Part 2: A Journey From the Grips of Neuroticism

The Hostile Brothers and The Hero’s Journey

To begin, let us return to the story of the “hostile brothers.” The focus here will be on the “eternal adversary.” This idea is the archetype that is present when exploration of the unknown goes wrong. If we explore and are successful, we assimilate new territory and can live within that area with ease. When we do not, then we can begin to harbor contempt toward a world that has done wrong to us. Jordan Peterson explains the malevolent brother well:

“This “spirit of unbridled rationality,” horrified by his limited apprehension of the conditions of existence, shrinks from contact with everything he does not understand. This shrinking weakens his personality, no longer nourished by the “water of life,” and makes him rigid and authoritarian, as he clings desperately to the familiar, “rational,” and stable. Every deceitful retreat increases his fear; every new “protective law” increases his frustration, boredom and contempt for life. His weakness, in combination with his neurotic suffering, engenders resentment and hatred for existence itself.” [1] Pg. 307

To make this more of a journey, let us assume, that if we are feeling a general sense of malaise, that we at least in some respect have shrunk from something in our past that we could have better understood and properly integrated. So, at the very least, there is some psychic energy that is stuck that can only be liberated by us telling the truth and confronting what we before did not. This idea is an intimation back toward The Hero’s Journey. As Jordan Peterson teaches, the point here is that the first step toward confronting our issues is to realize where we are. Then we must envision where we need to go, and what we need to do to get there from here. The final step is understanding what the journey from here to there means. The Hero’s Journey includes this, but it also focuses on facing the unknown voluntarily. So, to begin on this path, we must start to realize where we are in our modern time. If we can agree that the origin of neurosis is fundamentally both an improper outlook on life, and deeper as a spiritual deprivation, then we at once should begin here.

The Modern Man

It is critical to introduce a term that was at the very least developed extensively by Carl Gustav Jung known as “The Modern Man.” This term represents any person, who focuses extensively on the here and now. In many ways, it sounds great to be a “Modern Man or Woman” as they stand at the tip of the spear, the top of the mountain with the entire sky above, and earth below (symbolism used by Jung). However, upon a deeper look, things become unsettling when we start to understand the spiritual yearning present within us all. We are all inclined to “believe” something. In modern times, many theistic religions have been replaced by things such as science, humanism, or consumerism. Regardless, the “Modern Human” if you will, is someone who is non-historical. This concept means, they do not look to the past to garner insights, wisdom, or knowledge. It is their goal in life to “discover themselves” or to “do their own thing.”

Here it is essential that I bring in my mindset. When I first read the essay by C.G. Jung entitled, “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man,” I was excited by this figure he called “Modern Man.” I completely identified with this sort of “Renaissance Man.” It took me several times of reading this essay, to realize, he, was introducing my persona, and then at best calling it into question and more honestly condemning it. This concept in combination with my slow learning of the unconscious and things such as the archetypes have fundamentally changed my outlook on the world and the approach that I am taking.

“I have found that modern man has an ineradicable aversion for traditional opinions and inherited truths. He is a Bolshevist for whom all the spiritual standards and forms of the past have lost their validity, and who therefore wants to experiment in the world of the spirit as the Bolshevist experiments with economics. When confronted with this modern attitude, every ecclesiastical system is in a parlous state, be it Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, or Confucian. Among these moderns there are of course certain of those denigrating, destructive and perverse natures - unbalanced eccentrics - who are never satisfied anywhere, and who therefore flock to every new banner, much to the hurt of these movements and undertakings, in the hope of finding something for once which will atone at a low cost for their own insufficiency. … Every one of them has the feeling that our religious truths have somehow or other grown empty. Either they cannot reconcile the scientific and the religious outlooks or Christian tenets have lost their authority and their psychological justification. People no longer feel themselves to have been redeemed by the death of Christ; they cannot believe - they cannot compel themselves to believe, however happy they may deem the man who has a belief. Sin has for them become something quite relative: what is evil for the one, is good for the other. After all, why should not Buddha be in the right, also?” [2] Pg. 231 - 232

I was the one who was “trying on” different religions because I was spiritually starving. I was baptized Catholic, and at a young age, followed in my father's footsteps as I became an atheist. I quickly developed into the malevolent twin introduced above. The world was a cold, hard, dark and evil place. I became afraid of many things, and instead of moving forthrightly toward those things, I shrank away. It got so bad that there was a common saying going around, spread by me in particular “life sucks, and then you die.” Now, perhaps this was largely fueled by many predominantly negative experiences in my life. One thing I know for sure, I was untethered, I had no spiritual practice, nor did I know much about what the term “spiritual” meant.

