Daimons of the Unconscious
We can no longer deny that the dark stirrings of the unconscious are active powers and that psychic forces exist which cannot be fitted into rational order. The layman can hardly conceive how much his inclinations, moods, and decisions are influences by the dark forces of his psyche, and how dangerous or helpful they may be in shaping his destiny. – Carl Jung
Poseidon and Hades are brothers, sons of Cronus and Rhea. They are devoured by their fearful father and then released to battle and overthrow him. Hades is the lord of the underworld while his brother Poseidon rules the vast domain of the sea. Both spheres are symbolic of the worlds below consciousness. Therefore both gods are daimons of the unconscious representing powerful hidden archetypal forces. Both brothers rule a vast expanse of the world. However, most of the inhabitants of this world are shadow images of the humans dwelling aboveground. Hades’ population is full of shades and ghosts while monsters and shape-shifting prophets populate Poseidon’s realm. As brothers and custodians of these places, they are united in their rulership of the unconscious realms.
The Internal Psychic Landscape
“It is in the light of psyche that we must read all underworld descriptions. Being in the underworld means psychic being, being psychological, where soul comes first.” -James Hillman
Hades was not only a personification of the underworld God commonly known as Pluto. His name also refers to a place: his extensive underworld kingdom. Mythological tradition and epic clearly differentiated the underworld and the god Hades was the regent of this place. This mythological netherworld serves as a symbol for understanding the textures and shades of subterranean psychic life. In contemporary psychological terms, this dark underworld territory is akin to the unconscious. Examining the customs, laws, and landscapes of the underworld amplifies our comprehension of the feeling life of the psyche. Hades, as a place, is a metaphor for what lies below the limen of consciousness and helps map out the internal psychic landscape.
The Hades-Dominant Inner Father
This week I want to take time to explore the Hades role in our lives. Without Hades, we have known discoveries of our unknown potentials or our hidden passions or our soul solutions. A Hades-dominant inner father is one who remains outside of the experiences at hand. Hades prefers his underworld state. This can look to us like depression, social isolation, deep contemplation, avoidance, or even cleverness as a disguise for intimacy avoidance. Primarily, it is important to consider that Hades is necessary. It is likely the figure we work with most as clinical therapists and healers. To listen in order to understand rather than retorted we are in the realm of Hades – attending to what’s underneath someone’s words, actions, body language, and more.
The Importance of the Unconscious
We will be discussing in weekly theme group and art group the importance of the unconscious as well as the role of Hades in its most positive light. Should we repress, avoid, or “treat” away the Hades condition, we then neglect the soul in its unknowing. To put it another way, if we are heaven-bent, striving to liberate ourselves from the weight of unknowing, inflated in the fantasy of resolution rather than integration, we run from, then, our own humanity. Indeed, the soul lives in the process, not in the radiation efforts of our perceived struggles.
In my years as a clinical therapist and program director, I have encountered many Poseidon problems. Clients express that they feel over-possessed by the unpredictable waters within them. They feel overcome by the surfacing and powerful waves of buried emotions. Why is my anger not going away? Or why do I sabotage my relationships? And why don’t I feel like I am ever enough? When questions like these arise, we can look to the archetypal figure of Poseidon for further understanding.
The Extreme Implications of Vengeance and Emotional Intensities
More than any other Greek deity, Poseidon shows us the extreme implications of vengeance and emotional intensities. On the one hand, we see a figure who carries our ships across the seas to our destinations. This is to suggest that our emotions are the ebbing, flowing waters that carry our dreams and goals. However, on the other, sometimes our emotions get the best of us. We can possess ourselves for years or even lifetimes with their unsolidified reactivity. A Poseidon problem resembles his temperamental kingship.
The Deep and Wide Range of Our Emotional Waters
Poseidon, like the sea itself, ever moves in interaction with the other elements. Waters can stir and lift, powerful, and unpredictable. As ruler of the seas, Poseidon commands the deep and wide range of our emotional waters. A Poseidon man or Poseidon father can be relentlessly powerful in stormy emotions. At other times he is tranquil, softening the edges of ridged and hard surfaces, rocking gently those that he loves in his massive embrace.
A Tremendous Amount of Passion
For example, when our efforts are reliant upon the Poseidon figure, we allow emotions to rule motivations. Of course, this can be quite meaningful. A Poseidon father likely shows great empathy for his children. There is a tremendous amount of passion and squishy moments to be had by watery feelings. But when king is ruled by the seas of his emotions, his wrath and many unsustainable goals are sentenced to the bottoms of the ocean, only to hurl themselves upon the shores soaking the dry land we stand upon.
A Poseidon character is the kingly character of the reactive psyche. He is not the rightful ruler of our inner world because he lacks the vantage point of Olympus. Poseidon loses and is humiliated in many instances before Zeus and the other gods. His power cannot win out for the throne. At least, not if we want healthy outcomes for our psychological and spiritual health.
