Edith Sullwold Creative Threshold
Edith Sullwold Archive

"Eagle Eye" by Edith Sullwold, Ph.D.
Reprinted by permission of C.G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology, New York, N.Y. 
from The Well-Tended Tree: Essays into the spirit of our time  by Hilde Kirsch, ed. ,
copyright © 1971 by the C.G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology, Incorporated, New York, N.Y.

When I opened the door I saw a small, shakingly intense, black-haired, shiny brown-eyed boy. I had that feeling one gets sometimes at first meetings of immediate recognition and remembrance. Some-where before this I had seen and known a similar child. Then I realized that I had seen that day, also for the first time, a young American Indian boy for consultation. This little one could have been his brother. Having understood my sense of recognition, I invited this new child into the office.

I knew only a few facts about him. He had been adopted at birth in a private adoption. The parents had not sought any information regarding his parentage, feeling, as many adoptive parents do, that they wanted him to be fully their own child whose life and personality would be formed within the family. They were themselves of orthodox Jewish background. The boy was described at home and at school as a behavior problem, hyperactive and subject to sudden attacks of anger. At such times he was physically destructive, breaking things around him, or hitting and kicking other children. When a colleague called to refer him he said, "How would you like to work with a six year old boy who just broke the glass partition in my waiting room?"
When he entered the office he took in the whole room in a few minutes. The sandtray and the figures for it, the paints and the clay, the balcony with the flowers, the closet with supplies, all had been explored as if to define our place of work. He then asked about the sandtray. This is a box of sand in which miniature figures, chosen by the child out of a large collection, are placed to make a scene.1  When he learned how to work in it, he began with industry and intense concentration to make a scene.
This first sandtray defined, as is often true of a child's first tray, his feeling about therapy, his relation to the unconscious, his personal problem and even a possible solution to it. In opposite diagonal corners were an Indian village and a cowboy town. Between was a body of water filled with crabs, an octopus, and poisonous snakes. Over this water was a bridge which made it possible to go from the Indians to the cowboys. On this bridge he placed an alligator. In another corner was a fire station, a first aid station and a church, frequent symbols for the helping factor of therapy; and opposite these were three wild animals, a rhino, a lion and an ape, and a deer that had been killed. On the water were a pirate ship and Noah's Ark. (Figure 1)

He had made this whole scene in silence, and then moving the Indians in a somewhat tighter circle in their village said, "Indians don't like America, and therefore they hurt little children." Then looking up directly at me he said, "I'm an Indian." I was shocked, remembering my first response to him. I went through several possibilities: he had intuited my perception of him as an Indian, he was actually an Indian boy, or he belonged to Indian Guides, a boy's organization of the YMCA. I tried the latter, because it felt important to keep in outer reality with him at this moment, even though all three possibilities could be true. 

Figure 1

He did, indeed, belong to the Indian Guides with his father. But since this was the fact about himself he chose to present to me so directly, I knew it needed pursuing. "Do you have an Indian name?" I asked. "Eagle Eye" was the quick response, "and I can dance." I asked him what dance he could do, and he said the Rain Dance. He immediately began to do it and then wanted to teach me. As I joined him he began to chant a song, which he also wanted me to learn. We danced on and on for some ten minutes. Suddenly he stopped and said, "The trouble is no one believes it." Fortunately I could say, out of my own deep conviction of the efficacy of the religious dance, "I do!"

I was very moved by the intensity and quality of his dance and song, and by his statement of disbelief. I would keep open the possibility of an Indian heritage, even if it were only a connection to an Indian myth that was playing in his unconscious. It felt very real, and I believe it could have rained on that hot, dry, August California day.

If he did have an actual personal Indian heritage or myth that was living so strongly in him, what would this mean for the psychic condition of this child in a Jewish family who lived their own cultural and religious traditions in which he was expected to participate? His own statement held the solution. There was a need for his own ritual religion to be believed.

I remembered that there was a Noah's Ark in his first sandtray. Perhaps it was a hint of a connection to the Jewish myth that was also possible for him. Then I saw the bridge in the center, and felt that this boy's task was going to be to bridge the cultures, the Indian and American as represented by his Jewish family, and a Herculean task it seemed for such a small one. But perhaps the very aliveness of the primitive physical and psychic strength in him gave me much hope.

