Ares and the Archetype of Conquest and Conflict

“It is as though we were possessed by fears, emotions, undertones outside of ourselves. All new contents are at first autonomous contents; and where there is such a content we may be sure that in its development it will possess the individual either with or without his consent and it will bring a great change into his life.” (Carl Jung, Seminar on Dream Analysis, P. 183)

In the recent series, we have considered the process by which a person or culture transforms from a state of dessication, decrepitude, desperation, and depression into a thriving, vital, and renewed person or culture. We first considered the Promethean effort that the archetype of the Hero must endure in order to displace a former, weakened, and ultimately life-negating attitude of meaningless cynicism which cuts off a culture’s connection to its energizing source of life and perception of reality as such. We then considered the stage after, when a sort of anarchy of rushing energy flows forth into a culture with potential disastrous effects. Only after such a chute de roi, a purging of the space between making for a clearing, does the archetype of the divine messenger, Hermes, activate–during which time the consciousness and unconscious of a culture reconnect. In connecting, the consciousness of a culture then receives its new “dominant of the consciousness” or its new attitude or set of values. It is not, however, the case that the transmission of a new attitude or ideology, at the level of a person, culture, or state is met with harmony. No, rather than the process ending with transmission, in a way, it is just begun: for the first reaction after transmission is not one of acceptance, but one of conflict.

Let us, for a change, observe a practical and political example of this change before looking at it on a smaller, more personal level.

“The history of American industrial labor relations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was, of course, violent and conflictual, as workers established the right to strike, to bargain collectively, and to influence conditions of occupational health and safety. But the labor movement was co-opted into the system after winning these concessions. It never turned to Marxism, anarchosyndicalism, or other radical ideiologies in the early twentieth century as did many European trade unions, particularly in southern Europe.” (Francis Fukuyama, Trust: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order, P. 275)

Above, we observe that in the case of a changing ideology and political order (labor relations) that the reception of an idea, if the idea or set of values is to be operant, is immediately followed by conflict, violent and otherwise. How, though, does such a conflict, if we are to maintain our analogy, manifest in the mind of a single person? Let us look to an account by the psychologist Carl Jung of a person being treated for a neurosis.

“But if we look into the psychoanalysis of actual cases of neurosis and see what devastation the so-called repressions have wrought, what destruction has resulted from a disregard of elementary instinctual processes, then we receive–to put it mildly–a lasting impression. There is no form of human tragedy that does not in some measure proceed from this conflict between the ego and the unconscious[my ital. and bold]. Anyone who has ever seen the horror of a prison, an insane asylum, or a hospital will surely experience, from the impression these things make upon him, a profound enrichment of his Weltanschauung. And he will be no less deeply impressed inf he looks into the abyss of human suffering behind a neurosis.”

(Carl Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, P. 366)

One observes from above that conflict results not only from the emergence of a new idea in the political sphere but also from the “disregard of certain elementary processes” which occurs when a certain view of the world, or Weltanschauung, fails to reflect reality in a genuine and honest way–otherwise known as the dominant of consciousness, or the old-king, failing to rule and guide in a way that reflects and represents reality truly. When this conflict between the “ego” or the conscious mind, and the “unconscious” occurs, so does what is a called a “neurosis” develop. This conflict, or neurosis, thus, is largely a process (if dealt with properly) by which an old conscious dominant is recognized as failing, disposed of, and then replaced by a new one. But this replacement, as we have observed in the series so far, is hardly a one-step process, so the next question which occurs is what is the goal of the neurosis or the conflict; in the political order above, the goal of political strife is the acceptance of a new idea or way of being–does this hold up on a personal level as well?

Yes, naturally, the goal of this process is order and legitimate authority, or the archetype which Zeus, king of the Gods, represents. But like the young fledgling Zeus, hidden from and destined to combat his father Kronos, as his father Kronos once combatted his father Uranus, the archetype of Ares, represents the time between the transmission of a new attitude (or mode of cultural expression and values) and the acceptance of these values. For a mythological example of the tension between the two, let us venture to Book V of Homer’s Iliad.

