EXPANDED     by Robin L. Gordon, Ph.D.

​​Collateral Damage: Hubris and the Quest for Power  (Copyrighted 2020)

While writing about descents to the Underworld in my previous publication, Fieldnotes from a Depth Psychological Exploration of Evil : From Chinggis Khan to Carl Jung, I was in the midst of fact checking a point regarding the CIA-LSD experiments of the 1950s-60s. Upon confirming a date about a person who had seemingly committed suicide after being given LSD without his consent, I subsequently found indications that the circumstances surrounding his death were far more unclear than I had thought. I decided to continue to explore this story although Fieldnotes had gone to press. I was astonished to learn the man who had died, Dr. Frank Olson, worked for the same government project that was involved in his death and almost certainly he did not commit suicide, a fatal journey to the Underworld that was forced upon him by rather ordinary men who demonstrated the embodiment of hubris.

A descent to the Underworld can be considered voluntary or involuntary. Involuntary descents occur when circumstances beyond our control happen due to the vagaries of  human existence, triggered from our human mistakes, or caused by another. I am especially interested in stories of people who were propelled into the Underworld, without warning or consent, by others who were well aware of their actions. Jung wrote, “The purpose of the descent as universally exemplified in the myth of the hero is to show that only in the region of danger . . . can one find the ‘treasure hard to attain’ (jewel, virgin, life-potion, victory over death).” 

Hubris has been associated with world leaders as a result of their positions of great power. However, for this paper I will focus on the ordinary person who consumed by hubris, has no regard for the liberty, freedom, or humanity of anyone who is perceived as an obstacle to power. Their position may be one regarded as rather mundane; however, the damage they inflict on an individual can be as horrific as that which has been visited upon people on a larger scale.


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This is a map, courtesy of the Huntington Library, San Marino, that shows the journey taken by a Taoist priest, Ch’ang-Ch’un. It was made at the request of  Chinggis Khan.