Genealogy is the silver backing on our mirror of introspection. A reflective perspective "mediates events and makes differences between ourselves and everything that happens. Between us and events, between the doer and the deed, there is a reflective moment—and soul-making means differentiating this middle ground."
James Hillman continues, “...you find your genius by looking in the mirror of your life. Your visible image shows your inner truth, so when you're estimating others, what you see is what you get. It therefore becomes critically important to see generously, or you will get only what you see; to see sharply, so that you discern the mix of traits rather than a generalized lump; and to see deeply into dark shadows, or else you will be deceived.”
If we do not fashion for ourselves a picture of the world, we do not see ourselves either, who are the faithful reflections of that world. Only when mirrored in our picture of the world can we see ourselves in the round. Only in our creative acts do we step forth into the light and see ourselves whole and complete. Never shall we put any face on the world other than our own, and we have to do this precisely in order to find ourselves. For higher than science or art as an end in itself stands man, the creator of his instruments. (Jung, "Analytical Psychology and Weltanschauung" (1928). In CW 8: Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. P.737)
We can also apply what they say to our ancestral search. Sure, it's a challenge that sets a high bar, but really just means bringing a certain sensibility and aesthetic to the disciple of ancestral search itself -- much as in art.
"The "other" in us always seems alien and unacceptable; but if we let ourselves be aggrieved the feeling sinks in, and we are the richer for this little bit of self-knowledge." (Jung, "Psychological Aspects of the Kore" (1941). In CW 9, P. 918)
"This process of coming to terms with the Other in us is well worth while, because in this way we get to know aspects of our nature which we would not allow anybody else to show us and which we ourselves would never have admitted."
(Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis (1955) CW 14: P. 706)
More Character; More Genius
In our genealogical work we call up the voices of the deep. There is no authoritative voice, only multiple readings. The ancient Greeks believed that our character or genius was an autonomous daimon who oversaw our experiences with mortality -- our fate -- our personal yet transcendent god.
"Whoever speaks in primordial images speaks with a thousand voices; he enthrals and overpowers, while at the same time he lifts the idea he is seeking to express out of the occasional and the transitory into the realm of the ever enduring. He transmutes our personal destiny into the destiny of mankind, and evokes in us all those beneficent forces that ever and anon have enabled humanity to find a refuge from every peril and to outlive the longest night." (Jung, "On the Relation of Analytical Psychology of Poetry" (1922). In CW 15: The Spirit in Man, Art and Literature. P.129)
Every person has their spirit or guardian angel that remains throughout life and into death. Hillman notes, “Character forms a life regardless of how obscurely that life is lived and how little light falls on it from the stars.”
“To the question, “Why am I old?” the usual answer is, “Because I am becoming dead.” But the facts show that I reveal more character as I age, not more death.” (Hillman)
Pliny called daimons 'the generating breath of the universe’ (XVI xxxix, 93). Plato called daimons envoys and interpreters between heaven and earth. They are the medium of the prophetic and esoteric arts, and mediators of the spirit world.
The daimon has a specific interest in the outcome of our lives. It is a driving force or spiritual energy leading to the creative formation of individuality. This is where we find hope in an inevitably doomed existence...and perhaps taste our immortality. It is a formidable image that our family tree is not only our ancestors as insubstantial shades, but a forest of thousands of daimons.
Jung referred to the daimon as something alien from the unconscious, an “archetype” or “numinous imperative." This force is as real as hunger and the fear of death, making demands of us and acting with authority. When we look for 'signs', we attend to our daimon, but it can also hide things from us in our blind spots.
Daemons, linked by Jung to anima/animus, are usually the opposite sex of their host. They share our feelings, thoughts and experiences. The daemon is an extension of the human but semi-independent, with praeternatural knowledge. When the human dies, the daimon fades away becoming part of everything.
Under its influence we can feel taken over. Intense and energetic feelings exceed normal human limits. In its “grip,” the daimon makes us feel swept up or carried by a force we don't understand. We seem possessed of an energy that transcends our conscious drives, needs and desires. It provokes by creating predicaments to solve and a sense of creative urgency.
Every person has their "seed-self", "guiding force", or acorn of character from birth. Our spirits grow from this seed that is our daimon. The inspirational spirit guides us toward the fulfillment of our potential and shows us our vulnerabilities and dream or imaginal life. The daimon holds the tension of opposites between good and bad aspects, but provokes internal conflict that leads to dialogue that promotes self-awareness. It is our voice of wisdom in the solitude.
Talent can be a childhood refuge from traumatic reality -- it takes us away from the awful place in a sort of creative dissociation. It can develop a superpowerful concentration and focus also seen in spiritual mystics. But it also exposes our wounds. Fear disguises genius with depression and anxiety. Lack of opportunity can be debilitating or degrading. Such genius needs recognition and nurturing for survival. Dispirited souls have lost their ‘daemons.’
All old trees had their daimon, and the World Tree -- mankind's most magnificent legend -- is no exception. The personified tree is the daimon at the same time because they are different categories of existence -- secular and sacred.
When we are 'called', we are called by our daimon, as Hillman notes: “Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny. As the force of fate, this image acts as a personal daimon, an accompanying guide who remembers your calling." If we ignore that call we may wither away or live half a life. The daimon helps us know ourselves. If we are fortunate the daimon informs our life and death with some nobility and poetry.
In Soul's Code, Hillman remind us, “Fatalism accounts for life as a whole. Whatever happens can be fit within the large generality of individuation, or my journey, or growth. Fatalism comforts, for it raises no questions. There's no need to examine just how events fit in.”
