I want to start this article with a small confession.
While I was reading other authors related to Jung, the name Robert Moore came up every so often. At that time, the only thing I knew about him was that he wrote a book named King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. With this limited information at my disposition, I concluded hastily that Moore was likely promoting a too optimistic view of comparative mythology, similarly to Joseph “Follow your Bliss” Campbell.
How wrong was I.
With little to no interest in his works, I ended up watching the following video earlier this year.
I became aware that Moore’s works have been put into question by a serious accusation of murder-suicide in 2016, which has now been refuted by forensic evidence.
As I was watching the video, the first thought that came to mind was, “I see. A curse over his work has been lifted and his material is now available for widespread public recognition!”
I promptly started to listen to some of his lectures and was struck by the somber and gritty tone in his voice. His dynamic presentation style was completely unexpected and the themes of his presentations went against the assumptions I held about him. Moore was not afraid to go deeply into the topic of evil and it showed.
Since this gripping discovery, I have studied as much content as I could find from him. This article will be an attempt to synthesize what I believe are Moore’s most valuable and original contributions.
Moore’s Encounter with Collective Evil
First, we need to understand where Moore is coming from. A personal experience of his provides the key to unlocking his works.
I want to start with a personal story of an experience that started me on this journey[.] It’s a story that’s set in India in August of 1987. […]
In the then Bombay, what is now called Mumbai, Margaret and I were in a taxi. And we were being driven around, being shown the sights by this taxi driver. And he pulls into this one street. And he proudly turns around and says to us. “You can have any of these people that you want and you can do whatever you want to with them.” And I thought I had misheard what he said. And I said, “Excuse me?” And then he repeated it. As we looked, there were thousands of men, women, and children on the standing, on the street hoping to be purchased. And apparently, no one had told either these slave traders or these little vulnerable ones, who were living in the hell of sexual slavery and violence [that the first global synchronized meditation for peace occurred]. Apparently, no one had told them that the nine hells were supposed to have come to an end that day.
For a moment, it was as if someone had stuck a hot poker into my forehead. I entered what we might euphemistically call an altered state of consciousness. […]
Suddenly, the topic of the dynamics of evil was not academic to me anymore. It dawned on me then that the same reality I was witnessing had long been present in my Chicago and all cities in the world. I realized at that moment that I’d never been awake enough to allow a conscious, existential, close encounter with the actual power of radical evil. […]
At that time, I was experiencing a searing, searing realization of the presence, reality, and power of aggressive, shameless evil. As a man, I was especially struck by the extent to which the engine of this horrific reality was clearly male narcissism and grandiosity. I realized that what we would call today uninitiated men—what I’ve called monster boys and adult bodies—were perpetrating and shamelessly propagating the largest proportion of the flood of hell energies abroad in this world. (Robert Moore, Coping with Grandiosity in Our Lives seminar, Lecture 1)
The full retelling of his personal experience starts at 14:55 and ends around 23:55.
Moore’s entire work can be seen through the light of this event, which is an encounter with collective, impersonal evil.
According to him, this is the danger to avoid at all costs: uninitiated men who have succumbed to infantile pathological narcissism, to the great dragon of unconscious grandiosity.
The Self Psychology of Narcissism and Grandiosity
Finding the Jungian, Freudian, and Adlerian answers lacking on the topic of grandiosity, Moore turned to Heinz Kohut’s self psychology to understand the dynamics of that condition.
In distinction to other schools of psychology, Kohut’s works on narcissism adopt a non-pathological approach: narcissism is a temporary but crucial line of development for self-love and self-esteem. It’s by being narcissistic that one can rekindle interest in oneself. This is a necessary step for people who have lost the ability to value themselves. Without a strong foundation in self-love, any manifestation of affection towards oneself will be rejected because one feels undeserving, undesirable, unlovable.
