The Secret in Individuation
The hardest truth of individuation is living its demands in the world.
Universal symbols of individuation are critical in showing us a path and inspiring us with the strength to continue in our own way when the going gets rough. Jung’s own inspiration and guides for individuation were alchemy, an inner guide he called Philomen, Christian imagery, and also scientific images from physics and mathematics like the geometric images in Aion. At least this is what he wrote about. We are all ordinary men and women and so was Jung. We know that the ordinary issues were also perhaps most critical in his development, crises with money, with his patients, wife, mistresses, political intrigue, war, fame, and illness all played their part.
Tonight I especially want to tie together the symbolic and the ordinary in the process of individuation. Therefore I want to focus on an example directly from the heartland of ordinary human behavior, close to home, close to me. I will speak about a Jungian Institute in the United States which trains individual psychotherapist to be Jungian analysts and supports the institute members in their continuing education and development. I will describe how four Jungian analysts, competent, well thought of, priding themselves on their efforts toward their own personal and their analysands development, were linked in a situation of adultery, betrayed friendship, and unethical professional behavior, a situation which tested their self definition of individuation and ultimately tested their ability to make the necessary sacrifices for that ethos--living what they know or, in what will be our mantra for this talk, walking the walk rather than just talking the talk.
The example I will describe is an interaction between four individuals who belong to the same professional group and the same culture. The issues are controversial and complex. It is always easier to present one patient in this kind of talk. I have decided to stay with my quaternary for several reasons. First, patient material is very problematic in terms of confidentiality. Even if permission is gained, asking and presenting a patient changes the countertransferance and transference relationships. The example I use are not my patients and therefore there is no confidentiality break nor therapeutic re-alignment needed (although I will use different names for other reasons). Secondly since individuation in the fullest sense is always about development at the individual/collective boundary, individuation stories necessarily deal with the individual's struggles with ethical and moral issues at the collective level. Beware of single case histories that talk about individuation--they leave out too much: the best individuation stories are collective forms which express the human connection.
In this institute drama I will rename the characters Lancelot, Guinevere, Merlin and Galahad. Some of you may know how these four are linked in the Celtic myths of King Arthur’s Court and you will see some similarities in my characters and the ancient Celtic ones. Now at the beginning of collecting this material for this talk, I didn’t really see the similarities. They just seemed like good names for me to work with; they followed an interest I have in the Arthurian myths since childhood. But the more I used these mythic pseudonyms, the more I realized that my apparently random choice was more meaningful that I had suspected. The more I used them the more I understood the fairly ordinary story I will tell you as part of an archetypal landscape of love, betrayal and political strife the more I realized that my ordinary example is an ancient tale in modern dress. The deepest levels of the story I will tell were only available when I began to make the Arthurian connections. Renaming the characters in my example was like a good almost unconscious mythic interpretation which opens the door to many new avenues of thought and feeling. Using to the symbolic method helps us to see the unconscious underpinnings of the ordinary stuff of life. It redefines patient material and moves them into the individuation mode. This happened in the course of preparing this presentation and with it came a feeling of creativity in the work. This is a great gift and I thank you for attending. Of course my feeling of creativity is sometimes separate from being creative for you, my audience--only you can be the judge of that.
So as we talk about Lancelot and Guinevere I am talking about a real story but I am also talking about a myth from a distant land which has lasted in the collective conscious for 1000 years. Let yourself become confused between the two levels of the story the way you would when listening to a patient’s dreams and behavior as you try to find the archetypal and the individuating world that they (or you) are playing out.
The four analysts have their own life and are also like characters in a play. They represent four elements of a larger individuating system--the Jungian institute in this case just as the Queen, Wizards and Knights represent elements in a larger individuating system, The Round Table. As in all individuation stories, the moral dilemmas and the sacrifices that are at the heart of individuation take place in the interface between personal and collective. When individuation is in its final stage, the two--personal and collective development--are almost inseparable. Our story moves back and forth between the individual and collective context. Those of you who know my work with groups, summarized recently in my book Up from Scapegoating, will know that I believe in the fluidity of this boundary most evident when the boundary is in sacred space, when individuation is at stake. Since you all are interested in therapy listen to this story in terms of how you would work with these characters and the institutions to which they belong in order for each to move them further in their development.
I use Lancelot as the name for our Jungian analyst hero. He is tall, dark and handsome and very smart. He is a favorite analyst of many of the women candidates in the Institute. They come for his smarts, and also for his good looks. He is married to a woman whom he sometimes ignores. He seems more interested in his work. He is known to flirt with his patients and even be quite seductive at times, singing French and German lied songs and reciting poems to his favorite analysands, usually woman. But he is also proper, moralistic and even prissy. He makes pronouncement about his own purity and the need for purity in the community. Very much a Lancelot.
Queen Guinevere is our heroine. She is an advanced candidate in the Institute--beautiful, exotic and brilliant; worldlier than Lancelot though less experienced in the analytic world. She is known for her playful and fun loving ways sometimes at the expense of their consequences. She is married to a wealthy man who is also part of the same Jungian community.
Most of the community agrees that Lancelot and Gueneviere is a natural pair--handsome creative people. Thus it is no surprise when Gueneviere asked Lancelot to wear her prettiest ribbon, in Institute terms, to be her control analyst.
Both these individuals talk a great deal about individuation. Lancelot would say he is on that path; in fact he says it very often! Gueneviere wants to learn about it from him. Individuation is of course something of a fetish among Jungian analyst just as it was in the Round Table too. But Gueneviere takes the edgier part of the definitions more seriously than most. Feeling clear that Lancelot is on her path and that her sexual attraction for him is part of that path, she begins her work with Lancelot by announcing that she would like to sleep with him.
A word about Control Analysis. In this institute it is defined as a tailor-made alchemical mixture between analysis and supervision. Personal and patient material can be intermixed. The control analyst is however part of the training and initiation process--the analyst reports to the Certifying Committee about the candidate’s progress. In this context Guinevere’s request for sex was an intriguing one. Lancelot could have decided it was inappropriate to the task and not work with her. Or he could have felt it served her and her patients and training well. Apparently the latter was his choice and they begin to deal with the psychological issues around her request for a sexual relationship with him and what not unexpectedly turned out to be their mutual attraction.
For five years they work hard on this issue with much titillation, flirtation, talk--and much learning. During this time Lancelot befriends Gueneviere husband. Both couples become involved socially. Sexual fever and fantasy runs high between them. There is however no sexual contact between Gueneviere and Lancelot.
Soon after Guinevere’s certification and the end of their control work together, Lancelot calls Gueneviere and invites her for coffee. They have coffee and sexual play. In the course of some months the social contact continues and leads naturally to sexual relations which continue for several months.
The story is common enough and on the surface almost harmless in appearance. Both are mature individuals in their 40’s who are consenting adults. Lancelot waits until Gueneviere is out of his office and candidate status before approaching her. Still as you know Lancelot’s behavior violates professional boundaries. That too is common in the Institute at this time in its history. There are similar ethical violations that do come out in the open with major consequences. But this particular relationship is kept a secret and a secret kept over time adds to its individuating potential for the individuals and the community.
During the control analysis and affair. Gueneviere continues in her analysis with a senior Institute member who I will call Merlin. Lancelot has also been in analysis with Merlin and continues to consult with him from time to time. Merlin is the wise old man of the Institute, one of its founders, known for his dream interpretations. Like Merlin of old, our Merlin acts as a kind of consultant to the Institute. Also like the ancient Merlin he often does not hold his tongue about some of the things he hears in the privacy of his office. Now both Lancelot and Gueneviere have good reason to keep their affair a secret and they know that Merlin might inadvertently talk about it with others in their community. Both decide to keep their sexual relationship outside of analysis with Merlin.
Some time passes. The affair ends; something of the friendship remains. The secret remains intact. The situation looks static. But this affair was not fated for the dark cave. Guinevere’s interest and its fruition were in the context of her analysis and her candidacy initiation in the Institute. It had meaning beyond the casual intrigue. Lancelot’s violation also was not casual for he knew he was threatening his marriage, livelihood and his reputation and the community and professional ethics he espoused. Underground forces are at work. What showed up on the surface was the gradual demise of Guinevere’s marriage accelerated by another knight from the Institute.
Enter Gallahad. Lancelot and he are professional friends. Gallahad is separating from his wife and begins an affair with Gueneviere. (Here the story deviates slightly some from the Arthur myths for Gallahad was known for his total purity, immortalized by the poet Tennyson as saying “my strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure.” But hold and I think you will see why Gallahad sprang to my mind when I named the character.) Concomitantly, Lancelot increases the intensity of the friendship with Galahad advising him in the ins and outs of his relationship with Gueneviere. In fact, Lancelot becomes a constant presence in their new relationship. They come home to his voice on their answering machine. He calls frequently during the day. There are occasional social threesomes. During this period, neither Gueneviere nor Lancelot say anything about their past sexual relationship to Gallahad. The secret still binds the old lovers while the new love and new fear of discovery develops.
