“He Created Them Man & Female” – Age 12 In The Biographical Mirror / Orna Ben Dor
In my last essay on age 9 I indicated the first split that is created between man and the world (1).
In spite of that split, within himself the child remains a whole being. Up until age 9 the child has an awareness of being part of a whole, just like a person had during the ancient pagan era, when he felt himself one with nature and cosmos. Like the pagan so is the child until age 9, experiencing the world and his life as a sacred harmony. At the age of 9 the self- consciousness of the child emerges and the sense of wholeness ends. Up until then he lived in the consciousness of the Garden of Eden before eating from the forbidden fruit. The latter signifies the expulsion from the paradise of childhood and the beginning of the development of the separation awareness of the child from the world.
At the age of 12 the second split is created – the human being is divided into two – male and female, the child’s realized sexuality now separates him not only from the world, but also from the members of the other sex.
Another split is formed between the upper and lower powers – between the thinking the sexual. The sexual power occupies a significant factor in a person’s life. In parallel, the intellectual-analytical- abstract thinking ability develops as a substantial ability.
The condition of the developing child at this age is comparable to the stage of the pagan human being (worshiper of gods and nature) in the era when monotheistic religions started to evolve. In the pagan era the connection between man and the spiritual world around him was non-mediated. He felt the spirit in nature behind every thing with which he came in contact. Once modern religions started to take hold, the direct and harmonious link between man and God disappeared. Instead of contact and direct knowledge of the spiritual world, faith appeared. Faith is required only in a place where a split has already occurred, where a person does not regard himself as part of the spiritual entities harmony. Together with the disengagement stage from feeling united with spirit and turning into an earthly being, the journey for self-determination begins. Meaning, defining self-identity as an earthly being. The direct contact with the spiritual forces is replaced by the belief in an abstract god, and the sense of harmony with the world is replaced by the journey for finding the self. The process of finding one’s identity holds within it the pushing away of the other and also the world. In order to establish their self identity, adolescents must defy the identity that was thrown on them from the outside, the one they carried till that age within the family and in the world. The question of self identity now turns into a critical question, the manner by which it solidifies will determine the way in which the person will act in the world and respond to it.
In his autobiographical book “Memories, dreams, thoughts”, Carl Gustav Jung writes about his actual internal split. He called these two parts- personality number one and two. Personality number one is the school student (as he indeed was) and personality number two was that of an old wise man: ”When he was 12, it occurred to him that he himself might have two personalities. One, the insecure student, a loner who feels a bit uneasy in the world. The other, old authoritative and well respected, a self-confident person whose influence and abilities are large” (2).
A certain event that happened to him at the age of 12 clarified to him the necessity to be loyal to his first personality, the one of the school student, and take responsibility over it:
“My twelfth year was indeed a fateful one for me. One day in the early summer of 1887 I was standing in the cathedral square, waiting for a classmate who went home by the same route as myself. It was twelve o’clock, and the morning classes were over. Suddenly another boy gave me a shove that knocked me off my feet. I fell, striking my head against the curbstone so hard that I almost lost consciousness. For about half an hour afterward I was a little dazed. At the moment I felt the blow the thought flashed through my mind: “Now you won’t have to go to school anymore.” I was only half unconscious, but I remained lying there a few moments longer than was strictly necessary, chiefly in order to avenge myself on my assailant. Then people picked me up and took me to a house nearby, where two elderly spinster aunts lived.From then on I began to have fainting spells whenever I had to return to school, and whenever my parents set me to doing my homework. For more than six months I stayed away from school, and for me that was a picnic.” (3)
Jung continues to describe how he spent that time in day trips, day-dreaming, painting, inventing a world of his own with castles and battles. A whole world of mystery and fantasy.
