A Mythology of Prince

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A Mythology of Prince

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A Mythology of Prince
Luke Soiseth

A Jungian analysis of the artist formally known as The Artist Formally Known as Prince.

A paper written between 1995-1996 and submitted as partial fulfillment of requirements for M.A. For English at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. (Seriously.)

Thank you to Dr. David Smith for allowing me to head down such a path and encouraging me all along the way.

Part I: Introduction

Growing up in Minneapolis during the 1970’s I heard tales of a young man at Central High School who was a true musical genius. A sort of “mythology” began to emerge around him: it was said that he could play any and every instrument (one rumor had it that someone invented an instrument and he learned how to play it before they did); people said that he was a child prodigy and studio wizard who churned out exceptional new songs every day; it was even said that his actual given name was “Prince.”

Being that I had my own rock star fantasy, the very idea of this individual enchanted me. I gathered of information about him that I could, but very soon there was more than I could handle. Prince, of course, grew to be one of the most successful writers, performers, and producers of popular music in history, but the mythology surrounding has never really let up.

I use the term “mythology” as opposed to biography; my concern is the stories (or myths) told through his artistic endeavors, rather than the actual story of Prince Rogers Nelson, and particularly with what Joseph Campbell refers to as the fourth function of myth, which he believes, “everyone must try today to relate to – and that is the pedagogical function, of how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances. Myths can teach you that.”

One of my classmates at Southwest High at the time was a young woman named Anne Barber. I remember Anne to have been intelligent, kind, athletic, and maybe a little shy. In December of 1995, Anne was abducted and murdered. She died of multiple sharp force injuries to the face and neck; her body was found in the trunk of her car. This despicable crime took place while I was in the process of reexamining Prince’s career in light of my studies of the trickster and hero archetypes as put forward by the Swiss psychologist and philosopher Carl Jung, and I was struck by the thought that had Anne Barber’s killer listened to, understood, and internalized the mythology played out in Prince’s career, he could not have committed that crime.

Prince’s message, gleaned directly and somewhat indirectly from his music and his career, might be stated as follows: Love is God; sex is beautiful, normal and important, and should be treated as such; and it is up to each of us to understand ourselves sincerely and truthfully, and to cultivate a feeling of deep spiritually produced through love, sex, joy, and art. And by acting out the trickster and hero archetypes, Prince has created a mythology through which those truths can be contemplated and understood.

Jung writes that “As scientific understanding has grown, so our world has become dehumanized. Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos, because he is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional unconscious identity with natural phenomena” (Man 85). Whereas primitive man may have attributed hurricanes, tornadoes, and lightening strikes to angry gods, we know now they are natural phenomena existing under particular meteorological conditions. This is excellent information to have in order to protect ourselves from danger; however it has also left us spiritually empty. “Our intellect has achieved the most tremendous things,” Jung writes, “but in the meantime our spiritual dwelling has fallen into disrepair” (Collected 16). Many of us here at the end of the twentieth century are remarkably un-introspective, un-spiritual. And Jung goes on to add that “contemporary man … is blind to the fact that with all his rationality and efficiency, he is [still] possessed by ‘powers’ that are beyond his control. His gods and demons have not disappeared at all; they have merely got new names. They keep him on the fun with restlessness, vague apprehensions, psychological complications, an insatiable for pills, alcohol, tobacco, food – and, above all, a large array of neuroses” (Man 71).

Modern gods and demons live inside each of us, and so the struggle between good and evil takes place within. In a sense, the man who killed Anne Barber allowed the demon within him to kill, and so only he could have stopped it. The devil made him do it, so to speak; but the devil is a part of each of us, as is God. We merely choose with which force we will align ourselves at any given moment.

Human beings have an intense need for the symbols and meanings to be had from systems of religions and mythologies, yet we are also ignoring them with great zeal.1 As Jung writes, “Anyone who has lost the historical symbols and cannot be satisfied with substitutes is certainly in a very difficult position today; before him there yawns the void, and he turns away from it in horror” (Collected 15). But we are also surrounded by opportunities to find solace in our modern world. Answers abound on how to act properly in our lives, answers that come from within and from outside sources. All we have to do is look for them, study and understand them. I will show in this paper that with a closer look and a little imagination we find that a Mythology of Prince is an excellent example of such a source.

1“There is … a strong empirical reason why we should cultivate thoughts that can never be proved. It is that they are known to be useful. Man positively needs general ideas and convictions that will give a meaning to his live and enable him to find a place for himself in the universe” (Jung Man 76). “A sense of a wider meaning to one’s existence is what raises a man beyond mere getting and spending. If he lacks this sense, he is logs and miserable” (Jung Man 78).

Written by luke

July 15, 2010 at 1:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Part II: Controversy: Prince as a Trickster

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“All great things must first wear terrifying and monstrous masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Cultures, societies, philosophies, religions, and mythologies all have lives of their own. Time transforms them just as it brings us through our own life-cycles. Governments emerge and are toppled; distinct races or cultures of people inter-mix, inter-marry, and become synthesized; borders move and disappear; ideas are embraced and often, then, profoundly modified or ignored. And “Every period [even] has its bias, its particular prejudice, and its psychic malaise.” Jung writes, “An Epoch is like an individual, it has its own limitations of conscious outlook and therefore requires a compensatory adjustment” (As qtd in Schechter “Myth” 66). Time passes so adaptive change must occur. One way in which that cultural transformation is inspired is what I would like to explore here.

The sorts of biases Jung refers to – which can hinder the evolution of a culture – often develop out of antiquated notions that have simply hung around too long. An idea or a belief may be sanctioned long enough that consciously, at least, people stop exploring and/or questioning it. Consecrated and ignored, the idea may turn sour, become out of sync with the progression of society, and even evolve into something entirely out of the spirit from which it sprang. Eventually, however, there is this compensatory adjustment on the part of the collective unconscious and an archetype will emerge.1 Archetypes are biologically grounded elementary ideas that are shared by people all over the world and throughout history. The only difference from occasion to occasion is that they appear in what Campbell calls “different costumes,” which are a result of the particular environment and historical conditions of where and when they emerge. Jung writes that archetypes are symbols “Whose purpose is to compensate or correct, in a meaningful manner, the … one-sidedness and extravagances of the conscious mind,” These “mythic symbols [are] capable of exerting ‘strange, compelling power,’ [and] have a tendency to arise to compensate for any serious imbalance in the conscious life of a single person or an entire society” (As qtd in Schecheter Bosom 126). At the societal level these archetypes emerge from our collective unconscious in our mythologies and popular culture.

One such archetype that appears universally in human culture and society is the trickster figure. The trickster is a trouble-maker, but he is also an ameliorator. Jung writes that the “trickster is a primitive ‘cosmic’ being of divine-animal nature, on the one hand superior to man because of his superhuman qualities, and on the other hand inferior to him because of his unreason and unconscious,” and it is the “defects [of the trickster that] are the marks of his human nature” (Collected 204).

The trickster is necessarily ambiguous and contradictory: make/female, evil/good, spiritual/profane, religious/secular, culture bringer/culture violator (Welsch 619). The trickster embodies “the spirit of disorder [and] the enemy of boundaries.” “Paul Radin describes the trickster figure as an archaic figure of wander-lust and enormous appetite – sexual, culinary, and experiential” (Tilly 53). Tricksters challenge our cultural values, belie3fs, and norms by breaking and transcending them. They loom up in front of us, confidently embodying aspects of our society we would rather not recognize. The denial and repression of those aspects is illuminated, and so called in to question, in light of the very existence of the trickster standing before us. In the first of his mythological roles that I will explore, Prince is one such figure.2

“Any major pop phenomenon is a kind of cultural seismograph,” Harold Schechter writes, “revealing the large, subterranean forces that are at work beneath the surface of society (and that sometimes break through with a convulsive effect)” (Bosom 124).

Prince made his first real impression on popular culture with his Dirty Mind album, the cover of which has a photograph of the artist looking soberly into the camera, clothed only in an open dress-coat, black bikini underwear, and a bandanna. At the time, he appeared shocking, but also erotic and wildly beautiful. And along with such titles as “Do it all Night,” “Head,” and the incestuous “Sister,” the songs’ themes and lyrics captured the same sort of shocked attention. The overt sexuality of Prince’s music and image was inordinately unsettling to a large portion of Americans. They were hot, bothered and offended, and so began Prince’s trickster myth.

In 1080, the American political scene saw the deposition of the more progressive and liberal Jimmy Carter, and the ascendency of the more conservative Republican values, and especially those represented by Ronald Reagan. It was a time in America when tolerance levels for other people and ideas seemed to sink to new lows. The paranoia toward the Soviet “Evil Empire” and the powerful emergence of the dogmatic religious right are examples of this intolerance. It was also a time of much anti-gay sentiment, the irrational fear of pornography as a great perpetrator or evils, and the general misconceptions about sexuality’s role in the lives of people who could no longer adhere to the archaic and rather arbitrary laws governing sex and sexuality from both Western religion and even secular governments (witness the sort of legislation passed attempting to regulate sexual acts between consenting adults). “If the decade of the 60’s saw the reign of the ‘Me’ generation,” Edgely & Brissett comment, “the decade of the 80’s has witnessed the ascendance of the the ‘No’ generation.”

Much of this intolerance was rooted in the more puritan religions of the day. Any religion that advocates a particular lifestyle or ideology which will lead to eternal life creates a paranoia in its followers that can only lead to discord between people. “Men try to qualify for [eternal life] by being clean and by cleansing the world around them of the evil, the dirty;” Ernest Becker writes, “in this way they show that they are on the side of purity, even if they themselves are impure.” Many American have long believed (and especially in regard to other people) that “deprivation is spiritually ennobling and will pay off in this life.”They are, as H.L. Mencken put it, possessed by “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy” (as qtd in Edgely & Brissett 6). More seriously, it is said that real “evil rests on the passionate person’s motive to perpetuate oneself” (Becker 122), and when people believe that others are not acting up to their ideals of civilized behavior, they often belie3ve the “sinner” is ruining it for everybody, and so try to force them to conform. In many of these religions the “Devil represents the body,” Becker warns, “and that’s why the Devil is so dangerous: he reveals the reality of our situation, the fact that we can’t really escape our earthly destiny … .So long as we are in our bodies we are subject to the complete dominion of the earthly laws of blood and animality” (124). This stands in opposition to the heavenly state to which they aspire. All ideology, Becker continues, “is about one’s qualification for eternity; and so are all disputes about who is really dirty” (116).

In addition, he goes on, human misery “all stems from man trying to be other than he is, trying to deny his animal nature. This … is the cause of all psychic illness, sadism, and war. The guiding principles of the formation of all human ideology ‘harp on the same monotonous tune: We are not animals’” (Becker 93). But, of course, we are animals. We have evolved like animals; we have all the needs – food, water, sex – of the animals; and only an animal could commit the crime that killed Anne Barber. But “Mortality is connected tot he natural, animal side of his existence; and so man reaches beyond and away from that side,” and “does not want to be reminded of the fact that he is fundamentally a sexual animal” (Becker 94). “The striving for [some sort of arbitrary purity of] perfection reflects man’s effort to get some human grip on his eligibility for immortality. And he can only know if he is good if the authorities tell him so: that is why … he will do anything the group wants in order to meet the standards of the ‘good’” (Becker 116). This is also why so many people blindly adhere to a sexual moral code put in place hundreds or thousands of years ago by distant religious leaders: They fear their mortality, and willingly accept any theory that might lead them beyond this world.

Of course, there is much violation of those sexual mores taking place among those quickest to denounce just that sort of behavior, so when Prince emerged as a trickster, embodying all of the animal sexuality society has consciously and unconsciously repressed, a large part of society was more than happy to project its own guilt-ridden shadow onto him. The shadow, which is in conflict with the acknowledged values (i.e. the cultural facade over animality), cannot be accepted as a negative part of one’s own psyche and is therefore projected – that is, it is transferred to the outside world and experienced as an outside object. It is combatted, punished, and exterminated as ‘the alien out there’ instead of being dealt with as one’s [or society’s] own inner problem 9Neumann, as qted in Becker 195). Prince arrived and declared that he had a Dirty Mind, and his critics, who were busy ignoring their own, were incensed.3

In 1981 Prince responded to the negative reaction to Dirty Mind with the release of his aptly titled album, Controversy, which both questions the public response to his music and furthers the ideas to which they were reacting.4 On the title track, he sings wonderingly, “I just can’t believe all the things people say. Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay? Do I believe in God? Do I believe in me?” And yet fosters the controversy and confusion by chanting over and over: “People call me rude, I wish we all ere nude, I wish there were no black and white, I wish there were no rules,” during the same song in which he also intones (in a manner some would find sacrilegious) “The Lord’s Prayer.” Prince’s wish to be nude could be intellectually construed to merely hearken back to the world before the fall of humanity and Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, when “man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:25). His critics, however, would hardly be swayed by that argument for the second song on the album, “Sexuality,” begins with repeated staccato screams and lyrics that call people to a new understanding of the of the passionate self:

Stand up everybody, this is your life.
Let me take you to another world, let me take you tonight.
You don’t need no money, you don’t need no clothes.
The Second Coming – anything goes …
Sexuality is all you’ll ever need.
Sexuality, let your body be free.

The trickster is necessarily ambiguous, and Prince furthers the confusion that surrounds him by speaking very clearly in the middle of the song “Sexuality” lyrics of elementary sociological common sense:

Don’t let your children watch television
until they know how to read,
or else all they’ll know how to do
is cuss, fight and bleed.
No child is bad from the beginning,
they only imitate their atmosphere.

Most of his critics would have to grudgingly agree with at least he first part of this sentiment, no matter where they fall on the nature/nurture debate. Other songs on Controversy include the sexually explicit “do Me, Baby,” “Private Joy,” and “Jack U Off,” as well as the damning diatribe of the sort of insanity found in some right-wing Christianity in “Annie Christian”: “You killed John Lennon! Shot him down cold!” he sings, expressing some of the real fear he must have felt as a target of some people’s damning criticism: “Annie Christian, Annie Christ, until you’re crucified, I’ll live my life in taxi-cabs.”

According to Marty Klein, America’s “religious right sees sexuality as an external force, a threat to rationality, authority, religion and marital fidelity.” He goes on: “Once you believe sex is an outside force, you look for it everywhere – which is a text book definition of paranoia” (Sex 37). They see their own sexual urges everywhere else, and all too clearly in the trickster Prince. But this paranoia we have to believe has emerged for a reason – they are reacting to some perceived threat. There can be no doubt that men and women throughout history have abused sex. They’ve used it for power, to hurt and to control people. They’ve used it foolishly, without proper consideration, or proper protection. And most importantly, they’ve used it without permission. So, in a sense, we can see that the extreme religious right is probably society’s attempt to balance with the perpetrators of evil deeds (both real and imagined). It makes some sense, but in their excessiveness they’ve become extreme, irrational, and even evil. Klein writes, “Breaking the third and ninth commandments is business as usual for members of the religious right .On their televisions stations, in school curricula, through their think tanks and in our national newspapers they lie about sex. They lie so big and so loud and so often that many people assume they must be telling the truth” (37).

These, of course, are the people most aghast at Prince and his music – or how they perceive Prince and his music. They find it offensive, perverted, disgusting, and sick. But where does that reaction come from? How is it that they see overt sexuality a la Dirty Mind as so terribly negative? How is that they understand the sexual drive as something other than natural and beautiful? “Clearly,” Klein explains, “the religious right and its cohorts are dreadfully frightened of their own eroticism. They struggle against their fleshly desire, but they cannot deny their flesh desires. They may loathe their fantasies of legs, breasts and mouths, but they cannot banish the images. They preach that desire is weakness. And their own weakness terrifies them” (38). And so to “overcome this emotional conflict they project their terror [aka their shadow] onto others” (38).

And therefore what makes Prince so unsettling to people is not the message he imparts, but, as with all tricksters, the reflection of the message upon themselves. The apparently compulsive sexuality found in his music should be understood as a symbol of something larger in society and not merely as a personal neurotic symptom. Jung points out that in the trickster’s “clearest manifestations he is a faithful copy of an absolutely undifferentiated human consciousness, which is what the trickster obviously seems to be” (Collected 201). Prince, in his strongest manifestation as trickster, represents the primitive yearnings for sexual gratification that we have through time entombed in various values, morals, and constricting regulations. He emerged when and where he did for a reason. Jung writes about the trickster:

To take a legitimate parallel from the psychology of the individual, namely the appearance of an impressive shadow figure antagonistically confronting a personal consciousness: this figure does not appear merely because it still exists in the individual, but because it rests on a dynamism whose existence can only be explained in terms of his actual situation, for instance because the shadow is so disagreeable to his ego consciousness that it has to be repressed into the unconscious. (Collected 204)

Prince emerged as a trickster to compensate for society’s impotence when it comes to dealing with the nature of sexuality. His trickster is an obvious personification of our collective unconscious’ desires in the realm of sensuality. Through him we are given the opportunity to explore that part of us which complements our modern ascetic and frustrated sexuality; and though it seems primitive and dirty, we must recognize its most meaningful contents: the sexual drive includes lots of beautiful wayside rests – gratification, intimacy, pleasure, joy, contentment, peace, love and even, God.

In addition to his wander-lust for all things sexual and sensual, Prince embodies many other aspects commonly seen in the mythological trickster. The dual nature of the trickster is its most recognizable trait. Tricksters are often androgynous – seemingly both man and woman simultaneously. Prince’s physical image over the years has retained the same sort of ambiguity. The image that he cultivates is neither male nor female. His own sexuality (“Am I straight or gay?”) he leaves to the imagination by adding contradicting musical clues to muddy the waters; lyrics such as: “There’s some kings in my deck and a queen or two, So you know there ain’t nothing, nothing that I wouldn’t do,” from the song “Willing and Able.” Many of his personae blend genders in such a matter that can confuse those who are not in on the joke. One particular song, “If I was your Girlfriend,” is sung in an electronically treated voice to sound more female, though it remains ambiguous. Prince originally intended to release the song on an album under the somewhat androgynous name, Camille, but after the plans were leaked to the public, he suddenly changed his mind, and scrapped much of the material. Prince also creates chaos in ways such this, which is another aspect of the trickster personality. Tricksters are also often both animal and human, and Prince plays with this idea in his song “La-la-la He-he-he” in which he sings from the point of view of a dog with sexual feelings for a cat (a staccato barking keeping time in the background). In addition, anyone who has ever seen Prince crawl across the stage during a concert has witnessed the primitive animal nature in man manifest itself quite explicitly.

Most pop culture tricksters “are not considered mythic or sacred, either by those who create the characters … or by their audiences,”Jack Santino writes (665). However, earlier in the same article he points out that a “rock performance by Prince becomes a ritualistic experience for his fans” (662). This is important because myths such as Prince’s trickster must be “actively sustained and fostered by the consciousness … [and] that is the best and most successful method of keeping the shadow figure conscious and subjecting it to conscious criticism” (Jung Collected 205). The myth of the trickster is “supposed to have a therapeutic effect. It holds the earlier low intellectual and moral level before the eyes of the more highly developed individual, so that he shall not forget how things looked yesterday.”5 “Outwardly people are more or less civilized but inwardly they are still primitives,” Jung writes. “Something in man is profoundly disinclined to give up his beginnings” (Collected 208), and something else is intensely desirous to repress them. This fundamental contradiction in society is very much in need of mediating, and Prince’s trickster serves that function.

If it is true, as Jung says, that “the repeated telling of the myth signifies … the therapeutic [evocation] of contents which … should never be forgotten for long,” I’m led to wonder how well we could consciously adopt a myth in order to more quickly change our way of thinking. Our society has never dealt with the evil we perceive to be associated with sex and sexuality. Prince’s trickster assists in this process by pulling these ideas up from the subconscious to the conscious; and by forcing us to face these, Prince may lead us to a more healthy understanding of our bodies and ourselves. “We have to take a full look at the worst in order to begin to get rid of the illusions,” Becker tells us (117), and Prince purposely cultivates that image for us. He could force us to take a new look at what sexuality is and how it affects us, rather than simply repressing it beneath arbitrary socio-religious rules. We may then be able to talk about it more openly and rationally, and we may even be able to cure some of the ills associated with it: ie sexually-transmitted diseases, unwanted children, sex as violence, violence in general, and all of the problems stemming from our current sexual relationships based on possessiveness, such as jealousy, crimes of passion and divorce.

This collective figure,” Jung writes about the successful trickster, “gradually breaks up under the impact of civilization, leaving traces in folklore which are difficult to recognize. But the main part of him gets personalized and is made an object of a personal responsibility” (Collected 202). We can only hope that Prince’s antics as a trickster have brought into light the absurd sexual morals we’ve clung to for all too long, and that he has begun to lead us on the path to a more responsible and healthy understanding of ourselves, our bodies, and our relationships to those around us.6 Prince teaches us to be more tolerant of the views represented by his trickster figure, as well as, more tolerant of our own sexuality. [new note: Love has come of age. Kenny Loggins: Keep the Fire- while you’re at it check out Who’s Right, Whose Wrong]

1“Jung theorized that beneath what he called the personal unconscious – by which he meant basically what Freud meant by the unconscious, namely a repository of memories, desires, impulses, and fantasies relating back to our infantile experiences – there existed a deeper level of the mind which he called the collective unconscious. This part of our minds does not develop out of our personal experiences; its contents are not acquired during our lives. Rather, it is inborn and universal – the same in everybody. Just as we share a common human anatomy over and above the particular variations of our individual bodies, so, says Jung, we all share, at the deepest, most fundamental level of our beings, a common human psyche” (Schechter “Myth” 65).

2One other famous modern figure that embodies some classic trickster motifs can be seen in Jack Nicolson’s portrayal of the Joker in the first of the Batman movies. It is fitting and not at all surprising then that the music behind many of the Joker’s most trickster-esque scenes is Prince.

3“As Robert Briffault pointed out in 1931: ‘Puritanism does not regard ascetic self-torture as a virtue, but regards enjoyment as sin. It is therefore not concerned with practicing the former, but with suppressing the latter’” (Edgely & Brissett 13).

4See the phone call at the end of “Cream (N.P.G. Mix)” which leads to the beginning of “Things Have Got to Change” on the “Cream” compact disc.

5Jung Collected 207. Jung goes on to explain that “The fact that its [the trickster myth’s] repeated telling has not long since become obsolete can, I believe, be explained by its usefulness. The explanation is rather difficult because two contrary tendencies are at work: the desire on one hand to get out of the earlier condition and on the other hand not to forget it” (Collected 207). We have to question whether or not it was wise to get out of, or grow so far away from, the earlier condition.

6Jung writes: “If, at the end of the trickster myth, the saviour is hinted at, this comforting premonition or hope means that some calamity or other has happened and been consciously understood” (Trickster 211).

Written by luke

July 15, 2010 at 1:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Part III: The Black Album: Prince’s Personal Shadow

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Carl Jung warns that “the tempo of the development of consciousness through science and technology was too rapid, and left the unconscious, which could no longer keep up with it, far behind.” This, in turn, forces “it into a defensive position which expresses itself in a universal will to destruction” (Collected 349). When we consciously deal with our unconscious, we refer to our shadow. “The shadow coincides with the ‘personal’ unconscious (which corresponds to Freud’s conception of the unconscious),” Jung writes. It “personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself, and yet [it] is always thrusting itself upon him directly or indirectly – for instance, [in] inferior traits of character and other incompatible tendencies” (Collected 284-285). You may remember the Star Trek episode in which the crew somehow enters into another spacial dimension and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock character meets his evil twin. Evil Spock is essentially Spock’s shadow – the opposite aspects of “regular” Spock. Once back to the normal dimension, Spock is forced to recognize that this other side of him continues to exist. “The shadow is the other side. It is the expression of our own imperfections and earthliness, the negative which is incompatible with the absolute values” (Becker 93).

Civilized man “never suspects that his own hidden and apparently harmless shadow has qualities whose dangerousness exceeds his wildest dreams” (Jung Collected 206). Instead, he ignores it; he turns from his shadow and represses its qualities. And though at first it is exceedingly easy to ignore our shadows, for many reasons, our shadows very much want to be known. “As Jung put it, the shadow becomes a dark thing in one’s own psyche, ‘an inferiority which none the less really exists even through only dimly suspected.’ The person wants to get away from this inferiority, naturally; he wants to ‘jump over his own shadow.’ The most direct way of doing this is by ‘looking for everything dark, inferior, and culpable’ in others” (Qtd in Becker 94-95), and in so doing, converts this shameful guilt into hatred which he projects onto others. “One basic motive of society … is the symbolic expiation of guilt, which [can be seen] as a very complex phenomenon grounded in the truth of the human condition,” Becker states. “Guilt is one of the serious motives of man” (101). Becker writes appropriately that “Men are not comfortable with guilt, it chokes them, literally it is the shadow that falls over their existence” (95). “Men’s fears are buried deeply by repression, which gives to everyday life its tranquil facade; only occasionally does the desperation show through, and only for some people”(92). And only when the unconscious feels the need to cast a shadow.

If we take the trickster as a parallel of the individual shadow,” Jung writes, “then the question arises whether that trend towards meaning, which we saw in the trickster myth, can also be observed in the subjective and personal shadow” (Trickster 210). Does the eruption of an individual shadow signify anything pertinent in the life of the person? The answer, of course, is yes. The shadow looms up in a similar manner to the trickster and serves very much the same purpose – to hold up something of ourselves in front of us in order to make us conscious of it. Shadows are inspired by particular repressed contents (sometimes more than one), or complexes, which have a great need to be recognized in order to assist us in better understanding ourselves. Eugene Pascal explains that “We all have complexes, or rather, complexes have all of us! Sometimes helpful, sometimes not so helpful, there are positive complexes and negative complexes, which simply indicate that something exists in the unconscious which is incompatible with ego-ideals, is unresolved or conflictual” (61). The ultimate need is to bring the unconscious and conscious together. [new note: hello, meditation]

Shadows, then, are essentially personal tricksters, and to “speak of the shadow is another way of referring to the individual’s sense of creature inferiority, the thing he most wants to deny” (Becker 94). It is “not the whole of the unconscious personality. It represents unknown or little-known attributes and qualities of the ego,” M.L. Von franz explains. “If you feel an overwhelming rage coming up in you when a friend reproaches you about a fault, you can be fairly sure that at this point you will find a part of your shadow, of which you are unconscious” (Man 174). Jung explains that it “is one of the curses of modern man that many people suffer from this divided personality. It is by no means a pathological symptom; it is a normal fact that can be observed at any time and everywhere. … “This predicament is a symptom of a general unconsciousness that is the undeniable common inheritance of all mankind” (Man 6).

All of us have an unconscious in which our shadows are generated, but only those who learn to turn and face their shadows and remain aware of their unconscious mind can overcome the divided state of the mind.1 And the divided mind makes the cruel mistakes of humankind – when the shadow arises unchecked. This is why humans can commit extraordinarily horrific deed when they are perfectly aware on another level that the deeds are evil. It is not so much, then, an inherent cruelty peculiar to the perpetrators of the deeds, for we all possess the ability to be cruel, but instead it is some inability or unwillingness on the part of the perpetrators to control themselves, a weakness in the face of their shadow. “Beyond doubt,” Jung writes, “even in what we call a high level of civilization, human consciousness has not yet achieved a reasonable degree of continuity. It is still vulnerable and liable to fragmentation” (Man 9).

Probably, then, civilized society’s greatest requirement is that each citizen must come to terms with the shadows that lurk in their unconscious mind. Whether they simply outgrow them, or consciously deal with them, is different from occasion to occasion; but in order for this personal revolution to take place, we must first admit that our shadows exist, and a lot of people, unfortunately, are unwilling to do so. Jung tells us that “unconscious phenomenon are so little related to the ego that most people do not hesitate to deny their existence outright. Nevertheless, they manifest themselves in an individual’s behavior” (Collected 276). The shadow, like the trickster, is trying to restore a lost balance in the individual. It contains

valuable, vital forces, that ought to be assimilated into actual experience and not repressed. [And] It is up to the ego to give up its pride and priggishness and live out something that seems to be dark, but actually may not be. …[And] There is only on thing that seems to work; and that is to turn directly toward the approaching darkness without prejudice and totally naively, and to try to find out what its secret aim in and what it wants from you. (Von Franz 183, 174)

The joining of the conscious and unconscious mind, the ego and the shadow, into a unified, whole person is a process that Jung called individuation.2 However, individuation is often not as simple as I may make it sound. To merely attempt ‘to be honest and to use one’s insight” is not necessarily enough, for the “is a passionate drive within the shadowy part of oneself that reason may not prevail against. A bitter experience coming from the outside may occasionally help; a brick, so to speak, has to drop on ones’ head to put a stop to shadow drives and impulses” (von Franz 182). Sometimes we must commit great mistakes before we recognize that which we are truly capable of; however, this does not mean we should not (constantly) attempt to consciously recognize our shadows, for the successful individuation is the most heroic of all deeds and one we must all continually strive for. Pascal writes that “when we do finally see it as coming from within ourselves, we can at least begin exercising some power over it, since we ultimately can change only ourselves and hardly ever other people.” “The [mythological] hero,” Joseph Henderson explains, “must realize that the shadow exists and that he can draw strength from it. He must come to terms with its destructive powers … [and then] master and assimilate [it]” (Man 112). In his music and in the movie Purple Rain, Prince has created a neo-mythological public battle between a man and his shadow, through which we can learn how the victory over the shadow and its subsequent assimilation leads to a more unified, contented, and healthy psyche; one less likely to commit the evil deeds that plague our world.

Having seen Prince as an archetypal trickster figure that, one hopes, will help lead our culture to a more healthy stance on all things sexual, we must now view him as an individual human being rather than a societal force.3 However, beginning with his trickster aspects is probably a good place to start defining his shadow, for extreme behavior is often an indication of its existence. The overt (often over-stated) sexuality that he portrays as a trickster, though intriguing, and I believe I have argued, necessary, is not indicative of a natural human existence any more than the more common state of violently repressed sexuality. These are the two extremes of a single concept that needs to be brought to a more healthy balance in most of us. This part of Prince is one aspect of the shadow that he battles, and the other main aspect, I believe, is violent behavior as seen in the young man’s struggle in Prince’s movie Purple Rain.4 I must be clear that I am not claiming that these are actual facets of the man who is Prince, only that in his music he has portrayed these sides and so has created a mythology for us to internalize and then utilize to improve our own lives. Jung stresses that we must “make a serious attempt to recognize our own shadow and its nefarious doings. If we could see our shadow (the dark site of our nature), we should be immune to any moral and mental infection and insinuation” (Man 73).

The first step on the road to individuation is a recognition of the shadow itself. We must become conscious of the unconscious that is expressing itself and exerting its power over us. Pascal writes that “One important therapeutic activity is to use our imagination to give the complex a persona and to talk with it” (64). Prince allows his shadow side to express itself throughout his music. And as the battle to unite conscious and unconscious is continuous throughout our lives, yet heats up at particular times and situations, the shadow’s dark influence can be heard throughout much of Prince’s music, but emerged most fully in one place: The Black Album.

