|Melville's Vision of Evil|
|Articles - Psyche and Culture|
|Written by Steven Herrmann|
Melville's Vision of Evil
© Steven B. Herrmann, Ph.D., MFT
Note to the Reader
It is with pleasure and sorrow that I make this essay(1) available to the analytical psychology community. (This article appeared in its original form in the November 2003 issue of The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal.) Soon after the tragic events of 9/11/01-the suicide bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the subverted suicide-bomber plane that crashed "safely" in Pennsylvania, and the thousands of American lives lost to these catastrophes, now over a year ago-I made a decision to put a manuscript-in-progress on Herman Melville down. Like Melville himself during the Civil War, I had to watch, in astonished recognition, outrage, and horror, and not speak.(2) But now I return to my reading of his work with a fresh appreciation of what he had actually done in the 1850's. Could it be that Melville anticipated in a "prospective" and "teleological" way some of the tragic and frightening events we are witnessing in the religious, economic and political upheavals of our current global civilization? "The prospective function" which C. G. Jung first underlined in his reading of dreams, is an anticipation in the unconscious of future conscious achievements, something like a preliminary exercise or sketch, or a plan roughed out in advance. Its symbolic content sometimes outlines the solution of a conflict…. The occurrence of prospective dreams cannot be denied. It would be wrong to call them prophetic, because at bottom they are no more prophetic than a medical diagnosis or a weather forecast. They are merely an anticipatory combination of probabilities which may coincide with the actual behavior of things but need not necessarily agree in every detail. Only in the latter case can we speak of "prophecy."(3)
The visionary artist (4) often "dreams" in this way in his work. I have come to feel that Melville may have intuited certain "probabilities" in Western, Near Eastern, and Middle Eastern cultural evolution, distinct archetypal patterns that are presently constellated in our current international conflicts. Such patterns are long-lasting archetypal "fields," often revealing themselves through symbols. The symbols through which Melville as artist accessed these fields, can be interpreted in a number of different ways. (5) Here, I will avoid articulating what they mean at the level of contemporary global politics, because I have no expertise in this area. I do, however, think they bear great relevance to the psychological understanding of our present participation in history.
I would like to address these issues from a psychological standpoint: What is the current feeling-tone constellated in the dialogue between America and the Middle East? What archetypal image is behind the hatred, fear, suspicion, and anger? And what does Melville's psychological vision of evil have to say about this emotional-affective situation?
Melville's symbol of the White Whale, "Moby Dick," is an image of the Self that stresses the Self's dark side in a way that most of the major religions of the globe have not. Like Hobbes's Leviathan, it offers a new mythic image of terrible pine power to the world. This is a mythologem that invites the nations and peoples of the world to take aboard their own cultural hatred, violence, and evil, rather than project these shadow aspects of their selfhood onto other nations and peoples. Through the metaphor of whale hunting, it calls them to eat their own darkness. The story of Moby-Dick had its beginnings on the whaleship Auschnet, on which Melville served as a deckhand on an actual hunt for whales, in his early twenties. That the experience held spiritual significance for him only became clear several years later, with his third novel, Mardi and a Voyage Thither, in which he embarks on a symbolic quest for a whale "whose brain enlightens the world." (6)
This image of an organic light is itself a very ancient symbol, going back to the ancient Middle East. Although with a few exceptions, (7) academic critics have not noted them, Persian, Arabian, and Islamic themes are a central presence at the heart of Moby-Dick. As we shall see, they shape themselves into a remarkably coherent story when the book is stripped of its temporal references to the hunt for a great white sperm whale, Moby Dick, and is recast into the less time-and culture-bound categories of myth. Given a more archetypal reading, Moby Dick can be seen as an incarnation of Rahab, (8) the Hebrew name for Tiamat, the old Babylonian sea-dragon, mother of the gods and possessor of the table of fate. This is a myth whose origins can be traced to the southern tip of the Persian Gulf, the very place where the current religious, political, and economic tensions in the post-modern world have currently taken up residence.
Until the last thirty years or so, America's collective awareness of the Middle East has been a largely invisible minority of Moslems in the West and a largely projected "other" in the Moslem portions of the world. Melville, however, painted portraits of Persian, Muslim, and Islamic presences in Moby-Dick long before any contemporary political, religious, or historical analysis gave such depictions urgency. Persian images, particularly, play an important place in his writings. Through them, the visionary novelist uncovered a dynamic pattern that can help us hold an attitude of hope for the world's survival, even as we face the specter of "mass destruction." What I intend to show in this essay is that Melville is one of the first religious thinkers to come out of the monotheistic Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious heritage(9) with the understanding that a proper respect for evil may prove to be relevant and illuminating to the pursuit of good in our current world situation today. Melville's "vision of evil" is particularly important, as we seek to integrate the meaning of America's tragedy on 9/11/01, witnessed on television by the entire world. I feel compelled, from within and without, to share my understanding of some of the shards or fragments of this vision, which I have rescued from the near-oblivion of Melville studies to date.
My urgency is that I sense the prospective import of what Melville "saw," for the way our global civilization can resolve its religious crisis-or not-in the near future. It is this crisis, an understanding of the meaning of God, that I feel lies at the heart of many geopolitical conflicts, most notoriously those in the Middle East. Since I am a Jungian psychotherapist and a critic writing in the wake of Jung's "whale," Answer to Job, I will not be speaking about the traditional image of God when I utter the word "God" in this work. I will follow Jung only in speaking about the psychological and empirical God-image in Moby-Dick, although in the final analysis, as many psychologists have sensed, God and the unconscious may indeed prove to be one.
If in the psychological reflections that follow I offend any person's religious beliefs, that Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or any other religious dispensations may hold sacred, I beg that reader's pardon. I know that some of the ideas contained herein will appear as "heretical" to many, just as both Melville's and Jung's views are "unorthodox" from a traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic standpoint. Nevertheless, I ask the reader to remember (to the degree that he or she is similarly engaged with these views in the act of reading or reflecting on what I have written) that the religious ideas contained herein are the logical outworkings of thoughts that have fermented after long hours of meditating and reflecting upon the meaning of Melville's symbols. If my Jungian unpacking of the religious thought, compressed into these images, tends, like much of Jung's own writing, to emphasize the shadow side of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic mythos, it is because of a similar emphasis in Melville. Nevertheless, I recognize in myself as well a compensatory urge to balance the prevailing views in Melvillian studies that ignore Melville's own insistence on the dark aspect of God. More humbly, I have to express my debt to those Melville scholars and Jungian analysts who have gone before me. (10)
Finally, the views in this essay are the result of my own personal auseinandersetzung with Melville's images (and this "having it out" with Melville's images has meant struggling with the images of my own unconscious as well). I have no choice but to assume the moral and spiritual responsibility for any errors that may have crept into this discussion from unforeseen quarters of my mind.
With all this said, let me be clear: it is my belief that Melville found a unique way to be an American transcendentalist, using American letters as a place where tensions in Western, Middle Eastern, and Near Eastern religious thought could be freshly resolved. In other words, I believe he more or less consciously created his images to advance the myth of monotheism toward a more comprehensive religious vision, in which the dark side of God became more brilliantly illuminated than it had been before. It is just this illuminated darkness that I think can guide us now.
A Synopsis of Moby-Dick, Focusing on Ten Basic Elements in the Story
1) Moby-Dick is a novel about the monomaniacal hunt of an enraged captain of an American whaling ship for an albino sperm whale, one believed to have been hunted many times over for its bounteous stores of sperm oil. The whale turns out, at the end of the story, to be indestructible, unattainable, and immortal. The captain's name is Ahab, and he is so named after the Biblical King of Israel that the One God hated more than any other. The White Whale has its prototype in the Old Testament image of Leviathan-Rahab-Tiamat, the Babylonian sea-dragon. Isaiah, the great Hebrew prophet, wrote: "In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea" (Isaiah 27:1),(11) and again:
It is important to point out, as we look for contemporary parallels, that whales were the most lucrative source of oil in the nineteenth century, and that the biblical Babylon was located in what is now the southern tip of Iraq.
2) The action of the drama takes place through the eyes of a fictional character who calls himself "Ishmael," which is the name of one of the legendary sons of Abraham in the Hebrew Bible; he is the spiritual father of monotheism and the main ancestor of the nation of Islam. In Chapter 1, Ishmael gives his reasons for going to sea. He writes:
"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States."
What might this statement about a bloody battle in Afghanistan have meant to Melville? We do know that on January 3, 1841, Melville sailed on the whaleship Auschnet out of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, from New Bedford harbor, for the South Pacific. We have no idea if he was moved to do so by any external conflict, such as a battle in Afghanistan, but he was under great internal stress.
3) Ishmael meets a Polynesian whale hunter named Queequeg before the adventure takes place. The two men sleep together like "husband and wife" in the same bed and in a short while they become "bosom friends." Queequeg worships a black ebony idol from Africa, has Polynesian tattoos inscribed all over his body, smokes from a Native American "tomahawk pipe," and observes the highest Muslim religious rite of Ramadan. Thus, Queequeg is a polytheist, a pantheist, and monotheist, who leads Ishmael to develop respect for "anybody's religious observations."
4) Before the ship sets sail an old man and an old woman appear to warn Ishmael about the dangers ahead. Their names are "Elijah," after the Biblical servant of God, who was sent to warn Ishmael of God's wrathful side, and "Tistig," a Native American seeress who predicts that the adventure will "prove prophetic," which in point of fact it does. The name of the ship is "Pequod," so-named after the Pequot Indians of the Eastern seaboard, who were ruthlessly and violently exterminated by Puritan settlers.
5) On board the Pequod, Ishmael and the ship's crew meet up with captain Ahab. Ahab's leg, we soon learn, was ripped off by the devouring jaws of the White Whale, in a previous battle at sea. Ahab has an elongated scar running down his face to the full length of his body, where lightning hit him during that battle. He walks on an ivory stump, made of whale bone. His dismemberment by the whale occurred off the coast of Japan.
6) Ahab offers a golden doubloon as a reward to anyone who sights the White Whale. Ishmael and the ship's crew make a pact with Ahab to hunt Moby Dick to his death. Ahab expresses his deep rage, violence, and hatred towards the White Whale. After the pact to hunt the White Whale has been made we learn that it was only after Ahab's "torn body and gashed soul bled into one another; and so interfusing," made "him mad," on the homeward voyage, that the "final monomania" hit him.
7) On board the ship, five mysterious phantoms make themselves present prior to the hunt. The central figure is named "Fedallah," an Arabic word which means God's "assassin," "ransom," or "sacrifice." The men on board the Pequod begin to suspect that Fedallah is an agent of Satan. He is referred to as the "Parsee," which means "Persian." Before the hunt for the White Whale begins in earnest, Ahab remembers his previous incarnation as a Zoroastrian fire worshiper. Fedallah becomes the primary instigator of Ahab's fate as a tragic hero.
8) Ishmael refers to Fedallah as "Ahab's shadow." The Parsee prophecies that Ahab will not be buried in the usual manner and that only "hemp" can kill him; he prophesizes, furthermore, that Ahab's "hearse" will be immortal.
9) The hunt for the White Whale begins after the mystical sighting of a herd of whales is spotted heading east toward the sun. The ship arrives at a pod of whale mothers, swimming in concentric circles, with their whale-children nursing delightedly at their breasts.
10) The White Whale is sighted. Ahab and his crew attempt to kill Moby Dick. Ahab is caught in a tangle of his own ropes, attached by his harpoon to the back of the White Whale. Ahab is dragged, against his will, to his death. The enraged White Whale turns its head like a "battering ram" against the Pequod, and the ship is sunk. Only Ishmael escapes, on the "life-buoy" of Queequeg's coffin, left like a modern Job, to tell his story. It is said in the "Epilogue" that Ishmael was ordained by the Fates to take the place of the Parsee as Ahab's bowsman after the Parsee's death. In the final scene, Ishmael is picked up like just another "orphan" by the cruising ship "Rachael."
What do these ten elements of the story suggest about the meaning of Moby-Dick, a nineteenth century novel, for our own post-modern times? In the context of a fuller semi-sequential presentation of Melville's story, I will look at each of these elements in turn, interpreting them psychologically, to help us understand through Melville's images and symbols how the U.S. government got to where it is currently, where that may be leading, and what the hidden dangers might be that are lurking in the shadows of the collective American psyche.
Incarnation and the Integration of the Shadow
"Call me Ishmael." These words start the adventure that has become for many, the greatest story in American literature. Why "Ishmael"? "To Isaac and Judeo-Christianity," as Edward F. Edinger has written, "Ishmael is the adversary, the opposing alternative which must be rejected and repressed…. Ishmael is an anti-Isaac and, by extension, an anti-Christ."(14) That is, Ishmael represents an alternative standpoint to that of the traditional Judeo-Christian dispensation that has so far guided the West. To the degree that Ishmael is the adversary and opposing alternative which must be rejected and repressed, he must be seen as representing a portion of America's collective and cultural "shadow." (15) As a living symbol, he offers some way beyond the Judeo-Christian (and also) Islamic myth of the One monotheistic good God toward the more inclusive standpoint of the Self that has integrated the possibility of a shadow side to God.
In 1931 Jung had pronounced Moby-Dick the great American novel(16) and when his students began to study the book, they could see they were in the presence of a great new myth, whose meaning was not yet fully known to them. In 1958, James Kirsch, the most far-seeing interpreter of Melville in the Jungian field, wrote: "Its vastness and its poetic rhythm undoubtedly give it the grandeur of an epic," which "anticipated in a detailed and poetic way aspects of universal modern psychology which still have full sway over us." (17)
Kirsch understood what Lawrence Thompson had before him, in his controversial 1952 book Melville's Quarrel with God, (18) that "the essential concern of Moby-Dick was Melville's confrontation with God." (19) In this role, Kirsch saw, Melville served as a "genuine prophet"(20) for America. He viewed Melville's oeuvre as a prolonged experiment in "active imagination," (21) that is, an auseinandersetzung (or "having it out") with aspects of the Self. In Moby-Dick, the dialogue is with the empirical God-image, which is revealed in both its light and dark aspects. Kirsch also saw Moby-Dick as anticipating America's struggle, in the twentieth century, with the phenomenon of "dictatorship." In an essay entitled "The Problem of Dictatorship in Moby-Dick," Kirsch wrote:
"Have we not seen it millions of times in our own day," Kirsch goes on to ask, referring to the lack of German will to rise up against the Nazi German regime of Adolph Hitler, even after its horrifying destructiveness during WWII, "that the ordinary human being is despoiled by a dictator and made a willing collaborator in the most heinous crimes?" (23) "[I]n Moby-Dick the ego becomes a dictator, the self a destructive agent. In the end, as could only be expected, the ego is destroyed by the self." (24)
Today, it would be easy for Americans to see the problem of "dictatorship" only about particular "dictators" Hitler, Stalin, Hussein and to fail to recognize the problem of "godlikeness" as it exists potentially in all of us.
Melville sought to confront humanity with a vision of evil that he could not find in the Puritan Transcendentalism of his culture and time. Melville particularly addresses what Jung referred to in Aion as "absolute evil," the aspect of the Self that exists, in potentia, inside each inpidual, or group, regardless of one's consciously avowed national, ethnic, or religious ideals. This is beyond the relative evil of the shadow that we glimpse when we refrain from self-deception. As Jung puts it, any person who looks deeply enough into unconscious motivations can "recognize the relative evil of his nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil." (25) Melville possessed an unusual capacity to stare "absolute evil" directly in the face.
Homoerotic Union as a Solution to the Problem of Evil
"A symbol really lives," according to C. G. Jung, only when it is the best and highest expression for something pined or not yet known to the observer. It then compels his unconscious participation and has a life-giving and life-enhancing effect…. The living symbol formulates an essential unconscious factor, and the more widespread this factor is, the more general is the effect of the symbol, for it touches a corresponding chord in every psyche. Since, for a given epoch, it is the best possible expression for what is still unknown, it must be the product of the most complex and differentiated minds of that age. But in order to have such an effect at all, it must embrace what is common to a large group of men. (26)
Melville's frequently used images in his work that had the power to make "contact" with the living body of an audience; to "touch" a corresponding "chord" with the body, emotions, and soul of every reader. No less than Whitman, Melville is extremely robust and physical in the way he presents his imagery to his readers. His Ishmael is transgressive; his role is to bring to the Puritan conscience of the nineteenth century an "inverted" side of the Hebrew-Christian God-image. Melville approaches this task, as novelist, by emphasizing the relational "inversion" in Ishmael's life. This he achieves through the image of same-sex "marriage." He makes a great deal of the affectionate "link" between Ishmael and the Polynesian Queequeg.
In the chapter "A Bosom Friend," Ishmael describes the feelings of "melting" into this relationship that accompanied him during his symbolic "marriage" with Queequeg:
I began to be sensible of strange feelings. I felt a melting in me. No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing savage had redeemed it,... he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married; meaning, in his country's phrase, that we were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need be…. How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts' honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg a cozy, loving pair. (27) [Italics mine]
From an analytical standpoint this unconscious alchemical reference to "melting" suggests that Ishmael is loosing his original identity as narrator and being forged into a symbol. And as a symbol Ishmael is not really living until he comes into contact with Queequeg, his same-sex other half. From this point on we cannot think of Ishmael alone. We have to think of Ishmael-Queequeg, the "cozy, loving pair." This image of same-sex "marriage" is known in analytical psychology as the male-male coniunctio, (28) a highly symbolic affair. In the context of Moby-Dick the Ishmael-Queequeg coniunctio is a living symbol that depicts a unity in the American psyche, a spirit of "brotherhood" between men that is universal at its roots.
We cannot know the personal meanings Melville brought to the homoeroticism that pervades Moby-Dick, but we can infer he intends the symbol of same-sex union as a democratic symbol of transformation (29) for the human collectivity. Melville of course recognized that to the ancient Hebrews, Christians, and Muslims, such a union would undoubtedly be condemned as perverse, if not outright evil. And he must have known that it was contraband to the literature of his time.
How this repressed symbol of a certain kind of wholeness took on spiritual and political significance for Melville can be illustrated by examining Ishmael's attitude towards Queequeg's little wooden "negro idol," Yojo. Following "The Sermon," delivered by Father Maple (a stand-in character for Melville himself), Ishmael professes his mission of democratic "Delight" confessing, as a pilot of the living God, what might be described as the central article of his faith: his desire to unite, or conjoin with his fellow human beings in a "democratic" spirit of brotherhood.
I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in worshiping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth pagans and all included can possibly be jealous of an insignificant piece of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship? to do the will of God that is worship. And what is the will of God? to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man do to me that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salaamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences and all the world. (30)
Given the religious and political connotations of this passage as an article of Melville's "faith," we must hypothesize that this somewhat humorous image of a same-sex sacred "marriage" carried, for all the drollery, a spiritual meaning for Melville, with a unique significance for the future of humanity. What was that meaning, and what can his search for a same-sex other who happens also to be religiously Muslim, teach us about the union of sames, at this state of our own aspiration for psychological, spiritual, and political growth in the world?
A partial answer can be found in the fact that Ishmael's inpiduation as an American does not truly begin to unfold until he merges his religious identity with Queequeg's. Queequeg might even be associated with the first principle of American democracy, namely the "freedom of religion." And Queequeg manages to represent at least four types of spirituality: 1) Polynesian, 2) Native American, 3) African, and 4) Muslim. He is "fearful of Christianity, or rather Christians,"(31) however. And, no matter how "comical" his religious attitude might appear to religious orthodoxy, Queequeg is all-inclusively democratic in his spiritual outlook. He opens the same possibility to Ishmael. Through his relationship to Queequeg, Ishmael embraces the universality of all religious dispensations. Although his name identifies him as an ancestor of Islam, he was raised Presbyterian, and his general outlook is that of a primitive Christian. As a son of Abraham, he embodies the monotheistic spirit of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; by turning paradoxically to "idolatry," as Queequeg's soul-companion, he is moved to accept "everybody's religious observations"(32) meaning that paganism, pantheism, and polytheism are included. Queequeg is the embodied carrier of three polytheistic religions and one monotheistic one, Islam. Ishmael carries three monotheistic religions and adds to them the multivalent spiritual practice of his "bosom friend." Spiritually, Ishmael and Queequeg are mirror-images of each other, coming from opposed cultural standpoints. Ishmael starts from so-called "civilized" monotheism, and works historically backward, to subsume the polytheistic religions of the earth's primal peoples; whereas Queequeg starts from the animistic polytheism of the Polynesian islands to work historically forward, subsuming the Muslim religion through his observances of Ramadan.
That this male-male coniunctio could be serving to foster the development of a more inclusively mature spiritual attitude was, in Melville's time, clearly religiously blasphemous, and not just because it embraced "idolatry." The factor of homoeroticism and not-so-subtle suggestion of shipboard "sodomy," invites the One God's contempt, and the cultural judgment that same-sex "marriage" ought to be punishable by law, as well as by the damnation and Fire reserved for the wicked.
It is striking how little Ishmael consciously considers this possibility. To be sure, prior to his meeting with Queequeg, a question had arisen in Ishmael's mind as to where he would eat, drink, and sleep for the evening. As he made his way through the dank and slimy streets, on a bitingly cold Saturday night in mid December, he stumbled upon an ash-box, and asked whether the "flying particles" from that box, which "almost choke" him, were not the charnel remains from that "destroyed city, Gomorrah?" (33)
In this passage, Melville evokes one of the principal cities of biblical "sin": "Gomorrah," twin to the Sodom to which the legal term sodomy is derived. This is part of Melville's strategy as a visionary writer, to open readers to their origins in Judeo-Christian-Islamic thought, belief, and imagery even as he starts to transform that consciousness into something else. In Genesis 19:24 it was said simply that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by Yahweh with "fire and brimstone," for the "cries of iniquity" that went up out of that city; and in Genesis 19:28, furthermore, we read following the outpouring of Yahweh's wrath upon those two cities that the "smoke of the country" went "up as the smoke of a furnace." (34) Surah 29:28 of the Qur'an goes farther: "And (remember) Lot, when he said to his people: 'You are committing the foul act [Sodomy] which no one in the whole world ever committed before you.'" (35)
This latter reference is almost surely to homosexuality. By presenting us with what has traditionally been viewed as "shadow" within the very language of the Hebrew-Christian-Islamic religious "complex,"(36) namely the "sins" and "wickedness" of that ancient city Gomorrah, in which homosexuality is said to have been practiced, Melville exposes the patriarchal values of the One monotheistic God as isolating (they occur to Ishmael before he goes happily to bed with Queequeg). The paradoxical effect is to lead readers toward another consciousness, to reconsider the meanings of same-sex Eros for modern and post-modern times.
In presenting this slightly comic image of male coupling, Melville is not writing out of the old myths of romantic love from Europe, Islam, or Judea. He is formulating a new myth of homosexual Eros, or male-male "sympathy," one that is quintessentially American in its democracy, even though it derives its spiritual attitude from Polynesian, Greek, and Persian sources. We can find this today in our most widely read poet, the Persian Rumi, whose love for the Other was expressed most purely and poetically in 1244 through a same-sex image of spiritual union with his beloved master Shams of Tabriz.(37) As we shall see, the same-sex pairing is not so simply idealized in Melville, whose vision of evil requires the integration of sex, love, and spirituality with violent aggression and emotion. This leads, in Moby-Dick, to a more sinister image of male-male pairing the Ahab-Parsee ("Persian") pair(38) : a failed coniunctio mirrors the way the post-modern world has embraced terror and destructiveness in a less than wholesome way.
The underlying shadow of Western man, however, is neither his homosexuality nor his homophobia. According to John Beebe, it is the man's "moral anxiety" at being asked to take into his own psyche the position of another male; at its deepest level, there is in most Western men a primal fear of "penetration by another male."(39) This fear, so often imagined as physical, is really symbolic. By "penetration" I take Beebe to mean taking in another man's or nation's point of view. In reference to recent world events, that would involve a psychological and political reflection on the reasons for Islamic rage in certain Muslim fundamentalist groups, as well as an open acknowledgement by Islam of the reasons for archetypal aggression and hatred in America as well. We have seen how hard it has been for either the American or the fundamentalist Muslim leaders to wrestle with each other's points of view.
In "The Counterpane," Melville takes us to the historical roots of this moral anxiety toward holding the opposites in the world and psyche. When Ishmael awakens in the morning with "Queequeg's arm thrown over" him "in the most loving and affectionate manner" possible, he says: "You had almost thought I had been his wife."(40) Here the real fear of taking in another man's position, the loss of one's defensive status, has dissipated enough that it can be ironically commented upon. At this point, whether or not the same-sex coniunctio was consummated in overt homosexual terms between Queequeg and Ishmael, and whichever one of them was "husband" and whichever "wife," some kind of a metanoia of consciousness seems to have taken place in Ishmael's soul. Queequeg's compassionate embrace seems to have permanently dissolved any fears that he formerly held toward his dark-skinned brother. This is conveyed in Ishmael's alchemical image: "I felt a melting in me."(41)
Whatever it was Melville experienced on the whaleship, in relation to his fellow men; or on land, in relation to his countrymen, his experiences with men became a turning point for a coniunctio-image that was indeed in a "transitional state" in America. It would take a hundred and forty years for America to catch up with the meaning of Melville's same-sex imagery for the common person; but Melville was, perhaps, the first poet on our shores to have explored its psychological meaning at this depth, and I believe that depth was as great(42) if not greater than any bard, religious prophet, or philosopher, before him had plumbed, Plato, Rumi, and Shakespeare included.
Ishmael's Flippant Attitude Towards Islam: the Problem of Misunderstanding Another Man's Point of View
"As Queequeg's Ramadan, or Fasting and Humiliation, was to continue all day," writes Ishmael, "I did not choose to disturb him till towards night-fall; for I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody's religious observations, no matter how comical." (43) Despite Ishmael's attempts to merge sympathetically with Queequeg in the earlier sections of the book, he retains a flippant attitude towards Queequeg's Islamic religious observances. That Melville assumed his audience would automatically understand Ishmael's skepticism reflects the historical reluctance on the part of Americans to try and integrate an open and accepting attitude towards Islam.
Only during the Civil Rights marches in America, during the mid 1960's, more than one hundred years after Moby-Dick was published, did Americans begin to become fully aware of a Muslim presence at the spiritual heart of the North American continent, and this presence was first to emerge, on a collective basis, through the African American community. In "The Ramadan," Melville paints a picture of what may have been a typical nineteenth century American cultural attitude towards Islam:
Such a passage, though filled with narrative irony at Ishmael's expense, is clearly blasphemous from an Islamic standpoint. Not only is Ishmael's stated attitude toward Queequeg's Ramadan un-American, because it trespasses upon another's freedom of religion, but Queequeg is a Muslim man who is represented not only as a "savage" but also an idolater. This undermines the very foundations of the civilizing monotheism that Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad all came to establish, as the only "true" religion of the One God. In fact, when Muhammad captured Mecca, in 630 A.D., his first political move was to enter the Sacred Shrine, or Ka'ba, that Abraham is said to have founded many centuries earlier and to destroy the 350 pagan idols housed within it; the Prophet's aim was to turn the worshipers away from paganism and polytheism and lead them back to the One religion of Abraham.
So despite Ishmael's pious claim, earlier on, to have "the greatest respect towards everybody's religious observations," we can clearly see that his bonding with Queequeg had not made very much change in his collective mid Nineteenth Century American psyche; only later in the novel do these prejudicial and ethnocentric attitudes towards Queequeg's "Ramadan" undergo change and transformation. For the most part, Melville's focus is on the violence, hatred, and destructiveness that are constellated through the warlike aspects of the Ahab-Parsee ("Persian") pair.
The Puritan Problem of the Projection of Evil
In order to understand the origins of Ahab's searing hatred toward the White Whale we need to understand the cultural context in which the story of Moby-Dick was set, for the roots of the Leviathan-Rahab image lie in the early history of the "American Self."
In his book, The Puritan Origins of the American Self, Sacvan Bercovitch gives us a number of important clues as to the origins of what he calls the myth of an "American Self." This is a myth of potential moral greatness that was not without its own measure of destructive error, falsehood, and pathos. For example, Christ was seen by the early Puritans as "a typus Christi, a scriptural figure signifying greater things to come," the "conquest of Satan, the actual transformation of the wilderness, remained still to be accomplished," (45) but this meant that the Indigenous peoples of America, who were seen as obstructing the way in the "wilderness" to the creation of a New World Jerusalem, came to be despised as "Python," that is as "serpents," (46) to be driven from the Kingdom.
During the time of King Philip's War, Cotton Mather, one of America's Puritan ancestors, had thundered: "Why has God so scourged his people? Why has he set the Indians upon us to pillage and destroy? Why, because we are His people: the pattern, the privilege, is prescribed in scripture. Our 'most dismal Providence…. was decreed before the world began.'"(47)
John Winthrop was Mather's paradigmatic model for the image of an American Self, and Winthrop, even before arriving in America, had preached the virtues of grace and good works that were to be knit together in the civil order. The outlines for what Winthrop had in mind for the citizens of the New World order can be found in his sermon A Model of Christian Charity. (48) In Mather's own work, Magnolia, however, those outside this moral citizenry-Indians, witches, and heretics-were all described as agents of the devil and the damned, interrupting the new free road to virtue: "a serpent by the way, an adder in the path." (49) Indeed, all these "enemies" of the Puritan mythos were believed to be "full of serpents and venom."(50) The strength to overcome this all-pervasive lurking evil, needed to come from a new American ideal, and this was not just Mather's conceit: the Puritan ideal of a selfhood strong enough to resist evil was a chief concern of the American transcendentalists, nearly two hundred years later. It was through the channel of American poetry, with literature conceived as an extension of Puritanism, that "Emerson conceived the mission of the race." (51) Emerson particularly acknowledged his debt to the writings of the colonial fathers, for he saw the Puritans as "a bridge to us between the.… Hebrew epoch, & our own." (52) Emerson's native brilliance and optimism tempered some of the Puritan Manichaeism, but his criticisms of the Old World (Europe) and his idealization of the New (America) were strikingly lacking in any awareness of the new America's own dark collective evil. Today, the Jungian psychologist is led to ask, where was his awareness of the collective shadow of American civilization, or the Shadow-in-the-American-Self, that has become such a concern of late twentieth century contemplators of the American character, familiar with such Jungian concepts as the darkly duplicitous archetype of the trickster. (See, for instance, Warwick Wadlington's The Confidence Game in American Literature (53).)
In Emerson's time, despite the experiments of pioneering ironists like Melville, the American Shadow was largely projected by American thinkers. It's violence America tried to exterminate in the "Indians," who became the Puritan's "great leviathan," embodied most purely in the Native American Wampanoag chieftain Metacomet, or as they called him, King Philip. Projected onto King Philip and his people was the denied cultural shadow of the Puritans, the unassimilated trickster in the American psyche, a projection that would grow (through an accumulation of hatred toward the Indians) into a rationalization for the most demoniacal forces of destructiveness: the great statesman Metacomet's body was despicably quartered by the Puritans in the 1670s and left as fodder for ferocious wolves; his head was stuck on a pike in Plymouth and later put on display in Boston, when the head was fully sun-dried and bleached. Increase Mather, son of the "illustrious" Cotton Mather, took the "jawbone" of "King Phillip" whom he called "the blasphemous leviathan" home with him as a souvenir. He did all this in the same righteous tone of justified hate of what his father had called "pine retribution." (54)
In his experimental ironic novel, The Confidence Man, published in 1856, Melville takes us, once again satirically, into the archetypal roots of the problem of American hatred towards other races, religious practices, and nations. He does this in his chapter: "The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating," an ambiguous work which picks up where Moby-Dick left off. In this chapter, Colonel John Moredock, a fictional character refashioned by Melville from James Hall's portrait of Col. Moredock in Sketches of History, Life and Manners, in the West, is said to have "hated Indians like snakes." (55) "For you must know," Melville says, that Indian-hating was no monopoly of Colonel Moredock's; but a passion, in one form or other, and to a degree, greater or less, largely shared among the class to which he belonged. And Indian-hating still exists; and, no doubt, will continue to exist, so long as Indians do. (56)
Melville dryly attributes the root of the problem of "Indian-hating" to the "Indian blood-thirstiness" and "Indian diabolism" which was so reprehensible to the "backwoodsmen" of his day(57) : the "deep abhorrence with which the backwoodsman regards the savage. (58) Such a metaphysic was viewed ironically as: a "vocation whose consistent following" involves the "renunciation of ambition" and "the efficacy of a devout sentiment." (59) In Hall's Sketches we get a more direct presentation of the tradition of Indian-hating in the following lines:
It is not hard to see from this how the Puritan's hatred towards snakes (responsible of the Fall of the First Parents) had become transferred to the Indians threatening the Eden of the New Jerusalem, and a similar association can be applied to Ahab's paranoid attitude towards the great White Whale, Moby Dick. Ahab viewed Moby Dick as "the gliding great demon on the seas of life," a whale with a "peculiar snow-white wrinkled forehead, and a high, pyramidical white hump." (61) Beyond the Puritan fear of anything threatening moral innocence, however, one can also find an archetypal root for Ahab's hatred for the White Whale in Yahweh's violence and hatred towards Leviathan-Rahab, described in (Isaiah 27:1), which in turn built on traditional Middle Eastern mythology. As Jung tells us in Symbols of Transformation:
Given these associations, well established in American literature by the middle of the nineteenth century, we have to ask if the Puritan need to go after Middle Eastern images of evil is not still operating today in America's political and psychological attitudes toward "Islamic fundamentalism" and our feelings of entitlement to slay "monstrous dictatorships" in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Hostile Brother Motif in Moby-Dick
In Answer to Job, Jung writes:
Jung suggests, furthermore, referring to the gnostic pleroma as a metaphor for the fluid archetypal medium of the collective unconscious, that,
The most important drama that emerges recurrently in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious complex is the archetype of the hostile brothers, Isaac and Ishmael, Christ and Satan. Looking at this drama historically, we can trace the tendency to project the shadow onto a hostile brother from Isaac, through Jacob, to David, to Christ. This is a genealogical line of honored Self-symbols formed by the chosen sons of God. Within this development in Judeo-Christian culture, Ishmael carries the onus of disfavor, inferiority, and rejection. This is not true in Islam, however, where the Self-symbol is passed in a developmental-genealogical line from Abraham, to Isaac and Ishmael, to David, to Christ, to Muhammad. The emphasis on Abraham as the first representative is significant, for although Abraham himself may have rejected Ishmael within Abraham's story as recounted in the Hebrew Bible, God did not reject Ishmael at all. He implored Hagar to "lift up the lad" when he heard Ishmael crying, and promised to make of him a "great nation." (Genesis 21: 18) (65) And after Abraham's death the two brothers Isaac and Ishmael came together again, to bury their dead father (Genesis 25: 9), (66) which points to a kind of reconciliation between the two. This unity, without "mockery" between the two brothers, is stressed in the Qur'an. In Surah 14:39 Muhammad says: "Praise be to Allah, who has given me, in old age, Isma'il and Isaac." (67)
Indeed, from the point of view of the Qur'an there appears to have been no irreversible antagonism between the two brothers, for both were the carriers of the monotheistic belief of their father, Abraham. Muslims make no distinction between the God of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the Prophets, Jesus, and Muhammad; they are all messengers of the same monotheistic teachings of God. (68) In Surah 3: 67-68, moreover, Allah says:
Today, from a Western standpoint, we increasingly experience our current world situation as a spiritual alignment between America and Israel carrying the "chosen" democratic lineage of God from Abraham and Isaac, to Christ; with the Islamic countries bearing the onus of the authoritarian shadow-side of this religious complex. Muhammad's message about the unity of all three religions has not been accepted by the West or Near East, and Islam is increasingly demonized in the Western imagination for this failure. This situation can only bode disaster, because it is not harmonious archetypally. How can the conflict among the three monotheisms ever be resolved? A Jungian answer would be that they simply cannot be reconciled without a "fourth" standpoint to unite them, and this is what Melville's vision of evil provides.
Abraham, Christ, and Muhammad are all genealogically related, and all worshiped the One God, but Yahweh, the Father, and Allah, are not recognized as belonging to a unified religious complex by the Western world. Only in Islam is the monotheistic succession of the three religions accepted as evidence that all point to One unchanging God.
In our post-modern world the archetype of the "hostile brothers" prevails in international relations, with archetypal affects being projected unconsciously between nations. What is needed is a union, synthesis, and transformation of the three major religions of the West, Near East, and Middle East through a religious vision as all-encompassing as Muhammad's. In our psychological age, I feel this can only occur through a confrontation and working through their common father-son wounding in their relation to God.
This, I believe, is where Melville comes in. As a self-described American Ishmael, Melville created a bridge between America, the Near East, and the Middle East. Ishmael then became the vehicle of Melville's new revelation of God on the American continent. By tapping into the "absolute knowledge"(70) of psyche and world, Melville would seem to have achieved an intuitive understanding of the importance of Islam long before most Americans. His poetic insight led him to offer the union of Ishmael and Queequeg as a symbolic solution to the problem of masculine aggression, war, and hate between nations. He also predicted that Ishmael would survive the clash of opposites with an awareness of evil that, if we remain open to his "wicked book," (71) could in time illuminate the consciousness of the world.
Melville as a Muslim Turk-, a Zoroastrian-, a Parsee-, and a Babylonian-American
Hershel Parker tells us that while Melville was well into the composition of Moby-Dick, he was invited to a masquerade party on August 8, 1850, where he assumed the costume of a Muslim Turk. Melville appeared at the masquerade "bedecked" in a "sexually vigorous," "threatening," and "turbaned" costume, fitted with a "scimitar" a curved saber, chiefly used by Arabs and Turks. (72)
Similarly, in his first autobiographical novel Typee, Melville wrote about his stay on the island of Nukeheva in Polynesia: "Thus I lay like a Turk with my doxies around…. Sardanapalus might have experienced such sensations but I doub[t] whether any of the Sultans ever did." (73) Melville was referring to the "delight" he felt in swimming naked with youthful Polynesian women in Nukeheva, something akin to what the Assyrian king Sardanapalus may have experienced in the 6th century B.C. E. before he made a funeral pyre of his palace and perished with his concubines in a self-destructive blaze. This biographical evidence suggests that Melville was attempting to integrate a pre-Islamic "Oriental pagan" attitude towards sensuality with Muslim monotheism. The references to Turkish experience in Melville's writings have always been a puzzle to literary scholars, but if these references are amplified with other Persian themes in his oeuvre, a pattern emerges that can make psychological sense of Moby-Dick as a religious work of art.
In his third novel, Mardi, in a chapter 119, significantly called "Dreams," Melville wrote: "Zoroaster whispered me before I was born. I walk a world that is mine; and enter many nations." (74) Zoroaster is the Greek name for the Iranian prophet, Zarathustra, after whom Nietzsche, a generation later, entitled his masterpiece Also Sprach Zarathustra. (75) Zarathustra was a real seventh to ninth century figure, who lived and taught among the seminomadic tribes of what is now northeastern Iran. Zoroastrianism spread throughout Iran and migrated outward, influencing the later developments of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as Greek thought. In India, the "Parsees," Zoroastrians who emigrated from Persia under religious pressure from the Muslims, have kept the religion vigorously alive to this day. The name "Parsee" simply means "Persian," but Melville uses "Parsee" to characterize his sinister figure, "Fed-allah," a composite of a Persian-Islamic identity complex that may be currently constellated in radical Islamic fundamentalism today.
Another set of associations to the Middle East in Melville's oeuvre may be found in Pierre, a book Melville wrote hastily, even recklessly, following the publication of Moby-Dick. There he speaks of himself as a "youthful Magian," out of whom "Chaldaic improvisations" burst forth in "quick Golden Verses." (76) Chaldea (Chaldaea), famous in the ancient world for its astrologers, corresponds roughly to the southern plain between Baghdad and the Persian Gulf. Henry A. Murray, the pioneering psychological interpreter of Melville, tells us that "Magian" and "Chaldean," refer to a highly valued figure of his imagination, an Eastern (Persian, Babylonian) man of wisdom, interpreter of symbols and dreams, piner of the will of Heaven. The wise men from the East (Matthew, 2, 1) who were guided to Bethlehem by a star were magi, supposedly Zoroastrian fireworshipers from Persia. (77)
In another passage from Pierre, Melville refers to himself as a "shepherd-king." Around the same time, he wrote a famous letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne where this motif figures: "In my proud, humble way, a shepherd-king, I was lord of a little vale in the solitary Crimea; but you have now given me the crown of India." "For Melville," says Murray "'shepherd-king' also meant a 'piece of the Godhead.'"(78) The "crown of India" is a reference to the spiritual origins of Moby Dick, the great "Democratic God," whose first representation in the novel is the Indian God Vishnu. (79)
This array of references to oriental religions suggests in analytical terms that Melville is not writing simply out of the Judeo-Christian religious background of his American upbringing; his language moves toward an all-inclusive syncretism, focused on the East. Melville, like Emerson, could write out of the Hindu myth of the Self, which applies as much to the pre-Islamic world as it does to devout Hindus, and, like Whitman, take up the perspective of Native Americans for whom great white Buffalo was revered as the most numinous and sacred of all incarnations of the "Great Spirit." By "ping" deeper than any New England whaleman before him into the collective unconscious, Melville was able to link the monotheistic developments of the Near East and Middle East to the beliefs of ancient India where, though there is little actual monotheism, there is also no contradiction in including all the pairs of opposites, male and female, life and death, creation and destruction in the Godhead. In this way Melville arrives at a spiritual attitude that is clearly majority rule, inclusive of everybody's religious observations.
Job's Whale and Moby Dick: An Image of the Satanic Christ
In the chapter "Cetology" (a disquisition on the nature of the whale) Ishmael asks readers in his sly way of introducing Biblical amplifications:
A little further on in the narrative, Job comes up again. Ishmael tells us that Ahab was a "gray-headed, ungodly old man, chasing with curses a Job's whale round the world."(81) And in the "Epilogue," Ishmael quotes these final lines from the Book of Job: "And I only am escaped alone to tell thee." (82) Through such flourishes on the part of the narrator, Melville anticipates C. G. Jung's Answer to Job by locating the paradigm for the crisis of modern consciousness in the sufferings of Job: "The whale no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler? Who wrote the first account of our Leviathan? Who but mighty Job!" (83)
As a narrator trying to "hook the nose of Leviathan," Ishmael recounts the trajectory of our modern era, born out of our tragic separation from the earth, from the archetypal Feminine, and from the shamanistic vision that could heal our dissociation. In its efforts to advance heroically America by Melville's time had already destroyed its connection to the animals of the soul and the image-making faculty that had guided the continent's Paleolithic hunters.
Two whaling activities inform Moby-Dick's narrator as he attempts to come to terms with this psychological state of affairs: "essaying" and "hunting." Ishmael is the "essayist" who attempts to "hook the nose" of Moby Dick, while Ahab, the subject of Ishmael's narrative, is the defiant, and rebellious blasphemer, who chases Leviathan with a cursing fury in an attempt to confront, destroy, and subdue its projected vengeful side. This sacrilegious attitude towards the White Whale will prove to be fatal to Ahab, and, Melville implies, to the Western ego itself. The Whale represents the Self rising out of the power of the archetypal Feminine the feminine sea in which this new symbol of God is contained and the Self, not the Ahab-ego will prove victorious in the end.
Ishmael's ambition, from an analytical standpoint, is of another kind, namely to make the positive and negative poles of the Leviathan-Rahab, the Christian "devil," or the dark side of the archetypal Masculine-Feminine Deity conscious in us. Taking insight from the Job story, this requires that we disentangle the human shadow from the invisible spheres of the God-image. Melville's narrator asks how the men of the Pequod could have so unanimously respond to the old man's [Ahab's] ire by what evil magic over their souls possessed, that at times his hate seemed almost theirs…. or how to their unconscious understandings, also, in some dim, unsuspected way, he might have seemed the gliding great demon of the seas of life, all this to explain, would be to pe deeper than Ishmael can go. The subterranean miner that works in us all, how can one tell whither leads his shaft by the evershifting, muffled sound of his pick? (84)
It would take another 100 years, however, before another "thought-per" would give an explanation that would attempt to answer this paradox in a similarly psychological way and illuminate the drive to integrate the opposites of good and evil in the God-image. In Answer to Job, a visionary work of anguished theology, C. G. Jung names our subterranean miner as the Satanic Christ in all of us that seeks an inpidual answer to the problem of human suffering. This personal myth of the shadow, Jung thought, can actually help us live with the question of God's inexplicable darkness.
