The Meaning of America

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”  Dr. Carl G. Jung 

When I was a boy, my brother and I fought often.  I no longer know why, but we often ended the day with a wrestling match, and being the older and stronger, I was often getting the better of my brother.  At one point of time, when America was glorifying boxing far more than it does today, my Father bought us boxing gloves.

When I was 12 and my brother 10, we decided to have a boxing match in our driveway.  I definitely got the better of my brother that day, and I’m not sure he was ever the same afterward.  He died at the age of 39, from other causes not related to our boxing match.

I loved my brother dearly and I know he loved me.  There is one primary reason for that, and that was the intercession of my Mother.   Often when we fought, my Father would come home from work to chastise us in some way.  When we were five and under that was with a spanking, but as we grew up we feared his cutting words even more, but this chastisement did not reconcile us.  I can no longer even imagine how many times we fought.

It was only my Mother, who was the healing influence.  She poured unconditional love on the wounds, and created a reconciliation of spirit and matter between us, which grew into brotherly love.  We were inseparable.  When I was 15 and my brother 13, we beat a former Captain of the Naval Academy sailing team in a sailboat race in the Star Class—at the time the 2-man keelboat used in the Olympics.

My Mother’s words were the balm that let us heal our differences.  Whenever I hear the song “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel, I think of my brother, rather than the lovers the author had in mind:

“So I would choose to be with you

That’s if the choice were mine to make

But you can make decisions too

And you can have this heart to break


“And so it goes, and so it goes

And you’re the only one who knows” 

As I think of the bond between my brother and me, I think also of my many friends, who fight with me constantly over political issues.  For many years I have contemplated the Meaning of America, and the factors that made it the strong country it is today.  What is it about our country that would make all of us fight for it, regardless of our political opinions?

Over the years I came to recognize, from Dr. Jung’s teaching about alchemy, that the something that would cause us all to fight for our country is what Jungian psychologists call a Rebis.    That is the end product of the alchemical magnum opus or great work.  In this context, a nation is like the cooking pot, into which the ancient alchemist put his ingredients, as is every organization or human grouping, including a family.

The Rebis is formed through various stages of putrefaction and purification, separating opposing qualities until those qualities are united once more into something new, which amounts to a reconciliation of the parts.  My Mother played the alchemist’s role between my brother and me, creating in the process an inseparable bond.

In the same sense, my friends and I have this inseparable bond, which would make us fight for our country together.  We are members of other groups, which have their own Rebis, but which also form ingredients to the strength of the nation.  Many of us went to high school in a U.S. Navy run high school in Japan.  We recently had a reconfirmation of that Rebis at a reunion.  We know we share an incomparable experience, and it is something we cannot share with others.  They just would not understand. 

 In my case, I served in the U.S. Marine Corps.  The spirit of our Corps is legendary.  We came from every place and group of the United States, with many different ideas, but we were forged into a Rebis of one thing, which cannot be broken among us, and which cannot be described fully in words.  Only Marines ever know what this is, and other military organizations envy it.  Funnily enough, our Drill Sergeant or Platoon Sergeant served in the role of both Father and Mother in this alchemical process.  Only Marines will know what I mean.  We’re the only ones who know. 

Many of my other friends are Veterans, and as another kind of group, we too share a Rebis.  Those who have not served cannot fully appreciate what that Rebis is either.  We’re the only ones who know.   As my other readers can only imagine, serving for something larger than oneself, creates a special bond that cannot be broken.

But Veterans are not the only ones, who make contributions to being American.  All of my fellow Americans provide ingredients into the American alchemical vas—our so-called “melting pot”.  Some of those ingredients are putrefaction, and are cooked away, but they all contribute to the purification of our American Rebis.  The ingredients come from teachers, artists, doctors, nurses, carpenters, plumbers, and yes, even gardeners.

America now suffers from a neurotic schizophrenia in our political environment.  Like brothers who cannot stop fighting, our news media and televised debates keep bringing boxing gloves in new forms and in greater quantities, so that we can beat the tar out of our opponents.  Our leaders keep chastising us for our behavior, but keep right on promoting it, so the schism does not improve.  These are poisonous ingredients for our future, regardless of which side pours them into the cooking pot.

We need someone who can see that as one whole America is stronger, and who can see the great mission of our country for the future.  We need someone who can rise above our neurotic feud, and provide the balm that will fuse us into the nation that can lead humanity in the 21st Century.

This person need not be a woman, per se, but this person must be someone who can see that the value of our country is that it has promoted the development of the human spirit to its highest attainment so far through its Freedoms.   We need someone who can provide the Vision of the value of those Freedoms to leaders around the world.  

It will take some knuckleheads longer than others to see the Vision, but that is the nature of knuckleheads—just as brothers cannot see what their special bond will be in a mature family, but a Mother knows.  We need someone who has the Vision to know that in the end we need a mature human family.

America needs a Mother!


Special thanks to Dr. Jean Raffa, who provided some of the insights on the Mother archetype in her blog, Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom.

 Image Credit: Statue of Liberty: ID 26191505 © Sborisov |

Skip Conover is an international businessman, author and artist. He is a Founder of the Archetype in Action™ Organization .  You can follow him and his work on Twitter using @skip_conover  or on Pinterest .  Skip's latest book is Political Psychology: New Ideas for Activists.  He is also the author of Tsunami of Blood  .  


Jung for Laymen

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