The Lady and The Unicorn: Analysis

The Lady and The Unicorn, an art piece showing two women in dresses in the center with a unicorn and a lion on either side of them, both with shields and staves. This The Lady and The Unicorn Analysis sheds light on the image’s relation to our work.

The Lady and The Unicorn: The Soul in Innocence, Maturation & Virginity

Let’s look at the soul in stages of transformation personified in the 14th-century French tapestries titled, The Lady and The Unicorn, starting with the first of the images: the Soul in Innocence.  


James Hillman (2004) identified “the addiction to innocence, to not knowing life’s darkness and not wanting to know, either.” Indeed, his diagnosis sheds light on the oppression and suffering that breathe in the shadow of American idealism. That Hillman equates it with an addiction bears mentioning. 


It is interesting to consider this perspective when treating our clients with addiction issues. Innocence can be an escape from responsibility, confrontation, neurosis and more. Often we encounter a psychological pattern of sublimation – moving from one addiction to another in an effort to remain hidden and unconscious. Additionally, innocence is a protector, a surrogate womb where refuge from confrontation with the self can be found.


Our Soul-Nature

On the one hand, innocence represents a time without care, where, in reference to the soul, life is lived without reflection and opinion (neurosis). In many instances, we like to remind clients to remember their weirdness as children. Think of the things we say and do in childhood without regard or expectation. 


Our “weirdness” expresses our soul-nature. Perhaps we loved to wiggle our bodies or mastermind an army of toys. Perhaps we enjoyed lining up our stuffed animals in categories or by size and color, playing school, hiding in closets, or making up songs. Innocence grants us the experience of fluid, free, un-reflected expression. It’s our philosophy that innocence is the ease of the mind, of imagination and the body.


The Lady and the Unicorn: the Virginal Soul

Lets briefly look at the virgin archetype. When we consider virginity in terms of the psyche, we see the uninhabited potentiality for spiritual insemination. Virginity means pure – uninhabited or untainted, a potency of something or someone without pollination. Virgin in this perspective helps us to attend to what is our own. This is the rightful starting place for a soul in ascent.

In Greek mythology, the virgin goddesses personify a complete “does-what-she-does” quality. A virgin goddess is not susceptible to penetration psychologically; rather, she seeks nothing and embodies, in action and being, an honest-to-one’s-self-expression. Consider the Greek goddess, Artemis. Artemis wears a short skirt so she can run through the woods and hunt, fires true, golden arrows at whatever she is after without miss, and prefers the company of her nymphs in the privacy of the wild. Virginity personified in the image of Artemis captures independence, strength, play, and solitude.

The Winds of the Spirit

The youthful soul, firstly calm and quaint grows curious and full of life. As the virginal soul consciousness inflates and the winds of the spirit fill our banners, life takes on a rich and passionate quality. What stirs us with fantasies of heaven? The role of virginity can be seen as the uninhabited, the new potential and inspiration. The Virginal Soul resembles possibility and a generative expression in the world.

On the one hand, supporting our clients to “reach for the stars” and live into our passions can fund a sense of self and meaning. On the other hand, our hot-air-filled lift can take us off the ground and away from the things of this world. The virginal soul is not the place to bed consciousness, but it is an important place to attend. Can we support the rising fantasies without dropping lead in the proverbial basket?


The Lady and the Unicorn: Freedom, Growth, and Maturation

In Memories Dreams Reflections, C.G. Jung suggests that through adaptation a second self emerges to better interact with environment and needs.  We become more survivalists – creating a self better suited for needs and approval. How can the persona we show the world tell us about what we value and what we keep hidden? In time the soul may lose expression and, in neglect, sleep behind the second self. 


Conversely, a soul-centered psychology aims to awaken and attend to the soul in maturation. By regression into the innocent, we avoid our growth. Consider how innocence-idealized may very well be a hiding place and also a threshold into the imagination. 


Against the backdrop of archetypal innocence, how do we experience freedom, growth, and maturation? Can innocence put into perspective our lost self? Finally, how can we bring that freedom back out into our waking life?


Innocence As Defense Mechanism

On the one hand, the idealization of innocence can concurrently serve a different function in the individual psyche. Perhaps, rather than grow into and mature through our entangled issues, we may instead regress to a helpless and unknowing, irresponsible archetypal possession. 


The world is chaotic and big. Responsibility is overwhelming in its pressure and rather than work through and step into a soul in maturation, we might unconsciously find refuge in the complete abandon of “helplessness.” 


Innocence as a defense mechanism may show up in an attitude of naiveté. “You can’t blame me, I don’t know any better,” for example. Does this behavior sound familiar? How can innocence become a hiding place and a regressive move away from maturation? 


Furthermore, how can innocence draw us toward what was left behind? Is it possible to move into the essence of the soul remembered in innocence without abandoning a conscious and integrative process?


Relating to The Lady and The Unicorn

Take a look at the image above. We recognize that the central figure is larger than her handmaiden, cloaked in gold, symbolic of divinity, and the blue and red of imagination and life. This central figure attends quaintly to the task of stringing flowers. 


The unicorn of the imagination and the lion of the animal nature are attending and raising banners to the central image, the soul in innocence. The soul is attended by a smaller aspect, holding the flowers for the soul’s creation. 


The focus here is inward and calm. The feeling is intimate and uncomplicated. Can we have these kinds of experiences in our adult life? Try to listen and observe with an ear for innocence both in its idealization as an escape from reality and as a way into the imagination, toward the authenticity of the individual soul.


Learning From The Lady and the Unicorn

Barn Life Recovery’s mission is to help people Love Life Again. We offer mental health services for all types of mental illness, whether you’re going through a low point or have been dealing with these issues for all of your life. Check out our events to see how you can become involved with the community.

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