The History between Hermann Hesse and Carl Jung
The psychological theories of Carl Gustav Jung share a common history with the writing of Siddhartha. Hesse (2002) began work on this story in 1919 and completed the first portion of the story by 1920. He then underwent a period of severe writer’s block from which he sought analytical treatment from Dr. Jung; after a brief stint of analytical treatment lasting only a few weeks, Hesse was able to complete the Indian legend in 1922. This period in the author’s life coincided with a 17 year self-experimental journey Dr. Jung undertook to shed light on the nature of his unconscious, which became the subject matter of Liber Novus: The Red Book (Jung, 2009); it was during the time of Hesse’s writers block that Jung worked on an experimental psychological treatment modality called active imagination, exploring ways to make unconscious themes conscious through artistic expressions of imagination.
In the case of Siddhartha, literary expressions of archetypal themes are present throughout the work. Hermann Hesse often makes emotional appeals that “are strange and mysterious to the logical mind” (Maier, 1999, p. 1). This is why Maier (1999) believed that Hesse’s work needs clarification by referencing the theories of Carl Jung’s psychology. The story Siddhartha speaks to the collective journey we undergo to make sense of our personal ontology and storyline. By utilizing a writing method similar to those used to create fairy-tales, Hesse’s writing appeals to the archetypal foundation of the collective unconscious, which allows his works to assume a collective perspective that works rationale and logic, emotions and thought. Maier (1999) stated that his works “affect the reader whether he is conscious of them or not” (p. 1). The heroic themes present in Hesse’s plots had an immense effect on multiple generations from various cultures around the world (Morris, 2002), including myself during a time when I was searching to make sense of my own emergent life story.
Hesse wrote Siddhartha at a time when scientific objectivity became the predominant means by which European people viewed the external world. Hesse wrote the following words in 1920:
We are seeing a religious wave rising in almost all of Europe, a wave of religious need and despair, a searching and a profound malaise, and many are speaking of… a new religion to come… Europe is beginning to sense… that the overblown one-sidedness of its intellectual culture (most clearly expressed in scientific specialization) is in need of a correction, a revitalization coming from the opposite pole. This widespread yearning is not for a new ethics or a new way of thinking, but for a culture of spiritual function that our intellectual approach to life has not been able to provide. This is a general yearning not so much for a Buddha or a Laotze but for a yogic capability. We have learned that humanity can cultivate its intellect to an astonishing level of accomplishment without becoming master of its soul. (Hesse, 2002, p. vii)
A growing sentiment to repress all instincts plagued the European attitude of the 19th century. This attitude is apparent in Hesse’s citation. Descartes created a philosophical premise that allowed the mind to exist separately from the body; science utilized this philosophical premise to create a method by which one could study an entity without taking part in its subjective presence. Scientific objectivity became a method utilized to understand the environment from a removed perspective; this led to a denial of subjective presence within research and mitigated the validity of scientific claims to the way consciousness can remain objectively separate from that which it studies (Romanyshyn, 2001). This reminds me of the famous citation by Friedrich Nietzsche (1882/1974):
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? (para. 125)
Our quest to formulate meaning about the environment from a removed perspective of objectivity allowed us to cultivate a superior knowledge base at the expense of removing ourselves from the life-giving essence of soul that nourishes our existence. As I compare the citation Hesse wrote in 1920 to the citation Nietzsche wrote nearly fifty years earlier, it becomes clear that Europe felt the full effects of what objectifying the world and denying the presence of social responsibility, ethics, and the presence of God entails. Hesse’s words appear to answer the ethical dilemma proposed by Nietzsche nearly half a century before.
The countercultural spiritual movement that Hesse foretold occurred decades later in America with the birth of the baby-boomer generation and the hippie movement. In the introduction to Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, Paul W. Morris (2002) wrote:
When New Directions decided to publish the first English translation of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha in 1951, it could not have foreseen the enormous impact it would have on American culture. The novel’s ostensibly simple narrative – the story of a young, accomplished brahmin. Siddhartha, who defies his father’s tradition in favor of wandering India in search of enlightenment – appealed to the restless drifter, the alienated youth, and the political anarchist alike. Its many motifs include the outcast from society, rejection of authority, communion with nature, recalcitrance toward schooling, and the idea of an imminent God. Published in the United States during the Cold War, Siddhartha addressed a perennial unrest and provided a new set of values for a generation of people disenchanted with their parent’s conservatism. (pp. xiii-xiv)
During the 1960s, America was ready to promote the spiritual awakening that Hesse had foretold during the 1920s. The philosophical ideology behind personal spiritual enlightenment also stands as a theoretical undercurrent of analytical, humanistic, and transpersonal models of psychology (Taylor, 1999). While Hesse was never a part of these movements, nor was he involved in the field of psychology, he seems to have foretold the paradigmatic shift that was responsible for their creation and was well aware of the psychology of Dr. Carl Jung through his own analysis with the Jungian trained analyst Dr. Josef B. Lang and Dr. Carl Jung himself.
