Oct 20, 2013

The Fourfold Youniverse, pt. 2: the Elemental Man

In the first part of the series, I discussed the division of reality into the four elements. The four elements, together with the three essential qualities, give us the twelve signs of the zodiac. This provides us with another reason to refute astrology as the heavens somehow causally affecting events on Earth - the zodiac is about the intrinsic qualities of life on the planet (perhaps of all reality, but I doubt that - either way, who's to say what astrology is elsewhere?).

This is where the value of Fire reveals itself: most are busy making a microscopic analysis of the facts, and only a few care to take a bird's-eye view of the matter. When you look at an ant, it's hard to understand its purpose, why it does what it does, but look at the colony as a whole and you'll start to get the picture. Likewise, while there certainly is some worth to a dividing, detail-oriented approach, the truth can only be seen if the results of that approach are compared with the results of a macro approach.

At ground level, it's just a weird neighborhood

I've always had a soft spot for movies when it comes to art, which is easy to tell. The reason is very simple: insofar as art is an expression of the collective unconscious, movies are the way it can be done with the element of time (it is possible via other art forms, such as photography, putting pictures in a chronological order, but if you do that, it starts to become less photography and more cinema anyway). Movies, then, tell the stories that we as a whole dream about - stories that always express the archetypes of Earth, just as your dreams express your own archetypes.

Coming back to psychology first, though, let's take another look at the four functions of the psyche. I have always felt that the standard psychoanalytic dynamic of ego/superego/id was somehow lacking (not to mention that the id is critically misunderstood - but don't take my word for it), just as the traditional Father/Son/Holy Spirit division also lacked its fourth element. Well, until the assumption of Mary in 1950, that is.

Thus, in order for my own concepts of the psychoanalytic dynamic not to be confused with the classic, I'll be giving them different names - which of course carry their own load, but I'm not going to invent gobbledygook either. So the superego and the id, as a whole, are more or less clearly defined, which led me to see the ego as actually being a conflation of two opposing factors. We have then:

Nomos then corresponds to the superego, and heiros (meaning 'sacred') to the id. It should be clear that, where Freud saw a depository of repressed memories and desires, I see rather a connection to that part of us which lies outside of space and time - our soul, as it were, but not that ghosty thing inside your body that a lot of people will imagine. The function of the element of water in our psyche is to act as a connection to our higher self, as it were, which includes, of course, our memories. It's easy to see that memory retrieval is hardly logical, or even coherent. The heiros is your guardian angel, that voice inside your head - which is a part of you, not someone else, remember - that tells you to do something crazy that turns out to actually work. Yes, the devil is part of the sacred too.

That leaves us with eros and logos. Eros, the element of fire, represents our desire, our will, our consciousness, not to mention our ability to make choices. Without the eros, the individual will be nothing more than a slave to the outer rules, the nomos - he won't even move, really. However, it's certainly not easy to make choices, especially when the inner feeling conflicts with the outer norm. This is where the logos comes in: it is the mediator between the nomos and the the heiros, the helper, the logical thinker.

The eros is also what we would consider to be our identity. An identity, something that differenciates you, is what allows you to separate from the nomos. However, all the archetypes are within us, even the ones we consider diametrically opposed to our identity. We thus need to project those conflicting archetypes, to use others as a way of expressing that archetype without feeling like you lost yourself. That's where the logos comes in - it acts as a mediator between yourself and that part of yourself which are most distant from. This is why the logos will usually appear in one's dreams as a person of the opposite sex - as Jung would call it, the anima or animus of the individual.

Cupid and Psyche, by William Etty

So if all the characters in your dream are just the different aspects of yourself, it would seem to make sense to take the characters in a movie as the different aspects of a single individual - usually the main character, but it doesn't really matter who the dreamer is, since movies are telling collective stories, to which each of us can relate in varying degrees. This explains why there is romance in just about every film - we are unconsciously attempting to get in touch with our other selves.