This was of course deeper, at least conceptually, than Melville-Ishmael could pe in 1850-1851. But in Ishmael's reflections we can nevertheless see that Melville located the major unsolved problems of his time-homosexuality, slavery, Indian-hating, and repression of the Feminine principle. These shadow problems were epitomized, for Melville, in the 1849-1851 period, by the California Gold Rush, the Buffalo hunts of the 1860s, the Indian wars, slavery, sexism, and in the tragedies of the whaling industry itself. But the story of the hunt for Moby Dick is Melville's symbolic solution to the problem of how to visualize the coincidence of the human-pine shadow. Jung's recognition of a dark side to the Self and ideas about a Satanic Christ may have been influenced, to a greater or lesser degree, by his 1925 conversations with the American-born Henry A. Murray, a Melville afficionado. Murray had left Cambridge University where he was studying biochemistry, to consult with Jung on the question of whether or not he should become a psychologist. Murray was already steeped in Moby-Dick and Pierre at the time of his first meeting with the then fifty-year old Jung. Certainly, by 1931, Jung knew Moby-Dick well enough to call it the "greatest American novel." (85)
Murray's visit to Jung also led to Jung's taking Murray's mistress, Christiana Morgan, into treatment. Claire Douglas has suggested that it is Christiana Morgan who actually provided the imaginal seeds for Jung's discoveries of a "Satanic Christ lurking beneath the one-sided Christian mask of God." (86) But we need to recognize that Henry Murray got his inspiration for his reflections on Moby-Dick from his muse Christiana Morgan, for it was Morgan who first painted the visionary image of a Satanic Christ and understood it as utterly relevant to what the two of them were learning from Jung. As Morgan wrote to Murray in 1927: "To go on with what Jung has begun would be the biggest thing that could be done at the present time. Is there a bigger whale or a whiter whale?" (87)
It was not until twenty-five years later, however, in writing Answer to Job, that Jung was able to connect the unconscious affects aroused during his readings of Moby-Dick and Job into psychological consciousness. In Answer to Job, Jung uses his method of active imagination to confront Yahweh with his own fiery emotions. These were not just any vile or wicked affects, such as we find fulminating from the mouth of Ahab. Jung had become aware of his own and humanity's darkness, through the tragedies of the First and Second World Wars, after his own failure to speak out against the Nazis in the early thirties. By the time he wrote Answer to Job, the trickster in his own character seems to have been integrated to such an extent that we have more than a proud diatribe.(88) Jung's aim was to hold God to account for the tricksterism in the Godhead itself that had led, and was still leading, man into temptation:
Similarly, Melville, eager to confront his Christian forebears, the Puritan mythos, and Yahweh himself, took Ahab in a tricksterish way as a persona for his own anger at the Judeo-Christian God. Melville and Jung were actually hunting the shadow side of God. Jung would take Satan by the jaw. And he saw this project in Melvillean terms. In a short letter to his secretary Aniela Jaffe, on May 29, 1951, C. G. Jung wrote: "I have landed the great whale; I mean 'Answer to Job.' I can't say I have fully digested this tour de force of the unconscious. It still goes on rumbling a bit, rather like an earthquake." (90) This is not unlike the letter Melville sent to Hawthorne on June 29, 1851: "Shall I send you a fin of the Whale by way of a specimen mouthful?" (91)
Written almost exactly 100 years apart, Moby-Dick and Answer to Job strangely mirror one another. The first book was written by an American poet, still struggling to integrate the Satanic Christ and free himself from the strangle-grip it laid upon his traumatized soul, whereas the second was by the great analytical psychologist of the twentieth century, who was striving to expose the wound of God at an unprecedented level of psychological and moral understanding.
Both books are deliberately epochal, in the sense that they explore the evolution of the Judeo-Christian God-image. It is not amiss to regard both, as Edward Edinger has done, as products of the continuing evolution of the pine drama, in which God's nature is progressively revealed to humanity and transformed by humanity's consciousness of it. In Melville this awakening comes symbolically through the literary depiction of Ahab, who is both "ungodly" and a "god-like" (92) man; both Christ and Satan, shadow and Self. No less than Jung, Melville attempted to create a new world mythos in which the evil in Satan would be revealed as an unconscious aspect of God's nature, needing to be made conscious in the human soul. God had created the Leviathan to be wiser and more powerful than man, a fact of which Job was well aware. Thus, the monotheisms have always taught that the proper attitude of the ego in relation to the Self is to subordinate oneself to its supreme authority. In this context Muhammad says in the Koran, Surah 21: 83:
Melville's Ahab carries, on the other hand, the unconscious anger of Adam, Ishmael, Job, and Christ for the suffering God's servants have had to endure; Ahab's lack of penitence is the reversal of Job's. In fact, like Satan, Ahab's defiance against God is an archetypal defiance against the Self, (94) subsequent to the traumatic loss of his leg during an earlier encounter with Moby Dick. Ahab's obsession with Moby Dick can be understood as an attempt to make God conscious in the collective and cultural psyche. How can this be understood in the context of contemporary politics from an analytical psychological standpoint?
The image of the Satanic defiance of God's ways is currently constellated in the political tensions between America and the Middle East, where each side projects the unconscious Satanic portion of the God-image onto the other. The American leadership, for instance, has recently spoken about an "axis of evil"(95) that includes Iraq and Iran, and for decades now Islamic fundamentalist groups have spoken about America as the "Great Satan." Whenever such a condition of splitting and projective identification obtains in the collective psyche, the dark, destructive side of God cannot be acknowledged as residing in all nations and in all people. The result can only lead to paranoia, and the perpetuation of terror and violence.
Ahab as a Zoroastrian Fire-Worshiper: A Persian Symbol of Man's Impulse to Destroy
In a remarkable section of Moby-Dick Ahab remembers his previous incarnation as a Zoroastrian fire worshiper. Fire, which remains a central image for Ahab, takes on a negative connotation throughout Moby-Dick as a symbol of man's impulse to destroy. Yet this is shadowed by its positive, Promethean aspect, as a redemptive symbol for consciousness. It signifies for Ahab, a Satanic consciousness of his role as God's challenger. In "The Candles," Ahab says:
As the "unbelievers" of the Qur'an, who are "unable to see," because God's "lightning almost takes away their sight," (97) Melville's Ahab bears the scar, where Yahweh's lightning hit him. "The lightning flashes through my skull," cries Ahab, "mine eye-balls ache and ache; my whole beaten brain seems as beheaded, and rolling on some stunning ground…. Through thee, thy flaming self, my scorched eyes do dimly see." (98) This sulphurous image reveals Melville's Ahab as an incarnation of the Satanic Christ, who, unlike Yahweh's favored angels, refused to prostrate himself before God or man. "He [Satan] said: 'I am better than he [Adam]; You created me from fire and You created him from clay.'"(99)
Fire is an image that has often been associated with wanton destruction, as in Hitler's slaughter of seven million Jews in the fiery gas-ovens of Germany or Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor during WWII. In more recent times, we have seen Ahabian "dictatorship" (that Jungian analyst James Kirsch outlined)(100) in Saddam Hussein's soldiers setting fire to Kuwaiti oil fields during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and terrorist-manned jets that became fire balls upon striking the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. Fire becomes a means of the defiance of established power that seems Satanic. Moby-Dick enables us to catch a symbolic reflection of the inherent evil in humanity when it has assumed the status of "godlikeness." Ahab the hater locates the original source of man's hatred towards man in God's hatred towards men like himself.
He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That unscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreck that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. (101)
This can be seen in America's bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima during WWII, Iraq's bombing of Israel, Israel's retaliatory attack against Iraq, or the more recent American strikes against the Taliban in the White Mountains of Afghanistan, which becomes an unconscious identification with the aggressor Self, righteously imagined as a defense of the Good God. Finally, the political authority for such military action rests not in national foreign policy alone, but most importantly, in the supreme authority of the God-image as the privileged retributive agent in the human psyche with which an aggrieved nation can become righteously aligned. The fantasy is of a special privilege, granted by God, so that the moral decisions of a political body become aligned with God's justice, while the repressed "evil" trickster side of God is projected outward onto other nations, races, or religious ideologies, and battled against, even though humanity and not God is the actual cause of such "retribution."
In the Promethean theft of fire from the gods, every nation that follows this path becomes a "fire-worshiper," obsessed with its own righteousness and claiming of genealogical succession from the "chosen" lineage of God. If a new world order is to be resurrected from the ashes of God's wrath, fire, and destruction, these patriarchal power structures which have risen to the status of religious transcendence must pass. When wars stem from religious commandments and judgments from the "inner voice," God is on both sides, fundamentalist Islam, and Bush's America alike, while the human soul and the bodies of sentient civilians of the world rest Job-like in the balance. As Jung saw, God Himself, the Great Absolute, must be taken to task if His part in the tragedy of human anguish, grief, and sorrow is ever to come to light. Melville's vision of evil allows us to penetrate the core of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious complex and to see through the eyes of Ishmael and Ahab the root source of the human tragedy not in man's pact with the Devil, as Puritans might have argued, but in man's identification with the Satanic aspect of the pine.
Pact with the Devil
While the circle of the crew are gathered around Ahab on the Quarter Deck as the captain passes around a "heavy charged flagon" (which I read as a perverted symbol of the Holy Grail) to the rest of his crew, Ishmael recounts the behavior of the delirious Ahab: "
The men drink, then Ahab asks the three pagan harpooners to revive the noble custom of his "fisherman fathers" of crossing lances. Ahab touches the "axis" of the radiating lances at their crossed center. With his extended arm twitching nervously, he calls his three pagan harpooner-kinsmen: "sweet cardinals!"(103) "Drink, ye harpooners! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat's bow Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!" The long "barbed steel goblets" are lifted and with "cries and maledictions against the white whale, the spirits were simultaneously quaffed down with a hiss." (104)
Here is an image of an "axis of evil." When Ahab says, "God hunt us all, if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!" I hear a prospective hint of America's attitude towards Osama bin Laden, or Saddam Hussein. And in this passage Ahab, who once worshiped as a "Persian" is now predicting the doom of the whole adventure. We can see his foreboding in the nervous twitch of his arm and his statement "so brimming life is gulped and gone." (105)
As a visionary poet, Melville saw right through to the archetypal core of the American power-complex; reading him today it is clearer than ever that he exposed the cultural shadow of America. He uses Ahab to deliver a strong message to America: like the men of the Pequod, all Americans who hunted Native Americans, abused slaves, and burned witches had, in the name of fighting the Devil, actually been tricked into a pact with the Devil. Here I am reminded of Melville's tribute to Hawthorne, the great documenter of the Salem witch trials: "Whence come you, Hawthorne? By what right do you drink from my flagon of life? And when I put it to my lips lo, they are yours and not mine." (106) Hawthorne was for Melville the source for his literary power to depict the American archetypal shadow. Hawthorne was his model for confronting the evil in the Puritan attitude. In letting Hawthorne be the one to drink from his "flagon of life" he is not only repaying his mentor, he is dedicating both his greatest book and his greatest character to him.
The "flagon" is clearly a reference to the draught of Melville's "wicked" book, and of Ahab's archetypal role as a symbolic bearer of evil for the world. As a perverted image of the Holy Grail, the flagon of this image of defiance is not filled with the blood of Christ or even the menstrual blood of a virgin. It is filled with the sulfur, iron, and salty blood of three pagan harpooners; one a Polynesian (Queequeg), another African (Dagoo), another Native American (Tashtigo). In Moby-Dick all three harpooners offer up a bit of their blood for Ahab and the men to drink as they enter a pact for vengeance against the White Whale. Symbolically, this locates the pact with the Devil in the unconscious symbol of wholeness, indicating that the dark side of the Self is ascendant. Lived out unconsciously by Ahab, the Self in its dark aspect can only lead to increasing inflation, hubris, and excessive uses of power. If this symbol for man's attempt to defy the paradox of evil "sanctioned by" God is integrated consciously, however, it can actually lead to the transformation of the God-image. In this sense, the drinking from Melville's flagon signifies consciousness assimilation, not just intoxication by the dark side of the Self.
With Ahab as the "fourth," these three harpooners plus one form what C. G. Jung called in Aion a "Shadow Quaternio." The Shadow Quaternio, which can be visualized by the double Serpent motif, represents the Self as either good or evil, Christ or the Devil, healing or destruction, God or Satan. (107) The double Serpent motif is the ambivalent aspect of the Deity that was veiled by Christianity, and both Jung and Melville made valiant attempts to redeem this denied aspect of the Self for the betterment of humanity. This is most clearly visible in the following lines:
Melville's irony makes us question Ahab's unconscious assumption that the mysterious White Whale is only evil and forces us to see it as more ambiguous, morally, than Ahab, clearly projecting his own "monomaniacal" energy onto this incarnated Leviathan, would allow. Melville indicates that the whale, no less than the serpent images, can carry the opposites of good and evil, Christ and Satan. And he seems to be implying that these opposites need to be integrated into the Judeo-Christian-Islamic mythos before wholeness, in the world and psyche, can be achieved on a collective basis.
