My dear friend Michael Gellert proposed, in his book Modern Mysticism, that Jung’s revolutionary mapping of the psyche was the equivalent of a Copernican revelation of the true nature of the Self. Whereas Freud had mapped a psyche where the unconscious revolved around the ego as its “sun,” Jung placed the ego and the archetypes as planets that revolve around the much greater Self or Soul. Thus in Jung’s cosmology the ego, though a valid planet with consciousness, was nonetheless only one of many planets in the solar system of the Self.
Building upon this cosmology, I would place the entire solar system of the Self—ego and archetypes—as the province of the energy body, that which gives access to the infinite part of the Self in the astral world and beyond. After all, the physical body is but a temporary appendage to the energy body, shed at the moment of its death.
The archetypes that revolve around the Self, in company with the ego, are personalities in their own rights, bringing both havoc and ecstasy to the experiences of the ego. When we identify our experiences as “powerful moods” or “overwhelming compulsions;” when we are “beside ourself;” when we feel “a part of ourself” or that “something possessed us,” we are acknowledging the experience of a meteoric hit from one of the revolving archetypes that has grazed the shores of planet ego, shaking it up, leaving reverberating waves of passion in its wake.
The simple truth is, we must encounter and grapple with the archetypes—they are part of who we are. They absolutely demand our attention, which means, they must be lived and integrated into our lives. If we refuse them, we become like the dry drunk who bitterly resents his or her shallow, lifeless existence cut off from the living waters of the Self.
The archetypes are the gods and goddesses of ancient peoples, residing in celestial realms. Jung’s psychic model internalizes these higher powers as entities that reside in all of us in the realm of the collective unconscious, in the same astral realm as the energy body, rather than as separate beings outside of the self.
Encountering the energy, power, and influences of the archetypes transforms our human life. The experience of falling in love, for instance, is nothing other than falling under the spell of a god/goddess archetype. Suddenly, we and our beloved shimmer in radiance, in a passionately-centered feeling of wholeness. This is hardly a human relationship. Real relationships take time and tremendous effort to evolve into a true loving connection.
Instant love and passion are the hallmarks of archetypal fairy dust. Nonetheless, encounters with archetypal energies draw us like moths to a flame. We are helpless in our longing for these encounters, through which we feel truly alive. Our challenge is to withstand the compulsions and emotions that enervate our ego states, as we are drawn to encounter our archetypal counterparts again and again.
If we allow those archetypal counterparts to rule us, we set ourselves up to regularly be drowned in a sea of emotions, or driven to passionate behaviors unfitting our real life circumstances. However, if we can hold our own, and learn to channel their energies properly, we are molded to maturity. These are the true rites of passage that will lead us beyond the powerful grasp of the gods and goddesses of the archetypal realm.
When a man projects the goddess Aphrodite onto a woman, he is overcome with awe and invariably shudders in the golden glow of her presence. He is indeed challenged to rise above his adolescent boy self and actually communicate with her. This is a step toward maturity. If she responds to his call, he is flooded with the benevolent, loving care he has not known since infancy and oneness with Mother. All needs and desires are met in this light-filled union. That is, until a real need is expressed by his goddess! Then the light goes out and he suddenly awakens to the power and control of the dark side of Mother. The archetypal fit with his goddess lover goes out of synch and he is left in the desert facing a real human woman, perceiving her as needy and demanding.
He has tasted the nectar of the archetypal goddess, which he now feels entitled to seek again elsewhere, as he is drawn to freedom, far from the gallows of commitment. Here, he is once again challenged to mature. Does he run? Or does he remain controlled by the dark side of the Mother archetype, whom he squarely encounters now in the eyes of his lover? Can he stick around and truly become related to his human partner? This is his next challenge of maturity.
To bear the fears, rages, and longings of the archetypes is to allow the ego to grow beyond the dramas and intensities of simply allowing the archetypes to live through us. Yes, we need their instinctive energies, but we must elevate them through our encounters to an integrated higher human level. In the example I have just given, that higher level is real love that partakes of archetypal energy but is grounded in human reality as a true connection with a human partner.
Human maturity requires archetypal encounters, but beware the energies unleashed when under the lure of the archetype. These are the waves that can pull us down and drag us through the sand of the ocean floor, without any certainty as to where we will land. Nonetheless, if we bring consciousness to bear upon the maya, or illusion, of the archetype, we may indeed find the path to maturity and fulfillment.
Outside the drama,