If we approach narcissistic needs as a sector of development, what about grandiosity? Once again drawing from Kohut, Moore found that there is a grandiose, exhibitionistic self-organization in the psyche. He describes it in the following way:
If I’m not in touch in a healthy way with my grandiosity, I will be on the edge always of narcissistic rage. Because I feel that somebody’s stolen something that’s legitimately mine. Because I know in my heart of hearts that there’s some preciousness in me and some worthiness in me. As Christians would say, there’s a god-imago in me, there’s a God-image in me, the image of God is in me. And the Hindus would say that there is the atman in me. And I say to you “Thou art God” and I need you to say to me “Thou art God” in order to acknowledge that thing in me that is bigger than me. (Robert Moore, Archetype, Compulsion, and Healing, Lecture 2)
Moore’s most detailed exposition of Kohut’s self-psychology is found in the second lecture of his Archetype, Compulsion, and Healing seminar. The above quote can be found at 44:16.
Unexpectedly, Moore intuits the God-image behind narcissistic needs. This means that the drive for grandiosity cannot be repressed or dispensed with, as it is an intimate connection between man and the transcendental, the great Other inside. Given its propensity to overwhelm us, what we are left with is having to transmute grandiosity by relating to it in a healthy way.
The starkness of this choice has a terrible simplicity: you can either become conscious or stay unconscious of the reality and presence of the dragon [of personal and spiritual grandiosity]. This great turn from being asleep at the wheel to an alert knowing of the powerful proximity of the great Other is the most important gnosis you can ever possess about your personal, social, or spiritual life. (Robert Moore, Facing the Dragon)
Grandiosity and Inflation
Moore’s presentation of Kohut leads us to see how correct Jung was about inflation (see The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious, CW 7). Without ritualistic psychic hygiene or the presence of a healthy container like the Church, the ego can easily succumb to unconscious identification with contents of the psyche that is not itself. Once under the spell of grandiosity (or any other complex accompanied by its archetypal configuration), inflation causes us to lose all relatedness. The human ego has been hijacked and we act out from the standpoint of the inflation releasing impersonal, untransformed, unadapted, uncontextualized, archaic archetypal energies into the world.
In this sense, Moore argues that there is no such thing as archetypal energy that is not dangerous. By definition, archetypal energies are numinous, thus loaded with untransformed, uncivilized energies. He goes as far as describing archetypes as the “nuclear reactor cores of the psyche” (Robert Moore, From Chaos to Cosmos seminar). Thus when the ego gets too close to an archetype, it plugs into a source of energy whose enormous power is threatening to fragment the cohesiveness of the psyche, a danger that has been repeatedly pointed out by Jung.
The characteristic feature of a pathological reaction is, above all, identification with the archetype. This produces a sort of inflation and possession by the emergent contents, so that they pour out in a torrent which no therapy can stop. Identification can, in favourable cases, sometimes pass off as a more or less harmless inflation. But in all cases identification with the unconscious brings a weakening of consciousness, and herein lies the danger. You do not “make” an identification, you do not “identify yourself,” but you experience your identity with the archetype in an unconscious way and so are possessed by it. Hence in more difficult cases it is far more necessary to strengthen and consolidate the ego than to understand and assimilate the products of the unconscious. (Carl Jung, A Study in the Process of Individuation, CW 9i, par 621)
Inflation and Wholeness
Out of all the possible archetypal identification, the most dangerous one is when the ego is identified with the self. Edinger refers to this state as the primary inflation of original wholeness, the ego-self identity.
I use the term inflation to describe the attitude and the state which accompanies the identification of the ego with the Self. It is a state in which something small (the ego) has arrogated to itself the qualities of something larger (the Self) and hence is blown up beyond the limits of its proper size.
We are born in a state of inflation. In earliest infancy, no ego or consciousness exists. All is in the unconscious. The latent ego is in complete identification with the Self. The Self is born, but the ego is made; and in the beginning all is Self. This state is described by Neumann as the uroborus (the tail-eating serpent). Since the Self is the center and totality of being, the ego totally identified with the Self experiences itself as a deity. . . . This is the original state of unconscious wholeness and perfection which is responsible for the nostalgia we all have toward our origins, both personal and historical. (Edward Edinger, Ego and Archetype, Inflation and Original Wholeness)
To be read from top to bottom. As the child attempts to do human figures, they first emerge as circles, contrary to all visual experience, with the arms and legs being represented only as raylike extensions of the circle. These studies provide clear empirical data indicating that the young child experiences the human being as a round, mandala-like structure[.] (A discussion of Kellogg, Rhoda, Analyzing Children’s Art, found in Edinger’s Ego and Archetype)
If the state of ego-self identity is appropriate for children, it is not for adult development.
