Abstract: The article investigates the Neoplatonic Self notion. In the historical record the ideal of personality and the psychological notion of Self have taken many forms. Also the modern ideals of Self are discussed and criticized, such as the 'puer aeternus' (eternal youth) and the 'primal' or 'uroboric' Self. The author argues that Carl Jung's Self archetype is one-sidedly immanent--there is also a transcendental aspect of Self. In the heated debate between Porphyry and Iamblichus, both were right in their own way.

Keywords: Plotinus, Neoplatonism, primary narcissism, grandiose self, ego-Self axis, Erich Neumann, Michael Fordham, psychoanalysis, puer aeternus, Romantic era.

Read the article here:


Mats Winther

You need to be a member of Depth Psychology Alliance to add comments!

Join Depth Psychology Alliance

Email me when people reply –


  • Organization

    mats said:

    It is true that the divison between light and dark, transcendence and immanence, is not as pronounced in Greek mythology as in the Hebrew conception. However, Lucifer and Prometheus belong to the same archetype, although they are valued differently. Lucifer means 'bringer of dawn' or 'bringer of light'. Prometheus, who stole the fire and brought it to mankind, is the corresponding god in Greek mythology.

    Mats Winther

    This is a case where the devil is not in the details Mats. Lucifer and Prometheus do not belong to the same archetype. Prometheus's support for Zeus enabled Zeus to overcome the Titans and secure the Olympian/patriarchal order. If Prometheus was akin to Lucifer as you suggest , then the devil was responsible for the ascension of God/Zeus. 

    During the Titanomachy, the war between the Titansand the Olympian gods, Prometheus sided with Zeus, helping to overthrow the old gods.


    Kerenyi is more specific in his book 'Prometheus' "He presents a striking resemblance and a striking contrast to the Christian Savior. More than any other Greek God, he intercedes for mankind, makes common cause with men. Therein lies the resemblance. But Christ suffered human existence as a man.... Prometheus never appears as a man. He was a mythological being and was never anything else." ---Karl Kerenyi Prometheus page 3.

    And here is an extended extract from 

    The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors, by Kersey Graves, [1875], at sacred-texts.com





    In the account of the crucifixion of Prometheus of Caucasus, as furnished by Seneca, Hesiod, and other writers, it is stated that he was nailed to an upright beam of timber, to which were affixed extended arms of wood, and that this cross was situated near the Caspian Straits. The modern story of this crucified God, which represents him as having been bound to a rock for thirty years, while vultures preyed upon his vitals, Mr. Higgins pronounces an impious Christian fraud. "For," says this learned historical writer, "I have seen the account which declares he was nailed to a cross with hammer and nails." (Anac. vol. i. 327.) Confirmatory of this statement is the declaration of Mr. Southwell, that "he exposed himself to the wrath of God in his zeal to save mankind." 

    The poet, in portraying his propitiatory offering, says:— 

    "Lo! streaming from the fatal tree 
    His all atoning blood, 
    Is this the Infinite?—Yes, ’tis he, 
    Prometheus, and a God! 
    "Well might the sun in darkness hide, 
    And veil his glories in, 
    When God, the great Prometheus, died 
    For man the creature's sin." 

    The "New American Cyclopedia" (vol. i. p. 157) contains 

    p. 125 

    the following significant declaration relative to this sin-atoning oriental Savior: "It is doubtful whether there is to be found in the whole range of Greek letters deeper pathos than that of the divine woe of the beneficent demigod Prometheus, crucified on his Scythian crags for his love to mortals." Here we have first-class authority for the crucifixion of this oriental God. 

    In Lempriere's "Classical Dictionary," Higgins’ "Anacalypsis," and other works, may be found the following particulars relative to the final exit of the God above named, viz.:— 

    1. That the whole frame of nature became convulsed. 

    2. The earth shook, the rocks were rent, the graves were opened, and in a storm, which seemed to threaten the dissolution of the universe, the solemn scene forever closed, and "Our Lord and Savior" Prometheus gave up the ghost. 

    "The cause for which he suffered," says Mr. Southwell, "was his love for the human race." Mr. Taylor makes the statement in his Syntagma (p. 95), that the whole story of Prometheus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection was acted in pantomime in Athens five hundred years before Christ, which proves its great antiquity. Minutius Felix, one of the most popular Christian writers of the second century (in his "Octavius," sect. 29), thus addresses the people of Rome: "Your victorious trophies not only represent a simple cross, but a cross with a man on it," and this man St. Jerome calls a God. 

