A Master’s Teaching in Disguise
In Honor of the Life of Robert L. Moore PhD
By Colin E. Davis
The recent tragic death of Jungian psychologist Robert L Moore has sent a flaming arrow through the hearts of those who benefitted from his powerful writings, lectures and his gracious personal counsel. He is missed, loved and will be remembered as a historical figure for his contribution to our understanding of the psyche and the nature of human darkness.
Those who followed his work cannot help but find the circumstances surrounding his recent death shocking and confusing, almost beyond belief. How could this man, a teacher of teachers in the field of psychology and inner work kill his wife Margaret Shanahan, and then himself in an apparent murder suicide with no note, no explanation? This was not a man who would so brutally abandon his friends, family and those who looked up to him. We ask, how could this have happened, and what does it mean?
After hearing the news two months ago, I assumed that those who knew and worked with Dr. Moore would make statements. For a couple weeks, remarkably little came out. Then slowly a few blog posts with supporting comments showed up. We learned how gracious Dr. Moore was and how much he was loved and respected. I expected that professional Jungians who knew and worked with him would write articles. As of the time of this writing, none have done so. We have not seen any plans for a memorial service. We have not heard anything from his or his wife’s family. Why is this community so silent? Perhaps we all have the same questions. Perhaps we are all at a great loss to understand how and why this has happened.
So that I could obtain closure for myself, I began my own investigation. I contacted a number of individuals who had commented online to see if they knew any more details. Some of them knew him personally and had worked with him on projects. I did find out more, and I also found out how difficult this subject is for them as well. I cried spontaneously for two weeks after hearing of his passing, and I know others feel the same depth of grief. From the beginning I also had a sense that this subject was taboo. It was not to be spoken about. Underlying the comments of some I spoke with privately was a certain pressure; a pressure moving against them, pushing to block further investigation. I know this force quite well.
Some of the material details I uncovered do help to explain the events, but not at all completely. I discovered that Dr. Moore had suffered a series of mini strokes beginning in 2014 and that he was becoming cognitively impaired. This man was a scholar of the highest degree, a magician whose ongoing work depended on his sharp analytical mind, which apparently was rapidly degrading. One source told me that Margaret lamented, "I am bereft of my conversational partner."
I also found that he and Margaret were engaged in a lawsuit to recover a large sum lost in an investment gone bad. They had put their custom home near Hyde Park Chicago up for sale, which is a practical museum, to cover their financial burdens.
The more I looked into the matter, obtaining small pieces of information, my speculations only grew. I built stories in my mind about what may have occurred. I began to project my biases and suppositions into fantasies that would make sense out of things. I began to make my own mythology and to create a story that served my emotional needs. On one hand, I feel I should refrain from this, but on the other, I realize that it's impossible not to do this. We may never know enough details to fully explain the situation. So what we have left is myth. But what is the myth?
Is this an alternative dark story of King Arthur, where Parsifal fails and Arthur dies? Does he fall on his own sword, leaving Camelot to suffer eternally without a king? And what of Guinevere? Apparently she perishes with him, her love unable to penetrate his frozen heart. This is not the myth we want to create, is it? No wonder this is such a difficult thing to approach. There is a horrible ring of truth to this story though. It sounds like a story that our entire society is silently telling. As we look to cultural structures and leadership in every direction, all we see is the falling of Camelot. The king has died.
In my own movie of life where Robert. L. Moore commits an act of overt evil, after dedicating his life to the illumination and transmutation of evil, I ask, "what does this mean"? This myth is telling us deeper truths that I believe we need to carefully unravel and heed. Like the nature of evil itself, a great riddle is presented to serve as a master key to understanding our human plight. After Carl Jung himself, Dr. Moore may have been the most effective explorer of human psychic darkness in the 20th century. I tend to think that many overlook this. Behind all of his work was a continual persistence that we understand and respect the power of human darkness.
To my mind, only Jung compares to Moore in depth of insight regarding the shadow and its relation to archetypal evil. Besides his mapping of the structure of the psyche, Moore's greatest contribution to humanity was his exploration and interpretations of this destructive force in mind and nature we call evil. I am reminded of Dean Corso in Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate, on a mission to uncover the secrets of darkness embedded in the Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows. Robert Moore was much more that what most people realize. He was a heroic explorer of the most dangerous territory known to mankind, the shadow of the human psyche.
My first inclination was to use Moore's own mapping of the shadow to diagnose him and this occurrence. This is not so clean cut. One source I spoke with told me that Moore had stated that he had always dealt with the effects of grandiosity. In his modeling, this is related to what he calls the Tyrant, which an active shadow of the King archetype. In its immature active form, it's the High Chair Tyrant, and a Weakling when passive. When I consider the final moments for Moore and Shanahan, I am reminded of the myth of Adolph Hitler’s murder suicide with Eva Braun in the bunker at the end of WWII. This is the kind of autonomous energy we are looking at here.
But the King and his shadow are closely related to the Warrior and his shadow. In Moore's modeling, this is the Sadist in active form and the Masochist in passive form. Over the time I have used his modeling in my own work, I have found that these energies are intertwined. The most ancient kings were always warriors first. A king without powerful warrior energy won't be king for long. As I was considering writing this article, a number of synchronicities appeared which influenced my thinking. One such sync put me face to face with an active shadow warrior on the street, just at the moment I was deeply pondering the nature of the shadow complex which may have overtaken Moore.
Something to consider is that the Robert Moore we knew is not a Sadist or a Tyrant. He is man, like any man, who is managing archetypal forces which are never manifest in pure form, unless there's a total possession. Someone like Moore, who was working on himself for decades is healthy enough not to manifest shadow energetics in pure form. But if circumstances arise which weaken the ego, especially physiological degradation such as he was experiencing, these energetics rise up. If a shadow possession can overtake an individual enough, the archetypal mythological modality will be acted out.