This floating went on for quite some time. It was not until I went to grad school that I became acquainted with the notion of something “spiritual.” This time, it was in the form of a new age term, coined “spirituality.” This notion fit my mind well as I was studying to be an engineer, and I had taken pretty strongly to science. If there was no evidence, I was not about to support an ideology. This notion of being “spiritual” allowed me to drink some sustenance into my spiritual side - of which I was unknowingly famished for until I had tasted it - while not having to abandon science. Because I was so thirsty and curious, I began to pull on the ball of yarn to see where it would take me. I spent countless hours reading about Buddhism, Zen, Yoga, Hinduism, Meditation, Mindfulness, etc. The more I learned, the more I realized that there was something inside of me that was starving for this spiritual knowledge. It got to the point, where I realized that this knowledge must be spread. This idea is why I started writing a book several years ago. I felt compelled to share this wisdom with the world in the hopes that it would help everyone, little did I know, this was but the start of my journey.

I am a lifelong learner, and my curiosity is insatiable. As of late, my viewpoint on a lot of this has changed. I enjoy the mindset the yogis of the east harbor. However, I think that if we blindly pursue these other religions, that we are placing ourselves at risk for either becoming shipwrecked, utilizing them as a distraction or worse yet a new found ego identity.

A New Interpretation of Religion

I think of religions this way; they are systems that are fundamentally opposed to the societal group construct. Societal systems are designed to program us in some way. This notion is often seen as a culture. These systems allow us to cooperate and live in harmony across vast geographical areas. The systems in place are particular to a specific set of people, a culture. These societal systems have been developed to support the group, not the individual. Each different society has created religious systems to address the particular programming present in each. This idea is to say they have formed one specific roadmap of the psyche present due to the set of people. This roadmap helps the people with this certain mindset to travel along the road, and to discover that they are living within a system. The map then shows them how to live well within that system at first, and finally to find liberation from that construct while still being an active member within it. We need these cultural rulebooks so that we can identify with and work within the group. However, there comes the point when we must realize that we as individuals are not the group and deriving our sense of self from them can be harmful. These roadmaps that are formed help us to see the way from the group to the individual, or as some like to call it, they are the pathways to liberation.

“The Bible, considered as a single story, presents this “process of maturation” in mythological terms.” [1] Pg. 369

This transformation is all difficult to see because it is mostly an internal (mental, and spiritual) shift. This concept is the individual transcending their self-identification with the group. It is particularly apparent in monks who can work within the world and not become stressed or anxious about anything.

The paramount point here is that there are specific maps for specific regions of society. If we try to take an illustration of China and use it to navigate within the United States, we are going to be lost for our entire lives.

“The modern man, moreover, is not eager to know in what way he can imitate Christ, but in what way he can live his own individual life, however meager and uninteresting it may be. It is because every form of imitation seems to him deadening and sterile that he rebels against the force of tradition that would hold him to well-trodden ways. All such roads, for him, lead in the wrong direction. He may not know it, but he behaves as if his own individual life were instinct with the will of God which must at all costs be fulfilled. This is the source of his egoism, which is one of the most tangible evils of the neurotic state. But the person who tells him he is too egoistic has lost his confidence, and rightly so, for that person has driven him still further into his neurosis.” [2] Pg. 237

With all of this being said, what does it have to do with neuroticism and The Hero’s Journey? The point is that the “Modern Person” is on a conquest to “find themselves.” To do this, we are told to “do what feels right.” This approach is an inevitable slide to moral relativism because what “feels right” to me, can be an atrocity to a person or people who are at the receiving end of my actions. So then, it is the job of the “Modern Hero” to not only go deeply within oneself but to go deeply into society, religion and mythology. It is our job to dig deep down into the human psyche to discover the basal knowledge that is within us all, that connects us with a common thread - known here as the collective unconscious. This collective unconscious is representative of one of the great unknowns. When we learn about this, we can bring the knowledge back and see how it aligns with mythology and religion. We can also begin to see how different religions symbolically show the various archetypes present in societies around the world. We can then move into the physical world and begin to discover the domain of the unknown. The highest achievement of the “Modern Hero” is to fully integrate their internal knowledge, with external wisdom to be properly oriented within the world. To allow the “Modern Hero” to move forthrightly toward those things that they fear voluntarily and to approach them with the mindset of the benevolent unknown. We can only do this; however, if we choose to follow the proper map that is connected with our being on a deeper level than mere superficiality.

