Will the Real Little Orphan Annie Please Stand Up? May 13, 2014
Archetypes are inborn patterns of psychological energy. They have enormous influence over our thinking and behavior whether we realize it or not. Usually we do not. The human ego does not take easily to introspection. Some seem content to tolerate life’s sufferings without question or complaint. Others escape through distractions and addictions. But for those who can tolerate the tension between “checking out” and “checking in” long enough, a new, third solution eventually arrives.
My solution arrived when I discovered Jungian psychology and began a regular program of study. One of the early books I read was Carol S. Pearson’s brilliant The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By. The Hero archetype is activated by a painful recognition that there is more to us than meets the eye, and by a powerful need to “experience oneness with other people and with the natural and spiritual worlds.” Carl Jung called this the journey of individuation.
“The need to take the journey is innate in the species. If we do not risk, if we play prescribed social roles instead of taking our journeys, we feel numb; we experience a sense of alienation, a void, an emptiness inside…In shying away from the quest, we experience nonlife and, accordingly, we call forth less life in the culture.” C.S. Pearson
In The Hero Within, Pearson highlights six major archetypes which are influential on the hero’s journey. These are the Innocent, Orphan, Martyr, Wanderer, Warrior and Magician.
“The Innocent and the Orphan set the stage: The Innocent lives in the prefallen state of grace; the Orphan confronts the reality of the Fall. The next few stages are strategies for living in a fallen world: The Wanderer begins the task of finding oneself apart from the others; the Warrior learns to fight to defend oneself and to change the world in one’s own image; and the Martyr learns to give, to commit, and to sacrifice for others. The progression, then, is from suffering, to self-definition, to struggle, to love….the Magician learns to move with the energy of the universe and to attract what is needed by laws of synchronicity, so that the ease of the Magician’s interaction with the universe seems like magic.” C.S.Pearson
But first, you have to get past the Orphan. When I took Pearson’s self-test to determine the strength of these archetypes, the Orphan got zero points and I gave myself a mental pat on the back. Thank goodness I’ve grown beyond that childish mentality I thought. But in my dreams that year, orphans kept popping up demanding my dream ego’s attention. I couldn’t imagine what these sad, needy urchins had to do with me. I was nothing like them. I had high ideals! I was brave, optimistic, tough, competent, independent! I never noticed that this was the socially acceptable persona of Little Orphan Annie. Her unconscious, disowned qualities were so far from my awareness that I could only see them when I projected them outward onto others whom I saw as weak and self-pitying. I did not know I was wearing a plucky Little Orphan Annie mask, and that beneath it lurked the Orphan archetype’s problem: despair.
“What characterizes despair is just this — that it is ignorant of being despair.” Soren Kierkegaard
“The Orphan is a disappointed idealist, and the greater the ideals about the world, the worse reality appears.” C.S.Pearson
Accepting my Orphan within was my first step on the hero’s journey. Carrying The Hero Within in my backpack was one of my Wisewoman’s first choices.
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks
Partnership Between the Scholar and Wisewoman October 19, 2012
In my last post I wrote about the Warrior and Mother archetypes. This time we’ll look at the Scholar and Wisewoman. The instinct for reflection is about the basic human “end” to be released from delusion. There is something in all of us that wants to know and understand. Children want to see, feel, touch, taste, and smell everything. As we grow older, if our curiosity is not stifled by too many rules and inhibitions, we want to understand why and how things work. Later still our curiosity about the world extends to the inner universe. We just naturally feel good about ourselves when we acquire helpful new insights into our behavior because self-knowledge is its own fine reward.
The instinct for reflection is symbolized by the archetypes of Scholar and Wisewoman. The clear, piercing focus of the Scholar is motivated by the drive for self-preservation. He believes the key to our survival and self-fulfillment is the ability to reflect on life, study, acquire knowledge, and learn the secrets that will release us from our delusions. In the mandorla symbol of interlocked circles, our Scholar is the circle representing the left hemisphere of the brain, the logos that primarily processes information with focused consciousness and logical thinking by means of linear, rational, verbal thoughts and ideas. With his preference for clear discrimination and knowledge of objective phenomena, the Scholar’s specialty is the thinking of science and technology.
His archetypal partner, the part of us motivated by the drive for species-preservation, is the Wisewoman, our all-knowing mistress of the hidden arts. Her specialties are the brain’s poorly understood right-hemisphere qualities of mythos. The primary functions of mythos are diffuse awareness and analogical thinking. These spawn several ways of knowing: body awareness, spiritual awareness (knowledge of, and connection with, the Other), the ability to synthesize paradoxical messages from diverse sources, and the ability to create meaning from subjective experience, emotions, relationships, intuition, gnosis, imagination, and symbols.
