Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson and the Power of Archetypes

Archetypal symbolism provides insights into the life and death of Michael Jackson, because he appears to have been “captured by an archetype.” “Captured by an archetype” is a term that the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung used to describe situations where individuals are thoroughly identified with symbolic figures that have so captured their imaginations that they engage in eccentric and stereotypic behaviors, and they’re not fully in control of their lives. Jackson was very much identified with Peter Pan, the un-aging boy who can fly, and surrounded himself with Peter Pan images. (In light of the previous discussions of symbolic twin selves, Peter Pan, as Jackson’s alter ego, was something of a twin self for him.) While a lot of people think that Jackson had his cosmetic treatments and surgeries in an attempt to become white, it may be he was really trying to become ethereal. The desire for ethereality is closely related to the dream of flying, and the desire to be a spirit being. I suspect that many anorexics are aiming at an ideal of ethereality, so it’s interesting that Jackson seems to have also had an anorexic condition.

The dream of flying as it involved one of Jung’s cases led to a tragic end, and I had long been concerned that Michael Jackson was on a similar trajectory. In the former case, Jung had been worried that a patient who had dreams of flying was headed for a trouble. (Note that this does not mean that everyone who has dreams of flying is in trouble.) It happened that the man had been involved in a tawdry business scandal, and Jung saw that in his dreams as well as in his hobby of mountain climbing, this man was symbolically “trying to get above himself.” One day while on a mountain climbing expedition, members of this fellow’s party looked on aghast as he simply stepped off the side of the mountain and plunged to his doom. (Unfortunately, he also took out the guy who was coming up behind him.) Because I saw similarities between Michael Jackson and Jung’s patient, I always feared that he would do something erratic, like step off a roof or balcony. The autopsy results aren’t in yet, but though it seems that his quest for ethereality might have done him in by ruining his health, at least Jackson didn’t go out in a more ghastly manner.

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