Speculation on future projections of the mountain archetype

I hope the reader will allow a few grand speculations in this last chapter. If the eight stages represent the objective phase by phase pattern of projection over time, then it is possible that they can be applied to future as well as past projections.

Image 1. Classic view of the Rongbuk Monastery, Tibet taken by me while on a trek to Advanced Base Camp of Mount Everest. Photo by Csearl.
Image 1. Classic view of the Rongbuk Monastery, Tibet taken by me (Csearl) while on a trek to Advanced Base Camp of Mount Everest. Photo by Csearl.

{I would like to point out that the point of view we take on anything makes all the difference. It is one thing to see a mountain from the ground (as in Image 1 above). Something is awakened in us. But if we see the same mountain from Space as we are now able to do (Image 2 below), we get an entirely different perspective that awakens altogether different fantasies. Exactly how our perspective interacts with the Mountain Archetype is a complex question, but that there is an interaction is beyond doubt. If we only saw mountains from Space, the essence of the Mountain Archetype, could not be projected by us onto mountains.}

Image 1. Space picture of the Mount Everest area, Nepal, Tibet [?] and the Himalaya. Image courtesy of Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center, USA.
Image 1. Space picture of the Mount Everest area, Nepal, Tibet [?] and the Himalaya. Image courtesy of Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center, USA.

The more we civilize the mountains, the less possible it is to project onto them. Projection requires far-off paradoxical places that hold the source and cure of our problems {although the mountain goddess “seen” over the Santa Monica Mountains could be used in argument against this view}. But there are few unexplored places left on earth. How long will these remain? And after them, what? What comes to mind is outer space. Outer space is now what the mountains were once — uncharted and wide open for positive and negative projections. Space creatures (as in my dream) can be compared to the angels and demons experienced in the heavens by our ancestors.

If the eight stages are the actual stages of projection, then they will tell us in advance what to expect in space. First we will project into space as our ancestors did into the mountain regions. Where they saw the light on Mount Sinai, we will (and do) see the “miraculous” lights of distant galaxies and super novaAbraham and Moses and Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha may have looked just as foolish to the majority in their days as those who report communicating with space-men sound to the majority now. We have been taught about the god’s of our fathers and of our father’s fathers, but we may have to learn about the gods of our sons and our son’s sons. Perhaps we never learned of the gods of our mothers and of our mother’s mothers, but we may be forced to learn of the gods of our daughters and our daughter’s daughters.

Then, in Stage 2, people will report seeing the homes or “palaces” of these new gods. People have already begun to see them, for example, flying saucers. Our ancestors were learning to build; we are learning to fly, so the difference is understandable.

Then we’ll break the taboo and fly out into space as we have already begun to do {the film 2001, A Space Odyssey expresses the feeling of taboo and as well as the experience of the miraculous people have in approaching this realm}. People will offer a lot, and be asked to offer a lot, to learn the secrets of the new Instructor gods {think of Hal, the super-computer, in this same film, as an Instructor “god”} as some seem to feel the answer to our future will be found by sending exploratory space crafts into space. Eventually people will build these gods new versions of the houses of the Lord. More and more people will migrate to space stations following space age Abrahams and Moses’, looking for a Promised Land. Few will really believe in it. First only the brave will go and then the way will be made easier and easier so that everyone can go up the “Broad Road” to the Heavens. The earth forces will be one unit, living in relative peace.

But, continuing our speculations, there will be trouble in the land. After centuries (or millennia), an “evil” empire will arise that will try to destroy the, at that point, archaic civilization. The people will be forced to leave their space-country that, by that time, feels like their home but which was once considered by them to be the country of their gods. Their gods will travel with them and be installed wherever the people wind up colonizing (Stage 4).

Some will have visions of the destroyed space-temple and insist that the answer lies, not in new space travels, but in spirit (Stage 5). The old temple will become mythologized and appear as a public symbol (Stage 6). Some will apply the concept of projection and think of all this as an inner process (Stage 7 and Stage 8).

There will be dreams that will take people to the past space-temple in the inner world but also point to a future land, to some sort of an outer-outer space, and the Space Age will end and a new one will begin, and the Space Age gods will wind up in the graveyard of dead religions next to the long deceased mountain gods. A new Age will begin with the projection of the gods into another realm. The whole process could take four thousand years or more. Who knows how many Ages lie ahead after these?

It is easy for a man to see a parallel to this imagined scenario in his relationship with women. Each Age corresponds to a woman. First there is the Age of the Mountains. Then there is the Space Age. Then there is another and then another. When does the desire to explore stop and the desire to settle down and become responsible take over? What is the problem with the Don Juans who go from woman to woman or from solar system to solar system? It’s one thing in the adolescence of civilizations to want to explore and even to despoil what is explored, to dream of the next conquest and then the next and then the next. But what do we say of older men who go from woman to woman?

The cynical might say, “The earth is just a big Teddy Bear. We don’t need it. We can be just as happy living in space stations.”

This misses the point. This is the argument of a bachelor against a married man. The married man feels the bachelor is chasing a dream and looking for an answer that can only be found in the self. He knows that bar hopping has its drawbacks too, the danger of venereal disease being one. Running from mountain to mountain, woman to woman, or Age to Age one misses things.

And yet the need to project is an instinct. It seems inevitable that more and more will be projected back out into space. But if it is an instinct, it can be tamed by anyone who understands from his or her own experience, not from a doctrine, that the gods do not live on mountains, in lakes, in trees, or in outer space, but on the mountains, lakes, trees, and outer space within our selves.

Perhaps more and more people will learn in the Space Age what was not learned in the Mountain Age. Perhaps we can become disillusioned by future Ages in advance, because we will know from experience that inevitably we will find, not only Heaven but also Hell, not only the place of Creation but also the home of Death and Destruction, and not only the Protector, Provider, and Instructor Gods but Society too. If we go to space, and we surely will, I hope we go with more realistic expectations then the original Hebrews went to the land of Israel.

February 19, 2016: Further thoughts and conclusions

{Looking back over this book, a pattern and trend stands out more clearly to me now than it did when I wrote it in 1987. This is a trend towards, in religious terms, the mixing of human and divine or the mingling of gods and men. This trend (perhaps it is a Stage 9) is visible in the outer world in the domestication of mountains by humans (resorts, mines, communication towers, the building of houses and cities, mountain climbing, and even the flattening of mountains) and in the inner world by dreams of mountains that are used for amusement.

This trend involves humans spreading out onto mountains, but it also involves the gods coming down, not only to the plains and the deserts of sea level, but also into human society itself. This last trend is seen most clearly in dreams such as the one (discussed in Chapter 14) in which the gods want to take human form and to live normal lives among us. This motif is probably the same as one that appears in Science Fiction films where aliens from space take human form and learn to mimic human behavior, though, in these films, the motives are usually hostile to humankind.

It could be a research dissertation in psychology to collect a large number of mountain dreams and see if there really is such a trend in a wider sample than the small group of dreams I have presented and examined in this book.

The spreading of secular society onto mountains is seen as a sacrilegious encroachment by traditionalists and as progress to moderns.

It is tempting to feel an obligation to choose one side or the other, but legitimate arguments can be made for each. On the one hand, we have prophetic warnings against humans violating sacred space. One example is the prophet Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 43) where the banishment of the Hebrew people is attributed to the lack of respect for the boundary between the Holy of Holies and the less sacred part of the Temple on Mount Zion. We also have (in Leviticus 10:1) the story of the sons of Aaron (Nadab and Abihu) being killed for their incorrect offering of fire in the presence of the Lord in the center of the Tabernacle in the desert — this, in spite of their good intentions. Even if we do not accept the religious dogma behind these prohibitions, it is still possible to accept that they express a deep human hesitancy (like that of an infant at the top of a set of stairs) that may well inhere in each of us as a kind of spiritual, instinctual prohibition: If we violate the taboo against stepping onto the sacred mountains, we will be doomed to banishment from inner holy lands and may die a grizzly spiritually death.

On the other side (forgetting many of the secular arguments that can seem frivolous and self-serving to our deeper sensitivities), it could be argued that the gods themselves seem to be responsible for the merging trend. They encouraged pilgrimages and temple building and the bringing of artificial mountains into society on which they seemed to be happy to live. They tempted people to climb and do not seem to punish, either in an inner or outer way, those who currently are trespassing on their soil. In fact many of those who violate the taboo seem to prosper.

