Steppenwolf PBA Essay by GG

In the modern era, the functional capacity of individuals within larger organizations has risen to unparalleled importance and the development of functionality has violently relegated the individual’s spiritual development. Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf illustrates the psychological damage modern organization inflicts upon complex beings and follows one man’s journey to heal his shattered soul. Along with Hesse, Søren Kierkegaard and Carl Jung also resist modern paradigms by illuminating the ways individuals can preserve and develop the many souls that exist within them, despite modern dehumanization. Kierkegaard discusses how defining oneself within the context of a larger organization fragments individuality, and argues that a subjective relationship to the self and one’s spirituality creates a truthful individual. Jung’s discussion of our shared unconscious shows the true depth of our inner beings and brings to light the severe dehumanization modern views of individuality produce. Hesse’s Steppenwolf, when read in the context of Kierkegaard and Jung, represents this very struggle against modern dehumanization and how one can triumph in attempts to reach inner peace. In Steppenwolf, Hesse illustrates how modern civilization’s view of unity as objective truth and a necessary part of modern living produces one-dimensional, function-driven beings who fragment their naturally manifold self, thus repressing the many Jungian archetypes which make up their conscious and unconscious being. A process of inner discovery, defined by Jung as individuation, and a paradigm shift from singular objective truth to manifold subjective truth which priorititizes the relationship to one’s many archetypes, as illuminated by Kierkegaard, brings spiritual peace and truthful existence.

Modern organization impose unity of the personality as objective truth; this view becomes the unity paradigm which leads tnaturally manifold individuals to dehumanize themselves into one-dimensional beings. James Davis asserts that as the modern organization “becomes the only whole, and each man becomes only a part” society begins to overemphasive “the functional collective part of a person” (Davis 542). Steppenwolf’s protagonist Harry highlights this emphasis when he describes the modern man as “a miracle of efficiency” (Hesse 159). Carl Jung argued that in a society where a man must “play the part assigned to him as perfectly as possible” it becomes necessary “to present an unequivocal face to the world” (Jung 206). Hesse presented this need for an unequivocal face as the need for a unified personality and illuminated, through the example of a judge, how severely individuals repressed their humanity in order to achieve unity and fulfill their functional role:

The judge who sits over the murderer and looks into his face, and at one moment recognizes all the emotions and potentialities and possibilities of the murderer in his own soul, is at the next one and indivisible as the judge, and scuttle back into the shell of his cultivated self and does his duty and condemns the murderer to death. (Hesse 58)

The judge retains the capacity to exist as a complex being with the potential for intimate human relationships but his choice to repress his complex inner being and exist as a solely as a judge illuminates the dehumanization modern society’s emphasis on functional unity produces. Jung warned that such a severe adherence to a unified personality led men to “believe they are what they pretend to be” (Jung 206). Once the majority of individuals believe that unity brings truthful existence there becomes a collective interest in protecting the unity paradigm. Any individuals who “break through the illusion of unity of the personality and perceive that the self is made up of a bundle of seleves” threaten the fundamental emphasis on unity and jeopardize the basis of the majority’s life, thus the majority puts the dissenter “under lock and key” and labels him a schizophrenic. The relationship between the individual and the majority is clarified by Kierkegaard’s views on objective truth and the crowd. Unity in Steppenwolf parallels what Kierkegaard described as objective truth: an object separate from the individual seen as a singular truth which individuals attempt to acquire in order to become truthful  (Jacoby 29). Kierkegaard asserted that in seeking these singular truths individuals organize themselves into crowds which “weaken [the individual’s] sense of responsibility by reducing it to a fraction”, just as judge’s human responsibilities was reduced to a duty  (Kierkegaard 94). The crowd provides refuge for those who flee in “cowardice from being a individual” just as the majority accepts those who have abandoned the true complexity of their self and come to see themselves as only functions. The view that unity of the personality equals an objective truth, which must be attained by any means, including repression and spiritual violence, embodies the unity paradigm. The unity paradigm not only creates one-dimensional functionaries, but also produces exiles who, unable to achieve unity, view their soul as two opposing halves, exemplified by Steppenwolf’s protagonist Harry.