We are now well into the individuating pressures of the situation. New elements has been added: failing marriages, new loves.. The secret may not hold and the importance of the secret relationship, decreased in the conscious, increases compensatory at the unconscious edges of the group’s psyche. We can only guess at the upheaval in the inner landscape of each. Lancelot compulsive interest in the pair may reflect second thoughts about losing her; it may reflect a homosexual pairing with Gallahad echoing a similar pairing with Guinevere’s husband. Whatever else it is clear that Lancelot is keeping a very watchful eye on his explosive secret. Neither can Gueneviere remain in a static position. Adrift in her marriage, she can only be excited at the attention she is receiving from her past and present lover but she must also wonder when Galahad, who is no fool, will begin to question the situation. Can her new relationship weather telling him her secret? Will not telling him compromise the new relationship as it so often does in the masculine world of ambitious and jealous knights? Gallahad, consciously innocent, grows increasingly confused, then troubled by Lancelot’s intrusions. Instability is in the air.
Secrets are almost always a part of individuation stories. At the beginning having and holding them may facilitate the development and expansion of inner psychic space a subject I will address in greater depth throughout this weekend. But the value of a secret lies in its intent--does it serve the individuation task of the secret holders and their community? For there often comes a time when the secret may be counter-individuating--when it is held with an intent that has more to do with fear of discovery than personal and collective development. Obviously Lancelot and Guinevere’s well kept secret was changing in its meaning to the two ex-lovers. But neither of them was yet able to reflect enough about this to take a conscious, willful step toward changing it, a situation much like Lancelot’s and Guinevere’s procrastination until the soldiers of King Arthur were at the bedroom door, and also like Lancelot’s and his fellow Knight’s continued Grail quests even as Lancelot betrayed principles force failure after failure.
In the Arthurian cycle, Gallahad is Lancelot’s secret son. He redeems the Grail quest from its inertial corruption, the secret of Lancelot and Gueneviere high on that list. Gallahad, like Moses, is allowed to achieve the mystery of the Grail, to look within it, but not to take it into the future, a fate left to Perceval, the Perfect Fool. Gallahad dies in ecstasy when he is no longer able to separate himself from the absolute revealed to him in the Grails innards. Arthurian researchers credit Gallahad with promulgating the new element in the Arthur grail mysteries; he is often likened to Christ, giving life to a religious scene which had lost its meaning. In our modern version of the story, Gallahad is involved with Gueneviere but as yet knows nothing of the secret, only the peculiar behavior of Lancelot and Gueneviere alerts him to an inchoate trouble in the system.
Galahad's own work and individuation is now beginning but a catalyst is needed and that, in the Arthurian myths, is often the Wizard Merlin. So too here Gallahad like so many of the important figures in the Institute is also in analysis with Merlin. One day he talks to Merlin about the strange intrusive friendship which Lancelot established as soon as Gueneviere and he began living together.” Well of course he’s interested in both of you”, Merlin blurts out. “Gueneviere and he have been having an affair for years.” Gallahad is stunned. Merlin, seeing Galahad's surprise, is visibly embarrassed. “I see what you mean” he says, then quickly adds “Well I didn’t mean a sexual affair. Just an affair of the heart.” A nice backtrack for a cagey analyst/magician but the black cat is out of the sack and there is no retrieving him, or is it her.
Thanks to Merlin the secret affair has burst its personal and professional bond. It is for the moment free in the collective and as in our ancient tale, the individuation potential has passed to the court of Gallahad. Gallahad sees that Merlin, his wise old guide has betrayed the analytic container of two of his colleagues; he has even betrayed Gallahad by not fully owning his slippage or at least assigning it to the Gods. That leaves Gallahad quite alone with a secret which challenges his relationship, his friendship and his integrity. He has been played fool by both Gueneviere and Lancelot. Gueneviere has kept an important secret from her past that now invades their present. Merlin’s revelation will force a reconsideration of personal trust and intimacy in his relationship with Gueneviere. Beyond the personal, there are also important ethical questions around boundary violations. This Jungian Institute like so many others has been going through a number of sexual violations among members and their patients, even members and their analytic candidate. There have been major consequences for similar violations; some analysts have quit and been expelled from the Institute, have suffered loss of license and been forced into public apologies. Moreover there is a legal requirement to report sexual abuse of patients and students to the state and the institute committee of ethics. And beyond the legal and ethical there is the moral betrayal. Lancelot and Merlin have both been important figures in the previous scandals usually as moralists and purists in matters of sexual ethics. Lancelot is currently giving a series of lectures on how to do Control Analysis. The hypocrisy is appalling. And Gallahad has referred patients including women friends to Lancelot. He knows that sexual violations of this kind are rarely single events. Finally there are other issues to be dealt with particularly Merlin's violation of the confidentiality of Gueneviere, Lancelot’s and his own analysis.
