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of Psychological Complexes

by Dane Rudhyar

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Chapter Two
Complexes Affecting the
Roots of Individual Existence

In the first chapter I defined complexes as semi-autonomous groups of rigidly set and unyielding psychic contents (ideas, feelings, sensations) existing within the personality in a mostly unconscious condition, and able to influence or completely control the reactions of the personality to some particular type of new experiences. I added that the source of all complexes is fear and a sense of defeat or inferiority, and that these bio-psychological feeling-reactions to experienced (or about-to-be-experienced) events are produced when a negative attitude to life is held by the individual an attitude based on his picturing himself as a weak entity opposed by far more forceful entities or natural energies, in a universe in which everything is decided by a sheer contest of strength.
      Whether man regards himself as simply a physical body led by basic instincts, or as a bio-psychic organism controlled, as far as such control is possible, by a conscious ego, the fact remains that he is normally an organic whole; and the essential characteristic of all organic wholes is that their activities are motivated (consciously or unconsciously) by a few basic "functions." All organisms display functional activities, each of which takes care of one of the necessary requirements of the organism's existence.
      At the level of the body, these functional activities are performed by specialized organs or systems, such as the breathing apparatus, the circulatory and nervous systems, the organs responsible for food-metabolism, the endocrine and procreative glands, etc. These functional activities of the body have corresponding psychic manifestations and overtones. We know them as the basic "drives" of the personal inner life; drives which either may be entirely dominated by physiological instincts, or may acquire new and transcendent or abstract characteristics by developing consciously at the mental level in at least relative independence from the unconscious and compulsive nature of these instincts. In other words, a man's basic functional activities at the biological level can become "individualized" and conscious, thus increasingly subservient to the dictatorial rule of the ego, king in the realm of individualized consciousness. They become known and evaluated as, or transformed into, emotions and concepts, ideals and symbols.
      While there are but few basic instincts at the level of body functioning, the related psychic drives can be developed and varied almost infinitely through the power of collective culture and social ideologies, as well as through the use of individual imagination. Imagination is essentially the capacity to transform biological instincts into a multiplicity of symbolic activities or significant images; to build intricate dramas, rituals or comedies (and as well, dreams) out of the substance of the biological, then social, acts through which the basic functions in man's life operate. One has only to consider the extraordinarily involved, subtle and far-fetched ways in which the basically simple theme of sexual activity has been expressed and developed through myriads of cultural and individual variations in order to realize how human imagination works.
      The reproductive function which is the foundation of all complex sexual activities, feelings, images and concepts is, however, only one out of several basic biological functions necessary for the complete manifestation of the life-potential inherent in the human species. It represents only one of the basic needs of the human organism. These can be classified in several ways; but the most inclusive manner (for it takes in the psychological as well as the physical levels) seems to be one in which four essential functions, urges, drives, or channels for the use of energy are distinguished, as follows:

1. The urge to be a particular being.
2. The urge to maintain the characteristic form or temperament of this particular being.
3. The urge to reproduce it.
4. The urge to transform it according to some kind of purpose.

