Do this Thing for Me

Do this Thing for Me (the idea of the last request)

            When I almost died last summer, my thoughts were entirely for my spouse. In a deliberate manner, my final request to her was that she carry on, take up her promotion in a new city, and move there with or without me. She assented to this demand, for that is what it was in the end, and only later, given my survival, did I realize that this had constituted my last request. I had no thought for myself or my own ‘fate’, and had been compelled to come to terms with my existence as lived. Never necessarily a pretty sight, nevertheless, one feels in turn a demand that the arc of life imposes upon each of us; life has itself of us a last request.

            Famous or no, the idea of ‘last words’ is an intriguing one, implying a number of related assumptions. Mostly this is taken to mean that after death, one can no longer issue ‘earthly’ requests or demands, commands or beggary; all are now abruptly moot. But it might also imply that there is no afterlife at all, and one’s final requests are indeed final for one’s consciousness entire, and not merely its passing embodiment. But if indeed an afterlife is held to be at least a possibility, the phrase itself might also suggest that once present ‘in’ this other realm of being, no further requests can be made of anyone or anything. And cross-cultural ideas of paradise, first arising in the archaic agrarian period and coming to a discursive end with the Enlightenment and the beginning of our own time, do tend to vouchsafe this third interpretation; that once in heaven there are allowed no further demands simply because none are necessary.

            Our shared world is of course very different from such a communitarian ideal. In the here and now, the ‘by and by’ of higher worlds and altered forms of being occurs rarely. In wage-labor societies, retirement, if possible at all, can be seen as a dress-rehearsal for a further life in paradise. Recused from work, all such demands issued by or upon me have now also been removed. Most direct obligations are, for those advanced in age, absent. Children are long grown and out of the premises, one’s own predecessors are already dead, and grandchildren, if present, provide no serious burden, at least in the folklore of the family, as ultimately, they are not my kids, not my problem. One’s failing health does present new challenges, issue new demands upon us, pending our druthers regarding quality of life and longevity, but this is seen as part of the ultimate democracy of species-essence, a signage of the fuller presence of finitude and a sign of oncoming finiteness. For Dasein, nearing its second solstice, mine ownmost death may be of growing concern, and even though yet abstract, yet I find that this unknown moment with its unknowable outcome can speak to me ‘ahead of time’, as it were, and thus as well ahead of its time.

            I was not at all ready to die at age 58, with my wife just turned 40. To be a widow at that age seemed ludicrous, absurd, and even tragic, not that I was ever the hero I so planned to be. But such an experience, my first brush with death since I was 32 – then still too young to understand it as an ‘event’, or believe in its irruptive non-presence – gave me a fresh perspective on what it meant to live on in the day to day. At first, this kind of reaction can be summarily rejected as trite, yet upon a more patient examination, I found myself comparing the days I live now with those deemed as final. The contrast is stark, those few days staring at me with vacant sockets into which no corrective tool will fit. Indeed, the empty skull of inward cast, casts rather a wrench into one’s future plans, as it were. These days, now back to their indefinite and even repetitive status, pull one back from the precipice only to land one in a uniform meadow of mostly grass. The villains of the day, weeds them all, or the heroines, beautiful flowers ever in Spring, are both unlikely and indeed, might the both even be welcome for their very rarity. The key to the day-to-day is, however, its absence of any ultimate demand, any last requests.

            There are other rehearsals, other practices, a goodnight kiss as surrogate mortuary ritual, a ‘now I lay me down to sleep’ a child’s shield against death’s subito, possible, if highly unlikely, even for the young. The habits are worn, with intent, not to pretend that life is itself, and as already stated, immortal and in touch with infinite doings all on its own, but rather as part of the ongoing if mostly tacit acknowledgement that we are present only insofar as we are unaware of our coming absence, to borrow from Gadamer. This odd awareness-of-being-unaware could be seen as the basic motive of life itself, akin to an instinct perhaps, or at least, a necessary evolutionary development that cloaks, with a Promethean proprioception and profundity, a consciousness intelligent enough to become all too aware of its finite character. It is well known that in one’s final days, all plans must be abandoned, given over to one’s successors, however indirectly, and thus the very idea of a singular future begins to slip away. It is an error of culture to conflate this personal future, which must end at some point, with the wider conception of the future, which is part of the being-aheadedness of Dasein and as such is an existential fact.

