Jungian Archetypes for Men: Jesus
[Paul C. Vitz is Professor of Psychology/Senior Scholar at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences and Professor of Psychology Emeritus at New York University. He is our guest blogger for the month of January, and this is his first post].
After Sigmund Freud certainly the most influential psychological theorist has been the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. The two major concepts in his writings about personality are archetypes and the psychotherapeutic goal of individuation or self realization. Self realization proposed as the goal of Jungian therapy and indeed of life in general is certainly not for Christians where the goal instead is Christ realization. After all, the Gospels focus on \”not my will but God\’s be done.\” Instead, the original temptation found in Genesis is for each of us to \”become as God\”. Thus, to propose self realization as the goal of life or psychotherapy is a foundational error for any Christian. Jung\’s proposal is a modern form of salvation through special esoteric psychological knowledge and hence a Gnostic answer to the purpose of life. This critical understanding of Jung from different perspectives has been made by various authors. Some of the most interesting for Christians are \”The Aryan Christ: The Secret life of Carl Jung\” (1997) by the psychologist and historian of science Richard Noll; \”The Empty Self: C.G. Jung & the Gnostic Transformation of Modern Identity\” (1996) by Jeffrey Satinover a psychiatrist and former president of the American C.G. Jung Foundation; \”The Healing Presence\”, especially chapter 14, (1995) by a leader in Christian healing Leanne Payne. In my own writing I have also identified the serious conflict between Christianity and major assumptions of Jung in Vitz, 1994.
The essential dilemma in Jungian psychology is to use the self to realize or individuate the self. This circular logic leaves the person trapped in subjectivity and narcissism and incapable of responding to the nature of external reality, to an objective moral system and much less to a transcendent God outside of the self. The Jungian purpose of life, self realization, in any case is not part of science but is an ideological, philosophical and even theological addition to his presumably more objectively based psychology.
Basic Jungian Archetypes
As noted, besides self realization the other major concept of Jungian psychology is the \”archetype\”. Archetypes are proposed as actual psychological realities capable of being known and a great deal of the popularity of Jung\’s work derives from the many people who accept the reality of archetypes. Briefly, an archetype is an inherited mental structure with a latent content which is brought to a specific content by the person\’s actual experience in his or her family and culture. Most of the archetypes are characters such as the \”hero\”, the \”earth mother\”, the \”wise old man\”, etc. The primary four Jungian archetypes, however, are more abstract but even they are typically experienced as characters. For example, the persona archetype which represents the public mask or face of a person may be symbolized in a man\’s dream as a shallow salesman. The archetype of the self might be symbolized in a woman\’s dream as a car driving recklessly out of control. A person\’s shadow, the archetype of one\’s unknown and in part dark or evil nature might be symbolized by dreaming about a waitng spider or raging bear attacking others; the archetype of a person\’s animus or anima likewise would commonly be represented as a character. The animus archetype represents a woman\’s unconscious male personality and symbolic representations of men and likewise the anima is a man\’s unconscious female personality. Jungians often simply assume that each sex should get in touch with their animus/anima and integrate it into their personality. This proposal involves the assumption that such an inward looking often narcissistic preoccupation is a positive thing. For a man to get in touch with his female archetype is to encourage androgyny at a time when men are commonly interpreted as not masculine enough. It seems far more reasonable that a man should start relating to a real woman outside of himself in order to appreciate women and femininity rather than cultivate some internal \”female\”. After all, just because men have nipples does not mean that they should take breast enhancement medicines.
Jung did not provide a clear definition of an archetype so that one could reliably identify a new proposed archetype nor did he provide a standard list of archetypes, however, the concept has in a general way been accepted by many as valid. In proposing archetypes Jung was saying that in an important sense humans are born with specific predispositions toward a limited set of human ideas normally symbolized and experienced as characters in dreams, myths, art and in stories found in all the worlds cultures.