One day he overheard his father tell a physician that he had lost hope regarding his son, and expressed concern that the child will not be able to make a living in the future. This shocked him deeply and at once it was as if he was thrown on the pavement of reality and turned into a serious boy, surmounted his fainting spells, and started studying avidly. He was ashamed of himself for what he called his “neurosis”, and it was in those day that the sprouts of consciousness germinated within him. After regaining his composure, Jung turned into a responsible and diligent student.
Let’s look closely at this event from a biographical point of view. This analysis relates the manner in which Jung describes the experience from his standpoint and in his words: we will observe the thought that crossed his mind: he will not go to school again. And that’s what he actually did. For months he used that event in school to distance himself from personality number one, that of the student, and not take responsibility over it – by repeated fainting episodes every time he had to perform a task that was related to school. He “took advantage” of the event by escaping materializing in the world as a student and dived into the world of fantasy, dreams and mystery. But deep inside Jung knew his choice was wrong:
” But I was unhappy about that. I had a vague sense of escaping from myself” (4).
Jung realized that he brought upon himself the fainting episodes in order not to take responsibility. Moreover, he felt he himself caused that specific event to occur. Since then he turned into a diligent student. “I myself had arranged this whole disgraceful situation. That was why I had never been seriously angry with the schoolmate who pushed me over. I knew that he had been put up to it, so to speak, and that the whole affair was a diabolical plot on my part. I knew, too, that this was never going to happen to me again” (5).
To that event another one added that supports the understanding of Jung’s age 12: “I had another important experience at about this time. I was taking the long road to school from Klein-Huningen, where we lived, to Basel, when suddenly for a single moment I had the overwhelming impression of having just emerged from a dense cloud. I knew all at once: now I am myself! It was as if a wall of mist were at my back, and behind that wall there was not yet an “I”. But at this moment I came upon myself. Previously I had existed, too, but everything had merely happened to me. Now I happened to myself. Now I knew: I am myself now, now I exist. Previously I had been willed to do this and that; now I willed. This experience seemed to me tremendously important and new: there was “authority” in me.”(6).
Between that clear and high “authority” of Jung and his daily life as a member of a non-effluent family and as a student that has difficulties in his algebra studies, a significant gap developed. That split will accompany him throughout his life. Jung always wavered between two “personalities” or two beings. One was grounded and knew its obligation in the world, and acknowledged its relative position vis a vis the world. That was the “personality” that drove him to return at once to being a good and diligent student, and made him think – following the incident he had with the son of a rich man – that he is not special in any way. Merely a 12 year old school student unlike the other boy who had a rich father, with means, owned two houses and wonderful horses. On the other hand – a personality that at that stage he called neurotic, which was actually his true personality, that revealed itself to him at the age of 12 as his unique I. That was his spiritual personality. The higher self of Jung, that turned him into what he has become as an adult.
Following are additional examples from age 12 as were described by my counselees (revealing details were changed). These events defined their self-determination, their identity and discourse in face of similar events in their lives.
Tehlia, age 48:
“When I was 12 the children in the class banned me for some silly reason which I don’t remember. That was the first ban but definitely not the last. Since then I have experienced many times the feeling of being different and outcast from a group. I have also experienced the power of the mass, and its insensitivity to the individual”.
Analysis of the event:
The sense of being different and ostracized accompanies many times people with a high spiritual potential, that have an important role in influencing the fate of other people. Jung also mentions the sense he had during childhood that occasionally reappeared later on as well.
The self determination of Tehila stemmed from her resistance to the idea that the insensitive mass could determine individual fates. Throughout her life she searches for her individual voice. A voice that faces misunderstanding of a large imaginary entity – the masses in their different forms.
Yaela, age 49:
“When I turned 12 I celebrated my Bat-Mitzvah. My mother formally informed me that I couldn’t wear my red suit without a bra. The whole issue of wearing a bra was problematic for me. My protests were useless and at last I reconciled and so we marched my mother, my beloved grandmother and I to the bra store. All three of us emerged from the shop with the bra in the bag. Two determined and energetic sepharadic women that have concluded the important task and me, who was clear that the final word has not been spoken yet and will be handled in due course. On the day of the celebration I appeared with the suit and the bra underneath. During the party, I went to my room, tore off the shoulder strap along the seam, gladly took off the bra, and informed my mother that the bra was torn and that’s why I had to take it off”.