Before such an integration of the morally ambivalent Self can be reached in the world, however, the all-male trinity of Judaism-Christianity-Islam will have to assimilate the Feminine. Throughout Moby-Dick there are references to three: three mates, the crossing of three lances by three male harpooners, three chalices, three punctured holes in the starboard fluke of the White Whale (inserted violently there by Ahab). With the help of Jung's understanding of triadic symbolism, all of these references to three, can be seen to point to an excessive strain upon Ahab's over-masculinized ego-consciousness, which is dissociated from the "fourth," which would be the Feminine. As we shall see in a later section, Ahab will cry out in his agony: "my sweet mother, I know not. Oh, cruel! what hast thou done with her? There lies my puzzle,…" (109)
When he says "thou" Ahab is speaking to God. He is holding God to account. What he is voicing is his outrage and hurt over the fact that he was forced by the patriarchal God's hatred and persecution to give up his connection to the Mother Goddess. This suggests that Ahab's heart-wound is really a mother-wound, and this points to an injury in the American collective psyche that stems ontologically from the Western ego's disseverance from the earth, the Mother principle, and a feeling-full awareness of its own birth trauma. Ahab's hatred against the White Whale may be seen as emerging out of God's resentment against man for choosing any form of worship other than what is prescribed authoritatively by the commandment of Yahweh not to worship any false idols. Melville is suggesting that Ahab's mania for revenge stems in part from the patriarchal Judeo-Christian God's hostility toward the mother goddesses and their religions, which has estranged us from what they have to offer, particularly the way of neutralizing our aggression.
But due to his projection of hatred into the White Whale, as an image of God, Ahab cannot feel into his own heart-wound and therefore cannot see into his own traumatic injury, or into the reason for God's rejection of him, as can Ishmael. Unlike Ishmael, he cannot love his fellow men in a spirit of universal brotherhood. Because his sense of being separated from the feminine aspect of the pine, Ahab carries the "general rage" of his race "from Adam down," and his chest has become a "mortar," not unlike some suicide bomber today, who, out of a mad religious belief, is attempting to destroy the evil side of God, by bursting his "heart's hot shell upon it." (110)
The Jeroboam's Story: Trauma and the Impulse to Repeat the Past
In the chapter "The Jeroboam's Story," Melville returns to Biblical legend to point out the dangers for Americans who steer a similar course to Ahab's. The action takes place during a "gam" with the Jeroboam, a whaling ship out of Nantucket. The Jeroboam's crew suffers from a "malignant epidemic," symbolizing the psychic infection inflicted upon the crew by God. According to Biblical legend, Jeroboam was a king of Israel who worshiped the golden calf and encouraged the return of the Canaanite religion of Baal. Jeroboam and his house were destroyed by king Asa, of Judah, who, as a loyal servant of Israel, carried out the pine wrath of Yahweh.
Warnings are given in "The Jeroboam's Story," hearkening back to the prophecies of Tistig that Ahab's name would "prove prophetic." This time the warnings are sounded through the mouth of a deranged and delirious Shaker, named Gabriel, who serves as a symbolic mouthpiece for Melville's predictions of doom. Melville describes Gabriel in terms reminiscent of the possession states of some of our modern day religious fanatics: "A deep, settled, fanatic delirium was in his eyes…. with that cunning peculiar to craziness, he assumed a steady, common sense exterior,… his insanity broke out in a freshet. He announced himself as the archangel Gabriel,…" (111) Gabriel confronts Ahab with a prophecy: "Think, think of thy whale-boat, stoven and sunk! Beware of the horrible tail!" (112)
It is fitting that Melville should have sent his warning to the world through the mouth of Gabriel, for the infection that is at the root of the Jeroboam's epidemic comes from the impulse to destroy the White Whale, Moby Dick. The accent on Gabriel's "insanity" is an ironic reference to Asa's apparent "righteousness" in carrying out the will of God. For in Kings 1: 15:12 it is said that Asa "took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols his fathers had made." In Surah 11: 82 of the Qur'an, moreover, Gabriel articulates Allah's commandments through the Messenger, Muhammad: "And when Our Decree came, we turned [the town Sodom] upside down and rained down upon it stones of clay in clusters."
We have only to think of Jung's theory of "psychic epidemics," or "psychic infections"(113) to understand the significance of Melville's images here. By "epidemic" Jung means that mass psychoses or states of insanity can sweep through groups, political regimes, or entire nations, when they fall under the control of toxic archetypal contents from the objective psyche. Typically these epidemics are released through a charismatic leader, such as Adolph Hitler, who carries a psychic malignancy in himself.
The function of a visionary artist, who responds to the unmet needs in the community, is to send out a warning of such an impending malignancy in the collective in order to protect the integrity (114) of its inpiduals and groups from possession by archetypal affects and ideas. By giving symbolic form to what would otherwise be split off in the collective psyche, such a poet challenges the psyche's defensive operations in an effort to transform them. Jungian analyst Donald Kalsched has found in cases of post-traumatic symptomatology that "a persecutory agent" often "splits" the psyche in two, forming a traumatogenic imago that can haunt "patient's psyches," creating "dissociative activities" that render the inpidual a potential danger to self or others. In Kalsched's view "outer trauma alone does not split the psyche. An inner psychological agency occasioned by the trauma does the splitting." (115)
In Moby-Dick Melville actually traces such splitting by following the psychological events that ensue after the traumatic loss of Ahab's leg off the coast of Japan. On his long homeward journey, for long months of days and weeks, Ahab and anguish lay stretched together in one hammock,… then it was, that his torn body and gashed soul bled into one another; and so interfusing, made him mad. That it was only then, on the homeward voyage, after the encounter, that the final monomania seized him, seems all but certain from the fact that, at intervals during the passage, he was a raving lunatic; and, though unlimbed of a leg, yet such vital strength lurked in his Egyptian chest, and was moreover intensified by his delirium, that his mates were forced to lace him fast, even there, as he sailed, raving in his hammock. In a straight-jacket he swung to the mad rocking of the gales. (116)
If according to Jung, "psychic infections" arise in the collective when important aspects of the Self are split off, denied, or repressed into the unconscious, traumatogenic images can transfix an inpidual, a group, or nation, becoming what Pierre Janet called idée fixe. Through the power of the image or idea to traumatize ever-increasing numbers of people, they promote political or religious fanaticism. Melville refers to such an obsessive condition as "monomania." (The Jungian analyst Steven Joseph has called it "monolatry: the perverse shadow of monotheism. ") (117)
In Moby-Dick Melville traces the violent trends in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious complex to a mass "epidemic" stemming from the dark side of the God-image. Although the "epidemic" is supposed to represent one of the plagues of Yahweh, the source of the epidemic, in Melville's analysis, is fourfold, though it needs to be stated in contemporary language: 1) homophobia, 2) the injunction not to worship any graven images, 3) monolatryi, or fundamentalist monotheism, and 4) unconscious splitting of primitive fear or terror into affects of archetypal hatred, violence, and the impulse to destroy.
In the story, Ahab's impulse to destroy the White Whale repeats the experience of the loss of an essential aspect of his being. He attempts to kill the very object, the Whale, that God forbade him earlier to worship, through the idolatrous symbols of the whale's bounteous stores of oil and the golden doubloon. But in so doing, he is dismembered. His "torn body and gashed soul" bleed "into one another; and so interfusing," make "him mad." It is only "on the homeward voyage" that the "final monomania," the fixed idea to kill Moby Dick enters him. A similar monomaniacal situation, in which the ego becomes identified with "godlikeness" and has to be broken up, through the violence of the Self, may be found in Ezekiel 29: 3-4: (118)
Like the Pharaoh mentioned in Ezekiel, Ahab represents what Thomas Singer has called an "archetypal defense of the collective or group spirit." This may emerge in any group, or nation, but Ahab particularly points to the migratory, hubristic ego-inflation of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that so often has petrified in one country or another into "monomoniacal" political or religious ideology. Singer writes:
In Moby-Dick, the diamones are symbolized by Ahab's three harpooners, Queequeg, Dagoo, and Tashtigo, and the traumatized pine child they fail to protect is embodied most purely by the thirteen-year-old black boy, Pip, who sees into the depths of the collective psyche when he jumps overboard and sinks into the sea.(120) The loss of Pip's sanity is significant: he has "heaven's sense" to fear the White Whale. (Melville makes a point of noting that other ship captains whom Ahab encounters in the course of danger are not so stupid as to steer heedlessly and incautiously ahead. This may be seen to represent Americas "righteous compulsion to act," which was obvious to the world at the time of the second Gulf War.) As the Pequod approaches the Jeroboam, Ahab calls out to the ship's captain, Mayhew, who was fearful of infecting the Pequod's men with an infectious disease, but Ahab, characteristically, appears immune to any such warnings. In fact, the Pequod carries an infection (Ahab's monomania) far more dangerous than the Jeroboam's. Ahab says: "I fear not thy epidemic, man,…" (121) Ahab boards the Jeroboam and encounters the delirious shaker "Gabriel," so named after the Biblical archangel, who warned the Hebrews to stick to God's Word. Interestingly enough, Gabriel is also the primary mouthpiece through whose archangelic voice the Qur'an was dictated to the prophet Muhammad in pure Arabic, from the One God, Allah.
Melville's irony is again at work: Ahab asks the reader to believe that Gabriel's prophecies should be dismissed because he is insane and that the Jeroboam's epidemic should not be feared because Ahab is immune to the illness it carries. To a less inflated leader, the fact that the men of the ship Ahab encounters have been stricken with an "epidemic," or a "plague," should have already been worry enough. The defense of the group spirit is contagious, and soon Ahab will be led to destroy the Self (Moby Dick) who delights in swimming in the world's seas as God's "plaything." Insofar as the White Whale is transcendent to the opposites, infinite, and immortal, Ahab's efforts to kill him will lead to naught. The autonomous, democratic Self will be victorious in the end, but not without showing its aggressive side in response to Ahab's paranoid attack.
The Avenging Angel of God: Fedallah and Islamic Fundamentalism
As the boats are lowered during the first whale hunt, five mysterious crew members secretly brought on board the Pequod by Ahab before the ship set sail slip into the captain's boat to lead him toward the whales. "With a start all glared at dark Ahab, who was surrounded by five dusky phantoms that seemed fresh formed out of air."(122) The central figure is Fedallah, an Avenging Angel of God. He is the primary instigator in Ahab's hate and the retributive agent against his titanic hubris and pride. Ishmael describes Fedallah, who is otherwise referred to by Melville as "the Parsee," in the following manner:
According to Jungian analyst Edward Edinger, Fedallah is an Islamic name compounded of two elements: feda, meaning 'sacrifice' or 'ransom,' and Allah, meaning God.' It thus means the sacrifice of God. The cognate term Fedai, meaning 'he who offers up his life,' was applied to the medieval sect of Islamic mystics called Assassins. These were avenging ministers or destroying angles of God who were pledged to commit murder in the service of Allah. The word assassin, interestingly, derives from hashish or hemp, the source of marijuana, and was applied to these religious killers because they consumed hashish in order to induce an ecstatic state of communion with the deity. These connections are most interesting in the light of Fedallah's prophecy to Ahab that 'hemp only can kill thee.'(124)
As Dorothee Metlitsky Finkelstein, Edinger's source for this etymology, writes:
Fedallah, or the Parsee's connection to the Far East and Middle East, places him in a different category than Ahab and his multi-ethnic American crew. He comes from the far reaches of the race-consciousness and for this reason he must be associated with the ego-alien regions of the world and psyche for most Americans. He is a paradoxical image of a defense of the group spirit as found in fundamentalist Islamic monolatry.
