by Carol Leigh Rice, M.A.
Gods and Goddesses * Living Templates
The ancient Greeks, and Plato especially, were aware long before Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell that the Archetypes were much more than symbolic components of moralizing stories. Whether as the Forms or Gods and Goddesses (he used both terms), Plato understood the Archetypes to be cosmic building blocks which literally organized all of the world we see, including human lives. Precise definitions as to how Gods, Goddesses operated as Archetypes were not really spelled out, but on a general cultural level Greeks and Romans – and many civilizations before them – believed that Archetypes, as Gods and Goddesses, could be seen at work in the lives of individuals and nations in epics large or small. These came complete with a recognizable “story” line and with the possibilities of “plot and character development” all along the way.
The lives of the Gods and Goddesses were notable for many dramas and their personalities for many foibles, but it was felt that it behooved men and women to know these mythological prototypes as well as a doctor might know anatomy and physiology. The mythological stories and plot-lines, often intermeshed with each other, were moulds into which the stuff of human life was cast. Myths were often very complex and thus revealed the multiple aspects of any given situation in the human condition.
Knowing the names and qualities and stories attached to the various Gods and Goddesses was part of learning about the way life worked at levels of power and pattern not amenable to controlling or changing at human whim. One could recognize and work with mythic energies, but to try to change the myth itself that one was given, in a sense, to live through, was to let Ego take the reins and risk crashing the chariot in races it was not built to complete in. There were limits, beyond which one exceeded one’s “moirae” – it was incumbent upon each to sense when their reach – and their Ego – exceeded their grasp.
Mythological patterns were givens into which one stepped at birth, tailored costumes handed to one as the play began…One came knowing one’s lines in the main outline of the plot, as it were, though highly personal subplots and the way a plot played out could be quite unique to each person. There was some room for improvising as one went along, and how one played the Game and their role within it was the point, not inventing a new game out of thin psychic air.
Astrology * The Tarot * The I Ching
The Planets and other heavenly bodies were likewise thought to correlate with the Gods and Goddesses; hence Astrology’s longstanding use of mythology to the interpretation of the birth chart. The Tarot is another set of images in which the appearance of a card – the Priestess or the World or other – is understood not to be random at all, but to be a living sign showing the essential nature of the energy running through the inquirer’s life in the area about which the inquiry is being made. Similarly, casting the coins of sticks of the I Ching is said to invite a living conversation to take place between the person and the I Ching – a dialogue between the person’s unconscious and the “psychoid” energy out of which the particular hexagram emerges.
It becomes apparent that in philosophy, literature, alchemy, astrology and other arts, every effort has been made since early times to teach humanity about the Archetypes and the Mythology which they create and through which they manifest. Timing, and the seasons of life have their “Gods”, as do the days of the week. Archetypes are organizers – designers – of time, space and matter. Archetypes pull energy into living patterns suffused with existential meaning born first in the personality and character and ultimately transmuted to spiritual qualities. Hence the Archetypes have always been understood to be Gods and Goddesses.
The planetary patterns in the birth chart, the Tarot spread that falls, the I Ching hexagram and its changing lines that emerge – all these issue forth from a larger “field of energy” lying behind reality as we see it at any given time. Yet they seem to uncannily resonate to the reality we see around us. Carl Jung called this resonance synchronicity. Jung could see that events separated by space could be synchronized (brought together) in Time (and vice versa).
But what causes synchronicity to happen? What is directing the traffic? Jung believed these “random” yet highly significant and meaningful “coincidences” had to be organized by something outside them. He concluded that Archetypes, exist outside Time and Space and are therefore capable of organizing events within Time and Space – that is, inside our everyday reality. Archetypes then are “psychoid”, that is, they bridge the world of the psyche and the world of matter – in fact, Archetypes are active in both worlds shaping matter through psyche.
As Jung, Campbell and many others have noted, something else is going on. The events in synchronicities are drawn together by Archetypal energies in a process that suggests a meaningful Whole – and an Author. The mystery of the Whole may yet elude us, however, for there is a Treasure Hunt here, a major theme of so many great mythologies!
In time we discover that the Treasure is deep with, in spiritual life. We are led through an awakening and drawing together of parts of ourselves into a Whole. Jung realized that what he observed in the psyche led up to a process of personal maturation hidden in plain view in the Mandala. The Archetypes pointed to a way in which this process was guided by essentially cosmic, spiritual forces over which a person had no control, but with which they could work in creative partnership.
Thus the cultivation and development of each part of the self leads to its ever richer contribution to a Whole which has a sacred Center drawing all the parts into it. The parts retain their unique individuality, yet find greater joy and meaning once they come to see and to accept the Whole not as a place of their death, but of vastly expanded Life.
The Christ Archetype
Jung believed the ultimate Archetype was a mysterious presence within the psyche – the Higher Self – corresponding to the Archetype of Christ. Like Jung, Joseph Campbell and Tom Harpur (The Pagan Christ) found the Christ Archetype to be universally present in various forms as a major myth found throughout history and in so many cultures of the world.
Within the microcosm of self, each of our smaller fragments, roles, mini-identities, find acceptance and larger purpose as they come together within the personality of this lifetime…Just so, our personalities from all of our lives come gradually to know themselves to be part of a larger Self – the Higher Self – which in turn knows itself to be part of the Creator. Each part is sacred, each self matters, and each contributes something wonderful and irreplaceable to the larger Self.
The Higher Self – as the ultimate Archetype embedded within the Creator, appears to make use of the major Archetypes. These shape us without our really seeing them, until we begin the process of conscious engagement with the life of the psyche (the unconscious) and relate its contents to our external lives. Within these great archetypal patterns we, as smaller selves within each lifetime, grow and develop in a journey through Time and Space. We may spend many lives exploring consciousness through myriad aspects of one Archetypal pattern, or combine several within one lifetime…they are vast, with multiple variations on themes which, nepenthes, provide broad frameworks which keep us from drifting in a sea of undifferentiated psyche.
We do not walk alone into a bare and propless hall, but enter upon a stage, with a script, within a lively ongoing play peopled with other, vibrant characters. Dark, Light, – the good, the bad and the ugly – all these are here, for without dramatic tensions, how could there be a play? And what would turn the keys in the locks of one’s potential, if not the invitation – and challenge – to evolve?
(For further reading, especially on how Jung gradually pieced together his own understanding of “archetypes” I recommend The Essential Jung, selected and introduced by Anthony Storr).
Carol Leigh Rice, M.A. is a Psychic, Astrologer, Writer, and Traveller on the magical Silk Road. This article is from her wonderful blog, Silk Road Visions. Her blog is filled with many excellent articles on a whole variety of spiritual subjects. Definitely worth a visit.
Here’s the edition of Jung’s work that she recommends:
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(Tomorrow: Living Spiritually From Nature)