I felt also he was giving a possible clue this first day to the source of his destructiveness. In saying that the "Indians don't like America, and therefore hurt little children," he might be saying that the unaccepted primitive side, the side which in actuality the Americans had attempted to destroy or constrain by their treatment of the Indian, might be hurting him as a little child. If the energy which was evident in him was not accepted in a way that allowed its positive expression, it would then burst forth in destructiveness, with force that he could not control. He would then surely be hurt by his own primitive energy.

The direction toward health for this boy then seemed to be, as indicated by his own imaginative statement, the total acceptance of the primitive energy in its positive religious statement in myth and ritual, as well as in its destructive potential. Then perhaps a bridge could be made to the "America" of his life, the culture of the family in which he found himself. Now the work began for him of making the connection between those two sides a personal connection.

The process of finding out about the Indian in him began immediately and with great excitement. It came in his imaginative work in the office, and required of me some understanding of Indian myth and ritual. During the next visit he made a sandtray which began with a new road being built. His work had begun. But suddenly, just as he turned away as though finished, he came back with a speed boat and a story. Over the new road a man drives a speed boat. A policeman stops him, but he escapes and comes back as an impersonator of the road builder. The policeman gives him a ticket. Now he comes back as a mailman, again impersonating. Now the policeman jails him for impersonation. I puzzled about the problem of impersonization for some time. The characters impersonated seem positive. There was the road builder who begins a new path for him, and the mailman who brings messages. However, the policeman, later to be an important positive figure for him, jails the speeder for the act of impersonization. The speeder is a good description of how the destructive energies have this boy, and it felt very appropriate to have this energy contained. I even wondered if the policeman, representing the law, might not be the first sign of the use of the Jewish side with its moral law. But what was this impersonization? I found the clue several weeks later.

He was a most affectionate boy, and usually greeted me with a big, strong hug, and a deep growl. He said it was to make sure I wouldn't forget who he was. This day as I reached down to him he began to pull my hair – not destructively – but more out of curiosity. He said, "Is your hair a wig?" I said, "No," and he then began to pull at the skin of my face. "Then take off the mask. Pull it off." I pretended to pull it off, at the same time being very careful not to change my expression at all. He looked and looked until something seemed satisfied. He then went to the table and took up a brush with black paint and carefully painted my entire face black.

Then the impersonization became clear. I saw all the masks of the Indian dancers, the masks which carried the spirits, the evil ones and the benevolent ones. Recently I read in Frank Waters' Masked Gods, a description of the Kachina, which verified this boy's psychic understanding of the mask or the painted face as the impersonator of the spirit. Waters says:

Kachinas are the inner forms, the spirit components of the outer physical forms, which may be evoked to manifest their benign powers so that man may be able to continue his journey. They are the invisible forces of life. Not really gods, but rather intermediators, messengers. . . . The masks are likewise Kachinas because they are invested with their spiritual powers....Also, Kachinas are the men, the impersonators who wear the masks. 2

The impersonators of Eagle Eye's sandtray were the road builder, and then the mailman, the bringer of messages. But Eagle Eye had first built the road himself, and then the helpful spirits came over this road. This road of his went from left to right, or west to east. In the Hopi sand paintings is a line of cornmeal running from the center, the place of emergence, to the east, toward the rising sun. This is called the Road of Life. This same road theme appears in a Zuni ritual song:

... That clasping one another tight
Holding one another fast,
We may finish our roads together;
That this may be, I add to your breath now—
May our roads be fulfilled.
May we grow old,
May our people's roads all be fulfilled.

In a Taos Pueblo deer dance it is sung of the deer,

He stands at the place of the beginning, where our roads come forth,
there where the deer stands

In this boy's previous and first sandtray was a deer that had been killed. It may be that the deer of the old road was sacrificed, and at that spot, out of that sacrifice, the new begins.

Thus it was not only, as I had first felt, that the new road represented the beginning of his new path in therapy, but more deeply it was a statement of the first step of the journey on a path toward his own development and fulfillment. It is the path of initiation into the sunlight, and once on this path the impersonators of the helpful spirits come to "add to his breath" their breath of life so that, as in a Zuni chant:

our roads may reach to where the life giving road of our Sun Father
comes out
that this may be, I add to your breath now.

