Volume 2 Number 1, 1977


Patricia Monk

The Manticore,1 the middle book of Robertson Davies' Deptford trilogy, seems at first sight to be a very simple book, appearing to one reviewer as "an engrossing primer on the precepts of Carl Jung"2 and to another as "unabashedly all about Jung."3 But it is a delusive simplicity, for although the Jungian frame of reference is firmly set up in the narrative of David's progress through the Jung Institute in Zürich by way of his analysis with Doctor von Haller, it is immediately (somewhat surreptitiously at first, but after the reappearance of Liesl unmistakably) undercut. My contention is that Davies, far from committing himself to Jungian theory in this novel, in fact reveals a profound ambivalence about its value.

This ambivalence is developed in a number of ways. The first suggestion of it is found in David's description of the Jung Institute. The emphasis is apparently on solid, down-to-earth, everyday reality. He finds the Institute in "one of those tall Zürich houses with a look that is neither domestic nor professional but has a smack of both" (p. 6) and is vaguely disconcerted by it:

I think I expected something that would combine the feeling of a clinic with the spookiness of a madhouse in a bad film. But this was -well, it was Swiss. Very Swiss, for though there was nothing of the cuckoo clock, or the bank, or milk chocolate about it, it had a sort of domesticity shorn of coziness, a matter-of-factness within which one could not be quite sure of its facts, that put me at a disadvantage. (p. 6)

The realism is further emphasized by David's disappointment at the ordinariness of things. Dr. Tschudi's office has "no couch - nothing but a desk and two chairs and a lamp or two and some pictures" (p. 6), and Dr. von Haller's study is equally ordinary: "rather dark and filled with books, and a few pieces of modern statuary" (p. 20). The emphasis on the real and ordinary in the setting is again reinforced by the portrait of Dr. von Haller herself as a thoroughly average and rather attractive professional woman (pp. 10- 11). Nevertheless, the emphasis on the real and ordinary throws into sharp relief two "unordinary" things which David notices. There is a curiously ambivalent phrase in the description of the house in which the Jung Institute is situated, a house that has "a matter-of-factness within which one could not be quite sure of its facts" (p. 6). The same note is repeated in David's response to the presence of Dr. Tschudi's Alsatian: "But I received the impression - I am rather good at receiving impressions - that the doctor met some queer customers in that very Swiss little room, and the dog might be useful as more than a companion" (p. 6). These sinister notes in the middle of the realism are linked with the "lions in the way" warning which Dr. von Haller gives David, so that an ironic undercurrent of danger runs through the narrative precisely where David might expect to be safest - with his analyst.

David's ignorance of Jung - "Of the Jungians I knew nothing" (p. 9) - is used to bring out the differences between Jungian and Freudian psychology. In this discussion the undercurrent of ambivalence is minimal. But David's ignorance provides opportunity, of course, not merely for an exposition of the difference between Jungian and Freudian theory, but also for an exposition of Jungian theory itself. In this exposition the ambivalence becomes more marked. Dr. von Haller explains the principles and processes to him as they come up, and these explanations concern three major topics, of which the first is the analytic process.

The Jungian analyst's role can be defined in terrms of listening and helping. "My job is to listen to people say things they very badly want to tell but are afraid nobody else will understand," Dr. von Haller explains (p. 13). She also reassures David, "I am not going to do anything to you. I am going to help you in the process of becoming yourself" (p. 69). But there are limits to the help which the analyst can provide: "But if the dangers are inescapable and possibly destructive, don't think that I can help you to fly over them. There will be lions in the way. I cannot pull their teeth or tell them to make paddy-paws; I can only give you some useful tips about lion-taming" (p. 69). Dr. von Haller's responsibility also includes providing a map of the route analysis will take:

We generally begin with what we call anamnesis.... We look at your history, and meet some people there whom you may know or perhaps you don't, but who are portions of yourself. We take a look at what you remember, and at some things you thought you had forgotten. As that goes on we find we are going much deeper. And when that is satisfactorily explored, we decide whether to go deeper still, to that part of you which is beyond the unique, to the common heritage of mankind. (p. 71)

This acts as an outline guide to the structure of the section, with its swift changes from narration to dialogue, as it follows David's narrative and the interjected discussions, as well as points forward beyond it. The whole explanation of analytic theory is designed, apart from informing the reader, to use David's intellect or intelligence as much as possible, for intelligent cooperation will esentially make the analysis easier.

