Siddhartha’s adolescence and early adult development: An analysis with personal reveries. As a child, I watched re-runs of the television show Kung-Fu. While I did not know the tenets of Eastern philosophy, I knew that I wanted to learn how to fight. However, the sensei that taught me how to fight required that each of his students assume responsibility as a means to show how ready we were to learn an art form that could bring harm to others. Our sensei required at least a 3.0 grade point average in academic affairs to prove that we were ready to train in the martial arts. Good grades represented a disciplined character and our sensei expected us to take our disciplined character traits to the community in which we lived. While we learned how to fight, we also learned the discipline needed to utilize this skill as a last resort. While I did not understand the reasoning behind this lesson at the time, I obeyed him because I wanted to learn self-defense. With hindsight, the primary lesson I learned in karate was how to train and keep a disciplined mindset.

Discipline assures physiological and psychological development by allowing a person to develop the resolve needed to take on increasingly complex tasks. One major developmental task that all boys must undertake is to sever their dependence on the family and assume a role as an adult within their community. Initiation rituals within many societies complete this task. Initiation assures the death of childhood egoism and allows the adult psyche to manifest; in turn, this allows a boy to become a man.

In order for man psychology to come into being for any particular man, there needs to be a death. Death – symbolic, psychological, or spiritual – is always a vital part of any initiatory ritual. In psychological terms, the boy Ego must “die.” The old ways of being and doing and thinking and feeling must ritually “die,” before the new man can emerge. (Moore & Gillette, 1990, p. 6)

Initiation rituals assure an adult personality will arise by aiding the child to sever the dependent bonds they have with their parents. Siddhartha’s ultimatum to his father clearly showed that he was ready to assume control over his life and become his own man. However, his psyche required initiation within a community of men.

As a child, I dreamt of becoming my own man. As I became an adult, I realized that the same rules that governed my childhood expectations were no longer valid in an adult world. This is one of the many morals common to the passage of Corinthians, which explains: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11, New International Version).

I became independent by taking on increasingly complex tasks that allowed me to become my own man. As a young man, I left my parents home at the age of 17. Although I believed that I had put childish ways behind me during my young adult-life, my first attempt to leave home proved unsuccessful. I needed emotional and financial support from my parents. However, I eventually learned the methods by which I now support family and myself by practicing the roles an adult under would assume under the tutelage of my knowledgeable parents. While Siddhartha left his family home outright to pursue identity development as an ascetic, I needed the support of my family to help me through the complex transition that occurs between adolescence and early adult-life. However, this is not completely different from Siddhartha, who also turned to elders within his community to help him learn adult ways of existence.

Adolescence marks a time in which the child’s personality wanes to adult ways of functioning. Siddhartha transitioned into adult-life by joining an ascetic community. In modern-day Western culture, an upper educational system helps foster a child’s ability to think independently. While many young adults attend college with the hopes of finding a better paying career, a good job, etc. educational institutions continue to provide their greatest impact amongst the population by producing independent thinkers that can challenge the status quo and bring fresh ideas into a culture that could easily stagnate without an influx of fresh ideas.

During early adult life, I showed resolve to become to assume the responsibilities of a man. While I vowed to never educate myself past secondary school, I achieved the apex of an educational degree by attaining a doctorate. I developed the ability to think for myself, have the capacity to provide for my family through the hard work and perseverance traits I assumed during early adult life, and through the help and tutelage of family I have not only successfully navigated the torrents of early adult life, but have learned how to be highly successful in any endeavor I assume. My adult development occurred in conjunction with a dream of pursuing academic and business affairs with passion; like Siddhartha, I pursued this passion with ascetic fervor. While self-directed thought is an important function of psychological development, the ability to pass life initiatory tests also plays an important factor in helping a boy to become a man.

A series of tests occur during young adult-life. The tests associated with maturation reminds me of the Riddle of the Sphinx, which Oedipus needed to answer before he entered Thebes to claim his wife. While Oedipus’ story presents as a tragic enantiodromia, mythology speaks to humanity because it foretells of the tests that affect every individual. All entities that exist on earth are subject to the aging process. This is no different for a person entering adult-life. Psychological tests form the foundation of the hero’s quest (Campbell, 1949) and Jung’s (1967) night sea journey. While psychological tests occur during every stage of life, these tests have particular significance to the growth of the adolescent and young adult ego because they rely on initial life successes to build the resolve needed to undertake more complex developmental tasks during the life sequence.

The first success I completed as a young man occurred during boot camp. This initial success allowed me to pursue increasingly complex goals as an adult. While I have sunk into the depths of the unconscious to begin adult-life, I have found that this process is not only circular, but also repetitive. The process of maturation assures that a person will undergo many developmental tests during the lifespan that assures the individuation process will occur.

