Whether you’ve been on a spiritual journey for years or have just embarked, there’s no better place to look for profound and healing psychological and spiritual insights than in the world of archetypes.
Don’t let the term “archetype” intimidate you! It’s true that Plato waxed philosophical about archetypal concepts, psychology pioneer Carl Jung used them to plumb the depths of our psyches, and they’ve populated our myths, legends and fairy tales since time immemorial. Even so, mythologist Joseph Campbell—as well as popular authors like Carol Pearson, Robert Moore, Douglas Gillette and medical intuitive Carolyn Myss—have made understanding and working with modern archetypes easy and incredibly rewarding.
Pearson was largely responsible for introducing archetypes into popular culture in the late eighties with her book The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By. A few years later, she expanded to explore twelve archetypes in her still-popular book Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World.
But her original six archetypes – innocent, orphan, wanderer, martyr, warrior and magician – described the primary stages of personal development, a process which Joseph Campbell referred to as the “hero’s journey,” the voyage of personal evolution. She identified, among other things, the deepest fears, favorite self-sabotage technique, and primary growth task each archetype. Here is a very superficial description of each archetype, as Pearson introduced them:
1. The Innocent has no goals, fears the loss of paradise, and must leave paradise in order to grow. The end of any hero’s journey is marked by the return to paradise, to innocence on a new level, which is wisdom.
2. Safety is the goal of every Orphan, abandonment is their greatest fear, and their growth task is to develop hope. When “confronting the dragon,” the Orphan either denies its existence or sits waiting to be rescued. Orphans achieve healing by learning to trust, which is their key virtue and highest expression.
3. Wanderers seek autonomy, fear conformity, and need to develop their own sense of identity. When confronted with difficulty, Wanderers run away. Their key virtue is clarity.
4. The Martyr‘s goal is goodness, their fear is selfishness, and their task is to develop the ability to give up, to surrender. In confrontation, Martyrs will try to appease, or will sacrifice themselves to save others. Their highest expression is love.
5. Warriors have strength as their goal, fear weakness above all, and need to develop courage rather than muscle power. They slay their opposition. A Warrior’s key virtue is balanced power.
6. Magicians fear superficiality, long for wholeness, and have the development of faith as their main task. In confrontation, they incorporate and affirm the position of others. Their key virtue or expression is joy.
If you want an easy to use introduction to the subject, and a beginner’s guide to your own archetypes, try the Archetype Cards as a way to get your feet wet. Then you’ll want to explore a whole new universe as you navigate your own hero’s journey through the inner realms of archetypes.
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