Take the classic romance story. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, but some form of authority (parents, customs, governments, etc) comes in the way, and they can't be together, until boy receives help from an unlikely source and they are able to defeat the authority and finally get together. In order to become individuals, we must separate ourselves from the collective, the outer rules, and choose our own paths, and that is why movies are the predominant art form of the post-modern age. We all want to be individuals, desperately, to have our own story.

It's the same for everyone: in order to grow and to protect ourselves from the chaos of earthly life, we need to have a sense of structure and order, which we get from our parents, teachers, governors, etc. As we continue on the journey, the world itself changes, and sometimes the old rules don't work out anymore. It's not easy, though, to change the structure, because it makes us feel helpless, powerless. The help we need is also within us, however. This is where the heiros comes in - it's that part of yourself which allows you to reform the nomos, as it were, a process that will always involve pain and loss. Very often, we are depressed because we recognize intuitively that something is not right, but we cannot seem to know what. It's hard to tell which rule is wrong.

However, we usually don't realize that the losses and pain we go through serve a purpose, and are there ultimately for our own benefit (which can, admittedly, be hard to see). Most believe that the ultimate purpose of life on Earth is happiness, but if you look at the system objectively, you'll be hard-pressed to find indications that this is actually the case - in fact, it would be much easier to argue that the very purpose of life of Earth is suffering and difficulty. But then, if it were easy, it would be no fun.

The four functions of the psyche correspond to the four quadrants in an astrological birth chart. Thus, a person who has many planets in the 1st quadrant (1st to 3rd houses) will generally be rather eros-driven, and will be particularly prone to the qualities and defects of eros, that is, particularly concerned with their own identity and their own will. There is a particular paradox that occurs, then, when the 1st quadrant is filled with planets in the signs of the 3rd zodiacal quadrant, for example the person with a Sun in Libra in the first house. However, these opposing qualities allow the person to reduce the paradox, the complexio oppositorium, to its core. So, to spin the circle back to movies one more time (I include TV series in the category, of course there are distinctions but the medium is essentially the same), let us concretize, and see an example:

Elementary. Look at that word again, and remember that it means 'simple'. Archetypes are elementary. Well, well. So if we psychoanalyze the series, so to speak, we should be able to see the dynamics quite easily - and indeed, they are in your face. The Sherlock Holmes character was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin. Poe was the grandfather of the modern mystery story, and in one of the stories, "The Purloined Letter", the eponymous letter, desperately sought by the police but never found, was in fact hidden in plain sight. Likewise, the mysteries of the universe aren't locked away in some secret alcove, rather, they're right there on TV, looking at us.

Here is the IMDB synopsis, if you haven't seen the show:

Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) is a recovering addict who meets Joan Watson (Lucy Lui) as his 'sober companion'. Initially their relationship is strictly professional, and somewhat frosty, but they grow to understand and work with one another, eventually forming a friendship and partnership. Together they assist Captain Gregson and Detective Bell of the NYPD, where Holmes' observational abilities and deductive talent unravel a series of complicated cases.

Alongside his police work, Sherlock struggles with a past he left behind in London involving an ex-girlfriend Irene Adler, a 'nemesis' in Moriarty, and an absent father.

Let us imagine then, that all four main characters (for dream-interpretation purposes, two people can represent the same character) represent the four elements. Watson is the main character, the series is about her, not Holmes. She was originally a surgeon, but became a sober companion, and then a detective after meeting Holmes. All of those are about helping other people. Additionally, she possesses many characteristics associated with Libra: she is generally cheerful and pleasant, she has a good sense of fashion and tends to be indecisive at times, and she's quite sympathetic.

Holmes, on the other hand, is impulsive, prone to temper tantrums, aggressive and selfish, characteristics of Aries. Since the main character here is a woman, it stands to reason that the logos would be of the opposite sex. Furthermore, he's British, that is, a foreigner, and foreigners in dreams represent aspects of ourselves that are very strange or distant to us. Watson, representing the Libra archetype, has a natural tendency to reject Aries characteristics, but there comes a time in everyone's life when they must confront their logos, the aspect of ourselves we project on others. This becomes particularly poignant during our 40s, and is what most people mean when they talk about midlife crises. Yes, Watson is middle-aged (Lucy Liu is 45).

Captain Gregson and Detective Bell, the police generally, represent the heiros of the dreamer. This might seem counter-intuitive at first, because usually the police are the agents of the nomos, of the repressive authority, but if we have an inverse chart then that's what fits. Either way, you'll notice they're not the prototypical cops: they're helpful and protective at times, and challenge and confront at other times. The role of the heiros is double, at once defending and criticizing, but the objective is the same: to get the dreamer on the right path, whichever that might be. I'll leave you to figure out how Moriarty is Cancer - to do so myself would be to spoil the first season.

Remember that clothes broadcast our identities

So, if the nomos is the bad guy, what's it doing there? Well, we all have our shadow side. It might seem right to suggest that Moriarty is amoral, but I would argue otherwise: Moriarty is unethical, not amoral. He doesn't play by anyone's rules but his own, but he has his own rules. The nomos exists because it is our structure, it is the stuff that we are made of. Without an internal structure, we are at the mercy of the elements (har, har). This is why Capricorn, the sign of the nomos, is represented by a mammal, which has a bone structure, and Cancer, the sign of the heiros, is represented by a crab, which has an exoskeleton instead (that is, a soft interior). It is only with an inner structure that we survive the outer conflicts, and with an outer structure that we survive our inner conflicts.

The nomos has the resources that we need at our disposal. In the case of the show, Moriarty has all the deductive resources, let's say, that are necessary, as evidenced by the fact that he is constantly outsmarting Holmes. Holmes himself is the epitome of rationality, and thus accurately represents the logos: our critical faculty, our ability to judge facts objectively, to get outside our own skin, as it were. The thing about the logos, though, is that it is completely amoral, in the sense that any choice can be rationalized - it's a cliché example, but the nazis justified their actions with science too. Thus, just as Watson needs to Holmes to be an objective analyst, Holmes needs Watson (and the cops) to be his moral compass.

It's fitting that the show is about assassinations, too. When someone is nomos-possessed (and note how Watson is extremely subservient to her parents), that is, when the superego is running the show, he or she will not hesitate to "kill" any aspects of self that are a threat to the status quo. However, a human being, just like the Earth itself, is a self-regulating system, and that's where the logos comes in. Its function, as I mentioned earlier, is to act as a balancer between the nomos and the heiros. When it detects that the nomos is unfairly powerful, it comes to the rescue - in this case, in the form of an Aries investigative detective. It's interesting to note that Scorpio (Mars rules both Aries and Scorpio, fyi) is the sign of criminal investigations and death, but also of psychology itself. It is also the sign of sex, which is a literal representation of the reduction of the complexio oppositorum.

Before teaming up with Watson, Holmes had been in rehab after excessive use of heroin (there's that Scorpio again). Frequently, people who overdose on drugs, or attempt suicide in general, are doing so as a call for attention. The logos needed to get the eros's attention, and indeed it did. Previously, Holmes had lived in London - far away from Watson's conscience. Interestingly, Watson was hired by Holmes's father; interesting because the heiros and the logos compose the patriarchal, right-hand side of the wheel. After all, father is absent - there had, until now, been an excess of nomos and a lack of heiros.

If the role of the superego is to consolidate the individual, to establish the rules, it is the id's job to question those rules, in short, to reform the superego. To sum up the first season of Elementary, Holmes and Watson become gradually aware of the existence of Moriarty, who always seems to be two (or ten) steps ahead. In the final episode, and it's no spoiler to say this, they finally manage to outsmart and thwart Moriarty. Watson is finally able to begin reintegrating her broken self, and rid herself of the excess weight dropped on her by her parents. She has become the Elemental Woman.

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