Life is truly a miraculous undertaking. Paths open up to us through the choices we are exposed to, and from these choices the storyline of life unfolds. While we are ultimately the authors of our own destiny, initially, the decisions that are made are not personal; instead, they are made by the individuals that love us the most: the parent’s that gave us life.
In previous articles I explored how archetypes affect the gestational and inta-uterine development of a child. In this article, I will begin explore the events that take place after a child is born and begins the undertaking of childhood psychological development.
Above, I alluded to the fact that life is truly a miracle; but this miracle does not come without hard work. Initially, we are incapable of engaging the work needed to foster the miracle of life forward. This is due to the physiological and psychological dependency infants have on their parents. During pregnancy and early childhood, the life of the child is lived through the dreams parent’s have for their growing children. If those dreams and aspirations are loving in nature, the child will be exposed to the environmental stimuli needed to foster his or her individual capacity to dream their life forward. Dreaming is the work, the labor that moves a child from being dependent on their parents to becoming functional adults capable of dreaming, planning, and implementing their own dreams.
The human life, if nurtured, will unfold in specific developmental sequences that assures a child will develop into a psychologically mature being. The developmental sequence exists a-priori, is built within our genetic sequence, and is affected by the environmental conditions the child is exposed. The environmental stimuli is directly affected and dependent upon the parents dreams for and interactions with the developing child. While much attention is paid to the mother and child relationship during pregnancy and infancy, a father’s role is equally important for the early development of a child.
Stress and hypertension can affect the unborn fetus during gestation. Early research shows that chronic stress felt by the mother releases cortisol hormones into the system, which can cause the fight or flight response associated with the fear to arise. While normal levels of stress are not necessarily damaging to the fetus, chronic stress and hypertension can lead to subtle developmental changes in the brain, which in turn can cause behavioral problems during later childhood development (Watson, 2013).
Fatherhood is an important psychological construct to the developing child. It offers one half of the polarized constructs that help a child learn how to navigate human relationships. While it is imperative for a mother to create an optimal environment for their unborn fetus to thrive, it is also imperative that fathers and family members take part in and create an externally non-stressful environment in which the mother can thrive. During pregnancy, and early childhood development, an externally non-stressful environment helps foster a strong bonding experience between the child, mother, and father; this in turn, forms the foundation of a strong family unit. Through cooperative efforts, the mother, the father, and the developing child can and will grow into a family unit. While stresses may be inevitable in our day to day life, the miracle of life and the sanctity of early childhood development makes the effort a worthy cause that will ultimately help ground the roots of not only the child, but also the family tree.
The story Siddhartha gives us clear indications of the archetypal themes that drive early childhood development. In the story, Siddhartha was the direct product of his mother and father’s dreams. Hesse’s (2002) story begins with the themes of light and the shadow it creates. Siddhartha’s family home was strong and light shined upon its foundation; however, as with any object that impedes light, a shadow becomes cast in its wake. This sets up a paradoxical beginning for the protagonist who must resolve the shadow created in the wake of his family lineage to gain access to the light that shone upon the riverbank and his family home. Siddhartha’s caste allowed him the luxury of pursuing matters of spiritual attainment. However, Siddhartha was not happy with the brahmin lifestyle; instead, he sought to appease his bohemian nature by leaving his family home in order to pursue the life of a wayfaring ascetic.
The introduction to the story shows the poles that exist between the concepts of light and shadow. Through the shadow and other archetypal themes that make up the nature of the collective and therefore impersonal unconscious, Siddhartha was able to achieve an enlightened state of consciousness. Siddhartha sought to become Self-realized. He sought to achieve knowledge of Atman as it exists within Brahman.
A river and a boat are also present in the beginning of the story; this suggests that the plot of the story will consist of a journey that will unwind along the river’s path. The sun is also present. It gives its life nurturing light to the earth, and is a divine concept most often associated with divine masculine energy and God. Siddhartha needed to face the shadow created in the wake of his family lineage, the house that impeded the light upon the riverbank in order to understand the divinity associated with the enlightenment he sought. Siddhartha yearned to leave home to pursue an ascetic lifestyle, which in turn caused shadow material to emerge, that would ultimately form the plot of his individuated journey.
Hesse continued the wayfaring theme in the beginning chapter by introducing two birds of prey, the falcon and heron. Both are birds and have the ability to take flight. The traits of these symbols remind me of the traits common to the phoenix. Both the phoenix and the sun are further associated with Sun God worship common to the East and West, and suggests that a journey will take place in which the natural course of life will unfold in a manner that honors the transcendent nature of the human spirit. Jung (1911-1912/1967) stated:
Under the symbol of “moth and sun” we have dug deep down into the history layers of the psyche, and in the course of our excavations have uncovered a buried idol, the sun-hero, “young, comely, with glowing locks and fiery crown,” who, forever unattainable to mortal man, revolves round the earth, causing night to follow day, and winter summer, and death life, and who rises again in rejuvenated splendour to give light to new generations. For him the dreamer longs with her very soul, for him the “soul moth” burns her wings. The ancient civilizations of the Near East were familiar with a sun-worship dominated by the idea of the dying and resurgent god—Osiris, Tammuz, Attis-Adonis. Christ, Mithras, and the phoenix. (p. 109)
As new life arises, the Night Sea’s Journey begins. Just as the sun rises daily in the East, it ultimately ultimately finds its destiny in the West. The day, the seasons, the weather, and even life unfolds with certainty, mirroring the basic journey of the sun. In the story, destiny called upon Siddhartha to live the natural course of his life to achieve the state of consciousness he wished to attain. Siddhartha was dependent on the same life giving light that affects all sentient beings. He needed to hunt his goal with the same precision and resolve that a falcon or heron hunts their prey. The phoenix of Siddhartha’s soul needed to take flight and transcend to a level of spirit in order for Siddhartha to realize his destiny. Siddhartha’s journey took place by the river, the same river where he became enlightened. These themes, which Hesse introduced in the first sentence of the story foretell of the plot that will unfold just as the developmental sequence associated with individuation unfolds from a divine plan unbeknownst to our current knowledge base.
While the story starts at some point in Siddhartha’s mid childhood, the symbols present offer us a glimpse into the archetypes that foster early childhood development. What is present are the dreams parents have for their children, and the effects those dreams have on forming the foundation from which a child’s capacity to dream life forward emerges. The sun and river are also present, and these symbols are associated with the father and mother. The heron and falcon represent symbols of flight, and are similar to the psychopomp of the phoenix, suggesting that a transformative journey will take place, in which earth is transcended, so that the heavens can be attained. These symbols, much like the psychological development of a child, foretell of a journey that will begin to unfold, much like the capacity to realize individuated development unfolds with biological certainty.
Hesse, H. (2002). Siddhartha: A new translation with an introduction by Paul W. Morris. (C. S. Kohn, Trans.) Boston, MA: Shambhala.
Jung, C. G. (1967). Symbols of transformation: An analysis of the prelude to a case of schizophrenia. In H. Read, M.Fordham, G. Adler, & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. Hull, Trans., 2nd ed., Vol. 5). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Watson, S. (2013). Can stress affect your fetus? As it turns out, constant pressure may put your baby at risk. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/baby/features/stress-marks#2