Trickster Hero

THE HERO AND EGO are more developed in the Trickster than in the Anthropocentric Landscape of the Heavenly God-Father Archetype.

While the hero myths vary enormously in detail, structurally they are very similar. There is a universal pattern even although the myths were developed by groups or individuals without direct cultural contact.   

The special function of the hero myth is the development of the individual’s ego consciousness and his exploration and coming to awareness of his own strengths and weaknesses, which equips him for later challenges of life.[i]   Joseph L. Henderson argues:

“Over and over again one hears a tale describing a hero’s miraculous but humble birth, his early proof of superhuman strength, his rapid rise to prominence or power, his triumphant struggle with the forces of evil, his fallibility to the sin of pride (hybris), and his fall through betrayal or a “heroic” sacrifice that ends in his death.”[ii]

Erich Neumann states “The hero is always a light-bringer and emissary of light … The hero’s victory brings with it a new spiritual status, a new knowledge, and an alteration of consciousness”: the heroic age is characterised as the “predominance of individual personality”.[iii] All are characteristics of the Trickster Hero.

The heroic culminates in the Technological/Materialist Landscape in the development of science and the world as object:[iv]

“The activity of masculine consciousness is heroic in so far as it voluntarily takes upon itself the archetypal struggle with the dragon of the unconscious and carries it to successful conclusion… The correlation of consciousness with masculinity culminates in the development of science, as an attempt by the masculine spirit to emancipate itself from the power of the unconscious. Wherever science appears it breaks up the original character of the world, which was filled with unconscious projections. Thus, stripped of projection, the world becomes objective, a scientific construction of the mind.”[v]

THE TRICKSTER HERO PITS HIMSELF AGAINST THE OLD GOD. Neumann maintains that in the modern world the disintegration of the old system of values is in full swing.[vi] In the modern world the hero with his human ego pits himself against the old deity. Thus:

“the hero ceases to be instrument of the gods and begins to play his own independent part as a human being; and when he finally becomes, in modern man a battleground for suprapersonal forces, where the human ego pits itself against the deity. As breaker of the old law, man becomes the opponent of the old system and the bringer of the new, which he confers upon mankind against the will of the old deity.”[vii]

[i] Carl Jung (ed.), Man and His Symbols (London: Picador, Pan Books, 1978).
[ii] Joseph L. Henderson, ‘Ancient Myths and Modern Man’ in: Carl Jung (ed.),  Man and His Symbols, 101.
[iii] Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness (New York: Princeton University Press,  Bollingen Series XLII, 1973), 160-161.
[iv] Ibid, 340-341.
[v] Ibid, 340-341.
[vi] Ibid, 390.
[vii] Ibid, 177.

Archetypal Theory and Carl Jung

BECAUSE BOTH JUNG and archetypal theory have come under attack in recent years, it is worthwhile to briefly clarify the epistemological parameters, controversial issues, and answers to challenges. In essence, archetypal theory is associated with the life-long thought, work and research of Carl Jung. As James Hillman argues, it was Jung “who reintroduced the ancient idea of archetype into modern psychology”.[i]

THE EVIDENCE given for archetypes in this chapter is largely based within the parameters of Jung’s archetypal theory – ‘archetypes of the unconscious’. This is not to say that Jung is the only archetypal theorist. Henry Corbin, James Hillman and others, throughout history, are also important. Corbin is particularly seminal in regard to archetypal landscapes, as we shall see in the last chapter. Hillman is an important contemporary archetypal philosopher and theorist, who “offers a way into Jung – and a way out of Jung, especially his theology. For to stay wholly with this one thinker is to remain a Jungian, which as Jung himself said is possible only for Jung”.[ii]

By calling on Jung to begin with, Hillman states he is acknowledging the fundamental debt archetypal psychology owes to Jung. Jung is the immediate ancestor in a long line that stretches back through to Plato and to Heraclitus, with even more branches yet to be traced. But Hillman also acknowledges “the second immediate father of archetypal psychology”, namely Henry Corbin (1903-1978).[iii] Hillman argues that for Corbin the fundamental nature of the archetype is accessible to imagination first and presents itself as an image; hence the entire procedure for archetypal psychology as a method is imaginative.[iv]

Jung’s Challenge

JUNG’S THINKING SPANS both modernism and postmodernism. Jung is now recognized as an important postmodernist. Of course, Jung and his theory of archetypes are controversial in some quarters. Perhaps this is not surprising. Jung implicitly challenged the patriarchy and the ideologies behind patriarchal hegemony. He challenged Freud, the undisputed ‘Father of Psychoanalysis’. Jung wanted to go beyond Freud’s foundationalist theories of sexuality – for example the ‘Oedipus complex’ and ‘penis envy’ – to an exploration of spirituality.