Although, the existence of Jung\’s archetypes has been questioned, it will be assumed for present purposes that archetypes do have some validity in that they exist as important innate properties of the mind and that the major archetypes identified by Jung and his followers can be given credence. There are, of course, dangers associated with this assumption some of which will be discussed later. Keep in mind that should archetypes be rejected by subsequent research and reflection then the proposed Christian interpretation of archetypes would become irrelevant. That is, Christianity itself is in no way affected by the truth or falseness of the archetypes.
Four Archetypes and Male Psychology
Certain contemporary Jungians, active in what some call the \”Men\’s movement\” such as Robert Bly (1990), and especially Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette (1990), and Patrick Arnold (1992) have proposed four primary archetypes as underlying male psychology. These are referred to as the archetype of the King, the Warrior, the Lover, and the Wiseman/ Magician. These archetypes are proposed as psychological representations of male personality that need to be experienced and reinforced in a contemporary culture that no longer adequately recognizes and supports male psychological needs. Men have become confused about male identity in our androgynous or unisex society and need to get back in touch with these four innate masculine psychological structures.
The first is the King archetype. By this Moore and Gillette mean a basic energy in men, focused on ordering-on the content of creating Right Order through wise ruling. The King archetype is also concerned with providing fertility and blessing. The King must have children and he must bless his Kingdom\’s children. The King symbolizes the life force and balance; he is also a mentor.
The Warrior archetype stands for male energy and aggressiveness, clear thinking in the presence of death, plus training to develop aggressiveness in a disciplined way. The Warrior shows loyalty to a transpersonal ideal -his God, or leader, or nation or another cause.
The Magician archetype is the knower and master of technology. He is usually an initiate-that is, part of a secret religious world. He is an archetype of awareness, insight, thoughtfulness and introspective reflection.
The Lover archetype stands for passion and love. The Lover is very aware of the physical world, of sensations, sensuality and feeling. The Lover\’s energies are close to those of the mystics. Artists and psychics represent common professions of the Lover.
As described, any of these four archetypes can be distorted in a macho manner, or in a weak, wimp-like fashion. Moore and Gillette very clearly acknowledge that each of these basic male archetypes can be used for evil. They explicitly note that the King can be a tyrant or a weakling (macho or wimpo, if you will). They also admit that the Warrior can be corrupted into a sadist or masochist; the Magician can be a prideful manipulator or an envious weakling; the Lover can degenerate into an addicted, promiscuous Don Juan; or he can be impotent, depressed and uncommitted.
The problem with this Jungian understanding of male archetypes is that however much these theorists decry the serious, harmful distortions of these male archetypes, they offer no convincing method or model for avoiding the ways in which men have distorted these male tendencies to exploit or harm others-often women. These writers do attempt to give rationales in which the moral failures of men realizing their archetypes can be controlled but these moral positions do not naturally flow from Jungian theory and as noted above they are not convincing. A writer quite sympathetic to Jung, Morton Kelsey (1983) identifies the basic problem as follows \”The archetype must be honored for what it is, an image outside of the self that calls us to growth, change and awareness. In its negative form it can equally call us to evil and destruction\” (p. 8).
What is important and relevant here is that Jesus, who is our model of God the Father, is the perfect integration of these four archetypes within a framework of servant leadership. This model also provides a clear answer to the moral issues raised by men expressing their archetypes. The moral framework is demonstrated in both his many actions and in his words about loving God and others, even one\’s enemies.
Specifically with respect to the archetypes themselves, that Jesus was a King is acknowledged in the liturgy at the last feast of the Christian year: Christ the King. At his birth, the Magi, and at his crucifixion he was identified as King. Jesus also is commonly referred to as our Lord. As a Warrior Jesus said that he had come to bring the sword; recall his attack on the money-changers in the Temple, his fierce criticisms of the Pharisees-all Warrior behaviors. Of course the primary battle that Jesus led was a spiritual battle. St. Paul frequently refers to our life as one of spiritual warfare, and so do many of the saints. That Jesus represents the archetype of Lover is essentially a \”no brainer\” as the expression goes. For Jesus the core of his message is one of love. In the Gospels that \”God is love\” is given prominence. He showed kindness and concern for the suffering of others so strong that it is no wonder that one of the great spiritual classics is titled \”This Tremendous Lover\” and a famous Protestant hymn is \”Jesus Lover of My Soul.\” He showed explicit love toward children-implicitly all children.