The cover of the Black Album is completely black and void of any text other than the record company information. The compact disk itself lists the song titles only, and so no where on the entire package is Prince the artist mentioned. The lack of his name anywhere is significant in that it can be seen to separate the music from the man, as if he did not create it, was unaware of having made it, or as if it were the product of his unconscious [new note: bit of a stretch here]. Whereas up to this point, he usually somewhat boasted on his releases “Produced, Arranged, Performed, and Composed by Prince,” this cover tells us nothing. It might also be understood that e sees his shadow, which is manifested so perfectly on the Black Album, as something other than himself. At this point, then, Prince is far from the sort of understanding needed to unify the divided self. Individuation is a long way off.

The Black Album’s music contains much of the overt sexual (trickster) nature of Prince. The first song “Le Grind,” another call to orgiastic sex, is a perfect example of this. However, there is something much more going on with this release-there is also a pervasive negativity throughout that album: From the insane laugh that begins the explicit song “Superfunkycalifragisexy,” to the sexually desperate screams of “Don’t you wanna play with me!? What’s the matter with me!?” on Cindy C.5 The music on the album feels looser in contrast to the tightness of much of his past releases: there is a sort of reckless abandon heard on “2 Nigs United In West Compton,” longer musical jams, and “Cindy C” breaks up and becomes more dissonant in certain sections. “My bed’s a coffin,” Prince sings wickedly in strange recognition of the evil within him (and all people) in the song “Dead on it,” “Dracula ain’t got shit on me. My nickname’s Beelzebub…”

In addition, Princes’ vocals on the Black Album are very often distanced from him through the use of various electronic effects, such as delays and reverb and including simply changing the pitch. The result is another example of what could be seen as Prince’s desire to separate himself from his shadow side. His inability to recognize himself in his shadow (or his shadow in himself) leads him to disassociate with it. Pascal writes that “if we remain unaware of the complexes in the depths of our own unconscious, we will continually experience them outside in projected for as evil persons or spirits that persecute us from all sides” (67). The modulation of the voice helps to create musical outlets for Prince’s own complexes.

The shadow figure behind the Black Album is best recognized in the song “Bob George,” in which Prince’s voice is modulated down to sound much deeper and more threatening.6 He does not sing but instead keeps up a monologue from the point of view of a man much in need of recognizing his own shadow side. The man speaks to a woman whom he threatens and sexually manipulates with a gun:

…Don’t try to play me for yesterday’s fool,
‘Cause i’ll slap your ass into the middle of next week.

Don’t you know I could kill you right now?
You’re fuckin’ right, I got a gun, You think I don’t?
Then what’s this?

Now put that suitcase down and
go in there and put on that new wig I bought you…

Laid over throbbing background music, the voice threatens another man (Bob George) over the phone whom he believes is fooling around with the woman. Soon his home is surrounded by the police, who merely intensify the man’s anger and fear by trapping him within. And like a repressed shadow emerging from the unconscious, the man bursts forth violently when besieged in his home. The man is also doing what most people do when they deny their shadow – transferring his guilt onto those around him. “What’s wrong with you?” he desperately asks the person on the other line, unwilling to admit that any blame might fall upon him for his situation. He does not recognize his own violent shadow and so looks for other people on whom he can place the blame, or the violence.7 In the midst of battle with his own shadow, Prince has given us an example of what happens when a man ignores that side of himself. The desperate, frustrated, angry voice on “Bob George” is that of a divided man in need of real self-reflection; a man for whom the prospect of individuation seems to be disappearing over the horizon. The Black Album represents much of what Prince later goes on to call “Spooky Electric,” a shadow-like, devilish and evil force which needs to be overcome in all of us.

Not long after Prince released the Black Album, he suddenly halted their production, and recalled all the remaining copies from the shelves. This can be seen as the first indication of a powerful response to his shadow side by his ego, a response which manifests itself in Prince’s next album Lovesexy. Lovesexy reacts to the Black Album in the same way that light reacts to darkness. Lovesexy illuminates the Black Album, and calls attention to its shadowy essence simply by appearing as its opposite. The yin for the other’s yang. In contrast to the Black Album, the cover of Lovesexy is bright, and lightly colorful. On it, Prince is naked and seated in an orchid, though nothing explicit is exposed. He looks healthy, young, almost fairy-like, and innocent. But he also appears somehow sexual, though not in the specifically erotic manner of the cover of Dirty Mind. The dirt, if you will, is far below where he is seated in the flower above.

The underlying message of Lovesexy is very much in opposition to the Black Album. The anger, frustration, and negativity of the latter is make more explicit in light of the spirituality, joy, and “Positivity” of the former. But Prince doesn’t deny the overt sexuality he has become known for, instead he assimilates it into himself in a kind of quasi-religious fashion. The lyrics on Lovesexy are often sexual, though rarely overtly, an din fact contain a defined spirituality. Prince refers to that spirituality or feeling as “lovesexy,” and by symbolically combining “love” and “sex” he omits the “dirty” aspects and infuses something much more palatable to his critics. Prince then is able to embrace his sexuality in light of his religion by making the claim in the song “Anna Stesia” that “Love is God, God is Love,” a sentiment found in many religions worldwide.

In the song Lovesexy, Prince re-defines sex as something other than the result of a dirty mind. He adds to it, instead, this spiritual element.8

All in life becomes easier, no question is unresolved.
And I’m not afraid now.
Come on and touch it, I know you will love it.
With it I know heaven’s a butterfly kiss away…

In one sense, Prince rightly equates happiness (heaven) as a result of something sexual (a kiss), for by making sex more spiritual, he begins to free himself from guilt, shame, and the powerful effects of the shadow. True happiness can only come about once we recognize and assimilate our shadow, and never while we are obsessed by it.

The album begins with “I Know,” a song in which Prince proclaims this new religious understanding. In it Prince sings about his conversion from the doubting “black days” and “stormy nights” of “the Cross,”9 and the Black Album, to his new Self:

I know thee was confusion, lightnin’ all around me.
That’s when I called his name, don’t you know he found me.
No! is what Spooky Electric say, it’s not o.k.
But I know love is the only way til my dying day…

Prince shows that by embracing God (Love) we do battle with this evil shadow figure, the negative energy he calls Spooky Electric. In the final song of the album, “Positivity”, Prince sings:

In every man’s life there will be a hang-up,
A whirlwind designed to slow you down.
It cuts like a knife and tries to get in U.
This Spooky Electric sound. Give up if y ou want to
and all is lost. Spooky Electric will be your boss.

The “hang up” of which Prince warns us is the complex from which our shadow is born. At this point, however, Prince is merely denouncing his shadow for he is still in battle with it. But the fact that he has recognized and turned to fully face his shadow is step one on the road to individuation.

Jung writes that “Heaven has become for us the cosmic space of the physicists, and the divine empyrean a fair memory of things that once were” (Collected 24). This should not be, for it follows that if we are to accept that love is God, then heaven and hell become part of this world. Love creates heaven and hell in its presence and absence. Prince recognizes that heaven is actually merely the positive effects of love and so he equates them. In “I Wish U Heaven,” he sings:

And when the world’s compassion ceases still I no.
For your every touch I thank you so much,
For your every kiss I… I wish you Heaven…
I wish you love… I wish you Heaven…

And if we accept that love is God, and so creates heaven here on earth, we also are forced to see that the ball, as they say, is in our court. We can no longer turn our eyes out into the universe and hope that things will be better in the next life. We have to make this world heavenly, for ourselves and everyone else, because if we don’t, life will be hell. The hell we create by holding back compassion can be countered with a heaven constructed of love. “I know heaven’s just a kiss away,” Prince sings in the title song.

In “Positivity” Prince responds to the sort of senseless violence we hear perpetrated in “Bob George”:

Is that a good man walking down the street
with that money in his hand – is that a good man?
Why do U dog him? – If that was your father,
tell me would you dog him then?

