Archetypes / C.G.Jung / Movies

Jung’s Rebirth Archetypes and Transformation

A  fellow blogger, SymbolReader, pointed out the Ressurection archetype in the latest James Bond movie “Skyfall”. In my last article I presented transformation as key element in  Tolkiens Lord of the Rings. Both triggered a brief follow up about the Rebirth Renovatio aspect of C.G. Jung’s Transformation Archetype – written in the Easter Night.

Jung enumerates five plus one  different meanings of Rebirth:

  • Metempsychosis – transmigration of souls
  • Reincarnation –  continuity of personality (main Buddhist theme)
  • Resurrection  – reestablishment of human existence after death (main Christian theme)
  • Rebirth Renovatio – rebirth in the narrow sense within a span of a life with the implication of healing, improvement
  • Rebirth Transmutation  – such as transformation of a mortal in an immortal being
  • Participation in or witnessing of  a process of transformation – mystery of ceremony.

Participation a process of transformation

In Lord of the Rings I understood the latter. The transformation  (or the quest to counter  Mordor transforming the world in a hell ruled by the evil enforced by Orks)  takes place outside of the individual. In other words, Frodo has to take part in some rite of Transformation.

Witnessing  a process of transformation – mystery of ceremony 

Jung was, as Tolkien, leaning on the Catholic side (although Jung’s grandfather was a Free Manson and his Father an unconvincing  Protestant Pastor).  Jung meant here witnessing the transformation of a substance in ceremony such as a mass, e.g.  the mystery of the Eucharist.  It is of the five mysteries  the Church cannot explain, Catholics have to accept them on faith. Of course there is also a strong pagan mystery in it: The grace (more the curse) of immortality.  Jung refers to the Eleusinian Mysteries ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone. based at Eleusis in ancient Greece (and every Easter in Washington State). Demeter’s rebirth is symbolic for the eternity of life that flows from generation to generation:

Truly the blessed gods have proclaimed a most beautiful secret Death comes as a blessing to men (Elusian epitaph, quoted by C.G Jung).

Resurrection  – reestablishment of human existence after death

Today there is the mystery of the Easter Night – of  Jesus’ Resurrection.

Rebirth “renovatio”

I saw the DVD of Craig’s latest 007 flick, “Skyfall recently.  The plot has been kept relatively simple, when a hard drive listing all NATO operatives undercover in terrorist organizations is stolen, which cost M essentially her job.  Bond sets out to recover the drive,  this mission leads him to a man named Silva, who was once also (ab)used by M, questioning  Bond’s loyalty to M. This movie tells a quite intelligent story with the key characters given much more depth and layers and being less playful than usual (and better than the last two before).  In Skyfall,  Sam Mendes has provided us with more visual movie than action thriller combining old school Bond with a psychoanalytical twist. It was significant (and had at least a double meaning) to hear James Bond claim “resurrection” as his hobby. To me it was a more a rebirth in the narrow sense within a span of a life and with the implication of healing, improvement. Here is why.

The movie opens with thrilling action, the Skyfall after he was shot bay another Agent (his Anima). This seemingly distressing outcome is critical to the plot, but looks like the end of Agent 007. In fact, the British Secret Service does think it is the end of him. Bond revels in the anonymity and decides to stay “dead.”  His mission upon his “resurrection” is to get revenge for what’s happened to him. He was killed by his mother, giving the order to shoot, causing the Skyfall.James Bond “dies” and falls into deep water, with his eyes closed, unconscious. The fall is mighty, like that of a FallenAngel.  Water is the symbol of the unconscious, the Female, back to the Uterus and of course of (Re)birth.

Jung noted in his book Answer to Job,  Jahweh failed Job in this story in the Bible. Likewise M gave the order to sacrifice Bond.  In a way he understood how she manipulated and used him and let her be killed. That was his revenge. To be honest,  as a male Bond fan, I was relieved –  almost sighing to the villain: “just shoot her now”  to make her retire from the Bond series. Why? Well, l Bond movies were always more stereotypes than archetypes – that’s why they reflect the spirit of different times so well. And she was one too.  But she overextended her stay.  People realize today, women can be just as incompetent and ignorant as men – in politics and in corporations.  I am sure the Bond producer understood that as well, that not Craig, but she became the weak link in the last Bond movies.  Back to the roots: that was signalled by the choice of the car and Bonds new male Boss at the end of the movie. Anyway.

James Bond isn’t a spokesman on moral issues and Craig always had more the appeal of the British under class lad, coming drunken out of a bar in  London Camden Town and vomiting on the side walk. I hated the scene where Bond dumped Mathis’s body in the dumpster after he died. After recent viewing of that earlier movie again, that scene really disturbed me. Dumping a dead friend into a dumpster, it just didn’t feel right… I’m sure there could have been a better way rather than dumping him with garbage at a nearby dumpster. But when he made this ressurection claim in that dry James Bond-ish way in Skyfall, it brought into a focus a major theme of the movie that is worth considering especially in the Easter night: coming back after everyone thought he was gone forever. And I changed my opinion, this guy finally gave his movie character  depth. The plot and action lack, but visuals and symbolism is superior.

I agree with “symbolreader” the story is about  Bond’s redemption and resurrection – not revenge.  But there is also the story of Job in there, with an less than godly Jahweh.  Resurrection  is a religious word. The subject of resurrection is generally restricted to spiritual conversation. Contrast this, then, with the Christian resurrection. The genuine resurrection. That is, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The whole point of Jesus’ death and resurrection was the opposite of revenge.

  • The point was restoration.  Jahweh failed us and humankind rejected Him.  He wanted to reunite with us. So he gave his Son Jesus to pay the penalty for our infraction.
  • Our rejection of God caused a huge gulf between Him and us. Jesus gave up His life and died to pay the price for our sin. With the penalty paid, we could be joined in relationship again with God. The role of the Son, Jesus, was (and is) to restore. That’s why we call Him Savior. He saved us. He brought us back to God.

When Bond returns, he is physically humiliated but spiritualized and mentally stronger. Although an oprphan,  he is able to separate himself  from his (cruel and more and more incapable) surrogate mother aptly named M. In a way, he accepted or at least was relieved that his Shadow Silva killed her.