            And yet, in flirting with disaster at many a turn, from warfare to climate to plague to dictatorship, our global society seems to desire more realism in its theatre than the drama of human history can allow; that is, if history is itself to continue. The feigning of death might be referred to as a kind of ‘hyperdrama’, at once hyperbole in its mockery of finitude, hypostasy in its attempt to short-circuit finiteness. It certainly retains the human drama while at the same time aspiring toward the dramatis deus of the epic or the mythical. This rhetorical presence of the larger-than-life brought into the ever-worldly sphere of human doings does us, however, a disservice. For human life cannot be larger than itself. This is another perspective which is presented by the ‘near death’ experience: that we should live on, if we will in fact do so, with less of a demand upon the very day given to us; serially, consecutively, but not automatically, not perpetually. This experienced ethic can also be applied to a number of other ‘sacred’ aspects of social life where we tend to hyperbolize our demands in the day to day, giving others a sense that we are always already euthanizing ourselves as leverage to simply attain our desires.

            This is the entanglement of manipulation; how much can I get away with because I am either ill, close to death or dying, or worse, returned from a premature burial by chance and timely health care? It is worse that curiosity or tarrying along, for its malingering quality entangles others in a skein of fraudulent theatre. By this I simply mean that the drama of existence is never actually lived larger than its quotidian demands. There are no last requests in the mundane sphere, in which the vast bulk of life is lived and within which we ourselves humanly dwell. And thus, there are no final expectations of the other to be possessed. I give the other her chance but she must take it up; it is only a gift and nothing more. But in the last request, made upon a closing-off of Dasein’s daily rounds, the sense of expectation becomes more like an anticipation; that one can be confident that the other will acceded to my demand, whatever it might be. The leverage of dying is applied to living in a moment of dramatic presence which touches upon the mythic. Just as sleep is the brother of death, so too my last request is the sibling of my now absent presence. The corpse displays by a lurid twilight the corpus of its past life, acting now only as a memento mori to the final demand which its just then living breath issued forth.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 60 books in ethics, education, aesthetics, religion, social theory and health, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

Ethics and Personhood

Ethics and Personhood: ‘you can’t have one without the other’

            There is an agentive aspect to making the distinction between a morality and an ethics. Yet just here we are already relativists, for morality was never simply one of many, but rather ‘the’ only game in town. Even the recognizance, found in the Hebrew scriptures, that there are in fact other gods – just don’t worship them – presupposes in an essential manner that one’s own morality is at the very least superior to those of the others. So, to speak of ‘a’ morality, one amongst many, is to engage an historical sensibility utterly absent during the actual epochs when morals themselves were in the ascendancy. Then, morality could command because the one upon whom it made its demands was not a fully individuated person in the contemporary sense. The shalt and shalt not of a moral code impinged not upon agency per se but rather upon one’s sanity, if saneness is thought of in the sociological sense of fully understanding what is customary.

            For the Greeks, the ‘moron’ was the one who resisted custom; mores, traditions, rituals and the like, or was akin to a child who simply did not yet understand them and thus one’s duties towards same. And though it seems somewhat amusing that the one who went against the fates was none other than the ‘hyper-moron’, for our purposes we can borrow from the pithy pop lyricist Neil Peart and reiterate with him that for us today, ‘fate is just the weight of circumstances’. Just so, circumstance for any pre-modern human being could be conceived as fate simply because of the singular presence of morality. Bereft of competition, moral principles could very well give the impression that they were good for all times and places, to the point of convincing the would-be moralist that any sane human being would hold to them. I say ‘would-be’, because though moralizing always seems to be in fashion – demarcating the fine line between righteousness and self-righteousness – to actually be a moralist one requires at least some comparative data.

            It was just this that was missing in premodern social organizations, no matter their ‘level’ of cultural complexity. It is not a coincidence that our first serious stab at ethics occurred in the cosmopolitan settings of the Alexandrian Empire. It is well known that Aristotle’s attempt to disengage ethics from metaphysics didn’t quite work, not due to the person-friendly ideas therein – his conception of friendship is still basically our own; the most noble form of love – but due rather to the lack of persons themselves. Even so, the abruptly multicultural scenes of a relatively impartial imperialism forced upon the customary the customs of the others, unheard of, alien, eye-opening. It was the beginning of perspective in the more radical, experiential sense of the term. And the origin of recognizing that one’s culture was simply one of many also prompted the incipience of imagining the possibility that a single human being might just have a slightly different understanding of ‘his’ customs than did his intimate neighbor.

