Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Hero

Excerpt from Erel Shalit's Enemy, Cripple & Beggar:
Shadows in the Hero's Path

The Hero

“Where id was, there ego shall be,” proclaims Freud.7 By interpretation, the unconscious is made conscious. Interpretation is the sword of psychoanalysis, splitting the enigmas of the unconscious into intelligible slices of consciousness. A symbol’s multitude of meanings becomes the unitary signs and banners of consciousness. The ego, which in Jungian thought stands at the center of consciousness and conscious identity, may be stiffly bound to the totem of collective consciousness, to norms and conventions. Alternatively, the ego may bravely turn around to face what lies in the unconscious.

For this purpose, the ego needs the hero. The notion of the hero in Jung’s analytical psychology represents that particular aspect of the ego that ventures into the darkness of the shadow, searches for “the treasure, the princess, the ring, the golden egg, elixir of life, etc.,” which, as Daryl Sharp says, all are “metaphors for one’s true feelings and unique potential.”8 By means of its hero-function, the ego turns toward the Self and a vital and dynamic relationship between them is made possible. As Joseph Campbell succinctly says, “The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world.”9

While on the one hand “the hero symbolizes a man’s unconscious self,”10 he also brings victory to consciousness; “The hero’s main feat is to overcome the monster of darkness: it is the long-hoped-for and expected triumph of consciousness over the unconscious,” says Jung.11 The hero must defeat the dragon, escape being devoured by it, and then return safely, even if marked by bitter strife, to the kingdom of the ego. As Jung says:
In myths the hero is the one who conquers the dragon, not the one who is devoured by it. And yet both have to deal with the same dragon. Also, he is no hero who never met the dragon, or who, if he once saw it, declared afterwards that he saw nothing. Equally, only one who has risked the fight with the dragon and is not overcome by it wins the hoard, the “treasure hard to attain.”12
And there, upon his return, the hero himself risks being devoured by consciousness, losing his heroic stamina, establishing the new rule with its new norms and conventions, yielding to his own uncompromising kingship.

Freud’s myth circles around psychosexual development and genital maturity, attaining the capacity for love and work. Jung’s myth is the myth of meaning, and the meaning that is to be found in the mythical, as it has so pertinently been expressed.

Jung said that the problem of modern man is mythlessness. Without a guiding myth and a sense for the mythical, when exclusively relying on the ego and concrete reality, and by being disconnected from the archetypal energies of the gods, man experiences meaninglessness. “The loss of a central myth brings about a truly apocalyptic condition,” says Edinger.13

The central, nuclear myth of Jungian psychoanalysis is the Hero-myth, because the psychological essence of the hero is to abandon the kingdom of the ego, to challenge the norms and obsessions of collective consciousness and the persona—the face of social adaptation—and to search for meaning. The absence of meaning is the essence of neurosis, which, Jung says, “must be understood, ultimately, as the suffering of a soul which has not discovered its meaning.”14 When Sartre says that man is “the incontestable author” who, condemned to freedom, “is responsible for the world and for himself as a way of being,”15 he speaks of heroic man. For Freud, “heroism involves relations with parents and instincts,” says Robert Segal,16 while for Jung the hero’s grand opus concerns the relation with the unconscious. The hero goes forth into the netherworld of the shadow, in spite of being threatened by the monsters that lurk in the darkness of the unconscious, to save an endangered soul, an anima in captivity, or to redeem a dormant myth or mythical motif, which he has to bring into consciousness. The hero thereby creates a new sense of meaning and relatedness.

That is, the Jungian myth of meaning is consciousness, not in the sense of an ego-consciousness that replaces the unconscious (“Where id was, there ego shall be”), but in the sense of the hero who awakens the soul that otherwise lies dormant and barren in the unconscious. We might call this the ensouled ego—an ego-consciousness that turns toward the unknown, the gods, the world soul, and the self. Yes, toward sexuality as well, making the blood pulsate, streaming through the soul. It is Prometheus not just stealing the fire from the gods, but a human consciousness that keeps the fire of eros and logos, of heart and spirit, burning.

Erel Shalit's Enemy, Cripple, & Beggar: Shadows in the Hero's Path and his previously published book The Complex: Path of Transformation from Archetype to Ego can be purchased at or by phoning Fisher King Press directly at 1-831-238-7799

7 Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, SE 22, p. 80. (SE refers throughout to The Standard Edition of the Works of Sigmund Freud)
8 Daryl Sharp, Jung Lexicon, p. 59.
9 The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p. 40
10 “The Dual Mother,” CW 5, par. 516.
11 “The Psychology of the Child Archetype,” CW 9i, par. 284.
12 “The Conjunction,” CW 14, par. 756.
13 Edward Edinger, The Creation of Consciousness, p. 10.
14 “Psychotherapists or the Clergy,” CW 11, par. 497.
15 Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. 707.
16 Robert A. Segal, Introduction, In Quest of the Hero, p. xvi.

