Search Results for numinous
Professors of Religious Studies often say the term numinous was coined by the German Lutheran scholar Rudolf Otto (1869-1937) to describe personal experiences of spiritual power.
But as far back as 1647 Nathaniel Ward wrote in The simple cobler of Aggawam in America:
The Will of a King is very numinous; it hath a kinde of vast universality in it.¹
The term derives from the Latin numen, usually translated as “the presence of a god or goddess” or the “will, manifestation or power of a deity.”
The most ancient example is in a text of Accius cited by Varro: “Alia hic sanctitudo est aliud nomen et numen Iouis” (“Here, the holiness of Jupiter is one thing, the name and power of Jupiter another).”²
For Otto, numinosity originates from outside the self. But as a personal experience, one perceives it within the self. A higher process than the magical, the numinous takes many forms. Not one to jumble all spiritual experiences into an artificial homogeneity, Otto says the numinous has primitive, daemonic and dark sides, as well as an elevated, noble and pure character.
Otto calls the absolute and purest experience of the numen “the Holy.” Unlike the darker, dimmer aspects of the numinous, this apparently highest aspect involves an experience marked by a feeling of “Awefulness,” “Overpoweringness,” “Energy” or “Urgency.”
Sometimes Otto implies that the numinous is identical among all religions. Other times he reveals a definite Christian bias, suggesting that the numinosity experienced through the Bible and by various Christian mystics is ultimate and uncorrupted.
From today’s standards, Otto’s definition of numinosity might seem a bit vague and unsystematic. But his work is rightly regarded as a milestone and continues to have a profound influence on depth psychology and comparative religion.
For Jung, we experience numinosity when an archetype of the collective unconscious is activated. Depending on combined factors such as the psyche’s condition, degree of ego stability, and the nature of archetypal source, numinosity is either psychologically healing or destructive.
Joseph Campbell says that numen finds parallel expression in the “Melanesian mana, Dakotan wakon, Ironquoian orenda and Algonquian manitu.”
But it’s unwarranted to blindly assume that these terms necessarily point to identical spiritual presences and related experiences.
Along these lines, the Romanian scholar, Mircea Eliade, says numinosity exhibits diverse intensities, qualities and effects. And from the perspective of dance, Deidre Sklar adds:
While the experience alternately called presence, or unity, or numinosity may be the same across spiritual traditions, “ways of doing” are different. Presence comes in a multitude of flavors. “The virgin,” is different than “Buddha” or “God the Father.” Kneeling in prayer before the virgin is a different bodily experience than sitting cross-legged in meditation. Both the natures of the divinities and the ritual practices performed in their names are elaborated in distinct communities to do different work upon soma.³
Sigmund Freud reduced the numinous to a person recalling a unified “oceanic bliss” that every fetus apparently feels within the mother’s womb. Perhaps Freud’s greatest shortcoming was his inability – or perhaps unwillingness – to study spirituality on its own terms, at its own level of experience. This sad state of affairs has been repeated and reinforced by those who uncritically accept a materialist paradigm instead of looking at spiritual development with open eyes.
Before Otto, Jung, Campbell, Eliade and Freud, the philosopher Immanuel Kant spoke to a realm of the noumena. The noumena are objects and events independent of the senses. Although Kant claimed that we cannot know the character of a particular noumenon, he believed we can ascertain the existence of noumena by virtue of the “intelligible order of things” in the observable world of phenomena.
It should be noted that the terms noumena and numinous are not directly related, etymologically speaking. This has lead some scholars to dismiss any possible semantic connections between the two terms. But even if two words are etymologically unrelated, this does not necessarily mean their connoted meanings have no relation. In short, some believe that Kant’s noumena may be sources of numinous experience but are not the numinous itself. Examples could be found in religious schools (and their attendant mystics) leaning toward naturalistic pantheism, such as Zen Buddhism and Taoism.
But the idea of numinosity isn’t quite that simple. Indeed, mystics from various traditions write about different “levels” and types of numinous experience. And even within a single spiritual tradition, descriptions of the numinous vary dramatically in terms of both quality and intensity.