The second major topic which Dr. von Haller must introduce to David and to the reader is the Jungian theory of dream interpretation. David finds it difficult to accept this: "Nor did I like the dream-interpretation game, which contradicted every rule of evidence known to me" (p. 19). But, as Dr. von Haller points out, "legal evidence and psychological evidence are quite different things" (p. 67), and the value of dreams to the analyst is that they are evidence from the unconscious. Dr. von Haller's explanation of dream interpretation is by no means an exposition of the whole theory. What she tells David about it is designed as a primer of its fundamentals for David and, through him, for the reader. But it is further intended to "educate" his weak emotional side, just as her explanation of the theory of analytic process is designed to take advantage of his highly-developed "thinking function" in order to facilitate the work of the analysis.

The theory of functions has to be introduced for the same double reason: to assist David in making the best of his analysis and to inform the reader, through David, of what is going on. Esther Harding explains the basic theory of the function types in Journey into Self. "The four functions -thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition - correspond to the four aspects of reality to which the human being must make an adaptation. Each individual has one superior function which is his preferred way of approach to life."4 David's response when it is explained to him demonstrates how the function types operate in his life on an everyday level. His first reaction is to relate it to his academic work: "Yes, I recalled Plato's theory of our fourfold means of apprehension" (p. 101). This, together with his use of the term "a rational man" to indicate his idea of the cultural norm, indicates that his superior function is "thinking," which Dr. von Haller confirms (p. 101). But his behaviour also confirms and illustrates Dr. von Haller's comment on his undeveloped feeling. One of the things that happens when the superior function is as highly developed as David's is that the operations of the other functions tend to be disguised as though they were operations of the superior one. David insists that he made his decision to go to Zürich "on a basis of reason" (p. 8), but Dr. von Haller disallows this: "your decision to come here was a cry for help, however carefully you may have disguised it as a decision based on reason or a sentence imposed on yourself by your intellect" (p. 103). It is typical of an overdeveloped "thinker" to react to the operation of feeling in his life, when it is pointed out to him, as though it were a threat to his whole way of life; David's response to the idea that he uttered "a cry for help" is exactly of this sort: "So I am to dethrone my Intellect and set Emotion in its place" (p. 103). But this response in itself is an emotional response as Dr. von Haller is quick to point out: "There it is, you see! When your unsophisticated Feeling is aroused you talk like that" (p. 103). One of the objects of David's analysis is to understand the operation of the functions in his personality. But, beyond this, Dr. von Haller's explanation serves to facilitate other aspects of his work, as I have pointed out, by showing him where his strong superior function is useful and where his weak inferior function is a drawback.

In all of this instruction, the reader is learning as David learns. But the ambivalence of the author's attitude is made visible by the device of constantly undercutting the analytic process by means of the narrator's responses and criticisms of it in the course of listening to his analyst's exposition of the theory and of undergoing that theory in practice. David is shown distrusting psychotherapy from the beginning (p. 4), and his reasons for choosing a Jungian rather than a Freudian analyst are purely ironic:

Of the Jungians I knew nothing, except that the Freudians disliked them, and one of my acquaintances who was in a Freudian analysis had once said something snide about people who went to Zürich.... But with a perversity that often overtakes me when I have a personal decision to make I had decided to give it a try. The Jungians had two negative recommendations: the Freudians hated them, and Zürich was a long way from Toronto. (p. 9)

David's continued resistance to the process is shown in his response to, key concepts. He distrusts dream interpretation: "I ... swallowed [part of one such interpretation] and admitted with reluctance that it might be true" (p. 100); and he has reservations about the concept of the Unconscious: "I haven't completely swallowed the idea of the Unconscious" (p. 179). Dr. von Haller meets the criticisms with reasoned argument. In this way David's resistance provides for the introduction of information necessary to the reader, while at the same time forming an undercurrent of criticism which is the other aspect of the novel's ambivalence, but which only comes into focus in the last section.

