The Anatomy of Longing.

”There are links between a society’s predominant form of primal relationship and its collective social behaviour.” Mario Jacoby. Longing for Paradise.

Wow, what an idea. The collective pattern of mother/infant relations shapes culture, sex, religion…

How we eat, pray, love.

Jacoby draws on anthropological research comparing New Guinian tribes, the Arapesh and the Mundugumor.

The Arapesh have a distinctly close bond between mother and child and though they are a poor people they are characterictically friendly and generous. Their cosmology is easy going and occassionally adopts outside influences.

The warlike Mundugumor have a less bonded infancy, earlier weening and believe crying children augur well, bringing luck in their battle with various malign super-natural forces. Though they are prosperous the Mundugamor are aggressive, macho and nostalgic by comparison to the cheery Arapesh.

Also, if the Mundugamor took a dislike you you might get eaten…

that too..

What is going on in your life is quite secondary to how comfortable you are in your own skin. Jacoby links ‘well-being’ directly to a cosmology where, ‘the archetypal feminine is not suppressed.’

The Mundugamor are patriarchs. There’s no divine feminine, but there is a lot of mutual suspicion and nostalgic, whimsical longing, the object of which is often manifest as someone else’s stuff.

So ,what for we in New Guinea now?

I’m interested in it because we’re not so different. We too live in a largely reactionary world full of paranoia, greed and, above all, nostalgia.

But nostalgic and longing for what?

And if it is true that..

”Culture is an attempt to resolve the fears generated by a specific (pattern of) mother/child relations in earliest life.” F Renggli.

….then is there a connection between the longing in our culure that manifests as a desire for stuff and a lurking but as yet unnamed fear that permeates our culture…

surfed only by Bling!

gleaming hero!

Archangel of Mammon.

but what is he surfing?

Before we ask that, let’s recall  the old adage that the devil’s best trick is to get people to say he doesn’t exist.

I was dining alone on holiday at an open air restaurant on a Greek island.  I was forty. The table next to me had a young family sat down for dinner. In the process of not staring I began to soak in something the eye rarely catches, the inflection of tone in a man’s voice, how he jostles between wheedling with his wife or trying to trip her up whilst ‘managing’ his kids who seemed both lost and confused at his continuous frustration of their aliveness.  And underneath all of that was a particular cheddary scent of fear with overtones of raspberry and citrus and so eventually I turned to him and said, ”excuse me but when you were a child did you go to Plumtree school in Rhodesia and were you in Milner house?

Boys Boarding School.

endless Kalahari scrub.. ,

masters in khaki with guns.

Even the matrons had beards.

and it was all in his voice and gestures 3 decades on.

The poor man nearly fell of his chair.

Consistent with the culture of that time there was no further discussion once we’d established that he had left the year before I arrived and was therfore my senior.

Our culture was so rooted in unacknowledged  loss of the Principle of Relatedness, that you could smell it. I could sense it in this man’s table manners, in his style of fathering, in the convolutions of his relationship with his wife and in his bullish condescension dealing with the waiter.

And at the heart of it was a kind of ugly gap where something softer and more yielding might have been and without which our childhoods had been moulded in such detail that after 30 years and half a world away, I could recognise the impact of it on a person I had never met.

The miracle of which we could not discuss.

We think we can congratulate ourselves on having already reached such a pinnacle of clarity, imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal spectres, not the psychic facts that are responsible for the birth of the gods. CG Jung.

I went to a dating agency and they wanted to know straight off how long it had been since I was in my last relationship. They had a formula; It takes 20% of the duration of the previous relationship to get over it.

I was a couple of months shy.

Did you take their advice?


And went on some dates anyway..


how did they go?

The point is that in the whole of our species’ life span, some 120 thousand years of species stabilisation, we’ve lost half our pantheon in only the last fortieth of that time….

or actually only a third if you go by the apocryphal book of Enoch.

The point is that the violent suppression of the divinine feminine over the last several millenia is not so long ago. Somewhere in the collective unconscious of our species, it’s a recent emotional wound……

FFunny how apocryphal used to mean BBanned-on-pain-of-death and now only means of-unknown-PProvenance…

… much so that from the perspective of the species we are still in shock from something that we can barely remember, like a kid who’s all aggressive in the street and can’t concentrate in class as a direct consequence of something he no longer thinks about but still acts out in a symptomatic way.

”We are still as much possessed by autonomous psychic contents as if they were olympians. Today they are called phobias, obsessions and so forth; in a word neurotic symptoms.” CG Jung

In my 25 years as a psychotherapist I have consistently noticed that even the smallest acknowledgment of the sacred feminine, even if it is simply at the level of longing or divine homesickness,

even if its just at the level of admitting the vastness of the unconscious let alone what it contains,

has a way of resolving affliction.

How? Because the affliction was the unacknowledged psyche in the first place.


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Psychotherapist/writer/artist/ author of, 'Going Mad to Stay Sane', a psychology of self-destructiveness, about to come into its third edition. Soon to be printed for the first time, 'Abundant Delicious.. the Secret and the Mystery', described by activist Satish Kumar as, ' A Tao of the Soul'. This book documents the archetypal country through which the process of individuation occurs and looks at the trials and tribulations we might expect on the way. In the meantime..... Narcissisim is the issue of our age. This blog looks at how it operates, how it can damage and how we may still fruit despite it.

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