Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hostile brothers

"An archetypal motif associated with the opposites constellated in a conflict situation. Examples of the hostile brothers motif in mythology are the struggle between Gilgamesh and Enkidu in The Gilgamesh Epic, and the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Psychologically, it is generally interpreted in terms of the tug of war between ego and shadow." ...........................Carl Jung

This is a very important understanding in interpreting the events in mythology.
While Jung quotes the Sumerian and Biblical mythologies, it is also brought out in the epic of Mahabharata, though not is a direct relationship as brother but the sons of the brothers, blind king Dhritarashtra and King Pandu. These are the characters of Duryodhana and Arjuna.  
Duryodhana stands for the shadow archetype and Arjuna stands for the ego or the self.

Jung brings out the struggle between the ego and the shadow as the hostility between brothers in mythological characters.
The shadow, is the unknown ‘‘dark side’’ of our personality–-dark both because it tends to consist predominantly of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage, and due to its unenlightened nature, completely obscured from consciousness.

Jung suggested that the shadow can appear in dreams or visions and may take a variety of forms. It might appear as a snake, a monster, a demon, a dragon, or some other dark, wild, or exotic figure.
Though Jung had great depth of knowledge in religious mythologies, he has careful avoided positioning the negative elements and representations of one's psyche as an objective attribute such as one assigns in theology as the devil or Satan.
The negative aspect of one's ego is a purely subjective experience and hence Jung rightly called it shadow. A shadow cannot be divested from the subject which is projecting the shadow.

Now let us turn to the myth of Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
In the very first introduction of Enkidu, he was infuriated by Gilgamesh's egotist behaviour and a great battle ensued. The two mighty men battled for hours, and after their strength was exhausted, they came to realize they were equals. Later Gilgamesh realized that this was the friend of whom his mother spoke in his dream. This is a very appropriate mapping of the relationship between the ego and the its shadow and the shadow arising out of the dream consciousness. Though Enkidu dies as a result of the battle with Hambaba, he is restored to life by the Shamash the Sun god.

The roles played out by Shamash, the Sun god, as the prime mover of the adventure of both Gilgamesh (ego) and Enkidu (the shadow) as well as Hambaba, guardian of the Cedar forest (in Sumerian mythology the cedar forest was the abode of the Gods), as the demigod or the demon archetype arising out of the collective unconsciousness can now be clearly understood as a myth to evoke the seeking soul to understand its relationship with the deeper consciousness levels.

In the Biblical episode of Cain and Abel, the fight between the brothers and the final killing of Abel, the one who was acceptable to God. represents the constant struggle between the ego and the shadow elements. The rejection of Cain's offering (shadow) by God is the prime motive of the struggle of the shadow to exist in itself and the dialogue between God and Cain demonstrates the relation between the twin aspects of the psyche. When God asks Cain where is your brother and he says "Am I my brother's keeper". Yes, he is his brother's keeper and the blood of Abel appeals to God for restoration. Their coexistent nature of the ego and the shadow is brought out in the Biblical story as there is immediate replacement for Abel through Seth.

" Seth was born after Abel's murder, and Eve believed God had appointed him as a replacement for Abel." .........Genesis 4 : 25

Another Biblical story which can be seen in the light of alienation between the ego and the shadow is the story of Abraham's two sons Ishmael and Isaac. In this story the relationship between Ishmael and Isaac is looked at from the point of view of Illegitimacy and the legitimacy of the two sons of Abraham. The illegitimate son is cast out signifying the alienation. The Illegitimacy and the legitimacy of sonship has the same source and hence are the two sides of the same coin.

The reason for pointing out the various stories in mythology and sacred writings is to go beyond the literary interpretations which have been plaguing our spiritual teachings and look to the inner meanings.

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Love to you all

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