      Each of these urges can operate in a positive and in a negative way: thus, as an anabolic or catabolic force. Each can, in its desire for satisfaction, spread over the whole field of the body-mind organism, unless it is checked by the other functional activities and kept within its place by the power that structures this organism. This power is fundamentally the self, if the self is considered as the basic rhythm and power that undertones all biological and psychological functions.(1) So conceived, the self constitutes a particular and essentially individual form of life-energy; but it is linked with and, in a sense, it emanates from a spiritual factor which, for lack of a better term, I shall call the Soul.
      However, at the level of the consciousness of a particular person the structuring function of the self is assumed most of the time by the collective patterns of the society and culture in which the child is born. These patterns control the development of the consciousness of the infant, and together with the influence of the parents and of the environmental conditions of life they mold directly or indirectly, positively or negatively, what we call the ego of the child.
      The ego represents the structure of the field of consciousness; it defines the way a person consciously and habitually reacts to the challenges and opportunities of everyday life. Though in its most obvious aspect the ego can be called a social construct, it also appears to the consciousness as its center, its ruling principle. Yet it has only a very relative degree of permanence and it can easily become identified only, or mainly, with some function or emotional reaction of the organism-as-a-whole. A man says "I," and by that refers actually in most cases to the ego, and not to the fundamental power which sustains and guides the development of his total being but which does so at an unconscious level. The "individual selfhood" of a man exists, most of the time, only at that deep level. What appears on the surface of consciousness somewhat related to this essential individuality, yet usurping its true function without being aware that it does so is the ego.
      The "urge to be a particular being" takes a conscious form in man as the ego especially in modern man. The ego seeks in any possible way to assert its being different from other egos; it adopts inevitably at first an exclusivistic approach to all life problems. In so doing it acts as any culture or society does, especially at the stage of tribal organization, it considers everything that is not itself alien a dangerous "foreigner." There is no such exclusivism in the self, for while each self has unique characteristics, all selves can be considered as overtones of the vast all-inclusive fundamental tone of Man and in a still broader sense of the entire universe.
      The ego and its urge to be different should be referred mainly to Saturn, for Saturn is the principle which builds everywhere boundaries isolating the inside from the outside. Saturn means therefore the separation of the individual person from the larger whole of humanity or even from any group within which this person operates; but Saturn also brings consciousness to a focus. It condenses and concentrates the consciousness, and without this focusing power of Saturn there would be no steady personal character, no society, no transfer of knowledge from generation to generation.
      Saturn needs the Moon in order to act; for while Saturn is form, the Moon represents the life-contents gathered within, and structured by, this form. The Moon represents the capacity for organic adaptation to circumstances in terms of the particular type of response defined by Saturn.
      Each of the four basic urges above defined relates to a pair of planets. The pair Saturn-Moon refers to the urge to be a particular being; this urge, when acting at the strictly conscious level, identifies Saturn with the ego. Yet in a deeper sense there is also something of Saturn in the self, for even the most open and spiritually inclusive individual is distinct from other individuals. But "distinctness" should not be confused with the sense of exclusiveness and unyielding difference which characterizes the ego, at least in the modern psychological sense of this term.
      Jupiter, as we shall see later, essentially refers to the social sense, for it is thanks to the capacity in man for association and cooperation that man can preserve himself in the dangerous environment of the jungle; and our city-jungle is nearly as dangerous as the primeval forest. Jupiter is thus the preserver. It maintains what has been defined by Saturn; it does so in relation to Mercury which is the principle of relatedness, the power of association of sensations through the nervous system, and of association of images through the concept-producing intellect.
      The pair Mars-Venus represents the third or reproductive urge either biologically through sexual acts, or mentally through the projection of imagined forms (works of art, etc.) and cultural values. As to the fourth, or transforming urge, we can witness its operation in man according to the rhythm established in the sky by the planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Each urge represents a special aspect of the life-force and of the psychic energy in man. Whenever the release of this bio-psychic energy is thwarted, deviated or dammed in, conditions arise which may lead (yet do not have to lead) to the formation of complexes; to each of the four basic urges corresponds a typical class of complexes, and it is these classes which we shall now study with reference to their astrological connotations.
      The Saturn-Moon function is the root-function of any specifically individualized existence. Any living entity which can be considered as a relatively complete and self-sufficient biological and/or psychological unit must have limits, boundaries, and special or individual characteristics which make it "different" from other entities. This difference manifests in various ways and at various levels. A cat is different from an elephant; and the difference here is a difference between two genera, two kinds of animal groups. It is a generic difference, while the difference between two cats of the same species is an individual difference or rather distinction.
