Integrating the Monsters: Trip to Hell Pt. 2
When everything was darkness and nothing was yet made, there was a black ocean and changeable sea. In this ocean of tumultuous mutation and undefined masses there were two great serpents, Apsu and Tiamat. The sleek and powerful Apsu was father and monster. His mate was Tiamat. She was fickle and free-flowing with the force of the waters that never stay the same, and that erode and eat away the monoliths of rock and stone. She is the dragon of the chaos.
Jordan B. Peterson, the renowned Canadian psychologist of our times, compares in his lectures at the University of Toronto, this state of primal being, according to Babylonian lore, to the world we encounter when we find a state of disorder in our psyches...It is the landscape of Hell.
We have taken trips to Hell. Every one of us. We have discovered that there is chaos in our lives and it resounds in our psyches. In the chaos there is always something lurking and ominous waiting to set our minds in a state of uneasiness. These are the monsters.
Dr. Peterson states in unison with Jonathan Pageau, an artist of Orthodox Icons and Christian images, that the monsters in ancient myths—like those in the beginning of the Babylonian creation story—represent the issues and problems we face: possibly those decisions about work, our future careers, or even something so simple as what to do when a loved pet dies. There is confusion and a multiplicity of paths to choose from, and no clear answer to latch onto with ease. For this reason, monsters are portrayed as conglomerations of different animals, or they are accentuated beyond proportion. They have no clear definition...just like a problem before it is solved.
What do we do in the presence of monsters haunting our minds? How do we “stand up straight with our shoulders back…to accept the terrible responsibility of life?” (12 Rules for Life: An Anecdote to Chaos, 27)
We know that we must go out into the chaos to build anew and to create... but the monsters are there! A sign lies at the fringe just like the saying found on the old Lenox Globe near the border: ‘Here there are dragons.’ To some this is a warning. But to those who know the power of attention and will, this is the call to greatness.
In our modern world it is as if the fringing chaos has broken in everywhere so that every decision is masked in shadows, and every issue is guarded by dragons of confusion and doubt. The famed poet Bob Dylan says in his song Along the Watchtower:
There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief
Jimi was truly in a state of the fringing chaos but he offers no solution. The answer is nearer than we think.
Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, pointed to the idea that within ourselves, our psyche, there are many different parts; there are different personalities under an overarching reason that Peterson describes as the Logos. We have our angry selves, our hungry selves, our lustful selves, and many others. They all have distinct ways of interacting with the world, distinct mannerisms, and distinct propensities to make decisions that the person in their right mind would never have made. How many times have you been angry, sick, hungry, or sexually aroused and someone said to you, “You aren’t acting like yourself. What’s wrong?” Humans are truly many-headed beasts.
The objective of what Jordan Peterson referred to as the overarching logos, is to tame, break up, deconstruct, and reconstruct all these parts of ourselves into a coherent whole. We are in a constant battle with this hydra. Without unification and proper order of the psyche, the house falls and crumbles. Or worse yet, something monstrous is born. There arises a thing without distinction and definition. The beast is an amalgamation of things without form. It is a monster of chaos. A beast of the abyss. It is a decision we cannot comprehend, and when we cannot comprehend something, we cannot use it.
Jean Piaget, Swiss psychologist, used a system of integration with child psychology which sought to slowly bring children into the unknown situations so they could adapt and assimilate what was happening for their betterment. A socially acceptable child is well prepared for life: if the child can be liked while playing a game, the child will be well adapted to play the games of adults—like business, family, and relationships. Piaget’s system allowed for children to go from socially distanced creatures to fully integrated and quality playmates. This is a similar concept when examining our own human consciousness. Our psyche requires that we incarnate our ideas in order to truly possess them.
These two ideals of integrating dissenting functions and then incarnating them is as old as our most ancient myths. Continuing with the story of the Babylonian creation, Tiamat the dragon, goddess of chaos, was terrible, and her children, the new gods, were fearful of her. They killed her husband, Apsu, and order was broken, then the old goddess waged war on the new gods. No one could face her except one whose name was Marduk. Marduk was unique among the gods, though he was the least warlike or powerful. His head is depicted encircled by eyes - the traditional symbol of attention and vision. Marduk is sent to kill Tiamat and he does so by throwing a magical net around her. She cannot escape and Marduk shoots an arrow through her throat. He then cuts her apart and makes from her body the new creation of the heavens and the earth.
From this encounter, we learn that the true warrior must have unique attention and vision of the sacrifices he must make for the future; he must possess, it might be said, the eyes around Marduk’s head. He can only defeat the monster by casting the net, by setting a boundary around the thing without form. Casting the net is the process of distinction. It is the process of defining and setting boundaries on order to distinguish it from other things, and by so doing we can understand the malevolence. Following this, the warrior breaks apart the monster in order to build the world.
This is how we conquer the confusion, as in Piaget’s process of integration. We must first break apart and understand the evil or issue, like breaking apart food to digest it. We must demonstrate against the monsters in order to masticate them. We can understand clearer this idea of ‘demonstrating,’ by looking at its Latin derivative: de-monstrare, which translates into ‘breaking down the manifestation’ of the monster. We must break down the issues in order to conquer them. We can then ingest them. We can incarnate them.
The multiplicity of unbound ideas and fragments of issues can be assimilated into the whole of who we are because we are a contradiction, just like the two beams of the cross are in direct opposition to each other. As G.K. Chesterton says in The Ball and the Cross, “The cross is primarily and above all things at enmity with itself. The cross is the conflict of two hostile lines, of irreconcilable direction...” (3). We are a contradiction because we are many things, but simultaneously there is also a unity, the unity of the potential chaos and the divine.
In speaking of the ideal conservative who regenerates society by upholding the archetypes of human history, Alexander Dugin says:
Man, in his “maximally humanitarian” understanding, is regarded as the mediator between Heaven and Earth. He strives to incarnate in himself the contrasts of the world: the high and the low, love and death, ecstasy and suffering, life and soul, flesh and divinity. The conservative acts under the banner of such a man (The Rise of the Fourth Political Theory 15)
The process of incarnation, like the Homo factus est, is accomplished so that we can bear the sins and confusions of the world. For as unsettling as it may be, Carl Jung points out that in order to overcome the adversity we face, we must integrate the shadow. This allows us to fully comprehend the boundless evil horror that we are capable of acting out. Man is the catalyst of so much evil and so much good, but few people learn to come to terms with the great potential for malevolence within the self.
This might mean we come face to face with ideas that seem to turn our world upside down. Christ Himself, the Archetypal Man, mediated and reconciled the worst of corruption in humanity with the power and purity of Godhead. This is the path trod so we can bear the pain of reality by incarnating ideas so we can possess them even if they frighten us. In this way we become the hero like Christ, and become monstrous enough to contend with the monsters.