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stephen linsteadt

aion's shadow, stephen linsteadt

Collective Unconscious (Aion's Shadow)

We found this horned creature above the main square of Valparaiso, somewhere around Ave. Lautaro Rosas. Next to it was a mirror painted with some magical symbols and an inscription inviting the viewer to peer in to see their true self. By that time the glass was mostly broken so maybe bad luck for us. I was taken by the gaze of the horned being with its dual personality, not quite sure which side was really looking at you. The immediate and obvious symbol was one of good versus evil; the almost smiling, wide-eyed stare of good on the right juxtaposed to the more sinister gaze of the demon with gnashing teeth on the left. There was only a hint of what appeared to be horns, could have easily been the fluffy ears of someone’s favorite stuffed animal. Either way this creature was schytso.

I was later reminded of the horns of Moses. Even Michelangelo sculpted Moses with horns based on a bad Latin translation that was later understood to mean “a radiant face” or a “face of enlightenment.” I am not aware of any other instance where the church has admitted a mistake in translation. Everything is to be taken literally except for that, I suppose. Most likely this was not the issue being portrayed by the young artist who brought this image into view in a flurry and a haste.

There is a red pentagram on the right side encompassed by a black circle. The five-pointed star can also be a symbol of mystical and magical significance, also associated with freemasonry. It has been used to represent Venus and/or Lucifer as the Morning Star – the bringer of light and knowledge. Red for mercurius or the rubedo – the alchemical symbol for achieving enlightened consciousness and the total fusion of spirit and matter. This is also the point of wholeness of the Self- note the circle around the star. It has also been used to represent the classical five elements, air, water, earth, fire, and ether (the divine). The pentagram has also been used as a military symbol. It was applied to a tyrannous Babylonian king prophesized destined to fall. And, perhaps this is the dual nature portrayed by our horned friend; a good vs. evil scenario.

Viewing this from the perspective of the youthful hand of its creator I ran across the video game “Ico” released in 2001. In the video game there is a horned boy, the protagonist, on a mission to save Yorda from her evil Queen Mother. Together they have to overcome shadow-like creatures and Ico keeps falling and losing consciousness in some underworld. He finds a magical sword and that helps him to save the day; depending on your skill level, of course. But again, this is the perfect example of the good vs. evil myth that so often emerges from the unconscious.

The vertical black arrow was something I added. These arrows were painted on the sides of the buildings at every corner to represent the flow of traffic. Somewhat confusing when you reach an intersection and you are told you have a simultaneous choice – this way or that, left or right, kind of a push-me-pull-you feeling. Vertically, it works in the painting, but also enhances the alchemical concept of “as above, so below.” The North South position juxtaposed to the horned figure’s left (evil), right (good) bearing forms the gnostic cross - the four directions, the unification of the elements; a wholeness, a union of opposites.

The question arises, why was it necessary to bring this image from the unconscious? What could be the bigger picture message? Why in Valparaiso?

There is also a dualism in the Chilean social-scape. Chile was under communist rule before Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship. The people of this country have not forgotten the hardships imposed by either of these two governments. Today, Chile is a democracy, but there is a feeling of tentativeness about it. One still sees the Che Guevara t-shirts and youth wearing his trademark cap, mostly ignorant of his eventual brutality and involvement with Castro’s communist regime. For them, he is an icon of liberation; speaking out against oppression.

Perhaps, then, our horned creature is a symbol of healing the past (note the pentagon is also the star on the Chilean flag), while incorporating the memory of what has gone before as a warning against the social polarization and exploitation of the working class behind their history of political and economic turmoil. It could just as easily be prophetic.

The graffiti tag was spontaneous, but resembled the letters “a-i-o-n.” I was surprised to discover that Carl Jung’s collective work contains a work (volume 9) entitled, “Aion - Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self.” Within this work is a piece titled, “The Shadow.” Jung discusses those archetypes that have a disturbing influence on the ego. The shadow, he says, “is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real….It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going…It is an unconscious factor which spins the illusions that veil his world. And what is being spun is a cocoon, which in the end will completely envelop him.”

The horned creature reminds us of our dual nature, i.e. our inner spiritual nature and our outward physical or materialistic nature. John Trudell brilliantly put it, “When we're born into this reality as human beings they say to us--not things of the spirit--they tell us that we don't have a spiritual identity, they tell us we have a religious identity and under that religious identity we are the trinity of the [slavery] chain: guilt, sin and blame. We've already "sinned" and we're already guilty and we [learn to] accept it.”

There is an article by Charlie Reese, reminding us that we have 545 people representing us between the President, Congress, the House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court Justices. There is no way we can be at war in Iraq, have a budget deficit, or a Bail Out Plan unless these people approve it. Therefore, we can not blame the President alone if we don’t like what is happening, we can only blame ourselves for electing these people to office in the first place. And, if we don’t like what is happening we have the power to vote every single one of these people responsible out of office (except the Justices). The problem is our own apathy, the cocoon we have spun around ourselves.

Trudell said in an interview:

“Now before "civilization" encroaches upon and turns human beings into "citizens"--the human beings always take that responsibility very seriously--but once "civilization" turns human beings into "citizens" then they no longer consider those responsibilities [to our original spirit and our intuition and our highly suppressed authentic selves]. My feeling is that because they have been severed spiritually from their consciousness, their [individual, informal, non-ideological] spiritual consciousness and had it replaced with a *religious* consciousness [--deindividualized, formalized, ideological, with beliefs subordinated to the desires and boundaries of coercive powers, i.e. the state] which is [much more limiting].

I might not be able to act upon it in any major way and any way I can act upon it may seem insignificant to me, but it's not insignificant. Because it's got to do with our belief...our minds...and if we believe the lie if we believe there are Presidential elections going on that we really have a choice in, then we're denying ourselves reality. So at least people if we can't do anything about it at this point other than to recognize the truth for what it is, let's do that. It's like we're all snowflakes and as soon as we sort our minds out and we make a more clear definition of reality in relationship to our responsibilities, then we will be a blizzard.”

The fact that Jung borrowed the term Aion from the Egyptian-Greek deity forms of Osiris-Dionysus points to the potential of illumination over our shadow selves. Therefore, the horned creature is looking into the eyes of each observer and asking where we are in relationship to our responsibilities.

 Copyright © 2009 Stephen Linsteadt. All rights reserved.