Archetypes, Religion, & Society

Archetypal patterns and symbols seem to underly what we collectively refer to as religion. However, as religions have progressed though history, there has been a pressure to replace innate symbolism with dogma and tradition. As this happens, we begin to lose the divine aspects of the symbols that have touched and shaped human life from the beginning. We sever the religion from the forces that actually gave it life. Carl Jung notes this phenomena in The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious, “I am convinced that the growing impoverishment of symbols has a meaning. It is a development that has an inner consistency. Everything that we have not thought about, and that therefore has been deprived of a meaningful connection with with our developing consciousness, has got lost.

When things are lost they leave a vacuum, or void. Jung continues, “What is worse, the vacuum gets filled with absurd political and social ideas, which one and all are distinguished by their spiritual bleakness.” I presume this void left by our symbolic impoverishment still contains that fervor once seen in pursuits of the divine. Now, that intensity sits behind social and political values. This leads to increasing displays of tribalism, assuredness in one’s personal views, and ingraining of the self versus other duality. I would argue these problems sit at the foundation of today’s society, yearning for reconciliation. Now there is certainly something sovereign about the individual, and this must be protected with the utmost urgency. But is there not some way we can preserve the sovereignty of the individual, while also helping people realize we are here for others and in fact, that it is only an illusion demarcating the boundary between self and other.

This spiritual bleakness has tremendous implications. We have made immense gains in the realms of intellect and technology. We have gazed upon the vast extremities of our galaxy and the equally expansive microcosms of our own cells. Through harnessing the power of the atom we have equipped ourselves with the god like ability of utter destruction. And are we not embarking on divine creation itself through the advances of CRISPR/Cas9 and other gene editing technologies? This is certainly no alarm or cause for panic, as pushing our boundaries and abilities has always been a part of our story. However this bounding advancement in intellect and technology has significantly outstripped the advancement of wisdom and the spirit. The real danger does not lie in the technology itself, but the lopsided nature of the relationship between spirit and matter.

Jung states that we must go through descent before the ascent. We must reach to the depths, and search out the very places we least want to go. “In the Gnostic hymn to the soul, the son is sent forth by his parents to seek the pearl that fell from the King’s crown. It lies at the bottom of a deep well, guarded by a dragon.” The individual each has their own dragon, and their own pearl. We all have unique offerings to share with the world. This adventure occurs both within and without. Here, the individual will certainly encounter their shadow, that living part of the personality that is forced outside of consciousness. This then becomes the first challenge to the hero, for the shadow represents all his “helplessness and ineffectuality.” With honest and real confrontation, one is able to shape his consciousness, resulting in compensatory reactions from the collective unconscious.

You are now more inclined to give heed to a helpful idea or intuition, or to notice thoughts which had not been allowed to voice themselves before…or will reflect on certain inner and outer occurrences that take place just at this time. If you have an attitude of this kind, the the helpful powers slumbering in the deeper strata of man’s nature can come awake and intervene, for helplessness and weakness are the eternal experience and eternal problem of mankind.” – Carl Jung, The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious

Even when we have done all we know to do, there is room for improvement in that infinite realm of what we don’t know. This honest confrontation with the shadow, the meeting of oneself, is the passageway to non-dual experience of life. The way to unification of the opposites, and the quest to elevate beyond the self. To experience this moment, as one with all, holding space for another.

All the quotes in this article are from C.G. Jung’s The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (all in the first chapter even). An incredible work that I get more out of each time I come back to. I plan on exploring more of the book in this format. Going forward, I will certainly get into specific archetypes and a broader understanding of the collective unconscious.

Best explorations


6; 4/8/2020

Why Myth?


One method of exploration I would like to try here is presentation of a quote and a reflection. This of course is just my narrow interpretation of some idea, but perhaps it can be inspiring enough to provoke thought or incite further investigation.

“The individual, through prolonged psychological disciplines, gives up completely all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes and fears, no longer resists the self-annihilation that is prerequisite to rebirth in the realization of truth, and so becomes ripe, at last, for the great at-one-ment. His personal ambitions being totally dissolved, he no longer tries to live but willingly releases to whatever may come to pass in him.” – Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

If you are unfamiliar with The Hero With a Thousand Faces, I have to start by recommending the book. It would not qualify as an easy read, but I think most would have no trouble understanding the bulk of the ideas presented. In this work, Joseph Campbell presents the archetypal myth through its many different constellations. He highlights the seemingly unmistakable similarities found in stories originating from all stretches of civilization. The ubiquity of the over-arching principles leads one to the possibility of autochthonous generation of a story common to all human kind. As if the need to tell this story is somehow programmed in our DNA. I would lean towards the idea that these commonalities are found in a psychological realm, the collective unconscious, but either way, the story seems attached to our existence. In fact, I would say it is the story of our existence.

A beautiful aspect of our nature is the ability to attribute mental states to things around us, known as a theory of mind. This is the phenomena that allows us to be captivated with movies, books, and generally any social situation. It is the risk-free version of living different lives. This is the ability to infer another person’s emotions, drives, and potential actions, simply based on some limited set of information. Mind you, this all is taking place in some sort of psychological space. No physical interaction with matter is required. We are allowed to set up and run infinitely varied simulations of reality from the comfort of our own psyche.

