A Jungian Analysis of Siddhartha’s Adolescent and Young Adult Development as Presented By Hermann Hesse
The transition between childhood and adult-life is a tumultuous period that presents the maturing individual with a myriad of psychological and physiological changes. As the body sexually matures, the psyche begins to take on perspectives that are more adult-like. This allows the individual who is physiologically ready to procreate the ability to partake in the needed activities that assure the survival of the next generation. The psychological growth that occurs during adolescence and young adult development center on developing an intact identity from which to operate within the world, learning a cultural industry to establish one’s sense of self as an independent adult, and learning how to relate with others in increasingly intimate ways.
Siddhartha’s childhood ended after he left his father and mother’s home to pursue the life of an ascetic. This theme is a continuation of the wayfaring nature Siddhartha assumed as a child. As an ascetic, Siddhartha allowed his mind to expand and assume many differing perspectives. He practiced Self-abnegation to project his soul into the essence of other entities. However, Siddhartha was not content with one identity; instead, he projected his soul into the essence of many different entities. This suggests that Siddhartha was experimenting with differing personae to help him establish a firm identity from which he could relate with the outside world.
As an adolescent, Siddhartha sought initiation into a community. He sought knowledge of an adult path that he believed would lead to enlightenment. Amongst the shramanas, Siddhartha sought a knowledge base that would appease his wandering nature, while he learned a set of vocational skills that would be of great benefit during the latter part of his life. As an adolescent, Siddhartha wandered the world in search of himself. In many ways, Siddhartha’s wayfaring nature mirrors the journeys undertook by Dionysus, who sought to establish himself amongst the gods. His search for identity also clearly mirrors the timelessly lost nature of Narcissus, who underwent a lifelong journey to find the beauty that was truly his.
The concept of Robert Bly’s (1990) wild-man is apparent in Siddhartha’s journey to transition for adolescence to early adult life. Siddhartha learned from the shramanas how to undertake states of Self-abnegation. As a shramana, Siddhartha assumed many characteristics of a primitive man, in essence a man in touch with the instinctual animalistic traits. Hesse provides vivid imagery of this transition, stating: “Now he wore only a loincloth… Fevered dreams flashed from his dilated eyes, the nails got long on his shriveled fingers, and from his chin grew a dry, scruffy beard” (Hesse, 2002, p. 14). The wild-man, although not specifically a Jungian construct, is linked to other constructs that Carl Jung studied in his extensive analysis of mythological stories. The concept of the wild-man shares similarities to the Greek deity Dionysus. Dionysus was the god of wine, madness, male potency, drunkenness, and wild nature. He wore the skins of a leopard, while panthers pulled his chariot. The horns of a bull and the phallus were his emblems (Powell, 2004). In the passage above, Siddhartha shows a truly wild nature, These emblems and traits of character show the protagonist’s wildness and the stories of his wayfaring nature show that Siddhartha underwent a kind of primitive initiation, a return to animal instincts if you will, in order to identify and assume a more adult oriented psyche.
Sexuality, male potency, madness, and drunkenness are common themes of maturation during adolescence and young adult development. A boy learns to become a man in conjunction with the emergence of his sexuality. Siddhartha learned the ways of a cultural industry based on spirituality and asceticism, but denied himself the pleasure of love. However, after becoming initiated into the adult world, and having turned his back on the lessons of others, Siddhartha began to feel the pain associated with loneliness, and began to seek another individual with whom he could learn the art of love. Siddhartha became ready to engage the anima figure through its projection on the beautiful mistress Kamala.
Siddhartha’s first attempt at an adult (sexual) relationship proved futile. The woman was of the wrong caste, which caused his conscience to forbid the act of consummating this relationship. However, this initial sexual encounter with the young temptress that washed clothes at a stream awakened the anima, that feminine aspect of the masculine psyche within Siddhartha. For the first time, Siddhartha felt the longing of sexuality. The anima represents the feminine component of a man’s soul; a man projects this archetype onto a suitable life-mate so that he may assure appropriate object relationships. While Siddhartha had developed an intact identity during adolescence, he had yet to develop an intimate relationship by which he could further reflect on his development as it relates through the eyes of another individual. The young woman at the stream bank who washed clothes could not assume the projection of Siddhartha’s anima. She was not of the right caste to help the protagonist sever the anima from the mother; however, the mistress that sat on red cushions could assume the projection of Siddhartha’s anima. She was a princess, a woman that could teach Siddhartha the loving arts while remaining a worthy opponent to his fierce will. In order to fully realize who he was becoming, Siddhartha needed another with whom he could attach his ego, learn the art of intimacy, and experience the profound growth potential learning to relate with others offers the self / Self axis.
Adolescent and young adult development represents a period in which many archetypal themes become apparent for the emerging adult psyche. In particular, adolescent development represents a time in which wild-man energy emerges from the child psyche, prompting the boyhood psyche to assume increasingly adult like traits. An initiating adult man must harness this energy in an appropriate manner to guide the initiate into the sacred journey required to become a man amongst other men within the community (Bly, 1990). As a child learns to function independently, they become psychologically and physiologically capable of undertaking adult relationships and dealing with the aftermath that arises from beginning sexual encounters. This suggests the beginning formation of the anima construct. However, the anima is not fully functional during adolescence. A male adolescent must first sever the anima archetype from the mother imago that houses its polarities during early childhood development. The archetypal themes present during adolescence and young adult development consist of the wild-man, the process of initiation, and the anima construct, as it exists separately from the mother imago.
Bly, R. (1990). Iron John: A book about men. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
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)
Powell, B. B. (2004). Classical myth (4th ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson.