Puer Aeternus

Puer Aeternus is the name of a god of antiquity.  The words themselves come from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and are there applied to the child-god in the Eleusinian mysteries.  Ovid speaks of the child-god Iacchus, addressing him as puer aeternus and praising him in his role in these mysteries.  In later times, the child-god was identified with Dionysus and the god Eros.  He is the divine youth who is born in the night in this typical mother-cult mystery of Eleusis and who is a kind of redeemer.  He is a god of vegetation and resurrection, the god of divine youth, corresponding to such oriental gods as Tammuz, Attis and Adonis.  The title puer aeternus therefore means eternal youth, but we also use it sometimes to indicate a certain type of young man who has an outstanding mother complex and who therefore behaves in certain typical ways which I would like to characterize as follows.  TPoPA 7

In general, the man who is identified with the archetype of the puer aeternus remains too long in adolescent psychology; that is, all those characteristics that are normal in a youth of seventeen or eighteen are continued into later life, coupled in most cases with too great a dependence on the mother.  The two typical disturbances of a man who has an outstanding mother complex are, as Jung points out, homosexuality and Don Juanism.  In the case of the former, the heterosexual libido is still tied up with the mother, who is really the only beloved object, with the result that sex cannot be experienced with another woman.  That would make her a rival of the mother, and therefore sexual needs are satisfied only with a member of the same sex.  Generally such men lack masculinity and seek that in the partner. 

In Don Juanism there is another typical form of this same disturbance.  In this case, the image of the mother – the image of the perfect woman who will give everything to a man and who is without any shortcomings – is sought in every woman.  He is looking for a mother goddess, so that each time he is fascinated by a woman he has later to discover that she is an ordinary human being.  Once he has been intimate with her the whole fascination vanishes and he turns away disappointed, only to project the image anew onto one woman after another.  He eternally longs for the maternal woman who will enfold him in her arms and satisfy his every need.  This is often accompanied by the romantic attitude of the adolescent.  Generally great difficulty is experienced in adaptation to the social situation and, in some cases, there is a kind of false individualism, namely that, being something special, one has no need to adapt, for that would be impossible for such a hidden genius, and so on.  In addition there is an arrogant attitude toward other people due to both an inferiority complex and false feelings of superiority.  Such people also usually have great difficulty in finding the right kind of job, for whatever they find is never quite right or quite what they wanted.  There is always “a hair in the soup.”  The woman also is never quite the right woman; she is nice as a girlfriend, but - .  There is always a “but” which prevents marriage or any kind of definite commitment. 

This all leads to a form of neurosis which H.G. Baynes has described as the “provisional life,” that is, the strange attitude and feeling that one is not yet in real life.  For the time being one is doing this or that, but whether it is a woman or a job, it is not yet what is really wanted, and there is always the fantasy that sometime in the future the real thing will come about.  If this attitude is prolonged, it means a constant inner refusal to commit oneself to the moment.  With this there is often, to a smaller or greater extent, a saviour complex, or a Messiah complex, with the secret thought that one day one will be able to save the world; the last word in philosophy, or religion, or politics, or art, or something else, will be found.  This can go on so far as to be a typical pathological megalomania, or there may be minor traces of it in the idea that one’s time “has not yet come.”  The one thing dreaded throughout by such a type of man is to be bound to anything whatever.  There is a terrific fear of being pinned down, of entering space and time completely, and of being the singular human being that one is.  There is always the fear of being caught in a situation from which it may be impossible to slip out again.  Every just-so situation is hell.  At the same time, there is a highly symbolic fascination for dangerous sports – particularly flying and mountaineering – so as to get as high as possible, the symbolism being to get away from reality, from the earth, from ordinary life.  If this type of complex is very pronounced, many such men die young in airplane crashes and mountaineering accidents.   TPoPA – 8

In general, the positive quality of such youths is a certain kind of spirituality which comes from a relatively close contact with the unconscious.  Many have the charm of youth and the stirring quality of a drink of champagne.  Pueri aeterni are generally very agreeable to talk to.  They usually have interesting things to talk about and have an invigorating effect upon one.  They do not like conventional situations; they ask deep questions and go straight for the truth.  Usually they are searching for genuine religion, a search that is typical of people in their late teens.  Generally the youthful charm of the puer aeternus is prolonged through later stages of life, but there is another type of puer who does not display the charm of eternal youth, nor does the archetype of the diving youth shine through him.  On the contrary, he lives in a continual sleepy daze, and that too is a typical adolescent characteristic: the sleepy, undisciplined, long-legged youth who merely hangs around, his mind wandering indiscriminately, so that sometimes one feels inclined to pour a bucket of cold water over his head.  The sleepy daze is only an outer aspect, however, and if you can penetrate it, you will find that a lively fantasy life is being cherished within.  TPoPA – 9