“Healing may be called a religious problem. In the sphere of social or national relations, the state of suffering may be a civil war, and this state is to be cured by the Christian virtue of forgiveness for those who hate us. That which we try with conviction of good Christians to apply to external situations, we must also apply to the inner state in the treatment of neurosis. This is why modern man has heard enough about guilt and sin. He is sorely enough beset by his own bad conscience and wants rather learn how he is to reconcile himself with his own nature-how he is to love the enemy in his own heart and call the wolf his brother.” [2] Pg. 237

“This means that the true “believer” rises above dogmatic adherence to realize the soul of the heroto “incarnate that soul” - in every aspect of this day-to-day life.” [1] Pg. 369

Life as an Un-Concluded Journey

Now, as the author of an article, it is often understood that the subject matter being discussed should be fully assimilated and a conclusion drawn. It has been said, that if the author is exploring a topic while they write, then the story should not yet be told. It is my opinion that this is not necessarily proper. I pick up the pen (or type) to explore. This device is my weapon of choice for transforming chaos into order, in this case, I transform the chaos of my mind and what I have learned into ordered words on a page. Perhaps it is not always clear or well defined as at times it is neither of these in my brain. However, by exploring words, I allow myself to develop my thoughts. I believe that others can potentially discover something new in the way that I present things due to my unique outlook or combination of information.

The reason for this discourse about concluding what is written is that I have not completed my thoughts in this area. I do not consider myself a “Man of Faith” in the traditional sense. On the other hand, I see the major shortcomings of “Modern Man.” Perhaps this is the amount of open-mindedness and awareness that is necessary for proper pursuit and corresponding orientation in the world toward matters of the spirit. We can all conclude that there is a spiritual longing within us. We can all concede that what we have in this day an age is not sufficient to meet that need. Perhaps we cannot come to a common ground on the tool that is best to lead us out of this forest.

I have recently had an experience that has shifted my mind more toward the topic discussed earlier Christianity being a potentially more proper tool to combat this spiritual issue in the West. Again, I was moving down the path of being “spiritual” and less “religious” because it aligned more with my scientific outlook. Then, I started watching some of Jordan Peterson’s lectures and began to realize the rich symbolism that is present in works such as the Bible. This concept piqued my interest. I was still skeptical because of how Christianity is “sold” to us. It is something like “you must think like us, and you must fully accept Christ into your life as your savior.” These people preach this, but I have seen countless examples of them not “embodying Christ.” This notion is to say, they treat people poorly but repent their sins on Sunday. This approach to me does not add up. Then I was introduced to a man, who for once, seems to embody Christ. He is different from any other preacher that I have met. He is the least judgemental person that I know. He also “has nothing to sell.” Which I found fascinating as the conventional Christian narrative is “come with us, believe, or you will be damned to hell.” This sort of outlook does not make full sense in my brain, however, the contemplation of embodying Christ and looking at the Bible as a guidebook for properly orienting, acting and maturing in the world does.

Conclusions - For Now

I am still in debate. There is something more to life than this mundane material-centric existence. What it is, and what that looks like is tough to determine. Many things are fundamentally beyond my grasp due to the limits of my consciousness. It is a constant journey of learning those limitations and integrating them into being a better person. We must be open to seeing and working on our shortcomings. We must be willing to voluntarily face unexplored territory and presume that the unknown is the benevolent mother. As Jordan Peterson says, we should realize that what we do not know is far more critical than what we do. Sometimes, I cannot say it better, so as a final word, this is the noblest Hero’s Journey that is possible for us as humans:

“Our petty weaknesses accumulate, and multiply, and become the great evils of state. As our technological power expands, the danger we pose increases-and the consequences of our voluntary stupidity multiply. It is increasingly necessary that we set ourselves - not others - right, and that we learn explicitly what that means.” [1] Pg. 369


[1] J. B. Peterson, “Maps of Meaning,” in Maps of Meaning, pp. 19–502.

[2] C. G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul. 2014.