Siddhartha Gautama: The Anima and Mid-Life Development

MidLife Development and the Anima Archetype

Siddhartha entered middle-life after spending a number of years partaking in sexuality. Siddhartha’s had to take part in the material world to gain Kamala’s love. In order to take part in her sexual games, he had to earn a living and generate a level of riches that she desired. This was a stretch for the boy who had yet to undertake an adult working life; Siddhartha had no experience with adult economics.

As a boy, Siddhartha was sheltered from the realities of the world because of his brahmin title. As an adolescent and young adult, Siddhartha suffered a rebellious nature, left his family, and learned the ways of becoming his own individual by pursuing a disciplined life of aestheticism. However, in middle-life, Siddhartha began to understand that he must learn of himself through the eyes of another. He sought a soul mate, which forced him to partake in socially sanctioned cultural industry. This relationship forced him to learn of materialism and seek gainful employment to generate riches.

In middle-life, Siddhartha assumed the role of a merchant, utilized this profession to provide worldly-goods for his courtesan, learned lessons of greed, lust, love, and lost his inner sense of self to the daily routines that underlie a materialistic lifestyle. While many circumstances can cause the psyche to stagnate, partaking in materialism represents the means by which Siddhartha’s mid-life development stagnated. Materialism, greed, lust, and gluttony represented the shadow components of Siddhartha’s psyche in Hesse’s story.

During midlife, Siddhartha entered a period that Jung (1931/1969) associated to a “lumber room” (p. 395), and tended to the psychological ashes that Robert Bly (1990) shows are important for the continued development of the male psyche. Hesse (2002) provided an account of the mid-life crisis that Siddhartha underwent.

Once he received a warning in a dream. He had spent the evening with Kamala, in her beautiful pleasure garden. They had sat beneath the trees talking, and Kamala had spoken pensive words veiling sadness and fatigue. She had asked him to tell her about Gotama and could not get her fill of hearing about him, how pure his gaze was, how still and beautiful his mouth, how kindly his smile, how tranquil his walk… But then she had aroused him physically and in their lovemaking had locked him to her in painful throes of lust accompanied by biting and tears, as though she were trying to squeeze the last sweet drops out of vain, impermanent pleasure. Never was it clearer to Siddhartha how closely related loves pleasure is to death. Then he lay by Kamala’s side with her face close to his, and around her eyes and the corners of her mouth he read plainly as never before a timid script, a script of fine lines and faint furrows, a script that recalled autumn and old age and also reminded Siddhartha of himself. He was in his forties now, and had here and there noticed gray hairs among the black. Fatigue was written on Kamala’s beautiful face, the fatigue of a long journey that has no happy destination, fatigue and a suggestion of fading, and also a concealed, not-yet-express, perhaps not-yet-conscious alarm: fear of old age, fear of autumn, fear of having to die. Sighing, he had bid her farewell, his soul filled with malaise and hidden fear.

Hermann Hesse, (2002), pp. 85 – 86

The Autumn of Siddhartha’s Life

Siddhartha’s hair turned the color of ash. During his midlife journey, Siddhartha learned the ways of the social world and began to sink into a depression. To ease his depression, Siddhartha actively engaged vices to satiate the discontent, the stagnation growing in his soul. Siddhartha sought pleasure in gambling, sexual relationships, and alcohol use. The depression represents the metaphorical descent into the unconscious that begins the hero’s journey, which also represents the mid-life evaluative process that begins individuation.

Then Siddhartha had spent the night in the company of dancing girls, drinking wine. He had played the superior among his peers, which he no longer was, had drunk a great deal of wine, and had gone to bed late, after midnight, tired and yet agitated, close to crying and despair. He had tried in vain to sleep, his heart filled with a misery he felt he could no longer bear, filled with a revulsion by which he felt totally saturated, as by the lukewarm, revolting taste of the wine, the cloying, meaningless music, the excessive smiles of the dancing girls, and the overly sweet odor of their hair and breasts.

Hermann Hesse, (2002), p. 86
He had tried in vain to sleep, his heart filled with a misery he felt he could no longer bear…

Through the aging eyes of Kamala, Siddhartha realized the continued pull of time that reminds all individuals of their mortality. Having realized that he no longer controlled his destiny, Siddhartha faced his mortality in a dream sequence. 

In a golden cage Kamala had a small, rare song-bird. He dreamed about the bird. He dreamed the bird, who otherwise always sang in the morning, was silent. Noticing this, he went over the cage and looked inside. The little bird was dead and lay stiff on the bottom of the cage. He took it out, weighed it a moment in his hand, then threw it away onto the street outside. That moment a terrible fright took hold of him and his heart pained him as though with this dead bird he had thrown away everything valuable and good.

(Hermann Hesse, 2002, p. 86-87.

The fields of psychoanalysis and analytical psychology have long understood the power that dreams have on transforming the psyche. The bird is indicative of Siddhartha’s soul image. In the alchemical nature of Jung’s psychology, the bird represents a resurrected soul amongst many other themes (Jung, 1911-1912/1967; 1951/1969). The bird symbol also indicates the lumen, which propels the soul to grow psychologically through prophesies, as foretold by dreams. While the allegorical account of bird symbolism explained above may seem outdated when viewed from the cannons of science, the dove is a symbol still held in the Christian religion to represent the ability the soul has to transcend into the realm of heaven and take its place in God’s divine plan. In essence, the dove is Spirit.

Kamala’s bird sang in the morning, a time in which the new day begins and the sun rises towards its zenith. While Siddhartha grew accustomed to the birds beautiful song, during his middle-life, he was forced to continually deal with the ever looming presence of death. The dawn of Siddhartha’s life had passed and the sun of his soul pursued its natural course towards its horizon. After weighing the beautiful songbird in his hand and disposing of it on the street, Siddhartha became aware that his life, like the bird, would give way to the natural cycle of life and death. 

That moment a terrible fright took hold of him and his heart pained him as though with this dead bird he had thrown away everything valuable and good.

During middle-life, Siddhartha’s song had grown quiet as his worldly spirit sank into the depths of the collective and personal nature of the unconscious. He tried to realize his Self outside of the ego, had partaken in love’s fruits through the throws of materialism and uninhibited sexuality. However, as a middle-aged adult, Siddhartha began the process of dealing with the inevitable pull of death. As Siddhartha’s time began to wane, he had to deal with the shadow components left over from his early childhood development. Siddhartha had to work with the Anima and Shadow archetypes to begin understanding the Self he truly sought. Through the death of his ego, Siddhartha realized the Self as encompassing all the archetypal components he interacted with during his middle-life.

References:

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)

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)

Jung, C. G. (1969). Psychological aspects of the mother archetypes. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler, & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. Hull, Trans., Vols. 9-1, pp. 75-110). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1954)

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