In its early stages, the goal of individuation is to develop the ego so that it can extract itself from its pure but unconscious maternal background before consciously relating to it in the later stages. If one fails to establish a resilient ego capable of introspective self-criticism, falling back into unconscious identification is guaranteed.
The Problem of Regulation of Archetypal Energies
Given the intractable problem of inflationary grandiosity, Moore’s primary concern is the issue of containment and regulation of archetypal energies, not contact with them.
I’m not a romantic Jungian. I don’t romanticize archetypal energies. Archetypal energies are fire and they burn you up if you don’t have respect for them. Of course, you freeze to death if you don’t have them, if you don’t have access to them. But if you just jump in, you know, without thoughtfulness, respect, and ritual—if you have no ritual process, no ritual containment, you will struggle immensely with these grandiose psychic and spiritual energies. (Robert Moore, Transforming Fire seminar, Lecture 1 at 10:20, the quote was slightly altered for reading purposes)
If resuming contact with the numinous is what is most attractive to people who have lost a sense of meaning and direction in their lives, there is no guarantee that, if they were to have such an experience, they would be able to self-regulate. Contact with the numinous is a highly disorienting experience that can further fragment the psyche of someone with an unprepared ego.
In truth, being in contact with the unconscious is a very easy task, as dreaming readily proves. But to regulate such material in a positive, integrated, non-inflationary manner is difficult enough that it is often preferable for the channel to be closed until a certain level of maturity is reached.
You are wired for incredibly powerful instinctual experiences and encounters with instinctual energy. And there are a lot of folks in our world that have not done any balancing of these lines of development. And they have got their fingers in the psyche. And they are in effect shooting up with untransformed, untransmuted, and internalized archetypal energy. Read that archaic energy. Read that dangerous, fragmenting energy.
Robert Moore, Journey to the Center, part 3: Centering the Self, 39:42
The above quote can be found at 39:42.
Building a Psychospiritual Ark
So how does one regulate inflationary tendencies? Moore’s solution is to create a vessel that can contain (and ideally bless) archetypal energies. If the vessel is correctly set up, most potential conflicts are deprived of their numinous character and become manageable.
This vessel can be seen in an extraverted manner. For instance, a dojo with its sensei is a sacred place to learn the ethical art of fighting. By setting appropriate boundaries, the numinosity of aggression is contained and can even be forcefully neutralized if necessary. Analysis, therapy, or any similar effort (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous) can also be seen as vessels that attempt to deal with highly charged emotional issues that cannot be dealt with in public. Similarly, religious groups are enclaves, containers against being alienated or flooded by the sacred.
In fact, any community actively stewarded by a ritual elder can be seen as a potential sacred place where initiation takes place well or badly. Sadly, the latter has become predominant. Without competent elders, the purpose of initiation has been lost and sacred spaces have become sterile. This is why, for instance, so many men are drawn to gangs, because there is still a possibility for real male initiation to take place in such spaces.
The vessel can also be seen in an introverted manner as an inner temple, a mystical space where the ego is facing its complex interiority. Moore calls this inner structure the self (not to be confused with the self as an archetype). Thus, the Moorean self is the vessel that mediates the interactions between the ego and the great Other, the Great Self Within. In this configuration, attributes like self-esteem, self-worth, self-organization, self-structure are meant to describe the capacities and maturity of the self as a vessel.
Taking inspiration from Jung’s Aion, Moore established that the self has a pyramidal structure with each side of the base representing an archetypal line of development. This is where his work on King, Warrior, Magician, Lover comes in.
All schemas from Robert Moore Media
Seen from above, the pyramidal self is made of both fragmenting tensions, where the energies of the self become differentiated into one of the quadrants, and integrative movements, where the differentiated archetypal capacities consolidate into the whole personality.
As it is the case with all archetypes, development always starts one-sided but can only be integrated in its fullness. Thus the ideal goal is not only for the self to be able to have access to the four lines of development but to be able to manifest them in a balanced way depending on the needs of a given situation.
Why is this model important and how is it useful?