Consider, for example, the ordinary Christian churchgoer who claims to feel an invisible peaceful presence inside a Church in comparison to a full-fledged saint like St. Teresa of Ávila who describes a variety of all-absorbing states of numinous rapture.
In Paradise Lost the celebrated poet John Milton depicts Satan’s dismay when he sees the dingy gloom of hell that he’s confined himself to after losing the glorious light of heaven.
“Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,” Said then the lost archangel, “this the seat That we must change for Heaven, this mournful gloom For that celestial light?”
² Schilling, Robert. “Numen.” Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. Vol. 10. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 6753-6754. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale.
³ Deidre Sklar, “Reprise: On Dance Ethnography.” Dance Research Journal, Vol. 32, No. 1 Summer, 2000: 70-77, p. 72.
- An Outline of Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy
- C. G. Jung and Numinosity
- Celibacy, Sex and Spirituality
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Archetype is a term used by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung to indicate the psychological contents of an alleged collective unconscious. For Jung the archetypes are inherited patterns encoded in the body, universally shared by mankind.¹
Jung often likens the archetypes to ancient deities, saying that the word “archetype” is a scientific-sounding update for a very old idea. Not unlike the gods and goddesses of ancient times, archetypes apparently have a psychic life of their own. And when ego consciousness encounters the archetype, the individual experiences a sense of the numinous.
According to Jung, the encounter with the numinous may be psychologically constructive or destructive, healing or disorienting. The effect of the numinous on the conscious ego depends on two things:
- The psychological stability and maturity of the individual
- The character and intensity of the numinosity, itself
The experience of the numinous is often facilitated by a meaningful visual symbol (e.g. a mandala) or ecstatic activity (e.g. chanting, music-listening or dancing). Jungian writers and literary critics, alike, often say that the symbol “mediates” archetypal energy. So when the archetype enters into consciousness, it takes the form of numinosity.
For Jung, the self is also an archetype, one of wholeness.
In contrast to experiencial manifestations of the archetype, which take the form of numinosity, visible manifestations of the archetypes appear as archetypal images. Jung distinguishes these recognizable images from the archetype proper, which Jung says can never be fully known. Jung calls the unknowable aspect of the archetype the pscyhoid aspect. This distinction between the unknowable archetype and its recognizable image is often overlooked in casual commentaries about Jung. Wikipedia notes:
These images and motifs are more precisely called archetypal images. However it is common for the term archetype to be used interchangeably to refer to both archetypes-as-such and archetypal images.²
The idea of the archetype has been championed by Jungians and some literary writers as “the answer” to all of the complexities and difference found in world religions. In fact, many Jungians tend to blur real differences by gelling everything into Jung’s handy model. But the idea of the archetype has also been roundly critiqued.³
Jung himself was a complex, confusing and honest thinker. At times he would say that archetypal energies differed. Other times he would lump different religions and symbols together as if they were the same. Jung also writes in his letters than not many people realize he had a Christian bias. He even admitted to being contradictory at times.
Despite the complexity and confusion within Jung’s work, some of his followers have simplified his work into something palatable for the masses. As always, dumbing things down has its pros and cons. On the one hand it can help everyday people to benefit from some of Jung’s more useful ideas. On the other hand, it can leave Jung open to a kind of unjust demonization by fundamentalists and rigid religious thinkers.4
4 See for instance “Carl Gustav Jung: Enemy of the Church” by Dr Pravin Thevathasan » http://www.theotokos.org.uk/pages/churpsyc/cgjung.html. And a partially misinformed critique of Jung can be found in “CARL JUNG: PSYCHOLOGIST OR SORCERER?” by Marsha West » http://www.newswithviews.com/West/marsha5.htm. By way of contrast, Fr. Victor White entered into a respectful dialogue with Jung. The two agreed on some points while disagreeing on others. This seems the more sensible, mature and constructive way to go. See » http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_White_%28priest%29
- Archetypal Image (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Evoking the archetypes of Carl Jung (patricktay.wordpress.com)
- Anima (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Forum II: Archetype (imanberhan.wordpress.com)
- Psychology in Writing: The Collective Unconscious – Introduction (wtjowett.wordpress.com)
- Jung analysis (clas3026.wordpress.com)
- Psychology in Writing: Anima and Animus – Introduction (wtjowett.wordpress.com)
- Pearson Archetypes – Just Another Zodiac (thestarryeye.typepad.com)
- Model of maturity- Jungian perspective (gcervino.wordpress.com)
Cybele was a Mother Goddess with local manifestations in Asia Minor, Greece and Rome. Some scholars believe that she originated in Anatolia around 6000 BCE. She appears in literature and sculpture from about the 5th century BCE onward. She presides over the gods, humans and beasts.
