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This site is dedicated to the work founded by Carl Gustav Jung.

The intention of the website is to provide a bridge between the anglophone and francophone Jungian communities in the world.

JPS contains part of the content of Espace Francophone Jungien that has been translated into English.

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The New Borg in Star Trek Picard: transformation of the collective shadow (3/3)

This is a different story than the hero journey we are so used to. In line with Erich Neumann’s theories on the New Ethic, evil is not defeated or killed. Instead, it is accepted as part of oneself, negotiated with, and allowed to transform.

French version of this article

The journey of a single person can have a profound impact on the collective unconscious shadow. Jurati’s new and more moderate Borg in Star Trek: Picard is a symbol that gives hope in today’s times of great division and splitting.

In the first two articles in this series on shadow and evil in Star Trek (1/3 and 2/3) I explored Neumann’s Old Ethic and the concepts of suppression, repression, shadow, persona identification, inflation, active imagination, shadow projection, and scapegoating.

On this page

Star Trek: Picard (2020-2023)

This more recent Star Trek series takes place twenty-nine years after the conclusion of Star Trek: The New Generation.

At the beginning of season 2, a new kind of Borg ship comes through an artificial spatial anomaly asking to become a member of the Federation. At this point in the Star Trek timeline, the decimated Borg have not been seen or heard of in over a decade.

But instantly fear and paranoia run so high that destroying the unknown Borg ship without provocation becomes a real consideration, even if it means abandoning the Federation’s highest values.

As is the case according to Neumann’s Old Ethic, the Federation’s repressed shadow is always lurking just under the surface, waiting for the tiniest opportunity to make itself known.

Then a new Borg Queen, who looks nothing like previous Borg queens, cuts through all defenses and proceeds to take control of Picard’s ship and the whole fleet. In order to prevent the Borg from obtaining an entire armada, Picard activates the auto-destruct sequence. Then everything goes black.

When Picard and his friends wake up, they find themselves in an alternate timeline. In this timeline Picard is a ruthless war general at the head of the Confederation of Earth. Diametrically opposed to the peace-loving United Federation of Planets in the original timeline, this Confederation is xenophobic and systematically eradicates or enslaves alien races.

Picard’s crew saves the old Borg Queen from public execution because she is the only one who has knowledge across different timelines and who can do the calculations to go back in time to the moment where history was changed. After jumping back nearly 400 years into the past, the old Borg Queen is hurt and unconscious, and the spaceship inoperative.

Agnes Jurati, tormented scientist, proposes allowing herself to be partially assimilated in order to repair the Borg Queen from the inside and restore power to the ship. Picard is to sever their connection before she loses herself to the Borg completely.

Donald Kalsched’s archetypal self-care system

To understand why the old Borg Queen, repulsive and terrifying to everyone else, has such a strong pull on Jurati, we turn to Jungian analyst Donald Kalsched.

Kalsched has developed a model of what happens when trauma or repeated neglect occur very early in life, before the ego has had sufficient time to develop. Through his work with patients like Jurati he has discovered that one of the most influential inner figures in such people is very dark and harmful, but at the same time extremely seductive, just like the Borg Queen.

With very early trauma, a split occurs into two autonomous parts according to Kalsched:

  • a hidden inner child,
  • a protector/persecutor.

This protector/persecutor is part of the early, undeveloped Self, split into a light and a dark angel who are both trying to protect the inner child.

Painting by William Blake

The light angel (or protector aspect) comes to the rescue in times of psychological danger, offering solace and the feeling of eternal bliss. It is hard to resist the temptation of losing oneself in illusory fantasy.

The dark angel (or persecutor aspect) is also part of the archetypal self-care system. It is a much more severe version of our inner critic. It springs into action every time someone like Jurati feels the slightest glimmer of hope and connection. With its hurtful inner commentary, it sabotages any hope of happiness.

It does everything in its power to prevent the person from making the supposedly horrible mistake of trusting someone, making a true connection, and running the risk of being hurt again. The dark angel protects too, however hard it is to imagine.

Kalsched writes:

“It would not be appropriate to attribute the archaic violent energies of this figure to the shadow – at least not in the way Jung intended the shadow to represent the coherent ego’s dark alter-personality, split off in moral development and later integrated in the interest of the wholeness of personality.

Clearly, this figure belongs to a more primitive level of ego development and corresponds to what Jung designated as the archetypal shadow or the magic demon with mysterious powers [Jung, 1916 : para. 153].

If anything, this figure, whose unfeeling murderous acts assure psychic disintegration, is closer to incarnate evil in the personality – the dark side of the Godhead or Self.”
Donald Kalsched, The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit, p. 28

The Borg correspond indeed to a much more archetypal and primitive shadow. They are the embodiment of evil.

The old Borg Queen as protector/persecutor

In the dialogue with the old Borg Queen, we recognize that she exhibits both qualities of the protector/persecutor:

  • seduction into the illusory bliss of the light angel,
  • merciless criticism as the dark angel.

When Picard must leave the ship, Jurati finds herself alone with the Borg Queen, who starts to manipulate her in an effort to gain control of her. The Borg Queen effortlessly mixes flattery and acceptance with hurtful words that make it clear that, to others, Jurati will never be acceptable. She says: 

“Poor Agnes Jurati. Doomed to be the afterthought left behind again. Not to me. You’re more than you let on. That they can see. Smart, cunning, and remarkably more cruel than I could have predicted.”

We know that Jurati’s cruelty is a fact. In season 1 she was overcome by shadow, betrayed her friends and murdered her former boyfriend.

She was subsequently acquitted of all charges because of the severity of the psychological duress and manipulation she was under. But it shows us nevertheless that not far underneath her intellectual brilliance and good intentions lie deep early trauma that has not yet been worked through.

Unbelonging

Jurati is haunted by a pervasive feeling of loneliness and longing for connection. The old Borg Queen aptly names it “unbelonging”. She continues her seductive strategy and taunts:

“You felt it too, didn’t you? That thing for which we Borg have so very many words. Assimilation. Cooperation. Connection.”

Imagine how tempting the idea of all-embracing Borg connection and acceptance must be to Jurati, who has carried around the fear and shame of being unlovable her whole life. It would be like going back to the all-nourishing womb of the unconscious and forgetting all the pain she ever suffered.

The old Borg Queen is lonely too and has long wanted to find (or create) a counterpart: an equal. That was the reason behind assimilating Picard thirty-five years earlier and turning him into Locutus of Borg (see article 1/3). But it didn’t last, as Picard was ultimately saved by his friends and crew.

While her friends are out trying to save the galaxy, Jurati finds herself in an impossible dilemma. The old Borg Queen has used trickery to take a policeman hostage. When the Borg Queen threatens to kill the man, Jurati pulls a gun on her. But Jurati cannot simply kill the Borg Queen because they need her to return to their own time in the future. Confronted with a stalemate, the old Borg Queen tries to convince Jurati to join her and become Borg.

“You’re alone, Agnes. In every timeline. Every permutation, every reality in this universe. You are utterly alone. That is your faith. Forever invisible.

But I could change all of that. Imagine being loved completely. Every thought and whisper cherished and shared. With our minds joined as one, we could be more. I am the only one in this entire universe who has ever truly seen you. Once I am gone, you are alone.”

Jurati shoots the old Borg Queen to save the man. But then she is suddenly overcome with excruciating pain.

Jurati: “What’s happening to me? What is that?”

Old Borg Queen: “Me. Dying. I’m part of you.”

We cannot kill off shadow without losing a part of ourselves.

Old Borg Queen: “Do you like that gnawing nothingness? Because it’s never leaving. Together, we could be so much more. … You need me to get home. You need me, Agnes. How will you survive without me?”

We need shadow to be whole.

Finally Jurati gives in and the Borg Queen assimilates her. But she doesn’t do this in the usual Borg way. She doesn’t turn her into a drone, which would mean total destruction of Jurati’s individuality. Because she values Jurati as a potential equal, she infiltrates her mind instead.

Although she initially creates the illusion that Jurati is still in control, we discover gradually that Jurati’s body now houses two opposing personalities.

  • The first is scientist Agnes Jurati who is intelligent, compassionate and strongminded and wants to help her friends save the galaxy.
  • The second is that of the old Borg Queen who wants nothing more than obtaining a starship so that she can go off and assimilate many other species in order to create a new Collective of Borg drones and continue her quest for order and perfection.

In true Trickster fashion the old Borg Queen gradually takes full control of Jurati’s body. As one, they sing: We’re running with the shadows of the night.”

The showstopping performance of Pat Benatar’s Shadows of the Night shows just how much Jurati benefits from having shadow with her, instead of it being split-off. While singing with the old Borg Queen, she is radiant and confident. She is no longer lonely, lost, awkward, and terrified of knowing, let alone showing, her true potential. She is whole.

Now that the old Borg Queen has enough control, she builds an army of assimilated soldiers to help her take over the ship. The ongoing battle between Jurati and the old Borg Queen, between consciousness and shadow, comes to a close when the old Borg Queen mortally wounds Jurati’s friend Seven and refuses to show mercy.

Neumann’s New Ethic: a gentleman’s agreement with shadow

As Jurati regains some ego control, she starts a dialogue and negotiation with her inner shadow figure.

This dialogue can be understood in Jungian terms as an active imagination. While retaining ego consciousness Jurati is ready to sit with her shadow figure in conversation.

An important step in the individuation process takes place once Jurati stops seeing the old Borg Queen as something evil outside of herself that must be exorcised or defeated.

She gives up the idea of Neumann’s Old Ethic: the achievement of a moral society by eliminating all that is contrary to the chosen values (see article 1/3 and 2/3).

Neumann writes:

“But as the process of individuation unfolds, the ego’s former drive towards perfection simultaneously disintegrates. The inflationary exaltation of the ego has to be sacrificed, and it becomes necessary for the ego to enter in some kind of gentleman’s agreement with the shadow – a development which is diametrically opposed to the old ethic’s ideal of absolutism and perfection.”
Erich Neumann, Depth psychology and a New Ethic, p. 80

Instead, Jurati now accepts that these shadow components are part of herself. And she is ready to negotiate.

Old Borg Queen: “What is this?”

Jurati: “The history of the Borg. Well, the only history that matters: the ending. How it always ends for you. A lone Borg slayer, a United Federation. They come for you. For your top-shelf overreaching, Icarus-worthy arrogance. …

In this or any other universe you always lose. That’s why you fight so hard. You live with the death knell of your species across infinite timelines. You fear loss, just like we do. You long for what we all long for. Connection. Longevity. Discovery.”

Both the Borg and Federation function according to the one-sided Old Ethic, which is « based on the principle of opposites in conflict ». Neumann writes:

“An ethic which is based on the shadow is just as one-sided as one that is guided solely by ego values. It leads to suppression, blockage and the breakthrough of compensatory positive forces; but the instability of man’s psychic structure is just as marked in an ethic of this kind as it was in the case of the old ethic.” (p. 92)

The Old Ethic is a partial ethic, and always ends in disaster on the collective level. The Borg are eventually attacked and destroyed.

But Neumann proposes another way: a total or whole ethic.

“The new ethic is total in the sense that it is orientated towards wholeness-and towards two aspects of wholeness in particular. In the first place, it is no longer individualistic; it does not merely take into account the ethical situation of the individual, but also considers the effect which the individual’s attitude will have upon the collective.” (p. 92)

The first point refers to the distinction between the individual and the collective. The Old Ethic concerned itself only with what goes on at the level of the individual.

In the New Ethic we also consider the larger consequences of our individual moral viewpoint for our fellow human beings and our environment in general.

Neumann continues:

“In the second place, it is no longer a partial ethic of consciousness, but also includes within its reckoning the effect of the conscious stance upon the unconscious. In fact, responsibility now has to be carried by the totality of the personality, not simply by the ego as the center of consciousness.” (p. 92)

Neumann’s second point draws our attention to the unconscious. The Old Ethic pertained only to what goes on at the level of consciousness. No thought was given to the resulting accumulation of opposing negative values in the unconscious and the disasters this might cause.

In the New Ethic, however, we take responsibility for our shadow. This frees the collective unconscious from having to take on and live out that part of shadow and evil.

So Jurati makes a proposition which is in line with the New Ethic:

Jurati: “What if we ask for it? [permission to assimilate others] You and I? … The galaxy is filled with lives that need saving. One of them is lying at your feet right now.” [Jurati’s friend Seven, who is mortally wounded]

Old Borg Queen: “You’d have a cohort pulled from the dying, recruit from derelict ships, flotsam of space? You’d have us collect scraps?”

Jurati: “And offer second chances. What if we take this ship and build a better Borg? A real Collective, based not on assimilation, but salvation. Think about it! A Borg Collective that embraces the uniqueness of its members.”

Old Borg Queen: “You ask us to embrace weakness.”

Jurati: “I’m positing that what you’ve written off as weakness is actually strength. Cooperation. … Imagine members who would fight harder for what they chose. Who would lose no battles because they made no enemies, who would not be discarded and replaced. Attachments could grow and deepen.”

Neumann’s gentleman’s agreement with shadow

The old Borg Queen accepts Jurati’s proposition. She saves Seven’s life. In return she will be allowed to take the ship to the Delta Quadrant to build a new and improved Borg.

Together, Jurati and the old Borg Queen are becoming something new: something better”. Before leaving with the ship, they proclaim that the future will have no need for a Borg slayer, at least not from us”.

Picard and his crew subsequently find a way to restore the timeline and travel back to their own time nearly 400 years into the future. Upon arrival, they find themselves back on their spaceship, face to face with the new and unusual Borg Queen who is in the process of taking over the whole fleet.

But Picard now recognizes her as the entity made up of Jurati and the old Borg Queen. He decides to trust her instead of activating the auto-destruct sequence. She proceeds to use her control over the fleet to save the whole galaxy from a surprise attack by a powerful enemy which was hitherto unknown to the Federation.

Jurati as new Borg Queen has carried out the gentleman’s agreement made with shadow nearly 400 years earlier. She has built a new and more compassionate Borg by inviting, instead of forcing, new members into their Collective.

What’s more, this new Borg Collective saves the galaxy and commits to becoming a contributing member of the Federation.

Neumann writes:

“But the pre-digestion of evil, which he [the individual] carries out as part of the process of assimilating his shadow makes him, at the same time, an agent for the immunisation of the collective. An individual’s shadow is invariably bound up with the collective shadow of his group, and as he digests his own evil, a fragment of the collective evil is invariably co-digested at the same time.” (p. 130)

The journey of a single person can have a profound impact on the collective unconscious.

Jurati was haunted by the dark aspects of her personality, but she didn’t give in and take the easy road. Accepting and exploring her neurotic fears, she courageously met shadow. She sat with her in dialogue and battle. She took conscious risks. And then the unthinkable happened: in her struggle and through her hard work and sacrifice she came to create a better, more compassionate Borg.

Jurati took responsibility for her part of shadow and the collective unconscious shadow was forever changed.

The very idea of a new and gentler Borg is a beautiful symbol of hope. If out of our collective unconscious an image can arise of negotiation with, and subsequent integration and transformation of, a shadow that seemed so absolutely evil and unredeemable, then there is hope for the society we live in.

What does this mean for the individual living according to the New Ethic?

Neumann writes:

“It is required of us that we should work through our own evil in an independent and responsible way. But the corollary of this is that becoming conscious must now rank as an ethical duty.” (p. 113)

To build a better world, we must become conscious of both personal and archetypal collective parts of our shadow and do the hard work of negotiating with those dark aspects in an effort to integrate them into our whole personality.

Just as Jurati as new Borg Queen saves the galaxy, we can contribute to saving our world if we accept the ethical obligation of doing our own work of individuation.

November 2023

This article is based on the following books:

Article 1/3  Article 2/3

Peggy Vermeesch, PhD

Dr Peggy Vermeesch is a Jungian-oriented therapist based in France, an English language teacher at the University of Western Brittany, and former researcher in geophysics at Imperial College London (UK) and the Universities of Texas (US) and Southampton (UK). She writes articles in French and English and acts as bilingual liaison between Jungian Psychology Space (JPS) and its Francophone mother site Espace Francophone Jungien (EFJ).

For more information, see her webpage.

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