Many of Hesse’s characters are traceable to the analytical sessions he had with Dr. Josef B. Lang, a psychiatrist and disciple of Carl Jung, who treated Hesse during the time period between 1916 and 1919 when Hesse was writing the novel Demian (Hesse, 1919); Hesse and Lang remained lifelong friends after his treatment, and his involvement with Lang would eventually lead to a stint of analysis with Dr. Jung himself. In 1921, after suffering a period of writer’s block, Hesse sought a brief analysis from Carl Jung, which would last only a couple of weeks. Hesse ended this treatment abruptly after the writer’s block lifted (Freedman, 1999), freeing him to complete the second half of his story.
Hesse wrote Siddhartha in a fashion that honored collective themes; the presence of these collective themes become clear when one reads the story from a psychological perspective. Beyond its use of Jung’s idea about ascertaining an individuated sense of consciousness, Siddhartha presents as an eclectic blend of Buddhist, Hindu, and Taoist concepts integrated with a burgeoning knowledge of Western models of psychoanalytically based psychologies. Hesse’s novel is also a biographical account of the author’s personal quest to individuate and rebel against the social structures, mores, and the ethics common to the European continent during the early 20th century.
Until then, Hesse’s entire life had been a series of rebellions, from his dropping out of school at the age of thirteen, to his break with the tradition of his Protestant parents and their hope that he follow their missionary ambitions, to his fierce opposition to the global conflict of World War I. (Morris, 2002, p. xvii)
As a protagonist, Siddhartha, reconciles his rebellious nature much as Hesse sought to “reconcile his family’s missionary tradition with his own rebellious spirit” (Morris, 2002, p. xvii). For Hesse, this rebellious spirit, combined with later nervous breakdowns and subsequent psychoanalyses by Dr. Josef B. Lang and Dr. Carl Jung, expressed itself in two of the stories he wrote.
Siddhartha has enjoyed a warm and extensive reception since its original publication in 1922. This is partially due to the way the story touches upon collective themes that drive human nature and our search to make meaning of the life we are afforded. While Hesse wrote the story Siddhartha about a real character, Gautama the Buddha, he wrote the story in such a way that the main character can represent any person that reads its rich, symbolic content. The history behind the production of this book also suggests that Hesse could not finish the plot the protagonist undertook (individuation) without first understanding about how this journey unfolded in his own personal development. Therefore, Hesse’s work represents a fictitious biography of the Buddha, an autobiographical account of the journey the author undertook, and an archetypal story that shows a symbolic path an exemplar took to become enlightened and understand the true nature of Self.
A Developmental Perspective of Archetypal Individuation.
People seek to make meaning within their lives by formulating conscious understanding of their internal and external worlds. At a young age, the conscious splits environmental events into increasingly complex systems of understanding that rely on the ability to perceive events as being either positive or negative to the quest the Self has to realize its true nature. The Self perpetuates its own life cycle; this life cycle unfolds upon itself in a natural order of events as life eventually gives way to death. Our ability to form conscious representations of environmental events allows us to develop greater understanding of the Self as it interacts with increasingly larger environments. Carl Jung (1954/1969b) spent his life creating a theory that viewed developmental experiences as being a “natural course of life – a life in which the individual becomes what he always was” (p. 40). The natural course of life unfolds from a-priori archetypal constructs that govern the sequence by which development occurs.
Archetypes form the foundation of the collective unconscious, from which consciousness emerges. Archetypal themes also foster development at specific periods during the life sequence. Upon initial review, the archetypal themes that appear to perpetuate the developmental sequence are the divine child, the Self, the shadow, the personae, the anima and animus syzygy, a concept of divinity (God), the wise man, and the underlying sequences that assure consciousness arises and is able to mend itself.