What if the archetypal myth is the through line of beneficial psychological simulation? What if understanding this story allows us to become more suited for survival? What if this story instills in us the very adaptability that has given Homo sapiens such an advantage up to this point? If true, it is clear there would be a survival benefit to these ideas, and those species who where unable to develop such stories would be at a sizable disadvantage. I would like to bring your attention back to the fact that we see some version of this myth arise repeatedly throughout the world, and in many circumstances with no connection to previous incarnations of the story. The story seems to force its way out of us, coming into existence colored with the particular culture and time of its emergence.

When we read a book, watch a movie or series, what are we actually doing? Do we not suspend disbelief and place ourselves at the center of the situation being portrayed? The camera crew we know to be behind the shot never touches our consciousness, and we simply immerse ourselves in the situation being constructed. Does true art not make us feel as if we are actually there, in the moment? This sounds a lot like what Joseph Campbell said in his quote at the top of the page. Those moments when we are there, in the scene, we give up “all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes and fears,” in order to take a different perspective. And when we take another perspective, we get a glimpse into another world. A different set of feelings, fears, drives, skills, and shortcomings. A brief exposure to something beyond ourselves.

The last sentence of the quote certainly summons my bias for stoic philosophy. It is very much the idea of Amor fati, literally “love of fate.” Some may dismiss Amor fati as a quality of the easily manipulated pushover. And it there is no logical flaw with that interpretation. However, that view is too myopic and fails to take into account the strength that can be found in this belief. There is power in the idea that things happen for you and not to you. You are forced to construct a future with whatever circumstances are thrown your way, and there is no regard to the distribution of equality of those circumstances. Your circumstances are what make your hero myth unique, and no one will ever be able to claim your individual story.

There are certainly more directions to go with this one. I will undoubtedly expand on the supreme importance of moving beyond our sense of self (more perspectives!) and the idea of Amor fati. Part of this experiment is to direct my mind on an idea without forcing any particular conclusion. When I picked this quote, this was not the direction I thought I would follow. So here is to exploring different lines of thought, building creativity, and following the intuitions.

Best explorations,


3; 4/4/2020



Physical Distancing

The term social distancing has been used frequently throughout the last few weeks. Let’s use a better term, physical distancing. You may consider this a moot point, but words are important as they have implications beyond their direct interpretation.

80% of the people infected with SARS-CoV-2 will have mild symptoms. This number has been fairly static since the beginning of the outbreak and seems reliable as more data comes in. However we should define the word “mild” and make sure we understand what that entails. Essentially in these studies, “mild” simply means the patient was not hospitalized. So that qualifies a wide range of possibilities from those who are asymptomatic to those experiencing something like several days of the worst flu they have ever had. In many ways the 80% mild cases are a source for optimism, as the majority of people will not end up in the hospital. However, this is also what has made this virus so potentially dangerous. And this feature is what requires physical distancing.

As everyone is well aware at this point, we are all making significant sacrifices to create this physically distanced society. So thank you to those making a difference, hopefully this will show you why your efforts are critically important.

The mild and asymptomatic cases make this virus extremely hard to track and isolate. These are the cases that allow the virus to slowly spread throughout a community without raising an alarm. The more time the virus can spread without detection, the larger percentage of the population it comes into contact with. Let us assume that our population fits the general population of the communities already infected, in the sense that 20% of the infected people will require hospitalization and 4-5% of those patients will likely need an ICU bed. Now we have to venture from abstract percentages to real numbers.

Let’s start with the hypothetical situation that 10% of our population of 100,000 people contracted the virus. That gives us 10,000 people infected, 8,000 “mild” cases, 2,000 people requiring hospitalization, and 400-500 of those hospitalized requiring ICU. As soon as you take percentages to concrete numbers, the problems become obvious. We certainly do not have anywhere near the capacity to treat that volume of patients in a short window of time. As one more example, let’s say only 1% of the population contracted the virus. 1,000 people infected, 800 “mild” cases, 200 people requiring hospital beds, and 40-50 needing ICU placement. Now this scenario seems somewhat more manageable, but there is still a glaring problem. We do not have the required ICU beds to treat the most severe patients.

This is why we GET to physically distance ourselves. We have the opportunity to make a difference. A difference that is well beyond the capability of any drug, physician, or modern healthcare facility. We have the power to force the infection rate much lower than 1%, and the best strategy to accomplish this is physical distancing. The short term (1-2 months) outcome of this pandemic is squarely in the hands of the public. Embrace the responsibility, and help make this a manageable fight for our healthcare workers and our community in general.

In closing, we have replaced the term social distancing with physical distancing. This is not a time to socially isolate ourselves, but to come together as friends, families, and communities. Leverage technology to stay in touch with those important to you, even if you cannot physically be near them. Realize that we are all making sacrifices and be respectful of that. Show sympathy, support, and shoulder the responsibility. This is the ethos of America, and we will undoubtedly come through this stronger.


2; 4/2/2020