When the Scholar’s focus, clarity and objectivity are intentionally employed in service to exploring our unconscious depths, the Wisewoman’s intuitive connectedness, self-awareness and openness to otherness are unearthed and activated. Empowering both of these poles of the instinct for reflection strengthens our mindfulness and leads to expanding consciousness. This is a mental state of heightened awareness and receptivity to information coming to us from both the exterior and interior worlds. Being open to both is the hallmark of partnership in the mental domain. The result of this inner marriage is the activation of the Sage archetype. Other names for this energy include mage, magician, philosopher, prophet/ess, sorcerer/ess, shaman, wizard, medicine woman/man, and wise old woman/man.
This form of archetypal energy can be identified by several specific skills. They include truth-seeker, mental juggler, light-bearer, lifelong learner, wall-wrecker (breaking through our resistance to otherness), chain-breaker (losing old habits and releasing attachments to outcomes), choice-maker, namer (of truth and reality), clown (or life-changing trickster), connector, and problem-solver.
Archetypal psychologist Carol S. Pearson says Sages have little or no need to control or change the world; they just want to understand it. The Sage’s path is the journey to find out the truth—about ourselves, our world, and the universe. At its highest levels, it is not simply about finding knowledge, but about becoming wise. It is our Sage within who, like Wisdom People from every tradition in every age, resonates to the adages, “Know thyself,” “To thine own self be true,” and “That ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
The more free you feel to seek the truth, regardless of societal consequences, the more mature your Sage will be. How badly do you want to know the truth? How powerful is your Sage?
Will the Real Little Orphan Annie Please Stand Up? August 12, 2011
Archetypes have enormous power over us whether we realize it or not. Usually we do not, and it is precisely our ignorance of them that fuels their power. Most people could care less about archetypes. Some of you will stop reading at this point because what I’ve just said holds absolutely no meaning for you. But if you’re still reading, indulge me for a moment in a little experiment. Think of the people you dislike: some you know personally and maybe a public figure or two like a politician or media personality. Now, without reading any further, write down at least five qualities about those people that annoy you the most.
Finished? Okay. Here are some qualities I might have listed around the age of 40. I would have said I disliked 1) people who secretly feel superior to other people, 2) people who feel mistreated, unappreciated, or sorry for themselves but deny their own pain, 3) dependent people who expect to be taken care of, 4) pseudo-martyrs who sacrifice their own needs to stay safe and be loved, and 5) people who blame people close to them, God, or the culture as a whole in order to feel less bad about themselves. Now here’s the embarrassing truth. The qualities we most dislike in others are strong unconscious components of our own personalities. Hint: If you are tempted to feel superior to me, re-read the first quality on my list!
So what does this have to do with archetypes? After discovering Jungian psychology I began a regular program of study. One of the earliest books I read was Carol S. Pearson’s brilliant The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By. It contains a self-test of 36 statements — each related to one of the archetypes — which are to be scored from 0 to 4 in terms of how frequently they reflect our attitudes. When I tallied my score the Orphan got zero points. Great! I thought, giving myself a mental pat on the back. That’s my least favorite archetype. Thank goodness I’ve grown beyond that childish mentality!
But when I began recording my dreams that same year I found that orphans kept popping up to demand my dream ego’s attention. At first I couldn’t imagine what these sad, needy urchins had to do with me. I was nothing like them. I had high ideals and saw myself as the heroic person I wanted to be: brave, humble, tough, competent, independent. But with continued self-study I gradually saw the powerful hold the Orphan archetype really had on my thoughts and behavior.
The Orphan’s primary characteristics are the very attitudes I most disliked in others during those early years! The fact that I disowned them and tried so hard to be their opposite proves how unconscious I was and how unworthy I felt. I had not grown beyond the Orphan mentality: it was such a deeply buried bedrock reality of my psyche that I simply could not see it. In truth, beneath my plucky Little Orphan Annie persona lurked the Orphan’s problem: despair. Pearson says, “The Orphan is a disappointed idealist, and the greater the ideals about the world, the worse reality appears.”
If it causes you pain to know that the attitudes you dislike in others describe the attitudes of your undeveloped archetypes, please do not despair. There is hope for us the moment we set out on the path to self-knowledge. Everyone goes through an Orphan stage on the hero’s journey and we can encourage the development of our archetypes along the way. To that end you might want to add The Hero Within to your backpack.