Jung was a life-long student of world religions, both historical and cultural. He challenged head on Western monotheistic cultures with the concept of an inner spirituality within the archetypes of the collective unconscious. This spirituality was pluralistic and had many potential ‘Gods’. In this, it was more akin to Paganism, alchemy, Gnosticism, the hermetic traditions and the mystical and esoteric wisdom streams. Jung challenged the monotheistic ‘God/Father’ concept. This was just one archetype among many; hence Jung challenged the hegemony of the traditional religious institutions and their foundational disciplines. In particular, he challenged fundamentalism and modernist theology. For Jung the God image, or Imago Dei, comes from within the psyche. It is an archetype. It displays the struggle of the psyche for self-realisation; which is the spiritual goal of the individual and all of humanity.

THE SOUL AS THE FEMININE PRINCIPLE or anima archetype within the human being, was emphasized by Jung. It is perhaps because of this that he was well regarded by educated and independent women, both in his time and after his death.

As well, the anima archetype within is congenial to openly gay men, and those heterosexual men secure enough in their personhood and masculinity to be happy to enjoy and acknowledge their feminine side. This recognition of the archetypal power of the anima, redeemed the feminine, long derogated within traditional patriarchal monotheism. For example Jung argued that the “whole nature of man presupposes woman, both physically and spiritually.” [v]

 

[i] James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), xiii.

[ii] Ibid, xii.

[iii] James Hillman, Archetypal Psychology – A Brief Account (Dallas: Spring Publications,Inc. 993), 2.

[iv] Ibid, 4.

[v] Carl Jung, ‘Two Essays in Archetypal Psychology’, in: Collected Works, vol. 7, 188.

Evidence For Archetypes

EVIDENCE FOR ARCHETYPES can be divided into several different categories: (1) ‘associative evidence’, similar or associative theory which overtly supports archetypes or bears a resemblance to archetypal theory; (2) ‘scientific evidence’, where it is argued Jung’s method which is descriptive and phenomenological is not unscientific, and ‘archetypes’ are given theoretical support from the theory of other scientists; (3) ‘evidence from quantum physics, which is support from the theory of quantum physicists.

Complicating the issue of evidence for archetypes is that acceptable evidence is dependent on how archetypes are defined. Different theorists have defined archetypes in different ways. For example, while the leading Romanian and latterly American academic historian and philosopher of religion Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) and James Hillman define archetypes in similar ways to Jung, there are also differences. Jung, a self-described empiricist, wanted a naturalistic theory of archetypes which had scientific credibility. Hillman would abandon the scientific approach to archetypes altogether and advocate instead that we see science from the viewpoint of archetypes. For Hillman, science itself is a sort of myth and fantasy of the soul.

Even within the archetypal theory of one thinker, most notably Jung, there can be many strains of thought which can appear contradictory. Jung, however, is acknowledged as the pre-eminent thinker on archetypes in the twentieth century – and it is precisely because his theory encompasses both modernist scientific perspectives and evidence from quantum science and postmodern and mystical perspectives that his thought is so compelling, evocative and complex.

Walter A. Shelburne philosophy professor and founding member of the Applied Philosophy Institute, California, has studied and examined the scientific and logical evidential parameters of Jung’s theory of archetypes in depth. He concludes:

“even though there are these many strains of Jung’s thought – a philosophical emphasis, a mythos emphasis, as well as a scientific emphasis – this is not to say that everything Jung said has to be evaluated from the critical standpoint of any one particular point of view. For…in spite of the confusion that Jung creates by working over his material from these methodologically divergent perspectives, a legitimately scientific perspective can nonetheless be reconstructed from his thought.”[i]

[i] Walter A. Shelburne, Mythos and Logos in the Thought of Carl Jung – The Theory of the Collective Unconscious in Scientific Perspective (State University of New York Press, 1988), 10.