Way of the Hero Part 5 – Answering Questions
After previous publications, many of you have sent me questions about shadows, archetypes, the ego, etc. So, in this article, I will be addressing these questions by giving you basics of the human psyche and explaining how you can incorporate this knowledge into your magical practices.
But before I begin I want to tell you that I am still here on my Journey, traveling with all of you, helping you to charter your destination’s map, warning you that map is not the way, but just a sketch of it, and it can be changed anytime. Our society dictates us that we had to prevent our falls, take every risk under control that we should be smart and wise to prevent terrible things from happening to us, and if such occurs we should be able to meet those challenges and solve every problem. But is it possible?
Challenges teach us, and we learn that we are not in control, at least not completely, and how we have handled our lives up to this point is not enough anymore. In fact, the reason of our difficulties, of the crisis we are going through, is to stretch our consciousness to new ways. All of our painful life events are great opportunities for spiritual and emotional healing. But as easy as it sounds, this process is frightening, sometimes really painful and it becomes hard to go through those sorrow moments. And what can I tell you at this time when your life reached another turning point? Well, first of all, I can tell you that you will get through it! Existence (Universe/Source/Gods/Goddess/etc.) is holding you because Existence wants you here; otherwise, you would not be here, asking these questions and looking for answers. A force that is you, which seems larger than you, is sending you an invitation to change. And how do I know this? O, because you’re in pain. And the presence of this pain is the promise of that change. It’s because it hurts to suffer, really hurts. And when we’re suffering, we are more opened to take risks, to take actions, to fall on our knees, to break out of the box in order to get beyond the pain that we’re in. Suffering is always an invitation to take change, to get into alignment with our true selves, with our deepest and expansive feelings, with the Existence itself.
It may not feel right to you now, but just as the oak tree, folded and invisible, it fully exists within the one acorn, so everything you need to live through this current anguish, is within you. You are blessed. Your life is pre-designed and if this crisis were not meant to be part of your life, it would not be happening. This is the moment and these are precisely the experiences through which your emotional body is being healed, your soul is being refined and enlarged, and your Life itself is discovering its real meaning.
For years now, I have been guiding people through various kinds of suffering –those anguishing over finding a True Love, those recovering from a relationship breakup; seekers trying to understand the meaning of the massive natural destruction; those desiring to learn to live a life of creativity, inspiration and true magic, those young folks suffering in hands of leaders of organized religion, and etc. People all over the world have turned to me for direction, consolation, sharing their inside emotional anguish, their relationship hardships and creativity blocks. And I see that in these difficult times people are reaching out to me more than ever before asking for help in understanding the deeper meaning of the struggles they are going through. That’s because, instinctively, we’re all beginning to recognize that it’s time for deeper, soul-level solutions and that these solutions are only going to come from within ourselves. We want to see the larger truth that our difficulties and suffering may hold for us. We want to recognize the reason we came into this current Existence. And the only way to recognize that reason, that sacred deal we made with the divine before we came to this life, is by going deep into our own selves and finding different patterns of our own psyche. And part of my own sacred deal with the divine is to show you that rather than being random assaults from an uncaring universe, the difficulties you are going through, the pain you are dealing with, the suffering that knocks you down, all of it have meaning and purpose. Not only your crisis will help you to discover your strength, but it will also remind you of the quality of being that you truly are – powerful, loving and eternal.
And now let’s explore basics of Human Psychology.
According to Dr. Jung, the human psyche is divided into three parts. The first is the ego, which he identifies with the conscious mind. Closely related is the personal unconscious, which includes anything that is not presently conscious, but can be brought into conscious. The personal unconscious is like most people’s understanding of the unconscious in that it includes both memories that are easily brought to mind and those that have been suppressed for some reason. But it does not include the instincts.
Jung also adds the third part of the psyche that makes his theory stand out from all others: the collective unconscious. You could call it your “psychic inheritance.” Mystics and witches call it “Akashi records”. It is the reservoir of our experiences as a species, a kind of knowledge we are all born with. And yet we can never be directly conscious of it. It influences all of our experiences and behaviors, most especially the emotional ones, but we only know about it indirectly, by looking at those influences.
Many experiences show the effects of the collective unconscious more clearly than others: The experiences of love at first sight, of deja vu (the feeling that you’ve been here before), and the immediate recognition of certain symbols and the meanings of certain myths, could all be understood as the sudden conjunction of our outer reality and the inner reality of the collective unconscious. Larger examples are the creative experiences shared by artists and musicians all over the world, or the spiritual experiences of mystics of all religions, or the parallels in dreams, fantasies, mythologies, fairy tales, and literature.