            Yet this too is an abstraction. While the history of ideas presents a far more choate brevis, the Socratic citizen which gains a worldly consciousness, the Pauline persona for which each step crosses a limen between history and destiny, the Augustinian subject which redeems itself and thus adds a self-consciousness – one is responsible for one’s own past, history is also and suddenly biography – and thence fast-forwarding through Machiavelli, Hobbes and Locke, the process of individuation greatly augmented until the 18th century wherein we first hear of the authentic individual, the Enlightenment’s fabled ‘sovereign selfhood’. It is here, belatedly, that the ‘which’ becomes a ‘who’.

            In literary reflection, the mythic hero which is only begrudgingly human, and then only for a brief period of existence, is gradually transmuted to the person who acts heroically and thence often also dies a human death. Between the hero and the person lies the saint. Between mythology and biography there is hagiography. And while the self-styled heroic author may sometimes engage in autohagiography – Crowley is perhaps an exemplar of self-satire to this regard, though the reader is led both ways there – in general modern literature casts very much human beings into human crises. We have to turn to epic fantasy to attain the echo of the mythic, but in so doing, we also in general cast aside our shared humanity. I resist here the opportunity to provide an alternative to this lot. In any case, it is mortality rather than mere morality that retains its own de profundis in the face of anonymous social relations and mass society.

            The Socratic citizen is lesser in distancing himself from the ‘examined life’. This early Selbstverstandnis has elements of an ethics about it; the idea of virtue, the sense that one should think for oneself over against institutions and customs alike, the weighing of one’s experience in contrast to received wisdom, the questioning of authority. But I feel that it also instrumentalizes youth, seeks the vigor of the question only to enthrall it to the rigor of the argument. Inasmuch as it ‘corrupts’, it also uses youth for its own purposes. In this it feels more like a mission than a mere mission statement. Similarly, the Pauline pilgrim; one is individuated in the face of a transcendental judgment by which the mythic re-enters history through the back door, as it were. The more radical ‘you have heard it said, but…’ is muted by the sense that the objection to history is both final and ahistorical. It vaults the apodeictic into a kind of aphasia, wherein language itself is lost to Logos just as history is lost to Time. That this inability to give voice to one’s own experience is made singular through the redemption or damnation of the soul only underscores the absence of ethics in this kind of liminal spatiality. With Augustine, we are presented with a morality under the guise of an ethics. Self-consciousness is the basis for a redemptive strike; picketing sin in the knowing manner of the one who has sinned but then has broken good, for the good, and for good, in judging the self and finding it wanting. But this is a narrow understanding of the self as its subjectivity is limited to an auto-moralizing; in a word, the subject is subjected to itself.

            In this self-conscious subjection, I appear before myself as a shadow, awaiting the completion and uplifting of secular being through the death of sin. The world is itself the untended garden, its overgrown paths serpentine and thus leading one on but never out. I dwell in this undergrowth as my soul dwelleth only in the shadow of Being. There is no way in which a holistic and authentic selfhood can germinate here. For this, we have to wait for the being-ahead of the will to life to overtake the nostalgic desire for either childhood or death itself. Both are impersonal events, abstracted into Edenic paradise on the one hand, the paradise of the firmament on the other. Only in our own time does our childhood become our own – if only for a moment given the forces of socialization and marketing, schooling and State – and as well do we, if we are resolute, face our ownmost deaths, the ‘death which is mine own’ and can only mean the completion of my being. It is the happenstance of birth, the wonder of the child, the revolution of youth, the Phronesis of mature adulthood, and the singular ownmost of death, which altogether makes the modern individual a person.

            Given this, the history of ethics as a series of truncated attempts to present agency and responsibility over against ritual and duty – and in this, we should never understand Antigone as representing an ethics; her dilemma lies between conflicting duties and customs, not between a morality and an ethics – comes to its own self-understanding in the person-in-the-world. In doing so, it recapitulates its own history but one now lensed through a ‘completed’ ethics; self-reflection seems Socratic, anxiety has its Pauline mood, resoluteness one Augustinian, being-ahead its evolutionary futurism, and its confrontation with tradition its messianic medium. The presence of key moments of the history of ethics geared into our interiority – we use the term ‘conscience’ for this odd amalgamation of quite different, if related, cultural phenomena – allows us to live as if we were historical beings cast in the setting of timeless epic. Though we no longer write myth – at most, the new mythology is demythology – we are yet able to be moved by it, think it larger than life, imagine ourselves as mortal heroes. The formula for this Erlebnis-seeking is pat enough: the rebellious youth takes her show on the road, discovering along the way that some key elements of what she disdained are in fact her tacit allies; trust, faith, and love. In coming of age as a person, our heroine gains for herself an ethics, differing from the received but suffocating morality of the family compact, deferring the perceived but sanctimonious mores of the social contract. If her quest is to reevaluate all values, her destiny is to return to at least a few of them after being otherwise. The new ethics she presents to the world after conquering her own moralizing mountain is simply the action in the world obverse to her own act of being in that selfsame world.

