Sophia Blog March 13, 2019
Who is Sophia? This archetype of Wisdom, feminine face of the Sacred, has illumined lives for millennia as have other faces of the Feminine Divine such as Mary and Brigid whose attributes and stories we have explored here. Truly Sophia is awakening in our time. Yet our relationship with her is already changing the archetype. To assist us in this great task, we have the wisdom of a Master teacher: Jean Houston.
The Nature of Archetypes: Two
by Jean Houston
Everyone, I suspect, has a relationship to a “field” or family of an archetype… Christianity would generally constellate most who profess to be Christians within the family or field of Jesus Christ, although in the various Catholic denominations as well as Hinduism the “family connection” can be found through a special devotion to a saint or a god or goddess. In Hinduism, and especially in Buddhism, this devotion becomes the richly evocative practice of deity yoga, which is the spiritual path of the present Dalai Lama.
One feels oneself partnered by an archetype, and in one’s meditation and life knows oneself to be the exotype in time and space of an archetypal being who lives beyond time and space. Thus in deity yoga, one incarnates in one’s spiritual practices the qualities and then the actual Essence of the spiritual personage. This one does by first dissolving into one’s essential nature, and then in this emptied state, connecting and communing with the archetypal partner.
In our time we have suddenly become directors of a world that up to now has mostly directed us. This exponential growth in responsibility requires a corresponding enhancement in consciousness and psyche as formidable as it is necessary. For as things are now, extremely limited consciousness has the powers once mythically accorded to the gods.
As we attempt to play “catch-up” we find ourselves seeking the enrichment of an archetypical base that can provide missing components of intelligence, wisdom and compassion. But first we have to get past the conundrum that these archetypal “partners” still bear the baggage of ancient attitudes, fine for one era, devastating for another.
Thus, the process, that I am calling the growing of the gods, may, in turn, be part of the necessary evolution of the anima mundi, the soul of the world. The nature of this evolution can itself be seen as a historical movement of division from an undifferentiated noumen into the multiple faces and stories of gods and archetypes. Each particular god bears the holonomic resonance of the original unity, refracted through the lens of time and culture, a parochial rendering of the sacred.
Back in paleolithic and early neolithic times, the Ur Mother, the Great Goddess, was felt and known in her utter and absolute suchness. She was the One without a second.
As the culture of agriculture expanded, communities and roles becoming ever more complex and differentiated, so Herself divided and became many, her powers particularized, her agenda shared. She took on the faces of the seasons–the Triple Goddess in her roles as Spring Maiden, Fruitful summer Mother, and Wizened winter Crone.
The Triple Goddess individuated further, becoming the vehicle of stories that reflected not just the agricultural cycle but also the psychological dramas and rituals of everyday life–birth, growth, learning, sex, fertility, family relationships, wounding, death. Thus the Great Mother birthed herself in multiple story lines, multiple matrices.
As humans tell and retell, live and relive these stories, their psyches too expand. Throughout time, mystics, creators, and crazies, shamans, fey folk and lovers have so identified their local life with the larger life of the archetype that they were able to dwell in the realm of myth and goddedness but at the same time enjoy the delights of flesh and firmament. They have felt themselves to be embodiments of the archetype in time with accompanying skills and powers that seemed to belong more to the archetype than to their culture and habit-bound selves.
But there is still a great divide between gods and humans. The gods are not schizophrenic as humans are. The polarities and seeming splits in their nature are more on the order of a healthy polyphrenia. Their multiple selves serve them according to the needs of any situation. They can also elate themselves into the One, and know that Oneness as their true condition. Knowing the One they can step down into the many–thus their polyphrenia, their wide play of attributes, their many selves.
This protean skill is one that humanity awaits and, perhaps, in our time is moving towards. What myths have told us about the polyphrenia of the gods may be our evolutionary portion as we humans move into the next stage of our becoming.
This would mean, as I have suggested earlier, that people will develop a very different kind of psychological structure. Instead of having a dominant self or ego, they will learn to keep a large cast of characters active, calling them to stage front to fit the occasion. The orchestrator of these selves may not be the ego as we have known it, but instead a high self, one that is not culture-bound but more in the nature of a panhistorical archetypal persona. What I am calling “Athena” may be the emerging archetypal orchestrator of my inner crew of selves.