By interjecting the father [new note: prince did have a rather complicated relationship with his father…] into the equation, and so presumable love, and therefore, God, Prince makes clear that violence, and in fact to treat someone with any less reverence than the people you love, is inherently wrong – evil. The negativity found in the violent shadow is to be countered by “Positivity,” and Prince calls on “All the boys and all the girls” to embrace positivity. He tells them: “You are the new kings of the world!” Prince has now articulated his lesson of love, but also recognizes that he is still responding to his shadow and has not reached perfect individuation. He sings:

We need love & honesty, peace & harmony, Positivity,
Hold on 2 your soul, Don’t kiss the beast,
be superior at least, Hold on 2 your soul …
We got a long, long way 2 go.

And if we are to accept that Love is God, then we are forced to wonder what is hate? What is sex? What is sin? What is goodness? What is evil? What is violence? What is heaven? What is hell? What am I? Who is my saviour? I realize it might sound rather naive of me, but I believe that if we are to begin again at that particular point and rebuild our religions and re-think our spirituality, we would reform ourselves and our world in a more positive light. We could create new religions and mythologies from the bottom up. We could re-read the classics, reform our companies, and restore our relationships with that in mind. We could rebuild our selves and our societies under the banner of a single basic truth: Love is God.

1“We cannot suppose that certain minds contain elements that do not exist at all in other minds. Nor can we assume that the unconscious is capable of becoming autonomous only in certain people, namely in those predisposed to insanity. It is very much more likely that the tendency to autonomy is a more or less general peculiarity of the unconscious” (Jung Collected 278).

2“Individuation is the sort of wholeness which Jung found many of his patients pursuing consciously after they had actually been cured of neurosis. …By getting to know more and more aspects of his unconscious, [one] can give proper values to what were once half-sensed and disturbing urges.” Whereas the shadows are the devils that make us do things, individuation is finding the God within.

3What I mean by “individual” has nothing to do with Prince’s actual private life. That sort of information is irrelevant, and frankly, none of my (or anybody else’s) business. I speak of him as an individual/artist who only manifests himself in his public career.

4See Prince’s song “Temptation”on the Around the World in a Day release for an introduction to his struggle with his sexual side.

5“Cindy C” is apparently about a supermodel who Prince wants to have sex with. The chorus of the song sings insultingly: “Cindy C, play with me, I will pay your usual fee.” the insult, I believe, is born of the negative effects of the over-stated, obsessive sexuality of the trickster Prince.

6It is interesting to note that the low voice on the song, representing Prince’s shadow, mockingly refers to the other Prince at one point: “Prince?” he asks, “Ain’t that a bitch? That skinny mother-fucker with a high voice? Please.” Prince’s shadow, at this point, seems to defiantly loom up in front of him.

7“The actual processes of individuation – the conscious coming-to-terms with one’s own inner center (psychic nucleus) or Self – generally begins with a wounding of the personality and the suffering that accompanies it. This initial shock amounts to a sort of ‘call,’ although it is not often recognized as such. On the contrary, the ego … accuses God or the economic situation or the boss or the marriage partner of being responsible for whatever is obstructing it” (von Franz 169).

8It is interesting to note that he included the song “When 2 Are In Love,” on both albums. The song, about how much better things can be when two people are in love, sounds out of place on the Black Album and perfectly harmonious on Lovesexy.

9From the Sign of the Times release.

Written by luke

July 15, 2010 at 1:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Part IV: “Letitgo”: Prince’s Heroic Individuation

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There are so few real heroes. The hero myth, according to Joseph Henderson, is “the tale of a hero’s miraculous but humble birth, his early proof of superhuman strength, his rapid rise to prominence and power, his triumphant struggle with the forces of evil, his fallibility to the sin of pride (hubris), and his fall through … a ‘heroic’ sacrifice that ends in his death” (Man 101). Our modern television and movie “heroes” live on and on in sequels, where they struggle (but usually only to kill those around them) and yet always come out alive in the end surrounded by distracting special effects. Unfortunately, of course, this has made the struggle itself meaningless, and that is the real loss.

Henderson goes on:

the essential function of the heroic myth is the development of the individual’s ego consciousness – his awareness of his own strengths and weaknesses – in a manner that will equip him for the arduous tasks with which life confronts him. Once the individual has passed his initial test and can enter the mature phase of life, the hero myth loses relevance. The hero’s symbolic death becomes, as it were, the achievement of that maturity. (Man 103)

The hero myth should “exalt the individual to an identification with the hero” (Jung Man 68), but how many of our modern television and movie heroes should anyone in their right mind identify with?

Prince, on the other hand, has played out that myth rather closely in his career. He showed early “superhuman strength” through his extraordinary youthful musical talents, and by releasing albums on which he wrote and produced the music and lyrics, as well as, played all the instruments, before his twentieth birthday. His (trickster) mythical rise to creating his own movies, the famed Paisley Park studios, and enormous record deal with Warner Brothers records demonstrates a “rapid rise to prominence of power.” His “triumph and struggle with the forces of evil” (the battle with his own shadow) is played out in the Black Album and Lovesexy particularly, and his individuation naturally follows.

Jung used “the term individuation to denote the process by which a person becomes a psychological ‘in-dividual,’ that is, a separate, indivisible unity or ‘whole’” (Collected 275). Individuation is the state of wholeness that we try to achieve by understanding our conscious and unconscious selves. And, of course, “Conscious and unconscious do not make a whole when one of them is suppressed or injured by the other” (288). The ultimate aim is a healthy Self, which Jung says, embodies elements from both conscious and unconscious, and from all the archetypes – good and evil. It becomes evident that the only way to individuation, to a healthy self, is through recognizing and assimilating our shadows.

The self is a symbol of oneness, such as is found in many religions, and a precious stone often symbolizes the self. It is not surprising then that the next full Prince album to be released after his Black Album/Lovesexy battle is entitled Diamonds and Pearls. Prince now recognizes the self as a whole, rather than focusing on the differences of the conscious and unconscious as embodied in Lovesexy and the Black Album. He has grown into himself in some way, become whole, and his music comfortably contains aspects of both sides. He has retained the overt sexuality of his shadow side (see “Cream” and “Gett Off”) but also continues with the new spirituality of Lovesexy formed around the idea that love is God: “Love – don’t nobody know what how it was born,” he sings in the opening track, entitled “Thunder” (see also the title track – “Diamonds and Pearls”)>

On the album that follows Diamonds and Pearls, Prince continues in this more balanced fashions, and begins his much noted name-change to a symbol by dubbing the album that symbol. The first son gon the album is a sort of tribute to the old self, entitled (some what ironically, I suppose) “My Name is Prince” (the song is also probably a pretty blatant clue as to how the new symbol is to be pronounced):

My name is Prince, and I am funky,
My name is Prince, the one and only…
I did not come to funk around
til I get your daughter I won’t leave this town.

In the beginning,” he continues in true trickster fashion, “god made the sea, and on the seventh day, he made me!” Prince also refers tot he individuation he has achieved after the battle of the Black Album and Lovesexy: “I got two sides,” he notes the truce, “and they’re both friends.” But he is also aware that individuation is very much a process that is on-going, for later in the same song he sings, “Passion flows and who knows what lurks in the gallows of my mind.

In our human experience,” Brother David Steindl-Rast writes, “time is … a measure for the energy it takes to grow. …And growing means to die to what we are in order to become what we are not yet” (30). To live, then, is to experience change, and it is usually best to “turn and face the strange,” as another popular trickster, David Bowie, pointed out. From any one moment to the next, in fact, we grow, decay, or are transformed in some way as to be different from the moment before. Granted, that difference is often imperceptible, but by becoming more in tune with the idea of change, of death and rebirth as ongoing processes in our lives, we will become better at coping with, and in fact, embracing that change. “The letting go is the real death,” Steindl-Rast goes on, “a real dying; it costs us an enormous amount of energy, the price as it were, which life exacts from us over and over again for being truly alive. For this seems to be one of the basic laws of life: we only have what we give up” (25). In order to move forward we must leave something behind.