The tree articulates a psychophysical reality -- the life of the cosmos. Mind is rooted in the Unconscious much as a tree is rooted in the ground. Shaping matter as well as mind, it retains its character through endless variations. The psychoid is more fundamental than matter and psyche and the basis of synchronicity. This vital principle is an innate impulse that directs the behavior of an organism. The daemon tells us what to keep and where to keep it.
As Hillman summarizes: "The daimon motivates. It protects. It invents and persists with stubborn fidelity. It resists compromising reasonableness and often forces deviance and oddity upon its keeper, especially when neglected or opposed. It offers comfort and can pull you into its shell, but it cannot abide innocence. It can make the body ill. It is out of step with time, finding all sorts of faults, gaps, and knots in the flow of life - and it prefers them. It has affinities with myth, since it is itself a mythical being and thinks in mythical patterns."
The Acorn Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree
Meaning is essential to tree phenomenology. Again, its character is the personal or family daimon. The tree is the image and mirror of our condition. It is an ancient idea that if a tree is planted at our birth our fate is shared with it. Other families plant memorial trees for the deceased. This describes the character of the family tree and symbol of wholeness.
Hillman suggests it goes beyond meaning: “It seems, as one becomes older, / That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence,” wrote T. S. Eliot. Four Quartets, which meditates on time, age, and memory, goes on to say, “We had the experience but missed the meaning, / And approach to the meaning restores the experience / In a different form, beyond any meaning.”
Hillman said the genius reveals both fears and talents in very young children. They may have a premature experience of the self [not-me] as an active factor in childhood development -- accelerated psychic growth. Prodigies are naturally endowed with exceptional abilities in youth.
The adult can remain burdened by the child prodigy routine, including self-expectations and drive. Drive can jump the tracks. The inner child fails to mature and may turn self-destructive, as the recovery movement showed. Escaping reason and reality can only be balanced by embracing the mystery in our unique way. If spirituality becomes a physical experience: meditation, or a drug/music-induced trip, doing psychogenealogy can restore spirituality as a relationship.
Some children fear identifying their genius for personal and social reasons. They don't want to 'pwn' it or feel or be perceived as different, even extraordinary. Hubris, exhibitionism, and competitiveness push us ahead of ourselves. The creative genius who peaks to early is a story trope. Some fight even harder to get their grief out of the basement. Nothing is going to hit as hard as life.
In a dysplasia of cognitive and affective development, cognitive stages outpace affective development which is stalled (Gowan). This block (the gulf between innate and actualized talents) is the cause of most absence of creativity in gifted adults and sometimes lead to non-actualizing or self-destructive tendencies. M.-L. von Franz said “the wounded healer IS the archetype of the Self [our wholeness, the God within] and is at the bottom of all genuine healing procedures." (Creativity & Giftedness)
But the pedigree doesn't illustrate the argument as much as embody it -- the genius and the wound are inherited and inherent. Certain wounds or deficits may come with genius and require challenges to release the gift and its new perspective. The wound lets in the energy that pushes or drags us to make us whole. Our symptoms are aspects of the wound and our genius, and this notion conforms with applying family therapies within the genealogical core generations. It frees the humane individual for self-actualization.
Like all archetypal symbols, the symbol of the tree has undergone a development of meaning in the course of the centuries. It is far removed from the original meaning of the shamanistic tree, even though certain basic features prove to be unalterable. The psychoid form underlying any archetypal image retains its character at all stages of development, though empirically it is capable of endless variations. The outward form of the tree may change in the course of time, but the richness and vitality of a symbol are expressed more in its change of meaning.
(Jung,CW13 ¶ 350)
This plant is an inner, spiritual growth, the development of a tree of life and knowledge which played a great role in alchemy....In general it is advisable to watch these inner developments and not let them slip back into the unconscious, lest they get stuck in the physiological sphere, or rather in the realm of the [psychoid] unconscious which merges with the body, where they give rise to pathological formations which a wise man carefully avoids. (Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 607-608)
The daimon is our spiritual guide or self, and our character -- a divine mediating power that impels our action and drives or mediates our destiny. It is what makes us unique in relation to the world. This inborn immortal factor embodies our innate talents, inherent gifts, and positive or negative natural tendencies.
This supreme form of soul is our constant companion and source of inspiration -- like the Latin genii, our genius. This "genius" (from the Latin genere) means to generate, to beget, making the daimon the voice of the generative process in us. It can be a personification of the transcendent function, experienced in dreams and in our acts of doing and becoming.
The daimon is also our suffering, emotional disorders, and more, but could also heal, and promote health, happiness, resilience, perseverance, and harmony. The vitality of the inner universe is mobilized in happiness, misery, regret. The daimon can inform even a painful death with some poetry and grace.
Suffering can be produced by painful states of mind such as hatred, envy, alienation, scapegoating, cruelty, and loneliness. The daimon can also bring altruism, empathy, compassion, concern, care, consolation, and pity. It brings understanding of the beauty, compassion, and the foundation of wisdom. It is the psychobiological transformations of epigenetics, changing our responses to life experiences.
Regardless of the nature of the genes we inherit from our parents, dynamic change at this level allows us almost unlimited influence on our fate. Beyond "biology as destiny" is “self-directed biological transformation,” but under the daimon, not the ego. The disruptive and transformative reality of the individuation process manifests the uncanny otherness of the unconscious.
Art - Born Star, Matthew Atkinson