Is it appropriate to use the label of the warrior appropriate when inviting the soul home from the battlefield? If we fixate on the idea that a soldier is a warrior, we are leaving him or her stuck in the liminal space between the battlefield and the home. We must loose the moniker of the warrior, not only for the soldier’s sake, but also for those that greet him on his return; otherwise we can see him only as aggressive and a danger to our own safety. We must see the returning soldier as the sufferer who performed a sacrifice, and is need of healing.
Looking at various mythopoetic figures that have preformed such sacrifice, Joshua, Abraham, Job, and Jesus, we don’t find only the father figure appearing in the healing of the sacrifice, we see a mother figure as well. In the crucifixion story of Christ, we do not see only God acknowledging his sacrifice for humankind, we also see Mary escorting him on his journey during both the crucifixion and in the resurrection. Looking at the myth of Hercules, who was tasked with delivering the Father (pneuma) from the power of the twelve wicked angels. The way in which Hercules was able to perform his twelve labors was through the feminine.
Jung (1959/1969) says,
Now the Hercules myth has in fact all the characteristic features of an individuation process: the journeys to the four directions, four sons, submission to the feminine principle (Omphale) that symbolizes the unconscious and the self- sacrifice and the rebirth caused by Deianeira’s robe. (p. 32)
If we fixate on the warrior and not the sacrifice followed by the work through the feminine, we lose these warriors in the liminal space of the battlefield. The battlefield, or even becoming battle ready, where the military member puts his or her life on the line for the freedom and protection of others, is taking the self to meet God. Without the presence of the feminine the individual has no grounded to return from this meeting of the personal with the supra personal. So where is the feminine in the return for our soldiers and sailors journey and in their rebirth?
In order to understand the greater complexity of the societal interaction, I will address the historical difference between the Greatest Generation Soldier/Sailors of World War II and the current generation of soldiers and sailors, and the complex interaction with the civilian population. It is the perception of meaning that currently separates us. The understanding of the military mind is certainly part of the equation and it is important to understand the lived experience of the soldier. However, I propose that we investigate lived experience of the wider population as a source of separation.
The greatest generation anticipated the declaration of war in 1941 and the public was very aware of the intentions of our enemy with respect to domination by other cultures. The rhetoric focused on the separation from an enemy rather than acceptance of differing ideals and learning to co-exist with those that wanted to dominate us for resources. If we want to put a label on this we can use the term colonization, and because we knew what a colonizer could potentially do to any nation, we chose to reject Japan and Germany’s colonization of the United States. Needless to say we had a common cause for the declaration of war that the general public could get behind.
There are several other factors that come to mind when viewing any conflict through a mythopoetic lens. In any dispute the subsequent activation of the gods takes on the image of chaos, as if the complete the pantheon of mythopoetic figures has been summoned forth all at once in an effort to complete the journey of the individual psyche. For instance, if we look at the first hours after the attack on December 7th, 1941 two critical daimons come to mind. Those daimons enacted the mother and father figures of our myth. The first being the feminine mother figure of Eleanor Roosevelt and she (I believe unknowingly) took on this role by giving her Pan American Coffee Bureau address to the nation, but specifically to the mothers and their children who would be involved in the war. After discussing the facts of the situation she spoke, “I should like to say just a word to the women in the country tonight. I have a boy at sea on a destroyer,...” (Beasley, 2010, p.275). This was key in tying the feminine to the work of the masculine form of the warrior by seeing not only her child, but seeing all the children who went off to war as either a soldier and sailor fighting for the freedom of the Allied Countries. The presence of a prominent feminine figure expressing a common goal and defining the meaning of the sacrifice is absent in the current media rancor.
As one walks through the myth of Hephaestus you will see he had his own meeting with the god within in him by being born the son of a god and was subsequently thrown of Mount Olympus. This is similar to what Jung called the meeting with god (he was one until being exiled by his mother) and his journey towards becoming seen as a god comes through the nurturing of the feminine as embody by the Telchines. Hephaestus also struggles through processing his experience of meeting God through his anger was pointed toward the feminine and it was not resolved until he gets his mother, Hera, agrees to his demands and recognizes his needs, that he was able to individuate.
As we can see throughout all of the aforementioned mythological and historical data, the recognition of both the masculine and the feminine, by the feminine is crucial to the individuation process of any soldier or sailor. We can either include the feminine into the journey by recognizing the potential sacrifice, as Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt did before the entrance to war, or by honoring the sacrifice afterwards.
To solidify my point I take the very real and biological position of the act of childbirth. It is the feminine that sacrifices her physiological and psychological self to become the crucible for gestation, going through the pain of childbirth. If we merely focus on the aggression that is married to the warrior archetype, then we are leaving out the potential healing effects of the feminine archetype and the usefulness of self-sacrifice that is needed for the individuation process is lost. In order to attain complete attunement to the soldier we must search for the presence of the feminine archetype and acknowledge its presence or restore it if it has been absent.
In the current historical climate it appears that we are a nation that is divided by the purpose of our military engagements. A preponderance of the current rhetoric is focused on the aggression, leaving the soldier lost in the middle space with nowhere to turn for guidance. Depth psychology is dedicated to the spiritual aspects of the psyche and can be the key to returning the feminine to sacred space for our veterans. As we create and foster these more complex relational processes of the masculine and the feminine, then we create greater joint meaning for the each member of the relational group. The greatest generation was not simply a smarter or more ferocious generation, it was the combined meaning that was created from the start or was at least pondered after the conclusion of the war.
Beasley, M. (2010). Eleanor Roosevelt: Transformative first lady. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
Jung, C. G. (1959/1969). The archetypes and the collective unconscious. (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Series Eds.), The collected works of C.G. Jung (2nd. ed., Vol. 9 Part I, In A Study in the Process of Individuation, pp. 291-354). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1950)
Copyright-Michael A Vogel, MA, PhD(c) 2016