Working with Awareness of the Seas
We can look to his nature as a kind of barometer of our own masculine relationship with emotion itself. If, for example, we are out of touch with the Poseidon role – that is, we do not rule over emotions with some masculine energy – we may be subject then to the natural occurrences of water damage. Should the waters go untamed or unaddressed, perhaps the solid ground in our lives will be washed away. Should we fail to recognize the Poseidon energy when it swells and thrashes against our boats and shores, we are then destined to play out his mythology in our lifetime.
The trick is to see his role and work with awareness of the seas. For to be the sea is to suffer greatly. This week we ask simply: Where can we see Poseidon in our lives? Furthermore, do we need more emotional attendance? Finally, do we need to release the attempts to rule our psyches from an emotional ocean?
As we begin our work with Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, it is important to also differentiate the realms in which they oversee. We must better understand the role of different aspects of masculinity through these archetypal figures. To do this, we have to also take the time to understand the aspects or places psychologically suited for each. Without a conscious relationship with the realms of psychological life, we may be swimming in the undifferentiated mass confusion of an unconscious psyche. Should we take the time to raise to candlelight the realms and rulers personified in the Greek myths, we may observe in intimate detail the curvatures of the masculine form.
The Wise and Strong Mothering Rhea
After Zeus and Rhea trick Saturn and the gods have returned, Zeus assumes the rightful position as king over his many siblings. For Zeus, conquering the father and rescuing the siblings entitles him to the highest position among them. Through strength and power on the one hand, Zeus claimed his throne. However, we also have to consider the wise and strong mothering of Rhea. Rhea was the protector of Zeus in infancy. She guarded his innocence day and night until the day he confronted Saturn. This is an important and very common phenomenon in the life of strong Zeusian men. When mother was protective, men will often exude an unparalleled and unwavering conviction in word and action. We might say that Zeus was stubborn, but also most worthy. He is less consumed by father and more secure in the womb-like preservation provided by mother.
The Rightful Ruler of Our Purest Virtues
I want to consider the significance of preserved and protected innocence and the rightful overseer of our purest, highest, and most heavenly virtues. Zeus is rightly the ruler here. He possesses both a secure childlikeness as well as the power and strength to lead from it. Such amplifications beckon us to ask good questions of our own Olympian realms and rulers. Who holds the reigns of our Olympian worlds? Do we place the highest values in the hands of wounded and fearful fathers? Like Saturn, do we swallow life down and remove ourselves? Or do we entrust these values to the strength of Zeus? Of course, we come in and out of metaphor and literalism here. Zeus is figurative – a clay formation of an important aspiration within and without. As fathers, again both within and without, how do we exemplify or woefully fall short of Zeus?
The Importance of an Individuation Process
It’s important to point out what happens when the role of Zeus is already taken. This may from father, grandfather, mother, teacher, or even therapist. If Zeus belongs to others we may never rightfully oversee the psychological life within us. To put it another way, if Zeus is not, in part, a way of thinking for ourselves because his energy is projected elsewhere, how can we begin to gain a vantage point above and engage in healthy, virtuous motives within our own lives? One must consider the importance of an individuation process where the overbearing power of others, addictions, and codependencies is relinquished to the Zeus within. In short, too much Zeus and we have too little humanity. Too little Zeus and we have codependent and powerless lives.
Magical consciousness has to accommodate shadows or it has immediately made its potency finite. Some vital energy is drained from us when we disconnect from moon-like rhythms of visibility. Certain thoughts are out like boomerangs and are not to accomplish themselves in speech—rather to hurtle back into the nourishing dark of our own quiet. We get damaged by too much daylight – Martin Shaw
The Inner Connection with Ideas and Imagination
In light of the short week at Barn Life, we will take a brief detour from the Greek gods. Instead. we are going to emphasize the psychological implication. Our quote above comes from a favorite author of mine: Martin Shaw. His work exemplifies deep attendance to myth and fairytale from a place of soul. Through his deep reading and contemplation, Shaw manages to bring moisture to psychology. Quoted here, in Snowy Tower, Shaw reflects on the significance of the inner connection with ideas and imagination. He suggests that we cannot simply reduce our thoughts, patterns, behaviors, and struggles to definition and solution. Rather, until we hold the inner process meditatively with a religious attitude of loving parenthood, our life is without substance. To put it another way, magical privacy is a quiet soil we need to grow seeds in.
