Children, gnomes, homunculi, dwarfs: representing the integration and disintegration of the self

John Bauer, But how do I get into the mountain, the gnome boy asked- 1909
John Bauer, But how do I get into the mountain, the gnome boy asked- 1909. US public domain, wikimedia

In the image above, we see Gnomes talking to a boy. The caption to the picture reads: “But how do I get into the mountain, the gnome boy asked.” The gnomes are asking directions to find their way back to the mountain. In this context, both the child and the mountain may be images of the Self. If so, then the Gnomes may be seen as aspects of the self that are attempting to be integrated, to ‘find their way home.’

The aim of Jung’s work is the unification of the Self, at in the deepest and most profound sense. Jung felt that the self naturally strives toward “unity” and “selfhood”, and resists “disintegration.” (CW 17, pars. 334f)

Carl Jung saw that the appearance of children– as well as homunculi, dwarfs, gnomes– in dreams may tell us something about the current integration of the self in an individual.  Specifically, Jung felt that it was important “to distinguish between the unity and plurality of [the] manifestations” (CW 9i, para. 279).

If, in a dream, “numerous homunculi, dwarfs, boys, etc., appear, having no individual characteristics at all” then there was a “probability of a dissociation” [ibid].  By dissociation, Jung means the splitting of the self into its component parts or complexes.

On the other hand, “if the plurality occurs in normal people, then it is the representation of an as yet incomplete synthesis of personality.”  In this case it appears that the self is still in the process of development. “The personality (viz., the “self”) is still in the Plural stage i.e., an ego may be present, but it cannot experience its wholeness within the framework of its own personality” [ibid]

We know the self has achieved wholeness when “the child motif appears in the form of a unity” [ibid]. In such instances, “we are dealing with an unconscious and provisionally complete synthesis of the personality” [ibid]. Jung notes, “in practice, like everything unconscious, signifies no more than a possibility” [ibid].

 

Reference:

  1. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol. 9 Part 1)
  2. The Development of Personality (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol. 17)
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