The Dragon Tamer Motif in alchemy and depth psychology

The following is taken from the book:

Taniwha: the dragon myths of the New Zealand Maori:


The motif of the hero slaying or mastering the dragon has survived for thousands of years in almost every culture in the world. The main exception to this is in Chinese mythology where the dragon is considered venerable and can be a boon once one has gained its trust and respect. But even then the dragon is potentially dangerous especially, of course, if mishandled. Apart from the Chinese exception, there are countless myths and legends, songs, ballads, and fairy tales that retell a tale of the dragon that created chaos in the community and to restore order to their world the hero had to vanquish or tame it. Almost without exception there are attached charms and spells and other magical rituals dedicated in the service of relief from the chaos of this primordial enemy.


Dragons are treacherous creatures that invoke a powerful numinous presence. They are ageless and timeless, speaking great wisdom to the few that have the magic and mana to dare a conversation. It could be speculated that they are an amalgam of the bird god with the snake god. They have the form of a very large lizard with one or more heads, spitting fire through their mouths. They are usually depicted with snake-like tongues, dangerous claws and fangs and, very often, bat-like wings. In many European mythic cycles they are monstrous and fierce and can be seen as symbols for the primal, chaotic elements of nature. They are normally either associated with the sea, rivers and pools of water or they live in tunnels, caves and other underground lairs.


When the dragon is the obstructer of waters it must be vanquished by the storm god or a suitably magically endowed hero who acts as demi-god in the situation, thus freeing the rain and returning fertility and prosperity to the community. At this symbolic level it is up to the Gods and heroes to reinforce their sovereign powers over the dragon’s destructive and chaotic force and to create or restore the cosmic order.


The motif of the dragon master, therefore, is an apt metaphor for the Work of alchemy because the inherent symbolism lends itself to the process of traversing the deep and dark inner labyrinth of the subconscious with all the travail that this entails. This is what is meant by the “hero's journey” in search of our inner dragon:


The quest for the Soul is painful and dangerous. Most people prefer to remain with the comfort in believing in their their imagined self—their ego and its persona. To reach the true Self buried within is not just a matter of concentrating on and processing our inner Light but also to acknowledge and engage with our inner shadow in all its multifaceted forms.


The role of legend and mythology is not to teach us that dragons exist because everyone who has begun the journey for Self-awareness has seen their dragon face to face: Myths and legends point out to us that dragons can be conquered or harnessed. It is the function of spiritual alchemy to take the stories and decipher their hidden meaning so that the details of the transmutation process is understood in such a way as to be a meaningful part of our daily lives.


The metamorphosis of the dragon or shadow means the transformation of the whole person. By bringing what is held in the darkness of our subconscious into the light of consciousness means to balance the opposites within. This is the meaning of the term 'psychic integration' which creates a person of 'integrity.'


A common thread in the various dragon master motifs is that these monstrous creatures are usually guardians of great treasures such as the tree of life, or the Golden Fleece, or the gold for which the hero of the Germanic sagas has to fight. There are also many stories in which dragons threaten or kidnap women, or request the sacrificing of a young girl in exchange for the fertilizing of water or something else valuable to the community. In more recent times dragons appear as agents of Satan or devils. A common depiction being the well-known portrait of St. George slaying the serpent—the enemy of God—although in some legends the Saint saves a princess from perish. In spite of the obvious influence of Christian symbolism, almost all folk traditions regard dragons as a cunning guardian of fecundity and life, or as embodying the souls of the ancestors in a household.


In real, psychological terms this will mean that the integration process will give the dragon master the ability to understand the full range of the complexities of humanness so that they will have a more authentic and therefore satisfying life experience. Furthermore the integration of the formally repressed shadow will clear the conscious apprehension which is clouded with the strain of holding so much material down. This is the meaning behind the famous conversion lyric: 'I was blind but now I see.'