What must Gallahad do? Obviously it is better for his politic in the Institute community to remain quiet. To speak up is to risk destroying friendships, trusted relationships, and heroes. To speak up is to risk the charge of jealousy and misplaced competition with Lancelot. To speak up is to risk becoming a scapegoat in the Institute, and, as in Galahad of old, to burn up in the ecstasy of truth telling. Remember we are in the realms of Arthur’s and Jung’s court where individuation is a ruling pressure. All these issues matter very much. Galahad is concerned with his soul as well as his politic. What is clear to all participants in our drama is that if and when Gallahad breaks his silence the individuating ball will pass to Gueneviere, Lancelot, and even Merlin. Not one of the four will go unscathed once the secret is revealed.
There are four individuals here, four analysts each one with years of analysis under his and her belt, caught in a web of intrigue. The consequences of the act of passion held secret will lead to a testing of the individuation ethos not only for the four parties but for the community which contains them and to which they belong.
I hope I have been able to convey the dramas present in this episode. It is archetypal story but not in the mode of dreams and visions, more like the novels and the fairytales of slightly inflated men and women, the archetypal dramas of Everyman and Everywoman and also very human dilemmas. This story could be about any of us. But a crossing time, a sacred time draws near. The choices and responses these four will make in the course of the unfolding events will be the prima materia of the next stages in all their individuation.
How can individuation theory be a useful guide in making and reflecting on the coming action (or inaction)? How are the analyst of these analysts involved in these dramas? Is there a role for us in this stage, a role beyond exploring the past and childhood history, beyond interpreting dreams and transferance, beyond reflecting and witnessing the process? You may recognize the major challenge of society to the therapist in the last decades of this century of psychotherapy. Does our work contain an imperative toward truthful action, toward the walk as well as the talk? Or should we and society redefine analysis as a very old and deep inner recreation for those especially interested?
Remember again that analysis was originally formulated by Freud and Jung as a great experiment, something like: “ If we can help the individual to penetrate their most secret unconscious realms through analysis, can we then not have these unique souls be the catalyst for the salvation of our culture, of man himself? Analysis and therapy began from such a perspective, a profound curiosity of what would happen to the collective if we fully understand ourselves as individuals. The hope which Jung states explicitly and society has bought up to now was that the new analytic technique would provide a critical mass of individuated men and women who might catalyze a new culture, a counterpoint to the ignorance of mass man and the deleterious effects mass psychology on human culture up to that point.
It seems a very strange paradoxical hope now that a small number of superior individuals might serve as a seed of enlightenment for the larger culture. After the Nazi-German world we consider such superman like ideas with great care. For Freud and particularly Jung however this dream was part of their creed. We echo their dream in our interest in the notion of the enlightened man or woman, the avatar, the chosen one who can brings us the light that we have lost. We echo it in our inflated manna transference towards our analysts.
Freud’s goals for analysis was far more pragmatic than Jung. He talked of love and work and of adaptation and relationship as goals of the great project. Jung had a larger vision and it rested in the spiritual component of individuation. Jung’s notion of the term was applied mainly to adult development, particularly the later stage of man’s psychospiritual development and also to the individuating man and woman’s’ relationship to the collective. The drama I have been talking about is meant to look at some of the more difficult aspects of the later phases of the individuation process particularly those difficulties which relate not only to the process of learning about oneself through inner work, but the processes of bringing what one knows back to the collective at whatever risk. Walking the Walk; Living what we know. For here are four individuals struggling to come to terms with issues at the boundaries of self and society that the characters in Arthur’s court also had to face. They had the ethos of the Round Table. We have analysis and an institute devoted to the individuating principle. Will these individuals be able to speak their truth, survive and move on or will they retreat into themselves and withdraw from the group and collective needs? Do we as therapists have a role in their future and in our world’s future. That much is at stake here.
I ask these questions of you because I have no ready answers. We all talk together about critical moments which support some new direction at this phase, places we step outside the boundaries of our model, make a countertransferential slip, act in a sexually or financially irresponsible manner expose too much of ourselves, give far reaching advice beyond our role. Tales of almost all our great teachers, including Jung, are laced with such anecdotes. There is certainly a need to understand these strangely effective interventions and give them place in our theory of transformation rather than putting them into the shadow otherworld of therapeutic koans. In fact many therapists have been expanding the limits of their work through ethical violations in the name of helping the individuation. In Jungian Institutes in my country they have occurred in the name of Tantric enlightenment, subtle bodies, sadomasochism, boundary transgressions in the name of helping a patient keep, or break, their own constricted boundaries, confidentiality broken or disastrous secrets kept all in the name of special healing circumstances. I believe that in dealing with the later stages of individuation we need to augment our usual therapeutic regiments though I don't think it is in the direction of selfish violations or questionable ethics. Still the pressure do something different is there.
