Pan and Philemon

Pan and Philemon

In his essay, Alchemy and the Subtle Body of Metaphor, psychologist, Robert D. Romanyshyn, makes the argument that soul is neither mental nor physical, but is “another country, as different from mind as it is from matter” (Romanyshyn 24). It is from this country that Philemon, one of Jung’s imaginal guides, originates. One of the questions Romanyshyn asks is whether Philemon is a projection of Jung’s psyche? The answer is no because Philemon “is neither a factual object in the world (like those stones or those birds can be), nor a subjective idea in Jung’s mind” ( Romanyshyn 29). This is the nature of the region of the middle third between spirit and matter. He concludes that “Philemon…is the subtle body of metaphor” (ibid.). He is not himself a metaphor, but

that kind of presence which a metaphor brings, a figural presence whose texture is neither that of fact nor idea, and a presence which requires of us that delight in and attunement to the play of language and experience (Romanyshyn 30).

Philemon is an autochthonous being, meaning that he originated from the landscape in which he was found to be, i.e. the province of the soul. He is an indigenous inhabitant of what Henry Corbin called, the mundus imaginalis.  It is also the origin of all synchronistic events. Romanyshyn goes on to say,

Philemon and his kin rise up out of that void between matter and mind, and in ghostly form, like a mist, announce their presence (Romanyshyn 30).

The consciousness created by embracing the “void between matter and mind” is one that is tuned to the synchronistic field, and it is experienced on a regular basis. It was Jung’s genius, after spending long hours studying alchemy, that restored the principle of synchronicity to the world, after it had been relegated to the scrapyard of history for so long (von Franz 210-211).

Now, we return to Pan. Remember, in the previous article, I attempted to show Hillman’s idea of a connection between Pan and synchronicity. Philemon, like Pan, is an indigenous inhabitant of the world of the middle third, the mundus imaginalis, except that Pan is a god of a higher order. Perhaps Philemon is an agent of Pan. Philemon helped Jung connect his ‘in-here’ with his ‘out-there,’ which is exactly what synchronicity does. Pan is the god of nature, both ‘in-here’ and ‘out-there.’ Hillman says, “it is as if Pan is the answer to the Apollonic question about self-knowledge.” He continues:

What is this awareness and how is it achieved? We have seen all along that Pan is God of both nature ‘in here’ and nature ‘out there‘. As such Pan is the bridging configuration who keeps these reflections from falling into disconnected halves where they become the dilemma of a nature without soul and a soul without nature, objective matter out there and subjective mental processes in here. Pan, and the nymphs, keep nature and psyche together” (Hillman lx).

Now, Pan is not the only archetype, but he is a very important one because he is the god of raw sexuality. We know how much importance Freud attached to sexuality in his theories. It may not be the only issue, but the ubiquitous presence of Pan implies that it is crucial to come to terms with it in the pursuit of self-knowledge.

Pay particular attention to any synchronicities that are of a sexual nature. Pan, like Philemon, may be wanting to bestow upon you greater self-knowledge.

Works Cited

Hillman, James. An Essay On Pan. Pan and the Nightmare. By Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher. Trans. A.V. O’Brien, M.D. New York: Spring, 1972. i-lix.

Romanyshyn, Robert. Alchemy and the Subtle Body of Metaphor. Pathways into the Jungian World: Phenomenology and Analytical Psychology. Ed. Roger Brooke. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Von Franz, Marie-Louise. Psyche and Matter. Boston: Shambhala, 1992. 

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