Copyright © 2008 Erel Shalit - For permission to reprint see Fisher King Press

Friday, August 29, 2008

An Introduction to Erel Shalit's 'Enemy, Cripple & Beggar'

From the Author

In his “Commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower,” Jung writes, “Everything of which we are conscious is an image, and that image is psyche.” He then continues, “the psyche is a world in which the ego is contained.”

This statement reflects Jung’s cyclic perspective, as well as the centrality of the image in Analytical Psychology. It is not an ego-psychology; the world of the psyche does not reside in the ego; rather, what we call ego is contained in a world we call psyche. The Jungian approach to man’s psyche is situated at the edge between consciousness and the unconscious—never fully established on the empirical ground of ego-reality, its natural habitat is on mountainous myths, or wandering off into fairy tale forests.

For the same reason, Jungian psychoanalysis has many names, reflecting Hermetic movement rather than Apollonian authority, and the elusive images of the soul take the place of the well-defined mechanisms of the mind.

The hero serves as an image of that aspect of our ego that ventures into the unknown land of shadows, for instance in our dreams at night, to trace its treasures and bring them home to consciousness.

I have chosen the images of enemy, cripple and beggar to convey three essential layers of the shadow–the image that Jung chose to describe the unconscious, repressed or unrecognized aspects of the personality, or, as he distinctly defined the shadow, “the thing a person has no wish to be.”

These images are primarily intended to reflect the matter and fluidity of soul, rather than providing empirical structures and systematic definitions; I hope they facilitate weaving the story of the hero’s journey into the soul and the shadow.


We shall follow in the footsteps of the hero on his (or her) path or way, and face the shadows that the hero (whether in masculine or feminine dress) necessarily encounters.1

Were the hero to believe he already knows all there is to know, and if he would insist on standing on the firm ground of principles and conventions, he would seldom bother to respond to the call to adventure.2 Our hero would remain at home, seated like Archie Bunker in the confined and drowsy embrace of the armchair-ego. He would stay away from the unknown, unaware of moonlit nights, and intolerant of the shadow-carrying Other. “The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to remain within the indicated bounds…,” says Campbell.3 “The hero,” says Jung beautifully, “is the symbolical exponent of the movement of libido.”4

The hero who searches for new paths in his heart and soul often lets hints and hunches guide him forward. Yet, he also needs to be equipped with courage to search beyond the boundaries of common ground and with humbleness towards the unknown that lies ahead of him. He must also carry a bagful of questions and concerns, curiosity and conflict, doubt and fear; “Every man hath the right to doubt his task, and to forsake it from time to time; but what he must not do is forget it.”5

The hero ventures into the shadow-land, far away from home, beyond the familiar security of ego-boundaries. Or perhaps the shadow is not a land, but an entire continent, with many different landscapes—fields and valleys, seas and forests, some quite recognizable, others remote and mysterious, some seemingly friendly and embracing, others hostile and intimidating. The forests may become increasingly dense and dark, the sea so wild and stormy that it carries one away, “far from native lands,” to the point where one may contemplate “whether to cast myself out of the ship into the sea and perish there, or ... to endure and bide among the living.”6

Some of those in shadow-land are easily recognized as foes we loathe. Yet, often envy, pride, greed, anger, and lust are found in friends whom we’d never believe could possess such qualities—or even more, we discover these universal patterns, those “deadly sins” within ourselves. There are also warriors and cripples, the homeless and vagabonds, and some of awe inspiring stature.

The land of shadows holds both the chains and the treasure house of our ancestors, as well as the prospects and the promises, the fears, anxieties and uncertainty about our offspring. It pertains to the shadows we cast onto our enemy so that we may fight him—yes, usually him—in order to gain a sense of a free and secure personal identity. And it is the crippling sense of complexes that we may try to dump on the dunghill, outside and away from the central city square and the walls of our ‘ego-state,’ only to be terrified as they stare back at us when we try to gain a moment’s rest. And there, further down the murky path, stands the beggar as if faceless, without the social mask of the persona, lurking in the misty shadow at the gateway to the Self.

Erel Shalit's Enemy, Cripple, & Beggar: Shadows in the Hero's Path and his previously published book The Complex: Path of Transformation from Archetype to Ego can be purchased at or by phoning Fisher King Press directly at 1-831-238-7799

1. As Patricia Berry writes, “there is not a shadow but many (as there is not one conscious standpoint but many…” (Echo’s Subtle Body, p. 187f.).
2. Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p. 49ff.
3. Ibid., p. 78.
4. “On Psychic Energy,” The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, par. 68. [CW refers throughout to C. G. Jung, The Collected Works]
5. Paulo Coelho, The Fifth Mountain, p. 53.
6. Homer, The Odyssey, p. 92.

Copyright © 2008 Erel Shalit - For permission to reprint see Fisher King Press