The lion was her sacred symbol. In statues, reliefs and coins she’s often depicted seated on a throne with a lion on either side.
Sir William Smith in his Smaller Classical Dictionary says
The Corybantes were her enthusiastic priests, who with drums, cymbals, horns, and in full armour, performed their orgiastic dances. In Rome the Galli were her priests.¹
In Rome she was introduced as an official state religious figure and hence closely regulated and officiated by upper class priests.
Today, some people are drawn to her cult and, perhaps, numinous power – or what they believe is her numinous power. So her worship continues in the 21st century among New Age and neoPagan religious groups.²
¹ Sir William Smith, Smaller Classical Dictionary [revised by E. H. Blakeny and JohnWarrington], New York: Dutton, 1958.
Conversion is a total and complete change of allegiance, belief and practice from a secular to a religious outlook, or from one religious belief system to another.
This is the textbook definition. In actual fact, conversion is usually an ongoing process in which old elements of the personality (and related attitudes and beliefs) diminish and possibly die out while being replaced by new ones.
Alternately, aspects of the old personality may endure but be transformed and applied within a new outlook. For instance, a musician may at one time play predominantly for the love of music and to please people, self-aggrandize and make money. After a conversion experience he or she may play music to glorify God.
The term also has more popular uses, such as “I converted from meat eating to vegetarianism.”
In the New Testament we hear of some conversion experiences that are sudden and powerful, such as the persecutor of Christians Saul falling off his horse and becoming St. Paul. But these are typically rare. The norm seems to be a gradual conversion, characterized by moments of grace and spiritual dryness. Or perhaps an initially powerful conversion experience is followed by periods of dryness and grace.
When someone has a powerful conversion experience they usually claim to “know” instead of “believe,” which arguably could be an interpretive mistake. And new converts are often overzealous and intolerant of other forms of belief. At least for a while. If they’re inherently sensible, the school of life usually balances them out over time. But if they’re not sensible about their beliefs, converts may continue to be fanatical and, perhaps, alienate more than inspire others.
- Concepts and Dimensions of Conversion and Religious Experience (marbaniang.wordpress.com)
- Fear and faith: Derren Brown and the Confusion (pw201.livejournal.com)
- Conversion All-echoing (simonmarsh.org)
- Critically evaluate the relative merits of visions, voices, numinous, conversion, and corporate experiences for proving the existence of God (mentaltyranny.wordpress.com)
- Book of Acts Part 1 (brakeman1.com)
- Conversion (braggschurchofchrist.com)
- What is in the Word? (thomaspritchard.wordpress.com)
Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) was a Romanian scholar, fluent in eight languages, who authored seminal works on the history of world religions and mythology. He is perhaps best known for his studies on shamanism, yoga, and alchemy. Eliade also edited the multi-volume Encyclopedia of Religion. And The Eliade Guide to World Religions (1991) offers a concise summary of his scholarly publications.
While some critics of Eliade’s work say it’s overly selective, it’s difficult to find a researcher who isn’t selective. Critics also say that Eliade superimposes grand theory on his research data. This seems a more reasonable charge, but the inevitability of subjectivity arguably lessens the impact of this criticism.
Eliade also wrote works of fiction, saying that he had no choice when the artistic muse struck him. He simply had to follow, alternating between the international scholar and budding author. With this kind of outlook it’s not surprising that Eliade was on good terms with C. G. Jung, Joseph Campbell and others of like mind.
Eliade’s scholarly views, however, sometimes differed from those of Jung and Campbell, a fact that he handled quite diplomatically, always politely disagreeing and never alienating them within the scholarly circle that met annually at the Switzerland Eranos conferences.
