Throughout our lives we meet people who seem to have magical, numinous qualities. When I was eighteen years old I met such a person, John R. Cole, a Presbyterian Missionary to Northern India, who was also an ordained Episcopal priest. “India has only one Christian Church”, he told our Youth Group in 1961. Imagine that, all Christian Missionaries had to be Episcopal priests, even the Baptists had to use the same liturgy. What an amazingly inclusive concept for us high school students to encounter. John was returning to his early Mission work in Idaho after thirteen years in India, a requirement of the Church which hoped to get donations for the Mission Program. John seemed very unconcerned about that aspect. He wanted to share the amazing things he had experienced in India. I was fascinated. He told me that when he first arrived, he slept in the open air with a German Shepard guard-dog under his cot. He studied the Hindu scriptures in Sanskrit, attended their religious ceremonies, as well as practicing yoga. He was going to Utah to find a companion for his Benedictine Roman Catholic monk friend, who lived in a cave outside of the town in the Uttar Pradesh. The Benedictine had a friend at the Trappist monastery in Utah and John was going there to try to persuade the Trappist monk to travel to India. What a courageous man, so spiritual and positively exuding love. I asked him to present a talk about India to my high school honors English class and invited him to spend the weekend with my family.
My mother was surprised with my enthusiasm. She didn’t like the idea of having a single man staying in her home, when my father was out-of-town. “Mom, he’s a minister! What are you worried about? Providing shelter to Christian Missionaries is a blessing. How could anyone be critical of that?” I argued. She consulted my dad, and (as I knew he would) he consented. I had the wonderful experience of “show and tell” at Twin Falls Senior High. All my friends were impressed. My instructor, Rose North, was puzzled. She put it this way, “I’m not sure whether he is converting the Hindus, or the Hindus are converting him.” He gifted me with a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet inscribed with a quote from the Upanishads about leading me from darkness into light, from non-being into being. He told me about his encounter with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the worker priests in France, new people and new concepts about evolution and community, all things our very liberal and progressive Presbyterian Church Minister, Dr. Donald Blackstone, was preaching on Sundays. I would have followed John Cole to India, if I hadn’t already committed myself to attending Dartmouth College in the fall.
Now, fifty years later, my intuition led me to do a Google search for my mentor. John Cole died in 1995. His Christian Ashram community in India renamed itself in his honor, when they heard he was ill. I pulled a book off of my shelf, and it opened hermeneutically to the section on Ego Development and the Phases of Life. There I found material relevant to my feelings of longing and love for my spiritual guide, Father John Cole. I read that the archetypes are collective energy fields or patterns which are evoked unconsciously. The archetype of “the spiritual guide” can be projected onto anyone. Edward C. Whitmont said (1969,1991) in The Symbolic Quest: Basic Concepts of Analytical Psychology that the archetypes “form patterns of psychological experiencing by means of which the human psyche responds to every important or critical life situation, both inner and outer. Their first emergence occurs in response to our parents and becomes modified through our actual experience with them and, while further modified by later life experiences, they tend to retain the typical character and libidinal content of their original conditioning throughout life.” Whitmont goes on to say that the archetypes are then projected “in their personalized forms into every encounter that even remotely allows for their emergence.” (p. 302) What that means is that anyone who is capable of holding an archetypal projection will be experienced (by the person projecting it) as having that archetype’s qualities. What was John Cole able to hold and thus reflect for me?
For starters there was the title “Father” Cole. That in itself allowed me to project “the Great Father” archetype onto the man I was encountering. That would be mixed with the qualities of my personal father, John Melville, who was only ten years older than John Cole. They both had black hair and strikingly blue eyes, charisma, charm, and a certain seductive quality. Since John Cole was a spokesman for the Wisdom of India, he was also able to carry “the Wise Man” archetype. Add to that the archetype of “the spiritual guide” and there is a lot of magic in the field. The other thing, which I now can also see, is the archetype of “the Shadow”. There were things I was doing my best to repress in my psyche, which Father Cole was evoking, specifically my sexual attraction to men. So it came as a gentle relief, when I read the account in the Shower of Stoles Project that John Cole was gay. In 1961 we didn’t talk about things like that. We hid our feelings, if we were told they weren’t socially acceptable.
Now it makes sense to me why John and I resonated so intensely. He reminded me, at a level below consciousness, of my dad, who loved me intensely, in a homosexual way, but one Dad could not even admit to himself. He could, and did, act it out, when he was enmeshed in the archetypal energy of the Greek god Dionysos. But that was only at night, when the alcohol god had transformed him into the adolescent lover of boys and men. At night he was Hermes or Dionysos, but in the morning Dad was Apollo. Regarding his role as Hermes/Dionysos, Dad had total amnesia. Apollo the god of light and reason was my dad’s conscious personality, the dark lords of ecstasy and forbidden expression were the dissociated part of his personality. I longed for the integration of those opposites, when the dark would be led toward the light and be reunited with its lover. My dad never managed to engage that process.
In 1978 John F. Melville disintegrated in the arms of the alcohol spirit which he loved more than life. It remained for me to do Dad’s unfinished work of individuation (the integration of the Shadow and aspects of the other archetypes with the ego) on myself. Neither of my parents were willing and/or able to face their Shadow sides, so they died of alcohol related diseases. This is often the case with addicts trying to numb the pain of their childhood experiences. They leave a legacy of psychic work for their children. When we children of alcoholics rise to that task and do the work, we release the generations of our ancestors from that pattern, as well as paving the new way for the generations yet to come. It is hard work, but rewarding. Thanks to the magic of the archetypes, we are “launched” on the path of spiritual evolution. We have the choice to become conscious of our Shadow side and the other archetypes, if we notice the recuring re-enactments and patterns of behavior and wonder about our part in their production, instead of blaming them on the others in our environment.
What John Cole taught me was to look at myself, to know the self within, and see humanity reflected there. I don’t know if he ever read Carl Jung or engaged in a therapeutic relationship with a counselor, but he inspired me to follow that path toward enlightenment. You can read more about this process in Therapy: Healing the Psyche.