Harry Haller’s Process of Jungian Enlightenment

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter process, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.” (C. G. Jung)

Hermann Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf is the story of one man’s attempt to ‘become enlightened’. In the book, the role of that man is played by Harry Haller and the process of ‘making the darkness conscious’ is patterned after the psychotherapeutic procedure of Carl G. Jung (as it existed in 1927). Or as Jung termed it—psychetherapy. Freud used psychotherapy to make sick people well. He was the well one, they were not. Jung believed we all could become enlightened, including himself, by working through the steps of his therapy. He calls that process ‘Individuation’.

A simplified, skim-the-surface description of Jung’s individuation process can be found here: https://scottjeffrey.com/individuation-process/ . As Scott Jeffrey puts it: “The purpose of this individuation process is to increase the individual’s consciousness. With greater consciousness, individuals can heal the splits in their mind between what’s conscious and unconscious, bringing them to wholeness in their psyche.”

Individuation consists of three separate steps or stages, represented by three archetypes: the Shadow, Anima/Animus, and the Self (or as some have called it—the Wise Old Man or Woman). The Shadow represents your dark side, traits that have been repressed, denied or forgotten. Anima/Animus is well described in Ron Boothe’s blog comments, and the Self represents the enlightened psyche. Jungian psychetherapists guide, encourage and otherwise assist the ‘patient’ through this process, which varies both in scope and sequence from person to person.

This is, obviously, an extremely brief glimpse into Jungian philosophy. Much better summaries can be found elsewhere for those so inclined. My point here is to suggest the following: that Steppenwolf is at bottom Hesse’s fanciful account of his own therapy at the hands of Josef Lang, a colleague of Carl Jung and of Jung himself. Harry Holler is Hermann Hesse. H.H. is H.H. If you reread the book with that frame in mind, then many things are made clear. The Wolf is one representation of the Shadow. Hermine and Pablo are symbols of Anima/Animus. Goethe and Mozart represent the Immortals which, in turn, symbolize the Collective Conscious that Ron described. And the Magic Theater is the therapy process itself, in which Harry confronts forgotten aspects of his past. Harry discards the Wolf in a mirror scene and he symbolically murders Hermine because he has confronted the Anima/Animus aspect of his being. I’m sure there’s more there if one takes the time to look.

And at the end, now we can understand why Hesse would be happy if “we were to realize that the story of the Steppenwolf pictures a disease and crisis—but not one leading to death and destruction, on the contrary: to healing.” And that the end of the book—“One day, I would be a better hand at the game. One day, I would learn how to laugh. Pablo was waiting for me, and Mozart too.” —says just that.

Neil Bergeson

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