The ambivalence is further manifested in the presentation of the characteristic figures of David's anamnesis. It is not, however, a typical analysis, for no Jungian analysis can be typical:

It is . . . useless to cast furtive glances at the way someone else is developing, because each of us has a unique task of self-realization. Although many human problems are similar, they are never identical.... Because of these factors of sameness and difference, it is difficult to summarize the infinite variations of the process of individuation. The fact is that each person has to do something different, something that is uniquely his own.5

Because David is unique (as Dr. von Haller reassures him), his self-realization will thus be unique. But she also adds that because he is a human being, his self-realization will include those elements which make self-realization a human process: "we are members of the human race, as well, and our unique quality has limits" (p. 68). The principal elements of self-realization are, in Dr. von Haller's phrase, "the Comedy Company of the Psyche": "In my profession we call them archetypes, which means that they represent and body forth patterns toward which human behaviour seems to be disposed; patterns which repeat themselves endlessly, but never in precisely the same way" (p. 229). They are the Shadow, the Anima (since David is a man, his soul is feminine), and the Magus; the figure of the Great Mother, which is the fourth of the major archetypes, is absent. What is of most interest in the account of these figures as they appear in David's life is the unusual features which they present, since it is by this device that Davies suggests that David does not quite fit into the standard pattern of the analysand.

The Shadow is the first to be dealt with, since it lies between the conscious and the rest of the unconscious. David's encounter with his Shadow, both internally and externally as projected onto Maitland Quelch, is dealt with very briefly in the narrative. He breaks off from his story at the point where he is talking about his Cruikshank grandparents, and this interruption is followed by a concise but nonspecific report of what Dr. von Haller has said about the Shadow:

It was at this point Dr. von Haller moved into a realm that was new in our relationship. She talked quite a long time about the Shadow, that side of oneself to which so many real but rarely admitted parts of one's personality must be assigned. . . . Slowly, as we talked, a new concept of Staunton-as-Son-of-a-Bitch emerged, and for a few days he gave me the shivers. But there he was. He had to be faced, not only in this, but in a thousand instances, for if he were not understood, none of his good qualities could be redeemed. (p. 92)

In part, such brief treatment may be due to the fact that there can be no guidelines for dealing with the Shadow, as Jung himself admitted: "It is a very difficult and important question, what you call the technique of dealing with the shadow. There is, as a matter of fact, no technique at all."6 Although we are led to assume that David has recognized and reconciled himself to his Shadow, the bearer of his projection of it still creates in him a certain irritation, not only in his later discussions with Dr. von Haller, but also in the third section of the narrative where Matey has got himself into the trouble which David forecast he would (pp. 136, 265). This may well be due to the prospective demands of the novel arising from its position as the middle of a trilogy, as well as to the inherent difficulties of the encounter with the Shadow. Although for the purposes of the analysis David's Shadow may have been dealt with to Dr. von Haller's satisfaction, David may very well have to face him again.

The next figure to emerge from the unconscious is not one of the four major archetypes, but the complementary figure to the Shadow, the Friend, or, in Harding's term, the "companion":

After the shadowy, even shady, elements of the personal unconscioushave been brought to light and dealt with, a more definite figure usually appears, which is also the shadow or alter ego, but it now carries those qualities that are compensatory to the ego personality and in addition it frequently brings the promise of completeness. In this form it is known as the companion.7

The encounter with the Friend is presented in more detail than the encounter with the Shadow. He is a positive (and rather appealing) figure, and David has no difficulty in accepting his presence or his significance, although he is at first surprised: "I was astonished when one night Felix came to me in a dream" (p. 107). There is a great deal of warmth. in his recollection of Felix, and characteristically David associates the appearance with a return to the state when emotion was acceptable: "Does his appearance now mean some sort of reversion to childhood?" (p. 135) In fact, the reappearance indicates an awakening of that part of David's psyche which has been dormant since childhood: "Only to an emotion you felt in childhood, and which does not seem to have been very common with you since" (p. 137). But Felix is not wholly explicable: he is described as an "Animal-Friend, and because an animal, related to the rather undeveloped instinctual side of your nature" (p. 177). He is one of the unusual features of David's analysis since "the Friend often appears as an animal, but rarely as a savage animal" (p. 139).

