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Archetypes: Discover your Essence and True Path

Updated on August 12, 2011

“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,”

-William Shakespeare

To really understand archetypes I believe that the best two people to look to are: William Shakespeare and Walt Disney. While literary scholars reflect on the variety of archetypes in Shakespeare, a 6-year-old can easily absorb Disney and knows what to expect from each character after becoming familiar with their ways. Understanding each character and their interaction with another becomes so much easier when their archetypes are defined prior to writing the story. We also see how their personalities contribute to their ultimate fate and role in the plot. For instance the evil stepmother and step sisters were ultimately humiliated because of their contempt and mistreatment of Cinderella.

Socrates suggested that the key to happiness is to “Know thyself.” Archetypes are essentially ancient energies that have been acknowledged in our culture since the dawn of time. We have traced them in the writings of ancient cultures and in literature throughout the ages. It’s been recorded on ancient Greek scrolls with mythological stories of powerful Gods and countless other historical eras. Their interpretations shift depending on which era of history we are in, but their core remains the same. They are even represented in modern-day movies and television soap operas. We see the enactment of an archetype anytime a person or character is “bigger than life”. Usually these characters are presented as uncomplicated, with purity of intent so that they can be easily identified by viewers.

Every human being has been hardwired at the level of the soul to model the characteristics of one, two or three archetypes. By discovering our archetype we release its patterning forces that allow us to get in touch with our core essence and our true path. They remind us of what may be most fulfilling to us and the kind of power and strength we can tap into in order to move forward in the most authentic way. We can compare it to the super powers that fuel super heroes in their fantastic endeavors. Whether its Spiderman using his physical dexterity or Superman using his flying skills- they are all well aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

Wondering which archetypes you represent? Could you be a magician, an explorer, or a sage? Each one of us could be a unique mix of these. Some have “the scribe” and writing comes naturally to them (J.K. Rowling). Others have “the Midas touch” (Donald Trump) in which everything seems to turn to gold for them. Or the “the nurturer” for whom love, compassion, selflessness comes through easily (Mother Teresa).

Famous author and spiritual leader, Caroline Myss has continued this fascinating study which had been initiated by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Here’s a comprehensive list which she has created:

Read through the list and notice which ones truly resonate with who you are and who you’ve always been. Notice where an archetype really fits, and if you don’t like it, notice how you can harness what is good about it. For example, if you’ve got the ruler, how can you harness this energy to become a benevolent leader that can make the tough and just decisions for your people? You can share this exercise with friends and ask them to review what you’ve listed and if it matches who you are.

Lastly ask yourself how your chosen archetypes may point towards your destiny. Remember that there IS a purpose for you being here. You have a limited and finite time on this planet so make it worthwhile both for yourself and the rest of the world.

This clip points out a parallel between the characters and plots of Hamlet and The Lion King


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