Thursday, August 7, 2008

To Sing From Fragmentation: A Scapegoat's Song


What is it to be dismembered, to sing out of that fragmentation, to be islanded (isolated)...
what kind of necessity compels us to transgress the absolute law and eternally lose our cherished loves and desires to a realm outside or beneath the consoling light of familiar life?-- Thomas Moore*

Orpheus, who reduces the wild beasts of Greece to humanity, is evidently a vast den of a thousand monsters. -- Giambattista Vico, The New Science*

He [Orpheus] is the moment of transition from the titanic to the human.*

--***all 3 quotations
are from The Orphic Moment: Shaman to Poet-Thinker in Plato, Nietzsche & Mallarme, Robert McGahey, SUNY Press, 1994

Prolegomena To The Text Below

Who among us would voluntarily choose to be "a vast den of a thousand monsters" or choose to be dismembered, fragmented and "islanded (isolated)"? I venture to guess a very few yet all of us have had some experience indicated in the first quotation above.

Scapegoating is one such fragmenting experience and unfortunately, sadly, can become an ongoing condition, in psychological parlance, a complex which holds the duality of the archetypal dynamic of scapegoater and scapegoat, each one adhered to the other, destined together to be divided. Yet with a depth psychological understanding it is discovered to be an unconscious individuation process where one is "set apart", unique, in touch with a vital and revitalizing Darkness of "a thousand monsters", primal powers often humanly categorized as Evil yet which are essential, entwining, chaotic Sources of self and world-making Creativity. Jung has said that the Shadow, his term for evil, is the seat of all creativity.

Without this understanding and the implied ongoing crucible of working the personal and transpersonal shadow, scapegoating will remain a Frankensteinian process of making humans into monsters all the while blaming and shaming the monsters. In early Greek religion the Titans, referred to in the third quotation above, were essentially monstrous offspring of the gods. When you read titanic read monstrous for that is what the quote indicates. The quote also implies a prescription for healing the scapegoat and scapegoater which is the withdrawal and integration of those titanic, monstrous projections thus restoring both to being what they always were, are and will ongoingly be-- no longer its but finite human beings.


Scapegoat Rituals, Burning and Banishment, Meals and Meanders

All ritual scapegoating is about atonement, expiation of sins, imbalance, evil. This ritual and variations of it are found the world over throughout human history. Powers greater than the human are offended. They must be appeased and satisfied by feeding upon the sacrifice of life in order to right the imbalance in the relationship between humanity and the terrific sacred powers that demand blood and consciousness. Nevermind the fact that these sacred powers are not conscious themselves. They act more like nature deities, unconscious, drive-ridden forces that impose their will upon smaller (though conscious) creatures. Humans, especially post-modern humans, think that we have evolved beyond such understanding and experience of primal forces of nature and mind; in fact, in consciousness we are barely beyond our not-too-distant human ancestors who sacrificed not only animals but humans to these forces in and around them.

In ancient Israel at Yom Kippur, a goat was selected to symbolically "carry" the sins of the herd, that is, the human community. There were two methods of dealing with the sinful goat. One method was to kill it upon an altar and burn it (the flesh and smoke "feeding" the offended Powers) thus, hopefully, restoring balance—at least temporarily. In the history of religions (yes, there is a history of religions, Virginia) an altar is always a feeding place for the gods which demand food (libido/life energy—more on this below) in order to atone and make right an imbalance in the relationship between the sacred and the profane, the archetypal powers and the human. All altars are for sacrifice, are dining tables from which the sacred powers feed. In some rituals, for instance, the Sacrament of Holy Communion in the Christian church, humans feed on the Divine Scapegoat, Jesus Christ. It is important to note that not all sacrifices/meals are accepted by the god(s). Humans past and present have found themselves at the mercy of the whims of the gods who do not play by their own rules but expect the rest of creation to do so. Humanity can only wager, like Blaise Pascal, that there is the possibility of transforming not only ourselves but our deities in our sacrifices for these are all transformation rituals which transform not only the human but also the Divine.

The other method of dealing with the scapegoat was to banish it, send it outside the community into the wilderness never to return, bearing the sins of the people upon it and thus appeasing the offended God or gods. (Groups tend to assume a god-almightiness becoming identified with "the right and true God". More about the significance of banishment from god-almighty groups is a few paragraphs below).

The goat or any sacrificial animal symbolizes natural, instinctual, unconscious libido (which is always unconscious), not the narrow libido of Freudian psychology (i.e., personal sexual energy) but rather Jung's expanded sense of libido as primal, compelling life force with telos, the Greek word for purpose, motive. To sacrifice a goat in scapegoating rituals was to impute the animal, instinctual, unconscious, aggressive, sensuous, and alpha male/female-driven libido upon the the animal which would be killed or banished. This was one way to transform the libido in humans and the god into more consciously-directed energies refined by the consciousness involved in the ritual and the fire which cooks the raw into more assimilable, integratible content.

Scapegoating in today's post-Christian era is not a conscious ritual of atonement. Rather, it is the very opposite, a deepening rift between conscious and unconscious, self and Other. Most scapegoating now is not a conscious, religious act performed with the intention to balance an imbalance, to right a perceived wrong, an experienced flaw as it once was. Scapegoating in and out of ritualistic contexts and functions has always been an unconscious, spontaneous projection phenomena. In this phenomena, one's own sinful nature—what Jung calls the shadow—personal and transpersonal, is projected upon an individual or group, action or actions, in effort to blame and punish those others-those factions-who are perceived to be out of balance, bad, evil, reprobates, perverts, criminals, heretics. The scapegoat may be banished, but the projected shadow is not and cannot be. The shadow is repressed more deeply into the wilderness and hinterlands of the unconscious which gives it more autonomy and power over the individual and the group. In a real sense, it does not go away, rather it becomes even more present, insistent and dynamic in the repetitive cycle of projection, rejection, abjection, and retribution. Instead of a flexible, tolerant-of-opposites, durable, expanded wholeness and hold-ness of individual and group (which is the aim of the conscious religious scapegoat ritual) those unconsciously acting out the scapegoat complex create greater harm to all involved while the archetypal powers are fed by the group unconsciousness thus wreaking havoc all the more.

I am most intrigued by the method of banishing the scapegoat as opposed to killing it having experienced banishment personally throughout my life. Such banishment is psychologically annihilating. In working my own scapegoat complex, I've come to understand that the ritual of banishment reveals how important the threatening libido, the forbidden dangerous energy carried by the scapegoat, is as numinous (meaning, fraught with sacrality) and as sacred as any sanctioned-by- the-community energy manifestation. It must not be destroyed (nor can it be since these are natural forces carrying human projections of sin and evil even though they guarantee the continuance of the human species and continue to render consciousness more human). The banished evil is essential to greater wholeness. To deny and project it upon another, to put it out of sight by conscious or unconscious design by secular or spiritual means, serves only to feed it and make it even more powerful and therefore, as Jung says of anything that is forced into the unconscious, it becomes destined to be lived as personal and collective Fate.


"A Dependent Projection Must Be Broken"

A friend in Africa recently underwent a protracted and painful scapegoating experience culminating in his having to flee his community with his family. I share some of my email response to him for further digestion re: the scapegoat complex and its experience as scapegoater and scapegoat:

Dearest Adu,

...If one understands that it is archetypal libido that the scapegoat constellates (activates) and carries for others (unbidden carrying, mind you) then the scapegoat is darkly numinous because of that archetypal energy and projection. Consciously carrying it liberates, or can, the scapegoat while scapegoaters libel-ate, castigate (as in "casting stones"), pontificate and destroy/banish the goats. The scapegoat has power, great power archetypally, which is what evokes the scapegoating complex and dynamic. George Elder, Jungian analyst and author, told me this week that the goat is banished instead of killed in some of the rituals because there is an unconscious awareness that the energy the goat carries is sacred (archetypal) which cannot just vanish and is in fact "secretly" worshipped via compulsions which need ultimately to be brought consciously to the analytical/psychological table (another kind of altar)...As I write this an African Catholic bishop is talking about the ritual of the Devotion to Sacred Blood of Jesus, the Scapegoat Extraordinaire, whose blood is or can be a transforming "food" for the partaker and the are fortunate to have such a wise priest who knows his Jung which is very surprising. Jung knew and experienced much scapegoating and does still posthumously. I'm proud and humble to be in his company...

...It's a two-way street re: scapegoating and the projections and counter-projections that fly fast and furious and oh so righteously but I believe the wise teacher and scapegoat Jesus of Nazareth cuts through all this when he counsels "to remove the log from your own eye before you seek to point out the splinter in the other's eye." Hard psychoanalytical work, that! Look to one's own shadow and embrace it, have a more conscious relationship to it and the projections of others (theoretically--I'm still a babe in the woods here) may then be meaningfully bourn. In so doing one may eventually mourn and bemoan less the loss of face and place as a hostilely encircled or banished-as-evil Loner for one is undergoing an intense process of individuation as Edward Edinger indicates so clearly and movingly in his profound book, Ego and Archetype, The Religious Function of the Psyche:

"The word individual is etymologically related to the word widow. According to Skeat, widow (Latin, vidua) derives from a lost cognate verb videre, meaning to part. Jung has demonstrated that the images of widow and orphan are part of the individuation process...Widow means the parted one. Hence, prior to widowhood one is not yet an individual, indivisible [which is what the word individual means, in = not, and dividere= to divide, thus not divided], but is still subject to the parting process. The symbolism tells us that widowhood is an experience on the pathway to the realization of individuality, in fact, that individuality is the son of that experience. This can only mean that man must be parted from that on which he is dependent but which he is not, before he can become aware of that which he is, unique and individual. A dependent projection must be broken. Similar implications apply to the image of the orphan which was a synonym for the alchemists' philosophers' stone. To be orphaned denotes the loss of parental support and the breaking of parental projections; it is likewise a prerequisite of the conscious experience of individuality. As Augustine puts it, to be a widow or orphan relates one to God (the Self)." pgs. 162-163

And to be a scapegoat also relates one to God (the Self).

These are powerful words in which I take great comfort...the meaning of an experience of scapegoating can be seen as an archetypal event which calls one to individuation as psychological scapegoat, orphan, widow, carriers of unintegrated 'gold' of the Self, that greater Center in each person. Dependent projections must be broken and are often shattering, thus the experience of abjection and desolation, of wandering disoriented in the wilderness as one undergoes a reorientation toward the Self and one's dependency upon It and nothing/no one else.

Scapegoating is a psychologically primitive yet effective orienting device where the scapegoater continually needs to scapegoat and sacrifice it. This unconsciously reorients him/her to the inner Center/Self which gets projected upon some other individual, group, community, nation. Personal and collective shadow gets constellated (activated) and projected upon the scapegoat who carries that shadow. Just to repeat, this projection by the scapegoater reorients him/her albeit unconsciously toward the Self which is projected outwardly upon an individual, group, collective, and the doctrines and mores of local god and tribe. Recognition and reclaiming of the projections (the "removing the log" work of Jesus) is the work, the life long work, most important and essential work, in the process of individuation.

Thus Jesus's words about removing the log from one's own eye cuts through the dependent projections when one enters the wilderness of introspection, Jungian analysis, other inner work and there confronts the shadow and the Self within. This makes one a (depth) psychological orphan, a widow, a scapegoat who is much needed collectively for they not only preserve the greater order of humans with the sacred (archetypal) but evolve collective human consciousness further, individual by individual.

It's a dirty job, baby, but somebody's gotta do it! Usually one doesn't know what one is signing up for when naively entering the Scapegoats-R-Us store which has many guises, a family, church, religious/spiritual growth group, seminary, government organization, a job and on and on in search of a cute stuffed lamb or goat. However, one is usually compelled in by Libido-as-Fate (the Daimon is that!) which drives the individuation process usually followed blindly until one has one's Damascus experience like St. Paul and is blinded by the Light of the Self as Transforming Fire, the Sol Niger/Black Sun which renders insight where one begins to ongoingly undergo meaningful suffering of psychological orphanhood, widowhood, goathood for the sake of individuation which is increased from these scapegoating experiences, or can be--not a formula here but an archetypal pattern of hope and possibility. Undergo, by the way, is what the word suffer means etymologically, i.e. sub= below, under, and ferrre= carry, go, )... Just read the myths, the experiences, say, of Siddhartha Gautama, of Jesus Christ, so many, so many, and so many unknown ones who have done the hard inner work of recognizing and withdrawing and chewing on the projections..

Please give my love to Na'eema and the children who must be shaken from all this. My heart goes out to them. I have some toys to send the little ones (NO STUFFED GOATS OR SHEEP!). Send a list of needed resettlement items and I'll beat the bushes and goats here for donations, etc.

Much love, my brother and fellow Goat (To quote Dame Edna, "I mean that in the kindest of ways (wink wink)!",