The painting of my face black not only led me to understand the impersonators, but made me feel a connection in this boy to the Indian view of good and evil, or shadow and light, as realities distinct and separate but needing to exist together in their opposition in order to form a whole identity. Thus his smile and growl so I would know who he was. Thus the need to paint the blackness on my face, the darkness without which the whiteness was not real.

Three more times he painted my face. For the next mask he again used black, but now just around the eyes and on the cheeks. He then put white stripes on my arms, much like the clown figure of the Pueblo Indians called Black Eyes or Koshares who pantomime, joke and tease, hold little sacred and are very clever fellows. It was in character a trickster, and recognizable in this boy himself. Another day the mask was a red one, with circles around my mouth, nose, and the left eye. The red was perhaps the color of fire and emotion, with the left eye emphasizing the side of the heart as in the masks of the Zuni Pueblo dances. That day he put red paint on his own feet and hands and made prints of them. The following time he made his own mask, the only one he painted on himself. He had a black mustache and red around the eyes and nose. "Like blood," he said, "like the man on Monsters."

The monsters had been a troublesome thing for him. His mother had brought in a dream he had had just before beginning therapy. "I was in a cave and the monsters came and I had a gun and I shot them down with the gun." The monster appears often as an image for the child when the unconscious is felt as overwhelming and devouring. Often it is a vague, shapeless thing; sometimes very specific and defined, often living in a cave, or under quicksand into which it pulls its victims, or in poisonous water. The monster was just such a being for Eagle Eye. Having chosen as his own first mask the monster mask, he gained a personification of it, which might then be controlled or exorcized.

Figure 2

On the next day he painted two pictures, his planet which was a blue round shape (Figure 2), and a picture of himself. It was a white face with an orange shirt and there was also a friend in yellow. The painting had a totally black background (Figure 3). I couldn't help feeling, and saying, how black it was. "But," he responded, "it is getting brighter." And indeed the figure of himself was especially bright just because it was emerging from the blackness, out of the totally dark cave of the unconscious.  

Figure 3

I have since found that in the Navaho Indian creation myth the fourth stage, or the stage in which the Indians actually appear to walk on the earth, has as its color, white – the color of dawn, or the color of the emergence from the dark. So it is not surprising that in this first painting of himself the face was white. And with this appearance now of himself, he also found his own blue planet, his own earth on which to stand, perhaps his own self. He is also accompanied by a sunny yellow friend.

Soon I got my own brightness. My next, and last, mask he actually called an Indian face. It was blue and yellow, the Indian colors of the sun and the sky – all lightness. After he painted it on this time, however, he was very anxious to wash it off before the paint dried. I wondered why, until later when I realized that it was the last mask. Then I remembered that at the initiation of the boys into the man's world in some Pueblos the Kachina men remove their masks, revealing their true identity, and then place their masks on the boy, thus passing on to him the spirit behind the mask. Frank Waters says of this ceremony:

It is a moment of utter disillusionment to learn for the first time that the gods before whom the boy has cringed all his childhood are but his uncles and neighbors dressed in masks. Yet in that moment, as he himself wields the whip of authority within the sacred mask, is born the supreme truth that all men must sometime learn. There are no gods as we childishly know them. The gods are the invisible cosmic forces of the universe. And they reside in man who, if he wills, can evoke them for the common good. 6

Remembering now the four masks, it seems possible that Eagle Eye was also playing out the four stages of the Indian emergence myth quite specifically. From the initial total blackness there were three successive stages in which increasing brightness came until he himself appeared. If this were true, it would mean that I, as a wearer of the masks, had served to carry his need to be reborn through the historical Indian creation myth, reborn from the Mother Earth which gave him his Indian identity. This is a strong possibility, since just before he painted my first mask, the black one, he had said, "I wish you were my mother."

At any rate, I was sure that Eagle Eye would one day show me the results of removing my mask, and what form his own spirit mask would take, and how he would use its power.

That the personification of evil and good was an effective religious and psychological method for him became clear in a very direct way. Earlier I had given him several road building trucks to take home. He reported that both had been broken by a neighbor. When I asked the neighbor's name, he said, "Well, he isn't really a neighbor, I guess he is really someone inside me." "Where?" I asked. "Right here," he said, pointing to his stomach. "Then we'll have to call him Mr. Stomach," I suggested. Several weeks later he wanted to go shopping for a new ball we needed. He loved to shop, but his mother had told me that she didn't take him any more because he destroyed so much in the stores, or stole things. I agreed to take him, but reminded him that he would have to not touch or take things in the store. "All right," he said, "just a minute." He closed his eyes, and stood silent for a minute. Then he said, "I have put Mr. Stomach to sleep. Let's go." We had a most pleasant shopping trip! I was impressed again with his primitive wisdom. Mr. Stomach, the unruly one, was only put to sleep. He was aware that he would awaken, and have to be controlled again and again. He did not underestimate this power in him, or in life. Later he told me that Mr. Stomach had whispered to him to get mad at his bike and kick it when he fell off. Also, he said, "There is someone else beside Mr. Stomach. It is Mr. Body, who made my arm go out and hit someone." This Mr. Body he also began to be able to control with conversation. The ego was apparently developing some strength with which to find such control, as though the young initiate had obtained some masculine powers for the battle against evil forces.

We continued during this time to keep his Indian identity as Eagle Eye. It seemed to be a name of absolute accuracy for this boy. He was very bright, and very quick, and extremely perceptive in seeing and hearing everything with great intensity and response. He himself said one day, "I am really like a bird with sharp eyes that could see. I can also see at night, and from so high." It is like the eagle described by Job whose "eyes behold afar off."
7 He was absolutely in touch with what was going on around him, as well as with what was going on in the night world of his unconscious. The first use of an eagle in his play showed how valuable this figure of the royal bird was for his health. A baby in a carriage sank into the quicksand. It turned out to be a baby bunny. An eagle flying by swooped down to save it, and took it to its Great Mother, who gave it her milk. So, the great perception and the quick action of his Eagle Eye saved the new life from the negative unconscious and brought it to be truly fed by the Great Mother. One sees in this, as in other instances of Eagle Eye's play, how closely he lives to the archetypal world, and how dangerous this could be for him if it does not become integrated into an ego made strong enough to deal with it, or if he does not have some other means of safety and protection from its intensity.

Because of the appearance here of the Great Mother, something must be said about his relation to the actual mother. Eagle Eye's attitude to his adoptive mother was of intense anger and great helplessness. He wanted to be held by her, and would suck his thumb when he was. At the same time he was verbally and physically aggressive toward her. She was in actuality a passive woman, and somewhat depressed, and was feeling very inadequate in dealing with this piece of dynamite she had adopted. But the level at which this boy was experiencing the mother seemed to be more negative than that for which she could ever be responsible. There was, of course, the relation to the unknown mother, the natural mother who had rejected him by placing him for adoption. I have never worked with an adopted child where this fact does not have to be dealt with in some way. But even beyond this rejection by the personal mother is the fear of the greater negative mother, as it is represented by the unconscious —the cave which is the home of the monsters. One sees, as in the case of Eagle Eye, how only an equally positive force of the healing Great Mother from the unconscious who feeds the rescued bunny with her nourishing milk can save such a child. Thus his Eagle Eye, his own powerful intense aliveness must mediate between the evil and the good potentials of the unconscious. The eagle in the Indian myth is associated with the Sun, the Father, and perhaps the protective action of the eagle in saving the bunny is another sign of the developing masculine function of his ego.

If you remember, there is in the first sandtray scene an alligator on the bridge. This alligator is that devouring mother who had the power of blocking his way in bridging his two worlds.

The Indian myth in this boy was now being strongly affirmed by his own imaginative play of it as Eagle Eye, the Indian boy. But how was the connection to the Jewish myth to be made? Life brought its answer. About this time I received a package from Israel. In it were four exquisite wooden figures, delicately and sensitively carved. The figures were of simple Israelis, a girl praying before two lit candles, a mother holding up her baby, an old man carrying a load on his back, and a man selling cakes. I put these in a protected place in my book-case, since this boy always used his sharp eyes to spot any new figures for the sandtray and would often break them before I knew it. In spite of my caution, he discovered these new figures immediately. But to my surprise he took them up, one by one, very gently. Having looked closely and carefully at each one, he carried them to the sandtray where he told another story.

Removing the animals from Noah's Ark, he placed the figures in it, and brought the Ark across some water. The figures then came out of Noah's Ark and down from a high hill as he said, "They came from a long way off after crossing the water. They have no place to live and so they go onto the bridge." He placed a covered bridge over the water. "They can live there, there are windows so they can look out and see what is going on." His bridge was now peopled with the bearers of the Jewish myth, having made the long historic journey from the Ark and now appearing in forms of simple, ordinary humans at their work, much like his own family. They did not have their own home in him yet, but were able to find protection in their sheltered ark-like bridge. From here they could watch his play, in which the statement of his own inner psychic development was being made. I believe that the appearance of these figures on the bridge helped this boy become more at home with his adoptive parents in such a way that he could begin to trust himself to them. These figures had been sent to me, and consequently to Eagle Eye, by Dr. James Kirsch.

There is another way to consider the story in which this boy used these figures other than to make the connection to the personal Jewish family and their religious myth. Archaeological research in the last few years is finding increasing evidence that there were sea journeys from the Mediterranean Sea to the Western Hemisphere, as early as 1500 B.C. Recently the comparative linguistic study of markings on a stone, the Metcalf Stone, discovered in Georgia in 1966 on the site of an early Indian community, and the markings of early Aegean script, has brought to light a specific Atlantic crossing in 531 B.C. of a vessel bearing sixteen people from the land of Canaan to the shore of Brazil. It could be that this intuitive little boy experienced his historical roots so deeply that he could represent this possible ancestral link between the American Indian and the peoples of the Mediterranean as represented by the Israeli figures as they "came from a long way off after crossing the water." If so, his place in the Jewish family could then be a more natural one.

Soon after this, the figure of the policeman reappeared. At first he was in a sandtray where two bridges crossed, forming an X cross in the middle. The policeman stood on top, watching down over the scene, much as the Israeli figures had done. He said, "The policemen tell you if you did something wrong and don't know about it. They can be helpful." The judging factor, the factor of the law, a developing masculine consciousness, all of this now came on the bridge. Again I felt the policeman as a connection to the moral God of the Old Testament.

This same day he did a remarkable painting. It was again an X cross formed by two multi-colored snakes, one of purple and blue, the other of pink, red, and orange. It was a uniting statement, the cold and warm colors, almost as if two halves of the rainbow had been separated and put together, perhaps the masculine spirit and the feminine Eros. It was an Indian painting, and the snakes could bring rain for fertility and growth. It was a healing symbol, with the snakes bringing the energy of creativity and consciousness, as the Old Testament snake brought the knowledge of good and evil, the knowledge of the policeman.

When the policeman appeared again he had come down from the bridge, no longer an observer, but a helpful ally of Eagle Eye's first hero, Batman. Because of the popularity of a TV show at that time, Batman was a fairly common hero for boys. However, it seemed an especially appropriate choice for Eagle Eye. Batman is a wearer of a black bat mask, and represents the spirit of the night creature. He flies not by keen sight, as the eagle, but with an internal radar sound system. While the bat is a creature of the air, of the spirit, he is also a mammal, closer to the human species. The fact of the internal radar system was of great importance. This small boy had much need to internalize control of his behavior, to find his own inner policeman.

This work began in subsequent play. Batman and the policeman were on the same side against evil, trickery, crime, and the monsters, especially one called the Joker. In these battles the Joker constantly lost, only to reappear to be fought again. This is typical of a young boy's struggle in the development of the ego in which the hero must finally supersede the trickster, but only after many battles and many regressive reappearances of the trickster. Batman's attempt to triumph over the trickster, or the Joker, is
like Eagle Eye's attempts to triumph over his Mr. Stomach and Mr. Body. These are the parts which so shrewdly carried out his evil, the evil apparently necessary in making his first statement of the separation of his ego from that of the mother, or from the unconscious. When Batman was finally strong enough to win consistently against these trickster forces he would be ready to make the final and direct heroic fight against the negative mother.

At first Batman lived in a cave, a cave "where children can't go in because they might get hurt badly, but Batman is nice to children, not parents." Again it is the cave of the dark unconscious, but now it contains the protective hero. Then Batman moved into a castle which he called "really a cave." Children often use the castle in their play when the fantasies have moved from the frightening, undifferentiated, monster world to the fairytale land of kings and queens. The castle with its strong turrets in the air and dangerous crocodile filled moats around it is a place of defense for the self, a place where the royal dreams can take place.

Batman takes with him into the castle an assistant, a young boy named Robin, who is in training as a hero. Pictures of Batman and Robin were placed in front of the castle, announcing to the people that they are now living there. Soon two other figures appear, a bad Batman and a bad Robin. They fight, the good heroes against their bad counterparts. Both sides remaining equal in the fight, they decide finally to join forces and kill the Joker. This uniting of good and bad forces indicates again this boy's ability to accept the reality of the negative side and to attempt to integrate it, using the additional energy for a larger life battle. As with the crossed snakes, there is a union taking place which gives him more strength, a strength which he can use for the heroic battle, instead of against himself.

Having accomplished the heroic task of killing the Joker, Batman and Robin go to work for the King of the castle. They need all the strength they have gained, because their next task was a huge one. They were to free the King from his evil mother. "The King has a mother. The mother was mean. The King hates her, and so does Batboy." Batman helps the King by sending the King's henchmen to capture his mother. She is taken along with a boy and burned. Batman comes and sees the boy and frees him. This boy is called Batboy.

The day of the appearance or delivery of Batboy was a day of special significance. Eagle Eye began to make a marvelous bas-relief figure of a boy out of sand and glue. (Figure 4) It was a real reconstruction of himself. When he had finished it he asked for a candle. His face was absolutely glowing. He then made a small cake of clay, put it in the hand of his boy, lit it and began to sing, "Happy Birthday." With his face still glowing he brought out this new clay self to give to his mother, the first positive gift of himself I had seen him give her.

The new self, Batboy, seemed to have come in place of Eagle Eye. He never referred to himself as Eagle Eye again. This most significant change seemed to be another expression of the union taking place in him. Since Batboy was such an American TV hero, he was apparently now able to continue his own path through the land of the American psyche. Also, the change to Batman was an important humanizing development. Instead of living behind the Kachina mask of the Eagle, a high-soaring, far-seeing spirit, he now exposed himself as a most vulnerable, small boy in need of protection. To be sure, he was still Batboy, a small hero and perhaps even the son of royal parents, so that he still carried with him the regal spirit, but now earthbound in the human form.

Figure 4

For several weeks he was with his new self. He made several paintings of it, and formed out of clay another, more three dimensional form of this boy. This new figure he gave two cakes, one with the six candles of his actual age, and another cake with one candle. It was as if he were joining the new self onto the old. This figure he painted very carefully. The face again was white. The shirt was blue and the trousers purple. "Nice colors," he said, "especially together." Again the white face, the color of emergence, is marking a new statement of the self. The blue shirt was reminiscent of his blue planet that he had painted earlier, like the blue of the sky – the sky in which his eagle soared. Purple is the royal color, appropriate for a boy delivered from a King's castle. So his blue and purple were "nice colors, especially together," as could be his combination of the Indian and American myths. I remembered the colors of one of the crossed snakes, also blue and purple. Since the masculine, spiritual side of this boy had been continually developing in strength, it was possible for him now to be clothed in it, to establish his identity through it.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the excitement about this new self, I was concerned about the next development for this boy. One so often feels the delicacy of the time when a statement of the self is made by a child. It is yet so vulnerable. Eagle Eye had been delivered from the land of caves and quicksand and poisoned water where all his monsters lived and now his small human ego was walking on very tentative ground. It is a time when protection is needed. Where was the safety for this delicate new self?

His next sandtray brought a hint of the answer. It was a very simple one, not like any he had made before. Even his method of work changed this day. He had come in with a hug, but no growl, saying immediately, "Let's get to work." Then he asked me to hide in another room until he finished the scene, which he did with dispatch and evident joy.

Figure 5
There were nine pine trees, eight of them forming a square around the sides of the tray. (Figure 5) The ninth was in the center, on top of which was an eagle. In among the trees on the edge were three telephone poles. This he showed me without a word, but with the same glowing face as when he had lit the candles. Surely this was another statement of the new self, but in a less personal form and from a level more secretive, abstract, and symbolic. His eagle had now landed on a pine tree, an indication that his high-flying spirit had found a connection to the natural earth-rooted, growing aspect of the self. The pine is an especially appropriate tree, for it is seen as eternal in its everlasting greenness. Around his central tree bearing the bird, is a protective square of eight trees, the square again symbolic of the self.

It seems now that this boy's own self in its natural form, the form which comes from the mothering earth, promises protection for him. This became more evident in reviewing the first dream he had brought me. "I dreamt of you. You were saving me from a big monster. Then you turned into Robin, and then into Batman. You didn't come back." He now had heroes on his side as protectors. He had used me to keep him from being devoured by the negative monsters of the unconscious, and now he had his own internal heroes. But being superheroes, masked men, were they enough real protection for Batboy who was in reality only six? Was he ready to deal with the masculine world with its demands for battling and fighting and self-defense? Was his ego strong enough to control Mr. Stomach and Mr. Body, the tricksters and evil doers? I doubted it.

Again his own story helped. There was a final battle which he said was between "virtue and evil." In the middle was Batboy, again endangered by the ever present, undauntable Joker. On the evil side was a complete gathering of the monsters and tricksters. On the side of virtue, aiding Batman and Robin, were African fighters, Greek warriors, and Medieval knights, all the masculine strength of history. This army of positive forces was led by a young prince. Standing directly behind him was the mother of the prince, the queen. The royal self, dressed in blue and purple, had been born, and behind him in battle is the royal mother.

The royal mother comes now to protect this boy. She comes from the same archetypal world as did the Great Mother who fed the bunny rescued from the quicksand of the unconscious. But here her role is not nourishment of the infant self, but a silent support of the young hero in his battle and in this role she is already more human, less cosmic than the Great Mother. It is not infrequent that the health of children, especially of adoptive parents or sick parents, is dependent on finding the inner, archetypal parents. However, there is a danger that such a child will be overwhelmed by the forces of the archetypal battle before his ego is strong enough to endure it. It was essential that this boy fight his battle between "virtue and evil" in an atmosphere so protected that he could show his own human, six year old face behind the monster mask or the superhero. I wondered where this humanizing protection could be found. Again his own story brought the clue to the way this need could be met.

He made three sandtrays the next time. In the middle one was a new city, with carefully made roads. There were trees, ponds and hills, several houses, and a gas station in the center. It was a pleasant place, an ordinary, everyday human city, a place where this boy might live comfortably. Even the gas station in the center provided good containers to store his tremendous energy.

Next he put a bridge across to another sandtray. In this he again placed the castle where the King lived. It was protected by a moat although there was easy access to and from the town. A celebration with musicians was being held in a grove of trees in front of the castle. Two American flags were flown from the turrets of the castle. Here finally was a statement of the acceptance of his "American" self.

The third sandtray he did not connect to the others, and even wanted it to be slightly lower than the others, perhaps because it would show something more unconscious. It was a desert scene, barren, with only a few rocks. In the center were two skeletons of a young boy and his father. He stood and looked at this scene for a minute and then said, "I (and used now his given name for the first time), was a brave baby Indian where I was born in the desert. I built a tepee there when I was a baby there. It looked like this." He drew in the sand a shape like a long high narrow square house with a pointed roof on it, instead of the usual conical Indian tepee.

My first reaction to the sandtray was of a definite need to find out about the actual facts of this boy's birth. I took the father and son skeletons as signs of death of the old identity, although of course it could have indicated an actual death of his natural father. Now he talks of his own birth as an Indian, but with a conscious use of the name given him by his adoptive parents. There was some reason that this desert scene, the Indian side, was not yet connected to his new city. I spoke with the parents who were then willing to trace his heritage. He was a child of a Mexican Indian mother.

I then understood the tepee he had built when he was a "baby there in the desert." The Mexican culture is of course Indian at its base, with the addition of the Spanish Catholic on top. I saw that the tepee he had built resembled the shape of a church steeple, very similar to that on a church he had used before in a sandtray. In this sandtray the church was put near a body of water where it acted as a lighthouse so that cars could go up to, but not fall into, the water. He had said when he did this, "that is a marvelous idea." Here the church, or the outer container for the religious form, served to protect his great energies from falling into the unconscious, the world of the archetypes. The Catholic church, as a Mother Church, with its emphasis on the protective love of Mary, was an appropriate symbolic description of his need for an outer protection. He needed to connect to this reality of this heritage too. There was another bridge to be made.

There are, of course, other possible ways of seeing this tepee, which was a square at the base and pyramidal at the top. It is similar in design to the pyramid shapes of the Aztec temples in Mexico
,8 and of the Sun Temple in Mesa Verde, Colorado. It reminds one of the emphasis on the four directions found in most American Indian ritual. It resembles as well the earlier sandtray of this boy with its eight outer trees and one conical shaped pine tree in the center. What is significant in these resemblances is the deeply and secretively known psychic structure of the self which is reflected in the external spiritual architecture. This tepee he built for himself as a baby, perhaps for his new baby self, was a tepee for the spirit.

His last sandtray confirmed this statement of his imaginative play. The first figure he put in was Batboy. He said of Batboy, "He is not as strong as Batman, but he gets protected and saved." In this sandtray, Batboy is entering the church. Four superheroes watch him from high places. Aqua man comes from the left side, Robin is on top of the first aid station, Flash is on top of the fire station, and Batman is in a big tree next to the church. In a corner diagonally from the church is a gas station with three birds on top – a sea gull, a peacock, and an eagle.  (Figure 6)


Figure 6

The superheroes watch from a place connected to each of the four elements, Aqua man from the water, Flash from the fire, Batman from the air, and Robin from the earth. There are the spiritual energies of the birds, the sea gull from the ocean, the sky flying eagle, and the earth bound peacock. All those watch as Batboy goes into his place of religious shelter. It is like the initiation of the Indian boys, who withdraw into the spiritual womb of the Kiva for eighteen months under the guidance of the initiators, who invoke the four elements and the spirits of the breath, the spirits of the air. It is also like the acceptance into the church at confirmation after tutelage by the priests. It is, for this boy, the psychological necessity of finding a spiritual container and protection for his energies.

I felt that with the inclusion of the church as a symbol for such a container the identity of this boy was finally established. He was Indian, he was Mexican, he was American, and he lived in a Jewish family that would hopefully be able to accept him with this complex identity.

Once the cultural identity had been established in this boy, and his bridges built to his own new city between the castle and the desert, there remained the problem of his own very individual personal identity. What mask would he wear? How would he use his energies in a creative way? I remembered his own statement, "I built a tepee in the desert, where I was a baby there." I remembered too that he had himself built his own new road at the beginning of therapy. We began to build. He was very skillful with his hands, with unusual knowledge for his age about construction, mechanics, and electricity. He had earlier repaired a complicated electrical connection in a lamp in the office. He now built whole cities out of wood. He built shelves and containers for his tools. He built a cage for his snakes and lizards. This building began to change the direction of his energy. He was much less destructive and began to show the confidence of a strengthening ego. Somehow the unconscious seemed to have provided its own inner church where he could temporarily withdraw from the battle of virtue and evil, and exercise the muscles of his ego in his creative work of building.

The continued health of this boy depends on his ability to maintain the strength of his ego and develop ways of using his energies creatively so that the tremendous spiritual and psychic forces in him do not overwhelm him and throw him back again into the dark cave of the monsters. He is now in a private school which offers some protection for him, and hopefully will allow for enough expression of his inner drama that he will be able to continue forward on his Road of Life. To this I would like to "add my breath."

Looking back over the work of this boy I find myself again in awe of the movement of the human soul in search of that place where one can stand in the sun on that piece of earth which is one's own, knowing that in the depths from which we all come is a common land. It is a land of the spirit, beyond and below the Indian, the Mexican, the Jewish, the American – a land where the psyche speaks to all in a common language if it is only understood.

  1  Kalff, Dora, Mirror of a Child’s Psyche, San Francisco, The Browser Press, 1971.
  2  Waters, Frank, Masked Gods, pp.278-9, Chicago Swallow Press, 1978.
  3  Ibid., p. 178.
  4  Ibid., p. 188.
  5  Ibid., p. 210.
  6  Ibid., p. 212.
  7 Job, 39:29.
  8 Since writing this paper, I was astonished to see in an exhibit of sculpture of Ancient West Mexico at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
     a small clay model of a temple, dated 300-500 A.D. It was the exact shape of the tepee described by Eagle Eye.


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