Individuals who are unable to achieve unity create dual personalities, thereby fulfilling the functional role of exile and thus continuting to operate through the unity paradigm. Harry Haller’s conditioning and subsequent split personality illustrate the omniprescense of the unity paradigm. As a child Harry “was a little wild and disobedient and disorderly, and those who brought him up had declared a war of extinction against the beast in him; and precisely this had given him the idea and the belief that he was in fact actually a beast with only a thin covering of the human” (Hesse 41) Thus those who brought Harry up attempted to impose the unity paradigm onto him by destroying what disrupted unity, but because Harry knew that it was “hopeless for one like him ever to try to fulfill the demands and obey the commands of society” he instead divided himself into man and wolf: a dualism he calls the Steppenwolf, his function as an exile. “The Treatise on the Steppenwolf”, a broad explanation of fragmented individuals, concludes that this division of a man “is a very great oversimplification” just as unity oversimplifies mainfold individuals (Hesse 57). The novel states that Harry’s manifold self “and its manifestations of beauty and terror, of greatness and meaness is crushed and imprisoned by the wolf legend just as the real man in him is crushed and imprisoned by that sham existence”, thus affirming the connection between the Steppenwolf division and false existence put forth by the unity paradigm (Hesse 65). Jungian archetypes, defined as “involuntary manifestations of unconscious processes” (Rockwood 48), further illuminate the ways in which the Steppenwolf division stemmed from the unity paradigm. The wolf manifests “all that is wild” in Harry and he “considers it wicked and dangerous and the bugbear of all decent life” (Hesse 43). Harry, in accordance with the unity paradigm, seeks “to be loved as a whole” and therefore the wolf becomes a burden since “it was just with those whose love he most valued that he could least of all conceal and belie the wolf” (Hesse 43) Thus the wolf represents the shadow archetype: “that part of the self which has been denied its rights”, due to Harry’s education and upbringing, and a “guilt-laden personality”, given Harry’s desire for wholeness (Otten 146, Rockwood 50). In contrast to this wild shadow archetype, the man manifests as a proper bourgeois individual who “was glad to live on good terms with the police with the police and the tax collectors and other such powers…he was secretly and persistently attracted to the bourgeois world” (Hesse 50). Thus the man embodies the persona archetype, which “represents your public image…the persona is the mask you put on before you show yourself to the outside world” (Boeree 4). Jung said the persona is also used to “conceal the true nature of the individual” and thus the Harry’s persona can be seen as the unified personality society forces upon him in order to conceal his repressed humanity, which is encapsulated in the wolf. Thus the definitions of the persona and shadow archetypes, when used to analyze Harry’s division into man and wolf, reveal that Harry’s divide separates between a public, acceptable personality and a punishable, repressed personality. These distinctions between Harry’s man and wolf mirror the distinctions between the unified self who is accepted by society and the manifold self who is repressed by society.  Therefore Harry’s dualistic perception of his self stems entirely from the distinctions of self created by the unity paradigm and thus contains within it all of the same dehumanizing effects. Just as the judge represses the many emotions that interfere with his functional role, Harry Haller, conditioned to see fucntional unity as objective truth, represses “the thousand flowers of his soul. What does not stand classified as either man or wolf he does not see” (Hesse 58). Yet just as the judge retained the ability to connect to his manifold self, Harry also periodically connects with the multiplicity in his soul: “there were ten thousand more unkown pictures and tunes there which had no dwelling place but in me” (Hesse 35). Harry, through Jung’s process of individuation, can embrace these many souls that dwell within him and heal the false division of his soul that modern society’s paradigm created.

