Myth & Justice III (“Modern Day Jousting”)

Bexar County Courthouse - Lady JusticeThe last entry discussed the Roman Polanski case in the context of the spirit- and heart- (or blood-) souls dueling within and between both individuals and cultures.  Mythfire has had conversations with readers/friends whose very different “takes” on the Polanski case demonstrate these two souls in a most striking fashion. Each side, or soul, is unequivocally and passionately convinced that his/her side is the correct one. Again, the line of argument goes something like this:

Spirit Soul: “I don’t care what Polanski has done since he was arrested in terms of his contributions to society and cinema. And I don’t care about the loss of his parents in the Holocaust or Sharon Tate to the Manson murders. That is all tragic, no question, and it is great that he’s made those contributions to art and society. However, this is all secondary to the fact that he raped a girl – or at the very least had unlawful sexual intercourse with her as a minor – AND then he illegally fled the country! He must be held accountable for his violations just like anyone else! No one is above the law!!”

Heart/Blood Soul: “Polanski only fled because the judge in the case kept adding more hoops for him to jump through.  And that ‘unlawful sex with a minor’ charge, come on! She had had sex before. On some level she knew what she was getting into when she allowed herself to be alone with Polanski and things transpired the way they did. Anyway, can we ever know for certain what went on in that room between the two of them? No! And we shouldn’t crucify Polanski when it’s equally possible, even likely, that it wasn’t rape at all. Finally, the girl, now a woman, has time and again said she doesn’t want this case back in the public eye. She has forgiven Polanski and even settled out of court with him. That should be all that matters. If you don’t question what really happened between them and you don’t have a heart for Polanski considering everything he’s gone through in life, at least have a heart for the girl. Have a heart for this woman.”

Even though we might not fully identify with either side as summarized above, perhaps we can identify with enough of it to see that there are indeed two primary warring sides or souls. Unfortunately, the tension and frustration only increase when we realize that each side or soul has read the same articles, news reports, court transcripts, etc., and yet they’ve somehow arrived at completely opposite convictions! Clearly, more information is not the key to resolving this matter. So – how is one to ever hope for a positive resolution much less the “greater restraint and civility” spoken of at the end of the last entry?!!?

Here is another question: after considering the Polanski case, can we at all be surprised to learn that the word justice is etymologically linked through its Middle English forms (justen, jousten) to the word joust? Ironically, justice means law and order, but it also means the jousting that must take place between opposing sides if that law and order is to occur.

As this entry moves forward, perhaps it is necessary to first state the obvious: some sort of law and order, some system of justice is needed for society to function in a healthy cohesive manner. This need was recognized early on, no doubt as humans struggled, or jousted, with their warring spirit- and heart-souls in ancient cases similar to the Polanski one today. In psychological parlance, this judicial jousting is called holding the tension of the opposites. The idea, according to Jung, is to hold the tension between the two conflicting energies until a symbolic image of a third thing arises from within the psyche’s unconscious to unite, transform, and resolve the matter at hand.

Fortunately, an image, or symbol, did arise from within the psyche to unite, transform, and resolve the jousting inherent in our quest for justice: the Goddess Themis. As mentioned in the last entry, Themis was a Titan who was given a place at Zeus’s side on Mt. Olympus. Donleavy and Shearer provide a psychological understanding of this mythic marriage:

“What did Themis bring to this marriage between Titans and Olympians? The root of her name is the verb tithemi, which means to place, to set and lay down, and also to fix and determine. So Themis brings the boundaries and right order set not by human rules or laws, but by that which underlies them – an archetypal order which is both natural and divine.” (34) *

Future entries will undoubtedly shed further light on the psychological understanding of archetypes. For the moment what’s important is the idea that the boundaries and right order established and maintained by today’s judicial system is the product not of the rational mind but of eternal energies (archetypes) which have come up out of the psyche and taken symbolic/imagistic form thus resolving and transforming a previously existing state of tense opposition. Hopefully, this proposed move from mind and rationality to psyche and the non-rational as originating source of ideas will free up some space in readers’ minds for a more psychological, less combative discussion to follow.

Whether this move happens or not, there is no denying that, as stated in the previous entry,  the global prevalence of the Themis image strongly suggests the embodiment of energies still alive in and important to the human psyche – especially when it comes to the idea of justice. Furthermore, this embodiment is made all the more powerful by the physical presence not only of the Goddess but also of her characteristic accoutrements, i.e. sword, scales, and blindfold. Each of these images packs a meaning of great import to the psyche’s notion of justice.

Mythfire takes up this meaning in the next entry: “Will Polanski Get Symbolic Justice?”


*Donleavy, Pamela and Ann Shearer. From Ancient Myth to Modern Healing: Themis, Goddess of Heart-Soul, Justice and Reconciliation. London: Routledge, 2008.

This entry was posted in Culture, Depth Psychology, Justice, Symbols. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.