Every dark thing one falls into can be called an initiation.Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
I have felt compelled to share information on an ancient practice known as shamanism, because I recognize the symptoms of this calling in our collective society. As a society, we are dealing with a pandemic that we cannot cure with conventional means. It makes me wonder if shamanism is returning in a transpersonal way. What I mean by transpersonal is that it is no longer an identity held by a few elect… rather it is something that is already within you and it gets activated within you as you become conscious of it. Transpersonal means it beyond the limits of the personality.
For the sake of clarity, my use of the term shamanism will refer strictly to the primitive ancient form of shamanism, so as not to confuse ancient shamanic practices with neo-shamanism or other modern applications where the title of shaman has been adopted. The purpose of limiting terminology to ancient shamanic practices does not intend to be an attempt to disqualify or discourage modern forms of shamanism. On the contrary, this article is meant to serve as an ancient guide so that you can find the Shaman within yourself.
“The shaman is the great specialist in the human soul; he alone ‘sees’ it, for he knows its ‘form’ and its destiny.”Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
I came upon the information that you will read in this article, after a long and tedious search for answers when both Jenni and I were undergoing our own initiatory illness. We were both plagued with a bizarre and bewildering set of symptoms that eluded Western Medicine. We battled this illness for over two years with no relief. Then I ordered a book on depth psychology. This gave us a new lens, whereby to look at illness. We realized that we were being initiated into something that is not of this world. I remember Jenni yelling… “I don’t want to be a crazy shaman.” She illustrated what she meant by waving her hands in the air and making wild animal calls. So strong is the fear of seeming crazy, it often surpasses the fear of death. Yet, death would not come and the illness would not leave. So, we were forced to go into it… we had to go into “crazy” on a quest for healing…and hope we could find our way back. We had to leave the rational world, and go into the land of non- ordinary reality. As psychotherapists, this was against everything our training taught us was “healthy.” As we are both qualified to diagnose mental disorders… you can probably imagine my dismay when I began checking off symptoms in my head that indeed certified us as psychotic according to the DSM ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders).
Once Jenni looked up at me from her book and solemnly asked, “how long have you known we were crazy?” I shrugged, not wanting to worry her… “I keep an eye on it… we’re ok.” If you can ask the question as to whether you are crazy or not… then you’re already on your way back. We eventually learned to navigate the stormy waters between worlds and not drown. Our understanding of initiatory illness was half of the cure….It was no longer a malevolent force that we needed to fight… but we knew it as a our teacher. Learning to trust our intuition and pay attention to our dreams showed us the ingredients we needed to make the medicine that we needed. Jenni spent hours perfecting a powerful medicine that she calls Magdalene Miracle. Healing depended on using both the spiritual and the physical. The whole thing was transformative.
It’s important that we begin to look at illness from a different standpoint. This is why I have compiled research to share with you. I have tried to figure out a way to bring all of these resources together, and the best way that I found was to write it as a mock interview, where I ask a question followed by an answer that I have found in my research on shamanism, from the lens of depth psychology. All sources are cited, with the name of the author and the name of the source. I will begin this with an introductory comment from Marie Louise Von Franz
Marie Louise Von Franz: “One has to be wounded in order to become a healer. This is the local image of a universal mythological motif, which is described in Eliade’s book about the initiation of medicine men and shamans. Nobody becomes either one or the other without first having been wounded, either cut open by the initiator and having certain magical stones inserted into his body, or a spear thrown at his neck, or some such thing. Generally, the experiences are ecstatic – stars or ghost-like demons – hit them or cut them open, but always they have to be pierced or cut apart before they become healers, for that is how they acquire the capacity for healing others.” Marie-Louise von Franz, The Problem of The Puer Aeternus
What was the original meaning of Shamanism?
Marie Louise Von Franz: The earliest origins of modern psychotherapy known to history lie in archaic shamanism and in the practices of the medicine men of primitive peoples. ….The figure of the shaman is characterized by individual experience of the world of spirits (which today we call the unconscious) and his main function is the healing of personal illnesses and disturbances in the life of the collective. He heals the sufferer by means of his own trance, he leads the dead into the “realm of the shadows” and serves as mediator between them and their gods; in a way he watches over their “souls.” “The shaman is the great specialist in the human soul; he alone ‘sees’ it, for he knows its ‘form’ and its destiny.” His gift of moving freely among the powers of the beyond is sometimes a family inheritance but is more often rooted in an individual experience of vocation. This is generally heralded by a period of psychic disorientation. When called, he sets himself apart, turns contemplative; often he receives his call through a dream experience. Sometimes he falls ill, physically, and is not restored to health until he begins to shamanize. The shaman is, however, psychically essentially normal, though usually more sensitive and more excitable than other people. (The Romans speak of genus irritabile vatum, the excitable race of seers.) The priest-healer of late antiquity is an archetypal variant of the type of medicine man or shaman found throughout the world. For him vocation remains what was originally meant by this word: a call from the gods or spirits to become a healer. —Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
Is a shaman the same thing as a psychotherapist or a priest?
Marie Louise Von Franz: The roots of both priesthood and psychotherapy lie in the primitive phenomenon of shamanism and the existence of medicine men. The shaman or medicine man is mainly concerned with the fate of the individual soul, its preparation for death, its protection after death, and its protection against states of possession by ghosts and demons—i.e., by archetypal powers. He can do this because during his own initiation he has suffered such states of possession and found ways of curing himself. The initiation experience of such shamans and medicine men coincides with what we now call the process of individuation.
After this process has taken place, the shaman wins natural authority within his tribe because he represents its most individuated and conscious individual. But already in this early stage we also find the shaman’s shadow, the neurotic (or even psychotic) black magician. The latter demands collective authority on account of his experiences of the ghost world (i.e., the collective unconscious); in doing so he proves to be mentally sick. (Modern examples would be Rasputin and Hitler.) Individuation is ultimately incompatible with any demands for collective power, even if it is veiled by the attitude of a well-meaning, liberal, modest, and moderating group leader! For only the Self can give us natural authority which has not been asked for by the ego. In the early Christian Church the leaders were people of natural authority, which they had acquired by their individual inner experiences and their Christian conduct of life. With the forming of the Church as a collective outer institution, the leaders more and more became people who demanded authority and power, and superimposed collective conscious rules over the spontaneous inner religious life of people. (Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy)
Marie Louise Von Franz: The priest is a preserver of rituals, ensuring only that they are done correctly. But the shaman is the “specialist of the soul.” His function is to deal with cases of possession and to see that the dead find their appropriate place after death. He is a psychotherapist more than a ritualist. And those differences within Eskimo culture seem to be true as well for many tribes in Africa and Australia. They have specialists for the rituals; they have magicians who do minor magic like tracking down thieves, and then they have the greater ones who are the wise men, so to speak, concerned with what the gods want, the future of the tribe, or the decision of the ancestors when a question of going to war arises. Medicine men are often initiated by torture, similar to the experience of the shamans. The difference is that not all medicine men use ecstasy to contact the Beyond, while the shamans mostly do use an ecstatic “frame of mind.” The medicine men don’t need it because they are usually people who can enter into such a state without going into a trance. They are the mediumistically or para- psychologically gifted personalities of the tribe who have an immediate contact with the unconscious. Many of them don’t need ecstasy as a bridge to go over —Marie Louise Von Franz, The Cat.