Let me try to put my questions in the context of individuation theory. In the Mysterium Coniunctionis and in Aion, Jung’s last great works, he puts forward a three-tiered system of individuation in which he speaks in alchemical terms about psychological and spiritual process. In extremely condensed form we may say that the process of the separation of individual from the collective body corresponds in alchemical terms with the first stage of the conjunctio, the formation of the unio mentalis from the unio naturalis, man’s original condition. In Jung’s description of the unio mentalis, there is a union between soul and spirit in the context of separation from the body. The central image is of decapitation; the head is split from the body. “The aim of this separation was to free the mind from the influence of the ‘bodily appetites and the heart’s affections’ and to establish a spiritual position which is supraordinate to the turbulent sphere of the body (Jung 1963). We only need to appreciate the “out of body” experiences of the patient—beaten as a child, the child “seeing” it (but not feeling it) from the upper corner of the room, completely divorced from his or her body, and the “adult child” still able to disassociate mind and body at times of stress, to understand this alchemical mechanism at its most concrete and extreme. Jung’s description of his visions at the time of his heart attack and the Shamanic healing visions during fasting, isolation and self inflicted pain are more developed examples of the same process.
In the second stage of the conjunction the unity of spirit and soul is conjoined once again with the body, the physical body and the collective body. The cycle of adult development, particularly in later life, requires this return, on different terms it is true, but still a rejoining of psyche to the physical body and the collective body, in order for the first stage of the individuation cycle, the journey of separation, to have meaning. In psychological terms, healing through the power of projection must give way to reconnection and conjunction with the body and with society.
The last stage in the conjunctio involves a union of the new psychological individual with the world--the unus mundus - a transcendent experience in which inner and outer, self and other, are inseparable. In most Jungian thought this state is usually reserved for the most developed mystics and therefore quite beyond our reach. Perhaps but then our theory leaves out vital areas of human activity which must be addressed by us if we are to deal with key areas in human development. Several years ago I chaired a symposium on the topic of Service sponsored by the S.F. Jungian Institute. Seven hundred people came to listen to Jungian analysts and religious leaders talk on this subject but the latter had far more to say about Service, about commitment to causes beyond their own souls. Analysts understandably remained focused on the individual and his or her inner growth but we were remarkably disassociated from pain and suffering of others outside of our consulting room, those who we could not reach with our psychological tools. Obviously there are human problems beyond our control and our method; we all must work in the ways that we are competent and know to be useful. But neither did the goals of analysis focused as they are so strongly on individual self realization seem to address these issues. I have come to believe that the analysis cannot possibly be relevant if it does not center on this part of human growth from the beginning of the process. James Hillman says that by removing the soul from the world and not recognizing that the soul is also in the world, psychotherapy can’t do its job anymore. I will have something to say about the implications of accepting such a premise for the therapist at the end of this paper and throughout the weekend.
Let me pursue this thought for a moment from outside the therapy model. One of the most powerful mediations in Tibetan Buddhism is one in which we focus on our own pain and gradually bring in the pain and suffering of others into our consciousness, beginning with the children who are hungry and in pain until we can achieve an all encompassing compassion of the world of pain and through it find the elusive Self and unus mundus. The meditation is stepwise and in my take years to do properly. Most of us cannot get past the suffering children and their implication for action so we leap beyond them directly to the abstraction of wholeness unless perchance we are brought back to the task by a discerning meditation teacher (or analyst?). This meditation is an analog of the third stage in the conjunctio, a state where we both recognize and take responsibility for our profound connection with other humans and sentient beings. We might say that the end stage of individuation and therefore the goal of analysis as well (if we define analysis in the largest sense) is grappling with the awesome implications of this connection with the world. My own definition of the pragmatics of this stage is “the integration of the unique and distinct elements of the individual with the collective so that both are served.” Integration of this kind leads to a new separations, new levels of unfulfilled appreciation and compassionate action with our fellow human. Consciousness demands a commitment of self in the world, to one’s truth acted in the world, the kind of truth and action that Gandhi and Mother Theresa have modeled best in this centry.