The nature of the shadow is to hide outside the boundaries awareness. Then it erupts spontaneously and unexpectedly in, for example, self-destructive behavior or something that hurts someone else. It is only afterwards that we realize it was there because we feel humiliated, ashamed and guilty. It seems that we cannot tame it or that it is uncontrollable. This is common in cases such as spontaneous fits of rage when, after the dust has settled, we begin the lament: 'how could I do that when I thought I would never do it again? Just when I thought I understood why I was doing this and that it would not happen again, I am still doing it. I cannot believe the hold that it has over me: I feel like I cannot stop.' This is the reaction to a confrontation with the shadow.


Observing our criticisms of others is another place to start with the process of recognizing our shadow. It will inevitably be in these negative opinions that our own darkness will divulge itself. This is particularly the case for the more extreme cases where we 'cannot stand' their attitudes and behavior or when we become obsessed with 'fixing' them. This does not mean that it is always wrong to trust our discernment of others but in every case with someone who offends or disturbs us it is best to ask 'Why don't I like this person? What is it about their behavior/opinions/new hairdo that unsettles me? By doing this we can sift through the various layers in the labyrinth of our subconscious that are often a projection of something that we cannot admit to in ourselves.


The new ability to own, observe and tolerate the full range of uncomfortable feelings within will clear our psychic awareness of our self. This will improve our relationships because we are no longer projecting these unsettling truths on to other people in our life. It will inevitably be those closest to us that become the nearest hooks for the projections of our censoring ego.

As we clear our conscious mind of the burden of repression it will improve our physical health. Being hidden in the darkness of the subconscious does not mean that these painful or embarrassing aspects of our self no longer exist. The mind and the body are interconnected and this repressed energy continues to be transferred within our nervous system. Psychosomatic causes are now known to be the origin of a wide range of physical complaints that are brought about through this stress. These might range from headaches and shoulder tension to more serious ailments such as a bleeding ulcer or even cancer.


The same is true of other repressions such as painful events that we have forgotten. That the memory and the attached emotional reaction of these events have been locked away in the darker reaches of the labyrinth of our mind does not mean that they do not still influence us: Most of our reactions and decisions will be based on these hidden aspects of our personal subconscious and if they are not attended to then actual sickness and calamitous situations can and probably will result.


The clinical and evidential basis for this was provided by the Canadian neurologist Wilder Penfeld who, in the late 1950's, experimented by electrically stimulating the brains of his patients and was able to re-animate formally repressed memories as if the patients was actually re-living the original event. This phenomenon was known to Freud, Breuer and many other pioneering psychologists in their work with hypnosis.


Because Penfeld's experiments were difficult to replicate his findings were questioned and no other clinician was successful in reproducing the results. His research fell out of favor but by the late 1990's new methods of measuring neuron activity provided a great deal of new clinical evidence for the concept that our early memories are, indeed, hard-wired into our brains.


The very well-known psychologist Eric Berne built on the research of the hypnotists and Penfeld and created the system of “transactional analysis” (TA) as a means to effectively identify and work with these repressions. In short, we are operating from three separate ego states in the situations that we encounter in our lives.


These are: The Parent, the Adult and the Child.

The Parent is formed by the influential authority figures in our formative years and we will repeat many of the same attitudes, injunctions, emotions and even the specific words that were used in bringing us up. These become “hard-wired” into our mind. The action of looking left and right before crossing the road and the teaching of it to our own children is part of our adult.


The Child is formed when we are a child reacting to our original “Parent” (or other teachers and authority figures). It is therefore a primitive constellation and is the basis of our present-day unrefined and irrational emotional outbursts to situations that trigger a response directly from our child. It is examining these unhealthy reactions that we can be aided in locating our shadow. The Child also happens to be the basis for very healthy settings such as innocent play, creativeness and spontaneous joy.


The Adult is our attempt at mediation and autonomy in each situation. The ideal in our transactions is to be aware from the point of view of our adult which can filter the contamination of the other two ego states to avoid conflict. Obviously it is possible to be too passive and occasionally a sharp response may be called for. This over-passivity is generally, in fact, a submissiveness that was instilled in our Child.


Remember that these ego states have been hard-wired into our brains in our formative years but it is possible to reprogram them. This is the action of vanquishing or taming our dragon.


The partaking in the Hero's journey will mean that one will evolve. By “mastering our inner dragon” or embracing our shadow we mature in our emotional and intellectual capacity to engage with the world. We grow up spiritually. This is also called Self-realization, Self-awareness or even 'enlightenment.'



The following is taken from the forth-coming book:

The Function of the Archetype in Spiritual Alchemy.

Available 2018:


Once we begin the process of identifying and locating our shadow we will need to begin its transformation. As explained, our early situation and our reaction to it will form actual channels in the flow of neurons in the brain. We cannot say exactly where consciousness comes from and we know that it is not limited to our physical brain. However, we can also be assured that our brain does play an important role in the processes of conscious thinking and emotional feeling.


In psychological terms, therefore, the transformation process can effectively be termed the re-programming of our brain and its control over our thinking, decision-making and emotional reaction. In keeping with the motif of the dragon master we need to be fearless and accept the pain that comes our way. In fact, the process of the transformation starts with the very act of consciously feeling the pain that is generated in whatever situations are our trigger for anger, frustration or other negative emotions. Anger itself is a mechanism that we learn early on when we do not accept the pain that negative situations which are thrust upon us can cause. When we are young we do not usually have the means to remove ourselves from the event and this will also contribute to our already developing feelings of inadequacy that are normal for the infant who is so dependent and inarticulate. Furthermore repressions are the “edits” which have been cut out of our consciousness because it cannot cope with the over-whelming affect of many of the situations when they engender a large amount of emotional turmoil and pain. This is especially the case when we are young and do not have the emotional strength and development that we gain with maturity. Because the majority and starting point of these repressions are from our formative years then the act of repression becomes for many a habit.


Mark Chapter 3; 22-26 (NIV) :

"And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man's house."


This is a very graphic illustration of the 'hero's Journey' or the navigation of the labyrinth to encounter the Minotaur at the center. Most importantly, it is clear that we are entering into the domain of our shadow; we are the 'house-breaker' here. This is an important qualification because we need to understand that we will be taken out of our comfort zone and will be traversing in unfamiliar and threatening territory. It is also interesting to note that Jesus is not attributed to have said that we must destroy Satan and, also, that by 'binding' the 'strong man' there will be a reward for us at the end.

So we need to learn how to 'bind the strong man' in order to harness our shadow and succeed in the transformation process.

The first step is to not react against our inner pain in today's situation but to understand that something buried deep in our subconscious has been snared and to try our best to identify it. Even without identifying exactly the causes of this reaction and its attached pain we can still perform healing and transformation within.


The way to do this is to embrace the pain we feel from current provocations without reacting against its source whether that be imagined or real. Don't react at all but simply feel it as intensely as you can..


Rather than trying to bring an immediate ease to the burden of the pain in our life, spiritual alchemy is performed by embracing and concentrating on them: at least in the initial stages. If the current situation makes you feel anger, sadness, stress, loneliness or any other negative emotion, then embrace that and sink into it. Feel it as closely and intimately as you can. Be-friend it because by doing this you are achieving two very important aspects of healing. On the one hand by being able to focus on and magnify your pain you will eventually master it so that you can, at the completion of the process, be able to step above it and by so doing out of it. If this is not achieved in the first instances do not discard the process because this can take some time to master but, like all techniques, the more that we practice this aspect the more adept that we will become at it.


This can be seen as one aspect of the powerful and wide-ranging symbol of the phoenix which points to the death and resurrection: By allowing ourselves to be angry at the provocations in our life we are working in the service our conservative ego that wants to remain unchallenged and comfortable in its feelings of mastery in each situation. By going in the opposite direction and allowing the pain to sit without disturbing its affect and even concentrating on it and embracing it we are dying to the control that our ego has over our conscious decisions. Remember that nature will not tolerate a void and the death of our ego however this occurs will leave the space for the birth of our Soul.


The first result of the 'binding' or embracing operation is that the action of deliberately feeling the buried affect from what was formerly edited or censored by our ego will start to loosen its hold on us because it is no longer being repressed but it is now being brought out into the daylight of our conscious recognition.


