alexander Watson’s book “Ring of Steel” on this.) So the final armistice was negotiated by a new parliamentary regime, led by the Socialist Frederick Ebert. This was the origin of the “stab-in-the-back” argument deployed by Hitler and others, and the belief that the Weimar Republic was illegitimate because it was headed by the so-called “November criminals”, mainly Socialists, who had sold the country out.
I don’t think British and French colonial policy had much to do with the War, except in the sense that Germany felt it was entitled to colonies too. There was, in fact, remarkably little popular hostility between the various future combatants, beyond what you would expect from history (eg the German occupation of Alsace and Lorraine after 1870). Indeed, the British government had to work very hard on public opinion in 1914 to justify the declaration of war against Germany. Of course, popular feeling hardened a lot after that, in all countries , which is what tends to happen in war. What there was, was enormous fear among political elites: by Germany of being encircled by a France and Russia growing in strength, by a France worried about German superiority, by an Austria-Hungary worried about internal cohesion and many others (see Christopher Clark on this). Each country felt isolated, misunderstood and threatened.
By 1919, public opinion, exhausted by the war, demanded that the Germans should pay, and the British and French governments could not have acted other than as they did. But everyone realised that the Versailles Treaty could not endure: the German economy was stronger, the German population was larger and one day Germany would demand that what it saw as wrongs in 1919 should be righted. The “shadow” that you describe is best understood, I think, as the shadow of approaching and inevitable war which haunted the European imagination throughout the interwar period. It was obvious that WW1 had settled nothing, and equally obvious that there would be a second round. This was the background against which both Tolkien and Jung were writing.
I’m surprised, though, that you don’t mention the real Shadow of that period: the Soviet Union. Even before 1914, the ruling classes of Europe were obsessed with the fear of revolution. After 1917, that fear was incarnated in the new Bolshevik state, which was presented to the public as a terrifyingly modernist, atheistic, scientific and industrial society, the inverse mirror image (the Shadow, really) of the western states. You can’t understand the behaviour of the western powers, at least up until 1939, without understanding the blind terror that the very idea of the Soviet Union and its ideology caused among the elites in Europe and the US. For many of them (including the Catholic Church of which Tolkien was a member), the Nazi war on the Soviet Union was a holy crusade, to rid the earth of a demonic power. I’ve often wondered whether some of this, at least, found its way into The Lord of the Rings in the description of Mordor.
On Tolkien, finally, don’t forget that he was at heart an anarchist who distrusted power. For him, the urge to power was the original sin (“even Sauron was good once” as Gandalf says) and the exercise of power is the greatest temptation. The shadow is, indeed, in all of us; the belief that if we had power we would use it wisely. Not so, says Tolkien.
“It’s a fascinating synchronicity, to borrow another of Jung’s concepts, that these three Shadows all constellated themselves in the creative imagination of the Western world in the same decade. The 1930s were a good decade for such exercises.”
Pluto revealed itself to human eyes in 1930 as well, of course.
JMG: “Any desire you know about, and accept as part of yourself, is by definition not part of the Shadow. The desires that belong to the Shadow are the ones you can’t let yourself notice you have.”
So, is there any sort of practical way to figure out what’s in your shadow? (Resurrecting Jung and having him psychoanalyze you fails the practicality test.) I suppose if you get shipwrecked (metaphorically speaking), and then carefully analyze what got you there, you might just figure it out, maybe. Any way to figure it out without first getting shipwrecked?
That makes sense then. Also, do you know where to find “O Friends, Not These Tones” on the internet? I just searched for it but with no success.
I too have thought a lot about the role of the Númenorean line in Tolkien’s work. My theory is that it isn’t the result of a Roman influence, but of an Israelite one.
Tolkien is working within a religious worldview whose central myth deals with the destiny of the House of David. David, and Solomon his son, were made Kings over all Israel by the prophets Samuel and Nathan. With God’s help, they brought Israel to the height of it’s power, but they both sinned against God, and as a result of their arrogance, the kingdom was divided and David’s line ended up ruling only the smaller piece. But God’s covenant to remember that lineage still stands.
A long succession of kings follow, most of them bad; both kingdoms dwindle in their size and power, the northern one is annihilated by Assyria, the southern one is conquered by Babylon and the inhabitants are carried away captive. But after a few decades, a relative of the last king manages to become governor of the remnant, and he eventually leads his people back to Judah, and rule them under the suzerainty of the Persians.
The Jews keep sinning and their country becomes more and more of a backwater. Eventually it is just one small province in the Roman empire, and the royal line is represented by an ordinary carpenter living in a podunk town called Bethlehem. And then his bride gives birth to the greatest and most important King of all.
Now, all throughout this story the House of David is floundering into greater and greater obscurity, and most of its scions are clearly unworthy of their destiny. But nothing they do can possibly cause them to lose their status as the chosen line.
So it is with Númenor. Elros receives his kingdom as a gift from the Valar, but over the next three thousand years, his descendants fall into greater and greater wickedness, and eventually the island is swallowed by the sea and the last king meets a horrible fate. But the royal lineage is preserved by the Lords of Andúnië. The last Lord of Andúnië sails to Middle Earth and builds two new kingdoms. They defeat Sauron, but then King Isildur lets his pride get the better of him and he keeps the One Ring, getting himself killed and setting up the rest of Middle Earth for a world of hurt. But Isildur’s line is still the true line.
The years pass and both kingdoms dwindle. The northern one is swallowed up by enemies. The southern kingdom keeps declining, its royal line vanishes, and the government devolves upon the stewards. But out in the wilderness, the true lineage survives, in the form of the Rangers, who mostly live like commoners. And despite it all, the story is still going to end with the coming of the Great King who will reunite Gondor and Arnor and restore them to all of their former glory.
This is very interesting, especially as I’m about to do a re-read of Lord of the Rings after reading a number of Hesse’s novels.
How do you get in touch with your Shadow? I read Violet’s comment about journalling, but is there a specific strategy to go about it?
An interesting post for sure. I put Hesse on my reading list after the previous post.
I find this take on the Tolkien shadow strange. It is definitely pervasive in the derivative media – I enjoy fantasy fiction in theory, but like modern comics I wind up hating almost every incarnation of it.
But in LOTR, the main sense I get is the complete futility and powerlessness of mortals to defeat evil, and that only with powerful divine intervention can it be abated for a while, and the “good guys” are weakened irrecoverably in each struggle. The complete inability to do the one thing you really need to do, no matter how much you want to in more sober moments is an excellent reflection on the experience of Sin. It’s a sense I share – like Tolkien, I am a traditionalist Catholic, and had I been born in his time I would probably shout the pre-Vatican II latin mass responses as he did. I don’t get much of the mcguffin-destroys-the-bad-guys sense, or at least not nearly to the extent of Star Wars, the Avengers, or many other popular modern franchises.
Perhaps this is reflected in my general sense of political motion – I viewed the Republican win in 2016 not as a defeat ending the other side permanently, but as a temporary bulwark buying time against a rising flood. Things have gone rather better than I expected. I don’t know how I could separate that myth-story from just an analysis of my surrounding data where I am in DC, where the Neoliberal-globalist-technocratic narrative certainly seems pervasive combined with a pessimist’s outlook (a long descent outlook combined with no secular reason for believing there will be improvement in the institutions that matter most to me for several decades at least). For what it’s worth, I don’t think that Democrats in general are child-raping satan worshipers, although undoubtedly they seem to have a higher than average amount of those lately. If anything, I see most of the leadership, my neighbors, as out-of-touch and self-absorbed conformists who don’t understand how power translates from the upper echelons to the bottom or how systems work. In short, like how you described them in Dark Age America. They are joined mostly by a number of well-meaning but informationally controlled followers who can’t distinguish goodness from niceness. For instance, I know a pulic school teacher who claims to be pro-strong borders but in every instance where that involves being “mean” to someone not following the rules he crumples, remaining a de facto open border supporter. Perhaps my Shadow is just different.
Do you think any of that part of the Tolkien sin-struggle has filtered into the current politics in general, or is it mostly just this Harry Potter/Avengers/Silver Bullet thinking?
Based on this blog’s discussions, I did buy a decent book of Indigenous American mythology. It was hard to find but I hope some of the different kinds of stories it contains will give me more kinds of frameworks to structure my thinking narratives.
As always, great essay. Our fanaticism with this election proves your point. Our government will still be a mess regardless of who wins. And, of course, the losers will always be the 90% rank and file.
I am reminded of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn observation:
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
Thanks John, another excellent essay
Lovely post, Mr. Greer, and thank you.
You’re picking up on themes I’ve found elsewhere, early on in Walter Wink’s Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992) and more recently in Paul Levy’s Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2013).
The easiest thing to do is to blame your troubles on someone else, whether of the right wing or the left, and the most challenging is to accept responsibility for one’s own part without excessive shame or guilt. I’m quite concerned that any movement towards responsibility in the current public discourse is accepted as acknowledgement of guilt by the ‘other’ side, which diminishes any likelihood that personal responsibility will be a prominent part of any public conversation.
Regarding Tolkien’s politics, I’ve heard that he described himself as a kind of libertarian monarchist, or perhaps an anarcho-monarchist. To my mind, there’s a great deal of merit in that point of view. You have, on the one hand, a monarch and a class of nobles who can act as a set of ideals onto which people can project their ideas about nobility and so forth, but who, on the other hand, have only a very limited power to influence public policy.
I used to think that such a system could never work in the United States, though– republicanism is too much part of our national character. But then the other day I was reading conservative author Michael Anton’s new pre-election pep-rally book “The Stakes.” At one point he takes a shot at monarchism by pointing out that we don’t have any tradition of monarchy in the US, and that, unless God himself descends and picks someone out of the crowd, an American king would just be some guy. That was when I realized the solution– What we need is to continue to recover and perfect the arts of divination, with a particular focus on augury, until such a time as we can, indeed, ask the Gods to descend and pick a king and a nobility for us.
At any rate, it can’t be any worse than the current system, in which royal status is granted to television actors and sports stars.
Also on the subject of Tolkien, every time I re-read him I see more of the influences of early 20th century occultism. Last time I read through The Lord of the Rings I realized that Denethor was a psychic because of his Atlantean blood. Lately I’ve been re-reading The Hobbit. The dwarves are described as “not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.” In the Silmarillion we learn that the dwarves are the creation, not of Ilúvatar — that is, God, or the Solar Logos– but of one of the Valar, the secondary gods or archangels. In other words, they are earth elementals, created by a Lord of Flame, just as in Dion Fortune’s work.
You seem to suggest that the demonization of the two opposing sides in WWII is a manifestation of “The Shadow” and that the carnage that resulted was a wrong path. On the surface, surely it is hard to argue that the terrible destruction resulting from WWII was in some way a “Correct Path”. You seem to be suggesting that the correct path lies in some sort of compromise that results in “something new”.
This sounds fine in theory, but exactly what would a compromise between, say, the Bill of Rights and Nazism look like, exactly? Exactly what would a fusion of those ideas look like? Similarly, what would a compromise look like between Communism and Stalinism and the ideals expressed in the Bill of Rights……….exactly what might that be?
Because frankly, I am lost here as to imagining what those new societies would look like in practice.
You are probably aware that the Hopi Indians resolve irreconcilable differences by conducting a formal tug of war between the adherents of the opposing views. And that the losers must leave the tribe’s lands and settle somewhere else. Of course, this means somewhere else that has water. And being that the Hopi are a desert dwelling people, there quickly arises the existential problem of there being “no where else” to go that can actually sustain human life in the desert. The blatant obviousness of this problem is never lost on the Hopi, and because of this fact, irreconcilable differences are not allowed to rise to a terminal level in the first place!
Reading through the comments, I’m struck by your question ‘Why did Tolkien’s work become as popular as they did?’ and I’m going to boldly go where no woman has gone before.
As best I can tell, Tolkien’s works became enormously popular for a few reasons:
1 – sheer escapism from brutal realities: although JRR wrote intimately about the horrors of war, ultimately his stories have acceptable endings, a return to peace and home (or, for the saintly Frodo, bodily ascension to Heaven, whoops, Valinor). We humans seem to like a well-crafted narrative and the outcomes of WW I and II were not tidy, not satisfying, not a return to a peaceful community in a pleasant land. Instead, the threat of nuclear war cast its shadow (haha) over the entire world, but especially over the United States – the so-called Good Guys, whose creation and use of the deadliest weapon actually lurched us into appalling and unrelenting danger.
2 – our ancient Indo-European cultural roots in Zoroastrian dualities: it would take an entire book to delve into this, but in an excessively-brief summary, Westerners have been floating in the ‘me good, you bad’ soup since, oh, 1500 BCE or so. Monotheism, with its One Good God, has only become more stringent over time, with the latest turn of the screw brought to extremes by Calvin’s notion of the elect (where God has pre-selected those who will go to Heaven after death, and there is nothing that can be done about that). In my view, Protestants love having clearly defined boundaries between the Good Ones (us) and the Bad Ones (you). Tolkien dropped Lord of the Rings, with its thinly disguised European hierarchies battling Good and Evil, into a culture that had only a few decades of time away (at the most) (a very thin skin) from overt and entirely sincere Christian polemical discourse about Good and Evil.
(Whew, that was so brief a summary my head is spinning and my supervisors are standing over my shoulder wagging their fingers at me.)
3 – the commodification of culture with a corresponding loss of self-reflection: well, the post on Herman Hesse delved into this at length, and it definitely plays a part in Tolkien’s popularity. Why do the work of introspection when it is so much easier to cast blame on others? Introspection might lead to change! *gasp* … and I’m certainly good enough exactly as I am, thank you very much. (gentle sarcasm)
4 – delight in meeting all the other inhabitants of the Earth that were erased by the Age of Reason: I mean, who doesn’t like Elves, Dwarves, or Hobbits, or even a few Orcs to spice things up? Who on Earth wants to admit that we humans are the most puissant and dangerous being around? Personally, I would be very pleased to encounter a dwarf or two in the mountains of Iceland.
Those are my initial thoughts about the reasons behind Tolkien’s popularity, and I would love to read the thoughts of others on it.
The answer being, then, that nothing is unacceptable in any absolute sense? Or rather, if I am to become a well-integrated individual, I must be willing to accept whatever lies within my shadow, regardless of my judgment regarding those aspects of myself?
I believe that the Shadow character was the inspiration for Bob Kane to create the first Batman comic in the 1930s. In the Beyond Batman cartoons, a much older Bruce Wayne has a Shadow costume, with the hat and scarf.
As the Batman character developed over the years, a few things remained the same. The original Batman did not kill, and tried by any means to keep his adversaries and bystanders from dying. (Wounding and deliberately inflicting pain were another matter.) In the second of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies, Batman saves the Joker from falling to his death, even though the Joker had killed Bruce Wayne’s love interest. Of course, other authors’ Batman’s would kill, but the original did not.
Also, as the character was developed, the readers became more aware that Bruce Wayne knew his own “Shadows” only too well. He used this to terrify his adversaries, and it also terrified him in return. Many of the comics, books and movies would depict Batman’s adversaries as projections of Batman’s “Shadow,” and argued that if Batman didn’t exist, his adversaries wouldn’t either. An interesting line of thought.
Tolkien’s externalized, defeatable shadow explains so much about the behavior of the left, especially their persistent attribution to Trump and his supporters of all of the violations of Constutional and civil rights that they themselves are itching to commit. Of course, it also explains a lot about the behavior of the right. I wonder how many Q-Anon followers yearn for under-age tail?
By thinking of “the Shadow” I had a mixture of sudden thoughts of me own dark sides and the physical shadow as lights side-effect. Also a rather lately voice insisting on Platos reflection about reality, who wanted to be heared too.
> Did that make you think of:
> a) The famous 1930s pulp magazine and radio drama figure with the sinister laugh?
> b) The Dark Lord Sauron, the antagonist in J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings?
Now, as you mentioon it …
> c) The archetype delineated by Carl Jung in his writings on analytic psychology?
Sort of, as I said above.
Funnily Sauron, even I read “The Lord of the Rings” even twice, I was much more engulfed in the lively quibbling little people on the ground as that looming shadow which I rather cast aside. They were as occupied with life as I was. While nowadays, as the liveliness recedes does the shadowy part make its new appearance in reverse.
Another funny thing was, that those archetypes and the shadow I attributed until recently to Freud as the omnipresent personality in psycho-things while Jung was rather minute. I would say, at least in Germany that is mirroring the public discourse and reception.
I guess that Jing/Jang dynamic struggle of the outer and the inner demons and the pompous dominance of the loud-speaking outer shadows resembles the screaming noise of the inner machine of the global civilisation progressing in its breakdown. Must be part of the evolutionary selection to choose the one which stick out in the growing noise rather than the silent ones.
I’ve written two comments here and both times the answer was in the original post.
Ueshiba Morihei, Dione Fortune, the same strategy.
I am not sure what this says about me but confronting my Shadow isn’t that hard for me, it is kind of a learning experience. For example there was this guy I use to work with, who ended up bugging the crap out of me, and now I realize that the reason he bugged me so much was he has some of the same flaws I do.
But my experience with my Anima totally crushed my soul (don’t worry I got better LOL). I met the woman of my dreams, (every time I would see her my heart would literally skip a beat) fell madly in love, dated for a while before it blew up in my face. On a positive note * from a druid perspective my soul needs to experience all – including having your worst fear come true, so I am hoping I get to mark this off my soul’s bucket list, no need to experience that again (I hope). But when I think back to that experience, I am a better person for it, I am much more compassionate to those in emotional pain and in some way a bit wiser. (on the other hand I am still single and lonely although walking a more spiritual path seems to help,)
Nice post JMG. I got thinking after this article about LOTR and the personal shadow. Although I dont doubt that Tolkien was telling an old fashioned mythic tale in which an outside evil must be destroyed, the ring itself and its effect on the characters adds a layer of subtlety and nuance regarding the evil inside. Note how the only character who could deal with its power and hand it back after some difficulty was Samwise – the character who I would say possessed the most control of his shadow. Sam’s vision when he is tempted by the ring is telling – he imagines the whole of middle earth laid out as a beautiful garden with him as head garderner, but he rejects it as totalitarian and favours one small garden for each gardener (a lesson lost on the mainstream environmental movement). Whereas the character who desired the ring more than any other was Gollum who was all shadow, in fact the effect of the ring on people is to turn them into wraiths – shadows. The beauty of the story is that Frodo fails in his task, he cannot overcome his shadow – the ring is only destroyed after gollum falls while taking the ring off frodo, a twist of fate only allowed by multiple characters sparing gollums life despite him being a pathetic, duplicitous murderer.
I have been writing about Pedogate over at my Dreamwidth blog and I’ve fielded/deleted quite a few troll comments from people who either think there’s A. A worldwide Satanic elite cannibal conspiracy or that B. I’m a tinfoil hat wearing Nazi hayseed Trump fetishist for merely mentioning the subject. My thoughts are that Pedogate hysteria is overblown for sure, but there should be grave consequences for the Anthony Weiners (D) and Dennis Hasterts (R) of the world. That sort of middle ground stance isn’t acceptable nowadays. Heaven forbid we talk about a thing without taking a dramatically polarized side!
“He discovered that the surest way to put himself to sleep was to set off in imagination for that walk on the Embankment with the cloaked woman on ahead. He never tried to catch up with her and see her face–dreaded to do so, in fact, feeling certain of disillusion; but he felt in the shadowy cloaked figure he had found a kind of spirit-guide through the bewilderments of life . . .”
Dion Fortune, Moon Magic, 1956. The cloaked woman is Lilith Le Fay, and eventually they meet.
Re my previous comment
Or….as I think on it a bit more, is it the fact that the judgment I’m making about those less-than-desired aspects of myself is the malleable component of the equation and can be reframed? E.g. “I’m stupid because there’s stuff I don’t know” versus “The scope of my knowledge is limited” or “I’m trapped here in the muck of Malkuth” versus “I manifest on several planes, including the physical, and am subject to the conditions of those planes.”
There’s a book that I found fascinating called Achilles in Vietnam by Jonathan Shay. Shay worked with traumatized Vietnam veterans. The book uses the story of Achilles in the Iliad to shine light on PTSD and PTSD to shine a light on the Iliad and other classic literature. I recommend it.
Anyway, one of the key predictors of trauma Shay found was the dehumanizing of enemies. When armies train and motivate their soldiers by dehumanizing the enemy, they have a massively higher rate of PTSD regardless of the intensity or suffering of the war. So WWII soldiers in European Theater suffered much lower levels of PTSD than soldiers in Pacific Theater, because the German army was mostly presented as a competent, professional army that needed to be defeated, while the Japanese were presented as mindless suicidal monsters with not human motivations.
Backs up Hesse’s insight certainly.
And shines a light on some of what is happening in contemporary politics (at least to many of my friends).
Hi JMG and Commentariat,
I see LOTR as essentially a ‘fairy tale’, albeit more complex that the Hobbit. It is akin to the traditional tales, you know the ones (mostly since Disneyfied), such as Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc.
Are the ‘baddies’ in these tales a type of shadow? I thought that every young mind needs these tales, and needs to know that the witch/giant/dragon/whatever will be killed. It is part of good childhood development. Complex and ambiguous characters are for adult minds.
What do you think of these old tales and their portrayals of evil?
Christine S (UK)
Thanks JMG that clears things up. So what if you have a person who practices the austerities perfectly and, for example, never has an urge to eat while fasting until the time they appointed to eat at the beginning of the fast? 1) How would that fit into the ego, shadow model of Jung? For the record, I am not at this level. And I would say the urge to eat is not the same as feeling hungry (just to draw line for my own understanding).
I’m thinking the pure physical aspect of the hunger might be enough to keep gluttony out of their shadow.
What if I change the example to a perfect celibate. Someone so sexually pure they feel no lust even in dreams (again, not at this level). 1 clone) How does that fit into Jung’s ego/shadow model?
I think you understand what I’m trying to get at. I’m thinking intuitively facing the austerities with equanimity leads to that trait being integrated into the Self, although I don’t quite understand the Self enough to know if that’s a decent thought or not.
2) What book would you recommend to start reading Jung?
Interesting to read your synopsis of the World War period, still a much contested period of history.
I wonder if there is more of a continuity of concepts in ‘the shadows’ of Tolkein’s and Hesse’s works, than this essay allows? Several characters in the Lord of the Rings have to confront their own inner desires and demons, indeed it is the key theme of the whole story that the ring’s power exacerbates this danger of unmet shadow, i.e. ‘it is too powerful’.
And what of the concept of ‘a government of the shadows’ ? The literature around this suggests that there is both a deliberate mobilisation of ordinary people’s tendency to project onto adversaries (in both the fomenting of war, and, nowadays, the political fight), and an alleged ‘Sauron’ like power that lurks in the shadow-state/ deep-state/ intelligence-military complex (call it what you will).
Orlov writes of Nefarious Objectives this week….
I heard it that a common conspiracy theory in Middle Earth was that in reality there was no evil Sauron sitting on the throne and that the “Ring-bearers” (they did not have any rings, of course, but were fakes made up by the aristocratic elves who constituted the “deep-state” of Middle Earth) in fact propped up the eastern Orc-armies by themselves to hold their people together against the shadow of great enemy. More rational contemporaries interjected that Gandalf was a Ring-bearer and surely wouldn’t have been that silly to go out to that stupid adventure on his own feet if everything was a conspiracy, but the conspiracy-guys eventually countered that Gandalf was an artist hired for that purpose, too, because after all he was not an elf and since there never have been any rings in the first place, he couldn’t probably be a ring bearer. The image of the Shadow evoked in the mind of the Orcish shadow-army by the Nazgul-artists was too powerful, however, and the elves didn’t treat them very nicely either, that the Nazgul-artists and the Orcs finally wanted to have their part of the cake and the rest is history.
Tolkien dissociated the Shadow for reasons I believe you have laid out very nicely in your essay. Dissociation of the Shadow is a huge problem since obviously not only individuals can do this but a collective can do so as well. I can take my working place as a good and not too big example. I can talk to everyone there, my colleagues are all decent, competent people, they really are, there’s nobody to point at and say “Idiot!”, but still the whole place is a mess and nobody is really happy there. And just like Sauron, the Shadow has no face but is a kind of structural evil, hidden in the organization and structure of our working community and in the way we communicate. I’m kind of an outsider there since many of my colleagues share a common history linked to that place that I do not have, which makes it easy for me to see but makes the situation equally hopeless. Therapy would be needed, truly. But the client has to realize he needs it, first.
As many others noted, too, Hesse causes a lot of direct pain to the reader since he does not avoid the Shadow. Tolkien can cause a lot of the same pain however, possibly even more when you realize the projection, when you realize that the whole story despite its would-be glorious end is a tale of failure and defeat and that Tolkien has in fact not written a fictional tale of a fictional medieval-style world but has put our own story in colorful words. To my mind, the Lord of the Rings is our story. It’s the story of our society, of our schools, our businesses, our government, of our declining civilization. Do we have to play it out, though, as they did?
Very enjoyable essay, to my mind. Lots of loose ends woven together in an unexpected way.
Ah and one more: The times when I went to the cinemas to watch Hollywood movies are long past but it did not escape our notice back then that all those “block busters” had the same plot: Evil comes from nowhere. Evil is defeated. Some nukes usually do the trick. What would be the archetype that is projected on the nukes, then?
Steve T: we see eye to eye. If we argue, it’s because we agree. How shadowy! Yes, JMS is a great auteur.
I’d like to read a story in which the hero confronts his Shadow – written as a character with a voice of its own, perhaps in dreamland – and after disastrous attempts at rejection, reluctantly accepts ownership of Shadow wisdom. Have such tales been written?
The way to accept one’s own Shadow involves unconditional repentance. Not, “_if_ I have done wrong…” but “I _have_ done wrong…”, even if one is not aware of what exactly.
Here’s a Shadow laugh I’d “like” to hear: it starts out all Lamont-Cranston-y, maniacal and gleeful; then it morphs to a laugh that’s 2/3 weeping; then morphs again to a dead-inside heh-heh-heh-heh. The first third is alarming, the second third heartbreaking, the third third terrifying.
One could pose a general conclusion: sociopathy is generated by the shadow. The extent to which individuals become sociopaths then depends on how much resonance the individual shadow creates in the context of its social niche (thus generating or amplifying the collective shadow). Could be a useful thesis topic – for an intellect undeterred by the challenge of designing suitable research methodology!
Transcendence of one’s shadow occurs via self-understanding (if I get the drift emanating from jungian psychology correctly) whether catalysed by therapy or achieved by enlightenment – and the inscription `know thyself’ in the forecourt of the oracle at Delphi in pre-classical Greece suggests self-knowledge was an established aspiration in the bronze age.
So why has depth-psychology been such a spectacular failure since Jung? I thought the jungian revival in the 1980s would produce progress, but all we got was new-age candyfloss & drivel. If university psych depts got eliminated I doubt anyone would notice a negative impact on culture. Clueless dork syndrome seems more contagious than the pandemic!
We could perhaps blame Zoroaster for the persistent structural impact of the shadow on human behaviour (Babylonian captivity brainwashing of Israelites), but seems to me democracy is the real culprit. Trump & Biden being the current binary puppets for you folk, but the good/evil binary gets mapped onto the winner/loser design outcome in all western countries. Triadic social structures are how we escape via collective transcendence: voters have formed a tertiary political division (the non-aligned) to finesse the left/right impasse. Identity politics transcended via non-identification with the binary seems rather zen!
One thing is confusing me about Jung’s Shadow and its political manifestation.
One the one hand, the Shadow is completely personal and made up of things a person hates about themselves. On the other hand, it manifests as a blind rage against which seems to me completely impersonal. That is presumably why it is able to used politically. A politician can just aggregate all the rage and point it at the enemy even though that rage originates in a million dissatisfied people who are all dissatisfied with themselves in their own individual way.
Is that the correct way to think about it? For example, you could have one person who is frustrated with their marriage, another dreams of a life of adventure but is stuck in a dead end job and another is a party animal whose life lacks meaning. These are all different Shadows, but politically you can get these people to unite by taking the hatred common to all Shadows and pointing it at the enemy.