            This is the contemporary myth, our own adventure and not that of our ancestors, however antique. Its heroes are fully human but indeed only demonstrate this by overcoming the dehumanizing effects of anonymity and abstraction the both. In short, today’s epic hero becomes human, and indeed this is her entire mission. Everyone her own messiah? Perhaps not quite that, not yet. For the godhead forced upon the youth, even though not her own, confronts her with the idea that there could be something more to life than what meets the shuttered eye. In its very parochiality, the heroine is made witness to the possibility that her world is but a shadow of the Being-of-the-world itself. It is in this realization that the adventure begins and the young halfling of a person, beset by market personas and upset by parental identities, strikes out with all of her ‘passions unabated’, as well as all of her ‘strength of hatred’, in order to gain the revolution all youth must gain. The very presence of this literary formula in media today at the very least cuts both ways; at once it is a surrogate for the real fight in which youth must engage, and thus presents a decoy and a distraction therefrom, but perhaps it also exemplifies and immortalizes that same fight, inspiring youth to take up its visionary sword and slice through the uncanny knot that shrouds our future being and history alike. If so, then with personhood comes also ethics; an agency in the world that acts as no one has ever acted heretofore. If so, then the most profound wisdom that we can offer our youth is the sensibility that what we are must not, and never, be repeated.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 56 books in ethics, education, aesthetics, health and social theory, as well as metaphysical adventure fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

Truthful Fiction, Fictional Truth

Truthful Fiction, Fictional Truth

            World Game, the ruling force, blends false and true.

            The ever-eternally fooling force, blends us in, too. – Nietzsche

            A god now made an animal does not suggest forbearance. In our resentment, we thus resent the truth; happenstance and death. But in our enduring creativity, we do not merely suppress this state of affairs, at its most base, the ‘human condition’, but imagine attaining a novel godhead. This striving for a new divinity is the source of not only the historical religious world systems, but of all imaginative works of the human consciousness. Its fictional content belies its truthful form.

            Let us take a famous macrocosmic example, oft repeated in the microcosm of the human relations. In ‘Acts’, it is related that not only has the dialectic of tradition and revolution been uplifted in and into the ‘Holy Spirit’ – a synthetic conception of the thetic ‘old God of morals’ and its antithesis, the ethical God on earth – but that this new force has generalized the original thesis to apply to all human beings. The Gentiles are also saved or at least, savable. For the first time, at Antioch, the term ‘Christian’ is applied to this new community of believers, some few years before Paul’s letters to the Galatians and thus about 15 years after the Crucifixion. Though this is not the first time such a dialectic which blends fantasy and reality appears in the history of religion, it does represent the advent in the West of the utter democracy of divinity and the equally infinite goodness of grace. The fact that this is new is oddly and even ironically underscored by the fiction that it was forecast in the tradition.

            In the bourgeois marriage, the thesis of the man runs headlong into the antithesis of the woman, generating a synthesis in the child. The child is neither and yet is also both. Its fact is its novel existence, brought about by the Aufheben of conjugality. Its fiction is that it ‘belongs’ to the parents, but in all creative work, including the birth and socialization of a child, an equal element of fantasy must be in play. For to only acknowledge the factual conditions of mortality and finiteness, of difference and uniqueness, would be to put the kibosh on trying to do any of that creative work at all. It would place us as species-being back in a pre-Promethean landscape of shadow and even terror. But there is also no lack of danger in the means by which we give a future to ourselves. In both macrocosm and microcosm the same risk thus presents itself: what if the fiction overtakes the truth?

            If so, in the first, we have religion instead of faith, mere belief without enlightenment; and in the second, we conjure only loyalty in place of trust, fear instead of respect. So if it is truly said that humans cannot live by truth alone, neither can we completely abjure it. The material conditions of human life, the ‘bread’, is by itself not sufficient to become fully human. The ‘faith’, imagination, creativity, fantasy, fiction, is what not only fulfills our desires in some analytic sense, but also completes our being in that existential.

            What then is ‘truthful fiction’, or ‘fictional truth’? I don’t think we can entirely make them discrete. Myth is accepted as nothing but fiction, and yet it contains elements of truth, not only about the human character, however hypostasized, but also about the cosmogonical aspects of our shared world. Myth responds to the perduring and sometimes perplexing duet of questions that challenge us through our very presence in the world; how has the world come to be, and how have I come to be in that selfsame world? Mythic fantasy supplies us with an autobiography writ larger than life. It is not to be read as either history or as a ‘mere’ tall tale, but is rather that synthetic form which uplifts and conserves all that is of value in both the thesis of fact and the antithesis of fiction. It is very much then a ‘truthful fiction’, and, looking at ourselves in its refracted but not distorted glass, its function and its form as well come together for us in an almost miraculous mirror.

            Contrast this with the meticulous mirror of nature that is provided human consciousness by science. If myth is our shared ‘truthful fiction’, then I will suggest here that its iconoclastic child, science, is our equally collective ‘fictional truth’. Historically, science was the synthesis of myth and life, of imagination and experience. It too is thus a dialectical form, even a syncretistic one. Its truth is well-known: the only consistent and logical understanding of nature that we humans have at our current disposal. But its fiction is that it has completely vanquished the imagination, not so much from the source of its questions, but rather from its methods, and particularly from its results. It is a myth, for example, that the cosmology of science is not also epic myth. It is a fiction that science overtakes the fictional to maintain its human interest. Like the God that entered history, suspending for all time and for all comers the sense that divinity by definition is a distant and alien thing, the idea that science exits that same history is equally a fantasy. For science, like myth, is a wholly human production and thus relies as much upon our imagination and ingenuity throughout its process, from question through method to result and thence explanation. It is especially evident that in scientific explanation, there is a concerted and historically consistent effort to efface all traces of mythic sense, replacing them with a hard-nosed experiential sensibility. The fact that even evangelical educational rehabilitation centers targeting youth advertise only ‘evidence-based’ therapies – whatever other more dubious practices may be present therein – is but one example of the astonishing success the fiction of science has generated for itself.

            Just so, if it were not for the fact that ‘fictional truth’ is so available for even the non-believer to utilize should remind us of nothing other than the soteriological generalization recounted in ‘Acts’. Authors who have written in the history of science, especially those who speak of its origins and its early development, from the Miletian School to the Copernican Revolution and onwards, are, in part, repeating the act of cosmogony, of Genesis, and within these actions, the process of the dialectic. This is not to say that there is, or can be, nothing new in the world. The synthetic term, the apex of the dialectical triangle, is justifiably seen as a novel form, performing a hybrid function; at once reminding us of reality while providing the means for a being defined by its finiteness to live on in its face.

            Thus we should not regard the sometimes annoying, even disturbing, blend of fiction and truth as an impediment to the greater experience of life or even to the lesser knowledge of that life as experienced. The ‘world game’ is assuredly afoot, its mystery far outstripping any detective adventure born of and thence borne on the imagination alone. That ‘we too’ are part of its yet mysterious mix, its blithe blending of our beings into both a history of acts which are not our own and a biography which very much is, however much we sometimes attempt to avoid its action, is, in the end, the most blessed of gifts that any divine animal could imagine for itself.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of 55 books in ethics, religion, education, aesthetics health and social theory, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

An Interpolation of Jungian Archetypes

An Interpolation of Jungian Archetypes

            The model of genesis in modernity is contained in the relationship between genotype and phenotype. The former is Godhead, the latter humankind. In all such patterns, something innate makes itself known through indirect expressions of spirit into world, form into content. This is known as ‘manifesting’ and the object to which the spirit tends or has contrived, as a ‘manifestation’. Though the very idea of innateness may seem archaic, it is at least clear enough that consciousness has its seat in a complex neural architecture no longer so much automatically endowed with faithful reason but rather to be imbued with a reasonable faith.

            Faith in itself, for one. For Jung, our connection with the wellspring of human expression cross-culturally and universally to be found amongst individual persons hailing from every such known culture, can be traced backward, as it were, from the manifestations of archetypical conceptions of essential life and its utter limits to what he referred to as the ‘collective unconscious’. This is a different understanding than say, Durkheim had, of what could constitute shared being in the world. Durkheim’s ‘conscience collectif’ was something only innate due to the internalization of purely social forms in childhood. Its expression was moral indignation – though not, it should be noted in our days of feigned anxiety, moral panic – and its archetype was society alone, or rather the ‘ideal society’, to borrow from Santayana. In this singular ideal, the individual found herself trending upward and outward, so that her inevitably and originally small-statured person became enlarged with the life of the world itself.