Carl Jung (1968) viewed that uniting the polarities of the psyche constituted the fundamental process that drives human development. The maturation of consciousness assures that the psyche develops a polarized perspective that judges entities as similar or different, good or bad. While many paths can occur during the life cycle, each individual path branches like the limbs of a tree towards the heavens and the sun, which allows life to exist on this planet in the first place. Life strives towards its end regardless if a person chooses to act in a positive or negative manner. For each opposite apparent in the psyche, a binding agent helps mend the tension within the psyche to perpetuate individuated development. Jung (1946/1993) wrote:
Hunted for centuries and never found, the prima materia or lapis philosophorum is, as a few alchemists rightly suspected, to be discovered in man himself. But it seems that this content can never be found and integrated directly, but only by the circuitous route of projection… The difficulties of our psychotherapeutic work teach us to take truth, goodness, and beauty where we find them. They are not always found where we look for them: often they are hidden in the dirt or are in the keeping of the dragon. “In stercore invenitur” (it is found in filth) runs an alchemical dictum – nor is it any the less valuable on that account. But, it does not transfigure the dirt and does not diminish the evil, any more than these lessen God’s gifts. The contrast is painful and the paradox is bewildering. Statements like Heaven above, Heaven below… all that is above, all is below, Grasp this, And rejoice are too optimistic and superficial; they forget the moral torment occasioned by the opposites, and the importance of ethical values. (pp. 518-520)
Ambiguity occurs as the psyche attempts to make sense of the positive and negative poles common to consciousness. Only individuals who transcend the moral torment that accompanies the polarities common to consciousness can partake in the alchemical goal of the “prima materia” or “lapis philosophorum.” This is why Jung (1946/1993) stated, “It seems that this content can never be found and integrated directly, but only by the circuitous route of projection” (p. 518). From a Jungian perspective, one can only transcend the inherent split of consciousness by uniting the positive and negative poles of each archetype with the Self.
A key construct of Jungian theory lies in its use of symbolism to explain the human condition. In Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, Jung (1969) provided a comprehensive review of the archetypes that directly affect the individuating Self. Jungian theory proposes that each archetype acts as a governing body that helps the psyche to emerge. Each archetype consists of polarities, and through individuation, a person learns to integrate the poles common to each archetype with the emergent Self concept. By mending the polarities common to an archetype, a person can transcend consciousness and realize the Self in its individuated form.
The Jungian analyst Michael Fordham (1969) developed a theoretical model about how the psyche individuates. He believed the psyche deintegrates and reintegrates to perpetuate its development. Other Jungian theorists, such as Stien (1983, 1998, & 2006) and Whitmont (1969) have touched upon developmental themes from a Jungian perspective, but have not provided a detailed description from which the psyche individuates during the lifespan. While the development of consciousness is explored within the context of all three author’s works, neither author explores a developmental sequence by which individuation of consciousness occurs.
The development of consciousness is a theme common to the Judaeo Christian foundation underlying European philosophy. It forms the basic theme explored in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve became conscious of their naked bodies after partaking of the forbidden fruit of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” (Gen. 2-3), thus falling into a paradoxical awareness, knowing good and evil only as God does, and thus are expelled into the world, knowing shame. Author and Jungian Analyst Robert Johnson (1993) used the term simple consciousness to explain the initial state of naked bliss that all individuals partake in during their childhood development. However, simple consciousness must give way to ego development and increasingly complex systems by which the individual learns to relate with others in their environment, if a normed developmental sequence is to occur. Carl Jung (1971) believed that with personal maturity came the development of “ad hoc adopted attitude[s]” (p. 465); a person develops these attitudes in conjunction with outside social pressures. Freud called the social attitudes that one develops to deal with the environment the ego; Jung adopted the Latin word persona to explain this process. Jung (1921/1993) wrote:
He is an individual, of course, like every being; but an unconscious one. Though his more or less complete identification with the attitude of the moment, he at least deceives others, and also often himself, as to his real character. He puts on a mask, which he knows corresponds with his conscious intentions, while it also meets with the requirements and opinions of his environment, so that first one motive then the other is in the ascendant… A man who is identified with this mask I would call ‘personal’ (as opposed to ‘individual’). Both the attitudes of the case considered above are collective personalities, which may be simply summed up under the name ‘persona’ or ‘personae.’ I have already suggested above that the real individuality is different from both. (p. 340)
The personae are reactions to ego formation and not Self-development. Jung believed that the masks a person presents to the world are different from the Self. In this work, I will explore the concept of the persona in more depth in my dealings with the adolescent developmental sequence.