The Imperial Japanese of the ‘30’s and 40’s also thought of themselves as a Master Race, perhaps because perhaps of a combining the Code of Bushido with the fact that Japan was as depleted of oil and other natural resources as was Germany – to compete in modern terms, Japan had to become imperialistic. Here’s what I find really interesting: When firearms were first introduced to Japan in the 1600’s, the ruling class refused them, I would suppose because guns “democratized” weaponry and undercut the authority of the samurai classes. However, in the 1800’s, Japan decided to go full on Western in terms of technology, which of course included weapons of war, guns, cannon, war ships, eventually air power. Though tech-Westernized, the Japanese had in no way adapted Western liberal and humanitarian values, and they basically maintained a feudalistic/imperialistic form of governance.
I’ve wondered what the origin of the Japanese Shadow, the national pride that regarded all others as morally free “barbarians”, really was ….. and how the adapting of Western tech, which they could mimic with genius, but couldn’t really originate themselves, gave that Shadow an extra spin. One thing was certain: though regarding Americans as tech savvy, the Japanese also thought that, unlike them, tech and industry had made Americans inferiorly slothful, lazy, and unwilling to fight. Thus Pearl Harbor, and we know what resulted from that. One of the worst misjudgments in history.
Darkest Yorkshire – plane crashes here used to be known as “buying the farm”. Maybe because planes crashed on farmland a lot of the time?
When test pilots crashed in the desert because of some pilot error, it was known as “screwing the pooch”. Anybody’s call there.
I always thought that the point of the Lords of the Rings was that you can’t fight evil, only resist it, and that it always eventually kills itself if left to its own devices.
That’s why there’s never an apocalyptic fight against Sauron, that’s why the battles are always defensive, and that’s why Frodo ultimately fails in his quest to throw the ring into the pit of fire. He succumbs to his shadow, as do most people who actively fight evil, especially those in the thickest of it. That’s how I read it.
After Frodo fails in his quest and falls to the power of the ring, Gollum shows up to attack him, steal the ring back, and accidentally fall into the pit. Evil defeats itself, at least, the greater evil. Then the hobbits go back home to find that their village has been taken over by thugs led by a spiteful Sarumon, a testament to that, even with the big evil defeated, it will always be a part of the world, and the hobbits are now strong enough to resist. Once again, the good guys don’t kill the bad guys, but Sarumon gets killed by an underling he insults. Evil, again, defeats itself.
I never saw it as a tale of good guys actively fighting a looming threat, but as resisting it until the threat naturally kills itself as evil is prone to doing, either by overreaching or by circular firing squads or what not.
Jimofolym, hmm! I hadn’t thought of that at all.
Steve T, the comparison with Lovecraft is apropos — and may not be accidental. Tolkien and his good friend C.S. Lewis read pulp fantasy and SF voraciously, and it affected both of their fiction.
Justin, so three kids together bring a shoggoth into being. Got it! 😉
1Wanderer, in 1917 the German army was able to stage a general offensive on the Western Front that nearly caused the British and French armies to collapse, so your claim that the German army was destroyed doesn’t really stand up well. For that matter, I think you’re neglecting the huge role the Allied advance in the west in the summer of 1918 played in forcing the German surrender. Still, if you want to read the history of that time in a different way, hey, it’s your choice.
Phil K, it did indeed.
Irena, Jung’s advice was as usual quite straightforward. Notice what irritates you most about the way that other people behave; that’s part of your own Shadow.
Wesley, I’ve never seen it online. I have a collection of Hesse’s essays, If The War Goes On, which includes it.
Jbucks, as noted above, pay attention to what irritates you most about other people. Those things are part of your Shadow.
John B, that’s the thing I find most fascinating about Tolkien’s posthumous reputation and legacy. The profoundly conservative and Christian dimensions of his story have been all but erased — it’s as though people read The Sword of Shannara et al. and projected its vapid reworking of Tolkien’s themes back on Tolkien.
Karen, no argument there.
Raymond, as usual, Solzhenitsyn gets it.
Linnea, exactly! Jung talks about how difficult it is, when one person is projecting an archetype, to have any interaction with them at all without being drawn into a corresponding projection — if they project their Shadow on you, in this case, it takes extraordinary clarity of mind to not project yours on them.
Steve, we have an elected monarchy, and it doesn’t work too well. Maybe over time we can get to the point at which we elect a president to be the expression of our national identity, and then have some other official (like a prime minister) who is coughed up by the system in some less direct fashion and who has the drab, dull, necessary job of running the executive branch of the government. As for Tolkien and the occult, yep — his thought is pervaded by early 20th century Theosophy to an astonishing degree.
Fred, now go back and read the section of my post where I talk about how the most important thing about Hesse’s “O Friends, Not These Tones” was that it wasn’t a pacifist tract. You’re twisting what I said into what you want me to have said, for the sake of picking a fight, and that sort of cheap trolling is as dull as it is unhelpful.
David BTL, I’ll respond to this along with your second comment further down.
Bird, I’ve read a discussion of the origins of the Batman that made exactly that claim, so you may well be quite correct. I note with pleasure also that some of the later Batman writers brought the Shadow in from time to time as a guest character!
Morfa, I don’t think it’s so straightforward as that. The people on the Left who are screaming “Nazi!” at their opponents aren’t themselves Nazis — they’ve got strong authoritarian leanings and equally strong cravings toward violence, and “Nazi!” is what you get when you project those two things onto someone else and exaggerate both traits to an extreme. Equally, a lot of people on the Right claim to be in favor of standard Christian morality, but quite a few of them have at least dabbled in magic and engage in at least solitary sexual vices of various kinds — so they project that onto their enemies and it comes out “Satan-worshiping pedophiles.”
Hubertus, and Plato’s brought yet another Shadow to add to the mix! Thanks for this.
Andy, good. You’re getting it.
Skyrider, that doesn’t surprise me at all. Different people have different archetypal challenges to face; I had next to no problems with my anima but dealing with the Wise Old Man archetype was a serious challenge for my first three decades or so.
PumpkinScone, no argument there. Tolkien’s novel is very subtle and complex — as I’ve noted repeatedly in this and other essays, it was after his time that the basic theme of his story was flattened out into something trite and dangerous.
Kimberly, of course. Get past the projected Shadows and you can actually begin to deal with who really did what.
Deborah, good. Fortune knew Jung’s writings quite well, and wove any number of Jungian themes into her novels.
David BTL, exactly. Your judgment is a habit of will, to borrow a turn of phrase from the current set of Dreamwidth posts. “Unacceptable” is not an objective quality of the thing to which that label is applied, but a subjective value judgment you make every time you encounter the “unacceptable” thing.
Joeljones, fascinating! Thank you for this. Yes, that makes a lot of sense.
Christine, they’re great fodder for the growing imaginations of six-year-olds. When people insist on the same kind of story at sixty, something has gone wrong.
Youngelephant, (1) I would disagree that your examples would be any kind of perfection. The perfect ascetic is aware of his propensities toward hunger and lust, and effortlessly keeps those propensities in check. Perfection is not achieved by mutilation, but by achieving wholeness in perfect balance (2) Man and his Symbols is the usual starting place.
Molobnevitz, perhaps you’d like to go back and read the part of my essay where I talk about what was done to Tolkien’s story in the popular imagination after his time. It answers your question quite neatly, you know. As for a government of the shadows, who is projecting what onto whom?
Nachtgurke, funny! But you’re right — if you read Tolkien without putting on the goggles of contemporary popular culture, it’s a very sad story. As for the archetype behind nuclear weapons, Martin Gardner pointed out somewhere that there’s some very profound symbolism in that word “bomb.” It begins with B, that is, “be;” in the middle is OM, the sacred word of Hinduism which includes the creation, preservation, and destruction of words; and it ends with B again — but this “be” is forever silent…
Dennis, the rise and fall of the Jungian revival is a story all its own, and one that I’m not really qualified to tell. My working guess is that Jung’s teachings are going to end up morphing into an important school of occultism sometime after 2036, but that’s a story all its own, too.
Simon, close. Because people who are raised in the same culture tend to have the same notions about what it’s unacceptable to be, and those notions very often include things that people generally are, you can very often whip up a mob by pointing to a grab bag of unacceptable traits and pasting those onto your enemy — enough people will react to those that you can run with it.
Will M, that’s a fascinating question. The Japanese Shadow goes back a long ways — I suspect parts of it are rooted in resentment over their classification as “barbarians” by the Chinese.
Dennis, and that’s one of the ways you can take the trilogy if you do so on its own terms, rather than those which — as, ahem, I mentioned in my post — were projected onto it by popular culture beginning in the 1960s.
Thanks very much for this essay. I am seeing lots of connections all of a sudden that I didn’t know were there!
Even though I am a lifelong Tolkien fan, I definitely choose door #3. I am curious on your take for how to go about Integrating the Shadow in a methodical way. Meditation certainly helps, but how does one avoid the trap of just listing off all the worst aspects of oneself and dwelling on them? That could potentially be very counterproductive, especially for someone who leans towards internalizing problems.
JMG RE: the first shadow
Unbeliever as I am, I have often thought about the US and said to myself, y’all need Jesus. There is something about religion, at least the Christian variety, that keeps us in mind of our inner evil and our need for growth and redemption. The fall of religion and the rise of humanism has resulted in people being blinded to the evil within.
This is as much applicable to the evangelical right-wing as to the liberals. American popular Christianity has morphed into what has been called moral therapeutic deism, with God as mere inspiration and evil as mere “peccadillery”. It’s agnostic at its core; and agnosticism is indistinguishable from atheism at a practical level, when it comes to how people live out their lives.
So good. Thanks for this. TDS is of course rampant, and the question I like to ask people suffering from its pangs is “why or how is it that Trump so dominates you’re psyche? How is it that he can press those buttons? Step on your corns?” But of course, as you say, it is unseen. It is always ‘outside’ oneself. But to bring it up in ‘normal’ company is to risk being Hesse too Mann.
I do wonder though, why now? I’m sure some of your recent astrological readings have shed light. But it’s clear the shadow is casting its darkness far and wide
Hi John Michael,
Had to laugh, but surely Carl Jung would have understood pretty clearly the irony in Sigmund Freud’s central thesis, and possibly the cheeky scamp would have suggested that ol’ Sigmund was projecting the shadow? 🙂 At least we’re not left wondering what was going on Sigmund’s mind!
PS: Congratulations on the movie inclusion. There is irony in there too.
A question for you about the pervasive use of “toxic people.” It’s all the rage to eliminate toxic people from one’s life. Do you think “toxic” could be considered a lesser form of “evil”? Maybe singular people are toxic, and groups are evil? Or Maybe what one considers toxic points to something in oneself that is weak, rather than truly repugnant?
Most of the time when I hear someone rant about someone toxic in their life, it’s a situation that they haven’t dealt with directly. If someone at church says abusive things over and over, then I need to address it directly with the person. Not go over to someone else, label the person, and then just try to ignore the offender. Sometimes I wonder how much of the awful behavior we see is people just never being told by someone else that its behavior that will limit their choices in life.
Maybe this goes back to a point you made years ago that living in community means living with some people you don’t like and don’t agree with, and that’s OK (paraphrasing). Everyone wants utopia where we all are in agreement and harmony. No one person can live with themselves in harmony, never mind others!
Now I’ve thought of a cartoon I don’t have the skills to draw, called “Pluto in Leo.” It involves the Disney dog and Simba.
@JMG, “elect a president to be the expression of our national identity….”
That’s one of the things an elected queen would be a really good fit for. The Brits have been really lucky that way. “The heart and soul of the nation.”
Samurai_47, the trick is not to make Shadow work the be-all and end-all of your quest for self-knowledge. One of the virtues of Jung’s use of dreams as raw material for self-knowledge is precisely that your dream life will pretty reliably bring up whatever you have to work on next.
DT, while Jesus isn’t the only source of that realization, yes, a lot of Americans very badly need to know what evil lurks in their own hearts.
ShamanicFallout, my take on it is that TDS has its roots in the unacknowledged reality of class conflict in today’s America. As I’ve noted before, your average salary class person in the US has attitudes toward the wage class that don’t differ in any real way from the average early 20th century Southern white person’s attitude toward African-Americans, running through the overfamiliar spectrum from patronizing putdowns to a degree of hatred you’d expect to find in Klansmen. The difficulty, of course, is that people in the US salary class also insist on seeing themselves as the Good People, the people who are kind and tolerant and wise; hate, to them, belongs exclusively to those Bad People over there. The rise of Trump made that hypocrisy impossible to maintain, because he embodies everything the salary class can’t stand about the wage class, and he also demonstrated that the policies that were destroying the wage class weren’t acts of God or nature but deliberate policy choices by a government dominated by, and pandering to, salary class interests. So they wigged out.
Chris, well, yes. It’s been pointed out by more than one conservative thinker that those ideologies that say, in effect, “everybody is a sex maniac” are basically trying to insist that everyone else shares their obsessions. As for the movie, there’s enough irony in that to attract a magnet!
Denis, as usual, a genuine insight has been turned into an excuse to hide from self-knowledge. There really are some situations where the best thing you can do is walk away from certain people, and cut them out of your life. The problem is that the rhetoric about “toxic people” got turned into another way to project the shadow; most of the people I’ve met who went on about “toxic people” were themselves pretty toxic, and projected it on others to avoid dealing with it themselves!
Patricia M, too funny! As for an elected queen, I’m in favor of it; the word “queen,” cwen in Old English, literally means “woman” — the queen is the woman, just as “king” was cyning, “he of the kin,” the person of our kindred.
Irena- JMG has answered your question about how do we meet the shadow by saying, “notice what irritates you about other people.” I confess that the most reliable way for me to figure out what shadow I am projecting is by seeing what my children do that drives me crazy. Lazy? Sloppy? Late? Irresponsible? What makes me mad about their behavior is reliably what I hate about my own behavior and I project it on to them. I’m getting better about it….the kids are aged 20 and 17…
Not to get too far afield, but it occurred to me that, in light of your point about “unacceptable” being a subjective value judgement rather than an objective quality, the root of Taumiel’s evil as the Contending Forces could be seen as the refusal to “back down” (i.e. the sin of pride traditionally attributed to Lucifer) and modify the subjective judgment to accommodate the objective reality. Thus, the perpetual conflict forever unresolved.
Martin Gardner’s observation about the archetypal symbolism of nuclear weapons reminds of a famous episode from the first atomic bomb test (rather significantly code-named “Trinity”).
Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, who headed up the research team that developed the first nuclear weapons and became popularly known as the “Father of the Atomic Bomb” said that when he saw the explosion of that test, a verse from the Mahabharata forcefully came to mind: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. Later, while giving a seminar, a student asked him if that had been the first atomic bomb test. Dr. Oppenheimer thought for a moment and then replied “well, yes, at least in modern times”. Oppenheimer had read many of the Vedic scriptures as a young man and the sight of the Trinity bomb test reminded him of certain passages he had read in the Mahabharata and other Hindu texts. After witnessing the effects of the early atomic bombs and remembering what he had read in the Vedic scriptures, he developed a deep suspicion those passages were describing the use of nuclear weapons in ancient times.
Thanks for that – I will look for If The War Goes On. Though I do think our inability to find Hesse’s 1914 essay online is a pretty good indicator of the gap between his following and Tolkien’s, when there are multiple fan-edited encyclopedias devoted to filling the public in on the murkiest details of elf genealogy!
By now I also have two other questions for you:
1) You mentioned in the OP that the Shadow archetype evolved to meet a genuine evolutionary need, and you also talk about how different people have different archetypical challenges to face, i.e. you “had next to no problems with [the] anima but dealing with the Wise Old Man archetype was a serious challenge…”
And yet we hardly ever hear about the Shadow archetype except in the context of projecting it onto people and things where it doesn’t belong. Is this just a matter of pop-culture picking up the most attention-grabbing aspect of Jung’s theory? Is it possible to have a healthy Shadow archetype? If so, what would that look like?
2) When you write your own novels, do you consciously try to give your villains an exaggerated version of character flaws you’ve noticed in yourself? Do you make a point to avoid this? Or do you just not think too hard about it at all?
I’ve been reading The Glass Bead Game. Your essay brings to mind Hesse’s focus on meditation as a learning tool in this book. I’m not quiet halfway through yet but the main character is taught and reminded to meditate as a way to advance their studies and deal with setbacks. This kind of introspection seems quite lacking in today’s environment. I read Steppenwolf some years ago and found it introspective as well, but rather more chaotic.
I thought he was ripping off the Ring Cycle opera, more or less. I believe that was a thing back in his time? I would say the reason his writings had staying power is for the most part he pulled together a LOT of ancient english myths and lore from centuries ago, put it all together in a coherent whole and packaged it in plastic bubble pack. You say extreme right wing – I would say extreme traditionalist. Tomayto, tomahto.
And then others later on did the same thing, repackaging what he initially repackaged, stepping it down, simplifying it, stepping it down, gamifying it, and then you get World of Warcraft out the other end of the process. For the low low price of $15/mo and your soul.
Here’s another “Shadow” for you all: The Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle (from roughly the same era nonetheless.) An iconic, almost mythical machine, symbol of freedom, perhaps of youthful rebellion, and male sexuality. But also a beautiful, shiny masterpiece of design and engineering for its time. Perhaps a little more Mars (steel and raw power) and Mercury (intelligent design and mechanical engineering) then Saturnian darkness, but even so, an interesting take on the Shadow. It’s even had songs written about it.
JMG and Commentariate,
There is a method for meeting your own shadow of I remember correctly. It involves some forceful work.
Fight against everything about yourself that you deem imperfect or wrong. This is not a healthy path to take by the way. However if you fight long enough and force yourself to change into your version of perfection, or your belief systems version, then strange things can happen. Just when you think this righteous work has brought you to a state of absolute purity you may meet your shadow in sleep, or trance, or meditation, on its own terms in its own realm. When your shadow finds you, and then jumps back inside of you, I guarantee the shock is as profound as jumping into a polar ice bath 🙂
I prefer integration in place of forceful removal personally!
I totally agree with the idea that the way tolkien was received in pop culture is disastrous on a political level. Human society cannot be fixed by just getting rid of “the one thing”
As for the esoteric dimensions of the lord of the rings, I very much like Henry Corbin’s zoroastrian/’gnostic’ take: http://henrycorbinproject.blogspot.com/2008/12/henry-corbin-on-tolkiens-lord-of-rings.html?m=1
I think the ‘moral’ of the lord of the rings is that the “will to dominate all life” cannot be safety wielded by any being. To echo other comments, ‘good’ cannot destroy ‘evil,’ since destruction is an ‘evil’ act. ‘Good’ must allow ‘evil’ to destroy itself, which aligns I think with Jung’s idea of making yhe darkness conscious. Becca Tarnas has written extensively on the imaginal links between tolkien and jung. Both had their “red books” and similar symbolism
Is the Universe already perfect, or is it a work in progress?
Is Paradise a place where you will never have to eat again, or a place where you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want?
Find the Answer and you will begin to appease the unease – to dissolve The Shadow lurkin’ inside.
In an unrelated topic, I’ve mentioned before that there is a new ‘instant’ doom person giving talks, Dane Wiggington, who thinks Guy McPherson is too much of an optimist about humanity’s future. He did a video this week and provided four reasons why your theory of slow catabolic collapse won’t occur. Given that you and your work was mentioned at length by him, I thought I would share the link with you: https://youtu.be/NdF5D_3jCsk?t=2925
Echoing KevPilot’s experience. Shadow projection blindsides me. In my experience at this time, you can disagree with the right to a greater extent than with the left before they blast you, but that may just be my experience with my family, or it may reflect a greater psychological leeway on the right now because of their 2016 victory. When I was young in America I had a much harder time dealing with the right, and they were on a cultural retreat then.
It may have been peculiarities of my upbringing as a Buddhist with a deep inner focus,with someone along the way teaching me that “self-hatred” was a virtue, but I guess I had no trouble finding and despising my shadow within myself. The result was a suicidally depressed teenager. When I came home one day crying that I hated an older girl who had just beaten the tar out of me, my mother insisted I was projecting my shadow. What I would have given to be like that girl–my tormenters were all winners and I was a loser. So no I don’t think that was shadow projection, I was defining “hate” as an urge to avoid something that was going to hurt me.
So I never caught myself engaging in the act. However, when you brought up projecting everything wonderful onto those we love, that really rang a bell. I pity anyone I had a crush on as a teenager, until I learned more self control. Yet I still cannot see myself projecting my shadow, aside from taking too seriously others’ shadow projection spoken in all sincerity. I’ll be on the lookout for that.
You know, one of my favorite things about classical lit, from all the non-christian cultures, is that there very rarely is an evil to fight. There is an antagonist to be sure, but the antagonist is a well rounded being. In the Ramayana for example, after Ravana’s death, Ram withdraws to pray and fast for his fallen foe. When asked why? Ram simply responds, “I do this not for every deed he committed against Dharma, but for each of the acts that he committed that upheld Dharma.”
Hindu literature is full of admonishments and warnings to treat ones foes with dignity and respect, especially after you’ve beaten them.
I’ve honestly stepped well away from both left wing and right wing infotainment. They are both mirror images of each other, and it is ugly. Whoever wins the elections is going to preside over a culturally broken country, and I very much doubt either candidate has the capacity to reunite us.
Thank you for the timely reminder that we are facing people like ourselves – scared, angry, and all trying to muddle along. These are not demons or demonically influenced, just broken people in a broken country. Not that we should give in to their maddess, just face is consciously.
That was a constellation of stories that I wouldn’t have encountered anywhere, on or off the internet! As somebody without any US background, I had never heard about the radio character.
As you repeat several times in the essay, the LoTR is not exclusively about the one big Shadow. There is also Gollum as Frodo’s shadow (if he had taken the ring as his own), Ted Sandyman as Sam’s, Saruman as Gandalf’s (again, if had taken the ring), Feanor as Galadriel’s (with the courage and folly to claim a realm for himself, made clearer in unpublished work). However, you are right that in each case the shadow figure dies (or at least recedes into the background like Ted), there is not a single case of integration.
It is a pity that the story line about the eucatastrophe would have been applied to political or military conflicts, since Tolkien was always very clear that there were “orcs” among the combattants on both sides of WWI and WWII. However, it seems that he was indeed fixated on spiritual purity to the degree of not admitting any impurity in characters like Aragorn.
Don’t you want to tell us the name of the Frank Baum book?
Quite possibly one of the saddest things that came out of the flattening out and bastardizing of Tolkien’s narrative is the widespread ignorance of his, and his wiser character’s, constant insistence that using the Enemy’s Ring against him is a fool’s errand, a sure-fire way not to eradicate the Shadow, but to replace it, whether as a “Queen … Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning!” or as the master of “a garden swollen to a realm.” Any time at all a character tries to combat the Shadow by the Shadow’s own devices, he is instead swallowed up by it, until he becomes nothing but a pale shadow himself: The first hint of course is in the Ringwraiths, and we see it again in Boromir’s nonsensical Ring-induced monologue (though he repents), but it’s also evident in Saruman, who strove to set himself up as Ringmaker and rival to Sauron, and was reduced to a beggar in the wilderness capable of only a bit of cruel mischief, in Gollum, whose withering is self-evident, and I think most importantly in Frodo himself, who started out (from Rivendell, if not the Shire) well enough, but as time drew on used the Ring to dominate and crush Gollum’s will and subdue it to his own, first in the Emyn Muil and then on the slopes of Mount Doom, and to deliver a curse of death upon him. And he pays for it: he is unable to destroy the Ring, when it comes to it, which results in his own maiming, and his own spirit is broken by the Ring’s destruction–a nasty glob of strawberry jam if ever there was one–to such extent that he is habitually sick, listless, and sad for years afterward, and can only find healing in Elvenhome. It’s a real pity that a story that so repeatedly counsels its readers “to suspect even their own hands when dealing with the Enemy”, by an author who knew full well that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” has been misread and cudgeled into such a demented shape that most people seem to think it’s a simple black and white story about spotless heroes and simplistic comic book villains, which either immediately turns them off or convinces them, as you have pointed out here, that anybody they happen not to like is essentially the equivalent of the row of orc-necks Gimli fantasizes about swing his axe at, when in fact The Lord of the Rings is anything like morally simplistic. Its immediate heroes and villains are as fantastically complex and struggle with their choices in as real a way as in anything else I’ve ever read, and even the ever-remote Shadow is described as having been “not evil in the beginning.”
As a side note, I did come up with an exception to prove your rule of moral-opposites-produce-casualties-in-LotR: Unless Sam Gamgee enacted capital punishment towards collaborators and his heirs simply excised it out of the Red Book, Ted Sandyman seems to have escaped everything essentially unscathed, despite being Sam’s opposite number in every way I can think of. 😉
As for Tolkien and the occult: I’ve long held suspicions along the same lines as yours, but I’ve not been able to find any trace of evidence to substantiate them. He’s certainly not shy about writing about magic (in a nonfictional sense), as he refers to magia, contrasted with both goetia and Elvish enchantment in his Letters (#155). He seems though to speak with a tone of someone who has only theoretical knowledge that these concepts exist–as someone as well versed in Classical, medieval, and Renaissance literature as he was must, and who was living in Oxford in the first half of the 20th century to boot!–but who hasn’t read enough to really grasp what if anything magicians might actually get out magical practice, only what they hope to get. In other words, he really doesn’t sound like someone with hands on experience whenever he’s not writing fiction, and it’s to such an extent that I don’t think it’s simply him being a good Catholic and covering up the fact that he might be interested in such a thing. That really isn’t his style, as he was too good a ret-conner and too good a theologian to not simply work out how operative magic was really totally in keeping with Catholic orthodoxy if he really wanted to (I’m put in mind of his answer to a priest who got itchy about death being a gift to men from God, rather than a punishment: “Which of God’s punishments are not also gifts?”). And yet. And…yet. There’s too much in his work, in The Lord of the Rings for sure, and even more still, in his posthumous writing collected in HoME: IX & X, Sauron Defeated and Morgoth’s Ring, that is straight up occult philosophy. I wonder sometimes if he wasn’t simply enough of a visionary to have that same clairvoyant awen come through and reveal the same realities to him as it was to the occultists of the time who were actively seeking it. It would certainly be in keeping with the way he would compose stories, not having a clue where they were going and discovering it along the way, attempting to write a plot outline into which all of a sudden this unknown Ranger Captain named Faramir walks in and starts relaying the entirely unexpected and previously unknown history of Gondor, Arnor, and Númenor, in full prose dialogue. I’m inclined towards that view, that Tolkien was something of an unconscious, accidental occultist. The only other explanations I can think of are that he was simply communicating philosophy gleaned from being one of the most expert people on the planet when it comes to pre-modern literature, which very well could be true, that he gained that knowledge from conversation with occultist friends like Charles Williams (though he only knew Williams for the first five years of the ’40s, and while they were friendly, they weren’t that close–and JRRT even called him “that witch-doctor” at least once!”), or that he did in fact read and study occult writers. That last I’m still trying to prove one way or the other: Last year Oronzo Cilli published a book entitled Tolkien’s Library: An Annotated Checklist, which is (as it sounds) an annotated bibliography of everything Tolkien ever read or was likely to have read, and it has several thousand entries. (It happens that by a fortunate combination of circumstance we know more about the life of J.R.R. Tolkien than just about any other author, and there exist records of what he was doing for an almost absurd percentage of every day of his life.) I’ve been pouring through that, but haven’t turned up anything yet. If you think Tolkien was possibly dabbled in Theosophy or something of that nature at some point, who do you imagine the likely authors might have been?
@ Will M I thought of Japan in the 30’s also, and I recommend “The Yamado Dynasty” by Seagrave, and as a companion to it, “The Hidden History of World War One” by Gerry Docherty.The similarities of these two empires is impressive; I suppose all empires are run the same. It seems world war is the fruit of empire now.
@Will M, good analysis of what went wrong with imperial Japan! New aspects for me to ponder. I’ve heard it said Gen. Yamamoto had visited New York and seen what US technology and resources were capable of and what spirit the Americans actually had, but he could not persuade the clique controlling Japan what a mistake going up against them would be. Like a good samurai, he fulfilled his duty and accepted his destiny.
