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The Way as an Archetype?

I learned something about my own work this week, with startlement and sacred delight.

Something encouraged me to pick up Erich Neumann’s The Great Mother. No overt object or focal point, though an increasing ambivalence about the masculine/feminine dualism in my path. How are these terms helpful? Do these terms now inhibit what I’m learning, and if so, do I relinquish the dualism entirely? Neumann’s analysis begins with defining archetype–an inward image at work in the human psyche–and its four aspects: emotional-dynamic components, symbolism, material components, and structure. His aim is analysis of the great mother for its structural contributions to human experience(s) today.

My startlement arose in Neumann’s example for illustration: the archetype of the way.


Neumann writes, “As far as we know, this archetype first appeared among the prehistoric men of the ice age…the way led these early men into mountain caves, in whose hidden and almost inaccessible recesses they established “temples” adorned with representations of animals on the killing of which their existence depended.” (8) It was a “hard and dangerous way,” which formed part of the ritual reality. Later cultural developments show rituals becoming conscious, he argues. “In the temple precinct, for example–from the temples of Egypt to the Borobudur of Java–the worshiper is compelled to follow a ritual way from the periphery to the center, the shrine.” Neumann concludes that “Christ’s calvary is another, more highly developed form of this archetype.” … Even more obvious, but unconsciously considered by me, he continues, “with Christ’s conscious utterance, “I am the way,” this archetype attains to a new wholly inward and symbolic level…” [Bemused, just this weekend, my cousin and I proclaimed with a sense of liturgy, “This is the way,” from the Mandalorian…]

But an archetype?

Something about this collision of interest and my previous book energizes me. I had no awareness of stepping into an archetypal form with my companionable way, but I feel deep delight of this kind of energy coursing through me, it. It’s a mouthful to say, but I have also accepted that discomfort for its obvious focus: companionship.

I guess I feel returned to a More in my own work I had not seen, a Nudge for continuity as I move forth this season.

I was so driven by the desirable energies, a deepening intimacy in devotion, conscious love that nourished a deep emptiness in me, in my body, as a woman. I imagined everyone wanted to feel such deep connection, abundance, grace, healing…Conscious love as carrot.

What I know I’m writing about now, but which has little carrot to it? Grief, rage, possible healing that comes with anger-becoming-sadness, potential invitations into forgiveness. Given none of us is particularly desiring of sadness, grief, anger, or forgiveness, for that matter, I’ve struggled.

Today, I see a new-old strand I’m being Reminded of: praise or wonder and grief; yin/yang One-ing energies. Both/and. Archetypes’ shadows, claimed and refused.

Begin with what you know, I hear again… (Spirit’s first audible instructions to me, back in 2003!)

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