The Cure

In Symbols of Transformation Jung spoke of one cure – work – and having said that he hesitated for a minute and thought, “Is it really as simple as all that?  Is that just the one cure?  Can I put it that way?”   But work is the one disagreeable word which no puer aeternus likes to hear, and Jung came to the conclusion that it was the right answer.  My experience also has been that if a man pulls out of this kind of youthful neurosis, then it is through work. 

There are, however, some misunderstandings in this connection, for the puer aeternus can work, as can all primitives or people with a weak ego complex, when fascinated or in a state of great enthusiasm.  Then he can work twenty-four hours at a stretch or even longer, until he breaks down, but what he cannot do is to work on a dreary, rainy morning when work is boring and one has to kick oneself into it; that is the one thing the puer aeternus usually cannot manage and will use any kind of excuse to avoid.  And analysis of a puer aeternus sooner or later always comes up against this problem, and it is only when the ego has become sufficiently strengthened that the problem can be overcome and there is the possibility of sticking to the work. 

As far as I have seen, the unconscious generally tries to produce a compromise, namely, to indicate the direction in which there might be some enthusiasm or where the psychological energy would flow naturally, for it is of course easier to train oneself to work in a direction supported by one’s instinct.  That is not quite so hard as working completely uphill in opposition to your own flow of energy.  Therefore it is usually advisable to wait a while and find out where the natural flow of interest and energy lies and then try to get the man to work there.  But in every field of work there always come the time when routine must be faced.  All work, even creative, contains a certain amount of boring routine, and that is where the puer aeternus escapes and comes to the conclusion that “this is not it!”  In such moments, if one is supported by the unconscious, there are generally dreams which show that one should push on through the obstacle and if that succeeds then the battle is won.  TPoPA – 11

Puer – negative process of individuation

In actuality, for instance, he gets up at 10:30 a.m., hangs around till lunch time with a cigarette in his mouth, giving way to his emotions and fantasies.  In the afternoon he means to do some work but first goes out with friends and then with a girl, and the evening is spent in long discussion about the meaning of life.  He then goes to bed at one, and the next day is a repetition of the one before, and in that way the capacity for life and the inner riches are wasted.  They cannot get into something meaningful but slowly overgrow the real personality so that the individual walks about in a cloud of fantasies, fantasies which in themselves are interesting and full of rich possibilities, full of unlived life.  You feel that such a person has a tremendous wealth and capacity but there is no possibility of finding a means of realization, and then the tree – the inner wealth – becomes negative, and in the end kills the personality.  That is why the tree is frequently linked up with the negative mother symbol, for the mother complex has that danger.  Because of it the process of individuation can become negative.  TPoPA 60

Puer – reality

… because one of the objections which the puer aeternus always brings up when you want to encourage him to fell the tree is that he does not want such a narrowing of the horizon.  What would be left if he had to give up his wishful fantasies, his masturbating, and such stuff?  He would be just a petty little bourgeois who goes to his office, and so on.  He could not stand such narrowing!  But it is not true!  If one has the courage to cut down this wrong kind of inner greatness, it comes again, but in a better form – the horizon and life are widened and not narrowed.  I think this myth should always be told when the hero has to cut the tree, because that is always what he does not want to realize, or believe.  If he only knew how much wider life would be if the could give up that wrong kind of inner life, then he might perhaps do it.  TPoPA – 61

One Day

In my first lecture I spoke of the problem of the neurosis of the provisional life, namely, that people live in the expectation of being able one day (not yet, but one day) which is very often linked up with the savior complex.  Rene Malamud has given me a copy of a paper by Erich Fromm in which he speaks of this problem in detail.  I am only taking an extract.  He says:

If one believes in Time then one has no possibility of sudden change, there is a constant expectation that “in time” everything will come all right.  If one is not capable of solving conflict one expects that “in time” the conflicts will solve themselves, without one having to risk a decision.  You find that very often, especially in believing in time as far as one’s own achievements are concerned.  People comfort themselves, not only because they do not really do something but also for not making any preparation for what they have to do, because for such things there are plenty of time and therefore there is no need to hurry.  Such a mechanism is illustrated by the case of a very gifted writer who wanted to write a book which he though would be the most important book in world literature, but he did not do more than have a few ideas as to what he would write and enjoy in fantasy what the effect of his book would be and tell his friends that he had not nearly finished it.  In reality he had not even written a single line, not a single word; though, according to him, he had already worked for seven years on it.  The older such people get, the more they cling to the illusion that one day they will do it.  In certain people the reaching of a certain age, generally at the beginning of the forties, brings a sobering effect so that they then begin to use their own forces, or there is a neurotic breakdown which is based upon the fact that one cannot live if one does not have that comforting time illusion. 