Oh dear, JMG picked a Deeper-than-usual subject when I’m blissed out on Nyquil. Back when I sober up. 🤪. I did want to ask, how much post-election violence does everyone anticipate? We have one medium-size city and one ostentatiously Woke small town within 10 miles; I plan to stay out of each for at least a month.
Thanks JMG, I like your definition of the perfect ascetic better. When might we hear a story about a future Jungian occultism? Next 5th Wednesday?
Perhaps a Batman analogy can be used to understand and deal with ourselves and others. In the Justice League comics and cartoons, Batman is often the de facto leader in planning an operation or battle against their adversaries. Because he understands his Shadow, and “the evil that lurks in the hearts of men,” he understands the adversaries much better than the other heroes do. For example, Superman or Wonder Woman is usually in charge in a combat situation. Their method is to charge in, beating up people and breaking things until the adversary gives up, is captured or knocked unconscious. Batman wins more often by using the adversary’s Shadow against them. He understood Lex Luther better than Superman ever did.
Sun Tsu is reported to have said that if we know ourselves, and know our enemies, we will win every battle. Understanding our Shadow but not fixating on it would seem to be a great help for us.
Speaking of shadows and projection, does anyone have any thoughts on whether this helps explain COVID hysteria? Reasonable concerns of the elderly and immune-compromised aside, there seems to be a certain subset of people (of all political stripes, in my experience) who are absolutely terrified of the virus, against all evidence of significant threat to their own low-risk category. Are they projecting some shadow aspect of themselves onto the virus to make it scarier than it is? (Related to this is the unhinged rage of the same people at “anti-vaxxers”, where “anti-vaxxer” now just means anyone who questions any aspect of official vaccine policy.) It’s like they live in terror of “contagion” of any variety, and they’ve built up some imaginary existential threat completely out of proportion to actual disease risks. It’s very strange, and I wonder what it might really be about.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow.
Life is very long.
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
For Thine is the
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper
The Inklings weren’t especially fond of Eliot, but they’d all read him.
Funny, when I loaded this into my browser, ‘The phrase is “the Shadow.” ‘ was the last line at the very bottom of the screen. So, before I scrolled further, just for fun, I ran through what it might mean to me.
Turns out, exactly the same three ideas as you, in exactly that order. Hmmm.
I used to listen to the radio drama, courtesy of A.F.N. Europe, when I was living there as a teenager. It was wonderful camp.
If I may wander a bit aside, and take the phrase:
“…he had the power to cloud men’s minds, which he’d learned from yogis in India;”
I don’t know when, or if, you’re going to cover this, but I’m sure you know that stage magicians from the 1880s through the 1930s frequently claimed, as part of their “background story”, to have learned mysterious mind-powers acquired in the Far East. The Art Gallery of Ontario had a special show recently, featuring advertising posters for many famous magicians and mind-reader acts. The show was at pains (de rigeur, of course) to point out the “racist” attitudes of Europeans who dressed up and pretended to be from India, but this was typical at the time, claiming that mysterious powers came from study abroad and audiences loved the exotic notion. Even as late as the 1990s, the magician trope in pop culture wears some exotic turban-like headgear.
It seems to me the “Mysterious East” trope was a big part of Blavatsky’s appeal, obviously influenced Gardiner and others, even if “East” wasn’t much further than the river Nile.
Have you any hypothesis as to why people accepted magical teachings as necessarily being associated with South East Asia, ancient Egypt, and so on? You have shown that any embers of European magical traditions had been thoroughly stamped out between the Rationalists and the Religionists of the 18th Century, was it simply because the Age of Exploration imbued the unknown with a sense of exotic mystique which allowed a means for the mystical to return to those with a predilection for it?
BTW, one final observation about the dumbing-down of Tolkein is that, despite best efforts, his exploration of moral choices and failings is so powerful that it still seeps through and can be found… if one is looking. I suspect the reason people choose to overlook his reactionary conservatism, since his tale ends with the restoration of absolute monarchies (except for the hobbits), is because one of his inescapable main themes of ecological conservation is now a left-wing virtue, whereas in his day, it was a conservative one.
All parts of this post are so challenging and interesting – thank you!
I would just say that I do myself constantly think of the Lord of the Rings in connection with today. So many of its themes seem to reflect present day truths for me personally – I see in his writings a longing for the past, an acknowledgement that the old world (Christian culture and civilization? is dying) and a wish to somehow escape the coming conflict – and a call to fight for what remains of that culture and a reminder there is always the messianic hope of a better world eventually, even if death is the gateway to it.
I had a totally Christian reading of Tolkien and his Shadow interpretation – but it gave me comfort in what I saw as an increasingly post- Christian world. I never really saw the Shadow in that respect as individual people, but more the representation of the Great Enemy.
Trolls and Goblins on the other hand…the lack of their ability to be redeemed in the LOTR is now somewhat troubling to me in the light of your post. As it really doesn’t fit in with Christian theology which believes in loving your enemies, and the redeeming and reconciling power of love. I need to think about it all some more I guess. I wonder if Tolkien is not more “ heroic pagan” at his heart than Christian really. It’s a bit unsettling to be honest that I may have unconsciously absorbed cultural messages that are at odds with my core religious beliefs.
I’m a bit confused by something: you say, as I understand it, that the shadow is made of that which we won’t let ourselves acknowledge about ourselves, but you also say that we can learn to become conscious of our own shadows and listen to what they tell us. Is there some balancing act there, then, of seeing the shadow and that it’s cast by the one seeing, but not seeing what’s _in_ it?Since it seems unlikely that one could actually completely destroy one’s shadow by simply seeing and acknowledging everything in it, do things in the shadow become fixed at some point, and thereafter will remain there whether accepted or not? Is the shadow in truth so deep that its full depths cannot be seen, and those things nearer the edge are even if seen still held in the shadow by that further in?Or something else?
Yo, man, that’s a really heavy trip you’re laying on us — just chill out, brother. What about all the shadows cast by dancing daisies in a mountain meadow where you and your lover have just enjoyed an afternoon of blissful passion? Or the blurry shadow, barely noticeable, from a friendly inchworm dangling gracefully on a thread from an accommodating branch arcing over your favorite trail? Or the righteous shadow of liberation cast by social justice warriors marching in lockstep to fight against all the evil they project on others? Oops, erase that last one; don’t even think about it; it’s fake news spread by racist, fascist white supremacists; convince yourself you never saw it! Daisies, daisies, keep repeating daisies…!
Actually, your post is amazingly thought-provoking. While reading one paragraph I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between the world wars and today. Did you write it consciously highlighting those parallels, or is the zeitgeist just calling forth that kind of multi-layered candor now? Below is that paragraph as my mind modified it for the present:
In [the chattering classes], in turn, a great many people built their collective ego around the notion that their [own classes] were innocent of any wrongdoing while [the struggling classes] had started [all the imbalances] out of pure unmitigated evil. The unwelcome reality was that [the chattering classes] were brutal imperial powers which treated their [subordinates] around the world the same way the [struggling classes] were accused of treating [their own subordinates], and which had contributed mightily to the cascade of blunders that caused [all the imbalances]. Obsessed with the desire to blame [the struggling classes] for [all the imbalances], the [chattering classes] demanded terms at [all] negotiations so harsh that they left [the struggling classes] economically and politically crippled. That made it easy for the unpleasant [orange] man just mentioned to turn a [failing] party into one of the [twenty-first] century’s most terrifyingly effective political machines and ride it straight into power.
That’s probably pretty scary reading for anyone expecting Trump to start a fascist reign of terror any day now. For the rest of us, it can serve as a precautionary warning about letting imbalances spiral completely out of control just to protect a failing elite from having to own up to their own corruption and incompetence. Beware any one who claims to walk without casting a shadow; he is either a liar or a vampire — or both in the case of our flailing elite.
The scariest thing about Jung’s shadow is that as more energy gets poured into denying and resisting the contents of the shadow, the more those contents spill into and take over the personality doing the resisting. Eventually, that personality becomes indistinguishable from the the shadow it has been so obsessively tracking and contemplating.
The most empowering thing about Jung’s shadow is that as more energy gets poured into accepting and acknowledging the contents of the shadow, the more those contents spill out and become useful traits of the personality that acknowledges them. Eventually, that personality comes to include the shadow it has been so conscientiously appreciating and respecting.
When it comes to entities as powerful and deep-rooted as our shadows, “make love, not war” might be the best advice around. A little kinky, I’ll admit, but far less messy than hurling parts of ourselves into an unwinnable death match.
What were the mistakes that turned the 1929 Crash into the Great Depression?
Thank you JMG for being a voice of sanity in a world that slips more and more into madness. You Sir are one of the most unrecognized intelectual giants I know of. Thank you so much for what you do.
“O Freunde, nicht diese Töne,” in deep bass voice…
“Sondern lasst uns angenehmere
anstimmen und freudenvollere.
[O friends, no more these sounds. Let us sing more cheerful songs, more full of joy!]
First words in the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, just before going into Schiller’s Ode to Joy lyrics.
I must track down the rest of Hesse’s poem!
This is one of the finest articles you’ve written imho, and a great opening move in the glass bead game;)
The person I was 30 years ago would regard the person I am now as the definition of the shadow. I’m glad of that, because in tying to give audience to ideas without bias, I have adopted many of them. With small steps over time one can move a long way.
There are still many people who’s behavior I find reprehensible, and most of them are way too focused on power and gain in this material plane. They will pay for that in the end, and their actions are bad enough. This posting is a good reminder that we’d be better off to not project our own shadow over top of that.
Hello John Michael. Please, where are the illustrations of the Wise Old Man and the conscious and unconscious Minds from? live from Tidal Reach – Chris
I fear I can’t add anything useful to today’s theme, but I like to share thoughts. My bad.
On the process on making connections with somewhat different aspects, you are describing the inductive cognitive process. That is, taking a few seemingly unrelated facts and discovering a link between them. Unlike deductive process, which is a conscious work (from this follows that), inductive requires our minds to be faced with multiple data, most of them unrelated, and filter the ones that matter. More often than not, this process is inconscient and it feels like a revelation when the link is discovered. That’s the ‘Eureka!’ feeling, and it’s most rewarding since you didn’t expect it. Of course, this is all a well timed excuse to elaborate on the subject of the Shadow you really wanted to talk about.
I am afraid I had the same problem as our Anonymous portuguese commentator, words written in capital letters can only be a institution or a character. I heard of the comic but I was unfamiliar with it, and the jungian archetype came as a second thought.
On The Lord of the Rings. Everyone seems to have a different view on what Tolkien is talking about, which is great by the way. My take is that Tolkien is portraying modernity with its factories and its disregard for the nature of land and people, as evil, and the story is the fight of the Traditional World against Modernity, placing the focus on the Old World. Since Tolkien is a Traditionalist himself, he depicts one side as pure evil, the other as diverse, colourful and vibrant as he could. It’s worth noting that the novel is written for youngsters: Shades of gray, moral ambiguities, choosing the lesser evil and such is not on the table. That’s why Gollum had to die by his own actions and relieve Frodo from taking a hard decision.
I agree with Linnea and Hubertus about LOTR popularity over Hesse. It’s an easy novel, easy for teenagers to understand, it has a rich and very populated world and it is very well written so it can appeal to a more mature public. It’s enjoyable escapism. The other one requires work from the reader and some maturity, and it’s bringing you down to your own problems. It’s really a wonder that Hesse ever got popular. I’m more inclined to think that what was popular was talking about his novels, as a kind of tribe signaling, rather than actually reading them.
On the Jungian Shadow, it seems to me that it is created by immaturity. For instance, there are no human beings inherently good neither bad. We all have instincts, interests and feelings that might or might not match the ones in the society we live in. We can be mature and acknowledge what we have in us, be true to ourselves, refrain the parts that don’t fit with society and be faking good citizens or we can repress them and think of ourselves perfect beings. The problem with the second approach is that someone can only be perfect when faced by the perfect opposite. Thus, you create the perfect opposite of the ideal yourself and project it on others, preferably just in one person so it is easier to challenge. So, to weaken the shadow, we have to attenuate the light we think we are casting and let ourselves be complex messy beings.
I also think that the polarization in social media brought by their algorithms and the immediacy of the internet is making our societies less mature by the day, and so the Shadows grow bigger bringing political tension and instability.
Hi JMG and all,
Great post, JMG!
Lately I have been writing letters to friends, and I sometimes receive replies, but no one will really venture forth and write a true letter of friendship. Because friendship, I tell myself, requires a certain measure of acceptance about one’s own shadow, as well as the other person’s shadow, something so difficult to do at any time, but especially now.
I know from reading Jung and Marie-Louise Von Franz that engaging with the shadow figure of a dream can bear creative fruit (I think of the amazingly beautiful alchemical paintings that Jung made). The Shadow, say Jung and Von Franz, will present itself in a dream as the same gender as the dreamer. I have been making attempts to speak with mine, when I remember to be lucid in the dream. The message so far: meditation brings clarity. Best wishes to all!
Maybe not completely OT but certainly tangential is the “Great Debate” round 3 (2) for our enjoyment tonight. Plenty of opportunities for shadows of all kinds to abound.
I wonder what you make of it being held while Mercury is retrograde opposed by equally retrograde Uranus? Maybe one senior citizen will make an extraodinary, unforgiveable gaffe and then there will be a power out right across the land, with everything disappearing into the shadows.
@paradoctor: Such a tale has been written: A Wizard of Earthsea.
I see the Shadow of the Nation on the Hill seeing the shadow in military adventurism worldwide, supported most strongly by the Christian Right at least until recently.
At the same time, I see that our historic counterbalance to this aspect of human nature was in Christianity, in your weekly sermon about how evil was in the hearts of all sinful men, in YOU, good sir, who must watch, struggle, and contain it as best you can with personal CHOICES, and personal responsibility, and still perhaps valiantly fail. While mocked, “there but for the grace of God go I” is a real thing, and a much-needed reminder that like Solzhenitsyn “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart.” …When you remove Christianity – or at least in our case and our tradition – you remove that shame and humility, that awareness that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers … against spiritual wickedness.” Therefore, WE, the EGO are perfect, all that is good, and it is the OTHER that is all that is evil. And have an entire society of raging, self-serving, self-deceiving narcissists. A very real deadly sin with very good reason.
…Which is exactly why you have to attack and erase Christianity in the first place. They are restraint and SELF-awareness, however small. That is the only way to “Cry Havok, and Let loose the [shackles] of war.” …And they did the same in that north European nation in 1930 too, the same steering of the Church, the same careful untie of traditional, rational moorings.
Well, we may or may not be post-Christian now, but it deserves comment.
And as commenter did say, it’s now a watered-down guitar church of personal prosperity that might mention Christ on high holidays, sin and repentance never.
The better question in these books is “What is evil?” What is it really, what does it do, why does it exist? And I think you see that exploration most in J.K. Rowling’s unexpected sequels in a one-book world never meant to expand. She succeeded in some ways, and failed, was not true to life in some others, but for a pop-quiz of something she seemed not to have thought of, it’s worth the exploration. True evil is Dolores Umbrage.
As we were discussing magic last week, the adepts of our age Cast the Shadow – an illusion – on the masses, and steer their collective unconscious Shadow for their own profit and power. They call the spell “Controlling the Narrative” and are desperate about its control: their own Shadow, that they must control all.
“Buying the Farm” I believe is a reference to the pilot’s life insurance payout to his parents back home.
“As for the movie, there’s enough irony in that to attract a magnet!”
OMG(s) JMG, I really need to stop reading the comments while enjoying a hot beverage 😉
As for the Shadow, I pictured Sri Daya Mata’s vision of a dark shadow spreading over the earth, to my mind a manifestation of humanities collective, unacknowledged shadow.
Thanks for a wonderfully thought provoking essay; you da “bom” (leaving off the silent b) when it comes to wordsmithing!
I am a fan of The Shadow, and read the stories. Walter Gibson, himself, described his writing process as going into a fugue state for 15 hours, typing away. I believe he was in the state where a being from other worlds could use his words to enter this world. Or at least write their thoughts to the humans.
For me, The Shadow always had elements of Gods or at least Other Spirits beyond simply being a character on a page. There is a power in the character that goes beyond most characters.
I’m guessing shortening the shadow is a good thing to aim for, in amongst other things. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) And for the record JMG, as you’re a purveyor of possibly one of the most expansive and wise offerings openly available on the web, I’m apt to project my shadow your way, (as no doubt others do on occasion), when you fall short of expectation. Shadows can be quite demanding it seems. I will be having words with mine, best I can.
It would obviously be well worthwhile to examine my relationship with every person who lives in my world, to see whether, in Jungian terms, what I see in them is my own reflection in a mirror, or a view of their face through a window. *makes note to self*
I understand that the Jungian shadow is difficult to impossible to see, but on the other hand, episodes of blind homicidal rage are pretty hard to miss.
What I wonder though, is, would Jung think that it is merely difficult, or, actually impossible, to see anything in the other except one’s own reflection? That is to say, would he think it is merely difficult, or, actually impossible, to turn the mirrors that are embedded in our relationships with other people into windows?
>>>The Shadow is a pervasive presence all through the story, and the entire action of the plot is based on the idea that if the right person can do the right thing at the right moment, the Shadow will pop like a bubble and go away once and for all.<<<
The kicker being that no-one can actually do it (Frodo fails), and that the eucatastrophe must be brought about by… something else.
The notion that Tolkien was in any way Manichean (expressed by Violet above) rather overlooks that a Manichean would agree with Boromir. If Evil is merely something external, then the usage of the Ring becomes unproblematic. The problem is that the Ring (via its offer of power) feeds off internal motivations. Tolkien wrote a letter where he noted that Gandalf with the Ring would be worse than Sauron… because defeating Evil isn't simply a matter of beating Sauron.
I would note, however, that calling Tolkien "extreme right-wing" is both misleading and overly simplistic. Yes, he supported monarchy… but only if it did not actually interfere with people's lives (see Farmer Giles of Ham, for a start), and his Catholicism always did put him apart from Britain's Anglican Establishment (the British monarch being the Head of the Anglican Church). I can see him being amused by William Morris' notion of using the Houses of Parliament to store manure – to a degree where one might almost say that Morris (staunch socialist that he was) and Tolkien (staunch Catholic that he was) came to similar conclusions from different directions. Tolkien was indeed a reactionary… but he was such an idiosyncratic one that he really doesn't fit anywhere on the modern political spectrum, much less an American-orientated one. The sort of person who warrants the label "extreme right-wing" would not share Tolkien's opinions about South Africa, or (to use Tolkien's own terminology) the unscientific race doctrine.
I read Tolkien’s poetry from the LOTR and it reads like grey. Neither hopeful nor dismal but more realistic and mature. People – hobbits, whomever, – face their fears and go forth anway.
About the 1930s. It seems to be a time of shadows all around. After the Two Boss War of the early thirties, Lucky Luciano formed the National Commission. Now organized crime was truly organized nationwide with the headquarters in New York. An arm of the NC was Murder Inc. who killed people all over the country. Add to that was Bonnie and Clyde and other people terrorizing banks.
The reaction was Hoover and his FBI, which is another shadow. Shadow following shadows.
The 1930s was a time of paradigm shift. The discussion of Hitler and all that brought to mind for me the “My grandmother in Nazi Germany” stories in social media. After Trump was elected, immediately these stories started circulating in social media. My grandmother saw the rise of Hitler…… usually incorrect… but the point was that Trump like Hitler excited people to do his bidding. Later, the burning of the Reichstag was said to be whatever Republican activity was happening. Kristalnacht was Charlottesville (VA)…. now the grandmother in Nazi Germany stories are circulating again.
My view is that we are going through a paradigm shift, and it has scared the old order. The wrong people are now in charge. So they are screaming their fear, grief, and rage from the rooftops – W.Post and mass media. Problem is that Trump is a heterodox thinker who does heterodox things.
Well JMG, I am going to have to go with this order:
Babylon 5 is the ONLY scifi series I ever bought to watch on video. I have watched it twice now, beginning to end, and the second time around, it was better. Don’t imagine you will watch the series (not your thing to stare at TV), but it caught me and held me when I first watched it, as it was one of the first series to utilize some good CGI, and I used to do CGI work to earn a living. I watched it just before lights out each night for quite a while.
I keep thinking back to a year or two when you laid out the coming upheaval of the aristocracy here in the USA, and how there was noticeable resistance to that in the comments. Yet it was also the same time the 8chan phenom was building steam. So I went there, and it was quite the shitshow. But what was apparent is that there are many people desirous of change in many aspects of life. And then watching the news (mouthpiece of the aristocracy) it was all too easy to see their desire for more of the same failed ideas we tried over the last century.
I am terribly interested in what really unfolds over the next months/year, as it appears the blue team will be utterly smashed, the voting methodology of the country will be revamped, the pandemic will end (what will happen to those who went long on masks?), the supreme court will be reconstituted toward the constitution, and so much more.
The red team is irrevocably changed as well, as Trump is quite the archetype galloping across America just now. But what happens after Trump?
We have to downsize – it’s in the cards no matter what happens. What will the Shadow morph into in a few years? I am sincerely hoping that as a society, we turn inward quite a bit and get our own house in order for what is coming.
Nice essay – got my old brain thinking and remembering
Many thanks John for the post, very interesting and thought provoking
To complete your answer to 1Wanderer, in 1917 with the great mutinies of Nivelle, the french army was certainly in the brink of total collapse; in fact the plan of Falkenhayn of “bleed-out” de french in Verdun almost succeeded (at very very high costs for the german also), and after 1917 the french army never started a new offensive, and the brits were not in good condition either, not enough to withstand the hundreds thousands fresh victorious units the german brought from the Eastern Front after the peace with Russia, and with the new tactics of “stormtroops” they learned from Brusilov. If not for the massive arrival of trucks, cannons, trucks, materials and fresh men from USA, the allied would have lost badly in the spring of 1918, even with hundreds thousands of american troops the german offensive was hard to stop, and the german high command (Ludendorff) knew that if they cannot win before the arrival of the full means and men of USA the war would be lost for the germans, and that is exactly what happened.
This is the typical british distortion of history, I know some brits that said: “the yanks came to the celebrations of the end of the war”, in both WW. It is the same with Waterloo and the arrival of the prussians, or in the Spanish War of independence (Peninsulan War they call) where many british people think the guerrillas were a side show compare to the british army, but the guerrilla and in general the spanish “civilians” (if they existed in those years) killed around 3 times more french soldiers that the combined british + portuguese + spanish army during the insurgency, I am from a village that was occupied ten times by the french and ten times they were drived-out; there are a good collection of Goya paintings that show how that war was fought and this is also a Big Shadow in that time in my country, my countrymen were completely crazy.
Why they did not they land in the Netherlands or in Belgium that are closer to France?, may be it was because all the french rearguard in Spain was in flames, and all the reinforcement systematically attacked, poisoned, foraging parties destroyed, supplies sacked, etc…? There were 300.000 napoleonic soldiers in Spain, but they only controlled the sand just below their boots. 300.000 french soldiers died in Russia in 1812, 300.000 in Spain (some people said they were many more) mainly in the hands of spanish “civilians”. At the end the french, as the americans in Vietnam, would have retreated defeated from Spain even if the brits did not land.
Sometimes is good to read history
Dear Linnea, those all make a lot of sense, many thanks for your considered response!
Dear Jade Dragon, if I may, I’ve noticed that people began not answering letters around the time the social justice purges began in 2013. If you have a gaffe someone made in writing you can, after all, destroy them. I think the decline of letters really mirrors the decline in people being able to speak honestly and openly without getting socially demolished.
Currently I’m on my second reread of Dostoyevsky’s _The Idiot_, I first read it when I was 16 or so and it deeply effected me. More recently, I was struck by Yeats description of the Prince Myshkin character in his discussion of the 8th Phase, and since I figured now would be a very good time to give the novel a reread.
I’m about half way through and something that strikes me is the similar spiritual decay that Dostoyevsky chronicles in the Russian society of the late 1860’s to the decay that we have going on today.
First and foremost there is the thread of that famous Russian nihilism, which has a level of absurdity to its simple honest moroseness. This nihilism seems to be rather present today: in college I knew a colorful character who talked like a Russian nihilist right out of fiction, and in my past I also knew many nihilist sorts in my bohemian days, especially those who enjoyed getting heated at protests.
Then, opposite and equal to the nihilism is a pervasive quietism. Prince Myshkin himself exemplifies this passive approach to life. Here, in the United States today we have “mindfulness” meditation which trains the mind for a quietist approach to life. I’ve noticed a quietist approach in the sorts who aspire to a middle class life.
Quietism and nihilism seem to me to be, philosophically and religiously, Shadows of each other. These philosophical approaches didn’t end very well in the Russian situation, for which Solzhenitsyn of course provides the resource of choice for the details. Also quietism and nihilism seem to me well polarized to avoid any confrontation with the Shadow. A nihilist always has all the answers and a quietist always has all the answers, and these answers prevent any need for self-knowledge. In the current situation, this nihilism, may explain much regarding the ineptitude of the Magical Resistance. Nihilism always has all the answers. The bland quietism may ultimately, though, prove the more fatal for the classes that hold these beliefs.
When I consider, then, the evil that lurks in the philosophical heart of the nation, I feel that it resembles the pre-revolutionary Russian situation to an eerie degree. Reading _The Idiot_ I can very much remember and see many of my old friends and acquaintances, and the same is true with a Dostoyevsky in general.
To tie this directly to your post, if I’m indeed correct that we are collectively playing out a mordant philosophical game between nihilism and quietism, that then is a stupid game with stupid prizes. And we have some foresight into what those prizes may look like. Of course, there’s other options besides nihilism and quietism, but the way I conceptualize it, the game gets played between those two approaches. Other approaches don’t get a word in edgewise in the game, because — as noted — both nihilism and quietism structurally always have all the answers, and I think they have an uncanny fascination with the other since they fit so well together in each other’s Shadow.
Broadly, then, I’m interested JMG what you think of this line of thinking regarding a nihilist-quietist Shadow polarity, and how you think that we may get ourselves out of this collective bind that leads nowhere good?
Wow, synchronicity. I must be tuned into your wavelength, JMG!! Just a day or two before you posted this I had that voice pop into my head [cue booming voice]: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”
I didn’t think anything of it. I have a great memory for sound so songs, tunes from commercials, and famous movie lines are always popping into my head. It’s almost like I have an inner radio. Some people have expressed their annoyance at my nonstop humming!!
Anyway, what I find interesting is I have never actually heard the audio of that line. I’m not old enough to have listened to the radio show. I only know it because it’s something my dad used to say when I was a kid. Obviously he liked the show enough that the line got stuck in his head and he passed it on to me!
Abraham, maybe Hesse was popular because people felt like his work was something they should like, even if they couldn’t quite understand it. In other words, maybe it resonated with them on a level they didn’t understand. Alternatively, (and I wasn’t around at this time to know) maybe the cultural climate was different and people were more awake then now.
Lady Cutekitten, I anticipate violence similar to the riots we’ve been having already since May. I originally had a lease ending in Dec. in a far away state from home state, and planned on moving back after it expired. After all the unrest, I decided to move out 3 months early because I don’t want to deal with traveling after the election, and because I found the right place to move into.
On COVID and the Fourth Turning – it may seem OT, but I intuitively feel it is very relevant to this topic.
People are talking of it as a partisan issue, one side claiming it’s of overriding importance; the other, that it’s a bad flu puffed up either by the sinister left in order to control us all, or by the hysterical left who has swallowed their own party line. It dawned on me this morning we’re looking at something that’s happened in every crisis era on record that I know of.
I quote (paraphrased from memory) from Strauss & Howe -who so far have hit the nail on the head in everything but the start date. “The beginning of a crisis looks like ordinary bad luck: another recession, another [this or that] that snowballs into a mass of seemingly insoluble problems – none of which van be solved because they’re all intertwined with each other….” The Gordian knot comes to mind. As does a more pungent description in army slang, which is greater than the ordinary SNAFU, and the only thing greater is “alles kaput.”
