Monday, 20 June 2016

Hounded to death: the last years of T. E. Shaw. 8. The puer aeternus theory: (i)

Don Juan poster, 1926
"In general, the man who is identified with the archetypes of the puer aeternus remains too long in adolescent psychology; that is all those characteristics that are normal in a youth of seventeen or eighteen are continued into later life, coupled in most cases with too great a dependence on the mother. The two typical disturbances of a man who has an outstanding mother complex are... homosexuality and Don Juanism. In the case of the former, the heterosexual libido is still tied up with the mother, who is really the only beloved object, with the result that sex cannot be experienced with another woman. That would make her the rival of the mother, and therefore sexual needs are satisfied only with a member of the same sex. Generally such men lack masculinity and seek that in the partner.
"In Don Juanism there is another typical form of this same disturbance. In this case, the image of the mother—the image of of the perfect woman who will give everything to a man and who is without any shortcomings—is sought in every woman. He is looking for a mother goddess, so that each time he is fascinated by a woman he has later to discover that she is an ordinary human being. Once he has been intimate with her the whole fascination vanishes and he turns away disappointed, only to project the image anew onto one woman after another. ..."
Marie-Louise von Franz, The Problem of the Puer Aeternus, Inner City Books, Toronto, 2000. p.7.
Even though T. E. Lawrence mostly associated with men no one could accuse him of being effeminate, Far from it. Nor did he appreciate any trace of effeminacy in other men:
"I ate a little, on this my first attempt, while Obeid and Abdulla played at it vigorously, so for his bounty Khallaf went half hungry this morning, and deservedly for it was thought effeminate by the Arabs to carry a provision of food for a little journey of one hundred miles. We were now friends..."
T. E. Lawrence, The Complete 1922 Seven Pillars of Wisdom: The 'Oxford Text', J. and N. Wilson, Castle Hill Press Editions, Salisbury, Third edition with amendments, 2014, Chapter 13,  p.70 (October, 1916)

"Auda was very simply dressed in white cotton, northern fashion, with a red Mosul headcloth. He might be over fifty, and his black hair was streaked with white, but he was still strong and straight, loosely built, spare, and active as a much younger man. His face was magnificent, even to its lines and hollows, and showed how true it was that the death of Annad, his favourite son, in battle with his Jazi cousins, had cast sorrow over all his life, by the bitter failure of his dream to hand on through him the greatness of the name of Abu Tayi to future generations."
ibid, Chapter 40, p.230 (April 1917)
While there is an aspect of homosexuality that finds strong masculinity attractive, it is utterly at odds with the character of the puer aeternus.
"A filthy business all of it, and yet Hut 12 shows me the truth behind Freud. Sex is an integer in all of us, and the nearer nature we are, the more constantly, the more completely a product of that integer. These fellows are the reality, and you and I, the selves who used to meet in London and talk of fleshless things, are only the outward wrappings of a core like these fellows. They let light and air play always upon their selves, and consequently have grown very lustily, but have at the same time achieved health and strength in their growing. Whereas our wrappings and bandages have stunted and deformed ourselves, and hardened them to an apparent insensitiveness... but it's a callousness, a crippling, only to be yea-said by aesthetes who prefer clothes to bodies, surfaces to intentions." (in a letter to Lionel Curtis, March 27th. 1923)
 This passage gives form to Lawrence's revulsion for sex by explaining how he saw that aspect of his character more of a handicap than a virtue. He regretted not being the sort of person who would raise a family. Perhaps this was also why he did not like very much to spend time with younger women, not because older women would remind him of his mother, but because they reminded him of what he felt he could never have. But there is something else there with talking of "fleshless things":  a person who very much lived within the psyche. He had hardened himself and become the ascetic not so much for the religious reasons that his family might have supposed but to further himself from the image of the boy that nature had dealt him. He could do nothing about his head to body proportions that made him look like a boy, but he could toughen himself and become physically strong, the "pocket Hercules" as he once called himself. His physical desires, competing with those of the psyche, were to rid himself of any aspect of the boy. For him, the puer aeternus was nothing inherently psychological, it was a physical handicap that had psychological repercussions. He also maintained a certain distance from his mother, because, I presume, he associated the mother with his boyish appearance. In his letters home to her he gave none of the salutations he would give to everyone else, even his brothers. His news was restricted to the sort of things that he believed she needed to hear. While respectful, he kept a lot of himself apart from her.

I need not provide any evidence for his complete lack of Don Juanism; his whole life does that.

Tomorrow, how the cure for the puer aeternus relates to T. E. Shaw's psychology.

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