    These coincidences furnish still further proof that the tradition of the crucifixion of Gods has been very long prevalent among the heathen. 


    we seem to be at a crossroads here mats. You associate Prometheus with Lucifer and ultimately Satan  Lucifer opened the way up for Satan to promote the pursuit of satanism in the material world,  Prometheus on the other hand helped Zeus to triumph over the Titans and thereby enable the Olympian rule to prevail. He also suffered so as to make the human lot better.

    Light can be used to pursue Luciferian/Satanic ends as well as the good. Prometheus is one of the good archetypes and his suffering bears witness to that. Lucifer is off somewhere licking his fingers and planning his next satanic act.

  • Organization

    These people were the first individuals--people like Diogenes the Cynic who lived in a big clay jar..-mats

    These people were individuals first might be a better way to phrase it. Homer's works are chock full of highly developed individuals. I bet you can name a handful of them right off the top of your head. Achilles, Hector, Ajax, Odysseus et al..

    For the rest I am not sure of what I said that may have allowed you to conclude that i objected to your statement

    "the emergence of individuality necessitates the breaking of bonds"

    I suspect i rejected your ecstatic/whirling Dirvish interpretation of the breaking of bonds. I did provide an alternate interpretation of the Dionysian ecstasy after all. I associated it with the Gods gifts of a life after death and individuality as embodied in the birth of the individual.Those gifts are something to get ecstatic about especially when they are combined with an infusion of the spirits provided by the archetypes gift of wine. As i said before the Greeks projected the Dionysian mythologem into the wine making process. Spirit/wine is the product of the gods completion of his archetypal destiny. These spirits were imbibed by the Dionysian throng.

    Everyone individuated is intended to mature into an individual human being. Not everyone makes it and you can find derelicts neurotics and such all along the individuated maturational path/cycle. Of course the maturing individual will bring his own unique individuality into being. Now in relation to the collective you could consider him to be a rebel. And this is where your concept of  the individual sloughing off collective identity comes into play. But if the emergence of the patriarchy is the result of the birth of the individual then the individual rebel is able to integrate his rebellious individual approach into a nation/civilization of individuals. This is essentially how i accommodate your insightful observation into my conception. Unlike Hillman the hermetic thief you can see Diogenes the Cynic 's playing of the fool in its full numinous guise. Diogenes has long since attained the capacity as an individual and he is manifesting a full blown expression of individuality that can only exist after the individual has entered the human stage of history. The imposition of the spirit/patriarchy into the material realm results in an imperfect though revolutionary enterprise. The Greeks understood the patriarchy and the patriarchal gods carried the myrtoan/oinomaic curse. It is the myrtoan/oinomaic curse that led to the destruction of the greeks at troy and the submergence of the mighty olympians into a post Homeric dark age. But what can you say as Zeus prevented the emergence of the god that was intended to replace him. The new god one can include jesus in here will emerge from Individualities completion of its own maturational destiny. In my own humble opinion of course.

  • Klemens,

    Richard Seaford says that the dissolution of the boundaries of individual identity was central to the cult. Dionysos is especially given to epiphanies. Seaford says:

    "The abnormal mental states that occurred in Dionysiac cult are comparable to those that still occur today, in various cultures, in possession cults such as the candomblé in Brazil or the Hausa bori. Typical manifestations of possession trance that occurred also in Dionysiac cult are trembling, foaming at the mouth, distorted eyes, insensitivity to pain, falling to the ground, imagined death, amnesia, bodily movements such as the arched back with head flung back, and the vital role of music and dance. Moreover, inasmuch as possession trance involves a change of identity, it often takes the form of initiation, which brings the initiate into a relation with a spirit or god that can subsequently be renewed and negotiated and that is a cure. There are enough similarities between possession cult in general and the fragmentary evidence for Dionysiac cult to mean that the latter can be cautiously illuminated by the former. This applies in particular to some remarks by Plato.
    Plato notes that mothers calm their babies not by stillness but by rocking and a kind of singing, and compares this, as a cure, to the effect of dance and song on those who are 'out of their mind' in a Dionysiac frenzy. In both cases the state to be remedied is a kind of fear, which is by external motion transformed into peace (galênê) and calm (hêsuchia ) in the soul (Laws 790e)." ("Dionysos", pp.105-106)

    (Evidently, there are cults comparable to the Dionysiac cult in the modern world.)
    The transgression of a boundary seems to be an essential aspect of the mysteries of initiation. When transgressing a boundary the initiand is being "immoral" in some sense of the word. So, according to these beliefs, manhood proper could only be achieved by going through a form of initiation. Otherwise the individual would remain a puer aeternus, who is bound to make transgressions in a neurotic way, which means that the "criminal acts" depend on a compulsive force deriving from the unconscious.