“The Climax of the Crisis comes with the mess giving way to one big, obvious problem which sweeps away everything else and mobilizes the nation to act as one.” And to take the knife to the Gordian knots. Now, mostly, it’s been war. “They bombed Pearl Harbor! Where do I go to enlist?” Whether isolationist before, or not. “They fired on Fort Sumter and are breaking up the Union!” Whether they were anti-slavery or not.” “…should be free and independent states… hereto pledge our lives, or fortunes, and our sacred honor….”
I think – no, I can see with my own eyes – that, like it or not, COVID has been shoved into that slot. Yes, by the left; yes, by the PMC; yes, a lot of everyday people are ignoring it. And yes, this may be a false alarm. But whatever the actual nature of this virus is, that’s what it’s become. All the other problems are now being seen through its light: inequality, public health, schools, the nature of work and the badly-fraying social safety net, the lens they’re not seen through is that of this virus. And the economic contraction [in the real world, for those to whom “the economy” is Wall Street; are you listening, my daughter?] caused by it. And solutions are being pushed because of it.
Because – and here’s the tie-in with The Shadow – a disease we can’t control and don’t know how to cure is the worst nightmare of a sterilized civilization that has conquered disease and all the ills nature can bring and has blamed the victims for the ills they haven’t eliminated. [Obsession with Trump as the Root of All Ills is just history as usual. “That Man In The White House” ….happens every time, just as it did in Rome. And in Athens.]
Thanks for this JMG.
I am in the middle of watching a 4 part BBC documentary on Trump. It is hilariously biased against him. One BBC journalist is asked by Trump who he works for. He pipes back with “The BBC, impartial, free and fair”.
Well you can be threatened with imprisonment for not paying for the “free” BBC. As for the rest of it, this documentary (and much else) proves otherwise. They stated that the evidence free conspiracy theory known as Russiagate was proven true and that Mueller somehow let Trump of the hook with his report because he lacks guts.
It seems the Good People have the biggest shadow. They can justify lying because they want to out Trump as a liar, oblivious to the irony. There was also a lot of reference to Trump being a ‘racist’ without any objective evidence. When an Hispanic Trump fan shoots up a synagogue, they play the guilt by association game, blithely ignoring the role Trump gave his son-in-law. The great mass of Trump fans though are just treated as scenery – there is no one interested in hearing why they like him so much.
Will the reelection of Trump make any difference to the Good People or will we have to endure 4 more years of TDS? Will anything make them look at their shadow or will they go to their graves like this?
Galen – that sounds fascinating. I wasn’t aware of this. Do you have any sources for this or do you know, which passages of the Vedic scriptures Oppenheimer had in mind?
It is possible that there is no solution to the problem of collectively projecting the shadow in the American case because Americans are committed to the mythology of war and conquest, to fighting, to struggle, to resistance, to overcoming, etc. This is something that comes out in their rhetoric over and over again (the war on drugs, on crime, on poverty, on terror, the fascination with “the rebellion” in the Star Wars mythos, so on and so forth). It is possible that Americans are “juiced” by this kind of thinking and talk. I wonder if it isn’t subconsciously the result of the Faustian’s (the progressive’s) encounter with limitation, so that new enemies, orcs, trolls, goblins, and the like have to be manufactured and paraded before public consciousness just to provide the illusion of progress in the “fight” against these things. The one solution of a sort might then be along the lines of the poem by Eliot, above: “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper.” In other words, it might well be necessary for Spengler’s prediction about the decline of the West to be fulfilled, in the American case, so that one or more new mythologies may take its place, and the demonization of one’s imagined enemies cease. Neither Aeschylus nor Herodotus demonized the Persians, and Florus didn’t demonize the Carthaginians; the words he puts into a victorious Roman general’s mouth are that the Roman victory is so much the greater because of the worthiness of the opponent, while, if memory serves, the opposing general said in turn that the Romans were the strongest opponents the Carthaginians had fought, and that it was therefore no dishonor to have been vanquished by them.
Re shadow projection, the present political environs, and national unity
Personally, I think it is high-time we stop talking about this perpetual goal of uniting the country. This nation has never been a coherent polity and isn’t going to be: it is a sprawling product of empire held together by the fact of that empire and little more. We’ve never been “united” except in the most ephemeral and transient of senses–after Pearl Harbor, for example, or 9/11, and even then there were populations within the country who were not part of the unity coalition.
Rather, we need to be talking about dissensus; that is, how we might live together with our differences OR how we might separate into smaller, regional (and more coherent) polities by some manner short of violence. Unity requires a level of agreement that I don’t think we’re ever going to have in this country: MA and AL are never going to see eye-to-eye, SC and OR are vastly different in culture, and then there’s TX and CA who one could argue see themselves as nation-states-in-waiting. “Unifying the country” is never going to happen in this post-imperial path we’re now on and everyone has too much use for projecting their shadow on some other part of the country to let things go so that we can actually live with one another in some reasonable fashion. We don’t want to face the reality of the burden this dying empire places on our lives–because a purposeful strategic withdrawal from empire is unthinkable–so we blame one another instead.
Of course, try running for president on a platform like that and see how far you get. I’d like us to remain more-or-less together, but that’s going to require a degree of tolerance and decentralization (Reigning in the powers of Congress, anyone? How about disassembling the bloated bureaucracy of the administrative state?) that is not possible in the present state of affairs.
David BTL, excellent! Yes, I can see that.
Galen, I’d read that as well. I’ve read several English redactions of the Mahabharata — one of them was among my favorite books when I was right on the brink of my teens — and I recall references to weapons of tremendous destructive power in them.
Wesley, (1) you can indeed have a healthy relationship with the Shadow archetype. Once you grapple with the Shadow and realize that everything that makes him up is a part of you, he becomes a source of insight and strength. Do you recall the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu the wild man? Enkidu was Gilgamesh’s shadow, and once Gilgamesh lured him into consciousness and contended with him, the two became fast friends and allies. (2) I don’t do anything so structured — I find that such exercises make for dull books. Instead, rather than constructing characters, I meet them: I encounter them in my imagination, talk to them, get a sense of how they tick, and generally allow them to dictate their own words and actions in my stories.
Piper, exactly. Hesse understood that the discipline of meditation is essential if you want to achieve the kind of quiet wisdom his more Apollonian characters strive for.
Owen, no, he wasn’t just ripping off Wagner. Tolkien was fluent in all the old Germanic languages and read the myths and legends from which Wagner got his ideas — the Nibelungenlied, the Volsunga saga, and much more — and used those as raw material for his own distinctive vision. Nor is it fair to say that he was putting things in bubble wrap. Those who came after him, though…
Ethan, I remember a very good song about a Vincent Black Lightning, but not the Black Shadow…
Ian, sure, that’s one way to do it, though it can also cause you to crash and burn messily. I also prefer the way of reflection!
Muninn, I hadn’t read the Corbin bit before — many thanks for this! As for Tolkien and Jung, I haven’t read Tarnas, but Timothy O’Neill did a fine book in 1979 titled The Individuated Hobbit on similar themes.
Kullervo, how could any human being possibly know?
Workdove, do you know if he’s put anything in print? I don’t do videos. As for his claims, too funny — I wonder what dodges he’ll use when his predictions fail, as of course they will.
Patricia O, one thing Jung points out is that your Shadow includes anything and everything you can’t accept about yourself…including the good things. He encountered people who had wholly negative self-images, and who projected the Shadow of their own virtues onto other people!
Varun, that’s a valid point, and an important one.
Matthias, that’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Read it sometime and see how many of Tolkien’s later ideas you find there!
Mo Drui, Tolkien’s own work is very complex morally and philosophically — as you noted, it’s a bitter irony that it’s been twisted in the popular imagination into such a parody of itself. I recall rather too well the buttons after the 2000 election that read FRODO FAILED – BUSH HAS THE RING. As for Tolkien’s occultism, I don’t think he was ever a practitioner. One thing to remember about the Theosophy that pervaded Britain during his youth is that it strongly discouraged any occult practice beyond meditation and morality. I think what happened is that he read a certain amount of popular Theosophical literature, certainly including Scott-Elliot’s The Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria — the source for his massively Theosophical, er, Atalantë — and made use of it as raw material for fantasy in exactly the same way that Robert E. Howard did.
Your Kittenship, as far as I can see, it all depends on how close the election is. If one or the other candidate squeaks in, especially if the other claims fraud, Katy bar the door. If it’s a blowout for one side or the other, my guess is that there won’t be much.
Youngelephant, I’ll consider it for future reference.
Bird — well, the only answer I can think of is “Holy collective unconscious, Batman!” 😉 Of course you’re quite correct.
El, that’s a fascinating question, and one I’m going to have to look into.
Engleberg, good! Thanks for this.
Renaissance, one of the standard rhetorical tactics used by opponents of the status quo in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries was to point out that cultures further east had things Europe lacked, especially knowledge about the subtle powers of body and mind. Since this was of course true, it became a very effective approach, and the Theosophists among others used it to the hilt. It wasn’t “racist,” it was an acknowledgment that other cultures had things that Western cultures lacked — but of course that doesn’t fit the sort of dogmatic narrative the Art Institute of Ontario is trying to push down people’s throats.
Naomi, good — that sort of experience is supposed to be unsettling. It’s by confronting such conflicts that your convictions stop being things you’ve absorbed from someone else, and become things that you’ve fully understood and embraced yourself.
Reese, you can’t destroy an archetype but you can empty it of its contents so that it no longer messes with you. It’s entirely possible, though difficult, to reach a state of self-knowledge such that you no longer refuse to accept anything that is part of you; you see all the way to the depths of the Shadow and claim it as your own — and then you have the power of that archetype at your disposal.
Christophe, it was entirely deliberate! Many thanks for this.
Yorkshire, any good history of 1930s economic history will explain those to you. They were complex and multifaceted, and you need some sense of the structure of the economy in those days to make sense of them.
Pedro, you’re welcome and thank you.
BFP, nah, the poem was by Schiller. Hesse was quoting that line as the title of his essay.
Averagejoe, thank you!
Twilight, good. Thanks for this.
Chris, those illustrations were from Jung’s Red Book, which was published about ten years ago in a gorgeous facsimile edition.
Abraham, thanks for this.
Jade Dragon, it’s good advice!
Reloaded15, this whole election is an astrological mess. I don’t pay a lot of attention to the debates — at this point they count for very little — but there could well be oddities involved.
Jasper, I didn’t encounter Dolores Umbrage — I stopped reading about the boy wizard and his chums long before she appeared. As for the issues around Christianity, though, it suffers from exactly the same problem Tolkien’s work does — and doubtless for closely related reasons. Both are morally complex and introspective on their own terms, but both collapse very easily into a cartoonish Good People vs. Bad People dualism once ordinary human beings get to work on them.
JeffinWA, thank you. I’m not familiar with Sri Daya Mata — any hints as to where to find something about the vision?
Neptunesdolphins, as late as the 1970s the New York house where Gibson worked was haunted; people who lived or visited there used to see a cloaked figure with blazing eyes lurking in the darkness there. Gibson’s imagination was so intense that he literally imprinted the image of the Shadow on the house! Did you know that he was an occultist, btw? I have one of the books on occultism he wrote.
Jay, falling short of expectation is a habit of mine, and occasionally a deliberate one — it helps keep people from treating me like a guru, which would be bad for them and worse for me. If your Shadow helps you avoid that, all the better.
Scotlyn, it’s not even necessarily that difficult except when specific archetypes get in the way.
Strda221, the irony is that I know quite a few American conservatives, even extreme conservatives, who share Tolkien’s view of government: the less of it the better. It’s a very widespread view, far less idiosyncratic than you seem to think. Many conservatives will tell you that it’s the liberals who want to interfere with people’s lives all the time, with their (ahem) Gatherers and Sharers. Is there projection of the Shadow going on there? Sure — but there’s plenty of it on the leftward end of things as well…
Oilman2, true enough — November 4 is when the real work begins, and within the very limited range of influence I’ve got, I intend to hit the ground running.
DFC, many thanks for this. I’ve encountered British revisionism over both World Wars quite often, and of course it’s understandable — Britain, which had swaggered around for a couple of centuries claiming to be omnipotent, had to be saved by the United States twice in thirty years, and the second time we did the smart thing and left an army of occupation in place. I wasn’t aware of the huge role played by Spanish guerrillas in your War of Independence, but it doesn’t surprise me at all — I’ve seen reproductions of the Goya paintings.
Violet, that analysis seems quite plausible to me. The thing I notice, though, is that it’s a common binary in decadent aristocracies generally, and it usually ends with the collapse of the aristocracy in question — one way or another.
Blue Sun, hmm! Fascinating.
Patricia M, that seems plausible, but we’ll have to see how it plays out.
Bridge, I’ve been watching the Beeb play that game since 2015. As for the Good People more generally, if past experience is anything to go by, they’ll go to their graves still ranting about the evils of Trump, but within a few years they won’t have the media platforms to do it from. Expect to see angry, bitter, aging former liberals buttonholing people at social. events to maunder on about how wonderful everything was under Obama, in exactly the same spirit as Russian exiles in the 1930s maundering on about how wonderful everything was under the Tsar…
Someone, that’s possible, but hopefully not yet certain.
David BTL, thanks for this. That makes a great deal of sense.
Every time I reread LOTR, I’m struck by how tragic it is. The old world is lost forever, the elves vanish, the dwarves disappear, the current age is one of less. Frodo would have never made it to Mount Doom if it hadn’t been for Sam Gamgee and he still fails when he gets there. Gollum saves the day.
Merry and Pippen seem to come out unscathed, but it’s really Sam who succeeds by being steady and dogged and knowing his own mind and not being ensnared by false dreams.
Ah yes John, I stand corrected!
Regarding, “Bridge, I’ve been watching the Beeb play that game since 2015. As for the Good People more generally, if past experience is anything to go by, they’ll go to their graves still ranting about the evils of Trump, but within a few years they won’t have the media platforms to do it from. Expect to see angry, bitter, aging former liberals buttonholing people at social. events to maunder on about how wonderful everything was under Obama, in exactly the same spirit as Russian exiles in the 1930s maundering on about how wonderful everything was under the Tsar…”
To me, Obama’s second term is best summarized as the “knowledge elite gone ballistic”. You may recall my mentioning the paleocon Sam Francis prophesizing both Trumpism and woke capitalism in the 1990s. Regarding woke capitalism this was, in his mind, especially embodied in the new “knowledge elite” in academia and information technology. 2012-16 is when both sectors really took off the masks and proved Francis right!
Here is an even more amazing prophecy of his from 1989!:
“Some Americans, especially the cosmo-conservatives in Manhattan and Washington, may fantasize that globalization will yield another “American Century,” with Yankee know-how tossing institutional and ideological candy-bars to fetching senioritas in the Third World. But blue-collar workers in Detroit and construction men in Texas probably have a better grip on the realities of globalization as they watch their own jobs disappear before Asian competition and illegal immigrants. Globalization doesn’t mean that America will prevail, but that it will vanish among the electrons and laser beams by which the planet is to be held together, just as Midwestern small businesses and Southern family farms vanished into the financial and industrial grids of the nineteenth century nationalists.”
The original German “Oh Freunde, nicht diese Töne!” can be found here https://europaverbinden.de/wp-content/uploads/I%c3%9fler-Kopiervorlagen.pdf. Translation programs seem to be good enough these days even for a text of this kind.
The document is actually about the correspondence between Hesse and Romain Rolland for which Hesse’s essay was the starting point.
Hesse appealed to the “neutrals” meaning explorers, teachers, artists, authors who should be working for peace and mankind. It is sad to see that there are so few neutrals these days and even less who can make themselves heard. So thank you for your contributions-, JMG.
Just having some thoughts on my particular shadow archetype…
I do know that I absolutely loathe hypocrisy and pomposity (especially both at the same time). Thus watching people of a liberal intelligentsia disposition melting down over Brexit/Trump etc has absolutely infuriated me (I’m from a Liberal Intelligentsia background btw)
So have I ever acted in the pompous or hypocritical manner, in the way that many of my liberal peers are now? absolutely I have. If I hadn’t read your material, I might even be obsessively denouncing trump as they are right now.
So.. I was raised to believe that I was better than non liberal/ non educated types (‘deplorables’), then when i see other people doing it, I get angry…
Perhaps that’s because I’m not fully admitting to my own snobbery, getting angry at liberals or people being self righteous in general, enables me to feel self righteous, and be like, I’m not one of them, I’m better than one of them…
anyway, that’s my rant over. Thanks for listening, it cleared up some thoughts for me.
An update to my post on the COVID – Even Trump’s presidency is now being seen through that lens. Anyway, time will tell.
Amusing side note from a literary email list I read: Someone was talking about getting away from the Nazis as villains (a long-moribund trend anyway, but if you wanted a German villain, you’d have a hard time topping Luedendorff. (sp?). If I find that post, I’ll direct their attention to the 30-Years War, and the conduct of the armies on all umpteen sides of that cluster(mess.) Villains galore! Not to mention the German petty nobility of the period. Or John George of Saxony, an equal opportunity traitor….but I digress, again.
I’m a bit surprised that Carolyn Baker’s “Dark Gold” hasn’t been mentioned here. In the preface of the book, she relates the cherokee elder’s story of the fight between two wolves, light and dark, in the elders’ soul. The younger asks “which one will win?”; the elder replies “the one you feed”.
She continues with a different version, which you can also find at https://deanyeong.com/fight-two-wolves-inside/
JMG: “Irena, Jung’s advice was as usual quite straightforward. Notice what irritates you most about the way that other people behave; that’s part of your own Shadow.”
So, is the Shadow destroyed by sunlight? That is: once you’ve noticed that something’s in your Shadow, does it automatically vanish from there? Or is there more to it? I’m asking because I think I have a pretty good idea of what it is that irritates me most (both in other people and in myself), but the emotional reaction is still there. (I have indeed gotten better at controlling the outward expression of the said emotional reaction, but only by exerting quite a lot of willpower. The emotional reaction itself remains.)
(Also, thanks, katsmama!)
Different question! Now I’m wondering about your exchange with Violet (re: nihilism and quietism). So, was the French aristocracy also affected by it on the eve of the French Revolution?
Speaking of the French Revolution… Why is it that the Russian Revolution keeps getting portrayed as evilly evil, but the French Revolution somehow gets a free pass, mostly? (This doesn’t apply to our host. I’m speaking in general. For example, Jordan Peterson keeps talking about the evils of the Russian Revolution, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard him so much as mention the French one. Why?) The French Revolution was certainly bloody enough, and if one is going to blame the Russian Revolution for the GULAG, then it’s certainly fair to blame its French counterpart for (for example) the Napoleonic wars. That is to say: they’re both reasonably natural, though not inevitable, consequences of the revolutions in question. Is it just a matter of the French Revolution being older, or is it a matter of the Western World preferring to project its Shadow onto the Russians?
I agree with you that those who loudly proclaim they see toxic people everywhere have the most self-work to do.
What do you think of the lack of redemption available to those who are deemed “bad people”? It seems that once one is branded, then that’s it. The woman who called the cops on the man birding is still getting dragged through the media. Isn’t it enough that she lost her job and had to move for a supposed racist incident? Our racism used to involve physical objects and specific words/actions, now it’s based on appearance, facial expression, and voice tone.
What is the penance that gets one back into the folds of the good people? I see a lot of white collar people feverishly adding pronouns to the bio’s/email signatures and attending anti-racist talks/book clubs, but those are all proscriptive. Look at me – I’m one of the good people! I know all the special code words!
It’s strange how there’s no way back after being caste out. Or is there?
I suppose I was lucky enough to have first read Tolkien later in life (in college) after reading a litany of Tolkienesque knockoffs in my youth, without ever realizing that the knockoffs were based on Lords of the Rings until much later in life. From that perspective, Lord of the Rings seems like a subversive take on the genre rather than the standard tale of X person is the chosen one because of bloodline destiny, forms a small band of heroes, collects some magical artifacts, befriends magical creatures and beheads cackling villain to live happily ever after with some impossibly beautiful, strikingly helpless maiden.
I assumed that Lord of the Rings was Tolkien’s unique take on a preexisting genre rather than the book that founded the genre. I suppose ignorance is bliss.
Thanks! I’ll have to look Scott-Elliot’s work up, both to read and to see if it managed to make it into Cilli’s ‘Checklist.’
As it happens, it seems that Verlyn Flieger (one of the world’s most respected Tolkien scholars and a marvelous, whip-smart, gem of a woman) would tend to agree with you — http://www.leaderu.com/humanities/wood-review.html — although in his Magical World of the Inklings, Gareth Knight seems to subscribe to the downloaded-all-the-things-imaginatively-straight-from-the-akashic-records theory, without even bothering to wonder about if JRRT might have absorbed any Theosophy directly or indirectly through his reading material.
Re the origin of “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne.” IIRC, that line is by Beethoven; he wrote the part that the baritone sings before the first stanza of Schiller’s poem.
Hey @Ian Duncombe – but I bet the first bit before the polar bear plunge was a pretty good ride!
A lot of people have asked how to see their own shadow – I would say another technique is to notice that people will tell you what their own shadow is all the time; if you can tell what the average TDS sufferer’s shadow is, you can find yours the same way. You just have to pay attention to what you say.
@Patriciaormsby: I remember reading the Dalai Lama saying that he found the Western habit of self-hatred very puzzling, he hadn’t encountered it as a “thing” in his training, and in his people. So I think that for a fair number of us, we in fact project the Shadow inward, not just outward, and maybe that’s a relatively new cultural tick.
For example, I didn’t get that Hesse was in on the joke of what total peeburgers (that’s a good 7-year-old insult, right there) his characters were because, as Jewel sang on “Who Will Save Your Soul” from her (only good) album Pieces of You “People say they’re better than you, and you agree” has always been a problem of mine; I just didn’t know that I agreed until I turned down a position I’d been doing as a volunteer for years once they offered to make it paid, or to help find someone who could be hired for it. I said “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy”. When in school they decided after 4 years that I wasn’t actually the R-word I was first diagnosed as, and put me in the Gifted class instead, the Merkel looking at Trump at the UN face of the Gifted Class teacher, told me. And I agreed with her that I didn’t belong there, still. And in University, no matter how hard I had worked to sit in the chair next to the Hesse-readers. People want very badly for human traits to be fixed, and not a question of choice, or work, or different learning speed. Evil forever, dumb forever, poor forever. Right, then left, now believe this.
I think it’s particularly prevalent to project the shadow inward with women, since, as Rita pointed out, Lilith is a big societal-wide shadow.
@JMG: I’ve been meaning to ask for ages, but it hasn’t come up organically – there was a thread a way back (might have been a couple by now where it’s come up) where people were speculating on why Dion Fortune and the others all died young after the Magical Battle of Britain. And you’d answered at some point a theory that it was because she was still something to the effect of ‘too Christian’ still. I had two hypotheses: 1) that they’d gotten too fixated on the Christ as ideal or 2) that it had something to do with the difficulty her order ran into when the tried themselves to use her Lilith as a guidel was it because they still made that same Christian spelling mistake, adding the ‘h’ on the end of Lilith’s title. I have a very common name that is most commonly spelled with the extraneous ‘h’. on the end. I always give people a pass the first couple times, but after awhile, and they’ve known me and received a lot of correspondence from me, and they still add it on there, then I’d just let their emails go to the other people at the company who spell their name with the ‘h’ instead. Are either of those warmer?
Sam Harris, in his newest book “Waking Up” (pgs. 67 to 73) states that “we have every reason to believe that the isolated right hemisphere is independently conscious.” He cites a “famous example” of a young man who was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. His left brain replied “a draftsman” while his right brain used letter cards to spell out “racing driver.” Harris later asks, “Why is it that the right hemisphere is generally willing to bear silent witness to the errors and confabulations of the left?” …. “being inured to the status of cerebral helot, it goes along. Thankless cooperation can become a way of life.” I wonder what all this implies for the unconscious and the Shadow?
> Our racism used to involve physical objects and specific words/actions, now it’s based on appearance, facial expression, and voice tone.
Racism is the not the right word for what you are describing, and unfortunately I don’t think we have a suitable term yet. Classism is a significant cause, but it doesn’t accurately label the action. Once a succinct term arises and such behaviour can be clearly labelled, and thus called out, I expect the whole phenomenon to dissipate rather quickly.
As for redemption, similar to racism it is not the accused who actually needs redeeming, it is the accuser.
“Both sides have convinced themselves that all they have to do is come up with the right gimmick and the Shadow they hate so much will pop like a bubble.” Fascinating how much can be explained by that observation. In many ways our cinema and light literature have evolved to interact with projected shadows in ways that people find pleasing, often teaching people to look for the satisfaction when the Shadow pops. Thanks the for insightful post this week.
What seems to be happening is that our increasing power in communication technologies and understanding of psychology is allowing people to increasingly bypass rational communication in favor of direct interaction with the subconscious. How do we build a deep attachment to the rational as a counterbalance against the very real and very important and very dangerous (when handled glibly) world beneath the rational?
Teresa, it’s a tragic book. I wish Tolkien had had the literary sense to let Frodo die at Mount Doom, as he should have.
Aidan, quite a number of people caught on to what was going on in those years — thus the backlash that’s still building. Francis phrased it very well, though.
BB, excellent! That’s the kind of reflection we need much more of just now.
Patricia M, almost any war from before 1645 will do — it was only after then, with the rise of the nation-state after the Peace of Westphalia, that the idea of laws of war came into play, and the route to the Geneva convention opened up. Before then, oh dear gods.
Dwig, I’ve always liked reframing that in terms of yin and yang, so that neither wolf ever wins — by their combat, which is also a dance, they hold the personality and the world in balance.
Irena, the emotional reaction is another matter. Sometimes journaling will help, if the reaction is rooted in childhood experiences you haven’t processed, and sometimes you just need to learn to yank hard on your own leash! Yes, French aristocrats were up to their eyeballs in nihilism (Apres moi, le deluge) and quietism (Madame Guyon and her followers). As for the French Revolution, I agree with you — it’s a great example of something that went from grand slogans to mass murder, and ended up handing over France to a megalomaniac warlord who plunged all of Europe into war. Edmund Burke had some very frosty things to say about it.
Denis, it’s not strange at all. Do you recall my discussion of the Rescue Game? We’re well into the final phase, which I termed Circular Firing Squad, in which the whole point is to identify Bad People and cast them out forever.
Dennis, hmm! Okay, that makes sense. I got to Tolkien first, of course — I read the trilogy for the first time at the age of ten, and The Sword of Shannara, the first (and one of the most despicable) of the rehashes, didn’t see print until a decade later.
Mo Drui, thanks for this. An utterly predictable book review — Charles Williams gets the same sort of treatment; I long ago lost count of the number of Christian writers who have engaged in a contortionist’s antics to try to dodge the fact that CW was deeply involved in Golden Dawn magic, to the point of serving as Hierophant (chief initiating officer) for two six-month terms — but Flieger sounds worth reading.
Wesley, I’ll take your word for it, but the volume I have claims that it’s Schiller.
Pixelated, hmm. I don’t recall saying that Fortune’s death was a function of her Christianity, though I know some people have suggested that.
Greg, to the best of my knowledge, that sort of split-brain analysis was proposed in the 1970s and later found to be a major oversimplification. The right cerebral hemisphere is by no means “isolated” except in people who have a damaged corpus callosum!
Ganv, good. Rephrase that and you’ve got the basic task of every society — how do you reinforce the human capacities for reflection and communication so that they aren’t overwhelmed by animal instinct?
I have held off commenting because I am annoyed. The concept of projection is certainly a core and true one. But to always attribute anyone calling a spade a spade to them actually just projecting their shadow?
I wonder how many Q-Anon followers yearn for under-age tail?
That was a cheap shot. Never mind that with millions of people, this is no doubt true for a few, but irrelevant to the current situation.
So – I have heard allegations of Satanism and child sacrifice for years. Is it true? Is some of it true? I await more revelations. However, human trafficking and pedophilia – there is quite a lot of evidence and more keeps coming. So then, what with the general state of corruption in govt, media, tech companies and so on – how are people to learn and organize and try to right these wrongs without being accused of projection? At what point does it become a dodge or an ad hominem?
