The Puer Aeternus

~ underminer of civilization ~

Vera Nilsson: Soap bubbles (1927)
“Soap bubbles”. Vera Nilsson (1927).

Abstract: The puer aeternus (eternal youth) is an archetypal image of mythology. It also denotes a neurotic condition during which the maturational process is arrested. It depends on an incapability of taking root in life. In the present era the condition has reached epidemic proportions. In order to understand present-day societal and political changes, it is necessary to get a grasp of the “Peter Pan syndrome”, well-known to psychotherapists. Not only is it a tragedy to the individual who risks throwing away his life — psychological rootlessness poses a threat to our civilization. Christianity’s bearing on Western man’s ethos is analyzed.

Keywords: Peter Pan, The Little Prince, infantilism, cultural dissolution, Mel Faber, M-L von Franz, St Augustine, Christianity.


A psychological lexicon defines the term:
Puer aeternus. Latin for ‘eternal child,’ used in mythology to designate a child-god who is forever young; psychologically it refers to an older man whose emotional life has remained at an adolescent level, usually coupled with too great a dependence on the mother. [The term puella is used when referring to a woman, though one might also speak of a puer animus — or a puella anima.]
    The puer typically leads a provisional life, due to the fear of being caught in a situation from which it might not be possible to escape. His lot is seldom what he really wants and one day he will do something about it — but not just yet. Plans for the future slip away in fantasies of what will be, what could be, while no decisive action is taken to change. He covets independence and freedom, chafes at boundaries and limits, and tends to find any restriction intolerable […] Common symptoms of puer psychology are dreams of imprisonment and similar imagery: chains, bars, cages, entrapment, bondage. Life itself, existential reality, is experienced as a prison. The bars are unconscious ties to the unfettered world of early life. (Sharp, 1991)
This feeling of being fettered is what characterizes today’s ideological mindset. It is today typical among leftist, feminist, and black “liberation” groups to claim that they are circumscribed by the structures of society, created by the oppressing White Patriarchate (symbolic of the demanding father figure). The demands of adult life can indeed be hard to endure, especially in times of economical hardship. But if an ideology is created out of this youthful concept, then society is bound to churn out a multitude of alienated people each year. It is imperative that this ongoing epidemic is better understood. The Freudians call it the ‘Peter Pan syndrome’, which is the title of Dan Kiley’s book from 1983. (However, he gives no references to Jungian authors who already had researched the problem.)

The puerile form of narcissism has not yet received full attention by the psychological community. Comparatively, there is a huge amount of literature on the Oedipal form of narcissism, connected with narcissistic personality disorder. Whereas Oedipal narcissism is the specialty of Freudians the puer aeternus is the specialty of Jungians. Marie-Louise von Franz analyses a figure corresponding to Peter Pan, namely “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. As an archetype the puer aeternus is something valuable and wonderful, although identification leads to tragic consequences. An important difference is that the puerile narcissist is decidedly more sociable than the Oedipal. The latter is a nuisance in workplaces because the little King Oedipus has no notion that he can be wrong, which causes problems when deciding how to resolve matters. Yet, such persons can be quite industrious. The puer aeternus is different. I once knew a handsome and friendly puer that, although he was an adult man, really thought that he could live without money. What do we need the facts of reality for? He could equally well settle on the asteroid B-612, like the Little Prince. M-L von Franz characterizes the puer aeternus:
Precisely because the puer entertains false pretensions, he becomes collectivized from within, with the result that none of his reactions are really very personal or very special. He becomes a type, the type of the puer aeternus. He becomes an archetype, and if you become that, you are not at all original, not at all yourself and something special, but just an archetype […] One can foretell what a puer aeternus will look like and how he will feel. He is merely the archetype of the eternal youth god, and therefore he has all the features of the god: he has a nostalgic longing for death, he thinks of himself as being something special, he is the one sensitive being among all the other tough sheep. He will have a problem with an aggressive, destructive shadow which he will not want to live and generally projects, and so on. There is nothing special whatsoever. The greater the identification with the youthful god, the less individual the person although he himself feels so special. (von Franz, 2000, p. 121)
A teenage boy who refuses to accept responsibility might become a grown-up who refuses to accept responsibility. Yet, not all of them will become a bum or an alcoholic. Rather, their irresponsibility is typically hidden behind a respectable façade. The most typical characteristic of the puer is that he will refrain from taking root in the present, instead keep hovering like a helium balloon in his life. Although the puer is often capable of carrying a job, he is incapable of taking a passionate interest in it. By example, a puer working as software developer will take no real interest in algorithm technique or the advanced features of the programming language.