- The meanings of myth (epages.wordpress.com)
- Endless Cycles and the End of History (theabysmal.wordpress.com)
- Numinosity – Another kind of light (epages.wordpress.com)
- Reflections on definitions of religion. (maximilian2305.wordpress.com)
- Eightfold Path (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Evil (earthpages.wordpress.com)
In Sigmund Freud‘s psychoanalysis, the ego is the conscious, structured and reasoned aspect of the id. The ego is not present at birth but emerges from the id, acting as mediator between the often conflicted demands of the id and the superego.
In Carl Jung‘s analytical psychology, the ego is a highly continuous “complex of ideas which constitutes the centre of [one's] field of consciousness.” As the psyche’s “point of reference,” the ego’s partly biological component is offset by cultural influences. Its function is to balance the forces of the collective unconscious, the personal unconscious, external society as well as ethically good and destructive influences from both internal and external stimuli.
Jung borrows from Aristotle‘s idea of ‘effects from a First Cause’ by saying that the ego stands in relation to the self as “moved to the mover.” The ego is said to arise from and, in some cases, is at risk of being overtaken by the collective unconscious (as in inflation). Jung claims that many people mistakenly regard their egos as the total self. To compensate for this limited perspective, the collective unconscious tends to assert itself. Because of the almost limitless power of the collective unconscious, this can be a tricky time for the ego, which must represent the forces of the unconscious through language, symbols or art to maintain its autonomy.
In comparing industrialized mankind to so-called primitives, Jung sees the Western ego as a high achievement of humanity (recall that Jung is writing during the modern period). He says that the egos of modern individuals are better differentiated and less luminous than those of their, as he sometimes implies, cruder ancestors. Although no longer wholly identified with the numinous, modern egos are surrounded by a “multitude of little luminosities”–-that is, the unconscious affords different ‘lights’ to ego consciousness without overtaking it entirely. And different individuals exhibit different lights from the unconscious.
Although offering an important alternative to the psychoanalytic wisdom of the day, Jung tends to make sweeping generalizations about the ‘normal’ Western ego, revealing that he too, at least in part, is a product of his times. And his archetypal theory tends to downplay the idea of wholly spiritual influences from above, or at least, constrain these influences into his somewhat limiting theory.
- Brief History of Carl Jung (socyberty.com)
- SPIRIT SCIENCE Synchronicity, Part 1: What do we mean by Meaningful Coincidence? (talkingmonkeynews.wordpress.com)
- What is the Archetype in Jungian Psychology (meggella.com)
- Carl Gustav Jung – The World Within (dphilosophy.wordpress.com)
- Anima and animus (solmazhafezi.wordpress.com)
- Synchronicity, Part 1: What do we mean by Meaningful Coincidence? (livewithwonder.com)
- Carl Jung had what would today be called an extended psychotic episode (beyondmeds.com)
- Black Dog (untitledpainting.wordpress.com)
- Anna Freud (earthpages.wordpress.com)
The relationship between faith and action raises some interesting questions, many of which are largely overlooked in contemporary society.
For starters, most religions advocate the necessity of action to keep faith alive. Action, in fact, is highly regarded in Western culture. But the meaning of the term ‘action’ is often loaded with cultural assumptions and, therefore, misunderstood.
We could say, for instance, that Trappist monks are more inwardly active than externally so. These monks, being one of the more contemplative sort, believe that their internal prayer life has positive effects on other people, just as the great saints believed that they interceded for other souls.
So if his beliefs are true, the Trappist monk is extremely active, but most of us don’t see it that way.
Faith-based action also takes a more worldly form, a form which everyone can easily understand and appreciate. Here I’m talking about charities and goodwill missions that serve the needy.
In most instances, it’s likely that a continuum exists between contemplative and worldly action. And it seems that those disposed to contemplation understand the good works of worldly folk but the converse is rarely true. This, perhaps, explains why in Hinduism the path of knowledge (jnana-yoga) is said to be more difficult than the path of action (karma-yoga). Active people often become hostile towards contemplatives. And sometimes they can even be abusive.