Melville's first allusion to the Parsee is to his "half-hissed reply." "Half-hissed" implies that this phantom of the deep is half-human, half-snake. For Melville's readers, there is something serpent-like and sinister about this "Islamic-Asian" character, and his group of five. The association to the serpent connects him to Ibliss. As Ishmael looks upon these "tiger yellow creatures" he recounts that he had seen them creeping onto the Pequod during the "dim Nantucket dawn," and he recounts furthermore the "enigmatical hintings of the unaccountable Elijah." (126) Fedallah is clearly an avenging agent of God. He is either the Devil incarnate, or an incarnation of Satan, but insofar as he represents the avenging angel of the Self against Ahab, he also carries a positive value, as the compensatory aspect of the Self that will lead Ahab and his "dictatorship" aboard the Pequod to an end. Ishmael speaks of him thus:
Fedallah's "ghostly aboriginalness," his resemblance to "the earth's primal generations," and his link to "the first man" points to his archetypal connection to what Jung calls "the myth of the pine Primordial Man, the mystic Adam" in Aion.(128) But at this stage of the novel, the Parsee's connection to the "first man" points primarily to his diabolical and malevolent proclivity as the dark side of the Self incarnate, not yet to any redeeming potential in this paradoxical symbol. (129) Although Fedallah may carry a distant connection to the First Adam, he is, like Ahab in his most sinister form, an avatar of absolute evil. With his appearance, the evil of the Self would seem to be pitted against the evil of Ahab's Self-defiance. Anyone who witnessed the live coverage of the hijacked planes hitting the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City gazed "straight into the face of absolute evil." (130) What the myth that Melville offers can help us understand, however, is how to view the evil we dreaded, hated, and mourned on 9/11, as a "strange fatality" that "pervades the whole career"(131) of America from our nation's beginning. This is to say that the Fedallah-Ahab pair has incarnated itself in the world as a daimonic reality, and it is this terrifying image of absolute evil, which we cannot get out of our psyches, that must be assimilated through conscious understanding.
Fedallah, then, is a prospective image of the nemesis that shadows our hubris, what Thomas Singer has called an "archetypal defense of the group spirit" of fundamentalist Islam that now haunts us in our dealings with the Middle East. Melville's intuition was precise: there were five assassins assigned to each of the four planes on 9/11, just as there were five phantoms selected as Ahab's crew. The present danger America faces is that this traumatogenic defense of the group spirit of the Muslim world may be in a kind of participation mystique with the same potential for defensive evil that we have seen from the American side following 9/11. In the vengeful spirit of Americans caught in the "cultural complex"(132) of the United States that is now being touted as "care" by our traumatized political leaders, we see a diabolical self-care system of the type Kalsched has described in inpiduals, in which the defense is at least as bad as the trauma it seeks to defend. The Ahab-Fedallah pair has become a part of the American psyche that has the potential to become a psychic epidemic only if the archetypal image remains split into an us/them dynamic that is mutually unconscious. In Moby-Dick, the submergence of Fedallah's personality into the collective group-identity of his crew points to his prospective significance as a possible prototype of one of the 9/11 assassins. Nor should we forget that it is Fedallah who breaks through the foundation of the American psyche to whisper into Ahab's ear that the White Whale should continue to be hunted, not only for its large quantities of oil, but out of hatred for the traumatic injury Ahab sustained off the coast of Japan. Is this not the echo of the satanic voice that is now being whispered into American's ears about the need to hunt terrorist cells of Islamic fundamentalist jihad? We have to conclude that the danger of psychic contamination from an outer evil stems from our liability to infection by the terrorizing principle in the God-image itself, which ironically but also appropriately becomes the object of the hunt.
In Diagram One, (133) the Ahab-Fedallah pair can be seen as potential carriers of absolute evil (Satan, Antichrist, or Ibliss) arising when either side of a political split between nations or blocks in the world becomes contaminated unconsciously with affects of terror, hatred, and violence stemming from the unrecognized dark side of the nationally favored God-image, and then projects that outward and responds concretely, as if to a terrorizing reality only in the world external to that nation. Most Arabs would agree, for instance, that Saddam Hussein has been an extremely sinister dictator. He has gassed or tortured many of his own people. We cannot, moreover, say the same thing about our American president. (134) Nevertheless, the real "axis of evil," as Thomas Singer has pointed out, comes when the demonic defense of the group spirit in one collective is responded to by the demonic defenses of another collective.(135) Currently we have seen just such a clash of defenses in the conflict between America and Iraq. Military defenses have been mobilized against an "axis of evil" that has a centuries-old religious hatred at its roots. (136)
It should be remembered that the archetypal Ahab-Parsee pair holds a potential for leading the world towards peace or destruction, health or illness, life or death, depending on whether they can be recognized as symbolic of the destructive proclivity within each group or nation that is party to the present conflict. To stare absolute evil straight in the face, as Jung understood, is to be able to assimilate it as a destructive potential within oneself and to judge it ethically and morally as a sinister psychic epidemic when it appears objectively in the other.
When, however, the image is split into two opposing halves and projected outward as an external agent to be fought against in the political or military arena, it may lead to actual chemical and biological warfare, to a nuclear "accident," or to the ironic deployment by those who seek to root them out, of weapons of wholesale mass destruction. When the Ahab-Parsee pair is split into two warring halves it presents the world with a horrifying external reality. Currently the United States and Islamic fundamentalists both insist that absolute good or moral right (Yahweh, Christ, or Allah) is on their side-and that absolute evil (Satan, Antichrist, Ibliss) resides only on the other side. But no side in the international conflict can escape infection, or contamination by the terrorizing principle if the problem of the conflict of opposites fails to be confronted vigorously, as an objective shadow problem, that must be met within and without.
This is not the place to debate what constitutes right action but it is the place to argue for right consciousness.(137) Psychologically, it is important for America to hold in consciousness the potential malevolent consequences of reacting to trauma by retraumatizing the collective psyche. This can only perpetuate the cycle of violence in the world, rather than influence the world to integrate its evil consciously. Melville and Jung both envisioned this possibility.
When the Ahab-Parsee pair is reflected upon, as Melville invites us to do, as a mutually antagonistic pair of brothers who are colluding together in a battle against the dark side of God, their remarkable fusion and mirroring symmetry may become instructive-as a symbol of cultural, political and spiritual transformation. In this sense Melville's vision of evil, no less than his teacher Milton's, instructs the world "under a masque," by making "the Devil himself a Teacher & Messiah." (138) As a visionary artist, Melville was outlining a present and future possibility, not predicting any political or historical outcome. In amplifying Melville's images, in the light of recent historical events, I am less interested in making him our Nostradamus than I am in pointing out the psychological dangers for the world's soul, in America's hunting dictatorships and oppressive regimes down with a power-driven patriarchal attitude mirrored by the regimes it hopes to change. We have to reflect that the Muslim fundamentalists have already succumbed to this danger. "From this point of view," writes Thomas Singer, bin Laden and the Mujahedin are diamones human but terrifyingly impersonal incarnations of the archetypal defenses of the [group] spirit. They are the avenging angels of the deeply and long-traumatized spirit of the Muslim world. As diamones, they may well end up further wounding and torturing the very traumatized Muslim Self that they have set out to defend. In addition to the awful tragedy of inflicting further injury to the Muslim spirit that the diamones seek to protect is the psychological fact that possession by a cultural complex automatically triggers its bipolar, reciprocal opposite, namely the response of the Western world. (139)
Let us now return to the story. Days and weeks pass under the sway of the oil-laden Pequod. The ship sweeps across four cruising-grounds before any trace of the White Whale is seen. Then Fedallah sees a silvery, moonlit jet in the far distance. Ishmael recounts:
This appearance of "The Spirit-Spout" leads readers to a sense of great anticipation. The whole crew is now filled with a sense of great excitement.
At this point, it is clear that Fedallah is the Avenging Angel of God. It is with the appearance of Fedallah and through the eyes of Tashtigo, the Indian, that we are enabled to see this sighting of what is at first thought to be the White Whale. What we are actually witnessing is the anticipatory appearance of a new symbol of the Self, arising from the sea of the collective unconscious, as a masculine-feminine Deity. (141) The birth of this new symbol occurs beneath the shining light of the stars and the moon, on the waters of the collective psyche. This new symbol is neither an avatar of the old matriarchal Mother religions of Mesopotamia, nor of the Far East; nor of the patriarchal religions of Israel, Islam, Europe, or Rome. Through a process of active imagination, Melville had arrived at the door in his inferior function (feeling) through which he could perceive a new image of God emerging in its prospective totality from the collective psyche. In Mysterium Coniunctionis Jung writes: "The fourth function has its seat in the unconscious. In mythology the unconscious is portrayed as a great animal, for instance Leviathan, or as a whale, wolf, or dragon." (142)
It is interesting to note that Melville describes the new God-image as "some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea." The uprising aspect of the White Whale as "plumed" connects his Leviathan-image with the Snake: the Toltec and Aztec symbol of Quetzalcoatl, or the "plumed serpent." Because the White Whale is associated with the moon, it is not a solar or patriarchal Deity: it is a masculine image, which includes the anima, the Earth, evil as well as good, and the homoerotic, as aspects of the pine.
In chapter 73 Flask asks Stubb: "Do you suppose Fedallah wants to kidnap Captain Ahab?" Stubb has already suspected this to be so and vows to confront the Parsee with such words as: "Look here, Beelzebub, you don't do it;…"(143) Here the American crew is beginning to wake up to the dangers of evil on board their American ship. Consider this idea in light of the following statement:
Here is a profound psychological realization of the prospective significance of the Parsee-image, even though it represents a defense of the group spirit of the Arab world, for the American people. The Parsee's shadow cannot be seen apart from Ahab's. Not only does it blend in with Ahab's shadow, it also lengthens it. By fundamentalist Muslim groups, America is viewed as the "Great Satan," and on the American side of the split in this Judeo-Christian-Muslim God-complex, currently bedeviling the world, America's president, George Bush, after announcing an American-launched "crusade" to destroy fundamentalist terrorist cells, went on to locate radical Islamic groups within an "axis of evil" that he said needed to be eliminated. (145)
As we shall see, it is to the Ahab-Parsee pair that America's fate is tied, by a "hempen" ligature of an assassin's rope, that extends from Ahab's harpoon to the back of the White Whale at the end of the novel. In our dealings with the Middle East we in the West need to take special heed of this image: on the one hand fundamentalist groups and dictatorships will not stop short of sacrificing their own lives to break through our national boundaries and security defenses to achieve their aims. On the other, few have grasped the violent clash of religious and political ideologies is like a meltdown in the religious level of the psyche, an archetypal defensive operation involving the three major religions of the West, Near East, and Middle East. "The ancient, archetypal riverbed of rivalrous conflicts between Christians, Jews, and Muslims," writes Singer is once again overflowing with a gushing torrent that threatens to flood the world. The Islamist dream of creating a 'caliphate' is a geographic projection of a wish to restore a wounded, collective Muslim spirit through the creation of an empire that transcends national boundaries. (146)
It is not too late for America to take heed from Melville's more conscious characters-Ishmael, Pip, and Starbuck-that fear, moral responsibility, and caution are the surest signs of American strength and wisdom, not moral weakness as we proceed ahead into this newest encounter with the dark side of God on Islamic soil. One of the most sensible things that George Bush did shortly after 9/11 was to invite some of his Muslim friends to the White House to celebrate Ramadan.