    Mats Winther

    • Organization

      I've previously scanned Seaford's book. In it I saw no mythologem for the twice mothered thrice born Dionysos. He doesn't even know what the basic Dionysian mythologem is, yet he has the effrontry to combine observations on whirling dervishes [my term]  with possession cults. But when push comes to shove he recognizes that he is actually introducing the possession cult interpretation into his depiction of Dionysos. In his own words as embedded in your brief excerpt,

      "There are enough similarities between possession cult in general and the fragmentary evidence for Dionysiac cult to mean that the latter can be cautiously illuminated by the former."

      So he admits to using fragmentary evidence and he admits one should use caution in twinning the Dionysian cult with the possession cult. And only then for cautiously illuminating the the Dionysian cultic behavior.

      Plato presents a much more formidable observation. I suppose the key word in his statement is fear. The source of the babies fear would be his insecurity whether it be physiological or psychological. And the mother calms this fear and reassures her child by holding, rocking and soothing her child. What would be the source of the fear of those who are out of their mind in Dionysiac frenzy. Over Identification with the archetype resulting in a hysterical disintegration of the ego. Now that might be something to really fear. Yeah some might carry their ecstatic mania emanating from their identification with the the archetypes gift of indestructible life and individuality right over the edge into madness, just as some carry their alcoholic intoxication way beyond the parameteric bounds of normalcy. So is Plato referring to all those in the throes of Dionysiac ecstasty or just the handful who go beyond the bounds. Some doesn't mean all to my way of thinking.

      The Dionysian mystery is all about initiation. The opening scene is an initiatory act. The instinct looks in the mirror and realizes he is amaterial and then is murdered and dismembered. In the initiatory right recorded by the anthropologists the adolescent is initiated by an act of murder but he is reborn as a member of the tribe/collective. He becomes a man by dying and being reborn as a member of the tribe. In the Greek version of the Dionysian initiatory right the initiate goes through the initiation and emerges as an individuated person. He then begins a maturational development cycle that culminates in his attainment of  individuality.  This unfolds in conjunction with the unfolding of the Dionysian mythologem. Thus the individual is born. 

      Puer aeternus is rooted in the mother complex as is the Oedipus myth. So the question becomes how does the archetype of individuation manifest itself in relation to a maternally grounded and founded lets call it a matriarchal matrix. Well individuality is first and foremost subordinated to the effort to preserve the species. That being the raison d'etre of the matriarchal modality. So individuality can only be expressed if it is subordinated to the tribe/collective. So when individuality is expressed in a matriarchal context it is in a completely subordinated form to the collectively dominant. Hillman talks of the collective. nature of men. Of course he would as he boasts of the fact that he is a puer aeternus. As a result his expression/experience of individuality is a tribal one, which i believe he said himself...

      "Otherwise the individual would remain a puer aeternus"... mats winther

      By not dealing directly with the hotentots does not mean I ceded any points. I have previously maintained the mother complex is still extant in some. The Puer. the oedipal and why not the hotentots. If i ever get some time i will look into the literature on the hotentots. 

      Fire is a two edged sword just as the light which is probably embedded in the Greeks version of the symbolism. One can use light knowledge fire to assist one to survive in material nature. One can also use fire light knowledge as a weapon to pillage and profit materially. Lucifer gives way to the devil. Materiality in and for itself aka mammom. You should be looking in terms of locating the devilish principle mover in the realm of matter. The Greeks saw the bearers of the human spirit as being essentially good. Evil would be the ruling construct/supreme deity if materialism dominated the spirit...  putting lucifer and prometheus in affinity is not productive. One would find a more productive area of research into determining why Zeus kept going back into his prehistory.... the time before his great lighting up occurred... to have contact with Prometheus.

      And as a side note. persephone was abducted and taken to the Underworld shortly after she let her guard down while she was contemplating the beauty of a narcissus. So the narcissus is intimately involved in the Eleusian mystery but the narcissus of the myth is in love with himself or his own image. A lot of the work on the psychopath has exposed a narcissistic personality component. One shouldn't dismiss the narcissist because self love and preening is a component of the psychopathic personality. It is merely a noticed and well documented component which demonstrates the multi faceted and wide ranging reality that lies behind the myth of narcissus.

      From reading your reply you haven't quite accepted my opinion that the the Dionysian mythologem of the twice mothered thrice born mythologem was projected into the wine making process. 