Along these lines, some orthodox and gnostic Christians, alike, interpret these words of Jesus Christ to his disciples as a warning to keep an eye out for vulgar materialists:
Mind you, no discussion of spirituality and abuse would be complete without calling attention to the opposite situation where charismatic gurus with an abundance of numinous powers swamp gullible disciples and, in so doing, are just as abusive toward individuals as vulgar materialists can be to potential saints. The abuse is different. But it’s still abuse.
In less extreme scenarios it seems reasonable to suggest that contemplatives and active individuals can keep each other in check, providing, or course, the rules of fair play are observed. By this I mean that some contemplatives can get smug, lazy, and authoritarian. And a good kick in the pants from an active person might, in some instances, actually help to realign them to their saintly calling (if not perhaps in the way that the active person envisioned it).
By the same token, the active person at times needs to be ‘toned down’ by the wisdom of the contemplative. For if a contemplative is truly focusing on God (and not some strange power), over time they should begin to accrue at least some wisdom that others could benefit from.
- Courageous faith in action through volunteering (northamptonjesuscentre.wordpress.com)
- Kentucky’s Trappist monks get shout-out in Food Network magazine (ashleeeats.com)
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In Christian theology, The Holy Spirit is one of the three “persons” constituting the Holy Trinity of The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.
Each person is said to be eternal, equal, distinct and yet of the same substance. The term Holy Ghost is an old English version of the Latin Spiritus.
In the New Testament Jesus promises his disciples that the Paraclete or Spirit of Truth will return. However, the worldly and evil people of this world cannot and will not see it unless they repent (John 14:16-17).
Around 360 CE the early Christian Church opposed as heretical the idea of the pneumatomachi–-the teaching that Jesus Christ but not the Spirit is Divine.
In 381 the Council of Constantinople repudiated these heretics by declaring the dogma of the Holy Spirit. This was further elaborated in 589 by the Council of Toledo’s dogma of double procession, or the filioque, which stipulates that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
This teaching became popular as the Nicene Creed spread throughout the empire of the Franks from the 9th-century onward. But due to an apparent temporal paradox (How can the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son if the Holy Trinity is co-eternal?), the filioque has been controversial and, indeed, openly attacked by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Many Christians tend to describe the Holy Spirit as an indwelling of the divine. That is, God is wholly-other but also immanent as a numinous experience. On the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Karl Gross cites Evelyn Underhill:
As they know themselves to dwell in the world of time and yet to be capable of transcending it, so the Ultimate Reality, they think, inhabits yet inconceivably exceeds all that they know to be — as the soul of the musician controls and exceeds not merely each note of the flowing melody, but also the whole of the symphony in which these cadences must play their part. » Source
However, a philosophical problem arises with the idea of indwelling. It’s obvious that many religious groups (and individuals) claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit while promoting drastically different agendas. Perhaps a partial solution to this problem could be to say that some of these groups and individuals are closer to enacting God’s will than others.
- Praying for Yourself and Those Whom You Love to Experience the Liberating Power of the Holy Spirit (trinitytuscaloosa.wordpress.com)
- When someone is speaking ‘in tongues’ in the Holy Spirit does this mean that you are speaking God’s language which is ancient Hebrew (wiki.answers.com)
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- walking in the truth…walking in love (evanlaar1922.wordpress.com)
The German Lutheran scholar Rudolf Otto (1869–1937) describes The Holy in terms of a personal experience.
In The Idea of the Holy (1917) he borrows from the Latin word numen when introducing the term numinous, which refers to ”deeply felt religious experience.”
Experience of the numinous may derive from a monotheistic God or from many pagan gods. When originating from God, Otto says the numinous is endowed with “rationality, purpose, personality and morality.” Pagan numinosity, he suggests, is somehow inferior.
Otto makes a similar distinction between magic and religion. Not trying to be non-judgmental or politically correct, he says magic manifests a “dimmed” numinous, in contrast to the experience of God, which he describes as an awe-filled encounter, a mysterium tremendum and a majestus.
For Otto, the experience of God is the highest type of numinosity. It’s a personal experience of an omnipotent, omniscient power that’s worthy of utmost respect and which inspires not just awe, but also a healthy kind of fear.
