• Introduction
  • The Original Embryonic State

The Hero Myth: The Dragon Fight and Redemption of the Feminine

The Goal of Individuation and Its Symbols

Birth of a Theorem: The Story of a Mathematical Adventure

The comparative method is the basic key to a symbolic understanding of mythology. Through it we discover certain patterns which recur in widely varying cultures separated by an immensity of both distance and time. Jung called these underlying patterns 'archetypes' from 'arche' meaning primordial, and 'typos' meaning typical. Archetypal images embody the most essential elements of the human experience and drama. They manifest both as powerful images, and as dynamic behavioral patterns. They are a repertoire of instinctive human functioning, analogous in our species to the instinctive impulse that impels, say, the Baltimore Oriole to build a beautiful teardrop nest, or Salmon to return to the streams of their birth. The generality of these images result from recurrent reactions of human beings to situations and stimuli of the same general order, repeated over thousands of years.

Birth of a Theorem: The Story of a Mathematical Adventure

They couldeven show us, as seen from below, how the soul views itself.
(U.S. 1913 - 1929 & New York; Literature; Literary Devices: symbol, imagery, motif, flashback, characterization; Romantic Relationships; Responsibility) [13+]


Are you going to follow the starof the zeal of your own enthusiasm?

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The archetypal images represent several basic stages of the life drama symbolized by the Hero myth. They lead from an initial stage of unconsciousness before the ego has awakened, through various stages of heroic struggle, to a final state of 'wholeness' or integration when life has reached its full potential and a relationship between the human and divine has been reestablished. Jung called this process 'individuation,' the process of becoming the true individual that one really is. This 'true self' Jung felt to be the dynamic factor in the unconscious of each individual. It represents the central archetype of order and wholeness among the other archetypes. Jung called it the Self.

In the beginning of many creation myths is an image of an original state of perfection, wholeness, and beatific containment. This is often represented as a containing circle, cave, pool, or sphere. The predominant archetypal symbol is that of the primordial Earth Goddess — the Great Mother with her nourishing and protective womb. Many other symbols express this archetype. Anything large and embracing or containing, such as a vessel, that enwraps, shelters, and preserves something small and fragile partakes of this 'primordial mother' One very common symbol is the uroborus, the snake with its tail in its mouth. These symbols express a paradisal state prior to any degree of self-sufficiency and autonomy. The Garden of Eden, and the Golden Age when mankind lived in union with the gods, partaking of divine fullness and totality, are other common motifs of this psychological condition. In the biological life of the individual this symbolism corresponds not only to the pre-natal gestation of the embryo in the mother's uterus, but to the state of the newborn's total dependence upon the mother. Psychologically, these symbols express the stage when the ego is only a potential, or when the ego is dominated by the universal instinctual patterns of human response to the world, or a condition when little or nothing of a uniquely personal value is expressed by the individual.

Are you going to live the myth or isthe myth going to live you?

The mythic image is not to be taken literally and concretely as it would be in the belief-system of a particular religion, nor is it to be dismissed as 'mere illusion,' as often happens in scientific circles. Instead, we must approach myth symbolically as revealed eternal 'truths' about mankind's psychic existence — about the reality of the psyche. 'Once upon a time' does not mean 'once' in history but refers to events that occur in eternal time, always and everywhere. Any myth is very much alive today. Every night in sleep we sink back into that source of all mythological imagery, the unconscious psyche — the origin of dreams. Many of our games have their roots in mythology and much of contemporary art, literature, and film is shot through with mythological themes.

--Phil Cousineau, Introduction, , pp.

Comparative mythology teaches us that there is always a creative tension or urgency in the original embryonic state which leads to trouble. The great uroboric round breaks open and light is born into the world. A typical personification of this impulse is the snake that tempts Eve to violate her passive containment in the Garden, or the shadowy figure or animal in Fairy Tales that tempt the hero or heroine to break the status quo and do something 'evil,' i.e., individual. Such acts result in expulsion from paradisal condition. The protection of childhood, as well as the contentment with the past or with what has been achieved, are types of a paradise that are lost when life calls for a new adaptation.

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This process begins with a cataclysmic separation. In myth it is often imaged as the of the world Parents. Father Sky and Mother Earth hold each other in an embrace and the world is left in darkness. The children born between them must thrust them apart, despite their parents' protesting cries and groans. Only then does light enter the world. This light symbolizes consciousness. Only in the light of consciousness can man . Yet the acquisition of consciousness is a Promethean act subjecting the hero to the danger of inflation and retribution. For stealing fire from the Gods Prometheus was chained to a rock where an eagle ate his liver every night; when Icarus flew too high on his man-made wings, their wax melted and he plunged to his death in the sea. As a bearer of light, the hero is willing to face these dangers, despite the awareness of his aloneness, individuality, and mortality, in order to carry development further.