Taking inspiration from Freud, Moore believes that we are always on the border of psychosis for two reasons. First, the self-organization in our psyche is not as good as we think and our psychic circuits are constantly overloaded. Second, there are enormous instinctual energies available that threaten the cohesion of the self at any time. Given these two assumptions, Moore is convinced that healing is mainly about structuralization, because a resilient structure provides us the capacity to self-regulate.
In other words, symptoms appear when the self-structure is unable to maintain its integrity and starts to fragment. This means that archetypal energies are no longer mediated and flow straight to the ego. In this situation, it is up to the structural therapist to look past the symptoms and approach the functioning of the system as a whole. One must not focus on the damage caused by the leak but find its origin upstream. The task of structural analysis then is to balance the four quadrants by improving each part and the whole.
Another major therapeutic focus of a structural model includes healing splits by working on recollecting idealizing transferences. For instance, if our warrior is not “online”, we are projecting it onto someone else, making him carry our own gifts and power. This projection is dangerous for both the carrier, who can turn psychotic under the load of expectations, and the one who projects, who remains in impotent victimhood. Moving from idealization to incarnation is an essential part of developing each quadrant.
Structural Analysis and the Inferior Function
The other importance of this structural model is the essential realization that one is usually hit at our weakest spot. Our most immature, least consolidated aspect is usually the one that defaults first, forcing the other parts of the system to make up for its deficiency. For instance, if one has issues with expressing feelings, the thinking function will have to work overtime to compensate. Similarly, if our lover is underdeveloped, we might find ourselves overusing the king, the warrior, or the magician to compensate.
In his book The Psyche on Stage, Edinger discusses the tragic hero.
The Shakespearean scholar A.C. Bradley speaks of the tragic hero in terms of a fatal flaw. This would correspond to what Jungian psychology knows as the problem of the inferior function. [See Psychological Types, CW 6, pars. 763ff; also Daryl Sharp, Personality Types: Jung’s Model of Typology, pp. 21ff]. One side of the circle of the personality is always undeveloped and open to the depths. The so-called fatal flaw is thus a typical and characteristic feature of the individual psyche. Bradley also speaks of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes as having “a fatal tendency to identify the whole being with one interest, object, passion, or habit of mind.” This, likewise, is a well-known psychological phenomenon in terms of the ego identifying with the superior function; but it leads to the ego’s falling victim to its greatest weakness. (Edward Edinger, The Psyche on Stage, pp. 74-75)
One of the fatal tragedies of individuation happens when one overdevelops the superior function while the inferior function remains untouched. The missing fourth is where our wholeness resides and yet developing it even lightly is of the utmost difficulty. Jung warned that it is impossible to bring the inferior function fully into consciousness but it does not mean one should never touch it either.
Between these two positions, I can testify that, as an introverted intuitive, I have been able to develop thinking and feeling in an adequate manner. However, every small attempt I make at using my extraverted sensation overwhelms me completely. I become unreasonably emotional and vitriolic as I look for any way to escape the situation I find myself in.
The Role of Spirituality
In distinction to most other depth psychologists, Moore believes that spirituality plays a key role in the development of the self.
If the self is conceptualized as a vessel, therapy can help to address the main cracks of the structure. Once the vessel is consolidated, we can work on balancing the opposites by learning to regulate inflationary tendencies. This will lead us to develop a relationship between the ego and the archetypal self, which will be confirmed by an increase in synchronicities.
But, according to Moore, all this work will not suffice to deal with the constant pouring of libido. Our vessel will always overflow, no matter how perfected it is. And the flooding of these instinctual energies is always at risk to destroy us.
This is where ritual or spiritual practices (such as found in Rumi) can help us to deal with the excess libido that threatens our sanity. By adopting a sacrificial attitude, the ego can learn to return the surplus libido in devotion to the great Other, a task as simple and as complex as asking “Who does the grail serve?”
It all comes down to this: we can either consciously sacrifice our infantile grandiosity in an internal manner to “serve the grail” or we risk acting out our narcissistic needs externally. The latter can be terribly destructive as we displace the sacrificial cost from within to without.
Appendix – Nietzsche and Zarathustra
As we have seen, there are two main difficulties with the problem of infantile pathological narcissism.
The first one is the state of ego-self identity, where the ego has never been detached from the archetypal self. One must go through a long, painful, and alienating development of ego-consciousness to not fall back into this identification. The problem here is that aging alone is not sufficient. Only a series of initiation and rites of passage can foster the adequate development necessary to move from an immature ego to a mature ego.
[Jung] knew how hard this was. To have an ego actually begin to be able to differentiate from all this instinctual flooding. Is that like Freud? You bet. […] The struggle to emerge into a functional consciousness that works from your instinctual substrates, archetypal substrates, primal substrates. I like to say “220,000-volt substrates”. This is hugely difficult and mostly honored in the breach. That is, most people do not achieve very much differentiation. (JP40 | An Overview of the Research Discoveries Leading to Neo-Jungian Structural Psychoanalysis, at 1:04:33)
The second problem is, even when the ego has reached a robust and autonomous state, the conscious realization of the second center of the psyche, the Great Self Within, can be devastating.
When a summit of life is reached, when the bud unfolds and from the lesser the greater emerges, then, as Nietzsche says, “One becomes Two,” and the greater figure, which one always was but which remained invisible, appears to the lesser personality with the force of a revelation. He who is truly and hopelessly little will always drag the revelation of the greater down to the level of his littleness, and will never understand that the day of judgment for his littleness has dawned. But the man who is inwardly great will know that the long expected friend of his soul, the immortal one, has now really come, “to lead captivity captive”; that is, to seize hold of him by whom this immortal had always been confined and held prisoner, and to make his life flow into that greater life—a moment of deadliest peril! Nietzsche’s prophetic vision of the Tightrope Walker reveals the awful danger that lies in having a “tightrope-walking” attitude towards an event to which St. Paul gave the most exalted name he could find. (Carl Jung, Concerning Rebirth, CW 9i, par 217)
If St. Paul’s conversion at Damascus is an example of a positive outcome of an encounter with the self, one must have a closer look at Nietzsche and Zarathustra from the perspective of what went wrong. The failure of Nietzsche to be able to contain Zarathustra is of utmost importance for modern man who is more likely to be in this category.
As Edinger points out, the revelation of Zarathustra has been contaminated by the frail and morbid ego of Nietzsche, victim of an identification with the self and a failure to integrate his shadow. If we are to learn anything from Nietzsche’s martyrdom, it is that our task is to separate our own Zarathustra from our own Nietzsche.
Edinger describes three encounters with the self. The part about Nietzsche starts around 47:55 up to 1:18:00.
Edinger’s review of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939
Conclusion, Part 1: Individuation in Apocalyptic Times
Robert Moore’s essential addition to the discussion of the collective unconscious is that archetypal energies are imperialistic. This means that they will drive the most unconscious among us to go through a literal acting out of their repressed developmental needs.
Jung writes that “the urge and compulsion to self-realization is a law of nature and thus of invincible power” (Carl Jung, The Psychology of the Child Archetype, CW 9i, par 289) and this urge is ineluctable as individuation is equipped in such a manner that it is “an incarnation of the inability to do otherwise“. (ibid.)
This means that archetypal energies are both friends and enemies in the task of individuation. They can either propel us forward or drag us into our own personal hell while we are kicking and screaming. When individuation is repressed or when one is too unconscious to do any inner work, archetypal forces take over and lead us into involuntary individuation, a most perilous thing in apocalyptic times.
Winston Marshall: I wondered if there’s a Jordan Peterson prediction. If Dostoevsky said socialism would kill 100 million, if Nietzsche said that we’ve killed God and there won’t be enough water to mop up the blood, what’s your prediction for the future? What do you see?
Jordan Peterson: Well, I’ve thought this for quite a long time but it’s more obvious now. We’ll either subject ourselves to an internal or an external approximation of the Apocalypse. And so we can either get our act together, which means to voluntarily subject ourselves to the flaming sword as an individual or that will be impressed upon us as a necessity from without. And how intense that will get? We’re going to find out because it’s coming very fast and this is going to be a rough winter. And we’ve done everything we could to make it rough because this is—whatever happens this winter is pretty much one hundred percent self-inflicted.Jordan Peterson: The Book of Revelation, Ronaldo and the role of the artist | SpectatorTV, at 1:18:59
Conclusion, Part 2: Moore’s Contribution as a Neo-Jungian
Late in his life, Moore discovered that his structural work was not in the footsteps of Jung but of Toni Wolff, as her Structural Forms of the Feminine Psyche can attest. According to Moore, this paper was one of the causes that led to a split between Wolff and Jung, as Jung did not agree with the direction of her work (Robert Moore, A Neo-Jungian Mapping of the Psyche seminar). This is why he defines himself as Neo-Jungian, as he attempts to bring psychological knowledge into other scientific frameworks while remaining true to their discovery. This led him to formalize the self as made up of four archetypes.