Puer - Self

(i.e. letting things/people go) is a very dangerous and typical experience.  It belongs to the neurosis of the puer aeternus who generally, because he is so close to the unconscious, has overwhelming experiences of it which convey to him a positive feeling of life.  But then he cannot let them go.  He just sits there, waiting and hoping for the experience to come back, and the more one sits and waits the less it can approach consciousness again because it is the essence of these experiences that they always come in a new form.  The experience of the Self does not repeat itself, but generally turns up again at those desperate moments when one does not look for it any more.  It has turned completely in another direction and suddenly again stands before you in a different form.  Because it is life and the renewal of life itself and the flow of life, it cannot repeat itself.  That would be a contradiction of its very essence.  Therefore, if ever one has an experience of the Self, the only way afterward not to get poisoned and on the wrong track is to leave it alone, turn away – turn to the next duty and even try to forget about it.  The more the ego clings to it and wants it back, the more one chases it away with one’s own ego desire.  It is the same, for instance, with positive love or feeling experiences.  People who make childish demands on other people every time they have a positive love experience, or feeling experience, with another human being, always want to perpetuate it, to force it to happen in the same way again.  They say, “Let’s take the same boat trip because of the magical Sunday when it was so beautiful.”  You can be quite sure that it will be the most awful failure.  You may try it, just to show that it does not work.  It never works.  It always shows that the ego has not been able to take the experience of the Self in an adult way, but that something like childish greed has woken up.  The positive experience has called up this childish attitude – that this is the treasure that should be kept!  If you have that reaction, you chase it away forever and it will never come back.  The more you long for and the more you seek, the more you get into a cramped state of conscious desire, the more hopeless it is.  TPoPA 111

Constant awareness of the transitoriness of life, and a sense of always preparing for an end before you get there, is typical of the puer aeternus.  For instance, when he makes friends with a girl he knows that the end will be a disappointment and a parting, so he does not give himself wholeheartedly to the experience.  Instead, he is always getting ready to say good-bye. 

As far as reason is concerned, he is right, but then he does not live; reason has too much say in his life.  He does not allow for the unreasonable human side which does not always prepare for the retreat because there will be a disappointment.  That shows a lack of generosity.  Why can one not say, “Of course there will be disappointment because all experiences in life are transient and may end in disappointment, but let’s not anticipate it.  Let us give ourselves with full love to the situation as long as it is there.”  The one does not exclude the other.  One need not be the fool who believes in nothing but happiness and then falls from the clouds, but if one always retreats at the beginning in anticipation of the suffering, that is a typical pathological reaction.  It is something many neurotic people do.  They try to train themselves not to suffer by always anticipating suffering.  One person said, “I always think ahead of the suffering to come and like that I am trained against it.  I try to anticipate it in fantasy all the time.”  But that is typically morbid and completely prevents you from living.  A double attitude is required: that of knowing how things are likely to turn out, and that of giving oneself completely to the experience all the same.  Otherwise there is no life.  Reason organizes it ahead of time so that one may be protected against suffering  - in order that one shall not get the full experience, naively – just when one does not expect it.  In that case, reason and consciousness have taken too much away from life – exactly what the puer aeternus tries to do all the time.  He does not want to give himself to life and tries to block it off by organizing it with his reason.  That is precisely the morbid disease. 

Remark: When you think of the pictures of van Gogh, even the most melancholy are full of energy and force and emotion. 

Yes, even desolation is fully experienced and even what is lost is fully expressed, in contrast to this.  One thinks sometimes how much more alive such people would be if they suffered!  If they can’t be happy let them at least be unhappy, really unhappy for once, and then they would become human.  But the puer aeternus cannot even be quite unhappy!  He has not even the generosity and the courage to expose himself to a situation which could make him unhappy.  Already, like a coward, he builds bridges by which to escape – he anticipates the disappointment in order not to suffer the blow, and that is a refusal to live. 