A very good example that has been greatly discussed recently is the near-death experience. It seems that many people, of many different cultural backgrounds, find that they have very similar recollections when they are brought back from a close encounter with death. They speak of leaving their bodies, seeing their bodies and the events surrounding them clearly, of being pulled through a long tunnel towards a bright light, of seeing deceased relatives or religious figures waiting for them, and of their disappointment at having to leave this happy scene to return to their bodies. Perhaps we are all “built” to experience death in this fashion.
The contents of the collective unconscious are called archetypes. An archetype is a tendency to experience things in a certain way, or according to a certain scenario, so to speak.
The archetype has no form of its own, but it acts as an “organizing principle” of the things we see or do. It works the way that instincts work in Freud’s theory: At first, the baby just wants something to eat, without knowing what it wants. It has a rather indefinite yearning which, nevertheless, can be satisfied by some things and not by others. Later, with experience, the child begins to yearn for something more specific when it is hungry — a bottle, a cookie, a broiled lobster, a slice of New York style pizza.
The archetype is like a black hole in space: You only know it is there by how it draws matter and light to itself.
Spiritual folks need to know about archetypes because when we invoke a certain deity, we invoke a certain archetype in our psyche. For example, when a priestess wants to perform a love ritual, the best archetype to invoke would be Aphrodite (Greek goddess of love). So, for the duration of the ritual, the priestess will embody the archetype of Aphrodite. After the ritual is complete, it is very important to perform a farewell to the deity, so your psyche is cleared of this archetype. I receive questions in regards of the Circle casting ritual in my original Book of Shadows. Questions are like: “Is it necessary to perform farewell section and why it is written in such details?” Well, unless you want to run around as a full embodiment of Aphrodite, then by all means… But then you take care of the consequences… So, please make sure when you are invoking a certain archetypal deity, please spend enough time to clear yourself out of their energy. It is true to the ceremonial magicians as well.
I always suggest working with archetypes consciously. Learn them, use them, but always be aware of which archetype is currently occupying your psyche. There are so many archetypes to work with. They can be very helpful in your magickal work, but also can be your enemies if you don’t recognize them. In other words, if certain archetype is in your unconscious, it really can create havoc in your life. So, try to recognize the patterns when you running on defaults. There are some basic archetypes that I will try to introduce you to a degree that the boundaries of the newsletter will allow me.
It is the “dark side” of the ego, and the evil that we are capable of is often stored there. Actually, the shadow is neither good nor bad, just like animals. An animal is capable of tender care for its young and vicious killing for food, but it doesn’t choose to do either. It just does what it does. It is “innocent.” But from our human perspective, the animal world looks rather brutal, inhuman, so the shadow becomes something of a garbage can for the parts of ourselves that we can’t quite admit to.
Symbols of the shadow include the snake (as in the garden of Eden), the dragon, monsters, and demons. It often guards the entrance to a cave or a pool of water, which represents the collective unconscious. Next time you dream about wrestling with the devil, it may only be yourself you are wrestling with!
In literature the perfect example of the shadow is Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, in which Mr. Hyde may be seen as Dr. Jekyll’s unconscious shadow, leading a separate and altogether different life from the conscious part of the personality. The werewolf motif features in the same way in literature (e.g. Hermann Hesse’s “Steppenwolf”) and in the folklore.
The story of the Frog Prince tells of a young woman who is visited on three consecutive nights by a frog. On the first and second nights she is horrified, but on the third night she relents and lets the frog into her bed, and in the moment that she kisses him the frog turns into a handsome prince. For Ernest Jones (a follower and biographer of Freud) the story is an allegorical account of a young woman overcoming her fear of sex. For Joseph Campbell (a disciple of Jung) the frog is just another example of the dragons and other frightening monsters whose role in mythology is to guard treasure. The frog, like them, represents the dark and frightening shadow; the treasure is the true self. The kiss symbolizes a person’s acceptance of the shadow. And the result is the manifestation of the true nature of the shadow, as a bearer of one’s true selfhood.
We must avoid projecting our shadows onto other people. Our shadows may be quite frightening, so we may see it as something evil. Therefore we may disown it, and one way of doing this is to make believe it is the property of someone else. Commenting on Jesus’s command to “Love your enemy’, Jung remarks: ‘But what if I should discover that that very enemy himself is within me, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then?” The answer is that you must learn to integrate the dark side of yourself, which means accepting it and allowing it to proper expression under the control of your conscious mind. It will then cease to be dark and terrifying and hostile; instead, it will enhance the quality of your life, advance your personal development and increase your happiness.
How do we integrate with our shadow? How can we bring it to consciousness? How do we start?
Start with writing down things that you don’t want the world to know about yourself. What in your mind represents your dark side? Make a list. It might include something like:
I want to explore occult/New Age religions, but I’m afraid to.
I hate my body. I’m afraid of becoming fat/old.
I don’t like my church/religion, but I’m afraid to leave it.
I want more sex than my husband/wife can give me. That’s not normal, is it?
