A Word about Archetypes

Much of contemporary magic, in the Golden Dawn tradition and elsewhere, has been strongly influenced by the terminology and world view of psychology, and more specifically by Carl Jung and his followers. The concept of archetype is brought up often, and used to provide a context for experience and perception. While archetypes are not an absolute method of comprehending the effects that magic has upon us, they are widespread and important enough to acknowledge in light of the magical and mystical traditions that the SR+C perpetuates. The perception of masculine and feminine archetypes is especially significant, as these archetypes are much used in magical terminology, both past and present.

One way to comprehend the concept of archetypes is to see them as preeminent aspects of the collective unconscious that serve to structure patterns of experience. Like the collective unconscious, which is the shared domain of humanity’s hidden psyche, archetypes are universal; they exist outside of the constraints of time and space. Their perceptible expression is through the human psyche, filtered through the thick layers of conscious thought, habit, and predisposition. We are able to understand and reconcile an experience through the shades of meaning that an archetypal force generates.  These subtle yet all-encompassing imprints upon our psyche inform our own psychological development, which, by extension, influences our perceptual and instinctual relationships to other individuals and the Macrocosm.

It is believed in Jungian circles that the immanence of archetypal patterns throughout the collective unconscious results in a set of symbolic material that is common to humanity. However, although any given archetype is universal in terms of its realm within the collective unconscious, it is not a static, defined concept. Rather, active human experience allows for interactions with the current of an archetype, shaping the underlying archetypal pattern into a representation that can be understood by the conscious mind. The expression of the experience – the form – may vary among individuals and cultures, but the source material – the archetypal force – remains constant.

Though some archetypes are neutral – for example, the Shadow or the Persona – archetypal influences are especially prevalent in one’s projections onto others of masculine and feminine qualities. Cultural conditioning leads us to associate ideological constructs such as projective action, force, yang, and extroversion with the male sex, and attribute to the female sex the qualities related to receptivity, intuition, emotions, and nurturance. But it is very important to understand that masculine and feminine archetypes are not the same as men and women per se. These archetypes do not exactly correspond to physical sex or gender; rather, the manifestations of masculine and feminine archetypes are found to varying extents in each and every individual.

For example, the Divine Mother, expressed in guises such as Mary and the Black Madonna, is an important archetype in the history of Western esoteric thought, as is the anima as expressed by Sophia. However, there has been an ongoing tendency to correlate spiritual women with the Divine Feminine in her different guises, and this is overly simplistic for both men and women. Considering different aspects of the Divine feminine archetype within our own psychological constitution can reveal the ways in which we each carry that role within us, and it is a part of the spiritual development Through conscious individual exposure to the feminine and masculine archetypes, both males and females may balance their external qualities with their internal psyches, and integrate the forces that exist within us all.

The underlying focus of magical work is to make masculine and feminine energies come together in union. The SR+C provides methods to identify and activate the many symbols and archetypes that make up the expression of our whole being, and gives techniques to aid in the unification of these forces within each individual. Identification with one or another archetype may be useful and natural for a time, but as the feminine and masculine archetypes exist within every individual, we seek to embrace these dualities, rather than favour one to the exclusion of its opposite. Personal and Macrocosmic balance is truly achieved through a transcendence of projections onto ourselves and others, and an of the contending archetypal expressions inherent within each of us.