That is how he sees adult life, for he has not found a bridge by which he could take over what we would call the true life into adult life.  That is his great problem, I think, in a nutshell; namely, how can one pull out of this fantasy life of youth and youthfulness without losing its value?  How can one grow up without losing the feeling of totality and the feeling of creativeness and of being really alive, which one had in youth?   TPoPA 19

My experience is that it does not matter, if you analyze a man of this type, whether you force him to take the outer of the inner world seriously; that is really unimportant, though perhaps it depends on the type.  The important thing is that he should stick something out.  If it is analysis, then analyze seriously, take the dreams seriously, live according to them, or, if not, then take a job and really live the outer life.  The important thing is to do something thoroughly, whatever it is.  But the great danger, or the neurotic problem, is that the puer aeternus, or the man caught in this problem, tends to (…) just put it in a box and shut the lid on it in a gesture of sudden impatience.  That is why people tell you suddenly that they have another plan, that this is not what they were looking for.  And they always do it at the moment where things become difficult.  It is the everlasting switching which is the dangerous thing, not what they do. 

The puer aeternus is, in a way, the opposite of a tree, because he is a creature who flies and roams about.  He always refuses to be in the present and to fight in the here-and-now for his life, which is why he avoids attempting to relate to a woman.  Woman represents the tie to the earth for a man, particularly if she wants to have children, and a family would tie him forever to the earth.  For the bird that flies about, the puer, the woman is the tree principle.  In accepting this side of life, he accepts the just-so situation of life, which he tries constantly to avoid.  The tree shows clearly that being tied inevitably means losing one’s freedom to roam about.  The puer aeternus and the tree symbol belong together.  The tree fixates him, fastens him to earth, either in a coffin or in life.

One of the problems is that if the puer enter life, then he must face the fact of his mortality and the corruptible world.  He must accept the fact of his own death.  That is a variation of the old mythological motif where after leaving Paradise, which is a kind of archetypal womb, man falls into the realization of his incompleteness, corruptibility, and mortality.  TPoPA 160

When you are identical with the puer aeternus archetype, then the shadow has to be faced in order to come down to earth.  But when you are identified with the shadow, the archetype of the puer has to be faced again in order to connect with it, for facing the other side is what leads to the next step.  TPoPA 159

If someone writes off his relationships so quickly, you may be sure that he will write himself off equally quickly.  That is the suicidal type of person.  TPoPA 197

PA in a nutshell …

This (example) shows the problem of the puer aeternus in a nutshell.  He is too high up, and that was his attitude.  He always wanted the cream of every experience.  He was the Don Juan type and had been with any number of girls with whom he usually lived for about a fortnight or three weeks before walking out on them.  As soon as things became a bit too personal and too binding or committing, he just walked off.  He did not know, or had not realized, that this was an unsatisfactory way of behaving.  He thought everybody behaved like that, that that was the way for a man to live.  He was, in a way, completely innocent about this.  TPoPA 124

PA – shadow

(…) is how the shadow, in practical life, hits the puer aeternus: he either crashes to his death in an airplane (flying himself), or dies in a mountain accident, or in a car crash, or he lands in prison – half-innocently in many cases.  TAoPA 128

Puer Mother Complex as Prison v. Reality

(Regarding a particular person’s dream analysis where the focus is in a prison) … So the prison is the negative symbol of the mother complex ( in which he sits all the time anyhow), or it would be prospectively just exactly what he needs, for he needs to be put into prison, into the prison of reality.  But if he runs away from the prison of reality, he is in the prison of his mother complex, so it is prison anyway, wherever he turns.  He has only the choice of two prisons, either that of his neurosis or that of his reality: thus he is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.  That is his fate, and that is the fate of the puer aeternus altogether.  It is up to him which prison he prefers: that of his mother complex and his neurosis, or of being caught in the just-so story of earthly reality.  TAoPA 134

Puer Aeternus - Work

I remember (Jung) saying once to a puer aeternus type, “It does not matter what job you take.  The point is that for once you do something thoroughly and conscientiously, whatever it is.”  This man insisted that if only he could find the right thing, then he would work, but that he could not find it.  Jung’s answer was, “Never mind, just take the next bit of earth you can find.  Plow it and plant something in it.  No matter whether it is business, or teaching, or anything else, give yourself for once to that field which is ahead of you.”   TPoPA 153

Everybody has a field of reality to work in if he wants to.  The childish trick of saying, “I would work if it were the right thing,” is one of the many self-delusions of the puer aeternus by which he stays within the mother realm and his megalomanic identification with the gods – who as you know do not work.  TPoPA 153