How do you know if you are being initiated?
Marie Louise Von Franz: Every dark thing one falls into can be called an initiation. To be initiated into a thing means to go into it. The first step is generally falling into the dark place and usually appears in a dubious or negative form— falling into something, or being possessed by some thing. The shamans say that being a medicine man begins by falling into the power of the demons; the one who pulls out of the dark place becomes the medicine man, and the one who stays in it is the sick person. You can take every psychological illness as an initiation. Even the worst things you fall into are an effort at initiation, for you are in something which belongs to you, and now you must get out of it. —Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
There is often an association between shamans and lightning. What does that metaphor mean?
Marie Louise Von Franz: Seeing a flash of light means to have an insight. It can be into the whole structure of the universe or the structure of the Godhead; in a flash of lightning you see it all. Jakob Boehme had such a lightning experience and it took him years and years to write out in his works what he actually saw, condensed in one moment, in a flash. So it has to do with revelation, a sudden insight from the unconscious. That’s why shamans are always connected with the idea of lightning. For instance, in certain Eskimo tribes, if somebody is hit by lightning and survives, or if somebody is very nearly hit by lightning, if it strikes just beside him, that is a sign he is called to be a shaman. So to be struck by lightning or have lightning coming quite close to you means that the spirits, the ghosts or the gods aim at you.— (Marie Louise. Von Franz, The Cat).
In ancient times, was there any training or license needed in order to shamanize?
Marie Louise Von Franz: Shamans (as well as many medicine men and women of other peoples go through a specific period of training and development. They are called by clan spirits or other spirits, often against their will. “Before a shaman makes his appearance, the soul of the person destined for this function is taken by spirits and drawn into the underworld or the upper world.” The souls of shamans-to-be are then put in nests on different levels of the branches of a big tree and usually incubated and reared by an animal mother in the form of a raven or some other bird or by a winged elk or deer, etc. This animal mother is his alter ego, his double, his protecting spirit, and his vital principle. Sometimes she devours the shaman and gives birth to him anew, or she sits on him while he is in the egg. Beyond that, the shamanic initiation generally consists also, as we know, in the candidate’s being mutilated and reduced to a skeleton —Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
I can see they used a lot of metaphor. That’s something of a challenge for us in the Western World. What does it mean to be reduced to a skeleton?
Marie Louise Von Franz: The skeleton stands for the imperishable basic substance from which the renewed shaman can be remade. Not always is the new shaman in control of his new form; sometimes he meets it only in crucial moments, during initiation or at the time of death, but it is through this inner alter ego that he accomplishes his healing. —Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
I’ve heard depth psychologists use the words “unconscious” and “collective unconscious” quite a bit. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Robert A. Johnson: The unconscious is a marvelous universe of unseen energies, forces, forms of intelligence—even distinct personalities—that live within us. It is a much larger realm than most of us realize, one that has a complete life of its own running parallel to the ordinary life we live day to day. The unconscious is the secret source of much of our thought, feeling, and behavior. It influences us in ways that are all the more powerful because unsuspected. It is the secret life we all lead, by day and night, in constant companionship with our unseen, unconscious, inner selves. When human life is in balance, the conscious mind and the unconscious live in relationship. There is a constant flow of energy and information between the two levels as they meet in the dimension of dream, vision, ritual, and imagination. Robert A Johnson, Inner Work.
In our world, imagination is viewed as something that’s not real. Yet, it’s that liminal space between “ordinary reality” and “non-ordinary reality”… it’s the place where all of creation happens. What are your thoughts on this?
Robert A Johnson: The disaster that has overtaken the modern world is the complete splitting off of the conscious mind from its roots in the unconscious. All the forms of interaction with the unconscious that nourished our ancestors—dream, vision, ritual, and religious experience—are largely lost to us, dismissed by the modern mind as primitive or superstitious. Thus, in our pride and hubris, our faith in our unassailable reason, we cut ourselves off from our origins in the unconscious and from the deepest parts of ourselves. In modern Western society we have reached a point at which we try to get by without acknowledging the inner life at all. We act as though there were no unconscious, no realm of the soul, as though we could live full lives by fixating ourselves completely on the external, material world. We try to deal with all the issues of life by external means—making more money, getting more power, starting a love affair, or “accomplishing something” in the material world. But we discover to our surprise that the inner world is a reality that we ultimately have to face. Jung observed that most of the neurosis, the feeling of fragmentation, the vacuum of meaning, in modern lives, results from this isolation of the ego-mind from the unconscious. —Robert A. Johnson, Inner Work.
How has this split affected us? It reminds me of what ancient shamans would refer to as Soul Loss.
Robert A Johnson: As conscious beings we all go about with a vague sense that we have lost a part of ourselves, that something that once belonged to us is missing. Our isolation from the unconscious is synonymous with our isolation from our souls, from the life of the spirit. It results in the loss of our religious life, for it is in the unconscious that we find our individual conception of God and experience our deities. The religious function—this inborn demand for meaning and inner experience—is cut off with the rest of the inner life. And it can only force its way back into our lives through neurosis, inner conflicts, and psychological symptoms that demand our attention. —Robert A Johnson, Inner Work.
From a modern perspective, what does it mean to be a healer?
Marie Louise Von Franz: From the standpoint of modern depth psychology, this shamanic experience amounts to undergoing an invasion of the collective unconscious and dealing with it successfully. When the training of a future therapist remains hung up in discussion of personal problems, in my experience, that person never turns out to be an effective therapist later on. Only when he has experienced the infinite in his own life has his life found meaning. Otherwise it loses itself in superficialities. And, we might add, then such a person can only offer others something superficial: good advice, intellectual interpretations, well- meaning recommendations for normalization. It is important that the therapist dwell inwardly in what is essential; then he can lead the patient to his own inner center. A shaman said aptly to a piece of wood which he wanted to turn into a drum: “Make your mind free from quarrelsomeness and discord, larch, you’re going to become a drum.” The symbols of the animal-mother spirit, of the drum, of the tree, and many others, all of which I cannot go into here, are, in Jungian terms, all symbols of the Self. … Magical objects are symbols of the Self. —- Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
Initiation seems to be a pretty gnarly process. I’ve heard that the initiation often comes in the form of some sort illness, is that true?