In 1994, Prince released his Come compact disc, and with it, there were widespread rumors that he had given up creating new music, that he was bored with popular music, and so had simply gone to a vault of thousands of old songs and released a few. It was said that he believed he had done as much as he could in music and was now prepared to simply lie back and rest on his laurels. It can be easily argued that the music on Come is probably just some of that – old songs – for it is terribly reminiscent of music Prince did much earlier in his career. In addition, he released Come under the name Prince rather than the symbol he had recently adopted as his new name. But mostly it is the overtly-sexual themes that run through the music, and the lack of any of the new spirituality, that gives it this dated feel. It is as if the old trickster Prince had re-emerged with a swan song compact disc of his most explicitly sexual material to date. Throughout and between most of the songs on the disc are the sounds of a man and woman engaged in sex. The title track contains sexual noises so explicit as to have made me blush a little, and the final song, “Orgasm,” is a recording of a woman achieving orgasm backed by a grinding electric guitar.

In addition, much of the music sounds like that which Prince would have released years before. The saxophone line in the title track sounds as if it were pulled directly from the Madhouse albums, another of Prince’s projects of the mid-eighties. The song “Papa,” about a young man’s mistreatment at the hands of his violent and suicidal father is interesting though only re-visits the themes from the movie Purple Rain. Event he design of the black and white cover, and the image or Prince himself, are extremely reminiscent of the Dirty Mind sleeve.

But Come is actually the end of the old Prince. Within the sleeve, the cover of which shows the singer standing in front of the sort of wrought iron fence that surrounds old cemeteries or churches, is a picture of prince lying dead on the ground. Under is name are written the dates 1958 (his birth) and 1993 (his symbolic death). The final song on the disc, entitled “Letitgo,” is about the need to consciously let go of the old in life in order to live again and anew. Prince sings: “And now I got to let it go, Maybe I can let the vibe just flow … Then I can let my feelings show.” “This is precisely thepoint,” Steindl-Rast seems to agree, “whenever we give ourselves to whatever presents itself instead of grasping and holding it, we flow with it. We do not arrest the flow of reality, we do not try to possess, we do not try to hold back, but we let go, and everything is alive as long as we let it go” (25). Just before the release of Come, Prince re-released his Black Album. That which he felt compelled to pull from the shelves and take from public eye, to repress somehow into the collective unconscious, he openly released again. Prince had, in essence, let it go.

The passage from the song “Letitgo” is also written in backward lettering on the sleeve of Come:

All my life this heart’s
been under lock and key
My curtains were drawn
–there wasn’t no body home…
..Better off dead if I couldn’t be alone.

The moment we let it go,” Seindl-Rast goes on, “we die into the joy of interdependence” (30). Prince recognizes that at this point – prior to his individuation under the new symbol – he was still cut off from his shadow side, and from people around him. Steindl-Rast points out that “We are born as individuals and we become persons, laboriously so. We become persons through relationships with others – interrelationship is what defines you as a person. What separates us defines us as individuals, but what relates us to others makes us persons” (29). In this sense, the most significant death that anyone of us experiences “has to do with dying to our independence, as individuals, and so coming to life as persons in our interdependence” (30). Interdependence, acceptance, tolerance, and Love are all both natural and necessary. Many of the problems we face, as a nation and as a planet, could be alleviated if we were to give of ourselves-to live simply so that others might simply live, to us an apt cliché. [annoying cliché] Unfortunately, as Steindl-Rast also points out, “We find this terribly difficult because we always want to retain our independence, the feeling that ‘I don’t owe anybody anything’” (30). Individuality is inseparable from community” (Watts 41). And it wasn’t long before Prince married.

The album that followed Come is entitles The Gold Experience and is not by Prince, but by the symbol which he has chosen for his new self. No where on the sleeve is the word “Prince.” The old Prince had died with the release of Come. Steindl-Rast writes that “it is not a dogma or a theory but something that anyone can check out or experience in his own live, that when we really give up and actively die, we die not into death but into a richer life; and when we drag on and hang on to something that we should have already let go of, we are dead and decaying: (25). The Gold compact disc reveals Prince as a new, richer artist in many ways. Most of the more sexually explicit language associated with the old Prince is now gone, though true to someone who has faced up to their shadow side an incorporated it into the consciousness, the shadow is not banished or repressed, only assimilated and so under better control.

The new Prince kicks off The Gold Experience with a song titled “P Control” – as in “pussy” control – a song about the importance of being chaste, of not having sex, and the rewards for young people who educate themselves fully before giving in to more adult pleasures. In addition, the single from the album, and the first song to be released under his new moniker, is entitled “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” and in which he sings: “this is the kind of beauty has got no reason to be shy, Cuz baby, this kind of beauty is the kind that comes from inside.” This is certainly a new Prince, singing the praises of inner-beauty rather than an attraction to external physical beauty.” Though, true to the other side of Prince, the video is lavishly full of physically beautiful women. The words “This is the Dawning of a New Spiritual Revolution,” which are written in backward lettering on the sleeve of Come, are turned around forward on the sleeve of “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” single, the next release. And coming from Prince, the celebration of controlling one’s sex drive on Gold is a definite revolution.

The liner notes of The Gold Experience include an article by Jim Walsh, pop music critic of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, whom I would imagine would find much of what I’ve written to be “psycho-babble,” a term he suse in his article. His article, however, supports what I’ve written in many ways. In regard to Prince’s name change, Walsh writes:

Later, [Prince will] tell Alan Light from Vibe magazine that he knows people will make jokes about it – he even accepts that aspect of it – but that the name change is a way to draw a very clear line between him and the comfort of his past laurels. Weirdly, I get it. On a gut level, I understand his desire for his music to grow, his need to move on, and his thirst for personal growth. … I likewise discovered that true knowledge doesn’t’ come easy; it requires a process that the psychotherapist calls ‘hard work,’ and that [Prince] calls panning for ‘gold’.

The line drawn between Prince and Come, and the new symbol and Gold, is more than just a line between the man and his past laurels. It is the line between what he once was and what he has become through much “hard work.”

The finality of death is meant to challenge us to decision, the decision to be fully present here and now, and so begin eternal life,” writes Steindl-Rast. “For eternity rightly understood is not the perpetuation of time, on and on, but rather the overcoming of time by the now that does not pass away”(29). The finality of real corporeal death, then, leads us in some ways to embracing the symbolic death and rebirth acts that recur in our lives. Steindl-Rast points out that “Dying in all its forms and stages is our opportunity to pass from time into the now that does not pass away, from the mere possibility of becoming to being real” (30). If we can come to terms with these symbolic deaths, we can honestly face ourselves and be willing to change ourselves, as well. But as long as we cling to our present life, waiting behind religions that claim to offer us eternal live, we can never truly live. If we can let it go, accept change, and see “that Divine Oneness is not achieved by the imposition of uniformity, but by the embracing of limitless variety; there is room for all our personal differences within it” (30).

Walsh writes:

Above all, Prince wants it known that this is a record about the fight for freedom – personal, artistic, political – but anyone with half an ear can suss that much out. During the making of it, he was enamored with Betty Eadie’s book Embraced By The Light, a first-person narrative on near-death experience,e and that them also peppers the record, most explicitly in the reincarnation dream “Dolphin.” It is also implicit on several other tracks that ponder birth, life, death, and rebirth, and one man’s own expectations and perceptions of himself.

But “Dolphin” is probably better understood as the new Prince hoping that we will learn from the mythological lessons of his music and career, and hoping we will continue to listen, to seek, and to think for ourselves. He has created a trickster myth, an followed through on his heroic quest for individuation with symbolic sacrifice and death. But he has emerged new and whole. Prince sings:

How beautiful do the words have 2 be
before they conquer every heart?
How will u know if I’m even in the right key

if you make me stop before I start
if I came back as a dolphin would u listen 2 me then
would u let me be your friend – would you let me in?

There is a palpable sense of urgency here,” Walsh writes, “as if [Prince] knows that time is running out for all of us to make connections with ourselves and the outside world. Don’t you believe me?”