It is normal to question whether the same rules that govern childhood will readily work during adult-life. Jung (1931/1969) stated:

The nearer we approach to the middle of life, and the better we have succeeded in entrenching ourselves in our personal attitudes and social positions, the more it appears as if we had discovered the right course and the right ideals and principles of bahaviour. For this reason we suppose them to be eternally valid, and make a virtue of unchangeably clinging to them. We overlook the essential fact that the social goal is attained only at the cost of a diminution of personality. Many – far too many – aspects of life which should also have been experienced lie in the lumber-room among dusty memories; but sometimes, too, they are glowing coals under grey ashes. (p. 395)

While the first half of life allows a person to establish an identity to deal with outside social pressures, the second half of life represents a time that aging adults must learn to deal with the processes associated with physiological and psychological deterioration. Jung (1931/1969) stated:

The worst of it all is that intelligent and cultivated people live their lives without even knowing of the possibility of such transformations. Wholly unprepared, they embark upon the second half of life. Or are there perhaps colleges for forty-year-olds, which prepare them for their coming life and its demands as the ordinary colleges introduce our young people to a knowledge of the world? No, thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of life; worse still, we take this step with the false assumption that our truths and ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme [sic] of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie. (pp. 398-399)

The afternoon of life presents a person with tests that differ from those common to early childhood. Relating to one’s parents differs from relating to someone in which no physiological tie exists.  

It is a common task amongst cultures to train an individual at an early age to work within a cultural industry. Most individuals, including myself, partook in some sort of early vocational education. I have been a sailor, worked as a delivery person, an IT person, a teacher, a therapist, a forensic evaluator, and expert witness. I have developed a number of personae during my young adult-life. I utilize these personae as a lens to see perceive the world in the particular fashion. However, I still do not fully comprehend the beauty of which I perceive. Nor will I ever. For I know that the world, if even seen one block at a time, is filled with vast wonder. My early educational experience has given way to more experiential learning during adult-life. I now watch the wonders of life unfold before my eyes through the developmental sequence I observe my own children undertaking. My childhood may have ended with the birth of my sons, but I still can re-visit memories from my own childhood as I watch my son’s life sequence unfold through the perspective of being a father.

Early adult-life gives way to middle adult-life in a transition that initiates Self-exploration. During middle adult-life, an adult must begin to make sense of the “dusty memories” of the “lumber room” in order to find the “glowing coals under grey ashes” (Jung, 1931/1969, p. 395). The memories that make up these ashes are the remnants of un-lived dreams that occur during adolescence and early adult-life. The process of finding the glowing coals under the ashes of dusty memories is similar to the process that alchemists underwent to transform lead into gold. A person achieves psychological gold by mending the split nature of consciousness. Mercury represents the binding agent that helps mend the split nature of consciousness. Mercury was a God in the Roman Pantheon based on the tenets of Hermes. Siddhartha became ready to engage himself only when he became ready to partake in a relationship with another individual.

The slowly walking thinker came to a halt altogether, captured by this last thought… That I know nothing of myself, that Siddhartha remains so alien and unknown to me… Siddhartha opened his eyes and looked around him. A smile spread over his face, and a profound sensation of awakening from a long dream filled him… Oh, he thought, taking deep breaths, now I will not let Siddhartha slip away from me again. I will no longer kill myself and tear myself to pieces, trying to find the secret beneath the rubble… I will learn from myself, be my own student. I will learn about myself, about the mystery of Siddhartha. He looked around him as though he were seeing the world for the first time. The world was beautiful, full of colors, strange and enigmatic. Here was blue, here yellow, here green, the sky was in movement and so was the river; the forest was fixed in place and so were the hill – all beautiful, all mysterious and magical. And in the middle of it all was Siddhartha, the awakened one, on the path to himself. (Hesse, 2002, pp. 42-43)

This passage draws the reader’s attention to the difference that exists between looking at the world from an objective versus a subjective viewpoint. For the first time, Siddhartha saw the world for its innate beauty rather than through the eyes of a detached observer. One must know his or her perceptions in order to transcend them. Siddhartha developed a subjective objectiveness towards his environment. He saw the environment through his senses and felt the environment through the emotional state he underwent as an awakened being. Romanyshyn (2001) believed that to see with the scientific eye of empirical objectivity rather than the psychological eye of metaphorical reflection promotes a one-sided understanding that is not inclusive of the interaction that occurs between consciousness and the object that consciousness studies.