In his death, we are clearly seeing the power of the dragon Moore spoke and wrote so much about, fractured and discordant by the wounds of his past and the onset of cognitive impairments. A man as powerful as Moore, whose primary work was to deeply understand and map the shadow, is a man who himself must carefully balance an archetypal power of truly mythological proportions.
The death of his wife Margaret, whom we honor equally, also carries a great teaching. Relationships act as polar containers for shadow energy that have a mind of their own. Shadow complexes are shared throughout culture but very powerfully through intimate relationships. Close relationships may be the most powerful alchemical vessels for human evolution we have, but when a demon rises up, they can become vehicles of massive self-destructive power. In my research I learned that the couple were becoming increasingly isolated, that they kept their predicament a secret, going against their own better judgment. This is clear evidence of a rising shadow possession.
“You are the most vulnerable to [evil] when you are the most disconnected from your relationships and trying to cope with your life and problems alone. It manifests great intelligence, as if it has lived many lifetimes and has methodically developed a capacity to detect and exploit personal weaknesses and blind spots. It preys in a seductive way on your rightful need for attention and recognition that is not in itself demonic. It captures your love and turns it into necrophilia. It captures your legitimate assertiveness and turns it into sadism. It captures your knowledge and uses it for deception, greed, and antisocial manipulation. It captures your desire to nurture and turns it into domination and oppression.” – R.L.M. Facing the Dragon Ch. 1
My own work aligns with Dr. Moore's and I also know from personal experience that this force we call evil, the dragon in its dark manifestation, will murder a hundred million people without blinking an eye. History proves this. As Moore told us so many times, do not underestimate the power of this force! Evil is subjective in nature, and is not adequately explained by science or theology, but it is as real as its polar opposite, the force of life and evolution.
As I currently understand it, when the psycho-spiritual structures of the human being are fractured by trauma, which is widespread in civilization, they cannot fully contain our archetypal energies. The dragon of Dr. Moore's work is THE Dragon, which we depend on for our life and spiritual energy, but which will destroy self and world to the extent it is not respected, honored, understood, and managed through inner work and ritual. This dragon, in human form, is our Kundalini. It loves us and evolves us when we come into alignment with it, and when we don't, it throws us off its back, burns us alive and swallows us whole. The archetypal portals of our dragon energy which Moore mapped as King/Queen, Warrior, Magician and Lover are amoral in human terms. As Moore continually pointed out, the archetypes are unfriendly and must be carefully contained and balanced by healthy psychic structures.
In those places where we are weak, the Dragon’s energy pools. In those places where structures are broken, new structures arise, autonomous, unfriendly to the greater whole of the psyche, feeding on the energies they were formed out of. Shadow structures are the demons of prior understandings. A thing of any nature seeks to repeat the cycles that gave rise to it. A thing formed out of a lack of motherly nurturing or healthy fatherly mirroring feeds on the disharmonic psychic states that perpetuate the conditions that birthed it.
[Evil] is not simply an idea or an absence of some positive quality. It is an active, aggressive, anti-life force that attacks the health and life of everyone around it. ‘You shall know them by their fruits.” – R.L.M. Facing the Dragon Ch.1
Unless one is able to track down the source of the original discordance and renew that psychic structure with the original energetics it requires for health, the shadow complex lives on as a parasite in the unconscious. Coming to terms with the demons birthed by early trauma is a great and difficult task. Neutralizing and integrating them is a task of truly heroic proportions.
Before every substantial step in the evolution of consciousness, and the public figures who take the credit, countless heroes come before them who inspired, taught, and gave them the courage to traverse the stormy waters further and take greater risks. For those of us whose life work is aligned with Dr. Moore's, we have nothing but gratitude, respect and love for this man. His death is not in any way a dishonor, but a warning and message to others who traverse the path.
The greatest work is still to be done. The ground has been laid by Jung, Moore and the other heroic alchemists we know so well. We have the advantage of their shoulders to stand on. The story of Moore's passing is analogous to mythic stories of battles with dragons or of demons at the gate of the temple warning that those who enter must pass through them first. To the extent they scare us off, our spiritual Grails are unrealized. To the extent we access the “secret of the grail”, we are saved and the kingdom is restored.
So what is the secret of the grail? John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981) practically gives it away for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Perhaps it was this secret that Dr. Moore himself was missing. My own work tells me that Boorman is correct. "The king and the land are one". The heart and the mind are to be united. The Warrior Magician King requires the Lover to balance his dragon energy. If we cast out Lancelot, the man of great heart and empathy, we lose Guinevere, we lose sight of the Grail, and we lose the kingdom. The heart must be restored to full capacity and to equality with the mind. The alchemical wedding is not a mythic fantasy, but a psycho-spiritual reality and mandate for us all. Through the clearing and processing of our grief created by our old wounds, we restore our hearts and manifest the Grail.
To my understanding, the greatest message of Moore's death is in the feelings that resulted in our mind-bodies when we learned of his passing. He could not speak of things that cannot be spoken of but can only be felt. The key is that the grief we feel over his passing, is the grief we feel over the loss of our greater Father, and we must access it, release it, and let it flow. Along that river of grief, is the restoration of our hearts and the healing Lover elixir that protects us from archetypal evil. Moore gave us everything we needed. His death was his final master teaching and a King’s blessing in disguise. What we do with it is up to us.
With the highest gratitude and respect for Robert L. Moore PhD,
Colin E. Davis
Photograph © Minnesota Mens Conference
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Article version 1.0
August 19, 2016