After the Friend has been recognized and the resolution is complete, the next figure to emerge from the unconscious for a confrontation with the Ego is the Anima:

She is the feminine part of your nature: she is all that you are able to see, and experience, in woman: she is not your mother, or any single one of the women you have loved, but you have seen all of them - at least in part - in terms of her. If you love a woman you project this image upon her, at least at the beginning, and if you hate a woman it is again the Anima at work, because she has a very disagreeable side. . . . She is Woman as she appears to every man, and to every man she appears somewhat differently, though essentially the same. (p. 180)

Having encountered the Shadow and the Friend already, David is prepared to accept an inner figure representing his idea of woman. His difficulty comes in recognizing the projection of his Anima onto Dr. von Haller: "If the Anima is my essential image, or pattern of woman, why does she look like you? Isn't this proof that I love you" (p. 181). His question suggests that by the word "pattern" he means an ideal in his head which has a living external counterpart whom he will one day meet. What happens in fact is that he projects his pattern like a disguise onto any woman who attracts him in some way: "The Anima must look like somebody. . . . But you can never see the Anima pure and simple, because she has no such existence; you will always see her in terms of something or somebody else" (p. 181). Part of the analyst's role, as she has already indicated to him, is to accept his projections and to play the parts assigned until he can understand the situation and recover the projection: "now we have reached the Anima, and I am she; I am as satisfactory casting for the role as I was for the Shadow or the Friend. But I must assure you that there is nothing personal about it" (p. 182). Judy is also an Anima figure for David, but he has not yet recovered this projection, a necessary task before he can be in a proper relationship to his Anima: "You will see her as she is now, and you will be delivered forever. So far as possible lay your ghosts . . ." (p. 211).

The most interesting feature of David's encounter with his Anima is the dream in which Dr. von Haller appears as the Sybil with a smile of "calm beauty" leading a manticore on a golden chain (p. 175). The Manticore is the dominant symbol of this section of the narrative. That it should make its appearance under the control of the Anima is significant in two ways. First, it places the symbol in the realm of the feminine in David's psyche, which is a curious situation in view of the fact that it is in the feminine realm that David's weakness lies; although his life has been rich in Anima-figures, as Dr. von Haller points out to him (p. 229), he has not achieved a good relationship with any of them. Second, the Anima is the Ego's guide to the unconscious which lies beyond her, the transpersonal or collective unconscious, for, according to Jung, the Anima is both "the ligamentum corporis et spiritus"8 and "the personification of the collective unconscious."9 The implication is that it is through the resolution of the Anima that David will achieve the proper relationship with his unconscious.

Following the encounter with the Anima comes the encounter with the Magus. In David's life the Magus appears as his Oxford law tutor, Pargetter:

A personal history like yours must include a few people whom it would be stupid to call stock characters, even though they appear in almost all complete personal histories. . . . And you have just been telling me about one of the most powerful of all, which we may call the Magus, or the Wizard, or the Guru, or anything that signifies a powerful formative influence toward the development of the total personality. Pargetter appears to have been a very fine Magus indeed: a blind genius who accepts you as an apprentice in his art! (pp- 228-29)

She describes him as "a very fine Magus indeed," betraying a collector's enthusiasm, but referring to the fact that Pargetter embodies the attributes of the Magus very distinctly: he is a genius, blind, and David's instructor in law, which is for David his "art" or "mystery." The combination inspires David: "This was precisely what I wanted and I came almost to worship Pargetter" (p. 217). The natural respect and admiration which such a teacher might evoke from any student is particularly strengthened in David's case by Pargetter's acknowledgment of him as almost a disciple. Furthermore, Pargetter is a bachelor with apparently little use for women; David himself admits that Pargetter may have had something to do with his rejection of sex. David pays for his art with a part of his life (although it must be pointed out that Pargetter only rounds off a process already started in David, since all of the older male figures in David's life - his father, Knopwood, Ramsay - are badly adjusted in their relationship to women). In his misogyny and in his blindness, Pargetter suggests one of the most powerful Magus figures in myth, Tiresias. It is partly because of this suggestion of the mythic in him and partly because, in Dr. von Haller's view, Pargetter deliberately affects the role of Magus in emphasizing his blindness, the teacher-pupil relationship, and the shunning of women that David is so powerfully affected. He never sees the real man: only his idea of the Magus projected onto Pargetter. And it is because he is so powerfully affected that he gets so much out of the relationship: "you might not have learned so much from him if you had seen him more fully; young people love such absolutes" (p. 252). He illustrates another of the unusual features of David's analysis because he appears quite late in David's development: "But he has just turned up, which is unusual though not seriously so. I had expected him earlier" (p. 229).

