Sunteți pe pagina 1din 4

Puer aeternus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Puer aeternus is Latin for eternal boy, used in mythology to designate a child-god who is
forever young; psychologically, it is an older man whose emotional life has remained at an
adolescent level. 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. He covets independence and freedom,
chafes at boundaries and limits, and tends to find any restriction intolerable. [1]

1 The puer in mythology

2 The puer in Jungian psychology

2.1 Writings

3 Peter Pan syndrome

4 Notable modern-day Peter Pan

5 See also

6 Notes

7 Further reading

8 External links

The puer in mythology[edit]

The words, puer aeternus, come from Metamorphoses, an epic work by the Roman
poet Ovid (43 BC c.17 AD) dealing with Greek and Roman myths. In the poem, Ovid
addresses the child-god Iacchus as puer aeternus and praises him for his role in the Eleusinian
mysteries. Iacchus is later identified with the gods Dionysus and Eros. The puer is a god of
vegetation and resurrection, the god of divine youth, such as Tammuz, Attis and Adonis.[2] The
figure of a young god who is slain and resurrected also appears in Egyptian mythology as the
story of Osiris.

The puer in Jungian psychology[edit]

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung developed a school of thought called analytical
psychology, distinguishing it from the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud (18561939). In
analytical psychology (often called "Jungian psychology") the puer aeternus is an example of
what Jung called an archetype, one of the "primordial, structural elements of the human
The shadow of the puer is the senex (Latin for "old man"), associated with the god Cronus
disciplined, controlled, responsible, rational, ordered. Conversely, the shadow of thesenex is
the puer, related to Hermes or Dionysusunbounded instinct, disorder, intoxication, whimsy.[4]

Like all archetypes, the puer is bi-polar, exhibiting both a "positive" and a "negative" aspect.
The "positive" side of the puer appears as the Divine Child who symbolizes newness, potential
for growth, hope for the future. He also foreshadows the hero that he sometimes becomes
(e.g. Heracles). The "negative" side is the child-man who refuses to grow up and meet the
challenges of life face on, waiting instead for his ship to come in and solve all his problems.
"For the time being one is doing this or that, but whether it is a woman or a job, it is not
yet what is really wanted, and there is always the fantasy that sometime in the future the real
thing will come about.... The one thing dreaded throughout by such a type of man is to be
bound to anything whatever."[5]
"Common symptoms of puer psychology are dreams of an imprisonment and similar imagery:
chains, bars, cages, entrapment, bondage. Life experienced as a prison." [4]
When the subject is a female the Latin term is puella aeterna, imaged in mythology as
the Kore (Greek for "maiden").[6] One might also speak of a puer animus when describing the
masculine side of the female psyche, or a puella anima when speaking of a man's inner
feminine component.


Cover of 1915 edition of J.M. Barrie's novel, first published in 1911.

C.G. Jung wrote a paper on the puer aeternus, "The Psychology of the Child Archetype",
contained in Part IV of The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (Collected Works, Vol.
9i). The hero-child aspect and his relationship to the Great Mother is dealt with in chapters 4
and 5 of Part Two of Symbols of Transformation (Collected Works, Vol. 5).[7] In his essay
"Answer to Job" (contained in Psychology and Religion: West and East, Vol. 11 of the
Collected Works; but also published separately) Jung refers to the puer aeternus as a figure
representing the future psychological development of human beings.
"That higher and 'complete' (teleios) man is begotten by the 'unknown' father and born from
Wisdom, and it is he who, in the figure of the puer aeternus'vultu mutabilis albus et ater'[8]
represents our totality, which transcends consciousness. It was this boy into whom Faust had
to change, abandoning his inflated onesidedness which saw the devil only outside. Christ's

'Except ye become as little children' prefigures this change, for in them the opposites lie close
together; but what is meant is the boy who is born from the maturity of the adult man, and not
the unconscious child we would like to remain."[9]
The Problem of the Puer Aeternus is a book based on a series of lectures that Jungian
analyst Marie-Louise von Franz gave at the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich, during the Winter
Semester, 19591960. In the first eight of twelve lectures, von Franz illustrates the theme of
thepuer aeternus by examining the story of The Little Prince from the book of the same name
by Antoine de Saint-Exupry. The remaining four lectures are devoted to a study of a German
novel by Bruno Goetz, Das Reich ohne Raum (The Kingdom Without Space), first published in
1919. Of this novel von Franz says:
"It is interesting that it was written and published before the Nazi movement came into being in
1933, before Hitler was ruminating on his morbid ideas. Bruno Goetz certainly had a prophetic
gift about what was coming, and ... his book anticipates the whole Nazi problem, throwing light
upon it from the angle of the puer aeternus".[10]
Now or Neverland is a 1998 book written by Jungian analyst Ann Yeoman dealing with the puer
aeternus in the form of Peter Pan, one of the most well-known examples of the concept in the
modern era. The book is a psychological overview of the eternal boy archetype, from its
ancient roots to contemporary experience, including a detailed interpretation of J. M. Barrie's
popular play and novel.
"Mythologically, Peter Pan is linked to...the young god who dies and is well as to
Mercury/Hermes, psychopomp and messenger of the gods who moves freely between the
divine and human realms, and, of course, to the great goat-god Pan.... In early performances
of Barrie's play, Peter Pan appeared on stage with both pipes and a live goat. Such
undisguised references to the chthonic, often lascivious and far from childlike goat-god were,
not surprisingly, soon excised from both play and novel." [11]

Peter Pan syndrome[edit]

See also: Boomerang Generation
Peter Pan syndrome is the pop-psychology concept of an adult (usually male[12]) who is socially
immature. The category is an informal one invoked by laypeople and some psychology
professionals in popular psychology. It is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders, and is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a
specific mental disorder.
Dr. Dan Kiley popularized the Peter Pan syndrome in his 1983 book, The Peter Pan
Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up;[13] his next book, The Wendy Dilemma (1984),
advises women romantically involved with "Peter Pans" how to improve their relationships. [14]
An example of the Peter Pan syndrome is used in Aldous Huxley's 1962 novel Island. In it, one
of the characters talks about male "dangerous delinquents" and "power-loving troublemakers"
who are "Peter Pans". These types of males were "boys who can't read, won't learn, don't get
on with anyone, and finally turn to the more violent forms of delinquency." He uses Adolf Hitler
as an archetype of this phenomenon:[15]
A Peter Pan if ever there was one. Hopeless at school. Incapable either of competing or cooperating. Envying all the normally successful boysand, because he envied, hating them
and, to make himself feel better, despising them as inferior beings. Then came the time for
puberty. But Adolf was sexually backward. Other boys made advances to girls, and the girls
responded. Adolf was too shy, too uncertain of his manhood. And all the time incapable of
steady work, at home only in the compensatory Other World of his fancy. There, at the very
least, he was Michelangelo. Here, unfortunately, he couldn't draw. His only gifts were hatred,

low cunning, a set of indefatigable vocal cords and a talent for nonstop talking at the top of his
voice from the depths of his Peter-Panic paranoia. Thirty or forty million deaths and heaven
knows how many billions of dollarsthat was the price the world had to pay for little Adolf's
retarded maturation.
Aldous Huxley, Island

Notable modern-day Peter Pan[edit]

A prominent example of a celebrity with Peter Pan syndrome was Michael Jackson,[16][17] who
said, "I am Peter Pan in my heart".[18] Jackson named the 2,700-acre Los Olivos,
California property, where he lived from 1988 to 2005, Neverland Ranch[19][20] after Neverland,
the fantasy island on which Peter Pan lives. He said that it was his way of claiming a childhood
he never had, having started early as a performing artist with his family.[16][17] He had built there
numerous statues of children, a floral clock, a petting zoo, a movie theater, and a private
amusement park containing cotton candy stands, two railroads, a Ferris
wheel, carousel, Zipper, Octopus, Pirate Ship, Wave Swinger, Super Slide, roller coaster, gokarts, bumper cars, a tipi village, and an amusement arcade;[21][22] As The New York Daily
News staff writer, Carrie Milago, reported on 26 June 2009: "On Jackson's dime, thousands of
schoolchildren visited over the years, from local kids to sick youngsters from far away." Visitors
"often recalled it as dreamlike", she observed.[23] A preschool teacher visiting the site told USA
Today in 2003, Neverland "smells like cinnamon rolls, vanilla and candy and sounds like
children laughing".[23]