Ellwood: Reading Selection - The Prosperos

This passage - a continuation of Robert S. Ellwood Jr.'s resume of The Prosperos circa 1973 - was selected by the author to represent a direct statement from The Prosperos about its instruction.

The psychological world view of most of the initiatory groups of modern origin shares with Freudians the fundamental assumption that it is the unconscous mind, as storage bin of past memories and hurts and servile reactions, which is the enemy of psychic freedom. At the same time, they share with the humanistic psychologists, such as Maslow, the conviction that man, freed from the unconscious mind, can attain a state of ecstatic "being," a pure, undeprived consciousness of union with the universe and mental sovereignty over it. They feel that this is man's truly natural state. Finally, and without regard for any inconsistency, they believe with the Jungians that the myth-like images which the imagination can draw out of the depths of the mind provide powerful tools for defeating the unconscious mind and allowing the self to soar free into present being-consciousness. Here, expounding their favorite myth, that of Shakespeare's The Tempest, a writer from The Prosperos portrays the process beautifully.

Discovering that he has the ability of magic, Prospero casts his eerie spells on all who enter the "island" to which he has been exiled. Through the exercise of his mind, he can interpret, project, rationalize, imagine, and see all life as he wishes and to suit his fancy; but only within the "island" of his own comprehension. He recognizes his dual mentality; the conscious mind (Prospero, the magician) and the unconscious mind (Caliban), the unreliable, lying, diabolical monster who would destroy Prospero's magic abilities. Prospero discovers another facet of his mentality, the supra-conscious Ariel, the intuitive, altruistic, understanding agent, ready to aid Prospero when called upon.

As the play unfolds, it appears that Prospero has considerable control over Ariel, who does his bidding on the promise that Ariel will be set free of slavery when the goal is accomplished. Caliban, on the other hand, seems cooperative and bows in submission, only to turn upon his master in sly, sullen deceitfulness. Both servants respond only when called upon and commanded by their master. Man, functioning from the state of persona, realizes he is lost in his separateness. The negative qualities, misbeliefs, misinterpretations, evil appearances, lusts, and sense testimony of the carnal nature are ever at war with the pure comprehension of truth and the altruistic nature. As man realizes that he can control his whole nature only by recognition of the whole, he begins to take command of the good life and sees this reward as an achievement rather than a gift. In the play, [when] Prospero finds himself caught up in the action, and thus out of control, he stands to one side, observing. However, when in control he sits upon a throne, high above the action.

Howard Horton, "The Tempest: The Story of You," Mentation, III, 1, p.12.