The Magus, one of the most powerful of the archetypes of the unconscious, is the last to be encountered in David's anamnesis. This anamnesis, however, raises but does not resolve two closely interrelated problems of David's life: his relationship with his father and his relationship with women (the latter appearing to be, at least in part, a consequence of the former). On the narrative level these problems are allowed to become visible, but are left unprobed, and Dr. von Haller suggests that the examination of David's whole complex of feelings and responses to the "idea of a father" (p. 263) has to be postponed until a later stage of analysis if David goes on:

Because your real father, your historical father, the man whom you last saw lying so pitiably on the dock with his face obscured in filth, and then so dishevelled in his coffin with his face destroyed by your stepmother's ambitious meddling, is by no means the same thing as the archetype of a fatherhood you carry in the depths of your being, and which comes from - well for the present we won't attempt to say where. (p. 264)

The nearest comment to an assessment of David's relationship with his father is Dr. von Haller's remark, "You may depend upon it that your father will not be forgotten. Indeed, it seems to me that he has been very much present ever since we began. We talk of him all the time. He may prove to be your Great Troll" (p. 231). But the fact that the problem is not discussed creates a slight catch in the narrative: the constant presence of Boy Staunton, unregarded, so to speak, creates an expectancy that is left unsatisfied.

To the series of unusual features in David's analytical encounters (that David's Animal-Friend is a savage animal, that the Magus figure appears comparatively late in David's life, and that David, in spite of his unsatisfactory relationships with women, is rich in Anima figures) must be added this anomaly of the unresolved "father problem." All these anomalies are deliberately drawn to the reader's attention by Dr. von Haller's comments on them, and the cumulative effect is to create an expectancy of something out of the ordinary about David, which is both denied and confirmed by Dr. von Haller. When David claims to have been having "remarkable spiritual - well, anyhow, psychological - adventures," Dr. von Haller contradicts him: "By no means, Mr. Staunton. Remarkable in your personal experience, which is what counts, but -forgive me - not at all remarkable in mine" (p. 260). But earlier she had used the phrase "a personal history like yours" immediately after telling David how lucky he has been because "not everybody encounters a Pargetter" (p. 228), indicating that David is, in fact, exceptional in at least one respect.

Furthermore, as one result of the expectancy created by these overt anomalies, yet another anomaly is brought into focus - the treatment of the Manticore. On the narrative level it is treated rather summarily - it is a figure in one of David's dreams. It is interpreted to him briefly in terms of his undeveloped feeling and of his professional manner in court. The only pointers to its importance in the section are that it is the eponymous figure of the novel as a whole and that we are explicitly told that "the Unconscious chooses its symbolism with breath-taking artistic virtuosity" (p. 179). However, the Manticore has another function in the novel besides its symbolism. Quite literally the Manticore is a monster, and the most obvious accompaniment of a monster is the hero who kills it (as, for example, in the myths of Perseus, Bellerophon, and Beowulf). Even Dr. von Haller herself has admitted that David has heroic potential: "It is the heroic way, and you have found it without help from anybody else. That suggests that heroic measures appeal to you, and that you are not really afraid of them" (p. 73). The emergence of the Manticore, so thoroughly and respectably Jungian in style, is in fact a further indication of Davies' ambivalence about Jungian analytical psychology. The killing of the monster is part of the hero's lift-pattern, sometimes called the hero-journey, "the way of life [which] passes through death."10 Parallels between the hero-journey and the analytic process of self-exploration have been drawn in Jungian terrms.

In dreams and myths, as well as in parable and allegory, man's inner life and the process of his inner development is almost constantly represented as a journey, a progress from one stage to the next. On the way persons and adventures are encountered and a goal is envisioned which may or may not be reached, but whose attainment is thought of as the climax and fulfillment of life's effort.11

Davies offers us, not the hero-journey as a symbolic analogue of analysis, but analysis as a symbolic analogue of the hero-journey, ironically revealing that analytical psychology is not a truly heroic mode.

