Archetype of the Devil
In Western culture there is a long history of struggle with sexuality. Even to dream of sex was considered a sign of the devil’s influence.
This internal struggle with ones own drives is still a large part of life for many of us. The image of the devil represents this struggle, and also a force of negation which pulls us down, away from the possibility of personal happiness and transformation.
Jung felt that an urge to evolve or move toward personal growth was inborn in all of us. Certainly it is a potential we all have. In connection with this the devil represents all those forces within and outside of us that war against this power of positive life and change. In Freudian theory each of us meet enormous resistances to meeting the very experiences or insights which would lead to healing. In this sense the devil or Satan embodies all our habits born out of the pains of our childhood and the ignorance of the culture we imbibed. The resistance we feel to change comes about because to change means to move into the unknown, into a sort of ignorance. It also means letting who we are at the moment die. It means acknowledging the impoverished aspects of oneself, and being willing to let go of them.
Grof, in observing the experiences of many people facing the agonies of their birth during therapy – Realms of The Human Unconscious – noticed the imagery that often arose was of being in hell tortured by the devil. When these same patients moved toward pleasure, the images became heavenly or cosmic.
The struggle with and fear of ones own natural drives – the resistances to change and wholeness – the fundamental pain of life in birth – all of these have a place in the archetype of the Devil or Satan. The following example graphically describes some of this.
It seemed I was fighting against the Devil for hours in my sleep last night. I was with a group of people doing this. The only parts I can remember clearly are that we had got hold of the Devil’s sword, put it in a church and locked the door. We had then thrown the key down a well, thus preventing the Devil from getting his main power or weapon. At one point he was forcing a man down the well and under the water to get the key, but he didn’t get it. I think being forced made the operation difficult. In another scene I was in a dormitory with the group of people. The Devil attacked a woman. He was invisible. The woman turned black as he raped her. She didn’t die. At this point I woke and went to the toilet. On returning to bed I continued the dream, particularly wondering what I was in conflict with in the image of the Devil. I found it disturbing and frightening to be confronted by such a powerful opponent. Partly because of the rape, I realised it was my held back sexual needs. I then approached the ‘black’ woman with tenderness and this transformed the Devil into available energy, sexual or emotional. I tried this again and again. Each time it worked, and I could observe the connection between the Devil and how I repress my sexual needs.
The Devil, as in the example, is usually connected with repressed natural drives, particularly sexual (one can express sex physically yet still repress sexual longing and feelings of real connection and tenderness). It is what is unlived in us – ‘devil’ is ‘lived’ spelt backwards. The reason the devil is such a useful symbol of our struggle with our own urges, is that if you have a conflict with an urge such as eating or sex, you can make up your mind to stop, but if you do so it feels as if a force other than your own will pushes you in another direction. This otherness/Life is depicted as the devil. This is still very much in action in everyday life and business. When I was writing a new version of dream dictionary all word such as breast, vagina, sexual organs and many others were banned for publication in the USA.
Any code of conduct, whether accepted from parents or peers, leaves aspects of our total self unlived. The struggle with paternal authority or power within oneself is also often represented as the devil. If we change our code of conduct, we may meet the devil because we release the previously unlived area of self. Of course it only appears in the image of the Devil or Satan if we are frightened of or disgusted by this emerging aspect of ourselves.
Example: I was in an outdoor environment. It seemed a bit dark, or maybe morbid is the right word. I was with other people but none of them stood out to remain in memory. There was a definite awareness though of being near to a place that was haunted, and that a man was in trouble in the haunted place.
I decided to go and see if I could sort out the problem. I walked down a slope to where the centre of the haunting existed. It was an open space with an old double-decker bus in it. The only person on the bus was a middle-aged man who was sitting on the top deck leaning out of a window on the right hand side of the bus. I stood beneath him and looked up. He was staring in a glazed way and didn’t see me. I could see and feel that he was being hit by fantasies or hallucinations by whatever was the source of the haunting. This invasion of his mind was grabbing his attention so fully that he wasn’t aware of his surrounding or of me. I was sure that if he went any deeper into this mind stuff he wouldn’t be able to pull out. I waved my hand in his line of vision and banged my hand on the bus to make a noise and get his attention. At first it didn’t seem as if I would bring him out of it, but after a while he looked at me.
I shouted at him to pull out. I said that he had a wife and some more years of his life to live, so why lose himself into this entrancement. This didn’t seem to grab him so I shouted again and said that he would eventually slip into this empty mind world anyway – at death – so why not live with his wife the remaining years of his life. I was sure that if he lost awareness he would let himself starve.
I was aware that what he desired was to slip away into the void, into the awareness of the one life in which he lost any awareness of self. But I banged and shouted and he became more ‘present’. I then felt I had to confront whatever was the source of the powerful ‘haunting’ that was pulling him into the inner mind. I turned away from the man and saw just to my right a short distance from the bus an animal that was the ‘haunter’. It was a mammal of no particular type – a bit like a mixture of dog, rat and guinea pig. It seemed very ordinary and tame, and stood looking at me. I walked toward it and stretched out my hand. It was a tan colour with short fur and gave a feeling of being okay to approach, so I touched it to stroke. This was okay and I was thinking there was no problem when the creature leapt at my throat in a flash of movement and ripped my throat out.
This sounds disturbing but I simply observed this and thought to myself that stroking and trying to be friendly was no way of dealing with this thing. It was as if I was in command of the imagery in that I simply formed another body. The creature ripped out my throat again and dived into my body to eat it. I woke at this point and went for a pee. When I went back to sleep I carried on with the dream. The only way that felt as if I might deal with the creature was to have the meditative state of not having any goals, and not feeling panic at it’s attacks. In fact apart from the gory imagery, there was nothing to be frightened of, as the creature was only attacking my dream image of myself. As I wasn’t identified with this, it couldn’t hurt me. That was the end of the dream. See Dreams are a reflection of your inner world
Useful Questions and Hints:
What relationship do I have with my own natural urges such as sex or eating?
Have I turned my own urges back on themselves, transforming ‘lived’ into ‘devil’ by a reverse process?
Can I dare to meet this devil and release the repressed energy as living flows of personal life and love?