Marie Louise Von Franz: In the shamanic tradition, the future healer must not only have experienced an invasion of the collective unconscious, but he must also have penetrated through to its core, to that which Jung termed the Self. Oddly enough, the Self often first confronts a person in a hostile manner, as something explosive that might even cause madness. The Siberian Tungus are aware of this. They even say that before a person can become a shaman, he must suffer the harassment of the spirits for a period of years. These are the souls of dead shamans who are causing him to have delusions. They are often the ones who mutilate him during the initiation…For example, there was a Buryat who was sick for fifteen years. He ran around naked in the winter and “behaved like a fool.”10 Then he found his helping spirit, who said to him: “Why are you carrying on like that? Don’t you know us? Be a shaman. Depend on us, your utcha [ancestors = helping spirits]. Do you agree?” He consented, went through the initiation rites, and began to act as a shaman: “Everywhere he does good and heals.”—Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
In many stories of shamanic initiation or stories of those with a Divine Calling, or an unusual or a special fate… their is often the threat of death or debilitating illness if they were to refuse the calling.
Marie Louise Von Franz; The illness accompanying the shaman’s call is pictured by some peoples as an abduction by a bird which carries the called one off to the underworld. There he remains locked up for a time and is often dismembered by the spirits or suffers other tortures. Afterwards the “mother bird” brings him back to the world of human beings. The shaman then awakens, as from a deep sleep, and from that time on possesses the gift of being able to heal other people. This trip to the beyond frequently takes place in a large initiation area, where the future shaman undertakes long journeys to the gods of the underworld and of heaven. Experiences of dismemberment in the beyond, similar to those of shamans, are also experienced by Australian medicine men, as well as by sorcerers in North and South America, Africa and Indonesia. “Dreams, sickness, or initiation ceremony, the central element is always the same: death and symbolic resurrection of the neophyte.” During the journey to the beyond the initiate receives instruction from the highest divinity of heaven or the underworld, from a dead ancestor or a great shaman of the past, from a female figure with magic powers or from a magical anima. One initiate for example reported that, as he lay suffering, he saw a spirit of a tiny woman who said to him: “I am the ‘ayami’ (protective spirit) of your ancestors, the Shamans. I taught them shamaning. Now I am going to teach you. The old shamans have died off, and there is no one to heal people. You are to become a shaman…. I love you, I have no husband now, you will be my husband…. I shall give you assistant spirits. You are to heal with their aid, and I shall teach and help you myself…. If you will not obey me, so much the worse for you. I shall kill you.” Thus many shamans have an invisible heavenly spouse, others have as their most important helper the spirit of one of the great dead shamans, an “Old Wise Man,” who guides them and in the trance-state often speaks directly through their mouths. To be able to see the spirits, whether awake or in dreams, is the most important sign of the shaman’s vocation. It often happens that, after such an experience, he can understand the secret language of spirits or animals, especially of birds. The shaman is frequently both the seer and the poet of his people and in the trance-state may speak in verse. —Marie Louise Von Franz: His myth inour time.
In the course of the shamanic initiatory illness, the initiate succeeds in finding his own cure, which is precisely what the ordinary mentally ill person cannot do.Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
What is the difference between pathology or mental illness and an initiatory illness?
Marie Louis Von Franz: It has been asserted that shamans and medicine men have a great deal in common with the mentally ill, or at least with the psychologically unstable, but the Eskimos can clearly distinguish between a “shamanic” illness and an ordinary case of mental disorder. In the course of the shamanic initiatory illness, the initiate succeeds in finding his own cure, which is precisely what the ordinary mentally ill person cannot do. Moreover, the shamans are the creative individuals, the poets and artists, of their communities. This touches upon a question that is also significant for modern therapists—popular humor is quite familiar with the figure of the psychiatrist who is crazy himself. In this connection, I would like to associate myself with the view of the Eskimos: The person who is able to heal himself is not the sick one but the one who can help others. For such a person is intact in his innermost core and possesses ego strength. He undergoes his initiatory illness not out of weakness, but rather in order to become acquainted with “all the ways of sickness,” to know from his own experience what possession, depression, schizoid dissociation, and so on, mean. Nor is his initiatory dismemberment schizophrenia. In accordance with the mythological description, it is a reduction to the skeleton. But what this means according to the peoples who made these myths is the indestructible, the eternal in the human being, and also that which is perpetuated through the continuity of the generations. Transposed into modern language, this means that the initiate undergoes an “analysis” in the sense of a dissolution of all his inauthentic—e.g., conventional or infantile—traits in order to win his way through to that which he is in his true being. In Jungian language this means he becomes individuated, becomes a solid personality who is no longer a football of inner affects and projections or of external societal trends and fashions. People from the polar regions distinguish the mentally ill from medicine men and shamans as follows: the mentally ill person is possessed by spirits and demons; the medicine man or shaman, however, is one who, though also possessed, is able to liberate himself again on his own. – Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
How do shaman’s work with so much raw divine energy in its untamed form without being over run by anxiety, fear, or the sheer power of it? How do they regulate? How do they deal with so much energy?
Marie Louise Von Franz: Among many peoples the shaman discovers, over and over again, his own songs and melodies. Along with the ascent to the god of heaven, there is also a descent down seven successive “levels” to the black Erlik Khan, Lord of the Underworld. The shaman brings him wine and sacrifices and puts him in a favorable humor, so that he promises to bestow fertility. Otherwise the main purpose of the shaman’s descent is to bring back the soul of a sick person, or to escort a dead man to his proper place in the beyond.—Marie Louise Von Franz: His myth inour time.
Why is the initiatory process so important?
Marie Louise Von Franz: Someone who has not acceded to the depths of the unconscious and seen there “the ways of all spirits of sickness” can hardly possess enough real empathy for the serious psychic suffering of his fellow human beings. He will only treat them by the textbook, without ever being able to empathize with them, and this is often the key factor for patients. Also someone beginning prematurely to act as a shaman, before he has overcome his initiatory illness, is an all too familiar sight. Many enthusiastic young people want to begin treating others from the very— Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
It seems like it would be really difficult for anyone in our culture to find their own cure and come to the understanding that sometimes the illness is really not an illness at all, but rather, an initiatory experience. Commercials on the television and advertisements inundate us with messages that something is wrong with us and that we are not well… and we need a pill to fix it.
Janet O Dallet: The traditions, even the language of Western medicine are harsh and unconnected to who we are and what we have experienced. Driven by fear and ignorance, traditional medicine and psychology call people schizophrenic, crazy, insane, thereby justifying shutting them up in hospitals, cutting them and the rest of us off from the healing process that the psyche is trying to accomplish. Other times and places have been more connected to spiritual realities. Ancient religious mysteries, contemporary mysticism and so-called primitive people all know about death and rebirth, the dark night of the soul, transformation, vision quest, shamanic initiation. These are the ways, the languages and images of spiritual reality, that inform the psyche’s self-healing. —Janet O Dallett, When the Spirits Come Back
What causes psychosis and what are some of the reasons why a person isn’t able to heal themselves?