Now start working on one thing at a time. Set aside a certain time to write down your feelings about what you’ve chosen to focus on. What does “darkness” mean to you? Don’t hold anything back. Don’t let your “internal editor” stop you for anything. Put it away for a while. Go back later and analyze it. Then, write how you feel about what you’ve read. Is it as bad as you thought?
Also, (and I don’t recommend this to everyone, only those mature and objective enough to know how far to go into the experiment without harm to body or psyche of anyone concerned) if you are free to do so, and you have the courage and temerity to flaunt the rules, you may consider making an actual foray into your dark side. If you can do so safely, in a detached manner, and consider it “research” into a problem you’re trying to solve, you may find it more beneficial to undergo the actual experience of the thing you fear. Throw caution to the wind and start a study of magic or the Tarot. Take a class on sexuality to help understand this most basic human, natural drive and you can even write the short fiction where your protagonist is physically experiencing that which you are restricting yourself from. I, personally find writing as a liberating experience especially when one is working with the darkest part of self.
The persona represents your public image. The word is, obviously, related to the word person and personality, and comes from a Latin word for mask. So the persona is the mask you put on before you show yourself to the outside world. Although it begins as an archetype, by the time we are finished realizing it, it is the part of us most distant from the collective unconscious.
At its best, it is just the “good impression” we all wish to present as we fill the roles society requires of us. But, of course, it can also be the “false impression” we use to manipulate people’s opinions and behaviors. And, at its worst, it can be mistaken, even by ourselves, for our true nature: Sometimes we believe we really are what we pretend to be!
Anima and Animus
A part of our persona is the role of male or female we must play. For most people that role is determined by their physical gender. But Jung, like Freud and others, felt that we are all really bisexual in nature. When we begin our lives as fetuses, we have undifferentiated sex organs that only gradually, under the influence of hormones, become male or female. Likewise, when we begin our social lives as infants, we are neither male nor female in the social sense. Almost immediately — as soon as those pink or blue booties go on — we come under the influence of society, which gradually molds us into men and women.
In all societies, the expectations placed on men and women differ, usually based on our different roles in reproduction, but often involving many details that are purely traditional. In our society today, we still have many remnants of these traditional expectations. Women are still expected to be more nurturing and less aggressive; men are still expected to be strong and to ignore the emotional side of life. But Jung felt these expectations meant that we had developed only half of our potential.
The anima is the female aspect present in the collective unconscious of men, and the animus is the male aspect present in the collective unconscious of women. The anima may be personified as a young girl, very spontaneous and intuitive, or as a witch, or as the earth mother. It is likely to be associated with deep emotionality and the force of life itself. The animus may be personified as a wise old man, a sorcerer, or often a number of males, and tends to be logical, often rationalistic, even argumentative.
The anima or animus is the archetype through which you communicate with the collective unconscious generally, and it is important to get in touch with it. It is also the archetype that is responsible for much of our love life: We are, as an ancient Greek myth suggests, always looking for our other half, the half that the Gods took from us in others. When we fall in love at first sight, then we have found someone that “fills” our anima or animus archetype particularly well! What if we fall in love for the second or third time? What happens to the projection of the anima/animus in the first relationship? Does it get “re-projected” to a new partner? Well, it is now projected onto the second relationship. If that first relationship was painful, then unless it’s integrated into the psyche, unless it’s fully acknowledged, accepted and brought up to the conscious awareness, the second relationship will end up as painful as the first one. I worked on so many cases when woman or man will attract the partner with the same qualities as the previous partner possessed. So, in this case, I always suggest not to judge the previous partner, instead, observe him or her. Observe the relationship and see why he/she behaved in a certain way. Understand that they are all players in your own movie. Change the script and watch the different movie. But this time consciously. Start with self-love, self-acceptance first. Accept all your faults, mistakes, etc. Accept them without judgment. Accept them as it is. Then accept others as they are and let them play their own movies without judging.
“Dear Rita, my fiancée of 3 years dumped me for my best friend. We were best friends since kinder garden…” My advice here is to first let yourself cry. Allow yourself to feel the pain. Don’t escape it. Then drop all of the judgmental thoughts and center yourself in the present moment. In the present moment, acknowledge the fact that your fiancée dumped you for your best friend. Just acknowledge that fact. Then accept. I know how difficult it is. Trust me I do. But this is something that will really heal you and open you up to new opportunities. Then let it go. Pass it through you. You’re not running from it, you’re not hiding from it, instead, you’re passing it through you and letting it go. And please understand it wasn’t your fault. Then, you can write down how you want to be treated in your new relationship. And start treating yourself in that way. Then, in no time, you will attract that exact partner that will mirror your own behavior towards yourself.
How long will this process take? It may take an hour, or a day, or a month, or a year(s). It depends on how well you’re ready to deal with the situation. The only thing is, be compassionate with yourself, don’t push it and don’t rush.