The individual is urgently attracted to this power, but the experience of the Godhead may also frighten, humble and purify.
In addition, Otto notes that one would experience a sense of creaturely unworthiness and perhaps wretchedness, standing naked, as it were, in the face of such a great, powerful and “wholly other” Godhead.
- An Outline of Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy (epages.wordpress.com)
- Philosophy Word of the Day – Religious Experience (greatcloud.wordpress.com)
- Review – Strange is Normal: The Amazing Life of Colin Wilson (DVD) (epages.wordpress.com)
- The archetypes are gods: Re-godding the archetypes, by John H. Halstead (humanisticpaganism.wordpress.com)
- Parapraxes, Accidents and Necessary Mistakes (epages.wordpress.com)
In depth psychology and New Age publications we often hear about the Hero. This kind of usage isn’t referring to a Martin Luther King, Neil Armstrong or Terry Fox. While these individuals certainly were heroic, and heroes by the usual definition of the word, they weren’t necessarily heroes from the perspective of depth psychology or New Age spirituality.
The psycho-spiritual idea of the Hero is really talking about an archetype of the Hero. And the notion of the archetype can be traced back to the Greek philosopher Plato and his theory of Eternal Forms or Perfect Ideas. After Plato, the idea of the archetype was remixed by various medieval thinkers. We need not go into their complicated theories here.
What’s important for us is how the Swiss psychiatrist, C. G. Jung, adapted the ideas of the Archetype and the Hero into one concept—namely, the archetype of the hero. The Jungian archetype differs from the Platonic formulation, most notably because Jung’s archetypes involve eternity but are grounded in the human body. Plato’s archetypes are just “out there.” They are imprinted in the eternal soul and have some kind of relation with matter but they are not grounded in matter.¹
For Jung the archetype indicates the psychological contents of a proposed collective unconscious. He says the archetypes are inherited patterns encoded in the body, universally shared by mankind. Not unlike the gods and goddesses of ancient times, archetypes apparently have a psychic life of their own that extends beyond everyday consciousness and concerns.
According to Jung, when the conscious ego encounters the archetype, the individual experiences a sense of the numinous. This encounter may be psychologically constructive or destructive, healing or disorienting. The type of effect that the numinous has on consciousness depends on the psychological stability and maturity of the individual, as well as the character and intensity of the numinosity, itself.
Visible manifestations of the archetypes appear as archetypal images. Jung distinguishes these recognizable images from the archetype proper, which Jung says can never be fully known. So the archetypal image of the Hero may appear in many different forms, but there’s only one Hero archetype.
Joseph Campbell built on Carl Jung’s idea of a hero archetype in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949). Campbell says that the idea of the hero’s journey to the underworld (and return to everyday life) is found throughout world myth and religion.
Typically, the hero is born into a problematic setting. Two biblical examples would be the infant Moses and Jesus Christ. Moses was abandoned as a baby, left in a basket to float down the Nile river. Jesus Christ was born in a manger because his parents were forced to flee the paranoid anger of King Herod “The Great” (c. 73-4 BCE) who hoped to kill the infant Jesus by ordering the killing of all children in Bethlehem under age two.
Campbell says the next phase of the budding hero’s life is a “call to adventure.” The hero usually doesn’t want to be a hero but is slowly drawn into his or her historical, perhaps sacred role. At this stage he or she may exhibit some kind of superhuman powers and insight.
A definite turning point in the hero’s journey is precipitated by some kind of crisis. The hero is either sucked into a whale’s belly (e.g. Jonah), dismembered (e.g. Osiris), abducted (e.g. Sita, Eurydice), abandoned (e.g. Joseph), hanged (e.g. Odin), sent on a ‘night sea’ voyage (e.g. St. John of the Cross) or a strange journey (in literature, Alice in Wonderland), forced to fight a threatening dragon (e.g. St. George, Beowulf), drawn into battle with relatives (e.g. Arjuna) or demons and monsters (e.g. Gilgamesh, Hercules), all of which point to a passage from the everyday into a supernatural world of danger and magic (again, in Jung’s terms, the collective unconscious).