Instead he is likely to adopt a strangely indifferent attitude, as if he were floating in the air, even if the company risks going out of business. It is merely a provisional job, anyway. In case he is married, it is a provisional arrangement, too. The prevalence of the puerile syndrome explains why people in the present era so often change their partner. Several authors have noted their proclivity for short-lived romantic attachments (cf. Yeoman, 1998, p. 28). Neither the puer nor the puella have the aptitude for a genuine emotional attachment. They have no strong passion for anything or anybody, but remain dissolute and unfaithful in the general sense — a moral incapacity characteristic of the pueri aeterni.

The puerile society

I maintain that the puer aeternus syndrome has emerged as an enormous problem of our time. It even poses a threat to Western civilization. It underlies the prevailing cultural and moral relativism in the Western world. The puer aeternus refuses to take root in our common heritage. He has no love for our great cathedrals nor for our intellectual heritage. Cultural unfaithfulness, together with the refusal to grow up, has given rise to an ideology of multiculturalism according to which “anything goes”. There is a belief that all cultures, theories, religions, personalities, and ethnic groups, are mixable because they aren’t essentially different. The “ideology of sameness” impedes individuation, keeping people locked up in the Kindergarten of uniformity.

Yet, the current sameness ideology builds on a puerile form of indifference toward culture and ethnicity. The puer aeternus, since he lacks zest for learning, never develops a proper understanding of anything. Among the pueri aeterni are many politicians and journalists who are indifferent toward our Christian legacy. Nor have they investigated Islamic culture, or delved into anthropology and psychology. It is only in their capacity of “empty balloons”, floating above reality, that they are able to claim that “anything goes”. Had they acquired a proper understanding, they would realize that many differences of culture and human nature stand firm, contradictions and incongruities that must needs lead to destructive consequences.

But the puer aeternus isn’t worried about such things. He has no passion for our civilization, since he is essentially loveless. Behind the façade, he feels no responsibility at all for our cultural heritage. Relativism means that there really is no such thing as right or wrong. Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton employs the word ‘oikophobia’ (‘ecophobia’) and defines it as “the repudiation of inheritance and home.” He argues that it is “a stage through which the adolescent mind normally passes”. In adulthood it is a feature of some, typically leftist, political impulses and ideologies which espouse xenophilia (preference for alien cultures) (cf. Wiki, here).

Former Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in a recent interview (Dec 24, 2014) that “Sweden belongs to the immigrants — not the Swedes”. When flying over Sweden he could see that there is plenty of space(!) for new inhabitants (the puer aeternus is fond of aeroplanes, says M-L von Franz). In a speech, in Södertälje, Nov 2006, he claimed that “only barbarianism is domestic” and that “all advancement derives from abroad” (something which earned him the nickname “Freddy the Barbarian”).