So if you’re wondering, dear reader, why those of us in the USA live in a country where one party accuses the other of being full-blown goose-stepping Nazis and the other party insists that the first are Satan-worshiping pedophiles, where compromise has become a swear word and both sides have convinced themselves that all they have to do is come up with the right gimmick and the Shadow they hate so much will pop like a bubble, now you know. The bitter irony, of course, is that they’re both wrong.
Are they both wrong? I admit to having taken sides here. It wasn’t always so. Years ago it seemed the conservatives were more deluded by fake news and there were plenty of good and bad on both sides. I think that different groups of people may get more vulnerable to collective nightmares at different times. But at this time I see that Antifa has indeed got Nazi root, and that many on the left are openly wanting to take down this country. This democracy that you, JMG, think is a good idea. It’s pretty open and becoming more so. It sure looks to me like the left has gone off the deep end. This is what has been expressed here by many readers, such as David BTL. And because they seem to have entered the twilight zone of functioning from their subconscious minds, they are projecting like mad. I mean, how many times has it been noted here and elsewhere, that if you want to know what the corrupt deep state has done or plans to do, just see what they accuse the other side of.
It just isn’t correct to assume that any time there is a conflict, that both sides are equal. Sometimes, bad things happen to relatively innocent people. And the more rightward end (what happened to your political middle – I forget what you called it?) these people have been living in increasing shock and befuddlement as they watch people morph before their eyes into unreachable fanatics of intolerance.
Not everyone is equally in thrall to their shadows. Many people are reasonably integrated. How does this essay fit into something like the disaster of the Russian revolution? Most people had little say in it and probably didn’t want it.
Shadow or no, I see human history as often being a problem of ruthless people wanting power and taking it by force. That doesn’t mean that the populace lacked issues or had no faults or were cowards or slow on the uptake.
Thank you, I’ll check out my copy. Rely on LeGuin for getting the psychology right.
Here’s what explains covid fear: objective reality.
America has done far worse than most other countries, and we are now in the third wave. 1200 Americans died of it today. That’s almost one per minute.
Fear of a deadly disease spreading out of control is rational. So are precautions taken against it. But there’s a paradox: if you and those around you take precautions against the virus, then you will mostly be hiding from an imaginary virus. But if you and those around you do not take those precautions, then the virus will be all too real. Therefore you must overcorrect or undercorrect.
I vote overcorrect. Masks are now cheap and available; handwashing is simple; both guard against the flu as well, a lesser menace but quite real too. Social distancing is a burden, and can cause economic hardship unless you can do your work online. I am grateful that I can do so. Welcome to the 21st century workplace.
What I’d like to know is: what to call irrational indifference to a real danger? Since this thread is about depth psychology, I vote “death wish”. Jung and Freud spoke of that too. Evidently mass death wishes can arise in populations marginalized by capitalism. I say that it’s a kind of curse laid by the owner class upon the working class. Perhaps someone should write, or find, a tale about a population so cursed, and how it disenthralled itself. And perhaps some of you here should work on such a counterspell in reality. I guess that it involves an inner revolution, overthrowing spiritual tyranny; in this case, the tyranny of the false god of money.
And, tying this back to this post’s topic, a counterspell against death-wish might involve enlisting the Shadow’s dark knowledge of death-wish curses cast by false gods.
I wonder if the founders of the OSS (later CIA) consciously took the Shadow idea and really concretized it. Allen Dulles was a central figure. He was head of the CIA at one time, and was fired by JFK, 2 months prior to the latter’s assassination, in an attempt to reign in the CIA’s power, which is shadow all the way down…
Here is an image of Dulles that conveys this shadow aspect vividly:
I think I vaguely recall that that cloak-and-dagger figure is itself an oil painting somewhere in the offices at Langely.
Just a thought.
— Lunar Apprentice
Verlyn is very much worth reading (though I’ve not–yet!–had the chance to explore the books named in that review), and even better talking to: I had the privilege of serving as her assistant during several courses she gave at Signum University some years back, and well–for a semi-retired comparative mythologist in her late 80s, the woman is a force of nature! All the same, at the time she dropped no hints that Tolkien-as-accidental-Theosophist might be a trail worth pursuing, and I’m both startled and delighted to have that pet research project lead back in her direction.
In my view, the Shadow in Lord of the Rings isn’t Sauron, exactly, and it isn’t the Ring and it isn’t the hosts of Mordor. Instead, it’s what the title of the second chapter says it is: “The Shadow of the Past.” It’s the consequences of all the mistakes and weaknesses and failings over the previous Ages that brought about the dilemmas of the present. The older and wiser the being in the story (Gandalf, Galadriel, Treebeard, even the ancient-in-Hobbit-years Bilbo), the more their predominant emotional expression regarding the crisis is not fear or anger but regret. (Bombadil is the exception; living in an eternal present, he’s “not touched by the shadow.”)
Maybe I’m being too literal about a metaphor, but I can’t help thinking of any shadow as a lack of something. It’s not the presence of any particular thing. You can’t fight a shadow by removing anything from it. You can, perhaps, remove what’s casting the shadow, but what if that’s yourself? Or a part of yourself? Or, as in Middle Earth at the close of the Third Age, the past? One might have to let go of something precious. The inability to literally do that figures rather prominently in the climax in the fiery heart of Mount Fate, er, Doom.
In the realm of pulp radio drama, the Shadow knows what evil lurks in your heart because he’s the personification of your bad karma, the consequences of that evil, catching up to you. If you’re not all that bad, maybe you’re not his target this time, but even then, he knows, and that’s disconcerting. In that way he, too, is a shadow of the past.
Jung’s Shadow archetype doesn’t appear to quite fit into that mold, at first glance. But as you say, the archetype evolved as an animal instinct, and its individual forms take shape from our life experiences, sometimes going wrong in our childhoods or early adulthoods. So it might be fair to say if you’re projecting your shadow you’re projecting aspects of your past.
Today’s Shadows, the looming ones, the lurking ones, and the projected ones, are likewise all very much the direct and indirect results of mistakes, weaknesses, and failings in our history. They too are all “Shadows of the Past.”
I would say more, but a shadow seems to have passed over my face.
@JMG perhaps someone else’s theory, then, and I just like to project onto you, too 😉
James Randi has died at 92.
Denis wrote, “What is the penance that gets one back into the folds of the good people?”
What on earth would make you want to be cast back into the folds of the good people once they have so generously set you free? Thank them for the unwitting favor they have granted you, and celebrate your commuted sentence! If you’re lucky enough to be cast in with the deplorables**, count your blessings — we have much more fun than they do in their anxious Karen conclaves, nervously eyeing eachother’s unpredictable shadows.
** Their favored aspersion “deplorable” is used to classify anyone with continued capacity for independent thought; it’s a contraction of the far more awkward and longer shriek “that loathsome and unvetted cretin won’t obey his betters!”
How do misfits end up with shadows that don’t match that of their society?
@ Violet, re: letter writing
I wrote most of my letters as emails, of course. One reply I received from a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while, and I was disappointed to find that it consisted of a long political screed and a stack of links. But I also received a hand written post card from someone, I miss those.
I have to say that everyting I’ve read about the German spring offensive in 1918 is that none of the Allies stopped it – it ground to a halt of its own accord due to the simple fact that storm trioopers operating on foot could not keep up the momentum required to ensure the offensive’s ultimate success. Also, the comparatively unmechanised German army was not capable of maintaining the logistical supplies necessary to keep the offensive going.
The territorial gains attributed to the Germans during this offensive also tend to be exaggerated because comparatively little ground was seized between the narrow salients along which the attacking troops moved – hence maps of German gains tend to be misleading. This is the same mistake people make with Operation Barbarossa – although from maps it appears that the Germans overtook all of Belorus and western Russia, in practical terms they tended to only hold a very limited amount of territory on either side of their main axes of advance. This is the basic problem with the German notion of momentum warfare – if you don’t move fast enough to trap the enemy up against a physical barrier (the English Channel, the River Dnepr) you end up with your armies trapped in long narrow salients in hostile territory. As such, neither Operations Michael or Barbarossa were anything like successes, and were to all intents and purposes defeats.
Re: nazis as shadow
An image comes to mind of historical nazis as book burners and painting confiscators, the thought police, pointing a finger at “degenerates” and those they consider to be not worth considering, plus a belief in their innate superiority.
I do remember the Rescue Game post and it’s one that comes back to my memory often. I’ll go back and re-read it. Guessing that it’s best to just recognize the game and make sure to move to the stands to watch it, rather than participate.
In my plans today is to watch the Pepe movie and see your interview. Can’t wait!
Is the consistent insistence that the U.S. needs to break up a form of the shadow playing out in the national psyche? People bring up civil war and states seceding and to me it occurs as a lack of recognition of how the world works. When you bring it up it’s about power centers and shifts of income, but most people bring it up in the context of irredeemable characteristics of those people in that state/area.
In terms of the Harry Potter references, my children can’t stand J.K. Rowling’s viewpoint fwiw. Her insistence that people are born specific ways and must be identified and sorted just really gets at them. Additionally Rowling promotes the idea that everyone in a position of power is clueless and unable to solve any problem, and everyone is probably just going to die anyway, so what is the point. My kids also remind me that all the popular literature of their childhood has the theme – everyone is going to die and there’s nothing you can do about it – and its such a part of the mental state of the 20 somethings that it’s hard to get them to do anything life affirming. (Other series being Hunger Games and those vampire books which my kids didn’t read but omg everyone else’s did and the obsession with them was unavoidable.)
You are certainly right that the French revolution deserves more mention. In my case, I think I know a lot more about the Russian one and it hits closer to home. I actually know and have known people who suffered from it. All violent revolutions cause extreme suffering.
@ DFC: Regarding the Spanish War of Independence: my grandfather’s grandfather was one of those 300,000 foreign soldiers (not all French: he was from the Netherlands) who died trying to put Spain under Napoleon’s yoke. I’m not sure if he was coerced or volunteered, since the Netherlands was one of the first parts of Napoleon’s Empire, but I blame the Corsican that Johannes van Erp did not die at home after a long life.
Re communication technologies encouraging people to operate from the nonrational, I would recommend that everyone watch the new documentary The Social Dilemma. There was one or two main things I disliked about that film, namely the assumption that certain opinions that are outside mainstream are of course wrong and can be held up as examples of misinformation, but the gist of it is to explain the deeper workings of the algorithms that encourage such behavior and are motivated by profit. People are being played by those who have figured out how to do so. The social media have made all that so much worse. It’s not entirely baked in; a lot of it is deliberate for unhealthy motives (profit).
Interesting posting about the shadow and today’s society:
http://www.aureus-press.com/goblins-of-the-unknown/: From Aureus – “Goblins of the Unknown”
From the blog posting:
Corporate faux-folk has engineered a hopeless generation of hyper-ironic materialists who cannot cope with considerations of the uncanny and unknown. The often dark or deeply Grimmsian morals and life lessons are dismissed as primitive superstition from bygone mythical dark ages, leaving only a cold, reptilian, disenchanted and hollow secular world filled with scientific safety and security. Unconsciously catatonic, this lost generation run their hamster wheel in a bourgeois materialism.
Yet outside the comfort of lifeless suburbia, they still fear the supernatural terror of the daemonic-haunted woodlands: the noise on the step, the basement journey to the stair. The abysmal blackness of the night as the pandemonium of elementals appear in the darkness of the forest.
That does sum up the Magic Resistors. Although I have disentangled myself from them, filters of their fears are coming through in other channels. The “Battle of Halloween” is on with blue waves, rituals for bringing Trump to justice, etc, etc, etc. I do believe that since they are at heart materialists, they will fail in their magic workings.
The Shadow is beyond Trump and the rest. However, if you stamp out Trump, the theory goes, the Shadow will go away. No dice. The Shadow in my opinion has taken over since people have spent considerable time and effort to push it out of the way. So now, we are surrounded by shadows and more shadows. I guess that can be scary to the current crop of materialists also known as the Good People.
Anyone for grey?
P.S. You mentioned quietism as the reaction of some of Germany’s upper classes during Hitler’s rise to power, and called it a sign of aristocratic decay. It came to me this morning to wonder what age groups were represented here. I’d bet you a bacon-cheeseburger with the darkest beer ever made, that this was the course taken by good many people my age, for many good reasons. Not to go by one single datapoint, but I’m certainly sitting out the current culture wars/ political strife; reasons on request to keep this message within reasonable length!
“Aidan, quite a number of people caught on to what was going on in those years — thus the backlash that’s still building. Francis phrased it very well, though.”
The issue with Francis was that he combined his contempt for what he called the “managerial elite” (borrowed from James Burnham) with out-and-out racialist politics in the 1990s. He allied with the likes of white nationalist Jared Taylor and contributed to his new American Renaissance magazine, which was founded in 1990. Hence, Francis became a “castaway” in the words of conservative think Michael Brendan Dougherty.
Nevertheless, he remained a key advisor to the Pat Buchanan campaign in 1996 and his thinking was proto-Trumpian in its sensibilities. Despite his distain for the managerial elite, Francis never shared the anti-statism and free market fundamentalism (at least for financiers) of neoconservatives. Rather, he believed in a Latin American style populism where the state would serve as the agent and protector of the socio-political interests of those he called “Middle American Radicals” (a term that dates back to 1976 ) and the traditional working class who felt disparaged and alienated by the cultural liberalism, cosmopolitanism, and even radicalism of the new knowledge elite. The purpose of an ideal political system, in Francis’ mind, was to protect these constituencies from all of the new forces that threatened their way of life: the tech oligarchs who outsources and automated their jobs, the emerging industrial rivals in Asia, the predatory loan sharks who wanted to do things like privatizing social security, the increasingly commodified higher education industry who increasingly insisted that nobody without a college degree should (or could) life a comfortable, healthy, dignified, and prosperous existance, and the “tenured radicals”  who proposed increasingly nutty theories on how marriage was an oppressive institution or that Euro-American traditions were perpetrators of institutional racism.
While Francis was right to see how the new elite brought about by technological change was a threat to the country he knew and loved, his major mistake was to assume that the arcadian  vision he proposed would (or should) only be embraced by Euro-Americans. Immigration (both legal and illegal) has vastly increased since the early 1990s but the children of the “New Americans” do a pretty good job of “assimilation”…to a culture of valley-girl speak, Harry Potter, and the ever-changing fads online. What the Sam Francis’ of the world ought to focus on, in my opinion, is re-creating a pre-proscetic society for those of all ethnicies to be “happy peasants” 
 – https://www.amazon.ca/Radical-Center-Americans-Politics-Alienation/dp/0268015953
 – https://www.amazon.ca/Tenured-Radicals-Politics-Corrupted-Education/dp/1566637961
 – https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Arcadia
 – From a review of Never on Sunday (1960), “They all share the same habits. They’re happy in their work (usually having something to do with the earth), they sing, they dance, they eat with gusto (al fresco, weather permitting), they smile, they love life, they wear colorful costumes, and they don’t mind a drink now and again. The only time they’re serious is when they attend some religious ritual.”
JMG; the vision can be read here,
“In the middle of the night I had a superconscious experience. A huge black cloud suddenly swept over me, trying to engulf me….. the Divine was telling me through this symbolic experience. It foretold a serious illness I was soon to undergo; and it also indicated that all mankind would face a very dark time during which the evil force would seek to engulf the world….. it showed that the world also would ultimately emerge from the threatening dark cloud of karma, but mankind would first have to do its part by turning to God.”
With regard to American monarchy, I wasn’t being altogether serious. But what I had in mind was the way that people in California (which I’ve just recently escaped) treated celebrities. It seems to me that if we are going to worship mere human beings, those human beings might as well be given titles and ceremonial duties– and it would be more interesting to pick them by omen than by Oscar!
Also, to return to Tolkien for just a moment– I reread LOTR every few years, and always get a lot out of it. But until recently, I hadn’t read The Hobbit since high school, and had forgotten most of the details. It seems worth noting that there are no references to the Shadow. Many of the magical beings are ambiguous– Beorn and the dwarves seem to be capable of good or evil, and even the wood elves aren’t all-good. Meanwhile, the goblins, trolls, spiders and giants don’t seem to be all-bad, either. It seems, rather, that the world is better and more interesting for having such creatures in it– but that they have their place, and it is not the same as ours. Indeed, the trolls are explicitly described as being nature spirits, not demons– “trolls, as you probably know, must be underground before dawn, or they go back to the stuff of the mountains they are made of.” Trouble arises not from the mere existence of such beings, but from their entrance into the human world– or, for that matter, our entrance into theirs. In just the same way, I have just trapped a bee between the screen and the window pane in my living room. If I’m unable to capture it, I’ll have to kill it. I’m grateful for the existence of bees, and they have their place in the world. But that place is not my daughter’s play area.
I wonder if a similar approach is possible to shadow-work? Some desires, fears, loves or hatreds are thrust into the shadow inappropriately, and need to be rescued and integrated into the personality. But aren’t there others which would have destructive or anti-social consequences if they were acted upon? If so, they need to stay in the shadow, in the same way that the goblins need to stay under their mountain. But isn’t it better for the lands beneath the mountain to have been explored, and their inhabitants numbered?
Maybe the point for Tolkien to let Frodo live rather than die heroically was to demonstrate that ‘winning’ has significant costs.
It has even more costs when you have to live knowing that you didn’t ‘win’ because of your own actions. If it hadn’t been for Gollum, Frodo would have put on the ring and events would have gotten even more bloody than they already were.
After Mt Doom, every time Frodo looked in the mirror, he saw weakness and foolishness and greed staring back at him as well as wretched Gollum — who actually saved the day –standing right behind him.
Paradoctor – you ponder “What I’d like to know is: what to call irrational indifference to a real danger? Since this thread is about depth psychology, I vote “death wish”.
There is another, possibly subtle, possibility. That the wish is not for death (avoiding is not an option) but for the ability to live one’s fearlessly every single day until the inevitable last one.
It seems that in ordinary times we are accustomed to live this way, even while taking our lives in our hands every day, doing risky things involving food and drink, transport vehicles, walking among strangers in large cities, using toxic chemicals for daily tasks, and etc, etc.
Death rates do not appear to vindicate fears that life has gotten more than ordinarily risky. But, yet, many of our neighbours and friends are currently reduced to cowering in fear, instead of striding through their days, and this does not add one whit to their QUALITY of life, in fact it steals it.
Do we want an infinite extension of quantity that costs an infinite reduction in quality? This is not a question science can answer. Because quality questions are questions of value.
@Christophe I’m not asking for me, but for others. I’m asking to see what extent everyone thinks people are willing to go to be one of the Good People. Most people are completely panicked by the idea of being cast out.
Re the future of the US
For my own part, I’d argue that the cultural and economic differences between the various regions of this nation are very real and quite irreconcilable. What has held us together to this point has been the flow of benefits from our global empire. As that empire dies and that flow dries up, those internal differences–which have never been resolved, only submerged–will return with a vengeance, as indeed they are doing now. I see two fundamental outcomes: decentralization or dissolution. What is *not* possible is a continuation of the status quo, with everyone battling for control of a strong central seat of power so as to compel everyone else to live according to the values of the temporary kings-of-the-hill.
I’d propose a compromise, as I see benefits to this Union (more suitably maintained). That compromise would involve 1) substantial decentralization of authority so that the federal government is restricted to a specific set of powers, primarily those concerned with international relations, defense, foreign trade, and national borders (if that sounds familiar, it should); 2) a legal path for secession, so that states who wish to leave can, thus making the Union a Union of the Willing, though the price for leaving would ideally be nonzero (e.g. taking a pro rata portion of the current national debt with you); and 3) an overall tolerance for others to live differently than ourselves, rather than this driving compulsion for force our values onto everyone else. Let Montantans be Montanans and Virginians be Virginians. (Now granted, the states are hardly perfect cultural divisions, but they are more granular than the country as a whole and they are also the pieces we’ve got to work with at the moment under the current structure.) Stop this one-size-fits-all programming that constantly comes out of DC. Let the states and regions come up with their own solutions to their own problems based on their own assessment of the situation and their own valuation of the cost and benefits of the alternatives. To the extent that states can cooperate for mutual benefit, let them; to the extent that they wish to choose their own course, let them.
With the fact of the decay of our global hegemony, I think a future as a modest but viable republic, focused on the well-being of its citizens and generally minding its own affairs, is a good path given the multitude of less-desirable alternatives.
Outstanding essay this week, JMG…thank you!
I’m noticing that imagery of The Looming Shadow has been very pervasive in western culture for well over 100 years…in political cartooning, in film, in still images. Always inspiring fear and revulsion, not especially subtle. Our Shadow, Ourselves. Yikes!
I also noticed the Pluto correspondence, in fact Pluto came first to mind in response to your original question. It certainly fits well with your theory that it’s influence would be strongest in its era of discovery, our time of modernity. But is it on the wane? Not much yet in my estimation as evidenced by the potent symbolism of the Pluto/Saturn/Jupiter stellium in Capricorn in our Year of Corona. Last week I cast a mundane US chart for the January Saturn/Pluto conjunction. There’s a stellium of Saturn, Pluto, Mercury and the Sun, all within 90 minutes of arc in the 10th house and, similar to the US Grand Mutation chart, Uranus in the 1st close to the Ascendant. Sorry if I’m veering off-topic too much…can’t wait to dig in to your book on Pluto. When will it be available?
Onething, you certainly have the right to your opinions. My take, though, is that the claim that the Democratic leadership is a bunch of devil-worshiping pedophiles is the exact equivalent of the claim that Trump is literally Hitler and intends to round up all his opponents and throw them into concentration camps. There are plenty of good reasons to vote for one party or the other without plunging into that kind of extreme rhetoric — and those good reasons give us the capacity to find some kind of common ground once the struggle is over.
Lunarapprentice, I’m sure they did!
Moi Drui, so noted! I’ve put her books on the look-for list.
Walt, a fine meditation — thank you.
Pixelated, you wouldn’t be the first!
Your Kittenship, a prayer for Randi might not be inappropriate. He’s got to be one baffled soul right now, dealing with the afterlife in which he so loudly disbelieved.
Yorkshire, how do misfits happen in the first place? There’s your answer.
Logan, that analysis is based on the fallacy that taking territory is what wins wars. Disrupting the enemy’s ability to fight is what wins wars. Driving a salient through the other guy’s lines can do that very effectively, as the Germans showed in France in 1940; it wasn’t the English channel that mattered, but the fact that the Allies lacked a functional strategic reserve and so had no way to deal with a nimble German armored force behind them, shredding their supply lines. The fact that Operation Michael succeeded in driving huge wedges through the Allied lines very nearly had the same effect; you’re right that the Germans didn’t have the resources to follow up effectively, but the flip side of that is that the Allies did have the resources to move troops and munitions where they needed them in a hurry, because the US was flooding the Western front with such things.
Jade Dragon, why, yes. I also think of people dressed in black marching down the streets, shouting slogans and beating up anyone who disagrees with them…
Denis, exactly. The only way to win the Rescue Game is not to play! As for the idea of secession as a Shadow phenomenon, I hadn’t considered that possibility, but you know, you’re right — it’s yet another way in which people try to get rid of the Shadow by projecting it onto someone else (in this case, red state rednecks or blue state soyboys) and trying to expel it. Hmm…
Neptunesdolphins, many thanks for posting this! Any blogger who can cite H.P. Lovecraft and John Keel in the same post is someone I want to read.
Patricia M, that makes a great deal of sense. I don’t happen to know enough about the age ranges of the people in question to be able to confirm it, but I’ll keep an eye out for that possibility.
Aidan, that’s the perennial mistake of racialists. They always fall flat on their noses because they think the arbitrary category of race is more important than economics and culture, and so they ignore and alienate potential allies while neglecting to watch out for enemies who share their skin color.
JeffinWA, many thanks for this.
Steve T, yes, yes, YES! It’s precisely by treating not only the Shadow but all the archetypes as ambivalent powers, potentially dangerous, potentially rewarding, but always needing to be taken into account, that all the archetypes can be constellated into a balanced pattern around the ur-archetype of the Self.
Teresa, oh, granted, and I know it’s a waste of time to second-guess an author, but I still think he should have died.
Jim, with regard to the waning of Pluto, I’ve noticed it especially in personal charts — my own and others — in which important transits across natal Pluto produced a damp fizzle rather than the kind of tumult that would have been expected before 2006. “Waning” of course doesn’t mean “entirely gone yet” — we’re about halfway through the decline — and I note that the Coronavirus has had a small fraction of the death toll once predicted for it, though it’s had a vast amount of freaking out centered on it! (This is standard for Pluto, of course.) My book has just gone to the publisher after final edits; my guess is that it’ll be released in early 2022.
“That’s one of them” my neighbour sneered,
At this harmless man who hurried past our door.
But those words that disconnected him,
Had turned him into something to be feared,
And all the resentment I could find,
Was projected onto him,
As if a world without his kind,
Would be an Eden before the fall.
And there, was that division into light and dark,
Which can turn a friend into a threatening stranger.
We become like fractured tribes huddled round their lonely fires,
Who fear themselves with fictions of the night,
Convinced that all the evil of the world belongs,
To those outside the circle of their light.
To me, much of “wokeness” is the end product of a dream turned into a nightmare over the past generation. The dream to which I refer, of course, is that of a simultaneously prosperous and broadly egalitarian society ruled by a new knowledge elite.
I don’t know if you have heard of this new website called “thebellows”. It aims to become to “labor populism” what Quillette has become to classical liberalism, a middle-brow site that generates insightful and creative ideas outside of a left-liberal/woke orthodoxy.
The young philosopher Oliver Traldi has made a name for himself in recent years with brilliant essays and book reviews in magazines like Areo, Quillette, and ArcDigital. For thebellows, he has come up with a fascinating insight about the contemporary “woke” progressivis; it is in many ways a natural product of the elite overproduction of the credentialed class. He uses the metaphor of a “guild” to describe how progressivism aims to provide or “cancel” jobs for the credentialed class on a regular basis.
He notes by noting how many of the protesters were jeering at cops not because they were “racists” or “oppressors” but because they were uneducated and goes on to note,
“The demands of a social justice movement often centrally feature the provision of new jobs for the guild. A campus group, for instance, might demand that the school require students to go through expensive diversity trainings or that the school hire a psychiatrist specializing in issues of racial or gender identity, a supplementary dean of inclusion, a set of professors who research and teach critical race theory, and so on. A movement against police brutality might demand that police departments undergo expensive, ineffective implicit bias trainings or that police officers be replaced by social workers with the right kinds of master’s degrees—of course in addition to other, more noble demands. This is why women and minority hires in academia complain of being “ghettoized” into certain topics.
The recent Black Lives Matter protests have, for instance, led Stanford University to establish a new Center for Racial Justice and a line of ten professorships in “Impacts of Race in America.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post is developing a “Managing Editor for Diversity and Inclusion” job, as well as a new set of writer positions all framed around items like “race and identity,” “multicultural society,” “white nationalism” (for a national security writer), “changing demographic[s]” (for a style writer), “communities of color” (for a climate writer), and “the impact of structural and interpersonal racism on health and the sociology and psychology of racism and its impacts” (for a science writer).”
Traldi’s argument in thebellows was later discovered by none other than Michael Lind who has incorporated it into his own first argument on the website (https://www.thebellows.org/the-double-horseshoe-theory/). Lind notes how the two major series of protests since the COVID-19 lockdown re-openings have been by the two opposing wings of the overclass: the “professional bourgeoisie” and the “small business bourgeoisie”. The latter were the first to protest what they saw (quite legitimately) as how the removal of liberties with the lockdown endangered their way of life. The SJW protests that followed George Floyd’s death were mainly supported by the professional bourgeoisie out of both ideological sympathy and the belief that they would benefit:
“The goal of so-called progressivism in 2020s America is to expand employment opportunities for college-educated, center-left professionals, while adding new wings to the welfare state that are tailored to their personal needs. The slogan “Defund the police” is interpreted by the bourgeois professional left to mean transferring tax revenues from police officers, who are mostly unionized but not college-educated, to social service and nonprofit professionals, who are mostly college-educated but not unionized. The enactment of proposals for free college education and college debt forgiveness would disproportionately benefit the professional bourgeoisie, not the working-class majority whose education ends with high school. Likewise, public funding for universal day-care allows both parties in a two-earner professional couple to maximize their individual incomes and individual career achievements by outsourcing the care of their children to a mostly-female, less well-paid workforce at taxpayer expense.”