At this time the hero encounters mythical beings and beasts. Some are helpers, others are tricksters, and yet others are enemies. In learning how to discern among these mythical creatures, the hero faces a series of life-threatening tests (e.g. Odysseus binds himself to his ship’s mast to prevent the Sirens from luring him to his death; Jesus rejects the temptation of Satan in the wilderness, in the holy city and on the mountain).
The hero’s journey continues to the inner depths of an abyss, a dragon cave, a bottomless ocean, a deep underworld pit or, in modern myth, a Death Star or a Borg cube. At this point the hero hopefully discovers what the alchemists call the lapis (philosopher’s stone or inner human). There may be atonement with a father or a father figure, a sacred marriage, a theft, or perhaps a bargaining for the elixir of immortality.
Having found the proverbial Holy Grail within, the hero gains profound insight into the eternal, infinite connections among life, death, space, time, heaven and hell. But like Theseus after slaying the Minotaur at the center of the labyrinth, the hero must return to the world of day to day living. After his or her return to everyday life, he or she is symbolically reborn.
Concerning the journey to and from the underworld, the Hero understands well Plato‘s comments from his famous Cave Analogy about entering and exiting the cave.
The eyes may be confused in two ways and from two causes, coming from light into darkness as well as from darkness to light… the same applies to the soul.²
In practical terms, the hero’s quest is often confusing due to the sheer magnitude of fast paced change that’s involved. Not everyone finds their way out of the collective unconscious. Some simply go mad.
In myth and religion, Theseus found escaped from the labyrinth because he’d unwound a ball of thread that Ariadne had provided in advance. Moses and the persecuted chosen people were delivered from the Egyptians by the miraculous parting (and subsequent closing) of the Red Sea. And Jesus, after his death, descended to hell for three days before ascending to heaven.
Parallels among mythic and religious stories about the hero obviously differ in important details. In fact, the content of hero stories often varies quite radically. And each story arguably has a qualitatively different effect on those who invest their energy into them. However, Jung and Campbell contend that all the Hero stories display a basic structural similarity.³
In psychological terms hero stories point to a circular passage from ego → archetypes → self → archetypes → ego. On returning, being rescued or resurrected, the hero is transformed. He or she may reclaim former elements of the older personality but these are put to a new purpose, integrated within a new sense of self.
On the social level, the hero brings to society various boons of wisdom, and possibly miraculous abilities, gained from the underworld.
¹ For an unusually good summary of Plato’s theories about the soul, see Herschel Baker, The Image of Man: A Study of the Idea of Human Dignity in Classical Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance (1961).
² G. M. A. Grube (trans.), Plato’s Republic, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1974, p. 170 [par 518a].
³ Campbell notes that the film Star Wars is a contemporary reenactment of the hero myth, rendering ancient stories and motifs into images that speak to people today.
- ‘Immortals’ Mondays: Henry Cavill’s Theseus Revealed (moviesblog.mtv.com)
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- Why does Theseus have to kill the minotaur (wiki.answers.com)
- Greek Beasts and Heroes: The Monster in the Maze by Lucy Coats – review (guardian.co.uk)
- ‘Immortals’, ‘Man of Steel’: Henry Cavill was raised to fly (pbpulse.com)
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- Why does Theseus give sanctuary to Oedipus in ‘Oedipus at Colonus’ (wiki.answers.com)
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- Unravelling the Rumors of Henry Cavill of Immortals (2011) Movie (boh86.wordpress.com)
- Inflation (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Individuation Process (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Jung, Carl Gustav (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Some Carl Jung (nataliaperezpuyol.wordpress.com)
- The archetypes are gods: Re-godding the archetypes, by John H. Halstead (humanisticpaganism.wordpress.com)
- The Four Archetypes of the Mature Masculine: Introduction (artofmanliness.com)
- The Four Archetypes of Mature Masculinity: The Boyhood Archetypes (Part II) (artofmanliness.com)
- ‘Matter of Heart: The Extraordinary Journey of C.G. Jung’ (dangerousminds.net)
- The World of Opposites (thejungian.com)
- Heaven (earthpages.wordpress.com)