      • Klemens, I don't see why you object to the notion that the emergence of individuality necessitates the breaking of bonds. Personality must slough off collective identity. That's why Jesus in his own time was regarded a politically incorrect thinker, because he was invoking the power of the individual. It is the power of the heart that counts, and not so much the common principles, such as religious laws. Dionysos was the god of the misfits and outcasts, that is, the very people who personified the politically incorrect. These people were the first individuals--people like Diogenes the Cynic who lived in a big clay jar. He laughed at the aristocrats and is said to have walked around Corinth with a lit lamp in daytime, looking for "a human being" ("I am looking for an honest man"). So he was looking for an individual.  /Mats

  • For polytheists out there: I don't think any of us can claim with certainty that we know what we are talking about when mentioning the "ultimate reality", but I do have that feeling when someone from a similar "camp" (namely, those claiming to be post-Jungians and polytheists) that the Self isn't one but many, I have an urge to respond: "Hey, don't do that." Mind you, I was on occasion in the mood to contemplate (I can't find a better word at the moment) about all kinds of stuff and images, but don't touch the Self. I don't know what it is, but don't claim that there are (too) many of these. I was a fan of Greek mythology as a child, but that, in my opinion and in my case, can't have the same weight. One Self (again, in my opinion) hits harder - not that we always understand each other.

    • Organization

      "not that we always understand each other" lol That is a good one Alek. Priceless.

  • Organization

    So the notion of spiritual emancipation, which is the central maxim of the Dionysian cult, was very curious. As far as I know, there is no corresponding cult in the modern world---mats winther

    I am not sure what you mean by modern world here mats. At samothrace I believe Dionysos was called iason. He was Osisris in egypt, He was Attis amongst the Phrygians. As Dionysos he even't went to India but I am sure the indians had their own local representation of the Dionysian idea established long before the Greek Dionysos arrived. The Jungian Edward Whitmont has a book wherein he points out some of the various other archetypal incarnations of the Dionysian idea. I didn't bother so much with these other variants of the Dionysian myth because the Greeks in my estimation are the best mythographers in the world. Our problem is a lot of their mythopoetic output was not preserved. 

    Wikipedia is OK but they are presenting a scholarly assessment of Dionysian religion as made by who mats? Wikipedia is not presenting the Greeks understanding of Dionysos here are they? There is no ancient greek source for this interpretation. This makes it an opinionated projection.

    At the height of post homeric classical Greek civilizational the Dionysian cult did not challenge authority. A relatively innocuous archetype inspired his devotees to complete their cultic veneration. And Dionysos was so ingrained into Greek civilization that they honored him with great dramatic performances which inspire modern people to this very day. Does anyone see whirling dirvishes in Greek drama. The plays are filled with pathos and a deep ingrained understanding of the human predicament. These plays are not the gift of a whirling dervish but gifts containing a deep and compassionate understanding of our humanity. They are dedicated to and inspired by the god of tragedy Dionysos, There is so much that lies behind the facile and negative projections laid upon the Dionysian archetype. 

    back to mats:

    the cultic practice was designed to breach the natural order, but also to demote the authorities of society (to reduce our feeling of respect for them).

    After all, Dionysos is the destroyer of "patriarchal order", so how can he be its benefactor?

    ekes... you are taking Dionysos out of context here. The Dionysian mythologem unfolds in the  patriarchies prehistory. The unfolding Dionysian mythologem is ultimately what gives birth to the individual. The patriarchal order the rule of the Spirit cannot emerge until the individual emerges. This is why the rematerializing Dionysian archetype experiences a sudden premature birth from his second mother Semele.. The ascending individual must be provided with a paternal foundation in which to root his individuality. Otherwise the patriarchy can't be born. The premature birth scenario symbolically depicts this transition from a maternal/mother complex type of foundation for the individuating ego to a paternal/spiritual foundation. Dionysos does not destroy the patriarchal order. His developmental destiny is the spiritual enterprise that ends the matriarchal order and is the transitional dynamic that enables  the emergence of the patriarchal order

    The only law Dionysos broke was the law of materiality. He is the amaterial dimension of the human spirit.

    The only incest taboo Zeus and Hera broke was the brother sister incest taboo but they were the only archetypes/ones allowed to do so. Individuals do not marry their sisters in imitation. But the individual is able to simultaneously maintain a material and spiritual relationship with one and the same woman. This is made possible because a part of the individuals character is rooted in the amaterial  or spiritual component of human nature. It is amaterial and sexless. I think in a more common vernacular it is worded as you are not just my lover but my friend as well.