Lind goes on to make a particularly witty insight,
“Gore Vidal was known to say that America has socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor. Contemporary American progressivism can be succinctly described as social democracy for the professional class.”
I really liked David bdl’s commentary on shadow projection, the present political environs, and national unity. I advise patience. The Jupiter/Saturn conjunction in December represents a momentous Great Turning and will unfold over the next 20 years. A new elite will be emerging and these decades are likely to be filled with tumult and shocks to the system. It’s an extraordinary era to witness and be a part of. The big breakup may not manifest until the next cycle, but it sure appears to be coming!
Yep, I imagine the Randis of the world get quite a shock when they die…
ST. PETER: Welcome to Purgatory, you’ll have to—
RANDI: This is all nonsense! Purgatory doesn’t exist. YOU don’t exist!
ST. PETE: —to stay here a while. Here’s your seat.
RANDI: Why is the one beside it marked “ Strictly Reserved”?
ST. PETE: Oh, that’s for Uri Geller.
Both of them need prayers. I think I will also pray that when my time comes, I’m not seated anywhere near the Battle of the Giant Egos.
Is anybody familiar with Frank Zindler? He was a Big Name in American Atheists. I met him in the early ‘80’s when, out of curiosity, I went to the atheist yard sale (good place to pick up a Bible! 😄). “So, what made you an atheist?” I asked, anticipating an enjoyable discussion of esoteric ideas. Mr. Zindler replied with an angry, highly emotional tirade against God, Jesus, and darn near everybody else. There are plenty of atheists who reason out their position, but those are the ones who do not seem to join outfits like American Atheists. It was quite an eye-opener. Mr. Zindler was ahead of his time. These days guys like him get TV shows.
“It’s precisely by treating not only the Shadow but all the archetypes as ambivalent powers, potentially dangerous, potentially rewarding, but always needing to be taken into account, that all the archetypes can be constellated into a balanced pattern around the ur-archetype of the Self”
Would I be correct that an imbalanced anima/animus could be a potential source of obsession? For example a strongly projected anima or animus that fails for whatever reason to result in polarization, so that the energy invested in it remains in its projector.
I read the essay – thanks you for sharing it.
I just saw that Rod Dreher has published an interview with Paul Kingsnorth about his new novel Alexandria. I have yet to read anything by Kingsnorth but based on what he’s said to Dreher his views seem very akin to what’s generally discussed on this blog. Here is the link for anyone interested: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/paul-kingsnorth-alexandria/
You pull a nice trick there by defining ‘objective reality’ and then stating that anybody who disagrees with your definition of objective reality is acting irrationally and even has a death wish. I note that you leave out several important features of ‘objective reality’ such as the age of the people dying, the number of co-morbidities, correlation with chronic illness, problems with the accuracy of the tests etc. which could rationally lead a large proportion of the population (any healthy person under 50 and most healthy people above 50) to conclude that they have nothing to fear from the virus.
“Irrational indifference to a real danger” has been displayed all throughout history, most notably in war. Were Achilles, Hector, Menelaus, Diomedes and the other warriors behaving with irrational indifference to real danger on the Trojan battlefield? What about the soldiers who went over the top in WW1 or a samurai committing harakiri?
What if humans are at their most noble precisely when they act irrationally?
Thanks for sharing your verse…
I’ve been meaning to ask. What exactly are these irreconcilable differences you speak of? As far as I know, no one in the US has ever tried to keep the union integrated by any means other than imperial wealth, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t values and interests that make integration the preferred option. Right now, due to the fact that we’ve papered over the differences with vast sums of imperial wealth, we don’t really know what else unifies us. Maybe hunting for those things would be worthwhile?
Paradocotor: it is clear that you can earn your in social distancing conditions, in fact that summarises your position, that and the weird animal instinct of survival instead of the joy o living that is clearly absent in our societies.
JMG, my personal shadow is like you described, all my (as best as I can controlled) anymosity goes against the people I could have been, had life spared me some hard lessons. But experience is can only teach those who experience, information can be passed, knowledge must be acquired, that is why ‘progress’ is a slow spiral not a forward way. Now I just fight to accept the shadow is part of the whole, and is necessary in the scheme of things.
Your writings and this forum is a comfort!
“As far as I know, no one in the US has ever tried to keep the union integrated by any means other than imperial wealth”
There was this thing back in the 1860’s called the Civil War.
I present evidence of covid rates from public sources. That’s fairly close to objective.
I speak of death wish; you speak of courage of unto death. The distinction between the two is subjective. The disease itself is highly contagious as well as dangerous. You yourself may not be in a risk group; but you may pass it on to those who are; so this is not just an individual problem; this is social.
Rationality of thought and nobility of action are independent variables. That’s why the game D&D has four separate groups: Chaotic Evil, Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil, Lawful Good. (plus Neutrals.)
You speak of war, which itself is irrational, as the stories you cite prove. Why should going to the store be an act of war? You want to wage war? Fine, let’s have one against the virus. and here are the weapons: masks, handwashing, social distancing. Await further weaponry: treatments and vaccines.
Re differences, irreconcilable and otherwise
It’s going back a ways, but the US Civil War was maintenance of the Union by military force: The seceding states simply wanted to leave and create their own nation. It was the federal government that said, “No, you don’t.” (Granted, the Confederacy had its own issues, most notably, of course, the institution of slavery.) But in more recent times, yes, you’re correct, the glue that’s held us together is imperial wealth and power.
My suggestion isn’t that there oughtn’t be a Union, but that the Union must be looser and less centralized so as to allow the vast different cultures to live together in some sort of fashion. A good way to do this, in my opinion, is to make leaving that Union an option—then, those who remain have self-selected for seeing the value in the arrangement. Those who believe their course lies elsewhere would likewise be able to follow their own star.
What we aren’t going to have—and what the current politics keeps insisting *must* be the answer—is a single cultural structure to which we all conform. Instead, to the extent we keep something of the country together, we’re going to have to accept a very narrow set of common principles from which a vast and varied tapestry is woven. Identifying that very narrow set of common principles, I agree, would be worth doing.
What I’ve found interesting in some of those conversations I had back on PoliticalWire those years ago was all the talk about “those freeloading fly-over states” and yet, when I brought up the notion of a legal path for secession (which might permit those very states to leaves the Union), the reaction was altogether negative. “We can’t allow *that!*” In light of the theme of this week’s post, I think that keeping them around for shadow projection was very much an element of that.
It is quite a ride I say! An yep I see how that works too when your honest with yourself. However is a good and proper shadow one that evades you ad naseum? That is the hide and seek fun of it!
It’s difficult to measure if this ‘tds’ delusional personality trend is already beginning to fade. Beneath many presenting personalities one layer looks TDS and corresponding shadow yet what swims and evolves underneath this presenting layer is something I try to think about. Once the pressure is released and the presenting aspects of shadow are solved one way or another in Nov, might we see some fresh thinking and more exciting minds to ply? Plz?
@JMG and Commentariate
A person I know vaguely half heartedly told me recently (after I talked on the ‘identity crisis may be coming one way or another this American election’ line) that she thought she might suffer in this way, in this potential identity crisis. But she wasn’t really convinced of this, it didn’t sound genuine you know and I daydream I could ask her to sift through new beliefs and find one she loved before the last bright leaf falls to the earth this Autumn.
Her counterpart in the conversation indicated she understoodd the concept of our current civilization cresting and believed it may be true. So… Now is a suitable time to relate to people concepts related to the myth and help redirect their fall into identity crisis… It seems a helpful suggestion and serves as a suitable bridge perhaps.
JMG and all:
I was once fan of everything Tolkien and his imitators: but the empty copies of copies of Middle-earth now all blur into obscurity in my memory. Tolkien was, for me, always tale of profund sadness: the age is changing and great many wonders are dying… and that is just Third Age. There were greater battles and greater wonder in time long past and are long gone. It is just not Good Team vs Evil Paper Overlord triumphalism.
For your idea about writing novel from point of view of Tolkien’s Dark Lord, Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey follows that concept and it’s quite good: it does have such touch of melancholy to not be Just Another Clone of LotR.
JMG— Off topic, but I need to alert you to something. I did a search trying to find O Friends, Not These Tones and I found a website offering a download of If the War Goes On. The site, https://decentbooks.com , offers little info on itself, and has no “about” page to click on. I admit that I don’t know all the ins and outs of U.S. copyright law, but after examining the website I became concerned because a lot of the selections were of newer books, which should not be available for free download (no info on payment for buying/renting is provided). Seeing they had some pagan selections, I did a search for your name. They didn’t have your books, but provided links to another site, https://pdfget.com/ , that shows nine of your books available for download!!! I hate to think that you (and other authors) are getting ripped off, John, but it sure looks that way!
I wonder – could the Lord of the Rings be intended as an alchemical story, specifically the first half of one? Unlike in most melodramas after all, the challenge isn’t in defeating the Big Bad so much as in refusing to use his tools. But practically speaking, that would mean getting very clear about what it is that one hates the Big Bad for, and recognizing one has the capacity to do the same if one chooses to. I know the Lord of the Rings fit into a longer narrative, though I’m less clear on what was supposed to have happened after – was there a coagulae part to the story? I remember Sam became mayor of the Shire, which seemed very appropriate, but I don’t know much beyond that.
Jasmine, is that your work? Either way, a nice crisp poem, so thank you.
Aidan, when Lind isn’t shilling for his own class, he can be very cogent indeed.
Your Kittenship, funny! Once the two of them are sitting there, I imagine a voice descending from heaven, saying, “And your time in Purgatory is up to you. All the two of you have to do, in order to finish it and proceed to Heaven, is settle your disagreements.”
Phil, yes, very much so. Internalize your syzygy — that’s the collective term for anima/animus — and you become convinced that you should be the opposite gender; that’s what Jung suggests, at least.
Wesley, Paul Kingsnorth’s one of the leading figures behind the Dark Mountain Project, and yes, he and I have a lot of ideas in common.
Elodie, it’s a struggle. One of the things I appreciate in Hesse’s novels is that he presents it that way.
Ian, interesting. Once the election is over, I’ll see what I can do.
Changeling, thanks for this. My proposed novel is, however, a parody rather than a clone, and more a parody of Tolkien’s imitators than Tolkien himself — though some of his ideas deserve to be poked good and hard.
Joy Marie, thanks for this. Unfortunately online book thieves are all over the place — my publishers send takedown notices when they can, but the thieves just crop back up. Still, I have my own very quiet revenge, as I’ve done a working — quite a successful one so far — to see to it that no one who uses a stolen copy of one of my books will benefit from it in any way. If they’re not willing to help me pay my bills, I’m not willing to have my work help them do anything at all…
Greencoat, interesting. The coagula’s pretty much lacking, but it’s an intriguing idea.
>>>For your idea about writing novel from point of view of Tolkien’s Dark Lord, Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey follows that concept and it’s quite good: it does have such touch of melancholy to not be Just Another Clone of LotR <<<
The problem with Carey is that her attempted flipping of Tolkien misses the point of the original – evil isn't simply a matter of aesthetics, it's a matter of what one does. Tolkien's Dark Lords aren't evil because they sulk around in black armour… they are evil because are obsessed with Power and Domination.
I spent some time trying to think of things that I really hate and couldn’t find any.
I find various things contemptible, disgusting, annoying, but can’t really say I find anything or anyone provokes my hatred.
On the other hand, I had some anima projection issues in the past.
1) does this mean that the shadow isn’t that huge an archetype in my psyche?
2) this led me to a train of thought, what traditional spiritual practices do you know of that might work with these archetypes? I guess for anima, devotion to feminine deities/figures even in monotheistic religions (Mary, Fatima, Aisha) on some level achieves this.
>>>I think what happened is that he read a certain amount of popular Theosophical literature, certainly including Scott-Elliot’s The Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria — the source for his massively Theosophical, er, Atalantë — and made use of it as raw material for fantasy in exactly the same way that Robert E. Howard did.<<<
We don't know if Tolkien read Scott-Elliot… but we certainly know he read Lord Dunsany, who had his fair share of occultist acquaintances (Yeats). C.S. Lewis was also an enormous Yeats fan in his youth.
If I had to hazard a guess, Tolkien picked up occultist influences from his friendship with Lewis (who was himself influenced by Plato and Yeats), together with reading Dunsany. Add St Augustine's Christianised Neoplatonism, together with Plato himself (especially The Symposium, a clear influence on Leaf By Niggle), and one can approximate Tolkien, if one squints.
The weirdest thing about Numenor, however – Tolkien (by accident or design) actually manages to twist together three different strands of Atlantis source material (Plato, Donnelly, and Theosophy), while putting his own spin on the material. We can safely assume he read Plato… but if Tolkien wasn't aware of the other two sources, then something very strange is going on.
(Mind you, I think it also interesting that Plotinus' Enneads (Sixth Ennead, Ninth Tractate) invokes the metaphor of choral singing before the One… much like Tolkien's Ainulindale. Tolkien first wrote the Ainulindale before he ever met Lewis, of course. So, again, coincidence, or had Tolkien's early interest in the classics even taken him to Plotinus?).
I wonder if the fact that so many people have missed any ambiguity in Tolkien’s stories and characters is in no small part a direct result of his constant harping ad nauseum through all of his works about the whole Kings of Men. Even moreso with the elves. Especially the High Elves. The very name ‘High Elves’ sparkles on the pages of super-perfection. Tolkien even said in an interview one time that he originally envisioned his elves as “men as they were before their Fall in Eden.”
There’s one passage in the Return of the King where Legolas sees a sparkling flicker of white flame right at Aragorn’s Ajna chakra and it’s at that point that Legolas really seems to begin treating him as his Liege Lord and calling him Captain.
David, by the lake,
Nice idea, and an optimistic way forward. I fear that imperialism is too ingrained in the American psyche to allow for any diminution of – what, power? influence? wealth? – without violence, but I’d be very happy to see it.
@ Paradoctor, re: irrational humans, death wish
I recently encountered an elderly couple at the grocery store, visiting from another state, who refused to wear masks, causing a bit of a ruckus in the store, because they believed it was an infringement upon their individual rights. It was my sense that they were acting in accordance with the beliefs of their church or social group.
With my own limited understanding of the disease I thought it best to continue wear to my mask in order to protect these elderly renegades in the very way that they had deemed unlawful. And so it goes…(shrugs).
Hi John Michael,
Dunno about you, but a simple dispel for the ‘wise old man’ archetype trap is utilising the simple words: “I don’t really know”. Mate, there’s heaps of stuff I know absolutely next to nothing about!
Learning that it is OK to say that phrase though, is not usually encouraged in our society, and it really does trouble me that this is the case. Years and years ago I ran a graduate program for a large corporate and just tried to shock the graduates into learning how to put up their hands and say: “I don’t know what is going on here”.
Anyway, shock therapy involved telling them in no uncertain terms that I’d: “Never shot anyone for making a mistake, or putting their hands up and asking for help. But I’ve sure as poop shot them for lying to me”. That sort of got the point across – and to my knowledge they never did lie.
Perhaps the cult of “expert” has been taken too far in our society? Dunno.
Watched Feels Good Man last night and I have to say your part JMG was my favorite part. You gave people a way to not demonize Pepe and to realize there is something happening here that can’t be understood in simple terms. I found myself eye-rolling at some of other interviewees whose stance seemed to be – Pepe=white supremacy, and if you can’t see that and agree with me, you must be alt-right.
Thank you for telling us about it so we could enjoy the show. Bravo!
@John Michael Greer
In an astrological chart, would matters of the archetypal Shadow be an 8th House topic?
Thank you and regards,
@David BTL on the future of the U.S. – The term “breaking apart” is an interesting one, isn’t it? It implies that we as a country are like a vase that is dropped, shattered, and even with the best glue, can never be reassembled whole again. But most people don’t glue together shattered vases do they? They just sweep it up and dump it in the trash.
I don’t give energy to the idea of breaking up. It’s like waking up every day and asking one’s spouse, “Do you love me? Are you going to divorce me today?” It’s a ridiculous place to put my energy in my marriage. I would suspect my husband would look at me like I has dementia after a few days and just emotionally separate from me or outright divorce me due to the constant questioning.
In this country we seem to have tossed in the trash the idea of living in relationship with other people and even with our own selves. So rather than filling myself with anxiety over fighting, war, and struggle, I’ve been focusing on relating to others, unity, and my own spiritual development. Dusting and polishing the vase, if you will. Constantly writing about how the U.S. is divided and can’t come together and all is lost, really doesn’t do anything other than drive people away from each other.
And maybe that’s what “people” (are they our citizens or some combination of foreign individuals?) on all these political forums are doing – driving the conversation on civil war and breaking up to suit their own purposes. There’s no benefit to me or my children in breaking up the country.
This is what I say to myself – Words create the world. Then I choose accordingly.
Intriguing post, JMG – what evil lurks, indeed!
Definitely, the fact that these three great minds picked up on the “shadow” them in the 1930s is telling. The influence of Pluto? Perhaps, though I have not paid much attention to the influence of this temporary planet in the affairs of humanity. Regardless of the source, you have aptly put your finger on that decade as a time of gathering dark forces at multiple levels.
From early childhood onward I have always imagined the course of time as a long ribbon that fades out in the distance in the far upper left and whizzes past me to the close-by right. Each year is written side-by-side on the ribbon. But it is not a straight ribbon; it is wavy. And I have always seen the ‘30s through the ‘50s as one of the backward waves – almost like the retrograde motion of planets – before resuming the usual left-to-right movement. I have never thought of this “backward kink” as being backward technologically; rather, I have always seen it as being a period of spiritual regression or darkening. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think of the 1920s as being a spiritually “bright” decade (I call it the “silly decade” – a time in which Western society partied so hard to try to forget the previous decade in which a horrific war broke the Humpty Dumpty of cherished Western illusions about itself). But there was something terribly “gritty” about the ‘30s – more than just the Great Depression and the rise of tyrants – as if, to some degree, Western society could start to see its own Shadow of greed and selfishness and the unions and most democratic governments leaned left to protect the masses from the evil that lurks in the hearts of the rich and powerful.
Oddly enough, while I see the ‘30s and ‘40s as a dark time in our history, I am bewitched by the period: almost everything (music, fashion, cars and the airplanes – oh, god, the airplanes – I openly weep every time I see a spitfire) appeals to me far more than any period that I have lived through in this life. I suspect that it was during this time that most people experienced life most intensely between 1930 and 1945. I know my parents did; I suspect that I did too in my previous life.
All this to say that a good occult interpretation of the 20th century is sorely needed. So much ink has been spilled describing the worldly and political dimensions of the century. And quite a bit of ink has been spilled exploring the occult dimension of the Nazis (most of it poorly understood or explained) which is only one manifestation of a much bigger phenomenon. The awareness of “evil” and our subsequent misunderstanding of how to deal with it is likely the biggest issue with respect to that century – which we are still grappling with. I do hope you are able to spare the time to explore this issue because right now the world seems to be sleep-walking along the road that was paved almost 90 years ago and will likely continue to do so until the spell is broken.
If JMG would allow it, I would like to ask all the Druids here (and anyone else who cares to) to send a prayer of healing to the “Big Tree” of Boone County MO, a 400 year old Bur Oak tree, the state champion of it’s species. The beloved tree was struck by lightning yesterday morning during a thunderstorm, and the fire dept. was called out to rescue it. Generations of people have visited it over many years, it even has it’s own Facebook page, I’m told. Look up “Boone County MO Big Tree” on the internet to see the story. Thanks, y’all.
That article about the guild was a very interesting take on things. Thanks.
Regarding the late Mr. Randi, I got clickbaited into a Halloween recipe on the NBC “news” site, and while I was there I noticed Randi wasn’t mentioned. Curious, I checked ABC and CBS—no mention there, either, although he could reasonably be described as a retired public figure. It was all Trump, all the time. I wonder what else the stenographers aren’t telling us because TDS takes up all the space in their tiny little minds? In this area the wind generally blows west to east, so if, for example, there’s a chemical spill west of us, we’d all like to hear about it!
“Await further weaponry: treatments and vaccines.”
We already have effective treatments.
And I do not believe that we have 1000 people dying per day right now. We do not even have such up to the moment statistics. I smell a rat of deception.
I’d have to agree with the many comments before about this being an essay which really resonates, and that I particularly enjoyed. In regards to the mention of Shadow, might first thought was the old radio drama, perhaps because it’s been mentioned often in previous essays and comments. But perhaps because that sort of hero is what is needed now. A hero that we all can find within ourselves if we’re willing to communicate with what the Shadow knows.
The old time radio drama mention set off another trail of thoughts I’ve been thinking on for years. I’m not sure what it would take, but those old radio dramas had a spark to them that managed to communicate ideas and inspiration for millions and I’d love to see it come back in some popularity. As I’ve been reading the Weird of Hali, I’ve especially been thinking how nicely some radio drama set in that stage could possibly be. I wonder how many of our talented writers here would be interested in developing some sort of scripts for such an attempt…
The whole idea of the US containing different groups of peoples is both interesting and large enough for books to be written, but while reading your post I began wondering if those differences are as large or as irreconcilable as the one we are actually struggling with – that of class. The upper classes disparage and despise the working class and have no sympathy for them. It is telling that they have unrealistic (socially destructive) sympathies for people of that class so long as they are foreign or brown. This, in my opinion, is because those people (who share most of the qualities they loathe in the working class) are an abstraction for them and are used almost entirely to boost their egos.
Were it not for JMG pointing this out, I don’t think I would be seeing it clearly at all, but now I have begun to painfully notice how these very nice leftie hippie friends of mine are quite despising toward the working class and the local folk.
RE: Russian literature
Recently reading has been a hobby I’ve spent more time on as perhaps many other people have and I’ve been meaning to read some of the Russian greats. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina has gotten a lot of my attention and as Violet described with Dostoevsky’s The Idiot there’s a lot of development of characters in the Russian High Society who are frankly sickly detached from the world around them. It’s almost comical how the characters further willfully deceive themselves in the rightness of their actions, as for example, it was wrong to engage in relations and seductions of unmarried High Society but encouraged and adored when married individuals engaged in such actions. What has caught my attention the most though has been the class of people who act as servants and are involved in daily activities which actually result in making the wheels of life turn. They get so little attention, except from the character Levin in Anna Karenina, who finds that there are their own set of difficulties existing within that class of people. The similarities to our current world are eerie. There’s a definite sense of binary separation, one which could almost simply be equated as rural and urban, working class and salary class. All sides seem to engage in a lifestyle full of echo chambers so that they’re feeding themselves from only one source of nutrition and missing many other vital nutrients for a healthy life. Without having completed reading the novel yet, Tolstoy seems to be making the case for a sense of spirituality is required to live a more healthy, complete life, which in turn will result in a more healthy, complete community.
Is it just me, or is everyone noticing people waiting until after the election to do anything?
Jasmine: neat poem, as well as very wise.
JMG – about seniors in times of crisis going quietist – and one reason is disillusion and “OMG, not again!” The best chronicler of that. ever, in the pre-WWII period was Rudyard Kipling. Whose “In the House of Rimmon” was about the Boer War, not ancient history, and whose “Recessional” summed up the entire sunset of empire mood. Among other things. He died before seeing the end of the period; the very year I was born, I think.
Those who can only remember that infamous line “the white man’s burden,” wouldn’t know sarcasm if it bit them in the behind, and Kipling was very good at sarcasm.* Not have they read much Kipling, nor seen his respect for Hindu civilian water-carriers and Afghani border lords, ordinary troopers, and much more besides.
*Check out “The Sergeant’s Wedding,” the troops gloating over the marriage of their thieving superior to the base’s biggest amateur harlot. Or – the matriarchs of Simla, who bring to mind Old Lady Amberville in Nyogtha Variations.
@David by the Lake, who said “What I’ve found interesting in some of those conversations I had back on PoliticalWire those years ago was all the talk about “those freeloading fly-over states” and yet, when I brought up the notion of a legal path for secession (which might permit those very states to leaves the Union), the reaction was altogether negative. “We can’t allow *that!*” In light of the theme of this week’s post, I think that keeping them around for shadow projection was very much an element of that.”
Slaps the side of my head … my unlamented ex was letting me know that, as breadwinner, he was essentially carrying me, that my work around the house was merely the least I could do, etc… so I said “Fine. Then I’ll just leave and support myself.” And his answer, as always when I called him on an illogical argument, was “Don’t BE like that!”
“Words create the world.”
Your words resonate in me also.
I was thinking yesterday about what might unite us.
I thought of the Pledge of Allegiance that, over the years, many millions of children recited each morning at school, and that was recited by people of all ages at civic functions, sporting events, even church meetings. What a powerful invocation that must have been, and perhaps the effects are still living deep within us. “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Then I thought of the Statue of Liberty standing in New York harbor, and the poem by Emma Lazarus inscribed on its base. My heart is still moved by these words: “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Thank you for your positive thoughts.
Lady Cutekitten – the NY Times had the story and so did the Washington Post.
Sgage and David,
Yeah, duh. Sorry that was a lapse on my part. Obviously the civil war. So that’s two ways we’ve held together over the years, violence and wealth. What’s the third option?
Because while I tentatively support the idea of every state being allowed to do it’s own thing within the context of the Union, I’m against breaking up the Union. I love this country, and all it’s weird corners. I’m not really sure what differences we currently have that are irreconcilable within the context of the Union. Are the Southern States planning to bring back slavery? I feel like a lot our conflicts center over the imperial treasury.
Dear Mr. Greer – Through a strange set of circumstances, I ran across a reference to a book that you might find interesting, for your study of magic in America. If you don’t already have it on your shelf.
“Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons.” (Pendle, 2005.) Parsons is described as a “thelemic magician and scientist.” His story begins in 1930’s Los Angeles. Haven’t seen the book, so I don’t know how interesting, it is. Lew
How about on emissions controls versus food production? (See rural Oregon legislators fleeing the state to deny a quorum for a vote. Or California’s governor banning internal combustion engines by decree.)
Lifestyle choices have always been a big one, with much of flyover considering abortion to be murder while the federal government forces them to allow it, or the federal government deciding who can have a state marriage lisence. I live in one of the states that was required by the feds to ban polygamous marriages, so I know this goes back over a hundred years and doesn’t merely involve same-sex couples.
Drinking age is an excellent example of enforcement by coercion or bribery, as are a bunch of educational-adjacent matters. And in the Western US, there are always mismanagement of federal lands issues. Always. What precisely is wrong depends on who you ask, but there are always issues. Often related to blocking access to various rights owners or other property owners.
@Phil, JMG the internalization of the syzygy – that sounds like Titan by Samuel R Delaney. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t read Delaney – a man in a society where anything a person wants to do can be done – anything you want to be, you can be engineered into, anything you want to wear, any type of work, any living arrangement or sexual predilection that can be consensually found. Everyone finds a niche in whatever weird way they want, or drifts un-hung-up through several, and seems well adjusted to being utterly absurd. And the protagonist, a straight, white man of utterly no weird urges at all is desperately unhappy there, because he can’t find his ideal woman in any of the individuals he dates. So in the end, he becomes her – a 1950s era Leave It To Beaver squeaky clean passive receptacle of femininity. And then he waits, resenting that no man comes for his perfection.
Dhalgren I suppose was what it would look like if one climbed inside the Love Decade’s alchemical vas during the nigredo part of the process, which Delaney apparently did…
And Steve’s comment about integrating the shadow archetype made me think of Octavia Butler’s Kindred, especially the ending, when her husband didn’t.
Dear Denis, regarding waiting for the election to do anything, if I may:
That’s not what I’ve been seeing, at least. The house where I’ve been living has been filled with a flurry of good and healthy creative activity. Granted, I cannot travel as I wish I were able to, but that is something that has been going on now since the response to the pandemic got serious.