Janet O. Dallet: Well . . . I have a theory about psychosis. My sense is that people often become psychotic because they have constructed a personality that is not congruent with who they really are. This happens because they are sensitive children who perceive things going on in their environment that are not confirmed by the people around them, like their parents. For instance, they may perceive the hidden emotions in the family, but when they act on what they see, or speak of it, the parents deny that those emotions are present. So the child builds up a personality for the sake of adaptation that is quite incongruent with his or her true nature. As life goes on, this discrepancy between the adaptation and the real person becomes greater and greater, so that a rather large split develops. Often in psychosis what happens is that the true personality . . . it looks to me as if this true personality begins to reach out and demand to be seen and heard, and it eventually overwhelms the ego and simply takes over. It’s as if the ego dissolves- an ego that is brittle and not connected in a human way to what the person is deeply. So it seems to me that this kind of psychotic episode is an opportunity for the person to heal in a deeper way and to restore . —Janet O Dallett, When the Spirits Come Back
Is there really such a thing as demon possession or is it just an old term for what we now call “mental illness?”
Marie Louis Von Franz: (Demons = complexes; gods = archetypal images). Ugly affects and morbid, perverse ideas actually act like demons. They enter us and obsess us. Jung described the “demonic,” which could also be called “black magic,” in the following terms.” Whereas “white magic strives to drive out the forces of disorder in the unconscious, “black magic exalts the destructive impulses as the only valid truth in opposition to the order hitherto prevailing, and moreover bends them to the service of the individual as opposed to that of the whole community. The means used for this are primitive, fascinating or frightful ideas, images, utterances incomprehensible to the ordinary understanding, strange words,” and so on. “The demonic . . . is based on the fact that there are unconscious powers of negation and destruction and that evil is real.” A person who exercises such forces of black magic is usually himself possessed by an unconscious content. Jung mentions here the example of Hitler as negative savior or destroyer. In the sphere of shamanic tradition, dangerous shamans of this sort, of whom everyone is profoundly frightened, are known. Mircea Eliade gives many examples of the arrogance of shamans, which is often seen as the real source of evil and is believed to explain the current deteriorated state of shamanism. In my opinion, this arrogance also exists among modern therapists, and therapists marked by it are, in my view, more dangerous than those with inadequate professional training. In the ethnological context, however, the healer also has a specific shadow; that is, this vocation also has a dark counter-aspect. This is the figure of the demonic shaman or medicine man. The most superficial form of this is the therapist who is ruled by a power complex. It is of course evident that in this profession, in which one is one’s own lord and master and in which others often cling to one in a childishly naive fashion, the abuse of power represents a great temptation. One can only hope that the general public has enough instinct to avoid them. – Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
What is the psychological meaning of curses and how does the shaman remove the curse?
Marie Louise Von Franz: In every process of projection, there is a sender, that is, the one who projects something onto someone else, and a receiver, the one on whom something is projected. Interestingly enough, these two show up as two highly important factors in the history of medicine. Sending is found in the conception widespread among native peoples of sickness projectiles, a magic arrow or some other, usually pointed missile that makes the person it hits sick. A god, demon, or an evil person shoots such magic “points” at people. Extracting the projectile causes the victim to be healed. In the Old Testament, God himself shoots such arrows (Job 6:4): “For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.” Or there are invisible demonic powers (Psalm 91): “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.” Among ordinary people, it is usually venomous slander that is experienced as such arrows. (Cf. Jeremiah 9:3,8; Psalm 64:4.) We might also note the relationship of the German word Krankheit, meaning “illness,” and kränken, meaning “to wound emotionally.” We still speak today of “barbs” and “pointed remarks.” In India the word salya means “arrowhead,” “thorn,” or “splinter,” and of the doctor who removes such arrows from the bodies of sick people, it is said that he functions “like a judge who removes the thorn of injustice from a trial.” The thorn is obviously something like a bad affect that has created a legal uncertainty. Psychiatrists and psychologists know that pointed or sharp forms in patients’ drawings and paintings represent destructive impulses. The positive projection, too, is a kind of arrow, which is why, for example, the god Amor and the Hindu god of love, Kama, carry bows and arrows. Buddha described the desire of love as “an arrow that digs savagely into the flesh.” That it is more rarely evil people and more often gods or demons who send these arrows of illness is in agreement with the observations of modern psychologists that projections are not enacted by us, but happen unconsciously; that is, that they emanate from complexes or archetypes of the unconscious. Remember (Demons = complexes; gods = archetypal images.) Projection of one’s own not consciously realized psychic contents brings about in the sender a loss of soul,” one of the most feared illnesses among native peoples. This makes one apathetic, depressive, or susceptible to the compulsive thrall of people outside one The person onto whom someone else projects something is also affected—in the primitive view, he is hit by an arrow. If the receiver has a weak ego consciousness (as children do, for example), he will be easily influenced to act out what has been projected onto him. In the primitive view, this means that he is possessed. We feel compelled to relate to someone else’s infatuation toward us, or we involuntarily do the evil thing to the enemy that he is expecting from us on the basis of his projection. Children often act out the unconscious shadow side of their parents—that which is hidden in them but is not consciously realized. That explains the known phenomenon that children of especially well- behaved parents often do particularly devilish things. “Preacher’s children and miller’s cow, seldom flourish anyhow,” as the proverb says. Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
Is projection always unconscious or can it be used consciously, as in black magic?
Marie Louise Von Franz: There are witchlike women (and some men too!) who spy around on people’s complexes and then turn up to make personal remarks about them, thinking that if they aim right the person will become helpless. And this does happen when a complex is hit. Then you can’t answer, you are confused and the needle witch goes on. She aims a stream of directed psychic energy onto your complex. Ninety per cent of the essence of archaic witch work and curses that made people ill was made up of the same kind of activity. In my book on projection, I talk at length about projectiles that make one ill. In the oldest and most universal form of witch work, the illnesses were produced by either needlelike thorns or pointed stones or anything shaped so that it could be used for pricking. Through these needlelike objects— illnesses were sent by evil demons or evil people to other people. And most archaic medical cures amount to finding out the place where the person was pricked or needled, and then having the medicine man suck it out. Certain medicine men or shamans would then even produce an object to represent the illness, and they would say to the audience, “Look here, this is it. Now the patient is cured.” (They had put it in their sleeve beforehand.) Always, we find the idea that a projectile has made the person ill. It can come, as I say, from a god or from a human being, and it is closely linked with negative projections. You can project negative things onto other people, and such projections can hit them and make them ill. Needles are used in witch work, and it is often mentioned in fairy tales that a witch has used a so-called sleeping needle. They means they put a thorn or a needle into a person’s head (generally behind the ear). You can find recipes for doing this in works on black magic. The person then falls asleep and can’t wake up for a hundred years or whatever. So there are needles that make one ill, needles that make one sleep, and there are needles which prick one into confusion. When you make personal remarks aimed at a person’s complex, you can completely knock them out. In a way, that is also giving them a sleeping needle, for they are no longer composed mentally. They can’t answer your questions. They are confused. They are pushed, for the moment, into the unconscious and made helpless. The art of needling is still used today in diplomatic and political discussions. Some use it unconsciously and some use it consciously, but always this bringing out of a needling remark at a certain moment is the thing that throws the other off balance. Some people are real wizards in that way. But they are only putting to work the same forces that spring up by themselves in the unconscious. (Marie Louise Von Franz. Archetypal Patterns in Fairy Tales.)
