Soliton (saintbryan) wrote,

Projection in "Notes on Kabbalah"

This is an excerpt from the book "Notes on Kabbalah" about the psychological phenomenon called Projection. The author, Colin Low I think is a bastion of good sense. This excerpt is from the section on Netzach, the sphere of Ve

We all tend to identify feelings and characteristics in other people which we
find in ourselves and when we get it right it is called "empathy"
or "intuition"; when we get it wrong it is called "projection",
because we are incorrectly projecting our feelings, needs,
motives, or desires onto another person and interpreting their
behaviour accordingly. Some level of projection is unavoidable,
and at best it can be balanced with a critical awareness that it
can occur, but projection is insidious, and the strength of
feeling associated with a projection can easily overwhelm any
intellectual awareness. Projection usually "feels right".

One of the most overwhelming forms of projection accompanies
sexual desire. Why do I find one person sexually attractive and
not another? Why do I find some characteristics in a person
sexually attractive but not others? In my own case I discovered
that when I put together all the characteristics I found most
attractive in a person a consistent picture emerged of an "ideal
person", and every person I had ever considered as a possible
sexual partner was instantly compared against this template. In
fact there was more than one template, more than one ideal, but
the number was limited and each template was very clearly
defined, and most importantly, each template was internal. My
sexual (and often many other feelings) about a person were based
on an internal and apparently arbitrary internal template. This
was crazy; I found my sexual feelings about a person would change
depending on how they dressed or behaved, on how well they
"matched the ideal". It became obvious that what I was in love
with did not exist outside of myself, and I was trying to find
this ideal in everyone else. Each one of these "templates" was a
living aspect of myself which I had chosen not to regard as "me",
and in compensation I spent much of my time trying to find people
to bring these parts to life, like a director auditioning actors
and actresses for a part in a new play. If a person previously
identified as ideal failed to live up to my notion of how they
should be ideally behaving then I would project a fault on them:
there was something wrong with *them*! Madness indeed.

The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung [1] recognised this
phenomenon and gave these idealised and projected components of
our psyche the title "archetype". Jung identified several
archetypes, and it is worth mentioning the major and most

The Anima is the ideal female archetype. She is part
genetic, part cultural, a figure molded by fashion and
advertising, an unconscious composite of woman in the abstract.
The Anima is common in men, where she can appear with riveting
power in dreams and fantasy, a projection brought to life by the
not inconsiderable power of the male sexual drive. She might be
meek and submissive, seductive and alluring, vampish and
dangerous, a cheap slut or an unattainable goddess - there is no
"standard anima", but there are many recognisable patterns which
can have a powerful hold on particular men. Male sexual fantasy
material is amazingly predictable, cliched, unimaginitive and
crude, and contains a limited number of steroetyped views of
women which are as close to a "lowest common denominator anima"
as one is likely to find.

The Animus is the ideal male archetype, and much of what is
true about the Anima is true of the Animus. There are
differences; the predominant quality in the Anima is her
appearance and behaviour, while the predominant quality in the
Animus is social power and competence. In the interests of sexual
equality it is worth mentioning that female romantic fantasy
material is amazingly predictable, cliched, unimaginitive and
crude, and contains a limited number of stereotype views of men
which are as close to a "lowest common denominator animus" as one
is likely to find.

The Shadow is the projection of "not-me" and contains
forbidden or repressed desires and impulses. In most men the
Anima is repressed and in most women the Animus is repressed, and
so both form a component of the Shadow. The major part of the
Shadow however is composed of forbidden impulses, and the Shadow
forms a personification of evil. Much of what is considered evil
is defined socially and the communal personification of evil as
an external force working against humankind (such as Satan) is

The Persona is the mask a person wears as a member of a
community when a large proportion of his or her behaviour is
defined by a role such as doctor, teacher, manager, accountant,
lawyer or whatever. Projection occurs in two ways: firstly,
someone may be expected to conform to a role in a particularly
rigid or stereotyped way, and so suffer a loss of individuality
and probably a degree of misplaced trust or prejudice. Secondly,
many people identify with a role to the extent that they carry
that role into all aspects of their private lives. This
"projection onto self" is a form of identification - see
the section on Tiphereth.

The archetype of Self at the level of Hod and Netzach is
usually projected as an ideal form of person; that is, someone
will believe that he or she is highly imperfect creature and it
is possible to attain an ideal state of being in which the same
person is kind, loving, wise, forgiving, compassionate, in
harmony with the Absolute, or whatever. This projection will
either fasten on a living or dead person, who then becomes a
hero, heroine, guru, or master with grossly inflated abilities,
or it fastens on a vision of "myself made perfect". The projected
vision of "myself made perfect" is common (almost universal)
among those seeking "spiritual development", "esoteric training",
and other forms of self-improvement, and in almost every case it
is based on an abstract ideal. The person will probably insist
that the ideal has existed in certain rare individuals (usually
long dead saints and gurus, or someone who lives a long way off
whom they haven't met), and that is the sort of person they want
to be. It should be comical, but it isn't. There is more to say
about this and it will keep till the section on Tiphereth.

The book is available only online, and is really, really well worth a read for anyone even vaguely interested in this thing called "Kabbalah."
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