Jung’s concept of the persona mirrors Erikson’s (1956; 1959; 1963; 1982; 1987) psychosocial concept of identity development. During adolescence and young adult life, a person experiments with an array of personality types. By experimenting with personality structures, a young adult develops a set ego from which he or she can function within the world, which allows them to develop the ability to relate with others “objects” in the outside world. This is the underlying concept of object relations’ theory (Bion, 1959, 1977; Klein 1920, 1948, 1959, 1964, 1975, 1975a – c, & 1994; Ogden, 1986 & 1989; Segal 1957, 1973, & 1989), and commonly occurs during the first half of life as the emerging ego develops the ability to form object attachments (Ainsworth, 1973 &1985; Ainsworth & Blehar, 1978; Bowlby, 1969, 1973, 1980, & 1988). However, during the second half of life a person needs to learn how to relate to the Self, as it exists separate from the personae developed as a means to deal with the environment. Because the persona is the conscious projection of the ego, it also represents one component of the shadow, which represents the “dark aspects of the personality” (Jung, 1969a, p. 8) development that may or may not be readily available to consciousness.
Carl Jung (1969) labeled the dark aspects of personality the shadow. The shadow archetype is the most easily accessible archetype to the ego because its content is personal. For Jung (1969), the shadow represented a “moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without a considerable moral effort” (p. 8). While the shadow represents all that is dark within the personality, it also has positive qualities that drive individuation. Jung (1934/1968) wrote:
The meeting with oneself is, at first, the meeting with one’s own shadow. The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well. But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is. For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad. It is the world of water, where all life floats in suspension: where the realm of the sympathetic system, the soul of everything living, begins; where I am indivisibly this and that; where I experience the other in myself and the other-than-myself experiences me. (pp. 21-22)
A child is born to the world through a narrow opening from which the Self emerges. The shadow constricts the Self through events that include, but are not limited to parental and social expectations, physiological, environmental, and psychological traumas, one’s genetic and psychological strengths and weaknesses, and the attitudes one adopts towards the life sequence. Individuation occurs when a person transcends the polarized nature of consciousness these and other paradoxes entail. While Jung believed the first half of life consisted of developing an acceptable personality in which to deal with the social environment, he viewed that the second half of life consisted of integrating the shadow into one’s overall personality, allowing more access to the Self to occur. The citation above shows that an individual has to make sense of the shadow during the second half of life to become explicitly aware of the internal and external processes that promote individuated development. While the way a person perceives internal and external events is reliant on consciousness, internal and external events coalesce with these internal views and perpetuate Self-development.
From a Jungian perspective, the period associated with the second half of life also consists of integrating the anima archetype for men and the animus archetype for women to develop a more rounded sense of personality that perpetuates Self-development. The anima is the feminine compensatory element that lies at the foundation of a man’s psyche (Jung, 1969, p. 14). The animus is the masculine compensatory element that lies at the foundation of a woman’s psyche. The anima archetype is complimentary to the masculine model of Self development, and provides man with a sense of femininity to help balance their emergent personality by counteracting the ego related personae a man creates to deal with environmental influences (Jung, 1921/1971). The animus is complimentary to the feminine model of Self development, and provides a woman with masculine traits that help balance the emergent female personality traits.
Jung split all psychological phenomena into polarities that battle for recognition within the individual psyche. He (1928/1966) believed that the anima represents the feminine nature of man and the animus represented the masculine nature of the woman. The image of one’s opposite gendered parent is the first representation of the anima and animus archetype until the maturation of the psyche allows the individual to separate that archetype from the parental image that originally held its presence. The anima holds the nurturing and devouring polarities common to the mother archetype (Jung, 1954/1969). The animus holds the moral commandment and prohibitive polarities common to the father archetype. From the positive archetypal pole, the anima provides a man with the ability to nurture, have affective response, and develop other positive feminine traits. The anima acts as a pathway into the nature of a man’s soul. The same hold true for the animus. The animus helps serve a woman by allowing her access to what Jung viewed as traditional masculine models of psychological being. By learning how to balance the nurturing and devouring poles common to the archetypal mother through the development of moral prohibitions through the development of value based ethics, a female can learn more about the nature of her soul. From a negative perspective, the anima archetype can possess a man through the development of labile emotional responses towards environmental stimuli, can cause an over-reliance on feeling rather than logic based states of awareness, and can cause men to become stuck within a psychological complex that does not allow masculinity to flourish. Likewise, the negative animus pole can cause a woman to become overly judgmental and seek to embody power through physicality rather than the act of nurturing. While these are but a few of a series of possible complexes that can arise in the process of severing the anima and animus syzygy from the initial parental archetypes, the process of separating these archetypes from their original image base allows men and women to develop further object relationships separate from the experiences they had with their parents (Jung, 1931/1969).
By relating to the feminine aspect of the soul, a man develops a holistic sense of self that is not reliant on the personae he creates. Likewise, when a woman relates to the masculine undertones of her psyche, she can develop a more holistic sense of self. When the polarities of the anima or animus become bound to the personality, a psychological rebirth can occur. In Jungian psychology, the archetypal symbols Mercury, Dionysus, and the hermaphrodite represents psychological development that can occur when the masculine and feminine traits combine within the anima and animus syzygy. Psychological rebirth also re-assures the emergence of the divine child archetype.
The death and rebirth process represents two polarities common to the divine child archetype. The divine child also represents the natural wholeness that occurs when someone enters a new developmental phase. Jung (1951/1969) wrote:
Myth, however, emphasizes… that the “child” is endowed with superior powers and, despite all dangers, will unexpectedly pull through. The “child” is born out of the womb of the unconscious, begotten out of the depths of human nature, or rather out of living Nature herself. It is a personification of vital forces quite outside the limited range of our conscious mind; of ways and possibilities of which our one-sided conscious mind knows nothing; a wholeness which embraces the very depths of Nature. It represents the strongest, the most ineluctable urge in every being, namely the urge to realize itself…The urge and compulsion to self-realization is a law of nature and thus of invincible power, even though its effect, at the start, is insignificant and improbable. Its power is revealed in the miraculous deeds of the child hero. (pp. 170-171)
The innocence associated with childhood is apparent within world mythologies, fairy tales, and stories of religion. Childhood represents a new beginning, a time when all possibilities are an option for the developing psyche to explore. Robert Bly (1990) that the loss of childhood innocence to develop adult forms of consciousness was a process of losing the “golden ball.” Bly showed how the divinity of childhood is a realized state of being. The Jungian analyst Robert Johnson (1993) believed that the time that a child takes part in the world without judgment was a form of simple consciousness. By developing adult consciousness, a child loses the original sense of integration common to a conscious that does not yet perceive the difference between paradoxes so common to consciousness. They have yet to learn of safe and non-safe events, the good and bad parts of life. The process of returning to the original state of innocent consciousness associated with the divine child archetypes leads to the realization of the Self through a means of developing a transcendent form of consciousness that is similar to childhood consciousness, but has the luxury of already knowing the polarized nature common to adult consciousness we all undertake. While individuation does not represent a return to childhood, it does represent a return to the perception so common to a child’s innocent state of inquisitiveness. Individuation allows the Self to realize its emergent nature.
Individuation means becoming an “in-dividual,: and, in so far as “individuality” embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as “coming to selfhood” or “self-realization.” (Jung, 1928/1966, p. 173)
In this author’s opinion, one of the greatest contributions that Carl Jung made to the field of psychology was to draw attention to the importance symbolism has on the development of pathological, non-pathological, and individuated forms of consciousness. While our existence is personal, natural laws also govern our life and death. In the essay entitled The Philosophical Tree, Carl Jung (1954/1967) showed how a symbol could represent the entire journey human beings undertake to individuate. Jung (1954/1967) wrote:
The psychoid form underlying any archetypal image retains its character at all stages of development, though empirically it is capable of endless variations. The outward form of the tree may change in the course of time, but the richness and vitality of a symbol are expressed more in its change of meaning… Taken on average, the commonest associations to its meaning are growth, life, unfolding of form in a physical and spiritual sense, development, growth from below upwards and from above downwards, the maternal aspect (protection, shade, shelter, nourishing fruits, source of life, solidity, permanence, firm-rootedness, but also being “rooted to the spot”), old age, personality, and finally death and rebirth. (p. 272)
“Growth from below upwards and from above downwards” (Jung, 1954/1967, p. 272) is similar to the Taoist concept of the Yin and Yang, which compliments each other from the same cardinal directions. Like the Yin and Yang, the tree symbol is a numinous symbol, capable of housing all polarities common to the Self-archetype. It is no surprise that Jung paid particular attention to the tree symbol as being representative of our human endeavor to individuate due to its long-standing history as a symbol of great importance to world religions and mythologies.
The archetypal tree is important to the development of the individuated Self because it transcends masculine and feminine constructs of the psyche and offers a representation of the numinous nature of the transcendent function. The tree is associated with the birth and transcendence of major figures within mythology and religion. This is not surprising since the oxygen produced by trees sustain life on this planet. Regarding the nurturing aspects of tree symbolism found throughout world religions, Jung (1954/1967) wrote:
As the seat of transformation and renewal, the tree has a feminine and maternal significance… In Pandora, the trunk of the tree is a crowned, naked woman holding a torch in each hand, with an eagle sitting in the branches on her head… Leto and Mary both gave birth under a palm, and Maya at the birth of the Buddha was shaded by the holy tree. Adam, “so the Hebrews say,” was created out of the “earth of the tree of life,” the “red Damascene earth…” According to this legend, Adam stood in the same relation to the tree of life as the Buddha to the Bodhi tree. (pp. 317-318)
The nurturing and birth giving characteristics of the mother are clear in this passage. The tree is rooted to “Mother Earth;” however, the tree also aspires upwards from the earth towards the realm of spirit, which links the tree symbol to the masculine characteristic of spiritual morality. Concerning the masculine aspects of tree symbolism, Jung (1954/1967) wrote:
Like the vision of Zarathustra, the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, and the report of Bardesanes (A.D. 154 – 222) on the god of the Indians, the old Rabbinic idea that the tree of paradise was a man exemplifies man’s relationship to the philosophical tree. According to the ancient tradition, men came from trees or plants. The tree is as it were an intermediate form of man, since on the one hand it springs from the Primordial Man and on the other hand it grows into a man. Naturally, the patristic conception of Christ as a tree or vine exerted a very great influence… In so far as the tree symbolizes the opus and the transformation process… it also signifies the life process in general… Since the opus is a life, death, and rebirth mystery, the tree as well acquires this significance and in addition, the quality of wisdom, as we have seen from the view of the Barbeliots reported in Irenaeus: “From man [=Anthropos] and gnosis is born the tree, which they also call gnosis.”(p. 337-339)
From this author’s personal interpretation, the tree roots to the Earth (feminine soul motif) and its bark houses the archetypal Self. This is not unlike the skin that houses our soul, as it seeks to make sense of the archetypal Self that perpetuates individuated development. As the tree ascends towards the sun and heavens (masculine spirit motif), it realizes that its nature is afloat and grounded at the same time; like human nature, the tree is steeped in the feminine aspect of soul and aspires towards the realm of masculine spirit associated to the heavens. People, like trees inhabit the Earth while they aspire towards their life giving force found in the heavens. The tree symbol is similar to Jung’s theory of the coniunctio, an archetypal image that mends the opposite symbols common to the psyche into a transcendent Self-representation.
The tree is representative of the transcendent function. DNA carries within its structure the information needed to assure that the genetic sequence unfolds upon itself in a manner that directs the functions of a living being. From a developmental perspective, the transcendent function shows that the psyche has built within its foundation the ability to mature and realize itself. The simple consciousness of childhood must give way to adult ways of consciousness to assure the continued survival of the organism. However, the ability to attain transcendent consciousness relies on an individual’s patience to sit with and work through the paradoxes common to adult consciousness.
Jung (1954/1967) believed the tree represents growth and life. The psychological growth associated with the tree occurs in its representation of the union that can occur if one unites the anima or animus archetypes with the archetypal Self. Many symbols throughout human history have shown how the union of opposites occurs, which include the Yin and Yang, the God Mercury, the hermaphrodite, and as was shown in this section, the tree of life. All of these symbols are archetypal conduits that promote individuated development.
In this author’s opinion, human development is a circular process in which a person wanders throughout the lifecycle searching to make meaning about his or her life. This is similar to the concentric rings that make up the developmental history of a tree. Just as the tree’s concentric rings are a-symmetrical and dependent on the amount of nourishment it receives during any given year, the human soul finds its nourishment in a non-symmetrical fashion that is dependent on mastering developmental milestones that lead to individuation. As developmental stages must end with the death motif, as winter gives way to the emergence of spring, new stages are born that lead a person ever closer to becoming an individuated being. Although the end-result of life, physical death remains the same for all living beings, the conscious choices that dictate how the journey of life will unfold can have many forms. Like the alchemical tree’s branches, life presents a person with many branches. However, like the branches of a tree that aspire towards its life giving force, the choices we make also affect our ability to reach the final goal of realizing our true potential as an individuated being – thus the age-old adage, “there are many roads to God.”
Jung’s focus on the individuation process produced a psychological theory that is rooted in understanding the transcendent function. However, Jung did not leave a detailed account of the developmental sequences that leads towards the realization of the Self in an individuated form of consciousness. While Jung (1950/1969) stated that “psychic experiences… have very different effects on a person’s development” (p. 351), he also stated, “no attempt will be made to describe the normal psychic occurrences within the various stages” (Jung, 1931/1969, p. 387). Jung’s predecessors have also left a legacy without a specific developmental sequence from which individuated consciousness arises. This is why Withers (2003) identified this as a major controversy in the field of analytical psychology. While Jung never produced a detailed account that differentiated between “normal psychic occurrences” that occur during the various stages, the statements made above show the developmental undertones found within the psychology of Carl Jung.
Why Siddhartha over other Literary Works about Individuation.
Siddhartha (Hesse, 2002), as a literary work, has greatly influenced my life. Not only does Hesse’s work form the foundation from which I delved into creating a theoretical discourse of individuated development based on a Jungian perspective, it also provided the means by which I made sense of my own journey to understand who I was becoming as a young man. I chose the novel Siddhartha (Hesse, 2002) in lieu of other works that focus on the individuation process due to the effects this novel had on my personal development. During my mid-twenties, when I first read the story, I was deeply entrenched in a depression that lasted for nearly a year. Within my own therapy experience, I traced this depression to a root cause of not understanding who I was becoming; as I sought my personal ontology, but had no examples amongst family and friends by which to gage the path I sought to undertake to become successful, I found myself lost, and without cause. Although I had known the theoretical tenets of Carl Jung’s psychology during this time, I did not know the ascetic path that the individuation journey entails. Siddhartha provided me with a means to make sense of the often-opposing themes that I found myself working on during this depression, mirroring the theoretical discourse Jung had written extensively about during his career to understand the dynamics by which psychological symbols prompt the individuation process. I approach the analysis of this story with a profound respect for the author and the protagonist he writes about within the story’s plot.
Siddhartha is a literary tale about a boy that sought to understand his personal nature. While Siddhartha haphazardly approached life from the perspective of an ascetic, he was eventually able to learn how to love, relate with other individuals, and achieve a transcendent level of consciousness. The Buddha achieved an enlightened sense of consciousness, and is an exemplar case of a person that was able to overcome his own difficulties, develop a transcendent form of consciousness, and understand the nature of the Self outside of the polarities common to consciousness.
As was shown above, Hesse’s account of the path that Siddhartha undertook is relative to his personal journey. Hesse, like his protagonist, rebelled against social mores common to early 20th century Europe, sought to understand himself through the lens of Eastern philosophies, and rejected formal education to learn about his own propensity to individuate. This links the perspective in the story to the ability all people have to seek personal understanding within their lives. Like Hesse and the protagonist he wrote about, I have also sought my personal ontology. When I originally read Siddhartha, I found that many of the themes Hesse showed within the context of the story also correlated to the path I undertook during my early adult years. These themes brought me to an increasingly acute interest in developmental and Jungian models of psychology.
Carl Jung’s psychological vision constituted a radical revision to the traditionally reductive psychologies that preceded his works. While Carl Jung’s psychology remains controversial to this day, due in part to his dualistic methodology and exploration of concepts to transcend rational psychology in lieu of developing a psychology based upon spiritual attainment, he nevertheless approached his work empirically. Jung sought to understand the means by which the psyche realizes itself. This psyche is both subjective and objective in this sense, and Jung’s research into its nature takes into account both perspectives. While Jung’s psychological writings utilize arcane philosophical literature, religious, and early scientific sources that are more metaphysical than traditional psychological doctrine, he approached the development of his theory with the same objective lens scientists’ utilize to understand the nature of what they study.
In this theoretical work, I chose to analyze Siddhartha, written by Hermann Hesse (2002) because of the direct experience Hesse had undergoing psychoanalysis with Carl Jung and Jungian analyst J. B. Lang, as well as it’s literary portrayal of an exemplar’s individuation journey. Furthermore, I chose Hesse’s novel due to the profound respect I have for both the author and his work; Hesse produced a story that made psychological sense of a situation that my emerging adult psyche found difficult to bear.
In this work, I seek to explore the means by which the archetypes prompt individuation. Hesse’s novel presents a literary example of the Buddha’s quest to understand his personal ontology, and utilizes archetypal symbolism as a means to explain the developmental sequence we undertake to find meaning within our lives. This is most evident in the fact that Hesse wrote the novel in such a fashion that it was indicative of his personal quest to make meaning about his life. As I have also sought to understand my personal ontology; with hindsight, I understand that great psychological shifts had to occur as a means to perpetuate my psychological development forward. Therefore, by conducting an analysis of Siddhartha, I hope to show how individuation arises from one’s lifelong quest to mend the polarized nature of consciousness common to adult life, therefore allowing us to make meaning about our life.
An extensive history existed between Carl Jung and Hermann Hesse. This qualifies Hesse’s (2002) story Siddhartha as being a viable research topic within the field of depth psychology. As an author, Hermann Hesse’s novels had a great influence on multiple generations who would rebel against their parents conservatism, and seek to make their own meaning about the life cycle unfolded (Morris, 2002). Furthermore, Hesse’s works continue to have merit as literary masterpieces and as tomes to the processes that occur when one psychologically individuates. Although Hesse was not a psychologist, his works are psychological in nature. In Siddhartha, Hesse produced a story that shows how common archetypal themes drive the individuation journey that fosters Self-development. The themes presented in Siddhartha ring strikingly similar to regular life events that any individual may undertake even though the events presented in the story occurred to an extraordinary individual who sought to realize his Self.
Developmental motifs underlie Carl Jung’s psychology, even though Jung never proposed a theory of human development. Analytical psychology has sorely ignored this subject until recently (Withers, 2003), when Merchant (2006) published an article that related archetypal theory to biological development. Although Jung spent his lifetime attempting to understand the symbols that drive the human psyche towards an individuated state, he did not discuss if particular symbols drive human development at particular stages of life. Jung only provided a broad developmental overview of the entirety of the developmental process (Jung, 1931/1969).
It must be well understood that no attempt will be made to describe the normal psychic occurrences within the various stages. We shall restrict ourselves, rather, to certain ‘problems,’ that is, to things that are difficult, questionable, or ambiguous; in a word, to questions which allow of more than one answer—and, moreover, answers that are always open to doubt. (Jung, 1931/1969, p. 387)
While authors of a Jungian persuasion have focused on specific developmental periods or the means by which archetypes affect specific developmental periods (Whitmont, 1969; Stien, 1983, 1998, 2006), no theorists has attempted to produce a comprehensive developmental theory that is based on the archetypes that drive the individuation of the Self. While the literature of Jungian psychology focuses on specific archetypes, specific developmental periods, or the overall process of individuation, I have shown in this literature review that a need exists to understand the framework from which the symbolic development of the psyche occurs. Therefore, in this research study, I will examine whether a pattern of archetypal development exists by way of a literary case study of Siddhartha, analyzing each developmental stage that the character underwent from a philosophical and alchemical hermeneutic perspective.
Archetypes affect the individuation process. However, Jung and subsequent analytical psychologists have sorely ignored producing a developmental theory that links archetypal theory to the overall human maturation process. While many analytical psychologists have focused on the way specific archetypes affect the development of normal and pathological psychological states, no comprehensive developmental theory exists that shows how archetypes manifest during specific developmental stages or how a Jungian sequence of development would correlate or diverge from existent developmental theories. In this work, I chose to write an outline of what a developmental sequence from a Jungian perspective entails by conducting a philosophical and alchemical hermeneutic case study of Siddhartha, a historical fiction of the Buddha’s life.
In this theoretical work on developmental and Jungian psychology, I will focus on three areas of concern:
What archetypes affect the individuation process during Siddhartha’s lifespan?
While I focus on the life of one individual, Siddhartha is an example of an individual that transcended his own consciousness and achieved an individuated state of being. If Jung was correct, and the collective unconscious exists, then collective themes drive our journey to realize our true nature. If developmental themes are present within the context of Hesse’s story, I will show how these themes are a collective representation of the journey all people undertake understand their true nature. Secondarily:
Can we discern a developmental pattern in the manifestation of archetypes that occurred in Siddhartha’s life?
If human maturation occurs in specific sequences, then a developmental pattern must be present within a story that examines the life of an exemplar that achieved an individuated state of consciousness. Furthermore, if the foundation of consciousness is built upon a collective storehouse of information, this developmental sequence must be accessible to all individuals. In this theoretical work, I will show how we all strive towards our ultimate developmental goals.
Finally, I will turn my attention to whether developmental theories and Jungian theories have common ground. In particular,
Do the developmental themes found in the novel Siddhartha correlate to developmental assumptions found in the Jungian literature and what relationship they have to the extant developmental literature?
Through conducting an analysis of Hermann Hesse’s story from a philosophical and alchemical hermeneutic perspective, I show how a developmental sequence is present within the context of Hesse’s story of the Buddha’s life and how this sequence correlates and diverges from existing developmental literature from a psychoanalytical perspective.
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