The following is a transcript of this video. To watch the rest of this video series — and all our Membership Videos — become a Supporting Member! They occupied the bodies of adults, but their mental development failed to keep pace. While originally this term was used in mythology to refer to a child god who remains forever young, her teacher Carl Jung had adopted the term for psychological purposes to describe the individual who, like Peter Pan, fails to grow up. Her predictions have proven remarkably accurate — especially among the male population of the Western world.
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Abstract: The puer aeternus eternal youth is an archetypal image of mythology. It also denotes a neurotic condition during which the maturational process is arrested. It depends on an incapability of taking root in life. In the present era the condition has reached epidemic proportions. Not only is it a tragedy to the individual who risks throwing away his life — psychological rootlessness poses a threat to our civilization.
Introduction A psychological lexicon defines the term: Puer aeternus. His lot is seldom what he really wants and one day he will do something about it — but not just yet. Plans for the future slip away in fantasies of what will be, what could be, while no decisive action is taken to change. Life itself, existential reality, is experienced as a prison. The bars are unconscious ties to the unfettered world of early life.
The demands of adult life can indeed be hard to endure, especially in times of economical hardship. But if an ideology is created out of this youthful concept, then society is bound to churn out a multitude of alienated people each year. It is imperative that this ongoing epidemic is better understood. However, he gives no references to Jungian authors who already had researched the problem.
The puerile form of narcissism has not yet received full attention by the psychological community. Comparatively, there is a huge amount of literature on the Oedipal form of narcissism, connected with narcissistic personality disorder. Whereas Oedipal narcissism is the specialty of Freudians the puer aeternus is the specialty of Jungians.
As an archetype the puer aeternus is something valuable and wonderful, although identification leads to tragic consequences. An important difference is that the puerile narcissist is decidedly more sociable than the Oedipal. The latter is a nuisance in workplaces because the little King Oedipus has no notion that he can be wrong, which causes problems when deciding how to resolve matters.
Yet, such persons can be quite industrious. The puer aeternus is different. I once knew a handsome and friendly puer that, although he was an adult man, really thought that he could live without money. What do we need the facts of reality for?
He could equally well settle on the asteroid B, like the Little Prince. M-L von Franz characterizes the puer aeternus: Precisely because the puer entertains false pretensions, he becomes collectivized from within, with the result that none of his reactions are really very personal or very special.
He becomes a type, the type of the puer aeternus. He is merely the archetype of the eternal youth god, and therefore he has all the features of the god: he has a nostalgic longing for death, he thinks of himself as being something special, he is the one sensitive being among all the other tough sheep.
He will have a problem with an aggressive, destructive shadow which he will not want to live and generally projects, and so on. There is nothing special whatsoever.
The greater the identification with the youthful god, the less individual the person although he himself feels so special. Yet, not all of them will become a bum or an alcoholic. The most typical characteristic of the puer is that he will refrain from taking root in the present, instead keep hovering like a helium balloon in his life.
Although the puer is often capable of carrying a job, he is incapable of taking a passionate interest in it. By example, a puer working as software developer will take no real interest in algorithm technique or the advanced features of the programming language. Instead he is likely to adopt a strangely indifferent attitude, as if he were floating in the air, even if the company risks going out of business. It is merely a provisional job, anyway.
In case he is married, it is a provisional arrangement, too. The prevalence of the puerile syndrome explains why people in the present era so often change their partner. Several authors have noted their proclivity for short-lived romantic attachments cf. Yeoman, , p. Neither the puer nor the puella have the aptitude for a genuine emotional attachment. They have no strong passion for anything or anybody, but remain dissolute and unfaithful in the general sense — a moral incapacity characteristic of the pueri aeterni.
The puerile society I maintain that the puer aeternus syndrome has emerged as an enormous problem of our time. It even poses a threat to Western civilization. It underlies the prevailing cultural and moral relativism in the Western world. The puer aeternus refuses to take root in our common heritage. He has no love for our great cathedrals nor for our intellectual heritage.
Yet, the current sameness ideology builds on a puerile form of indifference toward culture and ethnicity. The puer aeternus, since he lacks zest for learning, never develops a proper understanding of anything.
Among the pueri aeterni are many politicians and journalists who are indifferent toward our Christian legacy. Nor have they investigated Islamic culture, or delved into anthropology and psychology. Had they acquired a proper understanding, they would realize that many differences of culture and human nature stand firm, contradictions and incongruities that must needs lead to destructive consequences.