            But our relationship to the collective unconscious is not as clearly defined. As with his mentor, Jung saw in both dream and myth the recurring clues to what must be something both potent and patent to the human soul. Whereas Freud looked to the trauma of birth and growth for the key to these expressions, Jung instead found in them a different kind of imagery, that of the archetypes. These are abstracted and stylized figures and forces that cleave well to Weber’s ideal types analysis, worked out during the same time period as Jung’s archetypes. Famous examples of Jung’s figural archetypes include the mother, the child, and the Syzygy and Shadow. The yet more abstract archetypical concepts, something one could refer to as ‘ideations’, include the flood as well as his famous anima and animus. I am going to choose four of the most salient archetypes to modernity in terms of its relationship to pre-modern myth and interpolate between each cardinal direction based on Jung’s ‘mandala of modern man’ (frontispiece for his 1959). But I will not be limited by his specific understanding of the relations amongst the archetypes. Instead, I will propose that for each set of archetypes there are hybrid figures which ‘occupy’ the spaces in between the cardinal points; half-way beings that are made up of aspects of both of the more basic archetypes that themselves occupy the diagrammatical spaces on either side of them.

            Though it took Jung four decades to completely work out his understanding of the innate ordering of essential human consciousness, his 1919 conception yet rings true as a basis upon which we can magnify the myriad expressions of cultural life that seem to uncannily hold together within our shared beliefs and even in our popular entertainment. It is commonplace, for instance, to read of digital media narrative being based upon archetypes such as the hero or the warrior. If one shrinks away from such realities and accuses his fellow human of a basic lack of imagination, that same one must recall to herself that for Jung, at least, our imagination is itself based upon the dynamic presence of the archetypes and their ability to be expressed ‘phenotypically’. We can pause just here, of course, to ask the immediately docketed question, ‘is it the case then that in order for humanity to mature further our set of archetypes must be altered or even abandoned altogether?’ Certainly there have been enough more recent critiques of Jung’s understanding – the most obvious being the stereotypes of gender to be found within it (but then again, are these not the realities of historical expression that are themselves to a certain extent predetermined but are by no means instinctual or ’natural’, by the dynamo of the collective unconscious?) – to issue a reasonably well defined caveat. In terms of gender, since this is itself a most fluid conception, Jung’s prefigurations adapt, I think, quite well. After all, we note the presence of female warriors throughout known history, as well as male nurturer figures. That the balance of these archetypes are represented by varying degrees of genderedness is a tendency alone, and not an essentiality. I hope my interpolations will underscore this sensibility.

            Let us first take four well known archetypes in their cardinal dyads, Mother-Warrior and Syzygy-Shadow. Figure ‘a’:

                                                Syzygy (all genders)

Warrior (masculine)                        EGO                                                 Mother (feminine)

                                                Shadow (no gender)

            Ego occupies the very center of the diagram just as it does for the mandala. We can now see how, in each quarter or corner of the proposed circle, there is a space which is occupied by a combination of the two closest archetypes already present. Filling them in with the most obvious hybrids, figure ‘a’ generates the following. Figure ‘b’:


            Visionary (moderate)                                   Nurturer (intimate)

Warrior                                                      EGO                                                    Mother

            Adventurer (immoderate)                           Disciplinarian (distanced)


            As with the original four archetypes, the hybrids are situated in opposition to one another, both within the ambit of traditional gender dominance and across it. Now it is time to detail within each of the conceptions their specific and essential characteristics, beginning with the top of the diagram or stylized mandala and ending at the bottom, travelling left to right.

            Syzygy: This is Jung’s own hybrid being. In its original conception it holds within it both male and female but we can update this with a more contemporary sensibility that simply says that this archetype includes all possible genders and does not make any discrimination amongst them, whatever their total number may be. In that Jung is careful to note that his archetypes, unlike say, Plato’s ‘ideas’, are essentially dynamic – we may then ask after what they are responding to, and kindred with the dynamic between the moral and the historical, the ideal and the real, we could very well answer ‘society’ itself – it is not a logical stretch to extend and refigure the Syzygy, the ‘conjoined being’, as containing multitudes in the same manner as we shall see that each elemental archetype is more abstract than their hybrids. Along with its being, each archetype has a simple mantra. In this case, the Syzygy passionately declares its love for each and all. ‘I will love you’ is thus its fail-safe and essential Ursprachlichkeit. Hence the authentic lover, unbiased regarding form or content, is a Syzygy. Its opposite is the Shadow, the being of no gender and possessed by the absence of love given its premonitory stance towards death itself.

            Visionary: A blend of Warrior and Syzygy, the visionary being tends toward the masculinity – though not the maleness per se; recall that women and men, in Jung, each have strong traits of the ‘opposite’ gender even if one often is predominant – but is not compelled to manifest this orientation in its vocation. The visionary is the active and activated lover. It is not content to love the world as is, nor those within it. It rather seeks both a higher love and a transformed world. The artist and the philosopher are visionaries. We will see that its opposites are, as the diagram declares, both the Adventurer and the Disciplinarian, the one due to its very indiscipline – which also makes it the opposite of the other opposite, as it were – and the other in its defense of the world-as-it-is. The visionary’s mantra is ‘I will change you’. In this, it states with unction both its purpose and its goal, and the fact that along with the world, I myself as I now am is not either what I could, or yet should, become.

            Warrior: This is the quintessential masculine archetype. It, like the Visionary, is outward facing, away from Ego, since its primordial duty is to defend it against external attack. It’s mantra is ‘I will protect you’ and thus it leaves the internal workings of Ego to other figures and forces, specifically the Mother and its ‘feminine’ hybrids. The Warrior is likely the most commonplace and cliché hero, so much so that indeed heroism has been defined in certain phases of cultural development as courage in combat alone. Yet the definition of what may constitute combat is rarely so single-minded. Coming to one’s own defense, as an expression of the Warrior archetype, involves reason and rationality as well as bravery and indefatigability. It also may entail vision or a sense of adventure as well as maintaining a faith, ultimately in oneself. Thus the worker and the officer of the peace are Warrior types, as well as of course the soldier. Though the Warrior’s opposite is the Mother, both are charged with the same duty to Ego, it is just that the former extends this duty outward and the latter inward.

            Adventurer: The contemporary home of ‘toxic masculinity’, the Adventurer is, even so, not always self-aggrandizing and self-serving. It does have the tendency to exhibit Ego’s most outwardly niggardly traits, such as hedonism and narcissism. The pirate and the politician are alike adventurers, for they live for the day and their goal is status and repute. Both positive and negative attention serve equally well in this quest, and indeed, the very ignobility of the Adventurer’s questing places it in direct contrast with that of the Visionary’s. Its other opposite, the Nurturer, places compassion foremost, whereas the Adventurer idealizes passion alone. Yet its base desires framed by basic passions drive the Adventurer also to new worlds, as the Visionary is also driven, but these worlds are more simply heretofore undiscovered rather than inexistent. In a word, Ego’s outwardness is given both worldly and rootsy form through the Adventurer archetype. ‘I will desire you’ is thus its mantra.

            Shadow: Traditionally understood as the dark undersoul of humanity, one’s Shadow figure perhaps has gained a bad rap and rep alike. It is reasonable to say that though the Shadow, in its genderless and distanciated state, is the most challenging archetypical aspect of selfhood, it also represents the most basic perspective on our shared existence. Just as the Syzygy calls us to the transcendental through the love of another and ultimately, the love of all, so the Shadow reminds us of our mortal limits. Both are existential figures and they are, in this, obvious opposites. In love, human existence reaches its nadir, in death its lowest point; indeed, its completion of being in itself, whereas the Syzygy demands that we lose our being in the presence of the other. In an additional opposition, Ego loses itself in love only to another human other, but in death, it loses itself to the Other as otherness itself. The Shadow is expressed in the criminal, specifically the murderer, but also in the dictator and perhaps as well in the melancholic. If the Syzygy knows nothing but affirmation, the Shadow understands nothing but denial. So its mantra is ‘I will doubt you’; not only is my existence placed in doubt because of its mortal limit, but also each of my decisions, future-directed as they are, can be called into doubt given that, as Gadamer has eloquently put it, ‘we can only be said to have a future as long as we are unaware that we have no future’.

            Disciplinarian: This is the rule-enforcer and the defender of the normative. It is the opposite of both the Visionary, who seeks to overturn all norms and social forms, and the Adventurer, who transgresses the one and flouts the other at will and for its own device. ‘I will guide you’ is the Disciplinarian’s mantra, and like the Shadow, of which it is half composed, such a statement belies its ultimate suasion. Guidance in this case may be reasonably taken for a limited vision, the very thing the Visionary is compelled to reject. Society as formed, culture as expressed, are the Disciplinarian’s own guideposts. All authoritarians and others who are charged with reproducing society – teachers, pastors, judges, and mentors in athletics specifically – take the form of expressions of the Disciplinarian. Reproduction of the already created is the ultimate goal and duty of this archetype, as opposed to the creation the new itself in the Visionary, or the mere seeking of the novel in the Adventurer. Yet the Disciplinarian is not after all the Shadow alone, it is also composed of the Mother. So in its strict heeding of the rules and their enforcement upon Ego, it is also called to the duty of basic care. And it remains the case, no matter what genius which youth possesses, that in order to overcome something we first must understand in the greatest detail what that something is.

