“The plumb-line drops ever deeper, straight to the grave, and below, to time past and the underworld spirits. The inward and downward pull into oneself and one’s death implies that the senex is the chief force at work in some descriptions of individuation” (James Hillman; Father, Saturn and Senex)
Sometimes it seems that the spirit of senex – the old man – seizes control of everything and life is overshadowed by looming disaster and the ticking of the clock. Time weighs down on us. Doors bang closed; keys go missing – cars won’t start. Still-young knees and hips ache – our movements slow. The mind is intolerant of playfulness and whimsy; there is no quick laugh at a child’s antics, only the sense of seriousness and responsibility for what such silliness may become.
The old man within is critical. He tells us we are wrong to desire what we desire. He judges harshly; we are found guilty of frivolousness and stupidity.
Senex creates order – files things away in stacks and aisles and catalogues – he is infertile, sterile, dry and destitute. Creativity flees, hides. Abundance turns to dust. Birds and crickets refuse to sing; the wildling-child within curls up in a dark corner.
This is the archetype that grows stronger where boundaries are inflexible, where work and responsibility overtake rest and pleasure and where too many life changes disconnect us from our sense of home and beginnings.
Yet… senex reminds us of the way of things; time passes, we grow old and we die. Senex asks us not to squander too many moments in pursuit of pleasure – we must discipline ourselves to put aside a portion of what we have now for tomorrow. The old man within wants us to grow wise and steady and to keep on moving towards the end; towards completion. Keep on moving – forward; onward. Keep at the important task of living, until it is time to stop.
In a world that over-values eros (life), the cure for anything that ails us is often its opposite. In the case of soul-sickness such as this healing can only come from going deeper into it -what does this want from me? How can I honour these feelings? Where in my life can I attain completion?
Then, when we have acknowledged the Old Man, we can start anew.