Jung spoke of something called active imagination and it’s amazing. It’s a whole different world that is just as real as this one. We know that there is a veil that separates the world of images and the world of things, the physical world and the spiritual world. As we become more integrated, these worlds merge into one. More and more we begin to notice signs and symbols in the outer world that mean something in our inner world. Jung called this synchronicity. However, mainstream psychology would calm this “magical thinking” where a person makes meaning out of non-related events and they say it is a form of psychosis. I can see how this could be an issue… it seems like a a fine line. Can you elaborate?
Marie Louise Von Franz: Rituals accompanying active imagination are particularly effective but also dangerous. This frequently constellates a great number of synchronistic events, which can easily be interpreted as magic. People who are in danger of becoming psychotic also often misinterpret such events in a very dangerous way. I remember the case of a man who at the beginning of a schizophrenic interval physically attacked his wife. She called both the village policeman and a psychiatrist for help. As these two, along with herself and the disturbed man, were standing in the hallway of the house, the single lightbulb illuminating the scene exploded into a thousand pieces, and they were left standing in the dark, covered with bits of broken glass. The disturbed man immediately thought that since the sun and moon had hidden their light at Christ’s crucifixion, this event was a sign that he, the savior of the world, was being unjustly arrested. But, quite to the contrary, the synchronistic event was bringing a sane message—it was warning him against having a mental blackout (for an electric lightbulb signifies ego consciousness, in contrast to the sun, which is the Godhead). Here we are moving on dangerous ground. Although this event did not occur in connection with an active imagination, similar events often do occur during active imagination. This example shows us how we can go astray in this “voluntary psychosis.” Thus the alchemist Zosimos rightly warns against demons who may throw the alchemical work into confusion. Here we touch upon the distinction between active imagination and magic, particularly black magic. As we know, Jung advises against doing active imagination involving living people. It can affect them magically, and all magic, including “white” magic, has a boomerang effect on the person performing it. Therefore, in the long run it is self-destructive. All the same, I recall a case in which Jung advised me to use it. I had an older female analysand who was totally possessed by her animus (the masculine aspect of a woman) ; she was no longer accessible and on the verge of a psychotic interval. Jung advised me to speak to her animus in an active imagination. This would help her but harm me; nonetheless I should try it as a last resort. And in fact it did have a beneficial effect, and Jung helped me afterward against the boomerang effect. However, I have never again dared to repeat this experiment. —Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
One of the dangers of falling into psychosis is in becoming so transfixed on symbolic meanings that we neglect this reality. There must be a balance of both worlds in our lives. As with everything it is a paradox. Robert Johnson mentioned earlier in this article how society is suffering from a lack of meaning and connection with the unconscious. Can you talk about the dangers of narrow-mindedness?
Marie Louise Von Franz: Jung mentions a dream in the “Children’s Dreams” seminar, in which a little girl who later became schizophrenic dreamed that Jack Frost touched her stomach. Jung said that the pathological element here was that the girl had no reaction. If the dreamer had woken up frightened, or if she had just said, “Then I woke up,” that would have been equivalent to a reaction. But Jack Frost—the personified winter—came and touched her, and there was no affect. Sometimes people wake up with a cry, which is a vital reaction and a kind of lysis. Such a dream has a shock effect, but the amazing thing in the child’s dream is that it has not even a shock effect. Jack Frost is a demon of the cold who should inspire fear. It is typical for schizophrenics that they will tell horrible dreams without any emotion; they speak of them as though they were rolls at breakfast and cups of coffee. That is a serious symptom. Or very often when there is a latent psychosis, there is a very narrow-minded rationalism which absolutely refuses a symbolic interpretation of dreams. Jung has observed that extreme narrow- mindedness can be a symptom of psychosis. Such narrow-mindedness cannot understand symbols. I knew a psychotic case in which the woman had a compulsion: she always fastened papers together with clips. I asked her why, and she said that one day the window might be open and the wind might blow in and cause confusion. That was highly symbolic. The wind is the spirit of the unconscious, and one day that would blow in and she might never get out of her mental confusion again. So she pinned everything down. She was caught in a very narrow-minded, limited attitude about everything—a pure defensive mechanism. Such people have no spirit of adventure; they are frightened and caught by rationalism. Stinginess can be the same, it expresses the same thing. One cannot let go, cannot risk; one must keep everything together, because the frame might break loose at any minute. Thus the poverty of reactions is more important to watch than the symbolism itself. It indicates either a morbid disposition or—as in our story—a primitiveness, which prevents any further inner development. —Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
People are beginning to awaken and realize that the yearning they feel is for Spirit. Do you know of any place where people can go to feed their soul?
Janet O Dallet: At an earlier time, the church might have offered a safe and predictable connection to God as a way to steer our ship. Today, however, many are caught in the same alienated boat as others for whom traditional religious forms do not quite work. This is the meaning of Nietzsche’s 100-year-old declaration that God is dead. In truth, divine power, the archetypal energy to which we give the name of God, is very much alive, and we stumble across it in unexpected places, often at our peril. Perhaps the proliferation of cultlike groups in the contemporary Western world results from the psyche’s effort to create new containers for the living spirit, vessels in which to transform the suffering caused by the abuse, neglect, narcissism and just plain human imperfection in our original families. Unfortunately, few groups or their leaders are up to this enormous spiritual task. In the Far East the guru system appears to work, but here something always seems to go awry when the members of a group unanimously invest absolute authority in one individual. Because the dark side of the godhead is presently activated in the collective unconscious, pressing to be reunited with its all-good opposite, any human being who becomes a mirror for the God-images of a cult-like following perforce must wrestle with the Satanic aspects of divine status. —Saturday’s Child : Encounters With the Dark
How do cult leaders end up that way… especially when they started off with good intentions?
