The Delphic Oracle Finds a Voice

The Delphic Oracle Finds a Voice

“And then at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times.”

 This is a quote from a 22-year-old woman who was raped while unconscious. Her attacker, a former Stanford swimmer who sexually assaulted her was sentenced to only 6 months plus probation.

One night in January, 2015, two Stanford University graduate students biking across campus spotted a freshman thrusting his body on top of an unconscious, half-naked woman behind a dumpster. In March 2016, a California jury found the attacker, a former student, 20-year-old Brock Allen Turner guilty of three counts of sexual assault. Turner faced a maximum of 14 years in prison. He was sentenced to six months in county jail and probation. The judge’s defense of his light sentence was based on the premise that he didn’t want his sentence to have too serious an impact on this young man’s apparently bright and shining life.

However, at his sentencing his victim asked to be allowed to address her attacker directly. Focusing her gaze on him, she began, her statement:

“You don’t know me but you have been inside me and this is why we are here today.”

She continued detailing the severe impact his actions had on her from the time she learned that she had been assaulted by a stranger while unconscious, to the grueling trial during which Turner’s attorneys argued in the usual fashion that she had eagerly consented (while unconscious or before!).

In her passionate confrontation of her attacker, it appears she had hoped to impact his complete indifference to her suffering, and the life changing effect his actions had on her. Because the rule of law, the justice system, and the disrespectful attitude towards rape victims didn’t support and underscore her cry for a human response, it was not heeded. Her attacker remained coldly and arrogantly wedded to his perspective on his actions. He also remained the victim of society’s lack of response to the violence involved in sexual assault. Despite her being unconscious during the act, he maintained that she encouraged it.

The victim’s personal outrage was focused on the issue that even after being convicted, Turner failed to tell the truth, failed to acknowledge that he sexually assaulted her, failed to acknowledge that his act was one of violence, and above all failed to show any remorse, or any feeling for her, the woman he had assaulted. In short, he took no responsibility for his actions, adding a blood-curdling note to his absurd arrogance, an arrogance, which the judge seconded in his opinion expressed through his light sentencing, and seconded again by Turner’s father who felt the sentence was too serious a punishment for “twenty minutes of action.”

Apparently, Turner’s inability to feel the impact of his actions is supported by his father’s inability to discern the difference between sex and rape. However, Joe Biden “filled with furious anger” provided the necessary sacred counterpoint, in a public letter to this unknown woman, a woman, he calls “all women.” He began, “I do not know your name — but I know that a lot of people failed you that terrible January night and in the months that followed. I am in awe of your courage for speaking out—for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim of human dignity.” “And while the justice system has spoken in your particular case, the nation is not satisfied.”

With his hand in her hand, Biden and the embodied form of the “dignified voice of women,” are attempting to revive respect for women, and correspondingly and perhaps less understood, in this narrative, respect for men. There are four victims here: a man, who is less human than perhaps he could be and at the same time refusing to be further informed; a woman he made, with malicious intent, the receptacle for his inhumanity; an Apollonian consciousness uninformed by its feminine counterpart; and above all, the soul.

The difference between sex and rape was obliterated when the chthonic Python was vanquished by the sun-hero Apollo. This powerful distinction descended back into the earth, subsumed by the things created by man’s “enlightened” consciousness alone. This is a story told by the narration of myth in the way only myth can accomplish.

So the story goes as I remember it and attempt to retell it:

In the center of the world, at a place where roads crossed, the intersection of two fault lines enter into one another, symbolizing the union of opposites, a fissure opened into the black depths of the earth. Water flowed from the Castalian spring revealed by the fissure. These waters carried the sacred understandings of the mother, the beginning of all things. This place was called Delphi (Delphhoi), the womb, and in its cave sanctuary lived a shamanic priestess called the Pythia—serpent woman. Her prophetic power came from a she-dragon in the Castalian spring, the unconscious psyche, the evanescent unconscious which she brought into the light, providing the original moment of suture between what lay in the dark and the unknown and what is illuminated by the sun, by consciousness.

