“The eye of the heart that ‘sees’ is also the eye of death that sees through visible presentations to an invisible core. When Michelangelo sculpted portraits of his contemporaries or of the figures of religion and myth, he attempted to see what he called the immagine del cuor, the heart’s image, “a prefiguration” of what he was sculpting, as if the chisel that cut the rock followed the eye that penetrated his subject to the heart. The portrait aimed to reveal the inner soul of what he was carving.” (Hillman, Soul’s Code, p146)
The ancient Greeks believed that our character or genius was a daimon who oversaw our experiences with mortality — our fate — our personal yet transcendent god. Every person had their spirit or guardian angel. Every person has their “seed-self”, “guiding force”, or acorn of character from birth. Our spirits grow from this seed that is our daimon. The inspirational spirit guides us toward the fulfillment of our potential and shows us our vulnerabilities and dream or imaginal life.
All old trees had their daimon, and the World Tree — mankind’s most magnificent legend — is no exception. The personified tree is the daimon at the same time because they are different categories of existence — secular and sacred. When we are ‘called’, we are called by our daimon. If we ignore that call we may wither away or live half a life. The daimon helps us know ourselves. If we are fortunate the daimon informs our life and death with some nobility and poetry.
The tree articulates a psychophysical reality — the life of the cosmos. Mind is rooted in the Unconscious much as a tree is rooted in the ground. Shaping matter as well as mind, it retains its character through endless variations. Psychoid is more fundamental than matter and psyche and the basis of synchronicity.
The Acorn Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree
Meaning is essential to tree phenomenology. Again, its character is the personal or family daimon. The tree is the image and mirror of our condition, It is an ancient idea that if we planted a tree at birth our fate is shared with it. This describes the character of the family tree and symbol of wholeness.
Hillman said the genius reveals both fears and talents in very young children, who may have a premature experience of the self. M.-L. von Franz said “the wounded healer IS the archetype of the Self [our wholeness, the God within] and is at the bottom of all genuine healing procedures.”
But the pedigree doesn’t illustrate the argument as much as embody it. Certain wounds or deficits may come with genius and require challenges to release the gift and its new perspective. The wound lets in the energy that pushes or drags us to make us whole. Our symptoms are aspects of the wound and our genius, and this notion conforms with applying family therapies within the genealogical core.
Like all archetypal symbols, the symbol of the tree has undergone a development of meaning in the course of the centuries. It is far removed from the original meaning of the shamanistic tree, even though certain basic features prove to be unalterable. The psychoid form underlying any archetypal image retains its character at all stages of development, though empirically it is capable of endless variations. The outward form of the tree may change in the course of time, but the richness and vitality of a symbol are expressed more in its change of meaning.
(Jung,CW13 ¶ 350)
This plant is an inner, spiritual growth, the development of a tree of life and knowledge which played a great role in alchemy….In general it is advisable to watch these inner developments and not let them slip back into the unconscious, lest they get stuck in the physiological sphere, or rather in the realm of the [psychoid] unconscious which merges with the body, where they give rise to pathological formations which a wise man carefully avoids. (Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 607-608)
The daimon is our spiritual guide or self, and our character — a divine mediating power that impels our action and drives or mediates our destiny. It is what makes us unique in relation to the world. This inborn immortal factor embodies our innate talents, inherent gifts, and positive or negative natural tendencies.
This supreme form of soul is our constant companion and source of inspiration — like the Latin genii, our genius. This “genius” (from the Latin genere) means to generate, to beget, making the daimon the voice of the generative process in us. It can be a personification of the transcendent function, experienced in dreams and in our acts of doing and becoming.
The daimon is also our suffering, emotional disorders, and more, but could also heal, and promote health, happiness, resilience, perseverance, and harmony. The vitality of the inner universe is mobilized in happiness, misery, regret. The daimon can inform even a painful death with some poetry and grace.
Suffering can be produced by painful states of mind such as hatred, envy, alienation, scapegoating, cruelty, and loneliness. The daimon can also bring altruism, empathy, compassion, concern, care, consolation, and pity. It brings understanding of the beauty, compassion, and the foundation of wisdom. It is the psychobiological transformations of epigenetics, changing our responses to life experiences.
Regardless of the nature of the genes we inherit from our parents, dynamic change at this level allows us almost unlimited influence on our fate. Beyond “biology as destiny” is “self-directed biological transformation,” but under the daimon, not the ego. The disruptive and transformative reality of the individuation process manifests the uncanny otherness of the unconscious.
Alice Miller describes how many of the most successful people are plagued by feelings of emptiness and alienation? Far too many of us had to learn as children to hide our own feelings, needs, and memories skillfully in order to meet our parents’ expectations and win their ”love.” Alice Miller writes, ”When I used the word ’gifted’ in the title, I had in mind neither children who receive high grades in school nor children talented in a special way. I simply meant all of us who have survived an abusive childhood thanks to an ability to adapt even to unspeakable cruelty by becoming numb… Without this ’gift’ offered us by nature, we would not have survived.” Beyond merely surviving we reclaim our life by discovering our own crucial needs and our own truth.