A New Symbol of the American Self: A Herd of Whales Heading East
In Chapter 86, "The Tail," Melville records a vision that could point to a shift in the God-complex of monomaniacal monotheism that I have been examining as a shadow at the core of all three of the major religions of the West, Near East, and Middle East. I will mention his vision of "The Tail" to give us a clear picture about where his prospective visions of the democratic Self are tending in the world and psyche. "Out of the bottomless profundities the gigantic tail [of the sperm whale] seem[ed] spasmodically snatching at the highest heaven." Ishmael continues:
This sighting of a grand procession of whales, just before Ishmael and Queequeg's entrance into the sacred precinct of the Feminine, in "The Grand Armada," points to a hopeful prospect for the world's future. That "such a grand embodiment" of whales that Ishmael saw in his vision in the East (the collective unconscious) was "never beheld, even in Persia, the home of the fire worshipers," suggests that a new image of the Masculine-Feminine Deity is approaching us. I see it as nothing less than the preserver, an incarnation of the Indian god Vishnu, with a potential for wholeness that is entirely new; it has no precedents in any patriarchal-monotheistic forms of worship. (148)
The Parsee's Prophecy of Doom
In Chapter 117, "The Whale Watch" Melville records the story of four slain whales and of an interesting conversation that transpired between Ahab and the Parsee, beside the body of one of the dead whales, while the other four members of his boat crew are fast asleep. Here again the symbolism of four whales is quite significant from an analytical standpoint. Four, according to Jung, is a symbol of wholeness, and it is this potential in the collective psyche that the Ahab-Fedallah pair and their all-masculine crew have killed. Melville writes:
What the Parsee is referring to here by "two hearses" are 1) the immortal hearse of the White Whale to which Ahab will be wedded in a love-death at the end of the novel,(150) i.e., his fusion with the feeling-toned object of his hate, and 2) the mortal "hearse" of the Pequod, the ship named after the Pequot Indians, whose wood was grown on American soil and which will be violently sunk, at the end of the novel, by the "battering ram" of the White Whale. This "prophecy" comes out of the core of the feeling-toned complex of Ahab's hatred, representing an affect-laden complex in the group psyche of America which the Parsee releases in him by way of contagion, as a sort of infectious spell, through which both he and the members of his ship are bound collectively to the hated object.
Melville's vision of evil reveals the tendency in the American psyche to project evil unconsciously, without reflecting on the traumatogenic nature of its archetypal source in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim religious complex. It is out of this unconscious source that the avenging angel of the Parsee comes, to destroy our present unconsciousness and promote a more comprehensive religious vision of the Godhead. The trinity of monotheistic religious ideologies are not just holding the world back-they are providing the world and collective psyche with the possibility of advancing all nations towards a new world mythos, in which the homoerotic, the Feminine, and evil can be integrated, and where the "fourth" factor of wholeness can be achieved. But this does not mean that these archetypal potentials towards Self-actualization are not threatened by monolatry. That they are is evident in Ahab's prospective dream of the two "hearses."
The danger with the monomania of Ahabian "godlikeness" is that through America's immense military might we could think ourselves "Immortal" in our relations with the Arab world. Moby-Dick gives the lie to this illusion. The myth tells us that Ahab and the Parsee are shadows of each other. Ahab's inflation goes on in the American collective, and his destructive path cannot be swerved:
Ahab has nailed the golden doubloon, symbolic of his culture's worship of money and oil, to the masthead of the Pequod, and a flame is kept perpetually burning there. Beneath these two images of idolatrous worship, Ahab's "shadow," the Parsee, has been kneeling.
At the base of the mainmast, full beneath the doubloon and the flame, the Parsee was kneeling in Ahab's front, but with his head bowed away from him….
Here the relationship between Fedallah and Ahab is clearly identified. As a prospective symbol, the pairing of these two figures is becoming increasingly Persian ("now I do glory in my [Zoroastrian] genealogy"), in its spiritual accent on the notion of their descent from the "fiery father" and there is an evil aspect to their mutual identity, represented by absence of the homoerotic love we have seen between Queequeg and Ishmael, and a total absence of connection to the Mother Goddess. Like Satan, Ahab glories in his genealogy from the fiery father. His sweet mother and the God-man-formed-of-the-clay, Adam, he knows not. Ahab is not in affective attunement with the earth and the Feminine. Interestingly, he blames God for this. He asks, what has the monotheistic God done with her? As a traumatogenic imago in the Hebrew psyche, Ahab carries the memory of a mother-wound in the collective unconscious, when Yahweh forbade the biblical Ahab worship of the Syrian mother Deity, Astarte. As an image of the dark side of the American Self, Melville's Ahab represents America's unsympathetic and ruthless attitudes towards matriarchal civilizations and particularly Native American men, women, and children, who were decimated during the Indian Wars. The "old squaw Tistig, at Gay-head," mentioned briefly in Chapter 16, ominously predicted Ahab's "name would somehow prove prophetic." I hear her voice as coming from the core of a traumatic cultural complex: the verge of becoming traumatogenic. This "squaw" (a culturally derogatory word) who has suffered from the destructive shadow of the new American nation presages America's potential for self-destruction.
America-and-Islam as Mirror Images of Each Other
In "The Hat" (Chapter 130) Melville outlines the relationship between the Ahab-Fedallah pairing and the Pequod's crew. By this point in the novel, Fedallah's prophecy of doom has so infected the group psyche of the ship's crew that we can easily see how Ahab and the Parsee are mirror images of one another. The absolute evil within the Parsee-image is matched by the corresponding absolute evil in Ahab. The contaminating effects emanating from one figure to the next stem from a shared energetic center within a common Hebrew-Christian-Islamic religious complex, carrying the potential for immense destruction. Ahab's gaze is transfixed by the Parsee's, just as the crew's eyes are transfixed by the hypnotic gaze of Ahab. The interpenetration of the Parsee's malevolent spirit with the iron will of Ahab contaminates the crew with a psychic infection, inducing them to follow Ahab into the fires of destruction. Melville makes the analogy to America, by speaking of the Pequod as a place where "the bloodshot eyes of the prairie wolves," i.e., the Pequod's crew, "meet the eye of their leader [Ahab], ere he rushes on at their head in the trail of the bison; but, alas! Only to fall into the hidden snare of the Indian!"(154) Understood psychologically, the image of the Ahab-Parsee pair acts as a warning about a proclivity to appropriate the violence of the imported God-image into the polis, to be expressed through the inflated propagandizing of a national leader who repeats the Puritan's projection of evil to the "sinful world." Recognizing all too well this perennial constellation in the collective American psyche, Ishmael recounts:
This is a haunting image of the American captain in thrall to a Persian shadow.(156) It is time that we turned away from the fascination of the Ahab-Parsee pairing and took heed of Melville's emphasis on Ishmael the traumatized Islamic-American Self who survived, enabling Melville to tell, in the words of a modern Jonah-and Job-the potential outcome of the story. Ishmael lives to hear Ahab say:
The disappearance of the shadow without insight is ominous. The hawk's beak refers to the black sea-hawk one of the harpies, or animal deities of the destructive feminine Self that swooped down on Ahab's ship and took the captain's hat high up into the sky, only to let it fall, Icarus-like, into the sea. Without integration of the shadow, Ahab (and the American inflation he represents) is doomed.
Integration of the Masculine-Feminine Self: The Penultimate Solution to the Problem of Evil
The telos of Moby-Dick is depicted in Melville's remarkable ending. As a tragic hero, Ahab is towed to his death, attached by his own ropes to the immortal "hearse" of the White Whale, while the Pequod and its crew entire are pulled down into the whirlpool of the Pacific and drowned by the destructive capacity of the White Whale to oust all inflated egotism in America from excessive uses of power.
This cautionary ending tells us that the patriarchal American ego-complex wants to pierce through the walls of evil by the use of violence, power, and superior force, but in its fight against evil becomes too bound to the object of its hunt to survive. Unrecognized is the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious complex that has Ahab in its thrall. Prospectively, this complex is so compelling because it contains the archetype of a new God-image at its core. This new image, arising from the sea of the collective psyche, is not without dangers to the human experiment in inpiduation. But it leads us to make the evil in the Godhead conscious. In a real sense, Moby-Dick as a whole is an example of how this can be done. Ishmael survives, as the image of a self-aware American. Early in the narrative he states his reasons for going to sea:
"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.
The synchronicity of this statement with America's recent history is amazing. What might this statement about a "BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN" have meant to Melville? The "bloody battle" to which he probably referred to was the British-Afghan battle at Parwandarah, on November 2, 1840, led by the most powerful of the Barakzai Sardars, Dost Mohammed, who maintained the upper hand during the battle but surrendered to the British in Kabul the following day. Not long after, on January 3, 1841, "One Ishmael," Melville, sailed on the whaleship Auschnet from New Bedford harbor for the South Pacific. More importantly, he launched an exploration of the unconscious that led him to feel into the cultural complex of the traumatized Arab world and discover a mirror there for the American situation.
In the "Epilogue" Ishmael tells us, in the words of a modern Job: "And I only am escaped alone to tell thee." After the Parsee's disappearance it is Ishmael, named for the original Father of Islam, and not some fundamentalist Satanic lieutenant, who is ordained by the Fates to take the place of "Ahab's bowsman (Parsee), when that bowsman assumed the vacant post,…" He is saved when the coffin of Queequeg shoots up out of the whirling vortex of the sea to serve as his life-buoy.
Ishmael represents the capacity to endure the tensions within the monotheistic God-complex and develop a new insight into its present limitations and future possibilities. Ishmael is a Self-figure who is able to relate lovingly to the Other: this we know from the Ishmael-Queequeg coniunctio. Carrying the burden of the cultural complex of monotheism, he offers healing through the unexpected solution of the repressed shadow of homosexuality and the realization of a reciprocal Eros between men. Perhaps the broadened perspective enables him to hold a reflective consciousness toward the events in the cultural unconscious of his time. Certainly it is through Ishmael's eyes that the whole drama is narrated and seen, and such a living symbol of a post-biblical figure, who sees through the complex of monotheism to the symbol the Self underneath, may point to the Eros through which transformation of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious complex is about to take place. That a male-male coniunctio and a Feminine symbol of completeness were seen by Melville as the developments in the world that may usher forth a new age of consciousness, where evil may be held in awareness without being re-projected as archetypal hatred, is symbolized by the last line of the "Epilogue": "It was the devious-cruising Rachael, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan [Ishmael] ." (160)
It is the feminine side of the Deity, Rachael, who picks up Ishmael, from the life-buoy of Queequeg's coffin, and transports him back to American shores; she is "the Shekinah, the glory of God in exile, and its personification, Rachael weeping for her children, in whom the personal aspect"(161) of the Goddess is preserved and because she is "devious-cruising," she has integrated the trickster and thus can guarantee Ishmael's survival, and his ability to hold (and share) his vision. On this hopeful note Melville ends the novel, one of the greatest stories ever told by an American. The anima-figure-ship is the containing vessel in Melville's vision of evil for the new image of God, as seen through the reflective and feeling eyes of Ishmael, who bears the message of the creative and destructive sides of God, the Father, or Allah, to the world's people.(162)
In the end Ishmael is not destroyed but enlightened by his tragic awareness of evil, and the immortal White Whale escapes, though with Ahab's irons lodged into the gaping wounds in his back. The Whale, as an agent of the living God, must carry a newly found sensitivity to his own pain.
Epilogue: Melville's Warning to the World
Melville ends Moby-Dick on a note of pessimism, recognizing that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic psyche has no vision of evil. But he also knew that if we could accept Ahab, Ishmael-Queequeg, and the White Whale as parts of ourselves, we might get along better in the world. "Wing ye down there, ye prouder, sadder souls! Question that proud, sad king! A family likeness! Aye, he did beget ye, ye young exiled royalties; and from your grim sire only will the old State secret come." (163) In our own time, Analytical Psychology has suggested a way to access that secret, through the integration of the shadow as a practical path. C. G. Jung, Henry Murray, James Kirsch, and Edward Edinger have all referenced Moby-Dick as informing that effort.
© Steven B. Herrmann 2003.
1) A shortened version of this essay was recently published in The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal, 2003, 22/3, 15-56. I would like to express my gratitude to Dyane Sherwood and John Beebe for their editing of my shortened Library Journal edition of this essay, as well as for their editing of this present edition of "Melville's Vision of Evil" for the IAAP Website.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 19 September 2009 08:40|