Having previously written on prison stereotypes and archetypes, I separated them into two groups: the old prison stereotype and the new prison population who personify archetypes. In motion pictures, Humphery Bogart, James Cagney and many others have since portrayed gangsters, sociopaths and convicts. These categories are not mutually exclusive. Their stereotypical image is often described as hardened, violent, racist, devoid of compassion, destructive, and untrustworthy, inter alia--among other things.

Most inmates in this country at this time do not fit the scandalous image described above. Aaron Kipnis (1999) reports studies done by the Prison Activist Resource Center that lists the top ten reasons for Californians entering prison today. The rest of the country likely has comparable statistics. Among those criminal charges, violent crime is practically absent. (p. 176). According to Kipnis, drug offenders represent sixty percent of federal prisoners and over one-third of state and county prisoners (p. 121). Taking into consideration that many of the remaining inmates are also there indirectly related to drugs and/or alcohol, then the statistics probably rise dramatically, which gives the netherworld of our prison yards a population of men personifying various archetypes--focusing here on the callow puer aeternus.

The pueri, on the streets, is not shrouded in violence and destruction in and of itself, but often their aggression is exacerbated by their drugs of choice. While incarcerated the puerile inmate's violent behavior is influenced by his environment. Erich Fromm (1992) talks about this type of aggression: "This defensive, 'benign' aggression is in the service of the survival of the individual and the species, is biologically adaptive, and ceases when the threat has ceased to exist." (p. 25). The prison environment is conducive to a certain amount of violence. Self preservation warrants it. Gilligan (1996) believes that "the very conditions that occur regularly in most prisons may force prisoners to engage in acts of serious violence in order to avoid being mutilated, raped, or murdered themselves (p. 163). During their imprisonment many continue to use drugs and sustain addictions. Drugs are as easy to obtain on the inside of the walls as it is on the outside. Stan Grof (2000) writes that "Among archetypes that show important connection with addiction, that of puer aeternus with its varieties of Icarus and Dionysus, seems to play an important role." (p. 112).

Nakken (1988), describing the nature of the chemically dependent, has also partially described puer psychology:

Adolescents usually live for the moment. Practicing addicts are also living for the present moment, using emotional logic. Emotionally, addicts act like adolescents and are often described as adolescent in behavior and attitude. After all, a lot of issues addicts struggle with are the same issues that face adolescents. The difference is that addicts stay trapped in an adolescent stage as long as their illness is in progress. (p. 16).

Marie-Louise von Franz, James Hillman, Ann Yeoman, Jeffrey Satinover, and Dan Kiley, et all, have described many other parallels between the chemically dependent and the puer. As Moore (1991) describes:

The puer strives for vertical flight. His feet are not on the ground. He has little patience for development, for working things out. Puer wants things done immediately, and his impatient idealism finds the sage counsel of the senex establishment an anchor and a weight. As the street pueri like to say: "It's a drag!" (p. 191)

The traits these authors report of the puer, describes me prior to and upon arriving at the guiding center at the California Institute for Men in Chino.

Shortly after my arrival, I approached a prison guard and asked him a question. He looked at me in disgust, then answered me in acerbic sarcasm. I looked at him and said, "Ya know . . ., it doesn't cost a thing to be nice." I caught him completely off guard. For a moment he looked like he did not know what to do. He finally said "You're right." Then he told me what I asked of him in the first place.

Defined by Sharp (1991) in the C.G. Jung Lexicon "puer aeternus is 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." In Latin, puer can refer to male or female; however, the female counterpart to the word puer is the Latin word puella, meaning "girl" or "maiden." Senex is the Latin word for "old man," comparable to "senior." However, it can also mean old woman. Hillman (1989) describes personifications of the senex as "in the holy or old wise man, the powerful father or grandfather, the great king, ruler, judge, ogre, counselor, elder, priest, hermit, outcast and cripple." (p. 208).