A Prime Minister who says such things about his own country and people cannot be of sound mind. There is a complete lack of objectivity, a monumental naiveté, as well as the characteristically puerile lack of grounding in culture. Yet, Reinfeldt, as the self-professed quisling of the modern era, is not an uncommon example, because politics is replete with pueri aeterni. It must needs lead to the disintegration of culture. The following clear-sighted excerpt was written more than 70 years ago, by sociology professor Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968). Sorokin says that when any socio-cultural system enters the stage of its disintegration, it first enters a phase of inner self-contradiction in the form of an irreconcilable dualism. It soon becomes formless in that it develops a chaotic syncretism of undigested elements taken from different cultures:
An emergence of a chaotic syncretism in a given integrated culture is another general symptom of its disintegration. The classical example is given by the overripe sensate culture of Greece and Rome. In that stage it became, in the words of Tacitus, “the common sink into which everything infamous and abominable flows like a torrent from all quarters of the world” […]
    This all-pervading syncretism is reflected in our mentality, in our beliefs, ideas, tastes, aspirations, and convictions. The mind of contemporary man is likewise a dumping place of the most fantastic and diverse bits of the most fragmentary ideas, beliefs, tastes, and scraps of information. From Communism to Catholicism, from Beethoven or Bach to the most peppy jazz and the cat-calls of crooning; from the fashion of the latest movie or best-seller to the most opposite fashion of another movie or best-seller — all coexist somehow in it, jumbled side by side, without any consistency of ideas, or beliefs, or tastes, or styles […]
    Viewed from this standpoint, our intellectual life is but an incessant dance of jitterbugs. Its spineless and disjointed syncretism pervades all our social and mental life. Our education consists mainly in pumping into the mind-area of students the most heterogeneous bits of information about everything […] Our ethics is a jungle of discordant norms and opposite values. Our religious belief is a wild concoction of a dozen various “Social Gospels,” diversified by several beliefs of Christianity diluted by those of Marxianism, Democracy, and Theosophy, enriched by a dozen vulgarized philosophical ideas, corrected by several scientific theories, peacefully squatting side by side with the most atrocious magical superstitions […]
    This jumble of diverse elements means that the soul of our sensate culture is broken down. It appears to have lost its self-confidence. It begins to doubt its own superiority and primogeniture. It ceases to be loyal to itself. It progressively fails to continue to be its own sculptor, to keep unimpaired the integrity and sameness of its style, that takes in only what agrees with it and rejects all that impairs it. Such a culture loses its individuality. It becomes formless, shapeless, styleless. (Sorokin, 1957, pp. 241-54.)
On account of an ongoing cultural dissolution, the pueri aeterni are growing in numbers. The IS warriors who travel from Europe to join the Islamists, are mostly recruited from the puer group. They are typically portrayed as “lost youth” who have suddenly found a passionate connection with life, namely to become part of the murderous machine. It was found that one traveller had purchased the book “Islam for Dummies” before he went, which is very telling. Probably Adolf Hitler, before he fell prey to his obnoxious shadow, during which time he lived as a bum and also had good relations to Jews(!), can be diagnosed with the puer aeternus syndrome. The characteristic neurotic solution of the puer consists in the compulsive descent from an aeronautical lifestyle:
The strange thing is that it is mainly the pueri aeterni who are the torturers and establish tyrannical and murderous police systems. So the puer and the police-state have a secret connection with each other; the one constellates the other. Nazism and Communism have been created by men of this type. The real tyrant and the real organizer of torture and of suppression of the individual are therefore revealed as originating in the not-worked out mother complex of such men. (von Franz, 2000, p. 164)
This phenomenon explains why the pueri aeterni so commonly defame people as “Fascists” and reactionary “hardasses” — it’s because they are projecting their own shadow. [1] Nazism, Communism, Islamism, and Fascism, belong to the hardass shadow of the puer aeternus. This is the megalomaniacal phantasmagoria that shall serve as new foundation post, when the puer attempts to leave behind his “pluralistic”, acultural, and rootless condition. Von Franz says:
In the practical life of the puer aeternus, that is, of the man who has not disentangled himself from the eternal youth archetype, one sees the same thing: a tendency to be believing and naive and idealistic, and therefore automatically to attract people who will deceive and cheat such a man […]
    As you know, Christ is the shepherd and we are the sheep. This is a paramount image in our religious tradition and one which has created something very destructive, namely, that because Christ is the shepherd and we the sheep, we have been taught by the Church that we should not think or have our own opinions, but just believe. If we cannot believe in the resurrection of the body — such a mystery that nobody can understand it — then one must just accept it. Our whole religious tradition has worked in that direction, with the result that if now another system comes, say Communism or Nazism, we are taught that we should shut our eyes and not think for ourselves, that we should just believe the Führer or Kruschev. We are really trained to be sheep!
    As long as the leader is a responsible person, or the leading ideal is something good, then it is okay. But the drawback of this religious education is now coming out very badly, for Western individuals of the Christian civilization are much more easily infected by mass beliefs than the Eastern. They are predisposed to believe in slogans, having always been told that there are many things they cannot understand and must just believe in order to be saved. So we are trained to be like sheep. That is a terrific shadow of the Christian education for which we are now paying. (ibid. pp. 42-43)
Mel Faber (2010) criticizes religion from a similar point of view and alleges that “the doctrinal, ritualistic core of Christianity harbors a magical process of infantilization” (Faber, 2010, p. 19).
There is just too much supportive material [to] miss the overwhelming emphasis upon infantilizing the worshiper, upon transforming him or her into an utterly dependent, utterly submissive, utterly obedient “little child” following after the explicitly parental figures of the Almighty Lord and His pastoral Son from Whom he or she continuously seeks provision and protection through prayer. (ibid. p. 12)
Allegedly, Christian religion exploits our early experience of being a helpless, dependent little child in the care and protection of an all-powerful parent. The religious feeling stems, especially, from the early period that is lost to our explicit recollection. The unconscious longing after the parental figure is projected on the religious narrative, which acquires divine dimensions. Thus, spiritual awareness is predicated on infantile attachment to an internalized, all-powerful parental presence. Faber holds that “it is precisely the “engram” of the first relationship [at which] Christianity aims its traditional or sacred “cues,” the substance of its doctrinal and ritualistic enactments” (ibid. p. 57). The devotee can feel the connection inside, and thus the unconscious associations have a seducing effect, which leads to blind faith in religious narrative. The result, Faber explains, is collective infantilization, because we are required to stick to the rules and dutifully propitiate the Parental God. To be saved, Christian style, is to become innocent as a child and to surrender wholly to authority.

