The 8-Circuit Jungle Book: Understanding Consciousness Through Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

From the Kabbalah Tree of Life to the Alphabet of Desire, there are practically as many models of consciousness as there are people in the world: but none, perhaps, are either as clean or as ‘modern’ as Timothy Leary’s 8-circuit model. While it is true that old models are tried and true, new ones to which people have not become spiritually attached tend to better accommodate man’s (generally) broader conscious understanding of himself. The more abstract the model, and the less hampered by veils of symbolism, the more universal it is. By utilizing the model of circuits, Leary and Robert Anton Wilson produced an interpretation of consciousness which has applications regardless of one’s spiritual or psychological system. Once grasped, the model aids profoundly in an understanding of human psychology, and is so useful that it can be used as a frame by which to interpret an entire work of art, such as Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books.

Though Disney has long-since left its fingerprints all over that particular story, Kipling’s most popular tale is an inarguable exploration of human consciousness, specifically the development of that consciousness. Its setting in the jungle already places it in realms of the psyche unknown to the conscious mind, and its characters, all animals, are clear archetypes which reside in yet-unconscious state—Jung himself described that the appearance of animals in dreams, fairy tales and works of art indicate principles and archetypes not yet brought to consciousness.

A great deal of the plot of The Jungle Book revolves around Mowgli’s search for fire, ‘The Red Flower’. This archetypical symbol of heightened consciousness should very nearly go without saying as a symbol of such, but that the animals of the jungle should call it ‘The Red Flower’ gives it a double meaning of symbols of the self. One need only think of the lotus blossom to consider the proximity of the flower to the Self; and the color red, with its ties to alchemical sulphur, the ‘red slave’ which must mate with the white woman, marks it as a source of passion, a tool and a weapon. In the book version of The Jungle Books, Mowgli’s acquisition of fire and his ascension from the jungle and into the ‘plowed fields’ of man is actually the first story of the book, which then goes on to describe, out of chronology, a number of the man-cub’s adventures. That in mind, we will for the sake of brevity and ease discuss events in a rough chronology more or less in line with the film versions of the tale. However, because the symbols are so thickly piled, I would suggest curious magicians to read the book on their own.



MOWGLI – Our puer eternis in the purest sense, Mowgli is a wild boy who is in constant peril and is responsible for in one way or another restoring order to the jungle. In high demand among half the animals and hated by the rest, Mowgli as the eternal boy stands out as that portion of consciousness which must grow, evolve and renew by its pursuit of fire. Mowgli is also referred to throughout the text as ‘The Frog’, which is the meaning of the word ‘Mowgli’ and something I know a certain fringe group of magicians will appreciate. Here, it only furthers his meaning as a symbol for the self: the amphibious frog, capable of dwelling as much on water on land, splits its time between a symbol of the unconscious and a symbol of consciousness. It is also a creature of keen instinct, and a finder of lost things in many fairy tales. Mowgli, our hero, is an archetype of consciousness and thus, while he represents consciousness, he is still an archetype of unconsciousness: that archetype which draws together many sets of instincts, not just the instincts of the mammals or birds or reptiles alone, but all of them together, and the fish and the human, too.

BAGHEERA – One half of the wise old man archetype, Bagheera is that portion of the archetype which represents as and is indiscernible from the shadow. This much is clear from his nature as a black panther and the fact that he was born into the world of man and escaped it, rather than being raised in the jungle and escaping to the world of men. He also, as most shadows, possesses inordinate fondness for the puer eternis, and is his most useful mentor and guide, having been responsible for sending Mowgli to retrieve the Red Flower in the first place. Bagheera also holds a special place as a positive Luciferian adviser, being that he was once collared by man and still wears the scar from the event, like Lucifer condemned to matter.

BALOO – The other half of the wise old man archetype (which also often represents itself in various sizes, such as a giant bear), Baloo of the book is far from the comic relief character he proves in the movies. Rather, he is a wizened—if not entirely respected—teacher of young wolves, and is responsible for teaching Mowgli the language of the jungle.

TABAQUI THE JACKAL – A character you might not recognize, Tabaqui is Shere Kahn’s abhorred hanger-on who Rudyard Kipling explicitly calls a ‘trickster’. Representing strongly the negative aspect of the Mercurial without drifting into Luciferian qualities, Tabaqui is a Mercurius who will later be purified by his death at the paws of the wolf, Grey Brother, who will thereafter explicitly assume a more helpful Mercurial aspect.

SHERE KAHN – A ravenous man-eater, Shere Kahn is both that which destroyed Mowgli’s home life and that which inadvertently restores it. The tiger, made lame by a man, is both a sort of figure of Satanic opposition (one should remember the Dragon’s pursuit of the child of the Woman Clothed By The Sun, who will then re-emerge later as the Logos to cast the Dragon into a lake of fire) and a symbol of rampant, masculine energy in a sort of supplementary symbol to the alchemical red lion. It is this energy which must be tamed and dissolved in its own fires in order to bring balance to the jungle and make heighten consciousness/bring Mowgli into man’s village.

AKELA – The leader of the wolf pack who originally accepted Mowgli into their fold, Akela assumes the Saturnine role of a dying king in need of restoration when he is no longer able to make a kill on his own, and Shere Kahn is able to usurp the favor of his pack members. Lawful order within the psyche is being threatened by the emergence of adult male energy which must be absorbed into the conscious psyche so as to allow Mowgli’s safe passage into adulthood.

MOTHER AND FATHER WOLF – Mowgli’s initial ‘parents’ in life could serve both as a representation of one’s fleshly parents upon the incarnation of the spirit in the flesh, or the Great Mother/Chthonic Father archetype at their lowest possible levels of consciousness. The ‘chthonic’ aspect of Father wolf comes not from within the character itself, but rather from its nearest relative, Akela, who could be considered a dual aspect of the father wolf for relatively obvious reasons, not the least of which being Father Wolf’s muted role behind that of Mother Wolf, Raksha. Mother Wolf, for her part, is known in the pack as ‘The Demon’, while her name also means ‘protector’ and ‘nurturer’, relating the compassionate mother archetype to that archetype of the destroyer, since matter is the cause of life and ultimately death. Remember ‘Gerda’ from The Snow Queen is a name which means the same thing; this puts Mother Wolf into the category of anima, and indeed, we will see better later on that Raksha, as the barely-present feminine supporter in the background of some stories, is a deeply unconscious manifestation of Kipling’s anima.

ELEPHANTS – The positions of the elephants within the story vary so much across the medium that to try to chronicle their appearances below would only muddy the waters of what we are trying to explore. Instead, I will leave off describing their appearance until the second part of The Jungle Books, and the second set of circuits. Suffice to say for now that whenever they appear, however they appear, elephants represent a form of the self which is more ancient and more unconscious than Mowgli, which deliver wisdom and assistance at various junctures in the various stories and adaptations thereof. Jung, in Aion, described a similar meaning to the symbol, and I wager you will recognize one or two other characters counted among his list:

Thus the self can appear in all shapes from the highest to the lowest, inasmuch as these transcend the scope of the ego personality in the manner of a daimonion. It goes without saying that the self also has its theriomorphic symbolism. The commonest of these images in modern dreams are, in my experience, the elephant, horse, bull, bear, white and black birds, fishes, and snakes. Occasionally one comes across tortoises, snails, spiders, and beetles. The principal plant symbols are the flower and the tree. Of the inorganic products, the commonest are the mountain and lake.

-Jung, “The Structure and Dynamics of the Self”, Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, page 226


With our stage set and some archetypes identified, on to the story: After narrowly avoiding, through sheer luck, the teeth of Shere Kahn, Mowgli makes his way to a wolf den, where he is promptly adopted. Notably, when he is brought before the council, Kipling refers to him as ‘a little atom’, which is a poignant image as much as a fantastically-veiled pun: for, indeed, what is the puer eternis but a little Adam?

In order to allow the man-cub’s entry into the pack, two creatures who are not Mowgli’s parents must vouch for him: the two that do are Baloo and Bagheera, with the latter buying Mowgli’s entry into the pack by offering the wolves a dead bull, which Mowgli thereafter is not allowed to eat. This is in a sense a reference to the Hindu practice of not eating cows, but it is more significant than that: the bull, being an image of the Self as a chariot-puller, plow-driver, horned fighter and sultry lover, is significant to Mercury as much as Venus (the horns of the symbol of Mercurius; Ishtar’s connection to the bull of heaven in Gilgamesh) and is a symbol of the unconscious man from which the conscious man springs. Indeed, the bull is already dead when Bagheera offers it: the bull may in context be considered Rudyard Kipling’s original psychic state on conceptualizing of the story which would renew it, over-worked, useless, and rotting. From this bull’s corpse springs Mowgli the Man-Cub, a feral puer eternis who is arguably half-man, half-animal. Thus, the bull represents the fully unconscious self who is by definition dead and useless once Mowgli appears.

Some years pass after Mowgli is brought into the pack (ten, roughly) and by the time he is around the age of twelve, the man-cub is well known in the jungle. In the books, this backfires terribly when it results in the monkey’s kidnapping of the boy, who they believe can teach them to build structures, and Bagheera and Baloo require the help of Kaa to retrieve him. In the films, the stories flow in a more cut and dry way, and a way in chronological keeping with the 8-Circuit Model. Each event which Mowgli experiences may be thought of as an experience on a new circuit.





The connection between the first circuit and Sagan’s reptile brain as described by RAW in Prometheus Rising comes into clear play here. In the book version of the story, the monkeys throw Mowgli into an abandoned structure full of cobras, further reinforcing the presence of snakes, and Kaa saves the day by hypnotizing the monkeys and allowing Mowgli to be free. In the film versions, however, Mowgli encounters Kaa on his own, by accident, and must rely on the help of a friend to escape. Notably, the live action film recently released uses Kaa as a storytelling device by which to share Mowgli’s backstory with the audience and with the character, himself, but this could be better thought of as a depiction of memory encoded into those most unconscious regions of our brain, inaccessible but through a great deal of profound introspection. Kaa’s hypnosis and illusions links it also to the Hindu concept of Maya: Kaa is that part of the world which hypnotizes us on our arrival, which clutches us and will devour us, all while assuring us of our own safety.

In the films, Baloo and the elephants both represent, to varying degrees, the second circuit, in that they are the ways by which Mowgli learns to interact with others. Much as in the books Baloo teaches the boy the ‘master phrases’ by which he can identify himself as friendly, in the films Baloo acquires the boy’s help in his pursuit of honey, further expanding the boy’s ability to work with his friends and neighbors in the jungle and giving him the tools to overcome or avoid conflicts. This anal territorial circuit is also when language begins to become a key.

Of far greater import than basic issues of dominance and submission and pack structure is the ability of creatures to build a narrative to explain its own existence to itself, and Rudyard’s apes barely have this down. The gray-face monkeys, highly disrespected by all the creatures in the jungle, wish keenly for attention and have no taboos whatsoever, feeling free to begin bloody battles among themselves and leave the corpses on display for all the jungle to see. Kipling also specifically describes them as having poor long-term memory. These qualities keep them restricted to the third circuit at the highest and explain why they are so desperate, in various versions of the story, for Mowgli to teach them to build houses or, more symbolically significant, build a fire. The figures of the monkeys are that part of the unconscious which wishes to become conscious but, by definition, cannot: in conquering them, Mowgli symbolically conquers their circuit and retrieves the notion of time-binding.

Shere Kahn, whose defeat at last opens to Mowgli the path to the man village, or, in the books, secures his home there. Either symbol is acceptable because strictly speaking it is only the assumption of the first three circuits which requires interaction with society: children, after all, have not yet had an experience with the fourth circuit’s activation, either to be burdened by or ignore its taboos. They are oblivious, which is why Mowgli is free to enter the village just as soon as he has learned the skill of time-binding, and it is in that village that he learns more skills which belong to the first four circuits and man’s culture, namely things like plowing, castes, and money. Once he has learned all of this, though, he hears Shere Kahn wants to kill him, and that is only in some depictions: in others, Mowgli is still in the jungle when he must kill the tiger. Shere Kahn’s character is relegated to the 4th circuit, which handles society’s taboos, for one simple reason: he is a man-eater. The taboo of cannibalism is one which surpasses far and wide all others, and represents by its very nature all others; and while Shere Kahn is not a man, himself, and thus not a cannibal, he is symbolic of a man—indeed, recall, symbolic of the very fiery, devouring nature of masculinity itself—and thus his appetite may be considered roundly cannibalistic. This is why when he is killed and skinned, Mowgli’s possession of that skin represents mastery of the 4th circuit, the concept of taboos; he has freed himself from his enemy by possessing the skin of his enemy, with which he could potentially clothe himself, but which he can instead exchange in the village for great wealth, which is symbol both of the wealth of experience and knowledge a higher consciousness will bring to man, but also a symbol of the wealth which is brought to the creative soul brave enough to skin his own proverbial tiger and sell it in the world of men.

Once we are in that world of men, we have to pull the camera back a little further. As previously discussed, when Cities are opposed to Forests or Jungles, they represent the conscious state as opposed to the unconscious state: thus, when Mowgli is brought into the city an orphan and adopted by the bereaved mother Messua and her husband, the unnamed, richest man in the village who must be kept happy, this symbolizes conscious Rudyard Kipling (who, as the author, is the ‘richest man’ in his own inner city in that it is he who provides symbolizes the fiscal resources from which all life, commerce and structure springs) and his anima (a bereaved woman is an impure woman, and her happiness in having who she supposes to be her dead son, Nathoo, returned to her, is an act of purifying the anima) assuming the unconscious wisdom of the puer eternis in order to renew the self (household). This particular meme of real parents/fake parents is a popular archetype in fiction all over, with Harry Potter’s nearly-holy dead parents and his decidedly lacking Aunt and Uncle forming a quaternity more akin to the four parents of Sophocles’ unlucky Oedipus than we would on first glance think. The same is true here, though in this case part of our parental quaternity is made up of animals. Here on the conscious side we have Messua/Husband; there on the unconscious side we have Raksha/Father Wolf, or arguably Raksha/Akela. I previously mentioned that Raksha is a manifestation of Kipling’s anima: it is now easier to see. Often in one story an archetype manifests in multiple ways, each at progressive levels of consciousness: I have pointed out previous examples, but Kipling’s dualistic approach in this story leaves us with two. The progression of the anima from Raksha to Messua echoes that of the puer from Mowgli “The Frog” Man-Cub to Nathoo Kipling. Incidentally, Nathoo was selected as the name of Mowgli’s adopted father in a live action film I just learned about which looks rather abominable, 1995’s Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Someone who has seen it, feel free to correct me as to its quality.


At any rate, I have digressed. We still have four circuits yet to cover:





What happens next happens, more or less, only in the actual, original Jungle Books. As previously mentioned, Mowgli leaves Shere Kahn alive when he goes into the world of man, and thus cannot conquer the 4th circuit until the tiger is dead and his skin claimed. However, his time in the village allows us to observe how several circuits work against one another. The meta-programming circuit is described by Robert Anton Wilson as being responsible for programming lower circuits; as Kipling’s consciousness begins integrating the puer eternis, it endeavors to reprint his perception of self and consciousness by dismissing his connection to the jungle as nonsense, putting him to work, and trying to distract him with not just labor but the social conventions of clothing, money, and others. Although all these concerns are as previously mentioned concerns which belong to the first four circuits, they are relevant here because it provides an example of how society uses the meta-programming circuit to instill these concepts as vital, and how someone tapped into the fifth circuit may avoid it. The fifth circuit, the ‘bliss’ circuit inspiring apparent hedonism and a desire for communion with the unconscious, is the state in which Mowgli stubbornly resides while in the world of men, and that state prevents the village’s programming from taking true hold. He maintains his connection with the jungle by way of his four wolf siblings, one of whom is called Grey Brother and who meets him at night to deliver information. Throughout The Jungle Books, wolves tend to represent an instinctive, subtle source of information—indeed, one would do well to recall the wolf which suckled Romulus and Remus for comparable symbolism of the wolf in the role of instinct, itself, and other times the very unconscious. By his continued communion with Grey Brother at night (we are edging towards a lesson on the importance of prayer, here) Mowgli maintains his connection to the jungle and learns when Shere Kahn is out to kill him. Using the herd of buffalo the village has ordered him to guard, Mowgli and Grey Brother drive the animals (near enough to bulls I do not have to take time to describe their symbolism) into two groups (remember the significance of duality in this story) and the two groups stampeding from opposite ends of the ravine in which the tiger has waited to strike crush Shere Kahn in the middle. Think of Yin/Yang and then Man/Wolf.

The subsumption of Shere Kahn, the purest form of the aggressive death principle, marks the true activation of the bliss circuit and an observable ascension into higher circuits: but when the town hunter, Buldeo, arrives to investigate the stampede and chastise Mowgli for letting the buffalo run off, he discovers the boy skinning the tiger and, when he means to take the reward for himself, he is attacked by Akela the wolf. Though he is freed by the wolf and the boy, Buldeo is convinced he has seen sorcery, making it clear that Mowgli has ascended into the seventh circuit, which from an internal perspective is marked by feelings of reincarnation or immortality, but from the outside seem like witchcraft, sorcery or insanity. Buldeo in fact claims that Mowgli is, specifically, a shape-shifter, and as a result the boy runs from the village. This descent back into the wilderness from which Mowgli came is a kind of death: it fills him with grief and sorrow and most of all confusion to have found the villagers turned on him, much as we are all full of grief and sorrow and confusion at the nature of our own mortality.

After draping the tiger’s skin on the council rock and doing a dance on it, Mowgli spends time in the jungle, rescues his adoptive parents, and then contacts the elephant Hathi, who admits when pressed that he is the elephant in a jungle story about an elephant who escaped captivity. Hathi, then, a parallel to the shadow Bagheera who was our primary assistant before even entering the first circuit, agrees to help Mowgli take revenge, and the elephants raze the village. This represents the activation of the ‘non-local quantum circuit’, as RAW put it: that is, a subsumption of the structure and meaning of reality by the unconscious, and eternal knowledge unbounded by time or location as represented by the wisdom and assistance of the elephants. With the village conquered, we leave off with Mowgli a King of the Jungle: and thus, the puer has ascended above both aspects of the Self he has incorporated into one, and the writer is now ready to start again this process of alchemical creation with the start of a fresh story.

As I mentioned before, The Jungle Books are so rich with symbolism that it is impossible to capture it all here, and I would recommend anyone interested in alchemical or occult or even simple psychologically-relevant art to give it a read. Come back in two weeks for the next essay, and in the meantime click here to leave a review of DELILAH, MY WOMAN once you’ve read it. THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE is finished and my efforts are fully behind pursuit of an agent. Though essays will continue to be released on a bi-weekly basis, they’ll be more around this length than some of our previous twenty-page tomes. It’s probably for the better. Keep checking back for updates, and Goodreads users, click here to leave a review of DELILAH, MY WOMAN

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