I will add parole and probation officer, police officer and prison guard to the list. The rift between inmates and prison guards is widely acknowledged. Also well known is the similar rift that exists between parolees and their parole officers. The rift continues between police officers and criminals, which include gang bangers and the chemically dependent, et al. The quotidian, solicitous existence of these groups is spent looking over their shoulders or looking in the rear-view mirror. After a few scabrous years in recovery from drugs and alcohol, I finally stopped doing that.

The senex archetype originates in the Greek god Saturn-Kronos, (Kronos is the Greek word for time). Hillman (1970) explains:

Saturn presides over honest speech--and deceit; over secrets, silence--and loquacious slander; over loyalty, friendship--and selfishness, cruelty, cunning, thievery and murder. He is the just executioner and the criminal executed; the prisoner and the prison [emphasis mine]. He is retentive but forgetful; slothful and apathetic but rules the vigil of sleeplessness. His eyes droop with depression, apathetic to all events, and they stare inconsolably open, the super-ego eye of God taking account of everything. He makes both honest reckoning and fraud. He is God of manure, privies, dirty linen, bad wind--and he is cleanser of souls. Senex duality presents moral values inextricably meshed with shadow; good and bad become hard to distinguish. Because of the inherent antitheses, a morality based on senex-consciousness will always be dubious. No matter what strict code of ethical purity it asserts, there will be a balancing loathsome horror not for away, sometimes quite close--in the execution of its lofty principles. Torture and persecution are done in the best of circles for the best of reasons: this is the senex. (pp. 154, 155).

Another aspect of this, shares (1967) Jung, is the dual nature of Mercurius and

his characterization as senex and puer. The figure of Hermes as an old man, attested by archaeology, brings him into direct relation with Saturn--a relationship which plays a considerable role in alchemy. Mercurius truly consists of the most extreme opposites; on the one hand he is undoubtedly akin to the godhead, on the other he is found in sewers. Rosinus (Zosimos) even calls him the terminus ani. In the Bundahish, the anus of Garotman is 'like hell on earth.' (C.W. 13, par. 269).

Age did not apply between me and the prison guard, for I was older than he; therefore, we can look at him as the senex and me as the puer. Or, maybe he was also a puer working in the capacity of a senex. Hillman (1970) says "that the senex is a complicatio of the puer, infolded into puer structure, so that puer events are complicated by a senex background." (p. 146). Explaining that the senex has a double nature, Hillman continues by saying "one characteristic is never safe from inversion into its opposite." (p. 148). Perhaps we can view me and/or the prison guard with the term puer senilis, for "our puer attitudes are not bound to youth, nor are our senex qualities reserved for age." (Puer Papers, p. 10).

It has often been said that there is a fine line between the nature of criminals and the nature of law enforcement officers. They are very much alike in many ways. The same can be said of parole and probation officers and prison guards, but I will use the words of a retired police officer to demonstrate my point.

I attended a public meeting of the Claremont Forum where four panelists were giving talks about prison, each coming from their personal or professional perspectives. The first panelist was Gil Contreras, a former Los Angeles police officer--rampart division, who was at the time working as a journalist. Gil's mea culpa promulgated a modus operandi that generally does not get talked about--especially in public and on videotape. As a law enforcement officer, his credentials are impressive, which includes being a qualified gang expert and narcotics expert. My purpose here is to demonstrate a parallel between cops and criminals, sometimes using parts of Hillman's previous quote concerning Saturn to help elucidate puer et senex.

Gil said there is a universal "cop culture." He said that during his reign as a police officer, they functioned very much as hunters. For example, they would act like victims to get criminals to commit a crime against them, then other officers would jump out of the bushes, beat them up, arrest them and take them to jail, lupus est homo homini--man is wolf to man, i.e., men prey on one another. "Saturn presides over honest speech--and deceit." Police officers, deceitful as they often are, also perform honorable service, for "he makes both honest reckoning and fraud."

Gil stated that "we actually didn't mind shooting people at all." Saturn "is the just executioner and the criminal executed." We know that the life of a cop often ends in a paroxysm of violence. We also know that gang life on the streets often ends in violent death. The violence of each group (and the similarity of their thinking) are congruent with their respective codes of ethics, silent leges inter arma--the laws are silent amid arms. According to Morwood's (1998) Dictionary of Latin Words and Phrases, "Cicero argues that, when one's life is threatened by violent plots and the laws have been reduced to silence, one has the right of self-defense in any way possible." (p. 167).

Cops make their jobs personnel, devoting their lives to it; therefore, the shady side of their jobs they view as exculpatory--they do it with impunity. Gil said that "Cops act very much like gangs: each have uniforms (of one form--uniforme, from middle French), each have their own codes they talk in, each have belief systems about right and wrong--both being very rigid, each tends to be uneducated--most street cops are high school graduates or GEDs, each are closed societies--viewing people that are not a part of it as outsiders. "Outsiders," stated Gil, "don't need to know that we're out there hunting criminals." Most outsiders are not aware of the Augean stable that resides in many police departments.

The peccant behavior of one of Gil's partners was that of arbitrarily starting fights for various reasons, one of them being to see what his partner would do. In other words, to see if they could trust Gil not to report his partner's opprobrium to their superiors. Gil said that during his law enforcement years, he knew that the things he was doing were wrong but he felt inviolable. However, we have to ask ourselves, how much good did he do over the years he spent as a police officer? "Senex duality presents moral values inextricably meshed with shadow; good and bad become hard to distinguish. Because of the inherent antitheses, a morality based on senex-consciousness will always be dubious. No matter what strict code of ethical purity it asserts, there will be a balancing loathsome horror not far away, sometimes quite close-- in the execution of its lofty principles." Gang bangers have the reputation for being bad, but human nature tells us that there is inherent good in all people; therefore, we have the same Dichotomy as we do with police officers.

"When debriefing," Gil said, "we often drank alcohol until five o'clock in the morning." Police officers have a high rate of alcoholism and drug addiction. Since cops are usually hired right out of the community, finding prospective police officers that have not experimented with drugs and alcohol is hard, so hiring them is often an imbroglio. Drugs and alcohol are part of cop culture. Drugs and alcohol are also a part of gang culture.

Police officers also have a high suicide rate. "His eyes droop with depression, apathetic to all events, and they stare inconsolably open, the super-ego eye of God taking account of everything." Unfortunately, teenage depression and subsequent suicide is one of the highest causes of death among that age group.

So, "puer and senex are always together," Frankel (1998) reminds us, "yet it is very common for one to be split off from the other. To grasp this potential for splitting, let us take a closer look at the phenomenology of the senex:

Kronos, son of Uranus (the sky) and Gaia (the Earth). In response to the tyranny of his father, castrated him and took over his rule. But Kronos quickly became as brutal as his father and worried that one of his children would depose him in the way he himself had deposed his father. To prevent this from happening again, he swallowed his children one by one as they were born. Only Zeus escaped and eventually, through a war with his father, took his place. (pp. 183, 184).

Gil's website (http://home.earthlin.net/~gilcontreras) conveys more of his concerns. He says that his experience as a cop is not unlike the experience of other cops nationwide, haud ignota loquor--I say things that are not unknown.

Between the summer of 1960 and the latter part of 1991 when they released me from parole, there was scarcely a time when I was not either doing time, pending court, paying fines or restitution, doing community service, or on probation or parole. During that time it was my experience that county jail and prison guards, and parole and probation officers in many ways parallel the above description of police officers.

I would like to conclude by drawing on psychiatrist Stan Grof's (2000) perinatal perspective. He says that traditional medicine denies that the child can consciously experience birth and they claim that this event is not recorded in memory. Grof states that the traditional medical view is that only a birth so difficult that it causes irreversible damage to the brain cells can have psychopathological consequences. (p.29). Sub lite--in dispute, Grof emphasizes that the amount of emotional and physical stress involved in childbirth clearly surpasses that of any postnatal trauma in infancy and childhood with the exception of extreme forms of physical abuse. There is convincing evidence amassed that biological birth is the most profound trauma of our life and an event of paramount psychospiritual importance. It is recorded in our memory in minuscule details down to the cellular level and it has profound effect on our psychological development. (p. 31).

Stan Grof, et al, have taken patients through the rebirth experience using holotropic states of consciousness. They used LSD and other psychedelics in the past, but more recently they accomplish this through holotropic breathwork. "The work with holotropic states shows that the perinatal level of the unconscious plays a critical role in the genesis of phobias." (p. 77). There are a host of other disorders caused by the birth trauma that have been successfully treated by using these methods.

Reliving this stage of birth is one of the worst experiences we can have during self-exploration that involves holotropic states. We feel caught in a monstrous claustrophobic nightmare, exposed to agonizing emotional and physical pain, and have a sense of utter helplessness and hopelessness. Feelings of loneliness, guilt, the absurdity of life, and existential despair reach metaphysical proportions. A person in this predicament often becomes convinced that this situation will never end and that there is absolutely no way out." (pp. 42, 43).

To equate this with the prison experience, Grof tells us that "We can experience identification with prisoners in dungeons, victims of the Inquisition, and inmates of concentration camps or insane asylums." (p. 43). Archetypally, perhaps inmates are feeling a perinatal sense of entrapment with "absolutely no way out." Addiction is also a prison, often with absolutely no way out. Prison guards are also in prison--the difference being that they go home every day. Maybe the prison guard and the inmate have unconsciously chosen to be safe within the walls of prison, much like the safety of the womb before that violent, traumatic entry into the world. I must consider the possibility that there is not much difference between the inmate and the prison guard, police officer, or the parole and probation officer. Many years ago if someone had suggested this theorem to me, I would have scoffed at the absurdity of it. Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis--all things are in the process of change, we also are in the process of change among them. Conclusion:

Considering my personal experience with prison and its constituents, I am afraid I have inadvertently lain bare a prejudice that I am trying to reverse, for at one time I hated most authority figures. It is unfathomable to me today to think what the world would be like without police officers. In my quest for self-exploration, it is my view that the world is flawed but capable of being improved, and this places me firmly in the tradition of meliorism--that middle ground between optimism and pessimism.

Another archetype personified by criminalized male drug addicts is the Trickster, which is too lengthy to be included here. The puer/senex and trickster archetypes characterize addictive behavior (in all societies and during any time period of human experience), which is what makes them archetypes. For more information on the trickster, go to my website at www.ScumbagSewerRats.com


Frankel, Richard. (1998). The Adolescent Psyche: Jungian and Winnicottian Perspectives. New York: Routledge.

Fromm, Erich. (1973). The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Gilligan, James. (1996). Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. New York: Vintage Books.

Grof, Stanislav. (2000). Psychology of the Future: Lessons From Modern Consciousness Research. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Hillman, James. (1970). On Senex Consciousness. Spring: An Annual of Archetypal Psychology and Jungian Thought. Dallas, Texas: Spring Publications.

Hillman, James. (1989). A Blue Fire. New York: Harper and Row Publishers. Jung, C.G. (1967). Alchemical Studies. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Kipnis, Aaron. (1999). Angry Young Men: How Parents, Teachers, and Counselors Can Help "Bad Boys" Become Good Men. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Moore, T. (1994). "Artismis and the Puer," in Puer Papers. Dallas, Texas: Spring Publications.

Morwood, James. (1998). A Dictionary of Latin Words and Phrases. New York: Oxford University Press.

Nakken, Craig. (1988). The Addictive Personality: Understanding Compulsion in Our Lives. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row Publishers.

Sharp, Daryl. (1991). C.G. Jung Lexicon:A Primer of Terms & Concepts. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.

Author's Bio: 

After 40 arrests, five formal probations, four country jail sentences, and a prison term (as a result of chemical dependency), I turned my life around. I was released from prison in Dec 1989, and have been clean and sober since. I started at Barstow College in Feb 1990. Received my AA degree in '92 from Barstow College in Barstow, CA; BA in '94 from Chapman University in Orange CA; MHS in 98 from National University in San Diego CA, and finished with a Ph.D. from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA in Feb 2004. I have taught as an adjunct instructor for Park University and Barstow College. I can be contacted through my website www.ScumbagSewerRats.com or directly to my email account ScumbagSewerRats@verizon.net