Saint Augustine of Hippo

I conjecture that both von Franz and Faber misrepresent Christianity’s function and role in history. If it has had such infantilizing effect, then it is hard to explain why Christian civilization rose to power and also came to outshine all other civilizations. Christian faith answered to an inner thirst for fellowship with the divine, while also providing a predominantly transcendental view of the sacred. St Augustine (354-430) renounces the antique ideal of a divine orderliness in the earthly realm and instead elevates the City of God as goal (Augustine, 2015). He contrasts the worldly striving after power and glory, the pursuit of earthly joys and the gaping after transitory things, with the eternal City of God, whose citizens live after the spirit, not after the flesh. The city of God, which can be acquired by faith and with faith, “has lived alongside of the kingdoms of this world and their glory, and has been silently increasing” (Augustine, Kindle Loc.135).

The Earthly City, on the other hand, is divided against itself. It is characterized by conflict, vice and pride, and the relentless search after terrestrial and temporal benefits. In contrast, Augustine emphasizes the ideals that transcend the worldly, connected with the rational soul. What gives peace to the soul is the “well-ordered harmony of knowledge and actions” (cf. Augustine, Kindle Loc.15769-71). Central is the investigation or discovery of truth so that we may arrive at useful knowledge by which we may regulate life and manners. The invisible spirit, which is truth, morality, and inner harmony, take precedence before outer societal orderliness and worldly success. In his masterpiece, St Augustine manages to refute the notion of the earthly Utopia, which became an ideal in the Roman epoch. This change of view that emphasizes the transcendent began already with St Paul. It lay the foundation for modern civilization and is also the psychological grounds for the scientific mindset.