This conflict between two perspectives, visible in us and around us, is not easy to contain and embrace for any consciousness that experiences both poles. Yet it seems it must be done as the conflict is real. We watch what seems to be an inevitable trend to the secularization of the mountains without knowing how to respond. Even if there were something we could do, what should it be? Should we fight the trend or give into it and go along? Are those who cry over the sacrilegious violations just religious cry babies, or are we, by our impulsive and compulsive behavior, shortening our lives, the lifespan of humanity, and the very existence of our planet? And even if the latter, is it bad that we are doing this? Perhaps we are being forced to expand our horizons into the bigger universe which seems like a good thing. Perhaps we are being called to project our gods onto distant worlds and then to follow them there. Perhaps this is what our human instincts are pushing us to do. And, looked at from the point of view of our gods, perhaps these gods are abandoning this world forever and are leading us on a game of hide and seek into the depths of the universe.

This is a question with which I have struggled for years without finding a satisfying answer. For a long time, I was happy to think the idea of projection could help us understand. If there is a parallel between projection onto mountains and a man’s projection onto women, then this helps the psychologist make sense of the trend and also points to the possibility of a hopeful future: We projected onto mountains and are withdrawing the projection; soon we will see how we took our love of mountains for granted and will realize, if we want to preserve our relation with them, we must treat them respectfully. Psychology helps us understand that projection is involved and the course of projection. It also helps us take back projections, and this can help us live in peace with others if they can take theirs back also. Again, when we project onto our first loves, we tend to have huge expectations from them and to make huge demands on them; we wind up driving them away and feeling rejected and angry and depressed; when we grow up, we accept the reality of others and of ourselves and realize others can’t fulfill our every need; then we are freed to develop loving and working relations. This is true whether the object of our love is another human or a mountain. The goal is realistic relations.

And projection leads to fighting (and warfare) over things that aren’t really there. These are fights over a shadows. If you and I project our love onto the same object, whether it is a woman or an object, and we come to feel there is no way we can live without it, we may wind up fighting over that object (or person).

To conclude this book, I think it might be interesting to see what the I Ching says is the correct resolution of the struggle described above. I think it is a big problem, worthy of a consultation with an oracle. I will now proceed to see if I (and if not I, maybe a reader) can be helped by the I Ching to divine the proper attitude towards mountains and towards all of nature (inner and outer). If the reader sees this as an act of desperation, a willingness to admit that I failed to come up with a satisfactory answer, I would agree.

The I Ching reading

There are different methods for consulting the I Ching (I leave it to the interested reader to look them up). I used the three coin method. I had an appointment in the Los Angeles Chinatown on the day I was going to throw the coins (on February 22, 2016) and was able to buy old Chinese coins, and I used them for the consultation. Without going into the details of how the coins are thrown and how the hexagrams are determined, the result was: Hexagram 14 with Nines in the fourth and fifth lines, turning into Hexagram 41.

Master Alfred Huang (1998) translates Hexagram 14 as Great Harvest and Hexagram 41 as Decreasing.

He translates King Wen’s interpretation of 14 as

Great Harvest./
Sublimely prosperous and smooth. (p. 143)

and Confucius’ commentary on this decision as

Great Harvest./
The yielding obtains the honored position,/
Great and central./
The upper and the lower respond./
So the name of Great Harvest comes./
Her virtue is firm and strong and also brilliant,/
Corresponding with Heaven/
And acting in accordance with time./
Thus there is supreme progress and success. (p. 143)

For the two changing lines in our reading, Master Huang translates the Duke of Zhou’s interpretations as

Third Nine/
The prince is engaged/
In presenting offerings for the Son of Heaven/
Petty fellows cannot do this. (p. 144)


Fourth Nine/
Not inflated,/
No fault. (p. 144)

Because of the two changing lines in our reading, Hexagram 14 (Great Harvest) changes into Hexagram 41, Decreasing.

Confucius’ commentary on the symbol of Hexagram 41 is translated by Master Huang as

At the foot of the Mountain,/
There is a Lake./
It is an image of Decreasing./
In correspondence with this,/
The superior person controls his anger/
And restrains his desire. (p. 336)

Master Huang gives, as an example, how the lessening of the water of the lake through evaporation leads to the increase of the water on the mountain in the form of clouds and rain. He discusses how sometimes the people have to make sacrifices for the general good. Similarly, at times, even the king has to restrain himself. (pp. 337-338)

It is difficult for me to find an answer in this reading to my question about the proper stance I (we) should take towards mountains in the modern age. (The response seems more relevant to other more personal issues confronting me.) Possibly I had the wrong attitude when throwing the coins and asking my question. We are supposed to approach the oracle with respect and trust and with an open and hopeful attitude, as we would in approaching a great and wise man. I have tried to adopt this attitude, but it was not easy for me.