    Prometheus is the titanic equivalent of Hephaistos. Well to be more precise Prometheus/Epimetheus equate to Hephaistos. Because behind the fool Epimetheus lies forethought or Prometheus. This is what hillman did not understand when he played/acted the fool or as he described it as the trickster. Foolishness is purposive. Prometheus and Epimetheus were named as the two titans who murdered and dismembered Dionysos.[kerenyi] 

    The only evil one can attribute to Prometheus is he with held the name of the God who was to displace the almighty Zeus from his rule over Olympus. Zeus's fear of the emergence of a new more powerful God led him to initiate the Trojan war and hence to initiate the destruction of the Homeric world. Meaning I am sticking to both agape the god of love for mankind and Greek understanding in regard to evil. Lucifer is just not represented in the best map of a dynamic and living multidimensional map of Unconscious that has ever been produced. 

  • Organization

    Who says, the breaking of the moral chains was essential to the Dionysian cult. This is a hostile later day projection laid over the archetype. This idea emanates from non greeks around the time when the idea of Dionysos was an anathema to the christians and existed as decadent cult figure among the ignorant and manipulative. The Dionysos of classical Athens and of Homer bears no resemblance to what your sources are projecting onto Dionysos. There were no Dionysian orgies and immoral debauchery going on when the Athenians enacted their version of the Dionysian rights. As for Homer Homer did not disavow Dionysos but only ignored him. Presumably his paean to the majesty of the Olympians  over road the  necessity to include the anarchic and messy mythologem of the twice mothered and thrice born archetype. Belatedly and in a passive Athenian iteration Dionysos was granted Olympian status... 

    Why would Dionysos endure such a venomous assault from what is essentially the Christians. Dionysos even as he stood at in a degenerate declining civilization still carried an aura and esteem and history which the misguided elements in the christian church wanted to appropriate. Look Dionysian represents the amaterial component of spirit just as Apollo represents the spirits imperative to give order to matter. How you equate amateriality to swirling dervishes is what I don't understand. Dionysos brought the prospect of immortality and individuality to the greeks. His orgiastic identity emanates from and is rooted in his awesome and his mind blowing introduction of  immortality and individuality into human existence. Swirling dervishes be gone. Feel free to disagree with me but I have stated my case. As ever the challenge is much appreciated Mats.


    Dionysus shares the following attributes in common with the Christ character as found in the New Testament and Christian tradition. 

    "Early Christian art is rich with Dionysiac associations, whether in boisterous representations of agape feasting, in the miracle of water-into-wine at Cana, in wine and vine motifs alluding to the Eucharaist, and most markedly...in the use of Dionysiac facial traits for representations of Christ."


  • Klemens,

    Anyway, the breaking of the moral chains was essential in the Dionysian cult. Dionysos is the god of wine, ritual madness, and fertility, who induces frenzy. Self-transcendence was achieved by removing all inhibitions, including our self-conscious fears. It is very similar to the Gnostic sects whose goal was to subvert the oppressive restraints of the natural moral laws that were imposed on us by the Demiurge. When all the chains that keep us bound to the worldly realm are broken, salvation is achieved.

    This all is very "immoral" according to a Christian consciousness. In our modern evaluation, the Mosaic law and our natural moral inhibitions aren't regarded as evil. So the notion of spiritual emancipation, which is the central maxim of the Dionysian cult, was very curious. As far as I know, there is no corresponding cult in the modern world. So the cultic practice was designed to breach the natural order, but also to demote the authorities of society (to reduce our feeling of respect for them). Wikipedia says:

    "Dionysus is represented by city religions as the protector of those who do not belong to conventional society and thus symbolizes everything which is chaotic, dangerous and unexpected, everything which escapes human reason and which can only be attributed to the unforeseeable action of the gods."

    It remains to be proven that the Dionysian archetype, according to your theory, underlies the emancipation of consciousness--a process that leads to the patriarchal stage, i.e., the stage of manhood proper. After all, Dionysos is the destroyer of "patriarchal order", so how can he be its benefactor? The notion of breaking the natural law is found also in primitive ritual. The Hottentot initiands practiced 'spermepotation', as in the Gnostic Phibionite ritual. The young initiands ate the semen of their fathers' rolled into a leaf, and then proceeded to have sexual intercourse with their mothers. In this way, the breaching of the Oedipal taboo served an emancipative role, as the son passes the incest barrier to the stage of manhood.

    It is true that the divison between light and dark, transcendence and immanence, is not as pronounced in Greek mythology as in the Hebrew conception. However, Lucifer and Prometheus belong to the same archetype, although they are valued differently. Lucifer means 'bringer of dawn' or 'bringer of light'. Prometheus, who stole the fire and brought it to mankind, is the corresponding god in Greek mythology.

    Mats Winther

This reply was deleted.