Dragon: Archetypal “Smoke and Mirrors”
“From whatever side we approach this question, everywhere we find ourselves confronted with the history of language, with images and motifs that lead straight back to the primitive wonder-world.” C. G. Jung
Symbols, Archetypes, Poetry, and Process
“Since the stars have fallen from heaven and our highest symbols have paled, a secret life holds sway in the unconscious” (Jung, 1969, p. 23).
Dragon is a symbol, a primordial image, and an archetype; it is image and emotion (words), a primary criterion of Jungian archetypes. Jungian definitions, including Individuation, put Dragon in a right context so that archetypal and symbolic content can be ascertained. According to Jung (1983), we can speak of an archetype as it “appears in a dream, in a fantasy, or in life” (p. 71), and an archetype has “a kind of readiness to produce over and over again the same or similar mythical ideas” (p. 70). Dragon is “a fantasy” imagined through the course of my art and my inner journey, one of a series of visual or concrete poems. As I created the images, I was “naïve” or unconscious of the process, another criterion of Jungian archetypes. It took a few years, an MA in counseling psychology, and an interest in Jung, before I recognized the series of symbols and archetypes.
A. Johnson (1986) tells us that archetypes “arise spontaneously out of the unconscious to appear in the dreams, visions, or imagination of any individual, anywhere, any time” (p. 28). While the poetry-image, Dragon, is intentional in part, the image contains autonomous and unconscious content attached to my awakening process. While projection and personal psyche play into the process, and the dragon archetype is colored by my individual experience of the archetype, the image contains a mysterious proliferation of enlightenments, energies, and collective content entirely beyond my ability to consciously produce. It is in the nature of archetypes to inform and enlighten; what is unknown becomes known in ways that mitigate the difficult path to higher consciousness especially as it concerns the shadow. It is the nature of the symbolic process to manifest images, in one form or another. “The fact is that archetypal images are so packed with meaning in themselves that people never think of asking what they really do mean,” (Jung, 1969, p. 13).
Once I recognized the process, I no longer produced the concrete poems; I began to work with the content of existing images, which has been my passion for the past several years. I migrated the images from a word program to a paint program, and I am cataloging them on my website at AwakenArts.com. The concrete poems began as linear poems; they were centered on the page, and then structured into shapes using a linear format and standard word spacing (MS Word). This is important because the environment was unlike many digital formats with a variety of options for shaping words. The shapes were created line by line, so words and shapes acquiesced to produce a whole image.
It is easy to understand my process in view of the many ways that words enter into the creative process to produce outcomes that are healing, transformative, and numinous. It appears that words are seeded on every path to higher consciousness. A simple definition of higher consciousness or enlightenment may include greater awareness of self and others, acceptance of our duplex nature, “integration of the parts” or selves, spiritual centering, and a commitment to wholeness and healing. The notion of enlightenment undergirds Jungian modalities, such as the Process of Individuation. Through my process, words (affect) combined with images to reveal symbols and archetypes. Archetypes enlighten through parables and metaphors.
The process has added a certain roundness, humanness, and healing to my personality, and through this process I have been able to “see myself” in new ways.
Not immediately, but in time and in concert with other poems in the series, I began to recognize and reconcile weaknesses in myself. I learned to accept (integrate) the negative with the positive as Dragon exposed the archetypal inner conflict fundamental to health and wellness—duality. Dragons are formidable symbols, and as archetypes, contain positive and favorable attributes as well as unfavorable ones. When we interpret or project upon the dragon, we see prosperity and friendliness on one side, and darkness and destruction on the other. The poem, Dragon, embodies the conflict, and the purpose of archetypes, as we remember, is to enlighten. It is my conflict and my enlightening, and it is our conflict and our enlightening, since it is one that continues to perplex humanity. Dragon glares with hate and anger, blindness, and hubris, yet the archetypal dragon symbolizes bravery, wisdom, and even kindliness can be detected in the poem. “The shouting sun, the silent moon, the trembling baby stars” adds a touch of tenderness and understanding to a conflict staged in many areas of our lives. I have learned to accept the dragon as an image of myself, as a dancing image of luck and prosperity, and a shadow image that includes a degree of darker attributes and emotions.
Archetypal Themes and Motifs
“Inner work, as a practical experience, shows us that we can embrace the conflict, embrace the duality, bravely place ourselves in the very midst of the warring voices, and find our way through them to the unity that they ultimately express”
(Johnson, 1986, p. 40).
Duality and The Tension of Opposites – Double or Twin Dragon / Plurality
The dragon, as a single image, “contains” and holds both sides of the conflict.
“The ego keeps its integrity only if it does not identify with one of the opposites, and if it understands how to hold the balance between them. This is possible only if it remains conscious of both at once” (Jung, 1990, pg. 91).
“Heroes—in myth, literature, and real life—take journeys, confront dragons (i.e., problems), and discover the treasure of their true selves” (Pearson, 1986, pg. 3).
Good “and” Evil, Spirit – On the dragon’s mouth is the word, “and” (Dragon)
“True, the archetype of the spirit is capable of working for good as well as for evil, but it depends upon man’s free—i.e. conscious—decision” (Jung, 1969, p. 253).
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Shakespeare
Unconscious and Conscious Awakening –The dragon battles itself, unaware.
“It is easy to see what the battle with the sea monster [dragon] means: it is the attempt to free the ego-consciousness from the deadly grip of the unconscious” (Jung, 1956, p. 348).
“This association of mouth, fire, and speech is not as strange as it would seem; we speak of a man being ‘fired’ or ‘inflamed’ by another’s words, of a ‘fiery’ speech, ‘burning words,’ etc.” (Jung, 1956, 162).
Death and Sacrifice
The Dragon dies in the process of bringing the awakening message to life.
“Every time we confront death-in-life, we confront a dragon” (Pearson, 1986, p. 3).
Instincts/Primal Emotions, Rage
“There is no change from darkness to light or from inertia to movement without emotion” (Jung, 1990, p. 360). Wisdom (Wise Old Man) and Enlightenment – Confucianism and Chinese symbolism.
“Like two sides of a golden coin, the sides were made to live as one.” (Dragon)
“The archetype of spirit in the shape of a man, hobgoblin, or animal always appears in a situation where insight, understanding, good advice, determination, planning, etc., are needed but cannot be mustered on one’s own resources” (Jung, 1969, p. 216).
Johnson, R. A. (1986). Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Jung, C. G. (1956). Symbols of Transformation, Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 5, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. G. (1969). Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Volume 9 (Part 1), Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. G. (1983). The Essential Jung: Selected Writings, Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. G. (1990). The Basic Writings of C. G. Jung, Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Pearson, Carol S. (1986). The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.