Analysis of the event:
Yaela felt that she is forced to do something she didn’t want to. The reaction – she avoids confrontation during the event and later wiggles out of it somehow by trickery. This pattern reappeared later on: the self-identity that appears in age 12 will be expressed in the future, every time Yaela will have to make a decisive decision – she will not take on responsibility.
In order to avoid the uneasiness of facing a situation that is not easily solvable, Yaela will find a way out and will not handle life’s mission maturely.
Yair, age 47:
“My father worked in the foreign office and up to 6th grade we lived in Canada. When we returned I was 12.5. That was a very significant year for me. Everything in Israel was new for me. In Canada everything was closed, there were not many possibilities to do things. The most meaningful thing that happened to me was joining Karate class. That was a new world that I created for myself, together with a set of values that was based on Buddhism and the eastern vision of life.
I instinctively understood that that was the frame that suited me. I thought it would provide me with a setting, values, image and protection in the broad sense of the word- in front of indifferent and aggressive parents. One teacher gave me philosophy books that were related to karate, martial arts and related spiritual philosophies.”
Analysis of the event:
These days, when different kinds of marital arts courses are abound, it is hard for us to recall that in the 70’s that was totally esoteric in Israel. Age 12 is too young to search for a spiritual path. In Yair’s case that was the only way out of a painful reality. The etched pattern was one of avoiding the experience of human bonds that were accompanied with conflict, and finding a hide away in the fulfilling spiritual-intellectual world.
Age 12 -13 in Judaism
Judaism gives special attention to age 12 and the way in which adolescents are supposed to enter the adult world. Within that world they will fulfill their earthly being, as mature adults on earth. When they reach that age the boy and girl go through ceremonies that signify their entrance into adult world.
In the Mishnah it is written:” Thirteen years old, the Commandments” (7). Judaism considers a boy that reaches that age an adult that has to carry out all the commandments of grown ups. The event is celebrated in a special festivity in which the boy studies what are his duties from now on, and at the end of the ceremony, the father says:” Good riddance from his burden” – namely, according to religious perception from now on the boy is responsible for his deeds.
As for the girls, Talmud says:”The vows of one who is of the age of twelve years and one day are valid” (8). Meaning that once over age 12 she is now responsible for her deeds and must obey the commandments of adult women.
According to Anthroposophical perception, age 12 is one of the three ages in which a person is faced with his earthly being. The other two ages are 5 and 9.
The idea here is that fundamental1 events that happen to a person in these ages, help him reveal his earthly I. unlike the high spiritual I, the earthly I is the same human essence, whose role is to assist a person to fulfill himself here on earth without fear. The earthly I is the one whose role it is to remove obstacles that would prevent a person from feeling safe and secure in his life. Obstacles such as – anxiety of being devoured by the world, self-annihilation of the self, existential fears, etc – that prevent one to maintain ordinary life.
Only later on, at age 17 and later fundamental ages – the boy will face a spark of his higher being, that has nothing to do with the being whose role is survival. That
being belongs to his eternal I and always deals with searching for the eternal truth and not with earthly fulfillment.
1- Events that occur at certain ages, but shed light also on the meaning of events that happen in other ages in one’s biography
1 – See essay: The Expulsion From the Garden of Eden & the Experience of Loneliness
2 – Stor, A. (1998) “Jung”, page 15, Dvir Ed.
3,4,5,6 – Jung C.G. “Memories, Dreams , Reflections”, page 41. Translated German By Richard & Clara Winston, revised edition Vintage Books.
7 – PirkeiAvot 5, verse 25
8 – Nidah, 45, verse 7