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How a man transforms. [Lead yourself, then others]

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

I want to share my highlights from the book "Transformation: Understanding the three levels of masculine consciousness" by Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson. At the end of this post, I added a bonus track.

In the introduction, Johnson quotes a Zen proverb

When I was young and free, the mountains were the mountains, the river was the river, the sky was the sky. Then I lost my way, and the mountains were no longer the mountains, the river was no longer the river, the sky was no longer the sky. Then I attained satori, and the mountains were again the mountains, the river was again the river, and the sky was again the sky.

It summarises the key takeaways of his book. First, life seems simple. Then it becomes complicated. And then, for some, who manages to synthesise the paradox of complexity, it becomes simple again. But into a new level - upwards, not back in the childish simplicity.

To illustrate the three levels, Johnson uses three literary heroes.

1. The simple, two-dimensional man:

CC: Nivaagaards Malerisamling, Torben Christensen, Wikimedia
  • Illustration - Don Quixote.

  • Man of courage.

  • He is free, happy and simple.

  • He achieves it by living in fantasy and imagination.

  • Inner reality triumphs over outer reality.

  • One can compare him to a child.

  • Rooted deeply in instinct and faith.

  • Complete split between the ego (Don Quixote) and the shadow (Sancho Panza).

  • Don Quixote's fights with dragons symbolize the two-dimensional man's bad moods - results of unresolved childhood dynamic.

  • Everything in life is just white or black.

2. The complex, three-dimensional man:

CC: Delacroix, Flickr
  • Illustration - Hamlet.

  • Torn, tragic, suffering, divided man.

  • Modern, worrying, anxious man.

  • Most people today are Hamlets, according to Johnson.

  • Three-dimensional, because he has roots in the instinctive world, and his head not yet in the heavens where could get the nourishment of enlightenment.

  • Cannot make up his mind. "Sits on the fence" between whether to follow social conditioning or listen to his soul and conscience. He does neither.

  • Lives in the head, intellectualises and internally "debates to death".

  • Knows too much to be simple but not enough to be whole.

  • Man's indecisiveness tortures and destroys those around him, especially everything and everyone feminine. (CEOs, how about you?)

  • Alienated from the feminine side of life, from his inner life and feelings.

  • Not enough self-awareness and courage to follow the vision of meaning of his life.

  • Wise enough to see - not strong enough to accomplish.

  • Fails to accept and integrate his shadow or dark side.

3. Four-dimensional man:

CC: Delacroix, Wikimedia
  • Illustration - Faust.

  • Complex, intelligent man who comes to terms with his dark side (Mephistopheles).

  • And through that gains wholeness.

  • Success does not guarantee meaningfulness. In Faust's case - it leads to meaninglessness.

  • Discipline and self-consciousness do not help; they lead to a dead end.

  • In the moment of anguish, something or someone will come. It will start a new chapter in life. Easter music for Faust. Rabbit for Alice. Something else for you. Will you follow?

  • Start to listen to and follow your shadow - and joy of life will return.

  • But! If you follow the shadow literally - it will give short-term pleasures and then lead to misery.

  • (Think of a man in the mid-life crisis who leaves his family and falls for a twice younger girl, only to leave her after a short while… pregnant.)

  • Longing of the repressed parts of the soul cannot be filled with external means. Then how?

  • Connect with and get to know your dark side, and your soul, your feeling - feminine side through inner and symbolic experiences.

What are those? In this book, Johnson does not give an instructional answer. His other books (and those of other authors) point to active imagination writing, dream analysis, creating art, and various symbolic, ritual forms of engaging with the dark side. I will write about those approaches in the next posts.


Bonus track.

What to do, meanwhile, when you feel pressured by the complexities of life? Go wild… and write a poem or draw something colourful.

I will leave you with this one that came to me in the active imagination writing a while ago:

This is my cave

Here I am alive

The Queen.

Here I am happy and shine forth

I am here for you

A well of strength for you.

You have forgiven, and you shall be forgiven

Everything is raised up that had fallen

The gold that had sunken as dust is now simmering up high.

Here the sun shines on everything that had been hidden

Here the spirit gets to know itself

It never sets down.

Here, where was a valley of sadness, is the place of the sun

The place where the spirit can shine

Where the broken spirit is remelted and strengthened

Filled with brightness everything that was in the dark.

The place where the brokenness and the glowing are melted together.


Farhad is the CEO of .Cocoon.

When there is a challenge at the business level .Cocoon Program supports founders:

➝ To find the link between the business challenge and their personalities and personal challenges;

➝ To bring forth personal changes that, as a result, create changes in the business.

Let's talk and see if we can support you to solve your biggest business challenge.




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