Except for Hephaestus, who was despised by all the other, there are no working gods in Greek mythology.  Fields would also imply limitation.  That is the drawback of getting in touch with reality, because in that way one becomes limited, there are restrictions.  One comes to the miserable human situation where ones hands are tied and it is not possible to do as one would like, something particularly disagreeable to the puer aeternus.  In your work you come up against your own limitations, both intellectual and physical, for what one produces is always miserable compared with the fantasies one had lying in bed about what one would do, if one could!  The fantasy is far more beautiful than the real product! TPoPA 153

PA Archetype / instinct realm (the spectrum)

Usually, the puer aeternus is too caught up in the realm of archetypal representation.  Through his mother complex he is generally possessed by it, which means that he underestimates living experiences, the infrared realm.  It is quite a different thing if I think about a steak or if I eat it: the thought of the steak and sauce béarnaise can be delightful, but if you eat it you will have still other experiences.  The same is true for the archetype of the coniunctio.  It is certainly one thing to fantasize about a love affair and try to imagine every detail of the experience, but the actual living experience is different.   TPoPA 145

The puer generally tends to avoid the immediate friction of realization.  He does not go into the heavens below, which he underestimates, and along with that the instinctual realization of life.  (…)  This is a generalization, however, and the puer does sometimes live a certain amount of instinctual life, but he blocks off the psychological realization, so to speak.  He lives his experience automatically, as a split-off shadow affair.  In that form his archetypal fascination with the idea of the great love and the coniunctio remains a wishful fantasy – one day he will meet the woman who will bring perfect love, perfect warmth, perfect harmony, a lasting relationship, and so on – clearly a mother-image illusion. 

In the meantime he does not abstain from sexual contacts, for that would frustrate him too much, so he has twenty or thirty affairs with women, … but he does not let himself be affected by them.  He does not live the thing through.  You could say of such people that they are as innocent, in the wrong kind of way, as though they had not lived at all, because they live it without being in it.  They make a mental reservation, saying to themselves that this isn’t it, but that meantime they need a woman.  Then they have the physical union, but it does not count mentally or in the inner aspect of fantasy, in the feeling of the man himself.  If it is not taken seriously, if one does not let the impact of the experience touch the psyche, then it is as though it had not been lived. 

I once analyzed a prostitute who was exactly like an old maid.  Her dreams always showed untouched little girls or women who had never had any sexual experience.  This was completely true!  She shut herself off from what she lived.  She just wanted the money, she was no in it – for she admitted to herself neither the pleasure of certain contacts nor her disgust over others.  She made a rational decision that she needed the dollars and said to hell with the rest of it.  Thus she was, in a way, untouched by life.  Though she had rather severe psychic symptoms, she was not miserable.  One of the results of the analysis was that she suddenly realized her own miserable condition, which she had not seen before.  It was all carried on by intellectual decision, and she never admitted that certain men disgusted her and other attracted her, for that would have disturbed business.  Therefore, though was really a very emotional woman, she did not allow herself to have the emotional experience of what was happening, for if she had done so she would have earned less money by refusing certain men. 

The same thing happens sometimes with the puer aeternus.  Although he lives the instinctual side, he does so in a cut-off way.  He makes an artificial emotional barrier, separating what he is living from his real self.  In such a case the stars below are not realized, so the dream says to take them and enjoy them.  Life is incomplete if you live it in its fantasy aspect; it has to be lived through on the instinctual level.  But that means really accepting it, letting yourself be hit by the experience and not limiting it by living it in a conditional way.  The have a mental reservation about it means that it is not lived at all, and that is why the puer aeternus is sometimes cut off from the stars below, and why the solution for the dreamer is that he should sink into that world.  TPoPA 147

Remark: So often it happens that people such as this man you mention, who are regarded as pueri aeterni by their associates, are very much envied as being able, instead of cutting themselves off from life, of throwing themselves into life with great vigor so that they appear to be living successful lives.  We could say that was the shadow and say that we know they are really cut off.  But how do they achieve this appearance of so vigorous a life? 

They can act!  Many people are actors, and to act something simply means to play a part.  Those people, as far as I have come to know them, play a part even to themselves, so as to convince themselves that they are living.  Then they land in analysis and have to confess that this is not the case and that they are not happy.  Others may consider them successful, but they themselves do not feel so.  The criterion is simple: Do you feel that you are living?  Those who do not feel alive describe it as being as though they were acting, even for themselves.   TPoPA 147

Remark: Or wearing costumes!

