We are meditating on Adultism, the unconscious projection of resentment onto the young. Jesus has plenty to say about the young. “If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42). In Jesus’ understanding there is a child in every adult and it is precisely this child who rejoices and responds to hear the Good News of the nearness of the kingdom/queendom of God.
Yet this child can be buried by the adult responding to the adultist demands of society. Change of heart or metanoia is necessary for the child to be recovered and released. We call that recovery mysticism.
In a recent DM we discussed the god Chronos whose other name is “Senex,” which is the archetype of the senator, the supposed wise old man. In tension with the Senex is the “Puer” archetype, the child, the youth, the mystic within us all. In a healthy psyche and culture both Senex and Puer operate together. When Senex and Puer are at odds—as in the patronizing put-down by treasury secretary of Greta Thernberg for example–instead of a happy polarity of youth and age, negative aspects emerge.
A generation gap becomes a generation chasm that operates within the psyche and extends outwards into our social institutions, rendering them ageist and dualistic. Psychologist James Hillman writes that “the negative senex is the senex split from his own puer aspect. He has lost his ‘child.’” Negativity happens.
In other words, the negative senex is the person or culture that has lost the mystic within. Having repressed the child within, such a senex is a Chronos who wants to consume youth and creativity out of envy and fear of losing one’s advantages. Hillman believes that cynicism and tyranny result from the loss of the child within the senex. There is plenty of cynicism and tyranny abroad in our land at this time–in fact, we are swimming in it.
Hillman states: Without the enthusiasm and eros of the son, authority loses its idealism. It aspires to nothing but its own perpetuation, leading but to tyranny and cynicism; for meaning cannot be sustained by structure and order alone…. The old is always preferred to the new. Hillman continues by adding: Sexuality without young eros becomes goaty; weakness becomes complaints; creative isolation only paranoid loneliness…. cut off from its own child and fool the complex no longer has anything to tell us….It has no wisdom, only knowledge—serious, depressing, hoarded in an academic vault or used as power.
This might help to explain our current times when the me-too movement grew in response to goaty and abusive sex and a presidential impeachment from a lust for power and the black lives matter movement from police profiling of young black men.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 188f.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you agree that cynicism and tyranny are present in the land at this time? If so, how can we bring back the healthy puer and puella to counterbalance this negative senex, this return of Chronos?
Consider how without the child alive within us we live in a world of knowledge but not wisdom, power but not play.