THE SYMBOLIC LIFE (Summer 2015)
With our summer films in full swing, it has struck me how the mythos in the most popular film so far, "Jurassic World," symbolically reflects the violent outer events that have been erupting within our own society. Most recently we have had the horrible shooting of several people, including the pastor, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. We are rocked with senseless primordial violence. And during this time we have been getting updates on the trial and sentencing of the Boston bomber and the trial of the young man who fired away into the audience of a Colorado movie theatre. How do we make sense of all this?
Ironically there is a symbolic connection in "Jurassic World" that reflects the psychology of these senseless acts of violence. As Greg Braxton wrote in the Los Angeles Times in June concerning "Jurassic World," "Who says dinosaurs don't still rule the Earth?" The writer was referring to the box office success of the film, and how people were drawn both in our country and abroad to see it. (My two sons both saw it opening weekend, one with friends here in Los Angeles, and the other with his wife in China. I saw it on Father's Day.)
Curiously the first movie I took my oldest son to see was the animated 1988 film "The Land Before Time" when he was three. Dinosaurs fascinate the young psyche and as we clearly see with the Jurassic film franchise, the adult psyche as well. Dinosaurs take us back before the time of our early ancestors, who lived within the real life dilemma of "who eats who." That is, would our early ancestors be eaten as the food of the various meat eating predators they shared the earth with, or would they be able to hunt and eat animals for their survival?
On the outer level, for those of us living in modern societies, this is no longer the case. But as Jungian analyst Edward Edinger has written, inwardly and symbolically, this is still very much true. The question for us today is whether we as individuals and as a culture will be able to assimilate the primordial aspects of our own psyches, or will they take over so that we are eaten up by them?
In "Jurassic World," some of the characters are indeed eaten, usually they are devoured. The victims in Charleston, South Carolina, at the Boston Marathon, and in the Colorado movie theatre we also devoured by the primordial energy that gripped the perpetrators of the violence. And paradoxically similar violence has also erupted at schools and college campuses. We seem better at educating the mind than the human heart, a split in the Western psyche Jung was trying to address.
In my book The Journey of Luke Skywalker I discussed some of these issues related to the George Lucas myth. In each of the original films Luke Skywalker is in danger of being taken over by primitive realities, Sand People, the Wampa, and the Rancor, for example. In the latter two cases it is clear that the danger is that he would be eaten and devoured. This symbolism reflects his ongoing emotional development.
Edinger discusses this theme in his book The Aion Lectures (pp. 95-98). The challenge is to properly assimilate the primordial psyche, which is done in conjunction with human relationship and community. However, according to Edinger, many people will partake of the psyche "raw" and fall into an identification with it and live it out without any consciousness, and I would add, without any awareness of its affect on others. They do not take the time to "cook" and assimilate these affects in a slow, careful way. Part of the South Carolina tragedy is that this assimilation was part of the spiritual work of the congregation. The perpetrator was gripped by the raw material and couldn't join the community in its work of assimilation. Film, education, and events like the Boston Marathon are also ways and means to expression and assimilate these primordial energies in creative ways. So paradoxically and shockingly we are especially appalled when such violence erupts in these social settings.
While Jurassic World is primarily an entertainment vehicle, because it emerges out of the creative unconscious it touches a chord psychologically. Our relationship to nature, both inner and outer, should not be taken too lightly. In this age, more than ever before, to not understand our own nature and the natural world we are exponentially altering, will affect our future more than we realize.
As Jung wrote concerning our psychic split, "Western man has no need of more superiority over nature, whether outside or inside. He has both in almost devilish perfection. What he lacks is conscious recognition of his inferiority to the nature around and within him. He must learn that he may not do exactly as he wills. If he does not learn this, his own nature will destroy him." (CW 11, par 870) Hopefully there will be enough of us to "cook" this primordial energy in transformative ways.
Editor: Steve Galipeau