If I may, regarding the discussion of disunion since it has come up:
In my conversations with people, most have been neutral to favorable to disunion, sometimes with a degree of malicious pleasure at the thought. This includes every point on the political spectrum, too. It may be now that disunion is inevitable. Disunion in the future may simply exist as a fact waiting for accomplishment. That said, I find that the chances of that disunion could remain peaceful for long likely to approach zero. The reason for this are things like the attitudes towards the dryland west towards the culture of California, and the attitude of California towards the dryland west’s water supplies.
Simply put, I think that these problems would erupt into horrific violence and literal warfare. that may be how things will go, but a lot of discourse I’ve heard has very eerily focused on a lot of Shadow projection, i.e. “Those _Evil_ Californians!” versus a dispassionate analysis of the geopolitical problems that would occur with disunion, i.e. California has an overpopulation problem and people are not just going to lay down and die because their _enemies_ consider their culture offensive! Furthermore if California goes they can make whatever treaties they will with foreign powers hostile to other of the several States.
These sorts of fault lines exist all over the place and I think we tend to take for granted that these fault lines are political rather than military problems largely on account of the Union. Take away the Union, give the several states the legal ability to declare war on each other, and these political problems could very well become military problems in short order.
It’s sobering to read the details of the US Civil War. There are towns in Vermont that lost _all_ of their young men when General Burnside ordered a division to take an impossible position in Fredricksburg, and there are similar horrors all throughout the South. Literally entire towns got destroyed, towns hundreds of miles away from the fighting when their _entire generation_ of men got added to the “butcher’s bill” of the casualty list.
It’s very easy to imagine a generation of young men dying in the trenches in what becomes the demilitarized zone running right through Nevada. A lot of disunion talk comes out of Shadow projection, and I seriously doubt that it will end well. I’m all for federalism, for the states having more power to run things their own way, but the idea of the Siege of Caron City and the Battle for Reno that I think may prove the inevitable consequences of disunion fail to inspire any enthusiasm for the prospect, as does the prospect of disunion ushering in decades of formless warfare, which I think it would very likely do.
I never look at those two because they’re paywalled. Thanks!
I THOUGHT it was odd the story got so little play. I’d expected the eddicated classes to celebrate Randi ‘s godless life to the rooftops—although to be fair, he wasn’t ostentatious about it. Just played the dangerous side of Pascal’s wager.
Lew, I read Strange Angel. The guy was indeed strange, but not very angelic!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you
By the living God that made you
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
Ah, Kipling, a man with a good ear for a rhyme and a good eye for human nature. He particularly understood men.
When the stakes are high, men will only follow a man who shows himself worthy. One of the myriad problems of our society is that to remain in the PMC, a man isn’t allowed to show himself worthy. (Let’s postulate for the sake of discussion that raiding pension funds, being a corrupt politician, moving your factory to Ecuador and throwing hundreds of your fellow citizens out of work, all that stuff they do to climb the ladder, is unworthy.). So men further down the class ladder are left floundering, leaderless, needing a worthy leader and not getting one. Eventually they’ll become so frustrated they’ll fall for a guy who appears strong and honest but isn’t—someone like Joseph Stalin. I’ve noticed (not here) a lot of Internet blathering about how all society’s problems are due to the female inability to lead. Not even close. There are plenty of effective female leaders throughout history. They were strong, and as honest as their time and place allowed. The men would follow them.
Here, we have men so desperate for leadership they were willing to follow a TV clown. What next?
Lew: I’ve read the book. It’s fascinating.I also used to own Parson’s book, “Freedom is a two-edged sword.” Interesting, though it seemed to trail off into word salad near the end. A good many points to discuss.
Varun – today’s newspaper stories made it very clear that nobody’s about to secede if it means losing the federal funding they’ve come to depend on so heavily. Federal funding was stated as the main point of getting an accurate census count; and the cities that President Trump has threatened to withhold federal finding from because they “permit anarchy” are suing – to keep their federal funding. As well as, almost as an afterthought, the rights of localities to take care of their own local policing, according to the 10th amendment.
To both: Lew, Robert Heinlein was a friend of Parsons, and picked up so much knowledge from him that a writer for Green Egg Magazine had a 3-part series which claimed Heinlein had to be into the occult, here’s proof.
And, Varun, it was Heinlein who, via one of his rally novels, described the way to trap a feral hog. Just leave some feed in a cage day after day, without any strings attached, let the hog get well used to having it and dropping its guard, then one day, spring the trap. The relevance to federal funding was, IIRC, the point he was trying to make, back before it became the end-all and be-all for the states, cities, villages, farms, and everyone in them.
As with Omelas, and Hagberd’s feasts, nobody finds themselves able to walk away from them except a handful of mavericks.
Strda221 (if I may), and of course the people who call themselves the Kings of Men are wholly uninterested in power and domination… 😉
Alvin, good. One of the goals of working with the Shadow is getting to the point at which you don’t project it onto anyone. As for ritual practices, that’s an intricate question — remember that one way of looking at religion is that it’s a way of projecting our archetypes on the gods…
Strda221, the giveaway to me in terms of Tolkien’s Numenor/Atlantis is that he made Blavatsky’s version of the fall of Atlantis central to that entire end of the legendarium. HPB, after all, is the one who came up with the idea that Atlantis sank because its people turned to worshiping the powers of evil — that’s not in Plato, it’s not in Donnelly, it’s not anywhere until Blavatsky introduced it, and Scott-Elliot was the most widely available and accessible version of the Blavatskian version of the story. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Tolkien also read Lewis Spence’s Atlantis books, which were published in the first half of the 1920s, a decade before Tolkien began work on the first drafts of his Numenor legend, and which do a remarkable job of fusing Blavatsky with the evidence of prehistory as then known.
As for Lewis, he clearly knew a lot more than he could have picked up from Dunsany, or a few chats with Charles Williams. That Hideous Strength is full of material from the contemporary British occult scene — if I had to guess, I’d say that Lewis probably asked Williams for suggestions and took copious notes, but he also seems to have had some considerable knowledge of his own, probably from medieval and Renaissance sources.
Panda, well, there’s that.
Chris, it certainly works for me!
Denis, you’re welcome and thank you.
Joshua, that’s a very good question to which I don’t know the answer. You’d want to find a Jungian astrologer to figure that one out.
Ron, an inner history of the 20th century would be a very challenging project. To my mind, the century didn’t begin in a real sense until 1914 — the period from 1900 to the spring of 1914 was part of what has been called “the long 19th century” — and it isn’t quite over yet, though my guess is that it’s ending around us right now. Once it’s definitely over, it may be time for something like that.
Danaone, healing energy en route.
Prizm, radio drama is great stuff, and I’d like to see more of it. As for The Weird of Hali, though, audiobook sales for the first volume have been very modest, and so it may not be as well suited to that as I would wish.
Denis, I know people who are doing that; I’m certainly not.
Patricia M, Kipling is massively underrated these days. I look forward to the time, probably not too far from now, when cancel culture has canceled itself and a lot of first-rate creative talent who have been shoved into the memory hole by our current crop of Stalinists get discussed again.
Lew, I don’t have that bio of Jack Parsons, but I’ve read several others. His story is a fascinating look at one end of mid-20th century American occultism, so yes, we’ll be getting to it.
Pixelated, I’ve read some Delany, but never liked his writing or his ideas enough to read more. Yes, that does sound like a study of the anima complex.
@Lady Cutekitten and JMG, Though I didn’t know him well, I would guess Randi is quite delighted to unexpectedly find himself continuing on. Wouldn’t most people be? Perhaps understandably confused as well, but I wasn’t under any impression that there’s any particular afterlife penalty for not believing in an afterlife.
It occurs to me that the world beyond the veil is something people can (and do) project all kinds of shadows onto.
Josh asked: “In an astrological chart, would matters of the archetypal Shadow be an 8th House topic?”
In my view, the 12th house is important, but since every planet, sign and house has both light and shadow sides, the entire chart would relate to this question.
This series of seven articles on “Healing the Astrological Shadow” might prove helpful:
For the Spiritual and Occult minded readers there is one other piece of evidence for Tolkien either directly or indirectly having eastern spiritual teachings influencing in his work. Annulindale in the Silmarillion is the story of the creation of Arda (Earth) by The One and the Valar/Maiar hosts (angels) via singing. I also remember watching a video interview with Richard Feynman where he says the world is made of fundamental constantly jiggling particles that sometimes act as waves (I think that’s how he put it. It was a long time ago when I saw it).
Well what is singing if not vibration?
According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras all things that manifest are the result of vibration – jiggling particles – ie sound. You have to pass beyond the realm of the physical upward to the unmanifest to go beyond creation.
So oddly enough Tolkien’s account of the creation of the world being sung (vibrated) into being is entirely compatible with Vedic and Tantric teachings. And modern physics too.
I don’t think anyone would be happy to find himself in Purgatory, it’s not supposed to be pleasant!
While I have you “on the line,” can you tell me how the BitLife game works?
JMG wrote: Strda221 (if I may), and of course the people who call themselves the Kings of Men are wholly uninterested in power and domination…
I don’t mean to be obtuse, but you can’t see a difference between Aragorn and Sauron? One represents the Christlike idea of power-self sacrificing, existing to serve and better the needs of those placed under it. The other represents power for the sake of power-the will to dominate just for the end of dominating, the sort of thing that 20th century political movements on both ends of the left-right spectrum were throughly eaten up with.
The modern world forgets that it is entirely possible to rule not for one’s own sake, but for the sake of one’s subjects, and for the sake of the traditions and ideals one has been entrusted with. And yes, this ideal has not always been lived up to-but that does not invalidate the ideal. To quote Orthodox Metropolitan Kalistos Ware (The Orthodox Church, pp 41-42):
“There are many today, not only outside but within the Orthodox Church, who sharply criticize the Byzantine Empire and the idea of a Christian society for which it stands. Yet were the Byzantines entirely wrong? They believed that Christ, who lived on Earth as a man, has redeemed every aspect of human existence, and they held that it was therefore possible to baptize not human individuals only but the whole spirit and organization of society. So they strove to create a polity entirely Christian in its principals of government and in its daily life. Byzantium was in fact nothing less than an attempt to accept and to apply the full implications of the Incarnation. Certainly the attempt had its dangers: in particular the Byzantines often fell into the error of identifying the earthly kingdom of Byzantium with the Kingdom of God, the Greek people-or rather, the ‘Roman’ people, to use the term by which they themselves described their own identity-with God’s people. Certainly, Byzantium fell short of the high ideal it had set for itself-and its failure was often lamentable and disastrous. The tales of Byzantine duplicity, violence, and cruelty are too well known to call for repetition here. They are true-but they are only a part of the truth. For behind the shortcomings of Byzantium can always be discerned the great vision by which the Byzantines were inspired: to establish here on Earth a living image of God’s government in heaven.”
Regardnig the end of the 20th Century, I do think that the period 2016-2020 is the equivalent of 1914-1918. It’s interesting to me how each century has its own distinct character, and seems to want to murder the century before it.
At the beginning of the 20th Century it would have been reasonable to have assumed that the European monarchies and empires had a long way to run, and the only question would have been whether visits to the far flung colonies were going to be by steamship or airship. The people of the time would have had no idea with what was going to hit them. It’s very much the same now, as the illusion of eternal progressive liberalism is being brutally extinguished.
One way this is connected to Carl Jung is in his concern for the massification of society, which is at the core of the 20th Century. It occurs to me that it is this massification above anything else that is being broken down – the most vulnerable aspects of the status quo are the mass media, mass entertainment, mass sport, and to an extent mass politics. Although Trumpism has its mass participation aspect, it is an extremely eccentric and organic movement, that seems to be self-directed rather than directed from above.
All this could also be seen as related to the decline of Pluto, the ascending Aquarian age etc., although I also think that the 20th Century will appear particularly bizarre and unappetising in hindsight. Maybe the mass neurosis of Covid is a particularly fitting way for the 20th Century to end.
Well, this post has had some effect on me already. Discovery #1, obvious to everyone but me, I’m sure: that I am, by nature and temperament, a member of the chattering classes, and there’s no use pretending otherwise. Though – like my father before me, also by nature and temperament the same, I have some knowledge of my roots in the culture he never pretended not to enjoy: stock car races, country humor, etc.
And that my Shadow, unacknowledged, is a deep-seated sense of entitlement on a very petty scale. Things should go my way! I don’t like (a.k.a. nitpicking in paradise.)
The gypsy witch cards helped. For several days running I kept getting The Lion, Lightning, and so on, and kept waiting for the nasty bad news, and instead of any, got a long string of disappointments so petty it puzzled me badly. “the menu said “asparagus” and they served me spinach.” “I checked off “dessert” and got a banana.” Utter trivia.
And finally, this morning – my daughter’s high, hard, shrill voice and incessant, vocal micromanaging. In meditation – how did I cope with lacking the soft skills that enabled my sister to bamboozle my parents? By sandpaper-abrasive stubbornness. Never mind that it’s been worn down to a gentle old lady who has vowed to fight no more forever (saving, of course, if lives were at stake.)
Thanks for that.
Just as austerities like fasting make people aware of unconscious desires, ironically I think eating challenges do the same. Facing five or six kilos of food and wondering how to get through it is the opposite of mindless gluttony. Having to come up with strategies like ‘eat the carbohydrate last’ (because it expands in the stomach) is very much conscious consumption. Some people who’ve done a lot of challenges report they can control their diet much easier the rest of the time. For anyone who wants to see some eating challenges done, Leah Shutkever is a machine: https://www.youtube.com/c/LeahShutkever/videos.
I have been feeling pensive for a few days, because one of the things that I have long considered lies in the Shadow of our civilisation – as opposed to my own Shadow, which may well be an entirely different matter 😉 – is precisely our animal nature. In fact, in the ways in which you have portrayed the Radiance reacting with blind hatred towards the non-rational and the biological aspects of their own nature in the WOH novels, and the ways in which you have, from time to time, discussed Lovecraft’s weird biophobic use of animal attributes such as wings, scales, tentacles, etc, have always rung very true for me in this regard.
What I am pensive about is this passage:
“…the Shadow is the expression of a basic animal instinct. It evolved to whip you into a blind homicidal rage when you have to face an enemy, so that you set aside ordinary human concerns and rip the other person to bloody gobbets. Natural selection being the harsh taskmaster that it is, the aggressive instinct homed in on the things that would produce blind homicidal rage most effectively…”
The first thing is that is does not ring true for me that aggression in animals IS a matter of blind homicidal rage. Animals who are hunting for food are not generally “blinded” by any particular passion, but are and awake and in full use of their perceptions, are fully drawing on their prior knowledge and are consciously involved in a rationally considered set of actions which will, if they are lucky, lead to the prey’s death. Animals who are fighting their peers over access to territory or mates, generally do NOT fight to the death, but, instead use their fights to measure their respective strengths. Losers in such fights generally withdraw and signal their recognition of their own relative weakness in pretty short order, and winners usually acknowledge such signals with an immediate cessation of aggression, having already proven their point, instead of being in any way “blinded” by homicidal rage. That is to say, I see nothing in what I know of the natural history of animals. or in biology generally, to support the contention that “blind homicidal rage” is something that is evolutionarily selected for, or adaptively useful.
What this leads to, for me, is a slightly different way of conceiving the Shadow as an archetype. It may be that this Archetype is more closely connected than we might realise to whatever was the moment we began to conceptualise ourselves as being “separate” from nature. Whenever that point was, and however it came about, it would then have necessary for US (but not for animals, nor for the part of us that IS animal in nature) to begin to repudiate what is “animal” and what is “nature” and move these parts of ourselves into a massive work of projection onto the world, which now appears to us as wild and dangerous and in need of taming – and to rage against that which we had projected.
But this projection “projects back”, as it were, and requires that we ourselves be “tamed” and domesticated and civilised, each of which is an act that declares – I am NOT animal, I am NOT suited for this life on this earth, and my entire purpose is to bring the wild and chaotic world back into civilised order. Which leads to all the ways in which we, as a species (or at least as a civilisation) “rage” against the natural world – wantonly killing its “pests” and its “vermin” and its “germs” just because they annoy us, and then naming our human enemies “pests” and “vermin” and “germs” so as to more easily kill them, too.
I agree on many of your ideas of Shadow above, but I question the conclusion that current history is a problem of one party simply labeling the other party as “Shadow”, and thus we should accept that aspect as the core problem. These parties, I’m assuming are more broadly known as Democrat and Republican. Though both party definitely has it’s middle ground folks and cross-overs. As you mention, the Democrats are found placing
the “Nazi” label on the Republicans. The Republicans are found placing the “Satanist worshipping pedophiles” label on the Democrats. I’m assuming this is via the route of the cult group QAnon, who is indirectly at the source of this mythos. It’s bizarre. I think we all agree on that point.
However, where I perhaps disagree with the conclusion is in the fact that I have not seen credible knowledge or factual data regarding Democratic satanic worship or pedophilia, satanic being defined in the way of acts in the direct opposition of Christianity (not that I believe that definition gives a whole picture of it), but while I am sure there are many criminal pasts within both parties, I haven’t either seen factual data to suggest there is any more predatory deviance going on in the Democratic party than in any other sect of society, particularly the privileged, wealthy, and legally well-protected. So, there’s no factual data to suggest the label is correct. Certainly each party has more compassionate, legally-minded characters, and those less so, but flat out devil-worship and pedophilia…I haven’t seen substantive proof of that.
Alternatively, can we not say that the Republican party has repeatedly acted to demoralize or segregate America into labeled classes? Has there not been a consistent track record of labeling by culture, ethnicity, or other categorization linked with denigration or “other”-ing promoting an us-them concept? Has there not also been a call to action or a lack of reproach of actions of violence against particular labeled classes of people, thus creating fear and hiding or avoidance behaviors in labeled classes? I know friends of mine in minority classes have stated that they feel increasingly threatened. From this, it would broadly fit the category of at least Nazi-like behavior or philosophy, would it not? I’m not a history buff, admittedly, but from someone with a background in psychology, I would also say that there’s a good deal of substance and fact to support the playing up of this ideology amongst the broader party, and simply looking the other way by others.
Perhaps I am naive on this issue. I always leave that in my method of unknowns. Broadly, I too am seeking to understand the larger problem. I readily accept we all have Shadows, I know I do, but the question in my mind is whether one side of the aisle is not playing it up and letting it run the show vs. learning how to balance it.
Assuming this year marks the end of the “true” 20th century, as seems likely to me, it would seem to suggest the hidden meaning of the 20th century is Pluto: it began when he was halfway to planet status, and it ended when he was halfway gone from planet status. Hmm….
In the Kalevala, the world is sung into being by Vainamoinen, and as Tolkien was fluent in Finnish, there is another source of possible inspiration. I would find that the more probable, as Tolkien spoke highly in praise of the Finnish language.
A very insightful post, thank you.
When did this split between human and nature begin? The power to build a fire seems a likely beginning — the ancient fire that gave us an advantage over the cold and dark, and cast those long dancing shadows on the walls of our caves.
Boysmom and others,
So two of those issues are conditional to particular states, they aren’t really causing regional problems. Afterall, what difference does to a tradesman in Wisconsin, if California and Washington enforce their particularities in their own states? I don’t do business in either location, but the problem would come in if either state tried to push those policies through on the federal level. I except Texas, Nevada, and Arizona would probably put a stop to any of those problems.
As for the abortion issue. I think it’s a bit more complicated that coastal regions vs. midwest. There are plenty of pro-choice pockets across the midwest. In the Great Lakes states, for example, those pockets exist in sufficient numbers to protect that right even in a given State.
Form my understanding about the civil war, and please correct me if I’m wrong. The two major issues were The right of the states to conduct their own economic affairs, and the right to own slaves. Both those material problems were tied into their identities. All other issues seemed to revolve around those two particular problems.
When people say irreconcilable differences I usually think about a combination of identity, economic rights, and control over natural resources. I can definitely see water causing a crisis in the west, but I don’t see how secession would make that better.
Violet is right, no matter which way the US goes in the future, I don’t think bloodshed can actually be avoided if session comes into play. Inside the country we have weird resource dependencies, state borders that follow no geographic boundaries, and mutually dependent communities on nearly every border. As Patricia pointed out with the Heinline anecdote, as long as the hogs are well fed they’ll stay in the pen. Question is what happens when a generation of hogs that have been raised in captivity suddenly want to go out into the wild?
So what does a looser union look like, and what is it gonna take to convince people that the strength in numbers, that we just wouldn’t have otherwise?
Datapoint for you – Kanye West in his interview with Joe Rogan said he is building a monastery for people to study scripture and a gospel university with an outdoor stadium that holds 200,000, 50% would be singers. He has already written a book of hymns.
He’s also working on sustainable housing and farming in addition to his Sunday Services he was running prior to Covid. Ye said God called him to run for president and lead the free world.
And I’m only 45 minutes into the interview.
What a wild time we live in.
Walt, my guess is that he’s just very confused and crestfallen. Some positive emotional energy via prayer might help with that.
Panda, quite a few old mythologies speak of the world being sung into being. It’s in the Kalevala, the great myth-cycle of Finland, which Tolkien studied very closely — he learned Finnish, not the world’s easiest language, so he could read it in the original — and also in quite a few Native American myths. For that matter, the three rays of light that brought the cosmos into being in Iolo Morganwg’s Welsh bardic cosmology are also three voices, and a voice is also a vibration! None of this takes anything away from your basic point — we’re discussing a very ancient and widespread wisdom teaching — but Tolkien didn’t have to get that from Eastern sources.
Tolkienguy, all we have is Tolkien’s word on that. We don’t get to hear from dissenting viewpoints, and the glorification of Aragorn and the vilification of Sauron are among the things in the trilogy that to my mind are most reminiscent of the rhetoric of the 20th century’s more famous dictatorships. I promise you that without much difficulty you can find plenty of portrayals of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. that glorify them as Christlike idealists and insist that their enemies are motivated by pure evil! As for your suggestion that it’s possible to rule not for one’s own sake, and so on, doesn’t that miss the central Christian doctrine of the fallen nature of humanity? If, as Christianity says, we are fallen, then for any ruler anywhere to claim to “establish here on Earth a living image of God’s government in heaven” is an act of supreme hubris — and we’ve seen, over and over and over again, how consistently every attempt to establish heaven on earth reliably turns into a good imitation of hell.
Phil K, I’ve been thinking about 1914 quite a bit also in recent months, and there will probably be a post here on the subject. You’re quite right that nobody saw what was coming — and in the same way, nobody sees what’s coming. If Ortega y Gasset’s prophecy of the rise of mass culture has finally run its course, I certainly won’t be weeping!
Patricia M, glad to hear it — though I’m sorry to hear that your phone call with your daughter was so unpleasant!
Yorkshire, good heavens. That would not have occurred to me, but you’re doubtless right.
Scotlyn, I certainly don’t mean to equate the Shadow with the animal realm. Some animals do behave with what looks very much like blind homicidal rage, especially in conditions of crowding — do you recall the experiments that put two male doves in a cage too small for them to have enough space? The researchers came in the next morning to find one dove still frantically pecking at the bloody corpse of the other. The Shadow as we experience it is a human phenomenon, and relates to specifically human modes of managing conflict.
Anonymous, that is to say, you’re defending the projection of the Shadow on the Republicans while insisting that it’s wrong to project it onto the Democrats. Are there Republicans who have ideas of the sort you’re criticizing? Sure, and there are also Democrats who have exactly the same ideas, and act on them. (Look up the search string “Hillary Clinton super predators” sometime.) Furthermore, if you think that such attitudes and actions qualify as “Nazi-like,” you clearly don’t know much about the Nazis; I suggest you get some good books on the subject and find out just how much further someone has to go to fit that label.
Allen, a case can be made!
Denis, good heavens. I was already intrigued to find out, by way of those three nuns who showed up at a Trump rally, that there’s a Catholic contemplative order of nuns founded in 2002 by a woman who spent eleven years in solitude and silence in a hermitage in the Ohio woods. Here comes the Second Religiosity, on schedule, with its engine roaring…
I agree that Kingdom of God on Earth is not possible. It is a beautiful idea, but in order to be wise one must learn to look past the beauty of ideas and judge their actual feasibility. In those terms, the Byzantine Project as a fool’s errand, doomed to fail from day one.
If I were to look for a blueprint of God’s plan for human affairs here on Earth, I would think in terms of the Judges of the Old Testament. Just as YHWH would appoint a Prophet in times of great confusion,- so that the Prophet would speak Truth to the People and make them see past their own rationalizations and acknowledge unwelcome realities, – in times of great peril YHWH would appoint a Judge to command of the Hosts.
Judges are herolike figures, more in the Ancient Greek sense than in our modern one. Judges battle the Enemy and wreck, at the cost of their own lives, the enemie’s means to wage war no the People. I do not think it is a coincidence that Sampson, the better known of the Judges, dies by collapsing the Phillistine’s Temple on top of everybody inside. Unlike modern day dice rolling heroes, biblical judges would look karma in the eye and cry: “Bring it on”. They were never meant to survive their ordeals, because they were unsuited to lead the People in peaceful times.
Maybe, just maybe, their arc of story begins with them projecting their own Shadow on whatever peril they were tasked to defeat. And they would achieve integration of the Shadow by self immolation of the sake of a World that they would not live to see.
Violet and others on disunion,
I’d also rather have federalism within the current union than disunion. The thing is, I have trouble seeing federalism happening until and unless there are secessionist movements that are strong enough that people are staring the possibility of disunion in the face and really thinking about what it would mean. At that point, I hope enough people would realize that granting states more rights could be a way out, a compromise to preserve the union. I’m thinking its similar to how socialist movements have scared the rich and powerful enough to make some compromises with the lower classes to avoid a socialist takeover. I do think it’s risky business, especially with the level of hatred being thrown around right now, but if things are still this extreme next year after whatever happens with the election and the immediate aftermath, I’ll be happy if secessionist movements start gaining some traction.
I’m also glad not to live in the dryland West, I can’t see a happy ending to the situation there whatever happens politically. Even if climate change doesn’t dry it out as much as some of the projections say, places like Arizona, Nevada and the majority of California are very overpopulated compared to the carrying capacity of the land even with the current climate.
@JMG – one correction: what happened this morning was not a phone call from Carol, but an insight concerning earlier interactions. Surprisingly enough, I saw her this morning at the local early voting site, where she was sitting outdoors monitoring the drop-off ballot boxes. She looked surprisingly happy, comfortable in her own skin, and had generally softer vibes. I told her how well she looked and mentioned her hairdo in particular, and brought up the subject at the brunch table this morning. Her husband said he thought it was because she was away from both work and the family for once. I think she’s utterly convinced that nothing will get done or happen right unless she’s constantly pushing things the way they should go, which must be dreadfully wearing. (As for work, I think she feels she has to be constantly keeping up a front, though heaven knows her professional status over at UF is sky high already.)
On that subject and on Varun’s question about the well-fed hogs leaving the pen … there was an article in this month’s Atlantic about the way ambitious upper-class parents – especially mothers for some reasons – are pushing their children so hard in any number of niche sports so that they’ll earn a place in a “good” college in the Ivy League, that the kids are being destroyed mentally and physically. On reading that last night, I suddenly flashed on the early scenes in “Hair” and imagined the kids (or their younger siblings) running away and hitting the streets in vast numbers like their grandparents did 50* years ago. But without the Vietnam War to give their rebellion a real-world focus. Will be sending you the issue, via snail, because the entire issue is a snapshot of a segment of society gone utterly berserk, though its main focus is political.
*Was it in truth only 50 years ago? It feels like a lot longer! BTW, I agree that 2016-2020 is the end of the Long 20th Century, as 1914-18 was of the Long 19th Century.
“…Just very confused and crestfallen.” Confused, sure. But why crestfallen? Randi was in his 90s in poor health, until his mortal frame ultimately failed as everyone knows it must. A permanent end to his existence was not something he wished or preferred, as far as I can tell, even if that’s what he expected.
Everyone involved in the discussion of the Union and its future
Re a looser, more decentralized power structure
Just off the top of my head, a few things that I’d toss out for consideration were I a delegate to a constitutional convention of the states (which is about the only vehicle we have for making the necessary changes in anything like a peaceable manner):
1) Returning the Senate to a house of ambassadors from the states, appointed and selected by each state in a manner chosen by that state and answerable to the state government. (This would involve a repeal of the 17th amendment, among other things.)