Yes, and people fall for that, unless they know some psychology and look at the eyes to see the real expression.  Then one can tell that something is wrong, even though such people seem to be so successful. 

Remark: If one were fixed at the ultraviolet end and had numerous experiences at the other end, then I suppose the ultraviolet end would be too beautiful for the infrared end.  Even though there might be nineteen experiences, they would be sordid and miserable because one would always be looking for the ultraviolet?

Yes, exactly.  That is a good way to put it.  You can say that if you live one end in a split-off way, then one end cannot communicate with the other.  Put quite simply, you have the experience but it is not meaningful, and an experience which one does not feel meaningful is nothing.  It only becomes real when it is connected with an emotional perception of meaning.  Without that one is just bored.  TPoPA 148

Puer Aeternus - Risk Free

If the puer goes too much (one way or the other), that would not be so bad.  But in reality the puer does something much worse: he risks neither way completely but ventures a little both ways, so as to be on the safe side.  He bets on the one horse but puts a little on the other too, and that is his self-destructive act.  That is worse than going too much either way, for that gets punished and one has to wake up and pull out. 

The natural interplay of psychological opposites corrects the one-sided business.  Life forces one into the middle path.  But in order to avoid suffering the puer plays a dirty trick which boomerangs back onto him.  He splits himself by throwing a sop to the dragon, but remains on the other side inwardly.  He has illusions about himself, and so he arrests the process of life and gets stuck, for even the interplay of the opposites is thwarted.  That is what his weak personality tricks him into in order that he may escape suffering.  TPoPA 151

Puer Aeternus - Reality = Death

If you venture into life, into reality, instead of keeping outside so as to avoid suffering, you will find that the earth and women are like a fertile field on which you can work and that life is also death; that if you give yourself to reality, you will be disillusioned and the end of it will be that you will meet death.  If you accept your life, you really, in the deepest sense of the word, accept death.  If you accept your life, you really, in the deepest sense of the word, accept death, and that is what the puer does not want.  He does not want to accept mortality, and that is why he does not want to go into reality, because the end of it is the realization of his weakness and of his mortality.  He identifies with the immortal and does not accept the mortal twin, but by going into life he would assimilate the mortal brother.  TPoPA 156

Puer Aeternus - The Big Realization

After the puer loses the ecstatic, romantic élan of youth, there is a danger of an enantiodromia into a completely cynical attitude toward women, life, work in general, and money.  Many men suddenly fall into an attitude of disappointed cynicism.  They lose all their ideals and romantic impulses and also, naturally, their creativeness, writing it all off as the fantasies of youth.  They then become petty, earth-bound, small-minded people who just want to have a family, money, and a career.  Everything else is regarded as romantic nonsense – what one wanted and did when one was young, must now be written off.  It is as though Icarus had fallen into the mud and life had stopped.  This is due to a weak consciousness, which cannot conceive of the possibility of enduring the difficulties of reality and not sacrificing one’s ideals but instead testing them on the touchstone of reality.  Such men take the easy way and say that ideals merely complicate life and must therefore be written off.  This is a great danger.  TPoPA 159 

One of the problems is that if the puer enter life, then he must face the fact of his mortality and the corruptible world.  He must accept the fact of his own death.  That is a variation of the old mythological motif where after leaving Paradise, which is a kind of archetypal womb, man falls into the realization of his incompleteness, corruptibility, and mortality.  TPoPA 160

PA - Marriage

When this kind of Icarus loses his wings and falls into the stagnating aspect of the mother and matter, some very independent men cannot make up their minds to marry because they feel that marriage would be a prison, a thought which is typical of the mother complex and the puer aeternus mentality.  After having married, as Jung once said of such a man, “He curled up in his little basket like a nice little dog and never moved again.”  They never move again; they don’t dare look at other women, and they generally marry (even though she may be beautifully disguised in youth) a devouring-mother type of woman.  If she is not already that, they force her into the role by being submissive and boylike and sonlike.  Then the marriage situation is changed into a kind of warm, lazy prison of habits which they put up with with a sigh. 

Such men continue on the professional side quite effieciently and generally become very ambitious, for everything is boring at home – there is the basket for the dog, the sexual problem is parked, as is the food problem.  All ambition and power go over into the career where they are quite efficient, while on the eros side they stagnate completely; nothing goes on there any more, for the marriage is the final trap in which they got caught. 