The ironic treatment of this central symbol of the Manticore itself - even in combination with David's confrontation with the "unordinary" in the midst of the ordinary (in the Jung Institute) - of David's critical undercutting of Jungian theory, and of the anomalies of his analysis leaves the author's ambivalent attitude very indirectly manifest. The ironies occur within the context of the analysis and in the presence of the analyst, and therefore must remain somewhat outweighed by the orthodox Jungian theory as presented by so forceful and vividly-portrayed a character as Dr. von Haller. With the irruption of Liesl into David's life, however, the balance of power swings to the other side, and David leaves behind the symbolic analogue to undertake the hero-journey itself.

This irruption takes place at the beginning of the third section ("My Sorgenfrei Diary"), in which David takes a Christmas vacation at St. Gall. In a bookshop in the town he runs into Ramsay who is accompanied by "a woman who is very smartly and expensively dressed, but who is the nearest thing to an ogress I have ever beheld" (p. 271). Ramsay introduces him to "Fraulein Doktor Liselotte Naegeli," and David begins to feel bewitched: "When Liesl - in no time I was asked to call her Liesl - asked me to join them at her country home for Christmas, I had said yes before I knew what I was doing. The woman is a spell-binder, without seeming to exert much effort" (p. 272). Liesl brings into David's life all those elements which Dr. von Haller denied, for she is the demonic counterpart of the analyst. There is an ironic acknowledgement of this in Liesl's response when David reveals the name of his analyst: "Jo von Haller! I have known her since she was a child. Not friends, really, but we know each other" (p. 273). Her later comment is also an acknowledgement of her complementary but antithetical role: "Jo von Haller . . . is really excellent, though not at all my style" (p. 285). The only feature they have in common is that each has a "low" voice, but where Dr. von Haller's is "pleasant," Liesl's is "positively beautiful." Dr. von Haller has a "fine face"; Lesl is "an ogress." Dr. von Haller's clothes are "unremarkable, neither fashionable nor dowdy"; Liesl is "smartly and expensively dressed." Dr. von Haller is "altogether a person to inspire confidence"; Liesl has a "distinguished femininity." The contrast is not only physical. David's relationship with Dr. von Haller is one of confidence, and she requires his trust (p. 19); Liesl, in contrast, is confessedly dangerous. "It's my métier. You thinkers drive me to shake you up" (p. 297). With Dr. von Haller, David's relationship is strictly according to professional ethics (p. 174); Liesl promises him love, "the love that gives all and takes all and knows no bargains" (p. 306).

Liesl's function as a counter to the orthodox Jungian theory expounded by Dr. von Haller is made further explicit by her comments on the analytic process. From the demonic side, she offers David confirmation of his mistrust of the analytic way as the opportunity for his hero-journey. Analysis, she points out, is limited because it is a system: "Analysis with a great analyst is an adventure in self-exploration. But one must remember that they were all men with systems. Freud . . . Adler . . . Jung . . . All men of extraordinary character, and they devised systems that are forever stamped with that character" (p. 292). The true hero-journey is taken alone, and the men who made these systems were heroes themselves in the true sense because they went alone: "They did not go trustingly to some doctor and follow his lead. . . . They were heroes . . . because they went into the unknown absolutely alone" (pp. 292-93). What is to be followed is the example, not the system, and what David has been shown by Dr. von Haller is only the way to begin: "Jo has set you on your path" (p. 292). He has yet to take the journey - but will after Liesl has shaken him up out of his habits as a thinker.

Shaking up this particular thinker involves demolishing his reliance on "common sense." At the end of his anamnesis, David suddenly suffers a pang of antipathy for "more mystification. I thought we had got past all that. For weeks it seems to me that we have been talking nothing but common sense" (p. 262). Dr. von Haller's response to this is to stress the link between common sense and psychology: "Are you still scampering back to that primitive state of mind where you suppose psychology must be divorced from common sense?" (p. 262) But common sense is not a quality of heroes, and David cannot achieve his status as a hero within a system linked to it. Moreover, Dr. von Haller has herself unambiguously limited the potential of common sense: "We have agreed, have we not, that everything that makes man a great, as opposed to a merely sentient creature is fanciful when tested by common sense. . ." (p. 178). Common sense is an attribute of reason, or thinking, and a function of the conscious mind. Therefore in an individual whose thinking is strongly differentiated as his superior function, as it is with David, common sense is an ego-resource. And as Harding points out, "anyone who wishes to embark on the journey of the soul, or on the quest for individuation, must resign all ego resources and face the ordeal stripped."12 David must be stripped of his common sense before he can really begin his hero-journey. The problem can be expressed in slightly different terms by saying that David must be "educated" to feel, as Dr. von Haller points out (p. 101). In fact, although Dr. von Haller can educate David to allow himself to feel and to understand his feeling, she cannot educate him to feel. The only way he can really learn to feel is by feeling - that is, by being so overwhelmed by emotion that he is willing to abandon thought and common sense altogether and trust his feeling as a mode of functioning. What he needs for this is something quite other than common sense - a sense of the numinous.