The Heart of Our Disorders
This beckons us to consider the importance of wonder, silence, and the unfolding of things on the psyche’s terms and not our own. Is it the psyche that lives in me? Or is it me that lives in the psyche? While treatment plans and coping strategies serve to resolve, much of the inner transformation comes from the deep intimacy with the unfolding. From this perspective, we may say that intimacy is always at the heart of our disorders. One cannot simply apply their way to meaning and soul. Rather, one must learn to attend often to the dark fairytales and mysteries of the inner world. Through sensation, imagination, and a healthy, balanced archetypal fathering and mothering, we may live into our answers.
A Contemplative and Curious Position
Our crisis is one of intimacy, one of creation, one of transition. Having abandoned, due to survival and prescription, the necessity of the cosmic bath – the psychization of instinct and sensation of stirring potentials – we more often than not fail to initiate into an inner center of gravity. Instead one repeats the cycle of confrontation and repression. My encouragement this week is that we take a contemplative and curious position alongside our own clients recognizing the unfolding fairytales and mysteries as a greatly unconscious and meaningful work. Should we trust that the psyche wants to heal, we may provide the sacred and open space for initiations into self-resilience, imagination, and reconciliation.
Uranus once ruled as the god of the skies. With Gaia (Mother Earth), Uranus fathered the primal forces of the universe. As strong and powerful forces, his children, the titans, held the elemental system together. And, like many fathers, Uranus reveled in his authority above the others but, in time, grew fearful. He worried that his own children would rise against him and began burying the titans deep into the earth. Gaia, out of desperation to protect her children, pleaded with several of her sons to help dethrone the power-mad father. All of the sons were cowardly but one. Cronos, best known as Saturn, agreed to hide while Uranus came to lay with Gaia. When the moment was right, Cronus struck Uranus at the base of his genitals and cast them into the seas. Graphic as the scene was, it effectively awarded Cronos the position of power over the universe.
The Wounds of the Father
As wounds of the father are so often hereditary, Cronos, too, began to fear losing his reign over his children. But instead of hiding them, Cronos aggressively begins to devour them and firmly reserves his control. Let’s consider what these stories have to say about fathering. Firstly, we can readily see the role that fear plays in the life of a father. Whether it be by a need for dominion or mere significance, the authoritative father is compelled to repress the new with the old. Fathers may rely heavily on the “right answers” to maintain their reign. Cronos/Saturn fathering often relies on the old wisdom to confront and swallow the new imagination. However, it may rob children of the chance to explore their own identities. Rather than finding one’s own strength, like Uranus to Cronos, these dominant energies can pass along their fears and strategies to their children.
Stoic, Stubborn, and Aggressive
Consider that we associate Cronos with law, time, and rules. His distant and rigid manner is dry, direct, and unyielding. He is stubborn and aggressive. This is how I can best describe the Cronos aspect of the psyche. There is in each of us, and likely we can observe in our own parents, a fear-driven desire to preserve and repress change. To secure our mental health and our sobriety, pay our bills, and succeed in our lives, many will rely heavily on the inner Cronos figure. This replaces the unfolding and emotionally rich experiences of life. For example, the stoic “box-checker” in treatment may emotionlessly execute goals with minimal living connection to the human unfolding.
A Repression of Our Own Growth
Secondly, we may consider the consumption of the gods as a kind of repression of the many aspects of our own growth. Out of fear of volatile forces, the soul can become buried within swallowed emotions in the belly, churning and grumbling but held down by dry and rigid saturnian consciousness. As a result, as our next story will demonstrate, this doesn’t work out so well for Cronos. In fact, the dry, rigid, and distant figure well preserves the gods until the new life (his own son) risks it all to save his siblings.
Zeus and the Warrior Defenders
As Cronos devours each of the gods, Zeus is protected and hidden by his mother, Rhea. Zeus, a young baby, is hidden away in caves and protected by the Minaeds. Under further research, we learn that the Minaeds resemble warrior defenders. Just as our hidden inner child has many defenders, so, too, does Zeus. To put it another way, as rigid and threatening circumstances force the inner child into hiding, it also can cause us to recruit defenses for that child. Our emotions, gifts, and individuality may be blocked by these defenders whether the threat of danger continues or not.
A Flood of Archetypal Energies
Rhea and Zeus devise a plan to offer to Cronos a poison (in one version of the myth) or a stone (in another) wrapped in swaddling cloth to consume. Rhea tells Cronos that this is Zeus and Cronos quickly devours the offering. Cronos becomes ill and throws up the entire pantheon of the gods consumed.
And you thought your family was dramatic? There is a lot going on here! Firstly, we have a sort of warning for the Cronos experience. Should we father ourselves, for example, in this dry, consumptive, and distant way, we may eventually purge the many inner figures all at once. And I don’t know about you but the idea that a flood of archetypal energies pours out all at once sure sounds like chaotic forces to me. Have you ever wondered why when you’re doing everything “right,” the chaos can come up all at once? Could it be the enacted myth Cronos?