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Archetypes and Layered
(Extract from: Muse of the Long Haul Thirty-One Isles of the Creative
Copyright, Dr Ian Irvine, 2013 all rights reserved. All short extracts from the texts discussed used
under fair usage related to ‘review’ and theoretical ‘critique’ under international copyright law. All
other images copyright Andy or Ian Irvine, 1984, all rights reserved. Front page image:
Stonehenge, England 1984, copyright Ian Irvine.
Publisher: Mercurius Press, Australia, 2013. NB: This piece is published at Scribd as part of a
series drawn from Ian’s soon to be print published non-fiction book on experiential poetics
entitled: Muse of the Long Haul: Thirty-One Isles of the Creative Imagination.
Isle of Archetypes and Layered Histories
I’d taken the following books to the UK with me: The White Goddess, Gravity’s Rainbow, The
Dictionary of Modern Thought, The Primal Scream and one or two books by Wilhelm Reich and
Carl Jung (my favourite Jung text at the time was The Archetypes and the Collective
Unconscious and I’d read it cover to cover). Chetwynd’s A Dictionary of Symbols was also in the
luggage since I saw it as a succinct summary of Jung’s extraordinary system of thought. I carried
these books around with me all over Britain—initially to cricket matches, later to pubs, castles,
abbeys, Bronze-Age ruins, soccer stadiums and so on. I bought others too on the road, for
example, The Ways of the Imagination a fascinating book exploring the creative reading habits of
the Romantic poet Coleridge. Also, Dante’s Inferno, which I acquired during a trip to Oxford to
look around the university and the town’s many museums. My time away from studying
Commerce and playing cricket quickly turned into a read-a-thon. Better still, I was only reading
books that I felt had direct relevance to my life.
Chetwynd’s populist outline of Jungian theory in A Dictionary of Symbols describes ‘The
Shadow’ as follows:
First experienced as dark and alien or lying on the far side of a barrier, but separated from
the Ego as dark is from light: … The Shadow is the personal embodiment, or
personification of the dark side. Any power or force in the psyche neglected by the
conscious Ego remains unconscious and therefore irrational and potentially destructive.1
He goes on to list typical symbols, among them one encounters:
Neglected figures who are exiled, or thrust into the UNDERWORLD but from there
manage to cause a lot of trouble. …2
Further along in the passage Chetwynd writes about the process of ‘Integrating the Shadow’ and
points to both its eternally negative aspects and its vigorous, life-enhancing possibilities if
balanced with the Jungian idea of the Ego. Another aspect of the Shadow is its tendency to
‘project’ internal conflicts outwards—i.e. to ‘scapegoat’ others for the personal failings one is
unable or unwilling to acknowledge. Much of the blind brutality and stupidity of ideological and
religious zealots seemed to me, as a young man, tied up with collective Shadow stuff. By 1984 I
was thinking and talking like a Jungian!
In returning to my own journey I should state that I was reading a lot of Jungian material
in the northern summer of 1984. Existentialism hadn’t really offered me an ‘antidote’ to the
condition it had so accurately diagnosed. For a personal antidote I had to look elsewhere—
perhaps to the people whose job it was to heal such maladies, i.e. psychologists. The Isle of the
Jungians can be visualised as part of a mini-archipelago also composed of the Islands of the
Psychoanalysts, Primalists and Transpersonalists.
Back in early 1984 I looked to Jung’s system for a solution to the identity problems I was
experiencing (see Island 4 for a summary). Also, given my interests in the arts, I was fascinated
Chetwynd, A Dictionary of Symbols, p.132.
Chetwynd, A Dictionary of Symbols, p.132.
by Jung’s emphasis on symbolism, as well as his more positive attitude toward creativity and
artistic practice (we weren’t all seen as hopeless neurotics as per Freud!). I felt I could become
acquainted with age-old themes for possible use in songs and novels at the same time as I
explored my own ‘collective unconscious’ (a second, primordial level to the unconscious
composed of universal Archetypes) on the way to ‘individuation’ (the Jungian version of psychic
wholeness). Two birds, one stone as far as I was concerned. I just needed time away from
ordinary life to let this integrative process unfold. Things came to a head in the second half of
1984—I’ll call it my Jungian year, but in truth it could just as easily be described as the year I
became an adult.
Reading Jung informed me that my relationship with ‘Alison’ hadn’t worked in part due
to my having been raised in a patriarchal society. My male and female energies had become
unbalanced. It was important, therefore, that I developed other aspects of my psyche particularly
the more intuitive, emotional aspects. In my mind the ‘aggressive fast bowler’ (Gilgamesh?)
figure I became on cricket pitches was in truth a hurdle to me developing genuine intimacy with
a girlfriend. Imbalances between the ‘ego’ and the various levels of the ‘unconscious’ were also
making me anxious and incapable of feeling true joy and peace of mind. This amounted to a
conventional Jungian diagnosis of my problem.
Jung, however, proved vague and intellectual about the best way to fix the problem.
Although Jungian therapy, with its talk of ‘archetypes’, ‘persona’, ‘the self archetype’,
‘synchronicity’, etc. seemed perfectly suited to my burgeoning creative temperament—for
example, I really wanted literary ‘symbols’ to help me find peace of mind!—I doubted it could
really cure me of the anxieties haunting me at that time. Promoting the ‘union of opposites’ and
integrating ‘negatively polarised archetypes’, struck me as a slow and overly esoteric process. I
felt I needed a full scale personality lobotomy instead—literally a cutting away of the ‘mask’ or
‘persona’ that I’d contracted via unhealthy social conditioning. I eventually looked to Primal
Therapy to do the job.
In the interim, Jung’s books, gave me some interesting ideas for songs and poems. I also
acquired a range of fascinating terms to describe what I thought I was going through—terms like
‘confronting the Shadow’, ‘integrating the collective unconscious’ etc. seemed to make the
whole process of personal growth strangely heroic. I was left with a vague sense that Graves’
‘White Goddess’ was akin to Jung’s ‘Anima’ figure—and that the two together were figuring
prominently in my (non)relationship with ‘Alison’. Similarly, Jung’s archetypes sounded
suspiciously like the ancient polytheistic deities of many cultures—even though he’d placed
them deep in the psyche (related to developmental processes) rather than out in the world at
The first gain from not having to play cricket was—paradoxically—a temporary cessation to the
bouts of vomiting I’d been afflicted with after bowling sessions. Overall, however, life on the
road proved more intense than life as a professional cricketer. For the next five months Andy and
I toured Britain—eventually doing over 10,000 miles in our battered blue Mini-van with its
dodgy alternator and brakes you had to pump three times to get them to work. When we finally
limped it home to Pat in Wales it was only fit for the wreckers—I have a picture Pat sent me of it
being symbolically ‘bludgeoned’ to death by him, Phil and three of their mates.
That summer and fall, as the henges, forests, castles and abbeys flashed by, as we spent
long periods with family in Yorkshire, Scotland and Wales or mixed with strangers from all over
the world in obscure backpacker hostels, I felt both profoundly liberated and profoundly anxious
about the direction of my life. I remember gypsy tents and burning late model cars in a field
across from Stonehenge. I remember Chester with its Roman ruins, Whitby with its seaside feel,
vampire legends and towering Abbey. I remember fern-clad stone walls that belonged to an
ancient Bronze-Age fort in the highlands of Scotland. I remember Stirling Castle and Edinburgh
castle and a drunk night in St Andrews kissing a Scottish girl I’d never met before in my life and
sad, for a moment, that she wasn’t Alison.
As the experiences came and went, also, as the bouts of vomiting and stomach pains
again became more frequent, I circled a decision I feared I wouldn’t be able to carry through
with upon returning to New Zealand. I knew I had to abandon my Commerce studies altogether.
I also knew I needed to find a way to work through the emotional residue of an unsettled, if
adventurous, childhood—I was thinking simultaneously in Jungian and Primal terms (apart from
Jung’s work I was also reading Arthur Janov’s book The Primal Scream). Mainstream politics
now left me cold—I was done with the Labour Party. In all likelihood I was also finished with
highly competitive sport—though this decision would take longer to make and after returning to
NZ in late 1984 I was selected for one senior representative game for Auckland province (against
a Northland eleven). On the way back to Auckland after the match, however, I recall having to
stop the car several times to vomit. After that trip I realised I probably needed to see a doctor—
perhaps the vomiting episodes weren’t simply anxiety about all the changes/upheavals in my life.
In late October, however, as the English rains grew colder and
more frequent—making camping a soggy, miserable affair—I
received a letter from New Zealand. ‘Alison’ said she missed
me, wanted to know where I was. Almost in passing, she also
wrote that she wouldn’t mind having me back there to talk to.
She also wanted me to send her posters and recordings of
‘Style Council,’ a British band. Although I much preferred
‘The Jam’ (‘The Style Council’s’ earlier and more
dynamic/gutsy incarnation) I nevertheless bought Alison the
posters and tapes.
