Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Complex Oedipus

It doesn’t take a Jungian to know that life is enriched living it symbolically. We live rational, hum-drum lives for the most part yet at the same time we sense there is something else going on of a different order.

Sheldon Kopp wrote a book in 1972, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him. In it he argues that anyone with all the answers, guru / parent / psychotherapist, must be metaphorically killed.

Oedipus does it unwittingly thinking the person who blocked his way was a bandit. Unconscious as it may have been the act was an essential moment on his pilgrimage to selfhood. Along that road we must overthrow the constraints that come naturally to a father however much we may love him.

I loved mine and in many ways tried to emulate him but also needed to defy him. His cautious, deliberative nature wasn’t quite my prescription. In some ways my mother, with her strong animus, was the more dominant voice in the house. It’s a tricky business.

In the Oedipus myth he inadvertently marries his mother and fathers four children. On a symbolic plane males also need to cleave with the feminine principle to balance their more aggressive side. In a reversal of type I found these attributes more available in my father.

When our Greek protagonist discovers his wife/mother, Jocasta, hung from the rafter he proceeds to blind himself in self-recrimination. Looked upon metaphorically I take this to signify an act of attaining an inner dimension.

Earlier in the play we meet Tiresias, the blind prophet. A loss of sight brings with it compensatory faculties. I want to think of Oedipus in this way having attained a certain vision beyond the worldly.

So he is now ready to make his way, orphaned, yet having come to terms with his night of dread, a darkness we all know as we confront and stumble through this opaque and mysterious life. I'd like to think of it as the birth of existential man.

I would hope my own three daughters have, each in their own way, staged a palace coup and dethroned me. Of course it wouldn’t hurt if I have re-entered their lives, stripped of authority but there as a fallible but loving presence.

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