Faber contends that becoming a child of God, subordinating to the transcendental Godhead, is the same as becoming a naive and credulous lackey of societal authority. But the Christian message of faith, and the ideal of becoming an obedient “little child” of God, does not imply credulousness in worldly matters. Accordingly, Jesus says: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). In fact, to acquire a foothold in the transcendental realm, the City of God, is a requirement for authentic psychological detachment and autonomy. The early Christians rejected many demands of the earthly authorities. Thus, it is hardly Christian religion which has given birth to the puer aeternus.

Faber says that Christianity represents “a magical, prescientific mode of discourse”, which serves to infantilize its followers, “urging them to rely for security and behavioral guidance on faith, on the existence and the perfection of overarching parental spirits from the beyond, as opposed to their own human reason and good sense” (Faber, 2010, p. 291). As a matter of fact, as the “childlike” side of personality is provided for by the church, it allows the pragmatic side of personality free rein in the material world, just because the latter is being deflated as goal of personality. It is pointless and vain to quest after worldly perfection in the form of an orderly earthly paradise. Since Christianity endeavoured to separate the transcendental domain from the immanent, the gods and spirits that dwelled in temporality, and all sorts of superstitions, persistently dwindled in parallel with the advance of Christianity.

Yet, with the advent of modern times, people began to leave the embrace of the church. For this reason we have seen an enormous upsurge in idealistic beliefs projected on the earthly condition. Communism and Fascism stand out as the most destructive worldly belief systems, but the plague continues in our current era in the form of multitudinous infantile “-isms”. In a way, it represents a regress to pre-Christian mentality, although pagan religious creed is now called “ideology”. The ideologists all inhabit the Earthly City, whose mythic founder was Cain. According to Augustine, it is equal to Babylon and Confusion. Thus, Christian faith has served as a bulwark against pagan and naive mentality, which conflates the spiritual with the worldly. To become a child of the Saviour was the recipe for civilizational and scientific success, as rationality, morality and interiority rose as guiding stars (cf. Winther, 2011, here).

Critics of Christianity, such as Faber, do not see that tenets of faith (virgin birth, resurrection, etc.) refer not to the earthly condition but to the City of God. Nor are critics aware of separate ideals of the spiritual and the transitory kind. The religious message is seen as “the veiling, or the denying, of the inescapable biological realities that not only mark us but define us as natural creatures in the world” (Faber, 2010, p. 193). Allegedly, it would be better to see things as they really are, rather than have a lifetime of comforting illusions. But this is a caricature of Christian religion, which does not consign the believer to a life of reverie. On the contrary, human nature is seen as flawed, stained by original sin. Worldly existence, although tolerable, is permeated by strife, suffering, and decay. Augustine explains that it is in fact the citizens of the Earthly City who are in pursuit of an illusion.
As for those who have supposed that the sovereign good and evil are to be found in this life, and have placed it either in the soul or the body, or in both, or, to speak more explicitly, either in pleasure or in virtue, or in both; […] — all these have, with a marvellous shallowness, sought to find their blessedness in this life and in themselves. Contempt has been poured upon such ideas by the Truth, saying by the prophet, “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of men” […] “that they are vain.”
    For what flood of eloquence can suffice to detail the miseries of this life? […] For when, where, how, in this life can these primary objects of nature be possessed so that they may not be assailed by unforeseen accidents? Is the body of the wise man exempt from any pain which may dispel pleasure, from any disquietude which may banish repose? The amputation or decay of the members of the body puts an end to its integrity, deformity blights its beauty, weakness its health, lassitude its vigour, sleepiness or sluggishness its activity, — and which of these is it that may not assail the flesh of the wise man? Comely and fitting attitudes and movements of the body are numbered among the prime natural blessings; but what if some sickness makes the members tremble? […] What shall I say of the fundamental blessings of the soul, sense and intellect, of which the one is given for the perception, and the other for the comprehension of truth? But what kind of sense is it that remains when a man becomes deaf and blind? where are reason and intellect when disease makes a man delirious? […] And what shall I say of those who suffer from demoniacal possession? (Augustine, Kindle Loc.15409-29)
Modern infantilism does not stem from Christianity. Rather, I theorize that many pueri aeterni are essentially different from the mature Western personality. They live in a radically different conceptual universe, as if floating around in a bubble. Psychoanalysis has always underestimated the constitutional differences of human beings. I believe that “patriarchal” personality, as denoting the individuating personality, is essentially different from “matriarchal” (mother-bound) personality. The principle of individuation takes root in early childhood and only in some individuals. So the matriarchal personality does not ‘evolve’ into the patriarchal, because it is a different branch of the human tree. The two human branches correspond to the City of God and the Earthly City.