Furthermore the affect was repressed in the first place because it was too great for us when the original event that it is reall tied to happened. Now that we are older with greater emotional fortitude we are better able to feel the affect and this will allow it to dissipate piece by piece as the feelings are embraced and acknowledged.


By going through this process of owning and embracing the pain without reacting outwards and also by asking ourselves what the original cause of it is will be like peeling the layers off an onion and it will lead to spontaneous events of recollection of the actual memories being brought back to our conscious awareness because the emotion from today's event is still connected to the actual memory. By embracing the emotion today it is a very powerful means for us to be transported consciously to the original event. This is the same dynamic that hypnotists witness with their clients in their therapy work.


Once we begin to recollect the actual events that are connected to the original emotion that is irrupting spontaneously and, seemingly, irrationally into our current behavior it will lead to the next stage in the 'binding' operation in that we are then able to 'clean' the memories like the bricks from a demolished wall so that we are able to re-use them in the construction of our Higher Self.


Left to right, seated: Sigmund Freud, Sándor Ferenczi, and Hanns Sachs. Standing; Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, and Ernest Jones. Photo 1922


Once we embrace the negative emotions within and concentrate not on their further repression but rather on their true source, many of the original memories attached to this pain will start to re-surface. Because our Soul is always steering us towards wholeness and healing we can be assured that it will ally itself to our inner struggle and strategically constellate important memories for the start of the operation. Infact our soul knows in the moment that things happen if they will be important for us to be able to recall and will 'book-mark' certain experiences for us when we come to the Work.


Furthermore the concept of objective 'Truth' is an archetype or Form and the dynamics of this are written into the mechanics of creation itself. There are many examples of this and the most relevant here to the 'hero's Journey' is that there will be clues and links that are given to us constantly by other people with their “slips”. In other words the Truth is always pushing forward and people will inevitably give the real motivation of their action that can often be hidden behind a pretense. Each individual will have to understand this dynamic in their specific situation but be aware of small details and what is written 'between the lines' of people's words and actions.


We need to understand here that the memory is filed away in what can be described as a document in much the same way as those in our computer. In the memory file will be contained the original chemical reaction that we had to the event in the form of an emotional feeling tone. This is why concentrating on our negative emotional reactions today will help us to remember past trauma because the two are connected by the emotion that is still locked into the original memory.


By using the technique of hypnosis in the early stages of his career as psychiatrist Sigmund Freud found that all of his female patients had developed the symptoms of hysteria as a result of repressions resulting from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. According to Freud's clinical experience with these women the symptoms were successfully relieved by making a 'confession' of the event. It must be remembered that in the cultural context within which Freud and the early psychologists were working the victims of sexual abuse were very often stigmatized and a deep seated guilt was part of the symptom formation.


Freud made no secret of the fact that the psychoanalytic technique was the secular version of the Catholic confession. As early as 1896, in the first volume of his collected works, Freud described the technique of abreaction and catharsis in the process of hypnotic regression in hysterical patients. By remembering the original cause of the affect of the trauma and by making the “accusation” and “speaking out”1 (als Klage und als Aussprache) or by making other reactions such as crying, the repression, caused by the formally forgotten “tormenting secret” (die Pein eines Geheimnisses), will be dismantled. A catharsis will then result that will clear the blocked psychic energy through the newly created channel that the Beichte or 'confession' has made. Freud uses an explanation mark when he writes Beichte! and it is a word that relates more specifically to the Catholic institution than the English word 'confession'.


Freud emphasises several times that the 'speaking out' or 'acting out' (Ausdrüke) of the Beichte needs to be of a proportionately sufficient level to the degree of the affect of the original trauma for the catharsis to successfully follow. Freud states that the symptoms,


"immediately and permanently disappeared when we had succeeded in bringing clearly to light the memory of the event and in arousing its accompanying affect, and when the patient had described that event in the greatest possible detail and had put the affect into words."2