As for the archetype of Wiseman or Magician, Jesus was known as a rabbi or teacher who brought new teachings and who spoke with authority and great wisdom. He was also a frequent and great miracle worker.
In short, Jesus represents, summarizes and integrates all these basic archetypes, most especially when he says \”I and the Father are one.\” That is, the summarizing archetype for all men is that of \”Father\”. For a father is called to bring all four male archetypes together and live out all of them. He is the lover of his wife and children, a warrior for God and his family, a servant king within the household and at work, and a source of knowledge and wisdom about the world. So we see in these archetypes the model of Jesus as servant leader speaking to the needs and highest aspirations of male psychology. We also emphasize that Christian fatherhood is a genuine model for disciplining and controlling the strong tendency of men either to abuse others or to betray their masculine gifts through weakness and cowardice. Thus, the archetype of Father which combines the other four male archetypes and integrates them is the overarching male archetype to which all men are called. And, of course, in being called to the father archetype all men are not restricted to natural fatherhood with biological children. Instead, they are called to the role or archetype of fatherhood with its focus on strong, mentoring love expressed through the King, the Warrior, the Wiseman and the Lover. For example, Pope (which means papa) John Paul II was a father for millions but he had no natural children.
Jesus and other male archetypes
There are three other archetypes that are commonly mentioned in connection with male psychology: the Hero, Initiation Rites and the Wildman. The Hero sets out upon a quest going through three stages – separation, ordeal and return – all aimed at making a great contribution to society or his people through an extraordinary deed. Jesus clearly fits this model well. He begins his ministry with a forty day separation in the desert and then comes his ministry climaxing in the ordeal of the Crucifixion, followed by his resurrection and return in the Last Judgment. And the enormous benefit for the whole world being Salvation. In short as a man he lives out the archetype of Hero to a kind of perfection. Finally, any serious Christian setting out on the journey toward sanctity or sainthood is also following the model of the Hero archetype.
The archetype of Initiation is obviously found in the life of Jesus. (For this archetype see R. Rohr, 2004.) His first initiation was presumably at the age of twelve when his parents took him to the temple and later he was recognized as a rabbi or teacher by the Jewish community. His status as a rabbi was never challenged by the Jewish leaders. However, his specific Initiation Rite with respect to his ministry was his baptism by John the Baptist combined with his forty days of fasting in the desert. Representatives of these archetypical events also are present in the life of the ordinary Christian, for example baptism, confirmation, fasting and retreats.
The last male archetype given some emphasis by the theorists noted earlier is that of the Wildman. This archetype represents a man\’s basic animal energy and contact with the forces of his own body and of nature without feminizing restrictions. For example, in a fairy tale, a boy might discover a hairy, terrifying wild man who lives in the forest. The Wildman\’s raw energy and closeness to animals and the natural world then entices the boy to leave his mother for exciting adventures in the wilderness.
For all men the Wildman archetype may have appeal and it may be a good starting point but the other male archetypes and personality development require that the man learn how to control and move beyond the Wildman although the Wildman\’s basic energy and freedom should always be maintained. After all, the King, the Wiseman, Lover and even the Warrior all demand freely chosen discipline and restraint.
There is one clear way in which Jesus expressed the Wildman. Jesus was at home in the natural world. He was in a sense a homeless man without a place to call his own and thus he was wilder than the foxes and the birds who had fixed places to go \”home\” to. He traveled by walking great distances, climbing to mountain tops, praying in deserted places, fasting in the desert. In short, much of his last three years was lived outdoors. Also in freely choosing God\’s will he expressed an enormous amount of power but almost always in quiet and constructive ways, such as miracles. In his words and actions he demonstrated a kind of power and freedom that created more revolutionary changes than any human Wildman ever did. For example, consider what he did to the money changers in the temple. However, the primitive often pre-human animal aspects of this archetype Jesus did not express. Hence Jesus is not a solid example of the Wildman.
(For female archetypes and the Christian faith see my next blog posting.)
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