“Do not sit beside me and whine, you double-faced liar, To me you are most hateful of all gods who hold Olympos, Forever quarreling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.” (Homer, Iliad Bk V 889-891, Lattimore tr.)

What one observes immediately is that Zeus, principle of order and authority, rather naturally and nastily loathes his son, the principle of chaotic discord and strife, but why this grand hate? Precisely because Ares represents the same energy and strife which can at first destabilize an existing order, but is also necessary for the acceptance and dominance of a new one. In observing the actions of Ares, Zeus observes the two-fold aspects of ruling–those of reigning and those of falling. He, therefore hates his battling son, because Ares is at all times a reminder of the fact that his rule may some day fall and that no order is eternal.

But if Ares represents sort of mindless conflict and discontent, how does he differ from the archetype of Dionysos? The fact is that where Dionysos represents the surging of instinctual energy without form, Ares reflects the surging of energy towards a specific goal, even if it is outside the scope of the archetype even to know it. It is the archetype of Hermes, therefore which provides the scope and goal of the aggression and savage energy of the archetype of Ares. Let us, as we so frequently have, turn to Richard Tarnas’ description of Ares in his aspect as Mars:

“the principle of energetic force; the impulse and capacity to assert, to act and move energetically and forcefully, to have an impact, to press forward and against, to defend and offend, to act with sharpness and ardor; the tendency to experience aggressiveness, anger, conflict[my ital.], harm, violence, forceful physical energy; to be combative, competitive, courageous, vigorous; Ares, the god of war.” (Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, P. 90)

In reading the description above, one almost undoubtedly conjures the image of a young and resolute man hungry to make his impact on the world. And this is precisely what the archetype is and represents. After the connection to the new conscious dominant is made by the archetype of Hermes, the time to act and move and fight and to aspire (sometimes with more energy than thought) comes about in the form of aggressive and active Ares.

For the principle for which one is fighting is not forgotten, but rather the time for pontification on it is both in the past and in the future as its ascendancy and primacy (in the form of the archetype of Zeus) is struggled for. During the struggle, all one knows is struggle, and that is precisely what it takes to get through the conflict, and that is precisely what the archetype of Ares allows a person or a people to do. If this archetype seems particularly intermediary, one need only look back above to the opinion which Zeus holds of his son to see that that opinion is by all means shared. For the ruler who observes and rules with clear-sightedness and intelligence will always have antipathy for the single-minded and wolf-like ferocity of Ares. But such energy and resoluteness is by nature hot–by no means lukewarm–and it is in the boiling water that the substance is transformed, again, culturally or personally. Jung will grant us some last words on this part of the process:

“The growing redness (rubedo)* which now follows denotes an increase of warmth and light coming from the sun, consciousness. This corresponds to the increasing participation of consciousness, which now begins to react emotionally to the contents produced by the unconscious. At first the process of integration is a “fiery” conflict, but gradually it leads over to the “melting” or synthesis of opposites.” (Carl Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, Pp. 229-230)

The conflict produced by the archetype of Ares, therefore, is necessary for increasing the consciousness of a person or people, and in increasing this consciousness, it is molded or forged, like a sword placed in a furnace, that it might be given new shape and purpose. As said above, however, this archetype is in essence and intermediary. In the final quote of today’s article, we will see the limits and fullest expression of the archetype of Ares by a recognition of its goal.

“Although the opposites flee from one another they nevertheless strive for balance, since a state of conflict is too inimical to life to be endured indefinitely[my ital.]. They do this by wearing each other out, like the two dragons or the other ravenous beasts of alchemical symbolism.” (Ibid, 230)

The purpose, therefore, of the archetype of Ares is to strive and struggle for a definite period of time, and at the end of that time, with the struggle ended, then comes the archetype of Zeus, the principle of order by law, who by nature is inimical towards his strife-filled son.

*”The redness (rubedo) of the sun’s light is a reference to the red sulphur in it, the active burning principle, destructive in its effects[my ital.; just like Ares] (Carl Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, P. 99)