      In the human kingdom we may assert that every human being should be considered as one whole species; while humanity as a whole is somewhat like an entire genus or class. At any rate, every man is characterized by generic (racial) and collective (cultural) differences, as well as by individual differences. Saturn symbolizes both types, according as a group of men or a particular person is considered. Every man has a "human" skeleton and posture, which differentiates him from other mammals; and this body framework is "ruled" by the generic Saturn at the strictly biological and unconscious level. But every modern individual has also an ego, which defines and limits the field of his consciousness and gives a relatively set structure to his conscious inner life; this ego is the individual Saturn.
      Modern man, moreover, has established what he considers as the correct structure and pattern of all reliable thinking: viz., logic. Logic, as we know it in our Western civilization, is a culturally defined collective expression of the Saturn function at the level of mental activities. Yet every mentally developed individual ego has certain ways of thinking which are his own, inasmuch as they grew out of his own reactions to a relatively unique series of life-experiences. These "ways of thinking" may conform to the collectively determined patterns of modern man's logic, or they may differ from them in some particulars an individual difference also to be related to the Saturn function, but in intimate connection with the Moon function which deals with the individual's capacity to adjust his mind to his own relatively unique life-experience.
      When we find such individual differences in thinking and in the way in which the individual ego faces the events of his life common to all men, we speak of differences in "mentality" and in "character." The more basic of the two are differences in character; for "character" (at least at the strictly personal level) should be defined in this connection as the sum-total of the individual traits of the ego thus as the outward manifestation of the ego structure (Saturn) and as the individualized manner in which the person adjusts himself consciously to his life-experiences (Moon).
      By "character" we mean, thus, the personality of a man; that which differentiates him from other men, and which he has built through series of reactions to experience. When reactions to certain typical experiences follow rigidly set paths which remain the same even though outer conditions and life-needs (biological and psychological) have changed, then the Saturn function is shown to have overwhelmed in these instances the Moon function of adaptation. This shows that a complex has been formed. The cooperation between the trend toward individualization of character and the need to adjust oneself to outer circumstances and crises of inner growth has been broken. The former has repressed and stalled the latter in some particular direction and, at times, in all directions. The Moon function has become subservient to, or enslaved by the Saturn function.
      This, obviously, can happen in two ways: either the Saturn function grows stronger than the normal organic balance requires, or the Moon function becomes too weak as a result of its having been injured by a shock or by lack of materials to feed its growth. Every organic function develops normally through exercise and atrophies through lack of use or abuse. Moreover, any organ and cell of the body needs special food if it is to discharge its functional task. The same is true at the psychological level. The biological-generic Saturn needs calcium to build a strong and resilient skeleton; and the psychological-individual Saturn needs the experience of authority, of moral firmness in short, of character in order to build a strong and resilient ego.
      This kind of Saturn-stimulating experience is normally brought within the field of consciousness of the young child by his contacts with his father. Likewise, the kind of experience best able to stimulate the Moon function of the infant is gained through his contacts with his mother, because the mother attends to his everyday requirements, adjusting her and the child's positions to changing outer circumstances (light and darkness, warmth and cold, etc.) and to the child's changing inner needs (hunger and disposal of waste-products; but also the need for enveloping tenderness and comfort in a strangely alien world).
      In order to be a true father (that is, in order to meet the child's need for experiencing the characteristic Saturnian attributes of fatherhood) the actual father has to embody in the eyes of his child solidity, firmness, authority, security, rectitude, justice, morality, etc. Likewise, in order to be a true mother an actual mother must effectively demonstrate the characteristic lunar traits of devoted service and the ability to cope with all everyday emergencies, to feed the child's body with food and his psyche with tenderness, to provide physical rest and emotional comfort, peace and harmony, to act as intermediary between the conscious and familiar realm of the home and the disturbing outer world of dangerous things and unfamiliar or inimical human beings.
      What the modern psychologist calls the "mother-image" and the "father-image" are built in every child's consciousness by his reactions to the way in which his mother and his father actually embody in his presence the above-defined ideals of the Father and the Mother thus filling his need for having his Saturn and Moon functions stimulated and enriched by parental example. The child's consciousness grows by assimilating the living examples around him (by imitation). It may also develop, in case of hurt and deprivation, by rejecting these environmental examples; but then growth occurs under stress and strain, and complexes occur.
      Saturn symbolizes the ideal father and the father-image in the child; the Moon stands for the ideal mother and the mother image. Either of the two images can be so dominant as to weaken the other, and also the activities of the remaining basic functions. Either image can be negative and dark, obscured by fear, resentment or misunderstanding or underdeveloped and dreamlike because of lack of real living contact with father or mother, thus leaving a zone of emptiness in the psyche, which some other function will try, inadequately as a rule, to fill.