            Mother: One of Jung’s most famous archetypes, the Mother figure is traditionally understood to be quintessentially feminine, though once again, not necessarily female in its worldly representation. The Mother’s mantra  ‘I will care for you’, includes both the guidance of the more authoritarian oriented Disciplinarian as well as the development which, as we will immediately see, is embodied in the Nurturer. Thus the Mother figure is of the same rank as the Warrior, only taking care of the inward looking aspect of Ego rather than protecting it against forces emanating from elsewhere. In this primordial vocation, we discover the ‘care of the self’, so historically lit by Foucault, for one. The social worker or even the prostitute are examples of this archetype’s material expression. Its form of love is concernful being, and thus it expresses in its manifest duties one of Dasein’s ownmost essentialities. Ego’s very ability to exert care about its world comes from its own auto-maternal ‘instinct’. Though in opposition to the Warrior in terms of the spatiality over which it exerts its care and protection, the Mother archetype remains the ‘warrior of Ego’s inner world’, so to speak, and hence the Bourgeois contraption of placing the real-time mother as both architect and defender of the Domus.

            Nurturer: Finally, the last of the hybrid archetypes, which in this case combines the care of the Mother with the love of the Syzygy. Its mantra, ‘I will develop you’ nods in the latter’s direction by acknowledging that the love of another alters and grows our own being as Ego, and indeed one can reasonably suggest that only through the radical departure from ourselves that love requires of us on the intimate plane do we in fact develop the wider care for others and for the world around us. The Nurturer is aware of this demand and seeks to prepare Ego for its advent. For before falling in love in the passionate  and shameless grace of lovers as seeking a unified and genderless being, Ego must come to understand the compassion required to recognize that an other has both desires and needs which I might thence fulfill. It is the task of the Nurturer to engender this understanding, trending away from the purely inner care that the Mother so engenders. The artistic mentor or the friend in general are examples of the Nurturer archetype. The Nurturer’s opposites, the Visionary and the Adventurer, are both far too externally oriented to develop the compassion necessary to love other human beings instead of the abstracted world of visions and the all too passionate experiences of the one who only and always ventures forth. Even so, in its opposition, the Nurturer nevertheless prepares Ego for all worldly Erlebnisse, as well as forming the basic framework for the recognition of human suffering, which then the Visionary takes up as its call to arms.

            In sum then, each of the eight primary aspects of Ego in this new mandala of the modern person requires of us to stand centered and balanced and to not completely eschew any single figure, let alone be possessed by any one as well:

                                    Syzygy                        Loving of the other

                                    Visionary                    Changing of the world

                                    Warrior                      Protecting against the external

                                    Adventurer                Desiring of experience

                                    Shadow                      Doubting of existence

                                    Disciplinarian         Reproducing of what is

                                    Mother                       Caring for the inner life

                                    Nurturer                    Developing of compassion

            Taken together, these eight archetypes envelop Ego existentially as manifestations in cultural expression as well as essentially, as aspectual elements of Ego’s ‘primordial’ being-present. It is clear that amongst them, if all are called to as a set of balanced acts and thus as the outcome of a great variety and permutation of actions in the world at large and with and amongst others in that shared world, that Ego itself should not want for any ability and should be able to rise to any occasion, no matter the stringency of its demands. The task then for any psychological or even humanistic interlocutor is to help the patient access each of these archetypes and develop manners of expressing them. A common case in my own professional experience is the person who is attempting to leave a cult-like organization behind, replete as it is with authoritarian demands and highly structured role types. Here, Ego has suffered an absence of the Disciplinarian as well as the Visionary, opposites though they are but as in Jung, such dynamics can be imagined by envisioning arrowed lines between the relevant two figuresin each diagram that are then connected via the ‘Mysterium Coniunctionis’ which is also said to have created the Syzygy being. Hence this person has sought out, uncontrollably and with a violence toward the self, a cultural space in which both forms of demanding authority are consistently expressed. In so doing, of course, both the nobility of the authentic vision as well as the caring of the authentic rule-enforcer and reproducer are lost in the narcissism of the leader of such organizations, himself solely an adventurer at the cost of others’ autonomy and autochthony.  

            By now it should be understood that in each ‘case’, this or that Ego will be struck with an imbalance regarding these eight forces as anthropomorphized figures or cultural configurations, and it is the analyst’s duty to discover which imbalance is present and set about aiding the person in recovering that centeredness of being from which all human endeavors must begin.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of fifty-five books in ethics, education, social theory, health and aesthetics, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.