The function of the act of Beichte in the psychoanalytic process was compared to the Catholic dogma of confession by Jung in 1912 when still collaborating with Freud. This was at a series of lectures he delivered at Fordham university under the title “Extension Course [in psychoanalysis].”3 In this work, which was published in German in 1913,4 Jung describes Freud as the Beichtvater and his patients as Beichtkinder.5 He continues by providing support for the psychological efficacy of religious tenets in general terms stating, as a presage to breaking out on his own and developing his independent over-working of the archetypes, that religious symbols can be found in everything.6

In his work Zur Psychologie westlicher und östlicher Religion, Jung makes many references to Beichte and absolution in the Catholic dogma. He connects it to the inter-related context within the full system of the confession of faith and general dogma as part of a comprehensive method necessary for the maintenance of psychological health.7 In the next volume of his collected works, Psychology and Alchemy, Jung simply states that either a “confession” or the recognition of some “hitherto unconscious but essential psychic content” are seen as valuable tools of therapy.8 In his autobiography, Jung states: “Not only do I leave the door open for the Christian message, but I consider it of central importance for Western Man.”9 There is no question that Jung saw himself as Seelesorger. or (soul-carer/minister) Throughout his collected works he made a great effort to psychologically explain the adherence to the tenets of Christianity as essential components of the individual's salvation. In Jungian terms, salvation was a process called 'individuation' which, simply put, consists of balancing the various unconscious tensions and developing a degree of self-awareness and self-realization to express oneself in a healthy and individual way in the world. This would be seen as the process of gaining health in any form of psychotherapy worthy of the name."


So we can clearly see that the actual process of remembering the event and embracing the formerly repressed pain and embarrassment gave great healing to the victims of abuse. Part of the healing was in addressing the perpetrator, even if not in a direct way, where one is free and open enough to accuse their oppressor and give vent to the anger. The feelings of guilt would also lift from the victim in such working out of the repression. This is a very powerful and important technique to bring into the 'hero's journey' and the inner dragon is effectively dealt with by the working out of the repressions. When one is very badly wounded there will always be a scare at the damaged place in our Soul in much the same way that our flesh will also scare over. In the same way that our physical scars are stronger than our normal skin, the emotional scars from the healed trauma are also stronger.


However, the scars on our Soul do not need to stay as hard and inflexible as the healed tissue on our skin and by clicking "read more" button below it will take you to my patreon homepage where I explain how we can transform the scars so that they have a beautiful tone that will retain their extra strength but not stand out as having been the result of a great damage.


Once we get to the serious level of unpacking our repressions where can bring to them to the light of our day to day consciousness there will be actual neurological alterations that will manifest in very profound changes in our day to day awareness. As previously mentioned the stress and effort that it takes the conscious mind to repress these old pains is stage by stage lifted and this alone will free a great deal of psychic energy which is now made available for our general conscious awareness. Once we were 'blind' and now we 'see'


But there are more profound neurological affects that we can experience.


The slow but steady unpacking of the series of events that have built on each other in our road to being damaged is like peeling the layers off and onion and eventually we will arrive at the first event upon which all the subsequent damage is built. Arthur Janov made a career and a genre of books over this concept which he labeled our 'primal pain'. This was, in fact, not at all original and Freud had long since isolated this basis in the aetiology of one's psychic disorders and named it the kernkomplex or 'core complex'. It is the bedrock upon which all our ensuing pain is built. This is the center of the onion, the essence of our dragon or the Minotaur at the center of the labyrinth: The core of our personal shadow.


By exposing this first event where our Soul was initially broken we remove the very foundation upon which all of our subsequent repressions was built and we remove a huge blockage in our body's complex web of neurological channels which leads to the spontaneous opening of the heart chakra ....



1 Freud, Sigmund. (1952). 87.


2 Breuer, Josef and Freud, Sigmund. (1895). 40-41.


3 Jung, C. G. (1995a). 107.


4„Erstmals erscheinen in: Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen V (Wien und Leizig 1913).“


5 Jung, C.G. (1995a). 219.


6 Jung, C.G. (1995a). 220.


7 Jung, C.G. (1963a). 47f., 379f., 575.f.


8 Jung, C.G. (1953a). 4.


9 Jung, C.G. (1963b). 236.

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