Home Page
Internet Course
Issue Statements
UPR Reviews & Follow-up
WUNRN-Womens's UN Report Network
1986 - Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief
2012 - The Tandem Project Fellowship
Now is the Time






The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Separation of Religion or Belief and State



Review:  Melville’s Moby Dick – an American Nekyia, by Edward F. Edinger, M.D. (1922-1998). Edinger was a devotee of European psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.Edinger describes how symbolically the stormy process of spiritual transition by Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, led to his focus on the paradox of opposites; acceptance/rejection, Isaac/Ishmael.

The Tandem Project presents multi-disciplinary perspectives on the underlying causes of conflict based on religion or belief. They are not meant to defame any one or any religion or belief. They are presented with high respect for the dignity and rights of followers of all religions or beliefs by scholars and writers to convey the depth of conflicts based on religion or belief. 


ISSUE: the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) has called for UN reports on a defamation of religion and phobias against monotheistic religions. The European Union (EU) claims defamation of religion should not focus on phobias against one or two religions, and should not claim defamation of religion as a human right as opposed to the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This has led to annual Resolutions with votes in the UN General Assembly in support of the OIC position on Combating Defamation of Religions was adopted in the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly; 76 in favor, 64 against, 42 abstaining.


  • Such problems are never solved by legislation or tricks. They are only solved by a general change in attitude. It begins with a change in individuals. It will continue as a transformation of their personal likes and dislikes, of their outlook on life and of their values, and only the accumulation of such individual changes will produce a collective solution. - Carl Gustav Jung, in Psychology and Religion, Terry Lectures, Yale University, 1937,


Passages from Melville’s Moby Dick – an American Nekyia

by, Edward F. Edinger, M.D. (1922-1998)

Moby Dick begins with the striking sentence, ‘Call me Ishmael,’ sets the theme of all that follows. We are immediately confronted with the Biblical figure of the rejected outcast, the alienated man. At the beginning of Judaic mythical history stands the figure of Abraham, the progenitor of the Jews. Like Adam before him, Abraham had two sons – Isaac, the legitimate, accepted one, and Ishmael, the illegitimate, the rejected one. In the sixteenth chapter of Genesis, the angel of the Lord speaks to Hagar, saying,

  • Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son’ you shall call his name Ishmael [literally, ‘God hears’]; because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsman.


Following Isaac’s birth, Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, were cast into the wilderness to die. God preserved Ishmael, who, according to tradition, fathered the Muslim peoples.  Thus, at the very outset, the seed of Abraham was split into two streams, into a pair of opposites.  To Isaac and Judeo-Christianity, Ishmael is the adversary, the opposing alternative which must be rejected and repressed. But to himself, Ishmael is the rejected orphan who through no fault of his own has been cruelly cast out and condemned to wander beyond the pale, Ishmael is, therefore, the prototype of the alienated man, the outsider who feels he has no place in the nature of things.

Taken as a whole, Faust provides the closest parallel of all to Moby Dick. Many people consider Moby-Dick to be the greatest American novel. It is awesome in the intensity of the depths it reveals. Perhaps this is why it was largely misunderstood during Melville’s lifetime. Moby-Dick could be called the American Faust. Ishmael and Ahab are primordial images that lie deep in the American soul. This makes the study of Moby-Dick for an American particularly, more than an intellectual exercise. These mythological and literary analogies demonstrate that Melville was writing out of the universal, archetypal these of the night sea journey, or descent to the underworld.

Nekyia…the title of the eleventh book of the Odyssey, is the sacrifice to the dead for conjuring up the departed from Hades. Nekyia is therefore an apt designation for the “journey to Hades,” the descent into the land of the dead…Typical examples are the Divine Comedy, the classical Walpurgisnacht in Faust, the apocryphal accounts of Christ’s descent into hell, etc.

Modern depth psychology is laying the foundations for a reliable science of images. The human imagination is now in the process of being studied by the same empirical attitude previously applied to anatomy and physiology. Until recently, the eternal images of the soul have been contained in the prevailing symbol-systems of organized religion. There can be no scientific approach to the depths of the psyche as long as the contents of these depths are projected into an external system, such as a religious or philosophic creed.

There can be no doubt that the white whale symbolizes the deity. A definite effort is made to assimilate the god-images of many of the world’s mythologies to Moby-Dick. Let us pass some of the evidence in quick review.

Moby Dick is called a ‘Job’s whale’ (p.203, chap.41) referring to Leviathan in the Book of Job, one of the manifestations of Yahweh. The whale is remarked to be one of the incarnations of Vishnu in the Matse Avatar (p.286, chap.55). The mad sailor, Gabriel, pronounced the white whale to be the Shaker God incarnated, and prophesied ‘speedy doom to the sacrilegious assailants of his divinity’ (pp. 344-345, chap.71). When Moby Dick is first sighted, he is associated with Jupiter. Later, Moby Dick is called a ‘grand god’: “warningly waving his bannered flukes in the air, the grand god revealed himself, sounded and went out of sight” (p.597,chap.133).

Much earlier, Ahab had described Moby Dick as representing the transcendental reality behind the appearance of things. And such transcendental reality is another name for God. Jung has demonstrated that the various representations of the god-image are expressions of the central archetype of the psyche, what he terms the Self. We must thus conclude that Moby Dick is a symbol of the Self described by Jungian psychologists as “the archetype of wholeness and the regulating center of the psyche. It is commonly symbolized by a mandala or a paradoxical union of opposites). This theme appears in the discussion of the whale’s vision. It is stated that the eyes of a whale are located in the sides of his head, and hence they look in opposite directions (pp. 360-61, hap.74):

  • “How is it, then, with the whale? True, both of his eyes, in themselves must simultaneously act; but is his brain so much more comprehensive, combining, and subtle than man’s that he can at the same moment of time attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one side of him, and the other in an exactly opposite direction?”

The whale can relate to opposites simultaneously and thus transcend or reconcile them. This is one of the features of the Self which distinguishes it most clearly from that lesser center of personality, the conscious ego. Consciousness by its very nature exists by the separation of opposites, by acquiring unilateral vision. The Self, the supra-personal center of the personality, has bilateral vision – it incorporates both sides of a pair of opposites in the total view and hence conveys wholeness.

For Melville, the white whale Moby Dick poses the archetypal problem of opposites. The Chinese T’ai-chi-t’u, combining Yin and Yang symbolizes the reciprocal relationship between two opposing principles. The white fish is Yang, the masculine principle of light, heaven, spirit, action. The black fish is Yin, the feminine principle of darkness, earth, matter, receptivity. According to the Chinese notion, these two primal modes of being are in an alternating relation to one another, each containing the seed of its opposite.

Moby Dick is both black and white. It is white so far as its color is concerned. But it is symbolically black in its essential nature. Hence, it is a union of opposites. It is both Yang and Yin. It symbolizes paradoxically both the masculine principle of the father archetype and the feminine principle of the mother archetype.

Melville relates the whiteness of the whale to spirituality when he says that whiteness is “the most meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, and the very veil of the Christian’s Deity” (p.212, chap.42). The awfulness of the infinite, indefinite, disembodied masculine spirit which is unrelated to the earthy, material, particularities of the Yin principle or mother archetype is described in the following passage on the horror of the color white:

  • “Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the Milky Way? Or is it, that as an essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning in a wide landscape of snows – a colorless all-color of atheism from which we shrink?”

Resentment – in its various manifestations – is perhaps the central problem of psychological development and psychotherapy. Resentment and lust for vengeance are symptoms of the wound. The anguished realization of one’s wounded condition is actually the first step toward recovery of the lost wholeness. Resentment of injury can contain the seeds of a future religious attitude. Hatred of God at least grants His existence. It assumes a responsible trans-personal agency to whom one can bring his grievances, or even against whom one may retaliate. The crucial feature is the ego’s awareness of the ‘other,’ the basic requirement for dialogue.

Ahab’s mad pursuit of the whale is a kind of primitive, negative dialogue with the Self. His persistence, like Job’s, leads him eventually to the corrective experience which teaches the ego, decisively, the difference between it and the Self. 

The Tandem Project a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance, and respect for diversity of religion or belief, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference material and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

In 1968 the United Nations deferred work on a legally-binding treaty on religious intolerance as too complex and sensitive and passed a non-binding declaration in its place. The Tandem Project believes until a core legally-binding human rights Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief  is adopted international human rights law will be incomplete. It may be time to begin to consider reinstating the 1968 Working Group to better organize and bring all matters relating to freedom of religion or belief under one banner, a core international human rights legally-binding treaty.

docments attached: Background - Human Rights & Freedom of Religion or Belief; Can a Person who is Muslim Choose a Religion Other than Islam; INVITATION - to a Focus Group on UN Resolution A-HRC-16-18 for Human Rights Dialogue on Freedom of Religion or Belief