I probably read far more into the letter than was
intended, but given Andy and I didn’t fancy staying on for the
British winter—we’d caught up with all our relatives (were
probably on the verge of becoming burdensome late-teenage
over-stayers!)—and were growing tired of the endless tourist
attractions, cider, ‘heavy’ beer and being in limbo about work
and study, we decided it was time to go home. By midNovember we were on our way back to NZ—for my part, I intended to deliver the posters and
tapes to Alison in person.
Home to the Land of the Long White Cloud
These days I believe that the ‘personal unconscious’ works hand in hand with the ‘collective
unconscious’—and feel that neither should be privileged over the other. They are but two sides of
the same coin. The ‘collective unconscious’ projects archetypal developmental needs onto the
world. The world either responds or obstructs—in the process sowing seeds of either harmony or
discord between the two realms of the unconscious.
This was how I tended to understand my own situation as I boarded the British Airways
jet in November 1984, destined for Auckland. My Gilgamesh-Enkidu ‘complex’ needed
integrating, and fast—how else would I be able to change sufficiently to be able to form a
genuine, mature relationship with a woman (specifically, ‘Alison’, at that time)?
As I lay there on the edge of a troubled sleep (probably somewhere over the Middle East)
the image of a sleeping (perhaps dead) Anima figure imprisoned somewhere underground
appeared to me. I also imagined a Shadow figure, a huge almost demonic fast-bowler, blocking
the entrance to the underground passageway that led to the sleeping woman. He sneered at me,
called me ‘weak’ and challenged me to a fight. Later in the trip, perhaps over Thailand or
Indonesia, I was pulled out of another bizarre nightmare by air turbulence and the strong urge to
once again vomit due to a sore stomach. This nightmare involved Humpty Dumpty. He was lying
at the foot of an old stone wall (like the ancient walls I’d seen all over the British countryside),
and though he was in pieces he was nevertheless able to speak—he complained bitterly, in fact,
about his fragmented state: ‘You’ve all but dissolved the Persona, you idiot! Now what will we
do? You’ve smashed me to smithereens and there’s nothing left but ocean and moonlight! Well
it’s on your head! You can’t build a life out of fragments!’ Obviously Humpty had also read a lot
Moments later, with my head in an airline toilet, I remember being flooded with a curious
fear —and not just of the suction mechanism! The year overseas should have cleared my head
and renewed my sense of purpose. Instead I felt overwhelmed—incredibly fragile
psychologically. So much had changed and yet flying home it became obvious to me that nothing
important had actually been resolved. I was really only beginning the journey—big decisions
were looming and I felt ill-prepared to make them.
As I struggled to suction-atomise the partially digested remains of an earlier airline meal,
I realised with a kind of panic that my life was out of control—I was starting to understand what
it meant to ‘go off the rails’. If I wasn’t already ‘derailed’ I wasn’t far from it. I’d been
bombarded with many intense experiences whilst in Britain and felt that there was no going back
to the old Ian. However, no acceptable alternative Ian seemed to be on the horizon. Part of me
wanted to simply flick a switch and turn back the clock—to the time before I’d read all those
books, to the time when I’d been a conformist Commerce student who happened to be able to
As I vomited yet again—Must be to do with the cabin pressure, I thought at the time—I
resolved, somewhat shakily, to return to my degree studies, also to my career as a professional
cricketer. ‘Alison’ would help me in this quest—we’d reunite soon after my return and things
would finally work out between us. This in turn would give me peace of mind and selfconfidence—wasn’t that the outcome of most of the Romantic movies I’d ever seen? She’d be
happy to live the life of a test cricketer’s wife—posing for photographs in women’s magazines,
conducting interviews, appearing on television for worthy causes, dressing up for awards
evenings, etc. She’d also travel to the UK with me every year and look after the inevitable
children whilst I played high level cricket. In this fantasy, all my symptoms of alienation—all of
my anxieties—would simply disappear. There’d also no longer be a need to torment myself with
endless questions about life, the universe and everything.
A lot hinged on the reunion.
Author Bio (as at April 2013)
Dr. Ian Irvine (Hobson) is an Australian-based poet/lyricist,
writer and non-fiction writer. His work has featured in
publications as diverse as Humanitas (USA), The Antigonish
Review (Canada), Tears in the Fence (UK), Linq (Australia)
and Takahe (NZ), as well as in a number of Australian
national poetry anthologies: Best Australian Poems 2005
(Black Ink Books) and Agenda: ‘Australian Edition’, 2005.
He is the author of three books and co-editor of three
journals and currently teaches in the Professional Writing
and Editing program at BRIT (Bendigo, Australia) as well as
the same program at Victoria University, St. Albans, Melbourne. He has also taught history and
social theory at La Trobe University (Bendigo, Australia) and holds a PhD for his work on creative,
normative and dysfunctional forms of alienation and morbid ennui.
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