As the demonic counterpart of Dr. von Haller, Liesl has no use for common sense, but does have a deep understanding and love of the numinous. When David confesses that " I can't remember ever feeling what I suppose you mean by awe" (p. 296), she immediately proceeds to confront him with something designed to inspire awe. The expedition is planned in such a way that David is at the disadvantage of not knowing even where they are going, let alone why. In the outer cave, which is "apparently quite famous since somebody . . . proved conclusively in the nineties that primitive men had lived here" (p. 297) but from which all the evidence of this fact has been removed, he is further bewildered. Liesl leads him into the entrance to the inner cave, and they begin "a horrible descent" which - combined with cold, discomfort, constriction, and Liesl's determined silence - reduces him to a state of terror.

For Liesl herself the bear-cult cave is obviously a numinous place: "Liesl was in a mood that I have never seen in her before; all her irony and amusement were gone and her eyes were wide with awe" (p. 300). She tries to convey this sense to David by showing him the careful arrangements of bones and skulls:

They are bears. The ancestors worshipped bears. Look, in this one bones have been pushed into the eyeholes. And here, you see, the leg-bones have been carefully piled under the chin of the skull.... No cave-bear could come through the passage. No; they brought the bones here, and the skins, and set up this place of worship. Perhaps someone pulled on the bear skin, and there was a ceremony of killing. (p. 301)

She is disappointed at his failure to respond because he doesn't "feel enough to respond" (p. 301). The parallels she draws between the act of worship in primitive and in modern man merely arouse his rational faculty. Her impromptu act of worship before they leave does make him afraid, but the fear which it inspires in him is not the fear of the numinous, the "proper fear," the awe of what she is worshipping, but instead simple revulsion: "But then to my astonishment, Liesl flung herself on the ground, face down before the skulls of the bears . . . . But what form could her prayers be taking? This was worse - much worse - than Dr. Johanna's Comedy Company of the Psyche. What sort of people had I fallen among on this Swiss journey?" (p. 303)

Liesl's attempt to initiate David into the twice-born has failed, and they start on the outward journey. At this moment of failure, the absolute nadir of human effort in an attempt to affect David, something else intervenes: "Suddenly, out of the darkness just before me, came a roar so loud, so immediate, so fearful in suggestion that I knew in that instant the sharpness of death. I did not lose consciousness" (p. 304). Here the numinous itself breaks through David's conscious barriers; the sound is "so fearful in suggestion" because what it suggests is a presence - the presence of a god. This "proper fear," awe, leaves him terrified far beyond the point of revulsion or panic; he is paralysed and helpless: "I was at the lowest ebb, frightened, filthy, seemingly powerless, because when I heard Liesl's voice - "Go on, you dirty brute, go on" - I couldn't go on" (p. 304). Ironically, when he does not move in response to her demand, Liesl fails to realize what has happened: "It's only a trick of the wind. Did you think it was the bear-god coming to claim you?" (p. 305). But the bear-god, or some god, has claimed him, and he acknowledges his "death": "I'm done." Again, ironically, she demands, "What gives you strength? ... Have you no ancestors?" Unwittingly, she gives David the necessary clue to his way back from death:

Ancestors? Why, in this terrible need, would I want such ornaments? Then I thought of Maria Dymock. . . . Would Maria Dymock see me through? In my weakened, terrified, humiliated condition I suppose I must have called upon Maria Dymock and something - but it's absurd to think it could have been she! - gave me the power I needed to wriggle that last two hundred yards, until an air that was sweeter but no less cold told me that the outer cave was near. (p. 305)

His rationalism puts up an automatic objection, but it is without any real conviction: David realizes what has happened to him. Liesl also senses that something has taken place, when he asks her not to withdraw her friendship: "I think you have learned something, and if that is so . . . I'll love you" (p. 306). By the end of the day, David can put into words what has happened to him during the time in the cave, that he has been "renewed - yes, and it seemed to me reborn, by the terror of the cave and the great promise [Liesl] had made to me" (p. 306), but he has understood it experientially.

