“…the archetypal energy of The Vampire has exploded into the consciousness of our current generation.”
I have been a fan of author Carolyn Myss since reading her first book Anatomy of the Spirit back in the mid-90s. Her clear, humorous, no nonsense style of communicating attracted me—but it is her constant reach for deeper levels of awareness and spirituality that makes me her student. This last week I listened to a recent lecture she offered on the Internet. During the talk Myss pointed out that the world we live in is both physically and spiritually “on fire,” and that one of the best ways to learn to navigate this new world was to learn how to use archetypes. Regardless of whether you’ve heard of Carolyn Myss before, or the “why” of archetypes, a couple of her ideas stuck out that I felt were worthy of discussion. The most important of those were how a couple of today’s common archetypes are a reflection of life in the 21st Century and what that means to you and me.
First it’s important to understand what archetypes are and why they matter. Used mainly in terms of psychology and philosophy, archetypes are usually defined in terms of patterns or personality traits. The person who has most advanced the concept in the modern world was Carl Jung. Jung taught that archetypes are universal models that flow from our collective unconscious and are patterns of behavior or inborn tendencies which shape human behavior. Carolyn Myss explains archetypes as “impersonal patterns of influence that are both ancient and universal.” Once personalized, they become a part a person’s individual psyche and as Myss believes, they provide a foundation for that person’s personality, drive, feelings, beliefs, motivations and actions. Beyond that, Myss believes our individualized archetypes reflect in mythic language the agreements that our soul made prior to our birth. She also believes that we can use the “energies” of our personal archetypes as a support system or as “intimate companions” during our lifetime.
Obviously the study of archetypes is multi-layered and far beyond what I can cover in the post. However, regardless of a deeper meaning behind the use of archetypes, each of us can use them as a framework to better understand our own awareness, consciousness, motivations and actions. Plus, using archetypes as a framework might also help us understand other people and see how those patterns play out in the world around us.
So what are a few of the more common archetypes? According to Myss all archetypes are neutral in origin. That means they contain both positive and negative attributes—or a light side and a dark side (the dark side is called “the shadow”) so none is considered more valuable than another. Some of the more common archetypes are: The Warrior, The Villain, The Caregiver, The Mystic, The Athlete, The Spiritual Seeker, The Mother, The Child, and on and on. Remember, every energy can be either benevolent or shadow. What makes an energy a shadow versus a thing of light? Usually it is the awareness, acceptance and balance of the energy that makes all the difference as to its ability to function in a positive or negative way. Myss believes that every one of us has a collection of twelve primary archetypes that we consistently use and operate from on a daily basis. Discovering what your twelve common archetypes are is useful information on the path to self discovery.
So where do Vampires fit in all this? The most interesting thing I heard during the recent lecture by Carolyn Myss was a perspective on our current times. Remember how I explained that she said that we live in a world “on fire?” Currently, that metaphor is being expressed by universal themes and archetypes that are dramatically reversed in ways never previously seen before. The most interesting example she used was how the energy of The Vampire has nearly completely reversed roles with the energy of The Priest.
Think about it—for centuries the collective consciousness of humanity considered priests to be honored, admired, and a direct link to God and all things spiritual. While a priest may still be regarded a spiritual leader to some people—millions around the world now make jokes and references about priests as child predators, good-ole-boys who cover up the sex-abuse crimes of fellow priests, and power-hungry control freaks whose activity is as far from spiritual as possible. The energy archetype that used to be associated with the spiritual, sacred, filled with light and represented compassion and service is now under deep question by millions.
On the other hand, the energy of The Vampire has exploded into the consciousness of our current generation. Vampires in 2013 are sexy, cool, powerful, erotic, smart, interesting, romantic, rich—oh, and they live forever. Vampires are also usually smarter than just about everyone else, and deep inside, some of them are more compassionate than humans! Carolyn Myss pointes out that even though The Vampire used to be seen as a dark energy related to the work of devil, that has done little to slow down the current attraction.
I had a good example of this when attempting to market my book Finding Grace—A Transformative Journey. In today’s bookstore, novels with themes of fantasy, sci-fi and especially those with vampire characters are instant best sellers. Other stories like mine, with spiritual themes that are not religious, fit a much smaller market. When and why did this happen?
Carolyn Myss explained during her lecture that this represents how extraordinarily different the forces are in the psyche of the collective population in the world today. Rather than seeing the priest as a hero and a link to our immortality, we now see the vampire as our true immortal representative. Rather than looking to the heavens as salvation, we now look to the night and earth. Rather than embracing a language of the spiritual, sacred or divine, we are collectively gravitating to what is represented by vampire energy.
Now I must confess that I appreciate a good vampire story as much as the next person. And if I am to believe what Carl Jung, Carolyn Myss and other archetypal guides teach, then it’s important to remember that the energy of each character is neutral unless it is out of balance. A few characteristics I think are embodied by the Vampire are the ability to be secretive, to draw power from the night, and to reject authoritarian religion and dogma in general. They are strong without exercise, along with being beautiful and eternal without plastic surgery. They are never burdened by conventional expectation or morality. And even when they do decide to do something kind and generous, it is usually completely unexpected and therefore seems more extraordinary.
Of course Vampires also represent the ultimate in energy drain—which when considered in a global perspective is very symbolic in this day and age. According to Myss a vampire renders its victims helpless and hopeless, and any person or place that drains your energy is represented. Co-Dependency, complaining, and pessimism are all ways in which energy can be drained from those in our midst. When using the archetype of the Vampire for greater awareness, Myss suggests that we first look to see where and when we are guilty of acting in similar ways, or sucking the energy out of other people or experiences around us.
But even more interesting is Myss’ explanation of why the mythology of vampires and other fantasy figures like wizards and time lords are so popular in the culture right now. Myss believes it is because when certain archetypes become dysfunctional, the culture will grab onto others to see if they will fit the needs. That’s why so many of the new “heroes” are pagan and use earth-based magic. She believes because we have broken our traditional connections to the sacred and divine, we are now searching for new archetypes and symbols to replace what has been rejected and lost. Of particular note, Myss says that because so many young people today have lost faith in adult’s ability to guide them to the sacred, the current images of “kids with mystical powers” like Harry Potter, and other tales of fantasy and magic are attempts to fill that void.
We all know that the world of today is not is the same as the one we grew up in—especially those of us in middle age. But recognizing as Carolyn Myss says that, “we are in an archetypical transition”, as well as a “world on fire” both help to remind us that we are all searching for models and stories that provide meaning, purpose and happiness to our individual lives. But because much of what worked in the past won’t work any more, it is essential that we take the time to develop new and healthier representations of our connection to each other and the Infinite. When walking into the fire, it might be wise to know that your archetypes are just one more SMART way to greater self-awareness and understanding.