It would be far simpler if we as analysts could care for the early individuation stages and leave the later for another kind of master. It would also be easier if therapists knew where the inner/outer or patient/seeker boundary was at any moment in the work. The truth is more complex. We are less constrained by matters of timing and technique then our own development, and less constrained by our own development than by our ability to apply that development in our work. Can we walk the therapist’s walk rather than just talk the talk? Talking the talk may mean reflexly clinging to the dependent power of the transference by focusing ever inward and toward the transference. Walking the walk might be that or something else, like supporting painful action, a difficult ethical or and moral decisions, a spiritual path requiring sacrifice. This ubiquitous requirement for life disrupting sacrifice at late stages of development is, I think, the nub of the difficulty. How and whether to move beyond the well trod analytic path with our patients is a spiritual question. To do so require holding a larger model of our role then we currently accept. We must for example embrace the shamanic as well as the priestly in our profession if we are to move into these individuation places with our sacred charges.
We might look at Merlin’s behavior towards Gallahad with this in mind. Merlin’s revelation propelled Gallahad forward into his individuating fate. Merlin’s role was critical but in his act he had also broken faith with his two analysands, Lancelot and Gueneviere in telling their secret. Now that account could well be Shamanic; more critical for his individuating guideship was his apparent failure of courage about the model he talked so well. He maintained in the face of Galahad's questioning that the sexual relationship of Lancelot and Gallahad was a secret he didn’t know, couldn’t have known because he wasn’t told by them. His frame at that moment of refusal remained rooted in the conscious--“if no one told me how could I have known” and in the service of the priestly and also his own self protection. He thereby denied the unconscious, the synchronistic, the Self, the voice of the unus mundus speaking to all involved. This denial restricted his future role with Gallahad for Merlin himself was unable to both hold professional persona and the transcendent voice. He remained ego bound, functional and safe within a limited therapeutic context based on saving everyone from their pain and sacrifice including him. Merlin it would seem retreated to the stone instead of the crystal cave...
Perhaps our way of talking about these late stages in individuation has not sufficiently emphasized the role of pain, social, body and psychic pain in the incorporation stages of the second coniunctio and particularly the acceptance of one's place in the collective in the third. Pain of all kinds, far more than bliss, is the unrelenting transformer of the undeveloped individual and putting the new psychic body created in the fire of a long and self discovering analysis once again at risk in the collective is a daunting project indeed. In our story it is clear that if Gallahad speaks to Gueneviere about what he has learned from Merlin, if he speaks to Lancelot, if he speaks to the relevant bodies of the Institute, pain will follow for everyone, including himself. Painful decisions cannot always be translated into an opportunity for inner exploration and development. The act itself may need to stand alone; leaving marriages, leave institutions, following a controversial spiritual path--changing one’s life by speaking and acting the truth are the fruits as well as the process of further individuation. And these fruits come with no guarantees or rewards. Decisions on the basis of consciousness mirror some of the painful physical situations that are also consciously sought and ennoble the individuation quests in many traditions--the martyrs in Christianity, the saints and fakirs in Hinduism, the Sun Dancers in the American Indian tradition and also some of the sadomasochistic practices of ancient and modern day practice. Pain inevitably comes to all of us; our encounters with pain, physical, social, spiritual are the life blood of the individuation process. By the way if time permits tomorrow I will present material on physical pain based on a presentation I gave in Zurich at the International Analytic psychology convention. It includes material, particularly visual material which is very difficult to watch and even offensive particularly by those who have been physically and sexually abused in their own lives. They are presented in the service of understanding how pain has been used by people in individuation, but I will certainly understand if people don’t want to look or them or come to that part of the talk. Be forewarned intrigued.
Our Arthurian drama highlights the painful difficulty of walking the walk rather than just talking the talk, of living what we know. The painful parts of the conscious encounter with the collective is crystallized and intensified in the scapegoating process. There are also painful unconscious encounters with the collective that manifest in the scapegoating process which are more related to shadow work of the first stage of individuation. Christ was a scapegoat of the former kind in a powerful political process. In fact most of the powerful individuating models in society are about the role of scapegoats and martyrs in the personal and political process. The archetype of the scapegoat and the archetype of the Messiah are paired. The scapegoat is the collective shadow of a society The individuation of any collective be it a nation state, a family, or a small institute such as the one our example comes from, will relate directly to how it does or does not deal with these figures who carry dangerous unpopular truths. This is analogous to the shadow in the individual personality. How we deal with the dark part of ourselves, our shadow is the key to our early individuation--later individuation measures how well the work has been done and where it will lead. When an individual becomes identified with a central archetype of a collective, his fate is sealed until the archetype has done with him. To become identified with a collective scapegoat--to be a Jew in Germany in the late 1930’s and 40’s or a Christian two millennia ago or to be a black or poor or a peasant in most of the world today is to be plunged into the center of a societies society's individuation process. Most of us cannot withstand such pressure but taking one's truth into the world is the sine qua non of individuation. The ones that do with some success are close to the Self, our saints and our scapegoats--or both.