That is another way in which the puer aeternus can fall into stagnating water – either on the mental side, when he gives up his creativeness, or on the eros side, when he gives up any kind of differentiated feeling relationship and curls up in the habitual conventional situation.  TPoPA 160

Nazi torturers

The strange thing is that it is mainly the pueri aeterni who are the torturers and establish tyrannical and murderous police systems.  So the puer  and the police-state have a secret connection with each other; the one constellates the other.  Nazism and Communism have been created by men of this type.  The real tyrant and the real organizer of torture and of suppression of the individual are therefore revealed as originating in the not-worked-out-mother complex of such men.  That is what possesses them, and it is out of the state of possession into which such a complex plunges people that they act in this outrageous manner.  TPoPA 164

I remember a medical doctor telling me that at the beginning of the last war, when he was a stomach specialist and very well known, it happened that he had a patient with stomach ulcers who was a high Nazi official.  He succeeded in curing this man, and as a result he was spoken of in Nazi circles as being a good stomach doctor.  So throughout the war an enormous number of high-up Nazi officials came to him for private treatment, and under the religio medici (the medical code) he of course could not refuse to accept them as patients.  He said it was amazing to see those concentration-camp torturers, those so-called heroes, take off the beautiful uniform and shirt and disclose a body tanned by sun and sport – and then to find nervous, hysterical stomach trouble underneath.  These pseudo-heroes were merely weaklings – spoiled Mamma’s boys.  A large percentage he had to dismiss, telling them the trouble was purely psychological, sheer hysteria.  To the doctor it was an eye-opener – not what he had expected, although to us it makes sense.  If he told them of a cure or a regimen which was the least bit disagreeable, they would not try it.  Moreover, if he poked into their troubles, many of them would begin to cry.  He said that, when the beautiful hero-persona had fallen off, he felt as if he were confronted with an hysterical woman.  If you look at the faces of the “heroes” who are again drawing the swastika everywhere, you see this same type.  TPoPA 165

Puer Aeternus Pseudo-Philosophical Intellectualism

Some pueri aeterni escape from the mother by means of actual airplanes; they fly away from mother-earth and from reality.  Many others do the same thing in “thought airplanes” – going off into the air with some kind of philosophical theory or intellectual system.  I have not given much thought to it, but it has struck me that especially among Latins the mother complex is combined with a strange kind of strong but sterile intellectualism, a tendency to discuss heaven and earth and God-knows-what in a kind of sharp intellectual way and with complete uncreativeness.  It is probably a last attempt on the part of the men to save their masculinity.  That simply means that certain young men who are overpowered by their mothers escape into the realm of the intellect because there the mother, especially if she is the earth type and a stupid animus kind of woman, is not up to it.  They can slip out from under her skirts into the realm of the intellect, where she cannot follow.  Therefore, since it is an initial attempt to escape the mother’s power and the animus pressure by getting into the realm of books and philosophical discussion, which they can think mother does not understand, it is not altogether destructive.  Such a man has then a little world of his own – he discusses things with other men and can have the agreeable feeling that it is something which women do not understand.  In this way he gets away from the feminine, but he loses and leaves his earthly masculinity in the mother’s grip.  He saves his mental masculinity but sacrifices his phallus – his earthly masculinity and creativity.  The vitality of action, that masculinity which molds the clay, which seizes and molds reality, he leaves behind, for that is too difficult; he escapes into the realm of philosophy.  Such people prefer philosophy, pedagogy, metaphysics and theology, and it is a completely unvital bloodless business.  There is no real question behind such philosophy.  Such people have no genuine questions.  For them it is a kind of play with words and concepts and is entirely lacking in any convincing quality.  One could not convince a butterfly with such “philosophical” stuff.  Nobody would listen to it. 

The pseudo-philosophical intellectualism is ambiguous because, as I said before, it is a way by which to make a partial escape from the dominant grip of the mother figure, but is done only with the intellect, and only the intellect is saved.  That is really what one sees in the tragedy of the Oedipus myth, where Oedipus commits the mistake of entering into the question instead of saying to the Sphinx that she has no right to put such questions and that he will knock her down if she asks such a thing again.  Instead, he gives a very good intellectual answer.  The play continues very cleverly with the sphinx apparently committing suicide.  Oedipus pats himself on the back and steps right into the middle of his mother complex, into destruction and tragedy, just because he complimented himself on having got out of that difficulty by answering the question!  TPoPA 169 

The Wolf

The wolf in Germanic mythology belongs also to Wotan and one of his names is Isengrim, which really means “iron head.”  But is has also been interpreted in folklore as “grim, cold rage,” and you can say that the wolf very often stands for a kind of cold, hidden resentment.  Most people who have had a very unhappy childhood have something like this at the bottom of their souls.  It never comes up.  It is something absolutely frozen and cold, a form of petrified rage, and that is also behind the demand for more and more: “The others owe me everything.”  If one has to deal with orphans or children who have grown up in a “home” and have been beaten a lot, one can generally see the wolf very clearly.  TPoPA 241

PA - Why differentiate the anima?

… because that is what women always do: they give genuine love and add a little power-trap.  That is exactly what the feminine problem is for the man: that usually there is in women a mixture of genuine love and devotion and then a little left-hand power-trick to put him in a box.  His mistake is that he simply casts away the whole thing, and that is just what the puer aeternus man often does.  Because there is always a little power-trick in the woman’s love, he takes that as an excuse to reject the whole thing: all women are rotten – their love is nothing but putting one under the slipper, nothing but putting one into a box. 

   Cheap sweeping statements such as these save the man the difficulty of asking every minute of the day, “Is this a trick or is it love?”  Such statements show that the man is not up to that problem with women.  If he is not conscious of his anima and his own eros, he will always fall for tricks.  For instance, he wants to go out, and his wife thinks that he might meet Mrs. So-and-so, in whom he is interested, so she pretends to have a headache and says, “Let’s stay at home, I have a headache.”  But if he has a differentiated feeling function he will sense that today this is a trick, and he therefore will say that he is going out and that if she has a headache she can stay at home.  The next evening she has a real headache, and it is very unrelated is he says, “No, to hell with you, I am going out!”  Only if a man has a differentiated eros-development can he find out whether a woman is playing a trick or whether it is the real thing, and that is exactly what men do not like to do; they like sweeping generalizations: “I never go in for that,” or “I always such-and-such.” 

If a man takes a feeling-problem seriously, he has, from minute to minute, to relate to what the woman does and, on top of that, he has always to be aware of whether it is power or real feeling, which in an unconscious woman are very close to each other.  If you are an analyst, the problem is the same: an analysand may bring you a tremendous amount of feeling, but, as Virgil says, there is always a snake in the grass, which means that you are never quite sure what she is up to, but if you reject the whole transference on account of that, they you destroy the patient’s feeling.  And you are not a good analyst.  If you cannot accept the real feeling in a transference, you are destructive to the analysand.  On the other hand, if you fall for the transference and eat it up, then she will nicely put you in her pocket and make a fool of you. 

So whenever a man is confronted with the problem of relating to woman, he has to perceive the difference between snake-in-the-grass tricks and genuine love, and he cannot discover that difference without possessing differentiated feeling.  If he has that, he will just smell a rat and know from the woman’s voice that she is up to something, or from her eyes and her voice he will learn that it is feeling to which he must respond.  But a man can learn that only by differentiating his anima for a long time, by dealing with her and with the problems of relationship.  If he makes a principle of yes or no, then he is not capable of relating to women or of being an analyst.  TPoPA 236

(Melchoir) sees through such tricks, but he does not see that Sophie also loves him; he doesn’t realize that for a woman the one does not exclude the other.  For her the two go together – she can love a man and yet play such tricks – and it is the man’s task to discover from minute to minute which is which.   TPoPA 237


… if a solution is described as taking place after death, it means that the conscious means for realization have not yet been found in this reality.  That is why in Christianity victory over evil and the union of the opposites is projected into the time after the Day of Judgment.  Paradise comes after death.  In Faust, Faust finds redemption after death, and in The Kingdom without Space the solution is again projected into the afterlife.  Here it is clear that the bridge to realization has not been found because in this fight the reality of the psyche is not realized.  It is all fought in the projection – intellect against the archaic reality of the unconscious – but having no name for it and not seeing its reality, the author mixes psychic reality with concrete reality. 

This is also the ominous background of our present-day problem, in connection with which I would like to quote a saying of Rabelais to which Jung drew my attention:  La verité dans sa matière brute est plus fausse que la faux (Truth in its prima materia, in its first appearance, is falser than falseness itself.)  And that is very true of what we have just experienced.  But in spite of it all, these are attempts to bring forth a new creative religious attitude and also a renewal of cultural creativity – which can only manifest in a psychological and individual form.  The trouble is that it comes up with such a disgustingly false political twist that it is more false than falseness itself.  In spite of this, however, we must turn toward it and discriminate the seeds in it.  Otherwise, we are stuck, forever, building light, “rosy-colored” buildings upon burnt-out ruins.  TPoPA 274