2) Proportional representation in a state’s delegation to the House and a replacement of geographic representation with ideological. This would end gerrymandering, as congressional districts would no longer exist. Instead, a multitude of parties would coalesce around the issues most needed to serve the populations of a state. (This would also force coalitions to form more openly and would break the two-party monopoly.)
3) Restrain congressional powers to a specific, limited set, perhaps beginning with those listed in Article I, Section 8. (Though something would need to be done to constrain the abuses of the interstate commerce clause we’ve seen. And the issues of enforcement of civil liberties would need to be included.)
4) War powers ought to be constrained to defense of the territorial integrity of the nation and nothing else. Offensive war and the stationing of troops abroad should be strictly forbidden. Certainly, the executive should not have the carte blanche wielded today.
5) A legal path for leaving the union should be created, though with a price (as I’ve suggested, a pro rate portion of the national debt based on the most recent census). This would act as a “safety valve” among other things, by allowing a state or group of states who find the existing arrangement intolerable an alternative. (Likewise, the presence of that alternative might also keep the situation from getting intolerable the first place.)
There’s much more to be dealt with, of course, and it’s by no means a simple question, but that’s a sample of what I’d consider appropriate.
@Lady Cutekitten, Randi was an atheist. If one goes by certain of the most prevalent Christian doctrines, Randi would not be in purgatory but in hell. If one doesn’t go by those doctrines, then, well, who’s making that judgment and on what basis?
I do indeed owe you an explanation of how BitLife might work, which I promised you two months ago and then simply forgot to follow up. It would be a bit off-topic here, though, even this late in the weekly cycle. An open post is coming up (I believe) this week, so let’s get back “on the line” there.
Vroom vroom! I thought you’d enjoy the Kanye news. It’s well beyond a conversion to Christianity. I have to read about those nuns, I only saw the attempt to dox them online.
In other weirdness, I got an email yesterday from someone I haven’t seen in 5 years begging me to vote for Biden with the argument “we know we don’t have the ideal candidates but this election is too consequential.” Then today I see that a woman has a viral video where she begged her dying father to vote for Biden rather than Trump and her father did it right before he died a couple days ago (who knows if its actually true).
I’ve heard of pity sex, but pity voting?
On my street one person who just moved here in May put up a Biden sign 3 weeks ago. Then two Trump signs went up a week later. Then two more Biden signs four days later, followed by three Trump signs two days after that. Yesterday two more Biden signs, a Trump flag, and a Trump banner. It’s kinda funny watching it. Can’t wait to see what pops up this week!
It is truly remarkable that upthread I made precisely the opposite argument to yours. Well, I will make a few remarks. Qanon does promote the issue of pedophilia and human trafficking. I would not call it a cult as it does not promote cult like thinking but independent thinking. Largely, it is a way of communicating with people via bypassing the controlled media. I did note that a month or so ago there was a post listing several pedophilia perpetrators, by name, and whether they were Democrat or Republican. These were known public cases and went back at least a couple of years. There were more democrats, but at least 1/3 were Republican.
Alternatively, can we not say that the Republican party has repeatedly acted to demoralize or segregate America into labeled classes?
What I see is this coming from the left, the students, academia, corporations, BLM, Antifa and the media. Constantly to the point of obsession.
Has there not been a consistent track record of labeling by culture, ethnicity, or other categorization linked with denigration or “other”-ing promoting an us-them concept?
In which universe? In fact one of the complaints of conservatives is that this unhealthy obsession over these things is…unhealthy.
Has there not also been a call to action or a lack of reproach of actions of violence against particular labeled classes of people, thus creating fear and hiding or avoidance behaviors in labeled classes? I know friends of mine in minority classes have stated that they feel increasingly threatened.
They may feel threatened because the media tells them to be afraid. But who has been committing acts of violence? Last I heard, 42 persons have died and many injured in these riots. And not just failing to condemn the violence, which media and many politicians have shamefully failed to do, but many calls for and excuses for such violence. Where has the right been violent?
The left has been reliably using their shadow to accuse the right of the very things which they are doing. Thus they are projecting their shadow.
I have watched many Trump speeches and he does call out certain people, the media especially, but as he speaks to the American people in general he is never divisive and always inclusive. Yet no matter what he says the media smears it and says he is divisive. What is divisive is that the media and those who control them hate Trump and use their megaphone to promote that and then call him divisive. He has condemned white supremacy, the ku klux klan and antifa, and violence, repeatedly, yet the media continues to say that he has not, as if he had not spoken.
Are you looking for real facts or just listening to accusations?
So again – my impression is that it is the left who is projecting like mad and the right is befuddled at the strangeness of it all.
Have you read Bruce Catton’s _The Coming Fury_? In it he makes the point that the splitting of the 1860 Democratic National Convention started as a political maneuver, and that led to a situation where the Democratic party got split handing the presidency to one Abraham Lincoln. This, in turn, caused a secession movement of the Gulf States, whose head, one Jefferson Davis, at least in part believed was a political maneuver right up until the border states —Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia especially — began seceding en masse. Then, and only then with this second Secession, did the fact or pretense of political maneuvering dropped, that the Civil War really begin in earnest. Then you had President Lincoln take full wartime powers and throw many fine Marylanders in jail, and General Nathaniel Lyon broke up legal militias and drove the legal government of Missouri into exile. After that, what sort of compromise could be reached except the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of young men?
Point being, I think given the level of Shadow projection and vitriol in the political arena nowadays, given that when I’ve talked to a good number of folks about secession I’ve seen their eyes light up, and that no one seems to think about things like the Partition of India or the formless warfare all through out Latin America’s politically unstable history, I think that if secession starts getting any serious traction we’ll have put the fork in the Union, because it will then be done.
What I’ve seen is that people, especially the heirs to the Confederacy the PMC, like the idea of the dissolution of the Union because it allows them to not face the loss of their world. That was the precise rationale with the Confederates, too. What’s different, too, about this situation is how much folks hate California especially. I feel that people never seem to ask about the geopolitics of secession: if California seceded were does all of their olive oil and wine go? can we keep Hawaii, Oregon, Washington or Alaska if California leaves? What happens if California were to make its own alliances with Canada, Russia and Japan?
What happens if some foreign power were to have some interest in a color revolution in any of the several states? If secession is a political option on the table then what would stop any strong foreign power from pouring money into Texas secession, flaming ethnic and cultural animosities in Texas, coming in as peacekeepers once the Republic of Texas has become an intractable failed state, and then helping themselves to all that oil?
Once secession is on the table politically the United States will be, I imagine, not a rump state but a motley collection of failed states. They will, I imagine, have no destiny of their own but merely be the subject of the destinies of stronger nations. It will be easy enough for any enterprising burgeoning imperial power to get the Republic of New England to fight with Greater New York over who controls the Hudson River while all of the fine lumber, salt fish, and whatnot going to some foreign power to pay for munitions to carry on the fight. These fault lines now lay obscure because of the Union, but who controls which river, who has access to the sea, and other now fantastic conflicts will become sharply clear if disunion were to become more than a thought experiment.
My apologies on how pessimistic I see this all. I think that if secession were to take hold of a significant portion of the political process we would be lucky to get Latin American levels of political violence and formless warfare, I think it would much more likely be at the Sub-Saharan Africa level.
Per Scotlyn’s discussion re: homicidal rage – rage isn’t a hunting or dominance emotion, though, in nature. It’s a Boundary enforcing one: territory. And animals will definitely kill each other for that, unlike the other examples. They have to, if there isn’t enough space for one to run, as JMG gave an example.
But I’ve been thinking I don’t think it’s just rage, either – it’s all five of “the five F’s” (they used to call it just the four, but recently, due, AFAIK, the better attention to female politics, a fifth has been added).
It’s the adrenaline responses: Flight, Fight, Feed (that in birds), and “Mate”. The fifth is Fawn. Mean Girls . Fight is only when you think you can win, the rest are to redirect the dominant animal’s aggression to a less deadly form vis yourself. ‘Cause I dunno… All the people I can think of who I wanted to tear to bloody gobbets were people I first tried really hard to please, to try to show them I was one of them, or convince myself I didn’t really hate their smug guts. And instead of fighting them or destroying them I eventually did my absolute level best to bring it all down on my head instead. Go on, show me what you really think of me! And I always destroyed myself, without the others ever knowing there was even a fight. The ‘smug self-righteousness so and so’s who thought they were better then me’ or ‘needed to stop being so g-d helpless’ never knew I was there, or if they did, that we had any disagreement.
The belief that everybody goes to Hell is relatively new in Christianity. Unrepentant sinners (what we would call Corrupt nowadays) go to Hell. Normal Christians, who sin but also atone for their sins, go to Purgatory (which modernists claim do not exist). Non-believers who have led an otherwise moral life go to Limbo (another place modernist claim not to exist).
If we go by Dante’s Inferno description, Limbo is technically in Hell but not Hell-ish at all. It is, for the most part, dull. And within Limbo there is this other place called Abraham’s Bosom. (also called Limbo of the Fathers, where Abraham and all the deserving Hebrews from the Old Testament waited for the Christ; that’s why Jesus was said to have “descended to Hell” which, again, the modernist now claim he didn’t) Abraham’s Bosom is where non-believers who led the more luminous kind of moral life go; there’s imperfect joy in such place, and it represents the summit of how high can human spirit rise by its own strengths.
All this is roughly compatible with the teachings of Western Occultism, as described by JMG here and in the Dreamwidth Ecosophia site. Most people do not suffer an horrific afterlife, though those who screw up pretty badly at basic decency do. While dead, people get to experience roughly the kind afterlife that resonates more closely with what their thoughts, emotions and passions were in life.
JMG said: None of this takes anything away from your basic point — we’re discussing a very ancient and widespread wisdom teaching — but Tolkien didn’t have to get that from Eastern sources.
I am not surprised to hear this. After studying the matter for several decades I’m convinced most cultures, ancient and modern, have their versions of a yogi or two (or three, etc) lurking in their general population. Sometimes letting it be known they’re ‘something more’ or probably in more most cases, going about unnoticed.
re: secession, riots, shadow, death wish
I’ve been doing some research into “weltanschauung,” or “world view,” and I found an interesting summation (thank you Wikipedia) of “American political world views” which I found helpful to the broadening of my own world view:
Here are the categories of American political world views:
The article also says that attacks to one’s world view serves to weaken one’s individual “terror management system” — one of the functions of the terror management system is to short circuit access to thoughts about one’s own mortality — and so can lead to violence. “Even if rival sides agree on the facts, people may disagree on conclusions because of their different premises. This is why politicians often seem to talk past one another, or ascribe different meanings to the same events.”
You know what projecting the shadow makes me think of? Of scape goats. You know the goat that is loaded with all the sins of the society and then cast out into the wilderness to take all the sins with it.
The Democrats tried to make Donald Trump the scape goat of America, but the goat stubbornly refuses to leave and in fact is probably going to stay for another four years. Thus the apocalyptic levels of hysteria.
@ Violet, et alia
I suppose my rationale for a legal pathway is fairly straightforward:
The US empire is dying. We are going to be a has-been power regardless. The question is merely by what path shall we get there?
This nation has always been a construct of its empire, held together by the forces of brute force (1861-1865, and the period immediately following) and bribery (with the ascension of the US to a world power around 1900 and most certainly in the aftermath of WWII). When the flow of tribute dries up and the pie of benefits shrinks, as it is already, those internal conflicts are going to bubble to the surface again.
When a marriage goes bad, you don’t solve the issues by making divorce illegal. That only keeps people trapped in a miserable situation and stokes the conflict further. Rather, you make divorce an option and allow people who make the assessment as to whether or not the costs of divorce are worth the benefits of the ensuing freedom and then make their own choices. Those who feel that the relationship can be made to work will stay; those who feel otherwise will go.
But remember, too, that this is going to happen anyway. Secession can occur de facto as well as de jure. Its just easier on everyone if we’re able to acknowledge the situation outright rather than try to pretend that it isn’t happening. Some parts of the present Union will not remain, no matter what occurs. There are many (I would argue most) parts which are “on the bubble” and could go either way. Full-bore dissolution into regional nation-states is a definite possibility, but so is a mostly-intact Union, suitably revised into a looser confederation which would give states more leeway to manage themselves without interference (and thereby induce many to remain). But keeping what we have today just isn’t going to happen: I fully believe that one or more states will have functionally seceded (de facto, if not de jure) by the time our tricentennial roles around in 2076: that is, DC may be issuing orders, but the states in question will simply ignore them and the federal government will be in no position to enforce its decrees.
My goal, simply stated, is to create a path by which that which is going to occur in any event can occur in a less violent manner.
Our future could be that of a modest (if smaller) republic, minding its own affairs and providing for its own needs while supporting the wellbeing of its citizens, without bothering in world events except to defend its territory as required. I’d be satisfied with that. We could do a whole lot worse.
Re my list
I’d also add congressional term limits–at the very least, limits on consecutive congressional terms–to the list of proposed changes. I’d also note that in the pruning back of congressional powers, an parallel pruning back of the bureaucratic administrative state would be in order.
I agree there’s the potential for the scenario you suggest, but I’d also say that sort of thing is possible with the current level of hatred without official secession, that a scenario like the Syrian civil war could start with various insurgent groups taking over patchworks of regions. I’d consider Quebec’s secessionist movement as an example of how a certain amount of goals can be attained without secession actually being realized, although it came close to happening there and still could in the future.
If secession actually happened, I had been thinking more along the lines of the breakup of the Soviet Union, which was a crisis but ultimately one from which Russia emerged in decent shape. But if may be too optimistic to think we could emerge as well as Russia did, after all Russia had a long history before the Soviet Union came into being, while the US has only expanded during our history (except briefly during the Civil War) and isn’t prepared to deal with a breakup.
Overall, I don’t see any positive scenario unfolding, secession or no secession, if the level of hatred around now persists or grows worse. I hope JMG is right in the prediction that the religion of Progress will unravel soon and relieve some of that tension. So much depends on what happens with the election and its aftermath. As for other countries interfering, I suspect that’s already happening with the CCP on social media fanning the flames, but it only works because so many people are in a state that’s so susceptible to such things.
@ David by the Lake. I am fairly certain that your list of proposals for “healing” the union are ones that you are actively drawing up and proposing to likeminded people (including people here). So, if I may suggest:
3) Restrain congressional powers to a specific, limited set, perhaps beginning with those listed in Article I, Section 8. (Though something would need to be done to constrain the abuses of the interstate commerce clause we’ve seen. And the issues of enforcement of civil liberties would need to be included.)
It seems to me that the common ground around the “interstate commerce clause” could gather around the idea of the federal government acting as a necessary force for mediation in commerce disputes between states. It would maybe be useful to give thought to how to grant the federal government this role, while restricting it quite expressly to mediation between any two or more NAMED, SPECIFIC states where cross-state commerce is causing snags or contention, while preventing it from over-reaching and assuming authority over every matter that can *possibly* be framed as having an interstate commerce aspect.
FWIW – I agree with you that this clause is the one that, in retrospect, has provided the federal government with the most scope for over-reach, and, in its current form, could continue to do so.
If anyone is interested in a cure for the sort of petty nitpicking and discontent and feeling that “things should go my way,” there are three surgical operations to be performed. In the jargon of my people:
A rectal crainiectomy,
An umbilical double optectomy
And a biblio-nasal extraction.
I am pretty sure that JMG did not mean to suggest that Randi is in hell due to his atheism. And what a repugnant idea. That God should take no responsibility for having created us or rather, that the situation of an embodied human on this planet leaves us with such reduced perceptions, that many people don’t perceive a spiritual reality at all. To be sure, many people’s atheism is due to some sort of psychological hangup, but then that comes with the territory here, and everybody has their various imperfections.
If an atheist dies, I imagine God might apologize upon his arrival and then they will both have a good laugh.
JMG: More synchronicity: my favorite online pothead comedian, Jimmy Dore, had a long discourse on Jung and the Shadow in relation to our current politics a couple weeks back on his show.
Even more synchronicity: I was born when my father was 52, and he died the week I married at 24, so I hardly developed an adult relationship with him. He was born in Java, where my grandfather was in charge of the restoration of a major Buddhist temple. In his 60s, he joined the local Buddhist church and began teaching meditation. Now that I’m that age, I find myself retracing much of the path he followed: my library is full of inherited books which you recommend ( The Decline of the West; Man and His Symbols), and I have begun meditation. A reference in (I think) The Oil Drum 10 years ago has led me to this different path. I find myself respecting him far more than I did when a youth. (I am not casting an Archdruid as a father figure or guru, however).
@Scotlyn re: the Commerce Clause –
In other words, to apply only to actual, specific commercial disputes between two states, with the resolution of the dispute applying only to that individual dispute and not in general?
Thank you, I think you may be right, for whatever it’s worth. Your ideas may soberly point the way to a relatively better future. That said, I think it’s still true that there are many benefits to the current arrangement that we take for granted. Perhaps the now-still-fantastic conflicts are just a matter of time before folks trip over them and blood starts flowing. That said, as Kashtan wisely points out it is not as if we’re currently in a good situation now! We are currently in a terrible political situation which could end with massive effusion of blood without partition even coming up for discussion!
That said, and for what it’s worth, I’m grateful to discuss these issues here with you and others! My hope for my role in this conversation is to simply be the voice challenging the idea that disunion might solve our problems, an idea I’ve been watching slowly gain traction in the heads of many of the radical and downwardly mobile members of the PMC, especially.
Thank you, I think you raise very good points for whatever it’s worth. Basically I agree: if people persist in demonizing their enemies to the current degree we will get bloodshed on massive scales one way or another. Sadly, also, I agree with your misgiving about the capacity for the several States to manage as well as the old Soviet Union. The entire history and arrangement of the United States is so different from the old Eastern bloc. I also agree that so much depends on the events in the next several weeks, with so much still up in the air.
JMG and others? I have been reading your blog for a long time, mainly in the shadows. I like to read what others think, and I would hope to have a question asked that would add light to my own predicament. I began working in “Human Service” in 1974, not long after a stint as a grave digger. I worked twenty years in an inpatient psych unit, mostly locked up and unarmed, but not without resources. I worked days and nights, meeting shadows, coming and going, with the price of admission, your mind. But it began with my own reading of #27 of the TaoTeChing, and my striving to be a superior man from the I Ching. Now I have lived in the same house (with renovations) for 40 years, took my bare ground (except for 4 trees) toward a more productive garden and 28 trees. I have met the “Dragon of the Canyon” (a rock mouth in a dry watercourse that is noticeable during drought periods, with a colorful head of lichens), where I found a hand sized piece of sandstone with ripples.People on this site were talking about deep time and natural spirits, and there it was, etched in rock. This summer has been dry and smoky, Mount Doom material, full of strange shadows. This is Trump land. It is also a part of the extractive colonies, settled after the end of the Frontier, but holding senior water rights on the Colorado River, just north of the Ancestral Pueblo People. I am aware of the changing climate, warmer and drier here, a shift in the climate zone in my lifetime at my house. My rightwing friends tell me about pedophiles in our midst, and I think about incest, PTSD, attempted suicides, and shadow digging at my work, not to mention insurance denying hospital service for psychiatric care. It all makes me a radical conservative, especially wishing to conserve something like my memories of working on my grandfather’s farm, now subdivided into rich man parcels. I’m waiting for the homeless surge to coincide with the opening of new housing, starting at $350,000, going up to $500,000, and half the restaurants closed.
In my life, my shadow manifested as an infected ear leading to deafness, and tinnitus, so I have myself as my sole patient, finally retired after disability for ten years, and I still have the Zen Koan of having a sound where none exists. It is as if each time I learn how to exist with the pervious shadow, a new form arises.
I have an ongoing compost pile, over forty years, a big part of my brain trust. It really is the hidden part of life, the microbes are our interface to the universe. It is also such a shadow-inducing fear, look at how our culture has responded to a simple virus. Back in my first human service job, changing diapers on adults, the dorm got a disease that became an epidemic. I caught it twice, prompting the state, my employer, to commend me for my work and to threaten to fire me for being sick and not working.
A friend Dubbed me, Dr. Gray, for the code gray call at the hospital to summon able bodied men to a particular place in the hospital, usually in my unit. He goes by Lamont Cranston.
Well a bit of an update to my earlier post on the biased BBC documentary about Trump. A somewhat well-known Boomer Shaman called wrote on Facefrack that it was a wonderful documentary and we should all watch it. I said it was biased and I didn’t like taxpayer money being spent on lies, ie, that Russiagate was proven true etc.
I was promptly denounced as a conspiracy theorist, a troll and a bot in short order and was unfriended. As it happens, said Boomer Shaman is well educated and could no doubt tell you all about Jung’s Shadow archetype. He just can’t apply any insight into his own behaviour. The Shadow only applies to those Bad People over there who don’t hate Trump, or me, in this instance, apparently. As Jung said,
“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.”
What I have noticed is that just as ‘racist’ means anyone I don’t like, ‘conspiracy theorist’ means someone who says something I don’t like, and want to ignore. With this level of ignorance about their own moral failings, I expect a frenzy of hysteria on November 4 to be unleashed. I’ve already got the popcorn!
I’m not sure if this is REALLY a synchronicity or not, but did you notice that Herman Hesse looks almost exactly like the pulp image of The Shadow? Just put a red scarf on him and the right sort of hat, and you are there–Just sayin’ 😉
You commented above that people often stuff their good qualities and virtues into their shadows, as well as their negative qualities and vices.
It occurred to me that there is a tradition of doing this within Western society as a whole. Indeed, I participated in it for many years, when I was an anarcho-primitivist. This is the tradition– and it’s not only found on the Left– of projecting all of the virtues, traditions and good ideas of Western civilization onto some suitably remote “Other.” Whether it’s Native Americans, Africans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, ancient Celts, or whathave you, we always find that, when this mode of Shadow-Projection is in operation, the Other turns out to have invented environmentalism, feminism, animal rights, representative democracy, traditional magic, cycles of seasonal festivals, sacred ways of relating to the land and to time, and any number of other ideas which– whether or not they have an equivalent in other societies– are in fact indigenous to Western civilization.
This might be a bit late but I wanted to reply to Pixelated. I read something that made sense of the ‘martyr’ archetype. Forgive me if I have read into your comment something that is not there. You didn’t specifically mention martyrdom.
What I read, was that for most of human evolutionary history we were more prey than predator – let alone ‘alpha’ predator.
Individuals in a group attacked by a larger animal or animals were in a sense ‘rescued’ when the animal captured and killed one of their number. The terror was over, the remaining members were safe from that particular predator.
It seems to me that many of the archetypes relate to roles within groups, and it makes sense that an archetype of ‘voluntary prey’ would reduce tension within a group resulting from the presence of more predatory and aggressive members.
As a side note, afaik, the threat responses are fight, flight, freeze and fawn. I’m not sure if it was these you were referring to, but they do seem to map onto at least some of the archetypes with fawn (surrender, appease, placate etc) seemingly related to this kind of martyrdom. Scapegoating, (even with a degree of volunteering for the role), serves groups, especially those with opaque dominance hierarchies and is seldom seen by bystanders for what it is, in my experience.
Denis and whoever else,
I listened to that Kanye West episode of the Joe Rogan Experience. In another life I was a big fan, and still am some to some extent. I got major chills hearing Kanye sing one of his hymns. I totally understand his vision of 200,000 people doing that all at once. I would definitely make a pilgrimage to attend one of those services. And I’m not a Christian anymore.
“So that’s two ways we’ve held together over the years, violence and wealth. What’s the third option?”
Shared culture. Language, media, myths and legends, civic and sporting rituals.
That, with violence and wealth, makes a triad that I call “Pen, Sword, and Coin”. This maps onto other famous triads: judicial/executive/legislative; holyghost/father/son; crone/mother/maiden; Larry/Moe/Curly.
Patricia M, well, at least that may have been a bit easier to deal with. As for the Atlantic article, that makes perfect sense — as the number of open seats in the game of elite musical chairs decreases, the competition is getting inhumanly fierce! I’ll look forward to reading it.
Walt F, because he’d spent his entire life insisting that gods, afterlives, et al. do not exist, and now he’s got to deal with the fact that he’s wrong. Many people find it very challenging to admit something like that.
Denis, the nuns belong to the Children of Mary, which has a good informative website. As for the pity voting, maybe it’s just me, but that all sounds like extreme desperation…
Panda, exactly. Nobody’s cut off from access to spiritual realities unless they choose to be, and every tradition has its truths.
Ecosophian, a case could be made!
Patricia M, that’ll do it! The operation I’ve heard recommended is a proctoplexiotomy, which involves putting a pane of plexiglass in the belly so someone who suffers from a case of craniorectal insertion can see out…
Peter, fascinating. I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s comment that when he left home, he thought that his father was the biggest fool in the world; ten years later, it astonished him how smart the old man had somehow gotten in the interval… 😉
Jam, I read your comment twice and didn’t find the question. Any help would be welcome.
Bridge, it’s going to be a popcorn night on the grand scale:
Emmanuel, you know, I’m sure I never saw the two of them in the same place… 😉
Steve, that’s a great example.
_Someone_ will be eating popcorn once the election is over; and someone else will be salting it with their tears; but who? A good way to become the salt-er is to expect to become the salt-ee. Worse still to welcome the weeping. Bad karma.
Good karma is compassion for those in grief. Maybe we will all be weeping. That too is a possibility not prudently dismissed.
Patricia Mathews: The tax flow from blue states to red states was instituted in the Progressive Era, as a counterbalance to the corporate money-flow from red states to blue. There was a Nash cartoon showing an enormous cow, with its mouth in the Midwest and its udder in New York City.
Curious, then, how red-state welfare dependents resent government and admire corporations, while blue-state wage-slaves resent corporations and admire government. Familiarity breeds contempt, perhaps? Or maybe the people know that the gummint man and the corporado are buying something with all that money, something that the people would rather not sell.
“because he’d spent his entire life insisting that gods, afterlives, et al. do not exist, and now he’s got to deal with the fact that he’s wrong. Many people find it very challenging to admit something like that.”
In “The Magus of Strovolos”, the Greek mystic Davalos asserted that the afterlife was full of atheists who simply refused to admit that they were dead.
@ Violet, JMG, and the commentariat generally
I just wanted to express my appreciation for everyone here, as well as, of course, our host who makes this space possible. We have the most fascinating discussions, many involving extremely sensitive and potentially volatile topics, but we generally manage to do so in a manner which comes very close to my personal ideal of passionate yet respectful discourse. It is such a rare thing in this day and age and while I realize I’ve expressed this sentiment before, I don’t know that it can be said too often: thank you, all of you.
I recall having read somewhere that Tolkien was once asked if his trilogy could be seen as an allegory of WWII, with you-know-who as Mordor. He responded tartly something to the effect that, if he’d intended to do that, Sauron would’ve recovered his ring, Saruman would’ve found a way to make one of his own, and the ensuing battle would’ve laid waste to all the middle earth eradicating hobbits completely. Also, Tolkien did not entirely “externalize” evil, or as Gandolf put it, “Nothing was evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.”
I’m much less familiar with the other shadows JMG has brought up, although I have read a bit of Hess. I will say, however, that I do not think that most of the political polarization we’re seeing here in the USA has arisen spontaneously within the populace. Particularly on the so-called right, it has been deliberately fomented by a relatively small number of libertarian (shall we call them) billionaires who are determined to keep the populace from getting together and passing laws that might in any way restrict their “freedom” (aka future earnings). The social psychologists they’ve hired to help them craft their stories are probably quite familiar with Carl Jung, however.
After Lord of the Rings Tolkien planned to write a book. But chose not to. Alot of that is great and noble about Man as he was originally in that Universe. After the defeat of Sauron has degraded so much that Tolkien gave up writing about the state of Man at that point.
Only at the End of Days. Dagor Dagorath did he bother to pen. With Melkor and his minions making a last appearance.
And the Valar themselves participating in the Final Battle akin to Ragnarok. All the Heroes of all Ages summoned to fight the great Evil one last time. And prevailing.
Before Eru causes the Universe to pass away and a new and more majestic music being made to create a far better Arda with the participation of Mankind this time around.
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