He has no passion for our civilization, since he is essentially loveless. Relativism means that there really is no such thing as right or wrong. In adulthood it is a feature of some, typically leftist, political impulses and ideologies which espouse xenophilia preference for alien cultures cf. Wiki, here. When flying over Sweden he could see that there is plenty of space! A Prime Minister who says such things about his own country and people cannot be of sound mind. Yet, Reinfeldt, as the self-professed quisling of the modern era, is not an uncommon example, because politics is replete with pueri aeterni.
It must needs lead to the disintegration of culture. Sorokin says that when any socio-cultural system enters the stage of its disintegration, it first enters a phase of inner self-contradiction in the form of an irreconcilable dualism. It soon becomes formless in that it develops a chaotic syncretism of undigested elements taken from different cultures: An emergence of a chaotic syncretism in a given integrated culture is another general symptom of its disintegration.
The classical example is given by the overripe sensate culture of Greece and Rome. The mind of contemporary man is likewise a dumping place of the most fantastic and diverse bits of the most fragmentary ideas, beliefs, tastes, and scraps of information.
Its spineless and disjointed syncretism pervades all our social and mental life. It appears to have lost its self-confidence. It begins to doubt its own superiority and primogeniture. It ceases to be loyal to itself. It progressively fails to continue to be its own sculptor, to keep unimpaired the integrity and sameness of its style, that takes in only what agrees with it and rejects all that impairs it.
Such a culture loses its individuality. It becomes formless, shapeless, styleless. Sorokin, , pp. On account of an ongoing cultural dissolution, the pueri aeterni are growing in numbers. The IS warriors who travel from Europe to join the Islamists, are mostly recruited from the puer group. The characteristic neurotic solution of the puer consists in the compulsive descent from an aeronautical lifestyle: 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.
This is a paramount image in our religious tradition and one which has created something very destructive, namely, that because Christ is the shepherd and we the sheep, we have been taught by the Church that we should not think or have our own opinions, but just believe. If we cannot believe in the resurrection of the body — such a mystery that nobody can understand it — then one must just accept it. We are really trained to be sheep!
As long as the leader is a responsible person, or the leading ideal is something good, then it is okay. But the drawback of this religious education is now coming out very badly, for Western individuals of the Christian civilization are much more easily infected by mass beliefs than the Eastern.
They are predisposed to believe in slogans, having always been told that there are many things they cannot understand and must just believe in order to be saved. So we are trained to be like sheep. That is a terrific shadow of the Christian education for which we are now paying. The religious feeling stems, especially, from the early period that is lost to our explicit recollection.
The unconscious longing after the parental figure is projected on the religious narrative, which acquires divine dimensions. Thus, spiritual awareness is predicated on infantile attachment to an internalized, all-powerful parental presence. The devotee can feel the connection inside, and thus the unconscious associations have a seducing effect, which leads to blind faith in religious narrative. The result, Faber explains, is collective infantilization, because we are required to stick to the rules and dutifully propitiate the Parental God.
To be saved, Christian style, is to become innocent as a child and to surrender wholly to authority. If it has had such infantilizing effect, then it is hard to explain why Christian civilization rose to power and also came to outshine all other civilizations.
Christian faith answered to an inner thirst for fellowship with the divine, while also providing a predominantly transcendental view of the sacred.
He contrasts the worldly striving after power and glory, the pursuit of earthly joys and the gaping after transitory things, with the eternal City of God, whose citizens live after the spirit, not after the flesh. The Earthly City, on the other hand, is divided against itself.
It is characterized by conflict, vice and pride, and the relentless search after terrestrial and temporal benefits. In contrast, Augustine emphasizes the ideals that transcend the worldly, connected with the rational soul.
Puer Aeternus Marie Louise Von Franz
Again, there was an enantiodromia. Melchior escapes from the asylum. He himself is a dead old man, which means that the problem is not solved but is again postponed, because if a solution is described as taking place after death, it means that 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 are projected into the time after the Day of Judgment. Paradise comes after death.
The Problem of the Puer Aeternus
In the poem, Ovid addresses the child-god Iacchus as puer aeternus and praises him for his role in the Eleusinian mysteries. Iacchus is later identified with the gods Dionysus and Eros. The puer is a god of vegetation and resurrection, the god of divine youth, such as Tammuz , Attis , and Adonis. The puer in Jungian psychology[ edit ] Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung developed a school of thought called analytical psychology , distinguishing it from the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud —