“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” — Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man)
Initial encounters with charismatic, nomadic, intriguing folks can deflect from the underlying relevant issues obscured by charm and enthusiasm. Beguiled by their sense of adventure and exploration, these men and women are always pursuing and embracing change and discovery. These archetypal Seekers seem to possess the ability to brave the unknown and plumb the proverbial depths.
Yet beneath the magnetic veneer of relentless idealism and romanticized independence lurks an internal discomfort, which cannot be quelled by exciting new ventures.
The shadow side of the Seeker reveals a perfectionistic quest to break free from conformity and oppression.
Fearful of the adult world of conventional responsibility the Seeker may be unstoppable in their quest to repel boundaries, while shunning reliance on others. Often unable to commit and tolerate mundane disappointments they are driven to acquire a greater sense of purpose and meaning through daring pursuits and experiences.
The plight of the Seeker is beautifully captured in J.M. Barrie’s beloved fairy-tale Peter Pan. Peter is the classic ‘puer aeternas’, the eternal Divine Child, who refuses to ‘grow up’. Immersed in a fantastical adventurous world, Peter is an intrepid self-absorbed, stubborn boy, creative and bold, and relationally uncooperative.
Defiantly rejecting the adult world of conformity and rules, he represents what Dr. Dan Kiley coined as “Peter Pan Syndrome”, a condition pertaining to men who are stuck in adolescence and are caught up in an outstanding mother complex.
By glorifying adventure and freedom, the pervasive fears and discontent of the Seeker is rebuffed.
As the wounded Seeker runs from her/himself and the inevitability of life and aging, aimlessness and thrill seeking serve to distract from internal emptiness.
For Seekers to fully become present to one’s inner life they need to develop the ability to compassionately relate to and endure the loneliness and isolation that accompanies exploring unique paths and callings.
They need to rely on others in the quest for self-awareness and knowledge, and address fears of entrapment and the hauteur disdain of what is characterized as dull and mundane.
In the myth of Parsifal and the Holy Grail, Parsifal starts out as a naïve, foolish Seeker. Taught to not ask questions, Parsifal is not fully embodied as an adult. Hence, he lacks the ability to question what ails the wounded King Arthur and whom the Grail serves.
Eluded by his psychological wounds and disconnected from the wounded King Arthur, he embarks on an adventurous quest in search of the Holy Grail (mystical salvation). It is only through challenging life lessons encountered in his twenty year journey that Parsifal is able to compassionately take notice of others and what surrounds him.
Once matured, Parsifal is able to experience the potentialities of what Jung referred to as a “true personality”.
He now possesses the level of empathy and responsibility that allows him to ask the right questions.
Like Parsifal, It is not until the Seeker recognizes the spiritual imperative of facing his wounds, is he able to pull away from external projections of the questing ego and humbly drop into the vast power of the real Self.