The oversimplified and fragmented Steppenwolf persona is set free by the development of a relationship with the manifold self, achieved through a reconnection with Jung’s anima, animus and ultimately the collective unconscious. Jung defined inner discovery as “Individuation” which “aims at a living cooperation of all factors”; a process in which “a human being, especially an insecure and disturbed one, attempts to achieve greater personal fulfillment and inner peace” (Jung 183, Rockwood 47). Each human begins the process with a different level of consciousness, and “The more limited a man’s field of consciousness, the more numerous the psychic contents which meet him as quasi-external apparitions” (Jung 199). In other words, since Harry’s consciousness is limited to man and wolf, everything in his soul beyond those archetypes will appear to him in the physical form; “everything unconscious is projected” (Jung 211). After Harry reconnects with the archetypes in his own soul he will will then reconnect to the collective unconscious: the shared archetypes among all human experience (Boeree 4). Since Harry has completed the first step of individuation, integrating the shadow (wolf) into his personality, the anima is able to appear (Rockwood 49). The anima represents the feminine “archetype through which you communicate with the collective unconscious” and appears to Harry in form of Hermine (Boeree 4). After speaking to her Harry describes Hermine as “the one window, the one tiny crack of light in my black hole of dread. She was my release and my way to freedom” (Hesse 104). The Treatise described the manifold soul of Harry as “a garden with a hundred kinds of trees, a thousand kinds of flowers” where Harry is the gardener who “knew no other distinction than between edible and inedible” thus “nine-thenths of this garden [was] useless to him” (Hesse 65). The garden metaphor recurs to emphasize the progress Harry makes in individuation; through conversations with his anima he begins “to treasure with such eager care every flower by the wayside” and soon Harry sees that “Every day new souls kept springing up beside the host of old ones” and realizes “what an illusion my former personality had become” (Hesse 112, 128). Hermine, in affirming her roles as anima, connects Harry to physical manifestations of his unconscious such as the prostitute Maria, Harry’s undeveloped sexuality. When he makes to love Maria he describes her as a “beautiful flower…the gift that Hermine had made for me…And so in the tender beauty of the night many pictures of my life rose before me who for so long had lived in a poor pictureless vacancy…how rich the gallery of my life of was” (Hesse 140). This represents a turning for Haller, who earlier viewed his dualistic life as a black hole now, through individuation, values all that his many souls have experienced. Pablo appears as the animus archetype, which “may be personified as a wise old man, a socercer” (Boeree 4). Pablo illustrates the animus’s wisdom in his view of music (“it is all one to me. It is not for me to decide about levels”) and the animus’s sorcery in his Magic Theater (Hesse 133). Though Pablo is portrayed as entirely separate entity from Hermine and Maria, “The whole world in which Harry Haller moves may be interpretted as merely the reflection of his own mind” since his individuation probes within his own soul; thus the relationships he develops with Hermine, Pablo and Maria are in fact relationships with himself (Otten 134).  Hermine becomes exceptionally equated with Harry’s own soul; first she is seen as “a kind of looking glass for Harry”, thus reflecting himself, and soon Harry feels that the “Many of the utterances of Hermine and Pablo are but projections of his own higher self” (Hesse 108, Otten 135).  By relating to manifestations of his own unconscious he realizes that “ like fantastic flowers” all archetypes “belonged to me, and I to them. All of us had a part in one another”; thus Harry at last connects to the collective unconscious (Hesse 169). Though Harry’s soul healed from his oversimplified dualism through individuation, if he fails to replace the objective truth of unity with a subjective truth of his own making, as Kierkegaard illuminates, he will fail to fully escape the unity paradigm and it’s damaging effects.

Attaining subjective truth, where truth stems from the relationship between subject and object, can holistically cure the dehumanizaion created by the unity paradigm and create a lasting inner peace. Behind each door within Pablo’s Magic Theater “exactly what you seek awaits you”; Harry seeks a way to become whole and achieve inner peace, and thus in two different room he sees two different ways to achieve this end. In the first he participates in a chess game where his many souls become the pieces; the host of the game explains that he “demonstrates to anyone whose soul has fallen to pieces that he can rearrange these pieces of a previous self in what order he pleases, and so attain to an endless multiplicity of moves in the game of life” (Hesse 192). The host says such rearrangement “is the art of life…You may complicate and enrich it as you please” (Hesse 193). This first room exemplifies Kierkegaard’s subjective truth, in which “reflection is directed subjectively to the nature of the individual’s relationship”, or in this case to the nature of Harry’s relationship to his souls, rather than focusing solely on the unity of the souls (Jacoby 27). Kierkegaard argued that “if only the mode of his relationship is in the truth, the individual is in the truth even if he should happen to be thus related to what is not true” (Jacoby 27). Thus as long as the combinations of Harry’s souls stem from subjective choices made truthfully by Harry, the object he creates ceases to matter because his relationship is one of subjectivity and thus he remains an authentic, truthful individual who can forever rearrange his soul in lasting peace. To contrast this, in the other room Harry sees the bourgeois man and the wolf taming each other and agonizes over “the fantastic extent to which the wolf had learned to belie his nature” (Hesse 195). Just as the wolf had repressed his wild nature to become proper, the man had repressed his properness to becomes wild and, in response to being baited by a rabbit, the man “seized the shrieking creature in his fingers and teeth, tore them limb from limb, grinningly chewed the living flesh and rapturously drank their warm blood” (Hesse 196). Hesse’s gory and grostesque caricature of the man’s wildness illuminates that when truth is only focused on the desired object, in this case a unity between man and wolf, the relationship to the object, which here is one of repression and false identities, produces an inauthentic and false individual, as illustrated by the caricatures. Kierkegaard pondered who has more truth, “The one prays in truth to God although he is worshipping an idol; the other prays in untruth to the true God” and concluded that the way one prays (the relationship) was the measure of truth (Jacoby 29). Thus the Harry that constructs his soul from authentic pieces from himself holds more truth than the Harry that creates unity with the false representations of his soul; this holds true even if the combined chess pieces created a false version of Harry and the repression creates a true unity because it is the how, not the what, that creates truth (Jacoby 30). Harry’s inability to free himself from the unity paradigm’s conditioning and embrace subjective truth leads to his regression and spiritual suicide.

Despite understanding one’s manifold self after embracing the archetypes revealed by individuation, the failure to dismantle the unity paradigm will lead back to the repressive dehumanization society ordains and block one from reaching a true authentic existence. Harry’s regression to the unity paradigm accelerates when he reaches for the chess pieces of himself but instead pulls out a knife; the manifold self has been replaced by a tool with which he can destroy parts of his soul (Hesse 205). Immediately afterwards Harry stares into a gigantic mirror that earlier showed Harry’s many selves but now reflected the wolf, who then transformed into a singular, unified Harry who declared that he is “only waiting for death” (Hesse 205). Soon after Harry enters the last room and sees

the beautiful Hermine and the beautiful Pablo, side by side, in a sleep of deep exhaustion after love’s play. Beautiful, beautiful figures, lovely pictures, wonderful bodies. Beneath Hermine’s left breast was a fresh round mark, darkly bruised – a love bite of Pablo’s beautiful, gleaming teeth. There, where the mark was, I plunged in my knife to the hilt. (Hesse 209)

The reference to Hermine and Pablo as “pictures” alludes to Harry’s vision of many pictures within him and thus Harry’s killing of his archetypal anima, a mainfestation of his unconscious soul and a picture within his psyche represents him killing a part of his soul. Anna Otten argues that since Harry still desires unity by any means but cannot reconcile this desire with the parts of his soul he has discovered such as Hermine, “Only suicide”, in this case killing off his own souls, “offers him the hope of achieving his aim permanently” (Otten 134). This violence against multiplicity reflects the unity paradigm’s repression of everything that goes beyond one-dimensional personality. Furthermore, Hesse’s diction illuminates that the Steppenwolf dualism, a product of the unity paradigm, literally directs Harry to kill Hermine. Harry stabs Hermine on the “love bite” from Pablo’s “gleaming teeth:; “The various allusions to teeth throughout the novel are…signs of the omnipresence of the beast” and since the beast encapsulated all of Harry’s repressed souls it had to destroy Hermine in order to regain it’s role as universal collection of the repressed (Otten 120). Like the judge who condemns the murderer to death in order to fulfill his function despite recognizing the shared experiences between them, Harry kills his anima to fulfill his function in society, that of the torn exile who is made of only the persona and shadow archetypes. Thus Harry’s relationship to himself remains one of repression and violence in hopes of acquiring an objective truth; the subjective truth is not attained. When reflecting on the death Harry thinks back to the day Hermine asked him to kill her and asks “why on that occasion had I not only accepted that horrible and unnatural thought, but even guessed it in advance. Perhaps because it had been my own” (Hesse 214). Harry now recognizes that the killing of Hermine indeed stemmed from him, and Hermine’s desire for death was only a mirror of Harry’s perpetual violence against his soul. Pablo illuminates this failure: “Had this beautiful girl really nothing to desire of you put the stab of a knife?” (Hesse 214). Hermine, like the rest of his soul, sought to be developed and appreciated through individuation, but Harry’s education, which taught him to express the a dualistic personality was too strong. Harry was unable to shift the unity paradigm to one that valued a subjective relationship between all his soul’s subjects and thus could not achieve an authentic, inner peace.

The unity paradigm, which sees the development of an individual’s functionality and the repression of muliplicity as the means to acquire objective truth, causes severe dehumanization in the souls of both modern functionaries and torn exiles. Reconnection to Jungian archetypes through their physical manifestation in individuation only provides temporary healing; an acquisition of subjective truth, defined by Kierkegaard as truth reflected upon how one relates to one’s spirituality, provides a holistic soul and a sustainable inner peace. The practical and intellectual merits of Jung’s psychology should not be underestimated; at the same time, a process of self-examination that does not seek to dissect and dismantle the social constructs that produced the self cannot result in a truthfully holistic being. Steppenwolf illuminates that the paradigms imposed upon individuals via the machinery of modern society in childhood create fundamental changes in the development of a person throughout his entire life. Yet the novel also illustrates that simple resistance to a paradigm cannot remove its effects from one’s mental functioning; the detrimental paradigm must be replaced by a more holistic, subjective ideology in order to provide long-term peace. While Steppenwolf asserts this primarily in the spiritual realm, paradigms that justify their means with their end are rampant within modern society’s political, economic and social functioning. The task of the modern individual seeking freedom entails creating paradigm shifts within oneself and within society’s collective conscious so the worth and authenticity of our individual existence and societal existence are defined by our relationships, not by our objects. Only through simultaneous shifts in individuality and collective consciousness can one move towards a holistic freedom. Steppenwolf, Jung and Kierkegaard detailed the steps necessary for the individual; now they must be applied to modern society.

Steppenwolf PBA by G. G.

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