I would characterize many adult men in the Western world as ‘dorks’ or ‘drones’. In my country they have ascended to power in government and institutions. As criminal psychopaths ruled Germany in the thirties, so do the drones rule much of Western world in the present era. They are like little twigs, little phalluses, on the trunk of the Mother tree. Their personality is like that of a twelve-year-old and they will never really adapt to reality, because they remain mentally in their boyhood room. They are “playing” a boyhood game that the world is a Mama’s paradise, where motherliness and multiculturalism prevails. The drones are almost like a different species, which the church managed to enclose in its garden, but which is now ascending to power. Arguably, they have always been present. It’s just that they have, through societal changes, become more conspicuous in modern times. Immigration contributes to a considerable increase in their numbers.

The puerile ideal of pluralism

The theory around the puer aeternus can also help us understand why Jungian psychology has difficulties advancing to a respectable academic level. To all evidence, psychology, much like politics and journalism, is being swamped by pueri aeterni, or at least people poisoned with the “pluralistic relativism” in our times. Thus, a well-known Jungian analyst and author can say:
For me, Jung has left behind a number of wonderful toys which I can carry into my playground. This Jungian inheritance is mixed together with toys left behind by Freud, Klein, Bion, Winnicott, Kohut and many others. My “Jung” wanted us to play with these toys, mix them up, make new things with them, and invent new games. My “Jung” did not want us to mummify, safeguard, or enshrine his ideas — but I believe he did want us to embrace the spirit of inquiry that all of his ideas emerged from. (Winborn, 2015)
What’s more, a well-known Jungian analyst has proclaimed “the diversity of psychology and the psychology of diversity” (Samuels, 1989, ch. 12). Yet, he has in effect refuted the idea of theoretical pluralism, because it is somehow obvious that it cannot work. The scientific community would dismiss it as a whimsy, since it flies in the face of the empirical paradigm. However, the puer aeternus has no problem with that, because he has no passion for science, nor for the Platonic and Aristotelian pursuit of truth. Science is merely a way of “toying” with the plurality of theories while travelling in one’s balloon. It requires a superficial attitude, which means that theories are not properly understood. In fact, they are really wholly contradictory. Many are scientifically obsolete whereas others have hurtful consequences for the patient. Of course, thinkers of this ilk don’t give a hoot about the future survival of psychology. The puer takes no real interest in its theses anyway. He has no wish to dig deeper; to substantiate and to develop psychological theory. To the puer, all things are toys, like pieces on a game board.

Psychologist James Hillman prided himself on being a puer aeternus, whereas Jungian analyst Daryl Sharp and psychoanalyst Dan Kiley both claim to have overcome their problem. It is obvious that the puer aeternus problem is on the increase. It is sometimes difficult for immigrants to adapt to a new culture, which leads to rootlessness. M-L von Franz criticizes the way in which the modern welfare society infantilizes its members through economical dependency. Moreover, our culture seems to generate a mentality of fantasy and ideology. The puerile community is very fond of nebulous words like ‘multicultural dynamics’, ‘oppressive structures’, and the ‘complex and multidimensional’. Society is viewed as a huge multifarious hodge-podge that cannot be analyzed. In that way one needn’t relate to the facts of reality.

