John Moriarty strikes me as a Jungian figure although he never really mentions the Swiss psychologist in his writings. Yet he is constantly drawing upon archetypes to illustrate his philosophy. His autobiography Nostos could also be read as a diary of individuation during which the floodgates to his unconsciousness are opened and almost sweep him away in a deluge of libido.
Jung defines an archetype as an image that exists within the collective consciousness in-potentia. Incarnations of these archetypes keep recurring throughout history that can be seen as a representation of human experience and which are personified in the stories and characters we find in religions, myths, legends and art. Woman as temptress whose actions result in the down fall of a male hero, for example, can be seen in the archetypes of Eve, Delilah, Salome, Cleopatra and Morgan le Fey.
In Invoking Ireland, Moriarty, who died in 2007, focuses almost entirely on Irish myths to try to illustrate his belief that there has been a schism between what we as humans instinctively are and what we have become and how we choose to live. In it he becomes a character living in a parallel Ireland called Fódhla lamenting the wrong turn that his fellow countrymen, and the rest of the Western world has taken.
For Moriarty the mythological peoples of the Tuatha Dé Dannan and The Fomorians personify the schism. The Tuatha Dé Dannan where a magical people who “spent their time acquiring visionary insights and foresights and hindsights, acquiring the occult knowledge and the occult art of the wizard, the druid, the witch, these, together with all the magical arts, until, masters in everything concerning them, they had no equals in the world”. (Invoking Ireland P25). It was their “particular delight to be of one mind with the wind and rain”… “you could walk through the land and not know they were in it”.
By contrast the brutal Fomorians are out to exploit nature, rather than be a part of it. They had features “hanging like seaweed when the tide is out, their tongues the colour and shape of cormorant tongues, the clamour of the ocean their talk”. Their arrival in Ireland saw "forests cut down, rivers rerouted, towers everywhere, it was soon clear it must come to a fight.” (P28).
But in the battles that followed it was ultimately the Fomorians who were victorious and who dominate the psychic and physical makeup of the modern Irish while the Tuatha Dé Dannan became spectral figures “harmonised to all things [they] were of one mind with the wind and rain. Now again, you could walk through the land and not know they are in it." (P28)
Despite the Fomorian domination of modern Ireland, Moriarty contends that there is still enough of the Dé Dannan in us that we can sometimes hear and see beyond the coarse world of Ireland to the more subtle one of Fódhla and to the parts of us that still inhabit it.
“Yet we a rougher people who came later to Ireland, out alone in lonely places we will sometimes hear their [Tuatha Dé Dannan] music”.
It is not just the music of the Dé Dannan that Moriarty believes we can still catch snatches of, but also their wisdom.
He quotes WB Yeats: “I know now that the revelation is from the self, but from that age-long memoried self, that shapes the elaborate shell of the mollusc and the child in the womb, that teaches birds to make their nest; and that the genius is a crisis that joins that buried self for certain moments of our trivial daily mind.” (Invoking Ireland P92)
Moriarty plunders the writings of philosophers, poets and mystics to reiterate this. On page 215 of Invoking Ireland he quotes Jacob Boehme: “In man is all whatsoever the sun shines upon and heavens contains, also hell and all the deeps.”
Moriarty elaborates: “In other words, we aren’t only a microcosm, the universe in little. In us also are the transcosmic immensities as heaven and hell, and the deeps as well, all of them.”
On the same page he quotes Hopkins: “O the mind, mind has mountains, cliffs of fall/Frightful, sheer, no-man fathomed…”
Joseph Conrad: “The mind of man is capable of anything, because everything is in it, all the past as well as the future.”
And, as he has often done in his other books, repeatedly, from Friedrich Nietzsche: “I have discovered for myself that the old human and animal life, indeed the entire prehistory and past of all sentient beings, works on, loves on, hates on, thinks on in me.”
Moriarty’s life, as depicted in his books seems to me to be a Jungian exercise in integrating the unconscious (Dé Dannan) aspects of himself with the coarser conscious (Fomorian). And it is a venture fraught with risks and which, as described in Nostos, left Moriarty floundering on the verge of one of Hopkins’s precipices and occasionally tipping over into psychosomatic chaos that left him both mentally and physically debilitated.
But while the process is a risky one it is something that Jung argued is a necessary one if we are to reach our full potential. For him consciousness is comprised of the ‘ego’ that aspect of us that is defined by the world we live in and and a result of experiencing everyday reality, while the unconsciousness is the domain of the ‘self’ – in Moriarty’s world the ego could perhaps be personified by the Fomorian archetype and the self by the Tuatha Dé Dannan.
In his commentary on Jung’s work Anthony Storr, quoting the psychologist writes: “The goal toward which the individuation process is tending is ‘Wholeness’ or ‘Integration’: a condition in which all the different elements of the psyche, both conscious and unconscious, are welded together. The person who achieves this goal possesses 'an attitude that is beyond the reach of the emotional entanglements and violent shocks – a consciousness detached from the world’. Individuation, in Jung’s view, is a spiritual journey; and the person embarking upon it, although he might not subscribe to any recognised creed, was nonetheless pursuing a religious quest. By paying careful attention to the unconscious, as manifested in dream and fantasy, the individual comes to change his attitude from one in which ego and will are paramount to one in which he acknowledges that he is guided by an integrating factor which is not of his own making.” (The Essential Jung, P229).
While the archetypes (personifications of aspects of the unconsciousness) that dominate Invoking Ireland are predominantly Irish, Moriarty also draws copiously on myths, legends and religions from all over the world. Again and again he reiterates his central message that humanity has taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way and is not paying attention to what those myths and the characters who are inhabiting them are telling us about ourselves. We are more than the base Fomorian (self) that inhabits this world and exploits it for our own benefit, we are also Tuath Dé Dannan and can access vast untapped reserves within ourselves if we so choose.
Moriarty quotes Rilke: “However vast outer space may be, yet with all its sidereal distances, it hardly bears comparison with the dimension, with the depth dimension of our inner being, which does not even need the spaciousness of the universe to be within itself almost unfathomable.” (Invoking Ireland P201/202).
Invoking Ireland for me it is a symbolic journey of Jungian individuation in which Moriarty opens his consciousness to unconsciousness content and casts himself as a man who lives in Fomorian Ireland who is given a glimpse of Fódhla and occasionally even ripped out of everyday reality and relocated into the Ireland of the Dé Dannan.
Invoking Ireland by John Moriarty is published by The Lilliput Press