The chthonic Python, Pythia was vanquished by the sun-hero Apollo. He demonized the she-serpent (as told by Homer, in his Hymn to Apollo) and separated her from the waters of the shrine whose guardian she was. He violently seized the sanctuary and created a shrine to himself. His seizure was accompanied by rape and murder and thus power, and dominance was introduced. With this conquest, the unconscious feminine descended deep into the earth and disappeared. Now, there was only one element, the bright sun, and consciousness. It is said, that the Earth, however, struck back, sending up dreams from the deep, “which revealed unto the city of mortals, the past and the future,” preventing the she-serpent’s voice from being permanently silenced. (Dempsey, 21)

With this Apollonian victory, conquest, colonization of the other replaced dialogue; hostile take-over replaced union; rape replaced conjunction—the transformation of consciousness by the unconscious.

We are now left trying to re-create this space of reflection, the space where consciousness is enlarged through its relationship with the unconscious, the space where heart and mind meet and transform one another. Every now and then we are blessed to hear the voice of the chthonic feminine again. Sometimes a man speaks it, a man who is gifted with holding the opposites, a consciousness informed by its unconscious opposite. In this case however, the perfect voice emerges, the voice of the cast aside, devalued feminine, comes back to haunt us with its numinous truth.

I count the grains of sand on the beach and measure the sea

I understand the speech of the mute and hear the voiceless

—Delphic Oracle [Herodotus, I, 47]

Joan Golden-Alexis, Ph.D. is a Jungian psychoanalyst and psychologist in New York City. Her practice consists of individuals as well as couples. (

Dempsey, T, The Delphic Oracle: its early history, influence and fall

Image Credit:
Apollo killing Python, A 1581 engraving by Virgil Solis for Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book I.

Icarus Aloft

Jungians often relate a social phenomenon or individual situation to a myth or fairy tale. As the old saying has it, there is nothing new under the sun, and the truths of myths and tales connect us to our common psychic bones—the larger context of archetypal patterns that constitute the universals of human nature. Myth and image allow us to relate to a larger whole and provide a context for making meaning. I have therefore pondered a mythical context within which to understand the Donald Trump phenomenon: that of a modern-day Icarus.

In the Greek myth, Daedalus, a skilled craftsman, made wings for himself and his son Icarus, so they could escape from prison by flying to freedom. Daedalus cautioned his son not to fly too high lest the wax that glued the feathers to the wings melt from the sun’s heat. Icarus, however, possessed with his newfound power of flight, disregarded his father, flew too high, and crashed. It’s no wonder that we use phrases like “high flying,” “above himself,” and “sun-struck,” as images of grandiosity. Even the name Trump is likely to trump yours.

As Donald Trump careens through his campaign with the press ever more heatedly pursuing him, I imagine Icarus soaring above his erstwhile captors. I imagine his intoxication with his newfound power of flight, and his thrill at one-upping his captors. Icarus’ ingenious father enabled his son’s flight; Donald Trump’s wealthy realtor father lofted his son into bigger and better ventures. “The Donald” appears to revel in winning deals and the soaring success of his campaign thus far.

Marie Louise von Franz, analyst, scholar, and member of Jung’s inner circle, discusses the German term frevel. It “means much more than just a frivolous attitude. In former times…frevel meant stepping over the border, going beyond a respectful attitude toward the numinous powers.” She says this “needs quite special treatment. You must not be impressed by it, you must not get into a panic, but you must also not have this kind of frivolous daring [or] it gets very nasty and destructive.” Furthermore, von Franz says, frevel is “primitive…[and] still the way to get possessed and fall into evil.”

Icarus’ youthful frevel brought disaster on himself. We are meant to heed the tale’s psychological warning: pride goeth before a fall. Donald, however, is no youth. He is approaching 70, and his pride would likely result in others having to fall, whether Mexicans, Muslims, or others here and abroad. They are us, so we would all pay the price for the wide swath of decision-making power–without congressional or judicial constraint–that Trump would have as president.

If, as Jung famously says, a defeat for the ego is a victory for the Self, what happens if ego wins? History and current affairs provide us with countless examples: ego- and power-driven leaders, from conquerors seeking subjects to visionaries seeking followers. Today, we are called neither to minimize the importance of Trump’s candidacy nor be swept away by it. We are called to consciousness and to voice it. The collective wisdom of humanity, held in myth and symbol, tells us that Icarus must ever fall.

Quotations: Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales (Chapter on Possession)

Deborah Stewart, LCSW is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Brooklyn, NY.