Archetypes and Syzygy

Archetypes and Planet Syzygy

Pentecost 39

Psychologist Sigmund Freud believed that myths were “the dreams of early man”. Others have called dreams “whispers of the soul” or the internal longings of our subconscious. While dream interpretation is considered by many to be ridiculous, for others it is a way of interpreting their fears, their lives, and a type of compass that helps them making decisions.

In his book “The Interpretation of Dreams” Freud maintained that dreams were a product of personal psychology and from our dreams came the stories of mankind, the mythologies of the world.  However, Freud did ot simply take the narrative of a person’s dream and retell it in story format. He took the basic premise of the dream and gave it sexual connotations. Barry Powell described Freud’s viewpoint this way: “Mythical kings and queens represent parents… The imagery of myths can therefore be translated into that of sex.” I suppose such opinions make sense if we remember that the most basic of myths began with creation and sexual activity does lead to the creation of living beings. I think I might be more in the camp of one of Freud’s students, though, rather than a devotee of Freud.

Carl Jung, student to the acclaimed Freud, believed the same about a great many things as his teacher and mentor but not when it came to interpreting mythology. Jung believed the symbolism of the unconscious mind, from whence all dreams originate, was a great deal more than merely sexual. Jung believed dreams came from both one’s personal subconscious and what he termed the “collective unconscious”. The collective unconscious was that which we all share, inherited experiences known to all men and women. The artistic endeavors of artists, in all genres of art, were manifestations of this collective unconscious. Jung believed that was why someone from Portugal might appreciate an African painting or someone from England understanding and receiving solace from an Asian mandala.  Jung beloved these artistic expressions were understood and appreciated because they referenced those common experiences shared by all mankind.

The myths of the ancient world may seem like only the fodder for great movie scripts but these inventive stories were connections to Jung. He believed one could trace the development of the human being through the mythologies of the world. Regardless of location, skin color, socio-economic factors or level of education or industrialization, Jung saw basic patterns in these myths.

Jung named these basic patterns, these shapes and symbols found in all myths, “archetypes”. Jung believed these archetypes served as role models, not only of people but also behaviors and later, personalities. Jung saw the unconscious mind as a type of psychological inheritance, passed on from generation to generation.

There were four major types of archetypes identified by Carl Jung. In many cultures, these archetypes appear as basic icons. The four were the self, the shadow, the anima or animus, and the persona. Jung believed all four archetypes existed within each person. Briefly and very basically, the self was the combination of our conscious and unconscious mind. Often it was represented by a circle or mandala. The shadow is found in dreams best described as nightmares. It found its being in the instincts of man and woman, and sex is often considered one of the most basic of those instincts. The shadow was seen as a snake or similar creature.

Syzygy is a straight line configuration of three celestial bodies. Today, in the early morning sky we had such a conversion. Venus, Jupiter, and Earth was so aligned, an alignment said to have been the “star in the east” from the story or mythology of the birth of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. For Jung, syzygy was the divine coupling of third archetype. The true self was found in the archetype of the anima (female) and animus (male). It is important to remember that everyone contains both of these. The syzygy of these in balance represented completeness.

In the portrayal of many mythologies, especially in ancient times, actors and performers often wore masks. Jung believed we all wear masks, even in our daily living. The fourth and final archetype was the persona, the mask that we show to the world. Wearing such a mask, though not really a visible mask but rather that part of ourselves that we allow others to see, offers protection from negativity. It acts as a shield and can also be seen in dreams in the form of an aspired job or wished-for status.

We will delve into the mythologies of Greece and Rome and then into other myths from the world’s ethnicities and most certainly we will encounter these basic archetypes. It may seem like one culture has stolen a story from another but remember, most of these did not exist at the same time and even if they had, travel was so prohibitive in those times that they is very little likelihood any shared stories existed.

The archetypes of mythologies serve to remind us that we too are aligned, not as celestial beings but here on earth. When we live in accordance, acting for the best of all mankind, then we shine our brightest and the world moves forward, one step closer to peace and completeness.


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