      In all these negative cases where the Saturn or Moon function fails to operate and develop according to the normal requirements (1) of generic human growth and (2) of the norm defined by a particular society and culture, a complex of one kind or another tends to form. Whether, as the process of youthful expansion in a social world goes on, the youth will actually harbor some typical complex with psychically destructive potentiality, or he will be able gradually to absorb and normalize the tendency to emotional rigidity, mental bias and compulsive unconscious behavior this depends upon what life brings him as he matures further and how his other basic functions operate. In any case, his individuality and the particular structure of his ego-reactions will have been affected and to some extent molded by the quality and the characteristic outlines of his father-image and mother-image.
      The mother-image occupies a primary place in the consciousness of the child, not only because the child is held within the mother's womb throughout the prenatal phase of life, but because the first great crisis of independent existence the shock of being delivered into a completely unknown world and to have to depend upon some external source for sustainment (food, etc.) deeply involves the relationship to the mother. Psychologists have recently given increasing attention to this birth-crisis (or birth trauma), and to the possibility that the modern "civilized" ways in which delivery occurs (under some kind of anesthetics in most cases) and feeding habits are introduced may have some deeply subconscious influence upon the earliest formation of the mother-image. This is undoubtedly true, and the main point is that birth is the beginning of a relatively independent existence and thus of the consciousness of individuality that is, of separation from the matrix in which the organism was rooted. From the psychic point of view, it is this sudden separation from the enveloping life and the uterine "sea" which causes the shock of birth. This shock produces vaguely conscious results, as the impression of separateness deepens through the repeated experience of what it implies-mainly, an increasingly definite sense of isolation and insecurity, of lack and of organic discomfort.
      The mother's feeding, care and caresses the warmth of her body which no doubt reawakens the memory of the intrauterine state and brings reassurance tends to counteract and neutralize the baby's feeling of fear born of isolation. Isolation is at first organic and physical; but gradually psychological overtones will develop. The physical "break" from the mother's womb is paralleled later on by a psychological break from the mother's psyche by what Dr. Kunkel calls the breakdown of the "primal We," the feeling of identification between mother and child.(2) This psychic separation is probably the most important crisis at the psychological level, and the more familiar type of mother complex derives from it.
      Separation from the mother, either at the biological or psychological level, poses problems of adaptation to the physical or the psychic environment. And it is when faced with such problems that the child looks to the mother (or anyone taking her place) as to an exemplar. When the exemplar proves inefficient or moves surrounded with fearful shadows, the mother-image turns dark; and the child's own lunar function of adaptation to everyday life becomes negative. He approaches life-experiences with a defeatist attitude, with fear or later perhaps, as a violent compensation, with aggressiveness.
      The father-image is less primary than the mother-image, because the father is more remote in biological experience for the new-born. The father's function becomes clearer to the child when he learns of an "outside world" beyond the limits of his home; already the father-image carries the implication of social behavior. Saturn, likewise, is far more remote than the Moon, whose changing light adequately symbolizes what the child must consider strange and inexplicable changes of moods and of love attitudes in his mother, according to the time of the day and to other, to him, puzzling circumstances; and Saturn has a close relationship to Jupiter, which is the basic symbol of all social and associative functions.
      Before we come to study the various kinds of complexes derived from the father and mother-images, I should bring to the reader's attention the fact that while the pair Saturn-Moon symbolizes the father and mother, there is also an essential polar relation between the Sun and Moon. This soli-lunar relation expresses the dynamic bi-polar nature of the life-force itself which animates both the biological and the psychological organism; and it is to it that we must refer the fecundative act which is the source of organic existence and produces the embryo. The male sperm polarizes a solar force rather than a Saturnian principle. And in the prenatal life, Saturn is hardly effective, only as bone-builder; and bones are yet very soft.
      Saturn's power begins as the biological organism is ready for individualization; when therefore the roots of the ego begin to develop. This occurs, first, at birth; then, in a new way, at the time when the "milk teeth" (born of mother substance symbolically at least) are superseded by permanent teeth, Saturnian teeth; thus, around the age of seven. While the intrauterine prenatal period sees the development of the Moon function (the power to exist in an outside world as an independent organism adjusting itself perpetually to circumstances), the first seven years of the life represent a corresponding "gestation" of the Saturn ego.
      Around seven, the father-image becomes definite and concrete then begins the formation of father-complexes if the image develops in a negative way. When earlier well-defined father-complexes occur in girls, they do not refer to Saturn as much as to the Sun for the actual father can also polarize the man-lover image for his daughter, an image symbolized in a woman's chart by the Sun. This is a very important distinction, which must not be forgotten when we seek to refer a father complex in a girl's life to a natal planet. In the boy's life the Moon represents the mother as an embodiment of both the mother function and the woman-image another highly significant fact, which I shall touch upon as indications of parental complexes in astrological birth charts are being discussed.

1. For a more detailed discussion of the nature of the self and of the ego I must refer the reader to my book The Planetarization of Consciousness. Ch. 3. (Harper and Row, N.Y. 1970).  Return

2. Dr. Fritz Kunkel was at first a disciple of Adler, but while in America during World War II, leaned increasingly toward Jung. He wrote several valuable books: In Search of Maturity, Creation Continues, Dear Ego, etc. (Scribners, N. Y.).  Return

By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1966 and 1976 by Dane Rudhyar
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