It’s important to point out that Moore does not believe the psyche is made of only four archetypes, rather that the King/Queen, Warrior, Lover, Magician are the most important lines of development in the establishment of the male and female psyche.
While I can agree with the reasoning behind this project and the necessity of dealing with parts and the whole, I have never been interested in this formalization. Out of all the hundreds of hours of seminars available online, my intuition has always been attracted by everything else but this part of his material.
It must also be said that, as someone who works with dreams, I have almost never found kings, warriors, magicians, or lovers in mine. Instead, I have to contend with animals (wolves, spiders, cockroaches), feminine characters (mother, wife, sister) and the recurring masculine characters have either a Promethean, religious or fatherly dimension. Therefore I see little utility to work with a model that singles out archetypal lines of development that are not emphasized by the unconscious in my own development. In fact, I have the highest doubt that the project of singling out archetypal lines of development can be achieved without being highly reductive.
In any case, I still see some positive value in a structural model, even if I prefer arguing from the standpoint of the inferior function rather than archetypal lines of development. For instance, I am optimistic that Moore would be enthusiastic about the concept of therapeutic progressive exposure, where one exposes oneself to a challenging situation in a slow, careful, strategic manner. If done safely, progressive exposure allows us to safely confront our fears, embrace our limitations, and ultimately bring more of our own capacities into this world.
A second criticism can be found in the lack of discussion about feminine initiation. To the best of my knowledge, if Moore talks a lot about initiation by ritual elders (men or women), I have never heard him talk about the special case of feminine initiation.
In the way I understand this material, masculine initiations are mostly about building up the ego out of the unconscious, as they are focused on the transition from boyhood to manhood. On the other hand, feminine initiations are about reconnecting the ego with the dynamism of life, which will always remain beyond logic, reason, or any fixed assumptions. In a feminine initiation, one learns to be perceptive, versatile, and tender as the feminine side of life works like the waves of the ocean, always flowing in and out of sight.
If I use gendered language, it is to signify that ‘masculine’ is related to the active principle of consciousness as logos whereas the ‘feminine’ is related to the receptive, nurturing principle of the unconscious as eros.
In this regard, dreams can be seen as a special form of feminine self-initiation (i.e. led by the self). This is where individuation shares some commonality with initiatory mystery cults, such as the Eleusinian or Mithraic Mysteries (see Richard Noll’s Mysteria: Jung & the Ancient Mysteries), or to the Eastern Orthodox concept of theosis.
Finally, following the same line of thinking of the previous point, when Moore starts to talk about evil as infantile pathological grandiosity, I can’t help but notice this is a very masculine description of evil. And so I ask myself where is the feminine side of this evil?
If masculine grandiosity is about “perpetrating and propagating a flood of hell energies”, one can easily intuit that feminine infantile pathological narcissism can be described as “nurturing hellish energies”, which can come up in many different kinds.
In its passive form, complacency, denial, apathy, repression, … all let problems get bigger as we are unwilling or unable to attend to them. In this category, one can add other behaviors such as lack of responsibility, victim mentality, and sacrificial nature.
In its active form, we find misguided motherly instincts (such as pathological altruism) misidentifying potential predators for defenseless children. In fact, there is a whole category of more or less conscious nurturing of infernal traits, such as women being sexually aroused by serial killers (hybristophilia) or mother who cheers at their child becoming suicide bombers (deMause, Lloyd. If I Blow Myself Up and Become a Martyr, I’ll Finally be Loved. reference, pdf, audio version).
In any case, the problem of the feminine side of evil is no light task and we will need help from the bravest, most merciful, and wisest among us to go through this yet underexplored facet of the human experience.
Please consider sharing this article further or donating.
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!