In our example each figure faces this fate. Each could be forced to take their truth into the world whatever the consequences. And each faces potential pain and scapegoating and will struggle not to feel that feeling nor be in that role. For Gallahad, known in his community for his commitment to truth, he will become the messenger of bad tidings--the classic scapegoat position. His community will try to stop him from talking, from discrediting a favorite son--all those analysands and their analyses are at stake. Gueneviere is also poised to be the classic scapegoat--the abused woman whose seductiveness is at fault. As so many of us have learned in the past few decades, sexual violations within the patriarchal culture --Round table or Jungian institute-- is rarely blamed on the person who holds the authority in that system no matter how clear the violation. Gueneviere risks blame and humiliation by men and women alike in their common worship of the reigning authority structure in this case the rulers and the priests of both sexes in the Institute and the Round Table. Lancelot too faces the goat’s position for his sin can come to represent all the male chauvinistic abusers all the past analytic abusers all the wayward husbands, the fallen idols. Even and perhaps especially Merlin, the spirit of the Institute, must answer to his the [either "his" or "the"?] Victim God for this event carries with it the possibility that his well deserved reputation will be compromised as so many old people are as they make mistakes, lose power and their visionary capacity, a central problem for the ancient Merlin as well.
Note however that each the four individuals occupying these roles will be served if, that is, they choose to live in their truth in the world, confessing to who one is, who one has been, and who one has become, if there is a wish to come out of the closet at whatever cost, if they choose to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk. The pain, the losses, the consequences of such an individuation step may be huge. Stonewalling, keeping the secret, protecting one's self is the other safer route. Gallahad can keep quiet, Merlin can deny his boundary violation, Gueneviere can finesse her current relationship and protect the secret, Lancelot can use his authority to protect his abuse. Gandhi who forced all of India and the world to face the truth of colonialism and social and economic victimization knew the risks “the Quest for truth”, he said “involves tapas--self suffering, sometimes even onto death. It is the path that leads to god and therefore there is no place in it for cowardice, no place for defeat.” Gandhi himself become the scapegoat of an internecine battle between Hindus and Moslems and was murdered in that role.
I have introduced the first two factors in my trinity of individuation factors--Pain and the Scapegoat. Let me end this paper with an introduction to the third and least discussed, the Secret in individuation. The role of pain and even the scapegoat are intuitively connected with personal psychological and spiritual development. Not so with the Secret. This is an issue which Jung speaks little about. Perhaps this is because he lived with many unspoken secrets some of which have turned out to be damaging to his message. The bitter fruits of these secrets are still with us--sexual secrets, sex with patients and students, anti-Semitic secrets--cozying up to Nazi psychotherapy bureaucracy for his own gain and keeping a Jewish quota in the Zurich Institute well after the war was over. Ferreting out these secrets and understanding their relationship to Jung’s psychology has occupied many people in the Jungian movement, and caused many of us a great deal of trouble. One of the consequences for Jungian analysts in my generation is that our relationship to keeping secrets is ambivalent especially since confidentiality is critical to the psychotherapist and analysts irrespective of their theoretical interest.
Let us return to our story. Lancelot and Gueneviere here and also in King Arthur’s Court began their relationship in secret. Then they were innocent and secure in their role as hero and heroine. Gueneviere gave her ribbons to the best knights for their good works. Lancelot was the best of them all and so he received her favors most. But he and she were both full of hubris; heroes without a trial that truly challenged them. Lancelot was strong and brave analyst knight but despite his great abilities he was also full of moralists, morals which had not yet been tested nor seared in the fire of his own conflict. Gueneviere was a noble and loyal Queen but that loyalty had not yet been challenged by passion. Their body and soul encounter served their development by adding another dimension to their understanding of love and sacrifice. But as so often occurs it was the social betrayals that plunged them into the individuation process for real--suddenly they were walking the walk rather than talking the talk. Lancelot still rescued damsels in distress; Gueneviere still served as queen in Camelot but the Quest for the Grail plateaus as they wrestled with issues of loyalty and betrayal, as they wrestled with their secret and their lies.
Now up a to a point keeping their secret served inner learning, increased inner space and filled that inner space with individual and collective truths. But a point was reached, as it seems to me it is always reached, when a secret is held too long, when friendship and relations are adulterated by the secret, when analysis is compromised, in other words, when the secret no longer served the grail of individuation. Holding the secret first provides the chance to learn and grow from inside but later comes to serve cowardice and survival under the cover story of not hurting anyone. In the most metaphorical sense the secret of Lancelot and Gueneviere also compromised their institute’s development. Camelot was itself in jeopardy because two of its most important actors were living in ways that made a mockery of its principles. (In the real Camelot, emergence of the secret was the test by fire of Arthur’s incredible spiritual and political vision. And interestingly it was Arthur, the cuckolded husband and the King who learned to live in the presence of the truth and still act according to his principles who emerged as one of our greatest Western heroes. No similar figure has yet emerged in the Institute).
Secrets are something we know a great deal about as therapists. Almost every patient arrives with one of them firmly tucked into his or her armor. Therapy, like confession, gives the secret a chance to transform in the presence of the other just as the secret held alone has the power to transform in the solitary state. The problem here deal with important the role of the secret in the next stages of the individuation process. The characters in the example each have a secret and the fate of their continued individuation rests on how they deal with that secret and on how well we as therapists help them deal with it.
Thus the Secret, like pain, first spurs then slows the individuation process. That transition is a key in analysis. At stake is the very fate of that secret part, a pearl of great price indeed. Is it to be forever enshrined in the richly jeweled chalice, the cave, the sacred space, the secret society or does it need air, light and the challenge which goes with the encounter with the collective? To what extent and when does that new secret part need to be brought forth rather than kept inward? As therapists we explore the emergence of the secret and the link between that secret and the total personality. But what then? What about the link between the secret and the collective? What if our protagonists have worked in a full and vital analysis and still are caught in an inertial holding pattern ,still lodged in societies myth for them, still hesitating to live out their own myth in society at whatever the cost to themselves and others. Is all the work on individuation valuable only as an inner fantasy of our potential? Can these individuals live their truth with others or will they live in hiding and fear and its inevitable constriction? The crisis in the drama of individuation is at hand. There is a risk in plunging forward but a greater risk in holding back for although there is no stopping the individuation process nor the knowledge of ones truth, the energy of that process can be aborted and the light of that truth distorted in ways that are difficult perhaps impossible to repair.
The analysts of Lancelot, Gueneviere or Gallahad, and Merlin should wonder about their role in this holding pattern. What consultation then would serve the analysts of these analysts? Perhaps the Merlin’s early analytic work has been inadequate? The regressive and dependent parts of Guinevere’s transference to Lancelot are still unresolved. Or Gallahad still mired in ego inflation? Then more analysis is surely needed, more work on the transference, more turning inward: analysis interminable. Such is often the case and more therapy the best possible advice. But for the characters in my story in modern or medieval dress it might also be a very bad alternative. As is often the case in the late stages of individuation a certain kind of courageous action is need to lead to a better different path of development and more inner work might serve as a diversion for the Knight, Wizard and Lady as well as their Round Table, the Institute.
It may be that, as Sandner implies, our current analytic model can go no further and that we need to redefine our container and our role to work well in these later stages of development. In this paper I am suggesting that if we are to continue to work in these realms we need to extend our domain to include greater concern for the necessity of acts which encompass individual and collective so that both are served. This may mean, paradoxically focus on persona change which serves to consciously define oneself to others as well as to self. It may mean that we support even help the individual to willingly and consciously accept a scapegoat role in order to serve his or her community better even if it means a temporary increase in social and personal pain. It may mean active support in the realms of conscious service which multiplies the fruits of inner for others to share. At the heart of these expanded domains is the analyst’s commitment to an active role in helping a colleague realize his or her secret in the world for it is the inner secret that is the sacrificed at the final altar of individuation. The inner Secret so wisely and zealously held at the beginnings of the process is transformed into the Truth from which all else flows.
Tomorrow if it serves your needs I will have more to say about the directions such an expanded role might take and where they might lead our protagonists. Let me end with two quotes, the first from Jung, and the second from Gandhi. Jung talks to the process: “There is no better means of intensifying the treasured feeling of individuality than the possession of a secret which the individual is pledged to guard.” But he also says that “the maintenance of a secret acts like a psychic poison which alienates their possessor from the community.” Gandhi leaves this paradox behind and enters the world of the Unus Mundus. “Truth should be the very breath of our life. When once this stage in the pilgrim’s progress is reached, all other rules of correct living will come without effort and obedience to them will be instinctive.” My mind understands Jung’s paradox but my soul and my heart is with Gandhi.
From a speech given in Mexico City, February, 1997
Copyright © Arthur C. Colman