Janet O Dallet: The issue has to do with power and its locus. Unless a cult leader is more conscious than most humans can be, with the ethical sensibilities of a saint, he will sooner or later succumb to identification with divine power and try to live it out in the world of profane reality. Literalized, spiritual power becomes excessive material power and/or wealth, and union with God is reduced to personal sexual license. Such inappropriate personal power would be cut off at its source if cult members were to develop individual relationships with the God within. Then the James Joneses and Charles Mansons and Hitlers, would be delivered from tragic fates.—Janet O Dallett, Saturday’s Child : Encounters With the Dark Gods
This is something that troubles me greatly, because spiritual abuse cuts people off from the Source of healing. How can people in spiritual communities safeguard themselves within spiritual communities against spiritual abuse or deception. ? How do spiritual leaders, who start off with good intentions, end up a crazy cult leader
Janet O Dallet: In 1938, Jung discussed Hitler’s psychology in a remarkable interview by H.R. Knickerbocker. Stalin and Mussolini were strong men in their own right, said Jung, equivalent to tribal chiefs, but Hitler’s power, like that of a medicine man, was a magic that derived from his people’s projections. Jung went on:
Hitler is the mirror of every German’s unconscious. . . . He is the loudspeaker which magnifies the inaudible whispers of the German soul until they can be heard by the German’s unconscious ear. . . . Hitler’s secret is twofold: first, that his unconscious has exceptional access to his consciousness, and second, that he allows himself to be moved by it. He is like a man who listens intently to a stream of suggestions in a whispered voice from a mysterious source and then acts upon them. . . . The true leader is always led. . . . It is literally true when he says that whatever he is able to do is only because he has the German people behind him or, as he sometimes says, because he is Germany. So, with his unconscious being the receptacle of the souls of seventy-eight million Germans, he is powerful, and with his unconscious perception of the true balance of political forces at home and in the world, he has so far been infallible” – CG Jung).
Looking at him in this light, as the mouthpiece for the unconscious fantasies of a whole nation, we could say that Hitler was an animus- man magnified by millions. He was so extraordinarily destructive because his personal strength in no way matched his visionary gifts. He put his inner voices directly into action, unmediated by human ethical considerations. The twelve years of the Third Reich culminated in a divided Germany and a divided world. When the Berlin Wall fell, I wanted to believe that the Hitler era had ended on all levels. However, the realist in me says that most of us have a long way to go to achieve the inner integration implied by the symbol of a unified world. If walls keep coming down and we can no longer find others upon whom we can comfortably project the evil in our own souls, it will have to come home. An integrated world demands that we accept full responsibility for our unconscious selves. Is it really possible to live as rounded, whole human beings? How many are up to this monumental task—Janet O Dallett, Saturday’s Child : Encounters With the Dark Gods
How can we heal and change our world?
Janet O Dallett: The most effective way to change the world is first to change yourself. We all have within us the ability to do evil and to do good, to kill and to heal. Which side will predominate in your life or mine depends entirely on how we relate to it. We socalled civilized people will go to almost any lengths not to become aware of that primeval power in ourselves, although we see it clearly in others and are quick to condemn or idealize it where we see it. This mechanism, called projection, threatens to blow the world apart unless enough people turn inward and form the right kind of relationship to the power of life and death within themselves. Then that mysterious inner othermightfind a way to heal both our individual personal wounds and also some small part of this grievously endangered planet. The crux is the word “right.” The right kind of relationship with the God within, which Jung calls the Self, is the hardest thing on earth to achieve— it is a lifetime task. At first, the encounter with the Self is indeed a defeat for the ego; but with perseverance, Deo volente[God willing], light is born from the darkness. one meets the ‘Immortal one’ who wounds and heals, who casts down and raises up, who makes small and makes large—in a word, the one who makes one whole.” This the central spiritual task of our time, coming to terms with the problem of opposites. In the psyche, factors that appear to be mutually contradictory actually co-exist. If we look deeply enough we discover that we are goodandevil, maleandfemale, consciousandunconscious. When we lose sight of this we tend to split the world, claiming good for ourselves and projecting evil on others.The capacity to tolerate paradox, holding the opposites together inside, is consequently of the utmost practical importance. Jung says, “Without the experience of the opposites there is no experience of wholeness and hence no inner approach to the sacred figures.” However, tolerating paradox can be excruciating. “The view that good and evil are spiritual forces outside us, and that man is caught in the conflict between them, is more bearable by far than the insight that the opposites are the ineradicable and indispensable preconditions of all psychic life, so much so that life itself is guilt.” (Janet O Dallet, Listening to The Rhino
I’ve read before how Jungians have talked about how they had compassion for the Hitlers of the world. This grabbed my attention.
Marie Louis Von Franz: Again and again one encounters people in all levels of society in whom the unconscious is fatefully strongly constellated to an extraordinary degree and wells up in an abundance of affect-laden archetypal images. The peril of being overwhelmed by the unconscious in such cases is always looming, but this can often be warded off through creative structuring of the onrushing contents. The dreams of such people often themselves clearly insist on this structuring possibility, and one is frequently reminded of the many old traditions that tell of a god, demon, or spirit demanding that an individual perform certain quite specific labors in its service. This demand is often accompanied by the threat of punishment through physical or mental illness or even death, should the person fail to obey. But why is it that a person is often unable to complete such a task? Why is every psychological development, every forward step of consciousness, always conditioned by an ethical decision that has to be made on the razor’s edge? It is easy to condemn people, but there are imponderable factors involved here that we may not all be aware of. In individual cases, dreams often give us indirect indications of what is the matter.—Marie Louise Von Franz, Psychotherapy
Yes… that is true….There are too many factors for us to judge anyone. When you go deeper into the Self (the God within), you start to experience just how close the opposites are to one another. Everything seems to be both “yes and no.” We can think we did the right thing… but the consequences of what we thought was “right” turn into disaster. Once you realize this, then it becomes incredibly difficult to know what to do.
Marie Louise Von Franz: Jung said that to be in a situation where there is no way out or to be in a conflict where there is no solution is the classical beginning of the process of individuation. It is meant to be a situation without solution; the unconscious wants the hopeless conflict in order to put ego consciousness up against the wall, so that the man has to realize that whatever he does is wrong, whichever way he decides will be wrong. This is meant to knock out the superiority of the ego, which always acts from the illusion that it has the responsibility of decision. . . If he is ethical enough to suffer to the core of his personality, then generally, because of the insolubility of the conscious situation, the Self manifests. In religious language you could say that the situation without issue is meant to force the man to rely on an act of God… It is essential that the analyst himself have a connection with the numinous and have a belief in it that is based on his own experience; otherwise he overlooks the element in dreams that is directed toward numinous experience and instead projects into them his own ideas of what the patient “should” be or do. He tends automatically to develop convictions such as: this analysand should get away from his parents, that analysand should be less intellectual, another analysand should be more disciplined—and still other convictions based on whatever opinions and preconceptions he has about normalcy. For this reason, the analyst must say to himself again and again, “I do not know what God wants from this person!” All he can do is help the patient hear better what the patient’s own psyche is whispering to him.-Marie Louise Von Franz
Would you recommend isolation and time alone? The cities are hard to be in for some people, especially when their gifts are beginning to come online.