Much of today’s societal problems stem from a psychogenic incapacity of growing up. Rather than developing a realistic consciousness, many citizens remain idealistic in the naive sense, retaining the immature and utopian mindset of adolescence. It means that consciousness is infected by the unconscious fantasy world, as conscious and unconscious aren’t sufficiently separated. To subscribe to an ideology and to have utopian ideals, i.e. to live in a fantasy world, is characteristic of many a modern citizen. It is characteristic of the pueri aeterni who remain unaffected by the facts of reality. It was this very mindset that St Augustine successfully attacked, by achieving a separation of spiritual meaning and worldly existence. It served to untangle consciousness from the archetypal imaginary realm.

The remedy

Carl Jung argued that “hard work” is the remedy. It does not merely serve the function of societal adaptation. It is a way of becoming absorbed in something, which means that one takes root in unexciting existence, rather than hovering like a balloon. Yet, Jung and M-L von Franz question whether hard work is always the right answer. Jung also had a notion of “going through” the problem rather than finding a resolution. In this way, one may emerge healed at the other end, since one has thoroughly passed through the neurotic phase. It makes me think of Wim Wenders’s road movies. Perhaps a puer aeternus should try and immerse himself in the problem by leading life like a bum, moving from motel room to motel room in a thoroughly provisional existence. During this phase, he is “totally committed to being a bum”, which makes an interesting oxymoron.

However, I submit that St Augustine’s time-honoured solution, to acquire a spiritual and trinitarian passion, remains the foremost remedy. The movement toward a transcendental ideal, inaugurated by Christianity, caused the demise of the religious worship of the many immanent divinities of the classical era. It effected the disentanglement of consciousness from the archetypes of the unconscious, which was necessary for the advancement of a realistic consciousness. The mother complex implies that the conscious ego is stuck with the motherly unconscious. My point is that the separation of spirit and world causes a detachment of conscious and unconscious. It constitutes a remedy against the mother complex, of which the puer aeternus and the Oedipus are different forms. The trinitarian form of mysticism requires renouncement of the worldly and a more or less ascetic lifestyle. It serves to rise above worldly identification. Arguably, St Augustine’s countermeasure against worldliness remains a workable solution to the problem of the puer aeternus.


© Mats Winther, 2015.


1. Shadow. Hidden or unconscious aspects of oneself, both good and bad, which the ego has either repressed or never recognized […] The shadow is composed for the most part of repressed desires and uncivilized impulses, morally inferior motives, childish fantasies and resentments, etc. — all those things about oneself one is not proud of. These unacknowledged personal characteristics are often experienced in others through the mechanism of projection (cf. Sharp, 1991).


Augustine, St. (2015). The City of God. Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Ed. (Dods, M. transl., 1871)

Faber, M. D. (2010). Becoming God’s children: religion’s infantilizing process. ABC-CLIO.

Franz, M-L von (2000). The Problem of the Puer Aeternus. Inner City Books.

Kiley, D. (1983). The Peter Pan syndrome. Dodd, Mead & Company.

Saint-Exupery A. de (1999). The Little Prince. Wordsworth Editions Ltd.

Samuels, A. (1989). The plural psyche: personality, morality, and the father. Routledge.

Sharp, D. (1991). Jung Lexicon: A Primer of Terms & Concepts. Inner City Books. (here)

Sorokin, P. A. (1957). The Crisis of our Age: The Social and Cultural Outlook. E. P. Dutton & Co.

Winborn, M. (2015). ‘Jung and Politics’. Talk – The IAJS Online Discussion Forum. (here)

Winther, M. (2011). ‘Understanding European Psychology’. (here)

‘Oikophobia’. Wikipedia article. (Retrieved 2015-02-01). (here)

Yeoman, A. (1998). Now or Neverland : Peter Pan and the Myth of Eternal Youth: a Psychological Perspective On a Cultural Icon. Inner City Books.

See also:

‘Carl Jung and the Psychology of the Man-Child’. Academy of Ideas. (YouTube video) (here)

Dowling, C. (1981). The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Hidden Fear of Independence. Summit Books.

Lasch, C. (1987). The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. Abacus.

Sharp, D. (1980). The Secret Raven: Conflict and Transformation in the Life of Franz Kafka. Inner City Books.