I am conscious that I became detached from the environment in which I functioned as a young adult. I dreamed of finding a woman who would love me, but I had no love for myself. As a young man, I was objective towards my feelings, which caused me to detach myself from all that was important to me. I did not trust my thoughts. I turned my attention on understanding what led to my thoughts and suppressed those “cognitions” rather than sit with them as the alchemist would have. While I have found out that this was an integral part of how I related to the world at the time, I had suppressed many feelings and perceptions of events that had great impact on my life. By assuming an objective stance, even towards my own subjectivity, I learned a method by which to operate in a scientific world. However, even at this point in my life, I find that the the one-sidedness of this perspective is stifling towards emotional, spiritual, and the overall psychological growth of the adult. Now, I must work to expand upon the one-sidedness of this perspective in order to grow into the individual I wish to become.

A person must learn to crawl before they can walk; similarly, a person must develop simple and complex consciousness before they can individuate. When viewed from this perspective, a person must learn subjective and objective methods from which to understand the environment, before they can see with a psychological eye of metaphorical understanding. Metaphorical understanding occurs by learning to live with other individuals, which includes multilayer and multifaceted way of subjective and objective perspectives. From a personal perspective, I have grown considerably as a man, husband, a father, and a person through the daily interactions I am blessed with from my wife, my children, and my family. This is neither subjective nor objective, but represents a means of existence that incorporates both positions.

As a child, I thought with the mind of a child. As I became an adult, I learned how to interact with others in an honest manner that was separate from the personae and myths I created about myself during adolescence. During adolescence, I actively engaged in story telling to create a personal mythology from which I could feel more special than I really was. I needed these stories to suppress the sense of inadequacy I felt about myself. While I do not consider the stories I created to be an overt lie, they represented a means by which I learned to relate with others I felt less than adequate around. I found comfort by pursuing an identity that was stronger than my own. I took what Robert Bly (1990) called the high road of ascension, which helped me to feel more grand than I actually was. However, to engage in a loving relationship based on trust, I needed to develop an intact ego, and more importantly, knowledge of who I truly was becoming as a man. The personae I created as an adolescent needed to wane so that I could begin to know myself. I became open to love only after I became open to knowing, and ultimately loving myself.

Siddhartha found Kamala only after he was ready to take part in the world as an adult. He needed to diverge from the personae he created as an adolescent to interact with others as an adult. Siddhartha was ready to become his own teacher, take charge of his personal destiny, and find himself through the eyes of another.

Siddhartha saw how beautiful she was, and his heart laughed. He bowed low as the litter passed by him, and when he straightened up again, looked into the bright gracious face, read for a moment what was written in the clever eyes beneath their lofty arches, and drew in a whiff of an unfamiliar fragrance. Smiling, the beautiful woman briefly nodded to him, then vanished into the grove. Then he entered the city. He had an aim now. Following this aim, he let himself be swallowed up by the city. He moved with the flow in the streets, stood still in the plazas, rested on the stone steps by the river. Toward the evening he made friends with a barber’s assistant whom he had seen working in the shadow of an archway and met again praying in a temple of Vishnu. He told him stories about Vishnu and Lakshmi. He slept the night by the boats on the river, and early in the morning, before the first customers arrived in the shop, he had the barber’s assistant shave off his beard and cut and comb his hair and anoint it with fine oil. Then he bathed in the river. (Hesse, 2002, pp. 56-57)

The act of courtship consists of many rituals designed to entice two individuals into loving one another. However, engaging another individual in a loving relationship requires great responsibility. Siddhartha needed to become an attractive mate selection to attain the woman of his dreams. To do this, Siddhartha needed to put his wild nature as an ascetic aside and incorporate its powers within his emergent adult psyche.

Love is an integral emotion that assures the continuation of our species. Love is an emotion that is paradoxical, having both exquisite and chaotic qualities. The ability to support another individual in a loving relationship represents a key factor that drives people to work. A person must develop the means to support the individual they seek to love emotionally, spiritually, and financially. I underwent similar dynamics after I met my wife; I actively sought gainful and steady employment after our engagement in order to take care of our growing family. My growing family spurred the psychosocial need to generate for others. This is no different for the wayfaring Siddhartha, who realized that he needed to learn worldly ways in order to attract the mistress he sought.


Bly, R. (1990). Iron John: A book about men. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Campbell, J. (1949). The hero with a thousand faces. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Hesse, H. (2002). Siddhartha: A new translation with an introduction by Paul W. Morris. (C. S. Kohn, Trans.) Boston, MA: Shambhala. (Original work published 1922)

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. (Original work published 1911-1912)

Jung, C. G. (1969). The stages of life. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler, & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. Hull, Trans., Vol. 8, pp. 387-403). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1931)

Moore, R., & Gillette, D. (1990). King, warrior, magician, lover: Rediscovering the archetypes of the mature masculine. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins.

Romanyshyn, R. D. (2001). Mirror and metaphor: Images and stories of psychological life. Pittsburgh, PA: Trivium Publications.


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