Evolution, Jung, and Theurgy:
IV. Some Implications for Neoplatonism

C. Individual Variation

Before continuing, however, there is an issue that must be mentioned, for the genome is a mathematical abstraction.  No living human has precisely this “ideal” form.  Rather, each of our genotypes differs somewhat from this norm.  The differences are quite small: less than one percent of the genome.  Nevertheless, as a consequence, it is possible that the archetypal Ideas differ somewhat for each of us.  This conclusion might seem to contradict the idea of a collective unconscious, common to all humans, but it does not.

Genetic variation is a biological fact, but it still makes sense to talk about “the human liver” and “the human face,” despite individual differences.  So also it makes sense to talk of “the human genome,” and of such universal archetypes as the Monad or the Great Mother.  Nevertheless, the fact of genetic variation requires us to revise our view of the archetypal Ideas.  Since we each have a different genotype, it is possible, at least, that the archetypes present a slightly different face to each of us.

This will be clearer if we consider the most obvious genetic difference among humans: sex.  Female and male genotypes differ in that females have two X chromosomes, but males have an X and a Y.  This leads to sexual dimorphism in the human species: there are two distinct body forms within our species.  Furthermore, in humans as in other species, sexual dimorphism leads to differences in the perceptual-behavioral structures associated with procreation and other complex behaviors.  In particular, we may say that the gods treat men and women somewhat differently.  This is most apparent in the area of sexuality (Aphrodite, we may say, presents a different face to men and women), but in other areas as well.  Any sex-linked genes, that is, genes that reside on the sex chromosomes, may lead to sexual dimorphism.  Furthermore, sexual differences may alter the expression of other genes that do not reside on the sex chromosomes (e.g., through the medium of hormones).

On the one hand, we have seen that, in spite of genotypic differences, it makes sense to talk of a common human liver or human face.  On the other hand, because of sexual dimorphism, it also makes sense to talk of a male body and a female body.  The same holds for the archetypal Ideas, which are implicit in the genome.  Many of them are universal throughout humankind.  On the other hand, sexual dimorphism is to be expected in the archetypal realm just as much as in the physical realm.  The general picture is clear, but much empirical research will be required to unravel the specifics.

An individual’s genotype is derived from and related to the genotypes of that individual’s parents, as their genotypes relate to their parents’.  Thus an individual’s genotype is at the root of a tree of genotypic similarities exactly parallel to the individual’s family tree.  This tree also represents inherited similarities in individual relations to the archetypal realm.  As a consequence there may be differences in the relations of the gods with different families.  Indeed, some families may be blessed, others cursed, by a deity.  Thus the chorus in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon addresses the “Daimôn that falls upon the house and the two sons of Tantalus,” which Clytemnestra calls the “thrice glutted daimôn of this race” (Ag. 1468, 1475-6).  This is a δαίμων γέννης, the daimôn of a kinship group (see below for more on daimôns).

I can put this in more concrete and perhaps more plausible terms.  We are learning from the rapidly developing field of behavioral genetics that heritable factors may predispose individuals to various complex psychological traits.  Thus, for example, it certainly would be worthwhile for someone to know if their ancestors were in the lineage of Saturn and subject to his melancholia, since then they could practice theurgical operations to invite other deities into their life and mitigate the Saturnian influence.  Ficino, in his Liber de Vita, discusses this example in detail (see especially Bk. I).

Nevertheless, these familial influences are minor parochial variations on a much larger shared theme.  Therefore I will return my attention to the common archetypal Ideas of all people, and their roots in the human genome.

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