Jung and the Four Masks

By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times

Carl Gustav Jung, one of the founders of modern psychoanalysis, used to say that we all drink from the same source. To explain this concept, he developed a theory whose origin can be found in the work of the ancient alchemists, who named this source the “soul of the world” (anima mundi).
According to this theory, we always try to be independent individuals, but one part of our memory is the same. Whatever our creed or culture may be, we all seek the ideal of beauty, dancing, divinity, music.
Society, however, takes care of defining how these ideals are to manifest themselves on the level of reality. For example, nowadays the ideal of beauty is to be thin, whereas thousands of years ago the images of the gods were fat. The same goes for happiness: there is a set of rules that, if not followed, will not allow your conscious to accept the idea that you are happy. These are not absolute rules, and they change from one generation to another.
Jung used to classify individual progress according to four stages: the first was the Persona – the mask that we wear every day, pretending to be who we are. We believe that the world depends on us, that we are wonderful parents and that our children understand us, that our bosses are fair, that the dream of human beings is never to work and spend our entire life traveling. Some people try to understand what is wrong, and end up finding the Shadow.
The Shadow is our black side, which dictates how we should act and behave. When we try to get rid of the Persona, we turn on a light inside us and see spiders’ webs, cowardice, petty-mindedness. The Shadow is there to hamper our progress – and it usually succeeds, so we race back to who we were before we started doubting. Nevertheless, some survive this struggle with their spiders’ webs by saying: “Yes, I have a whole bunch of defects, but I’m dignified and I want to get ahead.”
At that moment the Shadow disappears and we come into contact with the Soul.
By Soul, Jung is not defining something religious; he speaks of a return to the Soul of the World, the source of knowledge. Our instincts begin to grow sharper, our emotions more radical, the signs of life are of greater importance than logic, our perception of reality is no longer so rigid. We begin to deal with things we are not used to, and to react in ways that not even we ourselves would expect.
Then we discover that if we can only manage to channel all this surge of energy, we can organize it in a very solid center, which Jung calls the Wise Old Man for men, or the Great Mother for women.
It’s quite dangerous to allow this to manifest itself. Generally speaking, whoever reaches that point tends to consider himself holy, a tamer of spirits, a prophet.
Not only people, but societies too use these four masks. Western civilization has a Persona, ideas that guide us and that seem to be absolute truths.
But things change. In the attempt to adapt to the changes, we see the great mass demonstrations where collective energy can be manipulated either for good or evil (the Shadow). All of a sudden, for some reason, the Persona or the Shadow are no longer satisfactory – the moment has come for a leap forward, new values begin to appear (the dive into the Soul).
And at the end of this process, in order for these new values to become installed, the entire race begins to make contact again with the language of signs (the Wise Old Man).
This is precisely what we are experiencing now. It may last one or two hundred years, but things are changing – for the better.

© Translated by James Mulholland


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