Marie Louise Von Franz: The shamans of the North are, like the medicine men of other primitive peoples, for the most part individuals who have been “called” by the gods or spirits of their tribes. Following a serious psychic crisis, which has isolated them from their communities—sometimes they also seek out this isolation themselves—they learn under the guidance of an older medicine man how to carry out an appropriate dialogue with these powers, which today we call the archetypal contents of the unconscious. They are not possessed by these powers, except during a short voluntary trance state. They do not lose their normal status as human beings, but they acquire knowledge concerning the powers of the beyond (of the unconscious) and are thus able to function as prophets and healers, and in many regions, also as the artists and poets of their tribes. On this early cultural level, magical animals are often the symbols of the Self. In the North, it is usually the bear who is the embodiment of the Self for the shaman, because he is a great nature deity. The shaman acquires his healing power and creativity from the bear. In Africa, lions and elephants represent the Self, and sometimes also other magical animals who embody the supreme divine power of the psyche and nature. From the fact that the Self appears in animal form in the dreams and visions of medicine men and creative individuals, it is clear that it is first perceived as a purely instinctive unconscious force, greater and more powerful than the ego but entirely unconscious. It embodies the complete wisdom of nature yet does not possess the light of human consciousness. Isolation always invites an attack by the powers of evil and the dangerous aspects of the unconscious. That is why, with the exception of hermits and shamans, people who have a specific religious call and the power to overcome attacks of the unconscious, it is always dangerous to put oneself in such an isolated position. In many archaic religions one is advised not to live alone, especially not to live alone in nature. There are innumerable primitive stories that begin by stressing the perils of so doing. For instance, in a South American Indian story, the family wants to go to the village feast and one of the girls says, “Oh, no, I want to stay home.” The others say, “That is dangerous!” But they leave her, and as soon as they have gone a strange man appears at the door of the hut. He snoops around and asks for food, and suddenly the girl realizes with horror that this is Kurupira, a man-eating ghost of the forest. The girl knows, “Now I’m in for it,” and then through all sorts of tricks she barely escapes being murdered and eaten.There are similar stories from Indian countries and from all over the world. When one lives alone, separating oneself from the rest of the tribe, this at once attracts the nature spirits in a negative form. They attack you, and if you are not a called medicine man or shaman, you do not have the magic to defend yourself, and so you succumb to the powers of the unconscious. If you want to know what that means psychologically, just go and live for several weeks alone in a forest or in a mountain hut, and then you will know. The devil attacks from every side. There is a certain amount of unconscious energy that normally flows into human contacts; when this energy gets dammed back into the unconscious, it overflows in a flood, so to speak. This flood of unconscious energy usually surfaces first in the form of the shadow or negative animus or anima, especially if the unconscious has been repressed or ignored before. In our story, what has been ignored is obviously the witch. The brothers come to this witch while they are hunting, by following a hind. They come to her hut and enter her realm. This is a very widespread European fairy tale motif. But it is archetypal everywhere, not only in Europe. For instance, some magical animals lure a hunter into a place where he has never been before. In eighty percent of the stories this has a positive outcome. Usually the hunter comes upon a beautiful princess in distress, or in some other way he discovers his heroic task. Such scenes very often describe the beginning of a process of individuation. In alchemy the stag and the hind represent the fugitive god Mercurius who lures the adept into the unknown. These animals always have the quality of being elusive, difficult to catch, and yet at the same time they function to bring about renewal…. (Marie Louise Von Franz, Archetypal Patterns In Fairy Tales).
Can you tell us about the archetype of the magical competition?
Marie Louise Von Franz : The archetype of the magical competition is to be found in almost all societies and on all levels of civilization. In primitive civilizations it is in the form of different medicine men, smaller and greater, who compete with each other, each one establishing a realm of power and influence over a certain group in the tribe or over a neighboring tribe, while trying to eliminate their rivals. The same thing exists in the rivalry of shamans in the Circumpolar tribes; smaller and bigger shamans challenge each other as to who is more accomplished in magic and try to block each other out in this way. There are traces of this even in Christian legends. The Gnostic Simon Magus claimed to represent the Godhead on earth. He was not only a rival of Christ but of Saint Peter as well; the two met in Rome to have it out with each other. Simon Magus tried to demonstrate that he could fly, and Saint Peter used magic against him so that when he went over a cliff with his wings spread, he fell down and was killed. There are later stories of saints who fight with wizards or witches in a similar way. So one finds this theme practically everywhere. One could say that it is the archetype of trying to fight evil by one’s wits and intelligence and through knowledge, instead of by brute force. Today we call it psychological warfare. Knowledge, if linked with a state of higher consciousness, is perhaps the greatest means of fighting evil; dissociated from consciousness, it is just one magical trick against another. The rival whose knowledge means wider or deeper consciousness will probably win against the rival who simply uses traditional knowledge without knowing its real meaning, not being essentially connected with it. Anything in this sense can be used as black or white magic. That is why I avoid speaking of black and white magic, for each rival will contend that he is the white and the other the black magician. This reminds me of a childhood dream of an analysand who had been the victim of a destructive mother. The mother was a nurse and, like some nurses, had a definite suicidal complex. She was a bitter, pious, power-driven woman with hidden suicidal tendencies. She had married just to marry, without the slighest love, and she told her children from morning till night that it would have been better for her not to have married and that they never ought to have existed. You can imagine the constructive atmosphere in which those children grew up! The childhood dream of one of the girls was the following: When about four years old she dreamt that she got out of bed with the feeling that her mother was doing something very mysterious in the neighboring room. It was half dark, and she looked into the room where her mother sat with the Bible. In came a huge “black” man,* and the mother took up the Bible, which had a cross in gold on the cover, and held it up against the black man, who fled. The girl woke up with a cry of horror, not because of the black man, but because she had seen or caught her mother using the Bible as a magic means. Now, that was pure black magic. The mother repressed the problem of evil, which in her case had taken the form of a completely destructive power animus. She split herself off from her destructive animus by using the Bible as a trick, not as something to read or meditate upon or to incorporate in any way, but as a kind of outer magical, technical trick to keep herself from a confrontation. Thus the whole problem of evil and of having it out with her animus was put onto her children. That is why I do not use the words black or white magic, because even the Bible can be used for black magic against dark powers. Whether magic is white or black depends on how and with what attitude you use your weapons. I have often been struck by the fact that even in Zen Buddhism, in conversations between enlightened masters or those in which the masters test other, unknown monks to see if they have acquired Zen, there is sometimes a disagreeable tone of power or magical competition. I mentioned this to Jung. He said, with a grin, that a lot of the old shaman’s power competition had sneaked into some of the Zen competitions. Naturally this is not a general statement; it refers to certain forms and doesn’t cover everything, but it is a danger which lurks in the background. And, last but not least, in psychology one meets the same thing in the disagreeable way in which many analysts relate to their colleagues and, on the subjective level, in the relationship between the ego and the unconscious. Often people approach the unconscious with an inner utilitarian or power standpoint; they want to exploit the unconscious in order to become more powerful themselves, to be healthier, to dominate their surroundings, or to learn how to get things in their own way. Or they approach it with a secret ambition to acquire a mana personality. This is especially a pupil’s disease; if somebody in lonely work upon himself has acquired a certain superiority, the pupil wants to acquire it in the same way. If he is intelligent he thinks, “Oh well, I’ll follow exactly the same method and do exactly the same as the master and I’ll get the same results.” Such a person does not notice that he is deceiving himself. His approach to the unconscious is not genuine but contaminated with a trick, or with an exploiting attitude. The unconscious is something like a beautiful forest whose animals he wants to catch, or a field he wants to take possession of. When consciousness assumes such an attitude, the unconscious becomes tricksterlike too. The dreams become contradictory, they say yes and then no, left and then right, and one feels that the archetype of the trickster god Mercurius is dominating the phenomenon of the unconscious, leading the ego in a thousand ways up the garden path. Such people, sometimes after years of trying to cope with their own unconscious most honestly and desperately, finally give up and say, “Well, the unconscious is a hopeless abyss and misleading, something one can never get to the end of, for the dreams say both this and that.” Such people do not realize that they constellate this trickster quality in their own unconscious by the trickster attitude of their ego, that is, by their own attitude toward the unconscious. They want to cheat and exploit the unconscious, they want to get it into their own pockets with a slight, subtle power attitude, and the unconscious answers with a mirror reaction. There are even people who, after reading Jung, try to force individuation in this way. They think, “If I do as Jung did, write down every dream, do active imagination, etc., then I’ll get IT,” so to speak. They put a forcing, pressing ego attitude into the enterprise which tricks it from the start and gets them into endless trouble. This is a modern variation of the age-old archetypal motif of the magical competition or contest. (Marie Louise Von Franz, Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales).
Marie Louise Von Franz In antique Greece the duck belonged to the love goddess and in circumpolar shamanism it is the shaman’s guide to the beyond and back. It can move on earth, in water, and in air, which is why it is the guide to the unconscious. (Marie Louise Von Franz, Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales).
There are many other traditions that also experience ecstatic journies of initiation. What are some of those?
Marie Louise Von Franz: In shamanism and in the initiation experiences of primitive medicine men there appears an age-old religious phenomenon, retained in part at least in later higher cultures, namely the motif of the “ascension of the soul,” or a celestial journey taken by the soul, occurring in each case after death and in some cases even during the lifetime of the elect who experiences it in a state of ecstasy. In Judaism such a journey is described in the first book of Enoch, which relates how Enoch, near the end of his life, is carried off to heaven by the spirit, sees God and receives certain revelations. Similar celestial journeys are also described in the second book of Enoch, in the so-called Apocalypse of Baruch, which in a still older form is mentioned by Origen (De Principiis II, 36), and in the Apocalypse of Sophonias quoted by Clement of Alexandria. Sophonias is also lifted up to heaven by the spirit (pneuma) and sees the majesty of God.20 Even the Apostle Paul (II Corinthians 12:2,4) is proud of having been “caught up to the third heaven” and “into paradise”not knowing “whether in the body … or whether out of the body”and to have “heard unspeakable words there.” In later rabbinical writings one reads: ”Four pressed into paradise,namely Ben Asai, Ben Soma, Acher and Rabbi Akiba…. Ben Asai saw and died, Ben Soma saw and was struck (that is, mentally disturbed). Acher cut down the plantations. Rabbi Akiba alone came out again in peace.” Aside from references in some early fathers of the Church, reports of this sort of event do not appear very often later on, a fact which can be attributed to that tendency of the Church to repress the formation of individual symbolism. More often than in Judaism, however, one finds in the Gnostics and in Iranian traditions, as late as the time of the Mithraic mysteries, depictions of the journey to heaven where, indeed, a trip to the beyond in a state of ecstasy was part of the initiation into those mysteries: “I shall behold today with immortal eyes, mortally created from mortal mother’s womb, immortal Aion and Lord of the Fiery Crown,” begins the instruction given in the so-called Mithraic liturgy. Mircea Eliade points out that the primordial features of the celestial journey of the shamans also existed in ancient Greece. The doctor-priests, Abaris and Aristeas of Proconnesus, healed and prophesied while in an ecstatic trance-state. Hermotimos of Clazomenae is supposed to have left his body “for many years” and traveled afar, after which he was endowed with “much mantic lore and knowledge of the future.” Epimenides of Crete slept in a cave on Mount Ida and learned “enthusiastic wisdom” there. Among the Thracians and Scythians, the smoke of common hemp was used as a means of inducing ecstasy, in order to gain experiences of the beyond. Plato’s Er fell into a cataleptic trance on the battlefield, the ”other world” was revealed to him and he learned the secret of fate and of life after death. The legend of Timarchus contains similar material. He descended into the cave of the healer-god Trophonius and experienced there the splitting of the seams of his skull, from which his soul emerged to wander about the beyond. In the Hellenistic period, Hades was oddly blended with the celestial habitations of the blessed spirits and localized in the same spot. From ancient Iran there are accounts of such celestial journeys in which the ecstatic experiences what, under normal conditions, would be in store for the soul after death. In the Book of Artay Viraf there is a description of the suffering of Viraf for seven days from tetanus. During this time his soul wanders through the celestial spaces, crosses the bridge to the beyond and gazes upon the sites of damnation and of blessedness. Ancient Persian images and ideas of this kind lived on in the legend of Mohammed’s journey to heaven. In the Roman Sominum Scipionis, described by Macrobius, Scipio is instructed in the secrets of the beyond by tile spirit. of his dead ancestor; and the so-called Oracula Chaldaica depict at great length an initiate’s visionary journey to the beyond. There the ultimate goal is a “formless fire” whose voice can be heard by the initiant. There are also traces of this tradition in Hermetic literature, in the Poimander for example. This kind of religious experience was retained in the alchemical tradition much later than in the Christian Church. The alchemical adept, in his quest for the divine secret of the materia, was vouchsafed the truth in visionary dream-initiations (Zosimos) or ecstatic celestial journeys (Krates). .—Marie Louise Von Franz: His myth inour time.