The most important archetype of all is the self. The self is the ultimate unity of the personality and is symbolized by the circle, the cross, and the mandala painting. A mandala is a drawing that is used in meditation because it tends to draw your focus back to the center, and it can be as simple as a geometric figure or as complicated as a stained glass window. The personifications that best represent the Self are Christ and Buddha, two people who many believe achieved perfection. The goal of life is to realize the Self. The self is an archetype that represents the transcendence of all opposites so that every aspect of your personality is expressed equally. You are then neither and both male and female, neither and both ego and shadow, neither and both good and bad, neither and both conscious and unconscious, neither and both an individual and the whole of creation. And yet, with no oppositions, there is no energy, and you cease to act. Of course, you no longer need to act.
To keep it from getting too mystical, think of it as a new center, a more balanced position, for your psyche. When you are young, you focus on the ego and worry about the trivialities of the persona. When you are older (assuming you have been developing as you should), you focus a little deeper, on the self, and become closer to all people, all life, even the universe itself. The self-realized person is actually less selfish.
Because of its unconscious, transpersonal nature, the Self can never be truly integrated.
The Dynamics of the Psyche
Now when we talked about the basic content of the psyche let’s turn to the principles of its operation.
Jung gives us three principles, beginning with the principle of opposites. Every wish immediately suggests it’s opposite. If I have a good thought, for example, I cannot help but have in me somewhere the opposite bad thought. In fact, it is a very basic point: In order to have a concept of good, you must have a concept of bad, just like you can’t have ups without downs or black without white.
This idea came home to me when I was about eleven. I tried to nurse a little puppy back to health. But when I picked it up, I was so struck by how light it was that the thought came to me that I could easily crush it in my hand. Mind you, I didn’t like the idea, but it was undeniably there.
According to Jung, it is the opposition that creates the power of the psyche. It is like the two poles of a battery or the splitting of an atom. It is the contrast that gives energy so that a strong contrast gives strong energy, and a weak contrast gives weak energy.
The second principle is the principle of equivalence. The energy created from the opposition is “given” to both sides equally. So, when I held that puppy in my hand, there was energy to go ahead and try to help it. But there is an equal amount of energy to go ahead and crush it. I tried to help the puppy, so that energy went into the various behaviors involved in helping it. But what happens to the other side of the energy?
Well, that depends on your attitude towards the wish that you didn’t fulfill. If you acknowledge it, face it, keep it available to the conscious mind, then the energy goes towards a general improvement of your psyche. You grow, in other words.
But if you pretend that you never had that evil wish, if you deny and suppress it, the energy will go towards the development of a complex. A complex is a pattern of suppressed thoughts and feelings that cluster — constellate — around a theme provided by some archetype. If you deny ever having thought about crushing the little puppy, you might put that idea into the form offered by the shadow (your “dark side”). Or if a man denies his emotional side, his emotionality might find its way into the anima archetype. And so on.
Here’s where the problem comes: If you pretend all your life that you are only good, that you don’t even have the capacity to lie and cheat and steal and kill, then all the times when you do good, that other side of you goes into a complex around the shadow. That complex will begin to develop a life of its own, and it will haunt you. You might find yourself having nightmares in which you go around stomping on little puppies!
If it goes on long enough, the complex may take over, may “possess” you, and you might wind up with multiple personalities. In the movie The Three Faces of Eve, Joanne Woodward portrayed a meek, mild woman who eventually discovered that she went out and partied like crazy on Saturday nights. She didn’t smoke, but found cigarettes in her purse, didn’t drink, but woke up with hangovers, didn’t fool around, but found herself in sexy outfits. Although multiple personalities disorder is rare, it does tend to involve these kinds of black-and-white extremes.
The final principle is the principle of entropy. This is the tendency for oppositions to come together, and so for energy to decrease, over a person’s lifetime. Jung borrowed the idea from physics, where entropy refers to the tendency of all physical systems to “run down,” that is, for all energy to become evenly distributed. If you have, for example, a heat source in one corner of the room, the whole room will eventually be heated.
When we are young, the opposites will tend to be extreme, and so we tend to have lots of energy. For example, adolescents tend to exaggerate male-female differences, with boys trying hard to be macho and girls trying equally hard to be feminine. And so their sexual activity is invested with great amounts of energy! Plus, adolescents often swing from one extreme to another, being wild and crazy one minute and finding religion the next.
As we get older, most of us come to be more comfortable with our different facets. We are a bit less naively idealistic and recognize that we are all mixtures of good and bad. We are less threatened by the opposite sex within us and become more androgynous. Even physically, in old age, men and women become more alike. This process of rising above our opposites, of seeing both sides of who we are, is called transcendence.
© Rita Digilova 2010