The meaning of the oracle does not spring into my mind. So I will try to let images and thoughts come into my mind and trust that there will be something in them that is useful for my struggles with the question. I realize this is a completely subjective approach, but, if it produces useful results, that’s what’s important.

This translation predicts a change from Great Harvest to Decrease, but a similar psychological attitude is recommended for both times. During Great Harvest it is important to yield, to act in accordance with the times, to make offerings, and not to become inflated (with ones own self-importance) or petty. In times of Decrease, it is important to control ones anger and restrain ones desires by cutting back and sacrificing. None of this is easy.

What comes to mind is that now and in the future I will have to accept that my role in influencing the outcome of the conflict under consideration is minimal in spite of my enthusiastic ambitions. I have finished this book (hopefully a Great Harvest), and it may be a good time to publish it, but it is not and will not have an important effect. This realization pushes me to look within at the part of the conflict that is within my inner world. When we hit a wall (the Mountain hexagram, in one translation, is Block), we must face another side of ourselves.

What about the inner mountains as they appear in my dreams? Perhaps the lake at the foot of the mountain (in the image of Hexagram 41) is like the sea. I have always been attracted to oceans as well as mountains. To me, as mentioned in different places in this book, the ocean represents, to me, a lower level of effort than mountains. It represents a relaxation into the depths of the personality as opposed to a unified effort of to reach a goal or ideal. In a Chaoskampf between the ocean (lake) and mountains, I don’t side with either. I like both. A period of lessening (decrease) of the lake in favor of the mountain is fine with me. However, I still do not see the answer to my question about the place of the Plain and of Secular Life in relation to both the Sea and the Mountain. The I Ching gives a duality to reflect on (Mountain-Lake), but as discussed throughout our book, it seems we are now confronted with a tripartite problem.

Perhaps the overarching implication of the reading is that there isn’t much I can do with respect to the inner and outer problem. I have to yield and restrain myself and give up my own will and, I suppose, watch how things will turn out, at least in my lifetime.

It occurs to me that, with respect to my question, there were two parts. First, I asked about myself, and, second, I asked about humankind. There is an important parallel between me and humankind: We both exist and could both cease to exist. For sure, I will cease to exist. It is not certain whether humankind will continue to exist or not. Another parallel is that I can feel invulnerable and eternal, and so can humankind as a whole. It is easy for us to think that humankind is a miracle, possibly unique in the universe, and that we must be here for a reason, and that whoever or whatever has brought us into existence would never let us to disappear altogether. In contemporary films, even if there is a nuclear war, there are some survivors in some humanoid form. (This is in contradistinction to the grim film from the 1960’s, On the Beach, which did point to a complete end to mankind from a nuclear holocaust.)

It may be true that humankind is immortal, but, in thinking about the overall structure of the I Ching, I get a different perspective.

I received, for my reading, Great Harvest turning into Decreasing. It is the nature of the I Ching, the Book of Changes, to see any and every time period as a mere phase that is part of the overall flow of time. Everything goes through phases, and this includes humankind as well as individuals. It is possible that humankind is having a Good Harvest and that then it will Decrease. The desecration of mountains and of nature, in general, may really and truly be the beginning of the end for all humankind. Or a decrease may lead to another phase and then another and then another and so on. We don’t know. Humans are born and die; civilizations are born and die; and, perhaps, humankind was born and will die. Who will miss us? What plant species? What animal species except, perhaps, mosquitoes and some bacteria and viruses? Perhaps, if we can’t be satisfied with what we have, we will wind up with nothing, on the trash pile of failed experiments — a strange sort of suicide (like goldfish who, if they have unlimited food, will eat and eat and eat until they burst. Dinosaurs disappeared because of a hit of a meteor, we are told. No reason we can’t disappear as a result of our own behaviors.}


The Mountain Archetype Copyright © 1988 by Thomas R. Hersh. All Rights Reserved.

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