Even the fact that Liesl was only an indirect instrument of awakening David's dormant sense of awe and the numinous is part of the confirmation of her function as a counter to orthodox Jungian theory. It was not her activity, free of common sense though it was, however, which "scared the shit out of him," but the direct intervention of something other than human. Her attempts were made on a human level, and because of what David appears to be (by implication) potentially, they seemed like interference. Jung himself experienced this in his efforts to help his friend Richard Wilhelm, translator of the I Ching, in an "inner conflict" and recorded his failure, because of Wilhelm's response, "a drawing back, an inward shutting himself off."13 Liesl's arguments and her prayer before the bear-skulls cause exactly the same response in David: he suddenly creates a gap between himself and the Sorgenfrei group; they become a "sort of people" he does not recognize (p. 303). Significantly, Jung added to his record of the experience with Wilhelm: "This is a phenomenon I have observed in many men of importance. There is, as Goethe puts it in Faust, an 'untrodden, untreadable' region whose precincts cannot and should not be entered by force; a destiny which will brook no human intervention."14 The prompt responses of the bear-god whom Liesl wittingly or unwittingly invoked in praying before the skulls and of Maria Dymock whom David invoked in his desperate need strongly suggest the presence of such a destiny in David Staunton, and remove him even further from the realm of clinical psychology.

In this third section of the novel, then, Liesl brings to the surface the counter-theory to Jung which has been manifest up to this point only as an ironic undercurrent. During his anamnesis in the previous section, David has recounted to Dr. von Haller a statement made by Father Knopwood, that "all formulas for meeting life - even many philosophies - are illusion" (p. 205). The analyst allows it to pass unchallenged, but Liesl's discussion of the inadequacy of systems, even Jung's, makes it unmistakably clear that the "all" includes not only Father Knopwood's Christianity (in David's view) but Jungian psychology. Thus, ironically, Davies' "engrossing primer" of Jungian psychology reveals itself as a profoundly ironic undercutting of the value of that psychology as a formula for meeting life. The final irony of The Manticore is, however, less simple. For the final irony is that the ambivalence about the Jungian "formula" is, as Jung's own words in a letter to J. Allen Gilbert make quite clear, unexceptionably Jungian:

Can't you conceive of a physicist that thinks and speaks of atoms, yet is convinced that those are merely his own abstractions? That would be my case. I have not the faintest idea what "psyche" is in itself, yet, when I come to think and speak of it, I must speak of my abstractions, concepts, views, figures, knowing that they are our specific illusions.... All things are as if they were. Real things are effects of something unknown. The same is true of anima, ego . . . there are no real things that are not relatively real. We have no idea of absolute reality, because "reality" is always something "observed".15


1Robertson Davies, The Manticore (New York: The Viking Press, 1972). All further references to the novel will be to this edition.

2Geoffrey James, "Mystic of Massey College," rev. of The Manticore, The Times, 21 May 1973, p. 9.

3Gordon Jocelyn, rev. of The Manticore, Canadian Forum, February 1973, pp. 44-45.

4M. Esther Harding, Journey into Self (New York: Longman's Green, 1956), p. 276.

5M.-L. von Franz, "The Process of Individuation," in Man and His Symbols, ed. Carl J. Jung and others (London: Aldus Books, 1964), p. 164.

6C. G. Jung, letter to P. W. Martin, 20 August 1937, in The Letters of C. G. Jung (1906-1950), ed. Gerhard Adler (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), I, 233-35.

7Harding, p. 281.

8C. G. Jung, "A Study in the Process of Individuation," in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconcious, 2nd. ed., Bollingen Edition, Vol. 9(i) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 312.

9Jung, Symbols of Transformation, 2nd. ed., Bollingen Edition, Vol. 5 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), p. 324.

10Harding, p. 52.

11Harding, p. 4.

12Harding, p. 89.

13Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ed. Aniéla Jaffé (New York: Vintage Books, 1963), p. 377.

14Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 377.

15Jung, letter to J. Allen Gilbert, 2 January 1929, in Letters, I, 56-57.