There is a sense of urgency, for Prince realizes what lurks in the gallows of many people’s minds, but can only hope that his hero myth will be internalized, and that people will learn to face up to their own shadows and deal with them properly. The man who killed [just typed liked for killed] Anne Barber didn’t face up to his shadow – he allowed the shadow to control him. The unintrospective need not blame the lack of viable answers for their state, for there are answers everywhere in the world to their questions. All of the world’s religions, philosophies, and mythologies have something to offer us in our quest for meaning. And, beyond that, even popular culture offers some answers, if we are willing to listen. The mythology of Prince, as I have show, can teach us much about ourselves and our world. And there are other mythologies being written all around us all of the time. It is up to us to help create them, cultivate them, and to better ourselves and the world for generations to come.

Written by luke

July 15, 2010 at 1:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Part V: A Symbology of <-|-/0

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Some symbols have very distinct meanings: the golden arches mean McDonald’s, the Nike swoosh means Nike, and now, ‘Just do it,” doves mean peace, as do [peace sign], and the rose signifies love, as does the [heart]. Others are much more complicated. Think of what a child might symbolize in a painting, an oboe in a piece of music, or a cross or any other religious symbol. Tricksters are symbols – archetypal symbols – and much more drenched in meaning than, say, Betty Crocker, as we saw with Prince’s trickster. Princes own symbol, to which he changed his name, is also rather complicated. On “Now” from The Gold Experience, Prince shows an awareness of exactly how complicated:

don’t worry about my name
it’s 2 long 2 remember,
I could tell u now
but we’d be here ’til next September…

The symbol symbolizes the self for Prince, obviously, for he changed his name to it, and at least publicly, our names signify who we are. But Prince’s symbol is undoubtedly intended to have a much more specific meaning, for it has a very distinct shape. He did not choose a flower, a tree, or 🙂 for that matter. The symbol contains three parts – the circle on top, the male/female sign on the bottom, and the line through the two.

The circle at the top might be interpreted as a mandala. “The Sanskrit word mandala means ‘circle.’” The mandala, Jung tells us, is “a symbol of the self as the psychic totality” (Collected 355). The mandala is the traditional antidote for chaotic states of mind. “The mandala’s basic motif is the premonition of a centre of personality, a kind of central point within the psyche, to which everything is related, by which everything is arranged, and which is itself a source of energy.” Jung goes on to point out that “Although he centre is represented by an innermost point, it is surrounded by a periphery containing everything that belongs to the self – the paired opposites that make up the total personality. This totality comprises consciousness first of all, then the personal unconscious, and finally an indefinitely large segment of the collective unconscious whose archetypes are common to all mankind.”1

The mandala at the top then is the psychological expression of the totality of Prince’s self, and Prince has added the male/female symbol to signify the physical expression of the totality of the self, but also, in my opinion, his personal individuation.2 The male and female symbols balanced on the same stem signify the balance he has achieved in the individuation that followed the Black Album and Lovesexy battle – the yin and yang in harmony. Jung notes that spiritual light is described as male-female – the syzygy motif – or a pair of opposites. Jung quotes one man’s description of a vision of light: “This was … God as the lord, proving by his duality that God is Substance as well as Force, Love as well as Will, feminine as well as masculine, mother as well as father.” The male-female stem may also signify the ambiguity he has always cultivated, and that personifies the trickster.

Interestingly, the symbol for Venus, the goddess of love, is: {NEED SYMBOL]-|-0 And the symbol for gold3 is: [NEED SYMBOL] <-|-/0 the involvement inf which might be The Gold Experience.

The other part of the symbol: (need it) is a little more ambiguous. One reading of it might be a symbolic lightening strike that is found throughout most cultures. The lightening, Jung tells us, has an illuminating, vivifying, fertilizing, transforming and healing function. “The flash is the ‘Birth of the Light.’ It has transformative power” (Bohme as qtd in Jung collected 295). Lightening, then, could be the strike, or impetus, that compelled Prince to achieve individuation; or conversely, the symbolic light he created in understanding himself at the moment of individuation and beyond. In addition, individuation can be seen as an analogy of the creation of the world – the big bang and the creation of matter is referred to in the lightening strike, illumination, and creation of self.

More playfully, this part of the symbol could signify a musical instrument – a horn – to symbolize the creative processes involved in life; from creating music, art, knowledge, and joy, to the need to communicate some message, as with a trumpet blast from a mountain top.

Jung points out that “genuine symbols … are ambiguous, full of half-glimpsed meanings, and in the last resort inexhaustible. …[They are] indescribable becsue of their wealth of reference, although in themselves recognizable” (Collected 38). My own interpretation of Prince’s symbol, then, is just that – my interpretation. Cultural symbols “are those that have been used to express ‘eternal ‘truths’, and that are still used in many religions. They have gone through many transformations and even a long process of more or less conscious development, and have thus become collective images accepted by civilized societies” (Jung Man 83). Cultural images – archetypal symbols – when charged with emotion contain ‘psychic energy’, become dynamic, and, Jung warns “consequences of some kind must flow from” them (Man 83).

And the consequences can be both good and bad. Some symbols lead to peace, others to war. But, again, we control our own destiny. We can recognize, create, and attempt to internalize some symbols, though, without psychic energy, thy symbol will simply disappear. Prince’s symbol can teach us many things. It can remind us of the trickster Prince and all that he represents: it can refer to the heroic process of individuation and inspire us all to work to achieve it; it can mean joy, music, and an almost endless list of possibilities. And some combination of the aspects manifested in the symbol as I interpret it may eventually merge to become a single meaning easily understood in the image of that particular symbol.

Some symbols change the way we think. The lodge themselves in our unconscious and affect us greatly. Others disappear unnoticed. Prince changed his name to a symbol because he had changed his way of thinking. Prince’s symbol can also remind us of the importance of the individual in making the world a better place. Jung writes:

As any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through. The change must indeed begin with an individual; it might be any one of us. Nobody can afford to look round and to wait for somebody else to do what he loath to do himself. But since nobody seems to know what to do, it might be worth while for each of us to ask him/herself whether by any chance his or her unconscious may know something that will help us. Certainly the conscious mind seems unable to do anything useful in this respect. Man today is painfully aware of the fact that neither his great religions nor his various philosophies seem to provide him with those powerful animating ideas that would give him the security he needs in the face of the present condition of the world. (Jung Man 91-92)

The great religions, mythologies, and philosophies, however, contain much of that information, and so it is up to each of us to wade in and cultivate our own beliefs. But this should not be done by simply waiting to be struck on the head. We need to seek our answers, create our solutions, build up our own belief systems. It is a new world, a new millennium even, and it is time to create a new religion. Not on particular way of thinking or believing, but a particular way of thinking or believing for each of us. Thee point is that we must actively cultivate our spiritual and intellectual selves.

Is Prince, then, some sort of prophet? Of course; as much as any other human being that someone else has called a prophet is a prophet. I really don’t believe in divinely inspired, other than that everything is divinely inspired. But his music fills me with joy. And he has created a mythology, maybe lived it, and I believe in the messages articulated in the myths. So, I suppose that he is a prophet. The question is: is anybody really listening?

1Ibid 358. One of the formal elements of mandala symbolism is the eye—the pupil and iris. Princes uses the eye to refer to himself-the I pronoun-in his lyrics. Jung tells us that the “eye may well stand for consciousness (which is in face an organ of perception), looking into its own background. It sees its own light there, and when this is clear and pure the whole body is filled with light.” “The eye is also a well-known symbol for God.” (Collected 337).

2“It may be partly due to this acquaintance with the East that the opposites, irreconcilable in Christianity, were not blurred or glossed over, but were seen in all their sharpness, and in spite (or perhaps just because of this, were brought into the unity o the mandala (Jung Collected 341).

3“Gold expresses sunlight, value, divinity even” (Jung Collected 305).

Written by luke

July 15, 2010 at 1:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized