The Jacob Epstein Affair...Money, Sex, Power: An Illustration of the Human Shadow

Jacob Epstein appears to have worked at the very highest level of US society with impunity. How did a teacher end up becoming a billionaire? Why was he not jailed for sex with underage girls? We can begin to unravel this shadowy material, based on recent speculations from experts...

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So how exactly did Epstein become a billionaire.  Nobody on wall street appears to have heard of him.  Well, he seems to cut from the same cloth as another recent fraudster, Bernie Madoff. Mr Madoff became so famous that there is even a phrase named after him, to be Maddoffed, i.e. ripped off.  Mr Epstein's modus operandi appears to have been blackmail.  He would hold sex parties at his house for the rich and famous.  He would use secret cameras to capture the illicit encounters between rich men and teenage girls.  He would then approach the rich men and ask them to invest in his fund.  His shadow would overlap with their shadows.  A secret, unstated arrangement was thereby initiated.  This happened again and again, involving hundreds of men.  There were also artists, politicians, and all sort of others involved.  Not all were approached for money.  However, they were useful in terms of providing cover.  Mr Epstein's approach doesn't appear to have been very sophisticated.  However, he was a master at working with the shadow.  Money and Sex are at the very centre of the shadow.  As a society we rarely talk openly about such things.  They are secretive and hidden. What people say and do are quite different things.  Jung noted that we are blind to our shadows.  Other people, often those that know us well, point them out.  But we deny that we have a complex about money, or sex.  We can see it in the next person, but very rarely in ourselves.  So Mr Epstein, using the disinhibiting effect of alcohol, exploited young women to lure ageing men into sexually comprising situations.  No doubt such powerful men felt that they were above the law, untouchable, safe etc.  But Epstein exploited their complacency in order to "extort" large investments from them.  In the coming weeks, Mr Epstein's black book will reveal an amazing roll of names.  Many of them will be surprises, as they will have painstakingly created public images that are devoid of any shadow.  All hints of sexuality and money are airbrushed from the public persona's of the elite.  Yet, the Epstein affair will unveil usually hidden shadow material.  The rich usually like to portray themselves as above money and sex; charitable people; socially minded.  No doubt they are, but just like the rest of us, they have an inky shadow.  A shadow that they would vehemently and expensively deny (the lawyers will be enjoying a big pay day).  Money and power sometimes allows the suppression of shadow material.  For instance through making sure your friends don't publish negative material about you; using capture and kill news methods; through shaping the culture around you; through whitewashing your reputation through gifts and public works.

The Jacob Epstein story is a sordid affair.  But then all of our shadows our sordid, even as we protest that we are innocent and the next person is guilty.  There is no point in denying our shadows, however distasteful they may be.  Jung argued that our shadow materials, the "coals in the basement", could actually be a powerful and creative force for renewal.  The shadow can provide a source of potent energy and regeneration, as well as destruction.  However, for this to take place, we must face it head on, and wrestle with it.  In the case of Mr Epstein, clearly a man with highly imaginative and creative talents, he was consumed by his shadow, so nothing remained.  His shadow managed him, rather than him managing his shadow.  This is always a risk, where shadow resides.  The complexes around money and sex are extremely powerful, and can swallow a person whole.  As the Bernie Madoff example shows, once you commit your first swindle, it could be billions later, prison and suicide before you finally stop.

It's quite possible that some of those who felt invincible at Mr Epstein's parties, are now experience the opposite emotions of fear and self-destruction, as they watch their carefully crafted public faces crumble.

Ajay Khandelwal PhD

Ajay Khandelwal is an experienced psychotherapist and consultant. He welcomes contact and enquiries and is accepting new clients via zoom during the shut down.