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Here’s the basic premise:

As a human, you will be faced with the challenge of knowing yourself as an individual, both physically in the big world (Hero)and emotionally in a group of people you love and depend on (Virgin).  In this challenge you develop a relationship with yourself and take up your power as an individual .

You will then be called upon to learn to use your power well in relationship to others, both as an offerer (Lover/King) and a receiver (Mother/Goddess) with love as a driving force.

And finally, you will be faced with the task of knowing the beauty of your insignificance as you release your power and join the cosmos as a Mentor and a Crone.

These three major transformations represent the beginning, middle and end of the story of a life. You can avoid these challenges and retreat into your shadow-side or you can meet them head on and have a sense of meaning in your life.

According to Jung, nature doesn’t just kick us out of the nest without any tools to survive these challenges.  We have a mechanism to guide us forward through these challenges.  They are the archetypes that exist in our collective unconscious. We are all born with them and they don’t change through our lifetime.

We have two mechanisms, actually.  Archetypes pull us forward and Complexes hold us back.  Every time you have a bad experience there is a message placed in your personal unconscious that says “let’s not do that again!!” and it creates a belief that will cause you to protect yourself.  Unconsciously it kicks in every time you encounter a similar situation.   This is different for every person because it depends on your life experience.  The Joker in Dark Knight is a strong example of a character driven by an unconscious complex created by an earlier life experience. The Joker is constantly asserting that all humans are self-focused and self-preserving to the detriment of others. He unconsciously developed this belief, possibly to explain the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father. Rather than believe his father did not love him, he sets out to prove all humans are predisposed to sadistic behavior.images[3]

The problem is, what seems like a similar situation may become more and more all-encompassing over time.  And, as you grow up and have more power and resources to deal with issues, the protective Complex might be keeping you from that sense of meaning in life that archetypes promise.  If you want to feel fully alive and be successful in relationships you have to question the Complex and follow the Archetype.

The 3 major transformations of life, each with a masculine and a feminine side and a shadow aspect are known by several names.  I’ve put together a chart of the names I can recognize in the hopes that one will speak to you.  Seen as a group I think they create an overall image of the core archetypes.

Table 1. Various Names Associated with the Twelve Core Archetypes

Masculine Archetypes Feminine Archetypes
light shadow light shadow
beginning (youth) hero, heroine, adventurer, liberator,  rescuer, avenger, savior, cowboy coward, bully,              eternal child princess, prince, virgin, maiden, artist, rebel, little-train-that-could, magical child whore, victim, slave, prostitute, sad clown
middle  (adult) lover, king, queen, warrior, mediator, judge, angel, advocate tyrant, evil queen, dictator, destroyer mother, father, goddess, god, healer, storyteller, priestess, Samaritan femme fatale, vampire, wicked stepmother, bitch/manipulator,
end         (elder) wise man, wise woman, philanthropist, benefactor miser, spinster, hermit crone, fairy godmother, trickster, fool, jester, shape-shifter, mystic alchemist hag, lecher, thief, saboteur, cougar, gossip, Don Juan

Did you know every culture on the planet, now and in the past, has stories (ok, I have heard rumour of one that didn’t but still, this is s pretty powerful trend).  Why do you think that is?   I think it is because stories are the way we bring the archetypes to life in our cultures.  The creative process makes them available to all.  We watch movies, tv and read stories and they inspire us to know the archetypal pathways.  They show us how to be the leading characters in our lives each time we face one of these challenges.

If you want to read more on this topic try James Hollis.

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