“…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.
Sherri Lynn Conklin says
I think it is interesting that you say: “we have broken our traditional connections to the sacred and divine” by abandoning the archetype of the priest and turning to “heroes” who are “pagan and use earth-based magic.”
Aren’t pagan heroes and similar beings the traditional connection to the divine? It is possible that we are transitioning back to rather than transitioning away from traditional archetypal representations. I suggest this partially because I am aware that the introduction of “the priest” to a number of peoples was quite forced. Maybe the priest never really suited our psychologies, but we adopted it out of necessity. Who knows.
Further, I almost wonder if rejecting the imagery of the priest, an intermediary between ourselves and the divine, and idealizing beings with magic powers is a manifestation of our desire to be in direct contact with the divine. Why does Harry Potter have to represent our lack of faith in our parents to guide us to the sacred? Why can’t it represent our desire to seek it out for ourselves?
As a great lover of fantasy, I can say that my appreciation for magic stems from my desire and ultimate capacity to be in direct contact with it. The wonder experienced in my universe comes directly from the human soul.
On another note, I think the vampire is a very well-suited icon for our society today. The vampire is literally quite representative of what our materialist culture idealizes. As you noted, vampires are smart, strong, beautiful, young, immortal, sociopaths…without doing anything to cultivate these attributes. They don’t even have to take vitamins. This is what people want, or, at least, this is what people are told they want. And I think this is bad because it is an energy out of balance.
Society’s vampire is about draining energy completely. It is about taking without giving. Gain without work. Pleasure with no consequences.
This isn’t to say that we can’t rise above it. We are wonderful amazing creatures.
Vampires also have a deep reservoir of energy, emotion, compassion, and intellect. Maybe we like the vampire so much because he can be beautiful and smart. Ruthless and compassionate. Strong and caring. Maybe the vampire represents a desire for depth in a superficial world.
I think people are struggling with their desires to be emotionally and physically healthy and their desires to meet “society’s” materialistic expectations. These internal motivations often feel at odds. Maybe the vampire represents a desire to consolidate these goals. Maybe we think of the vampire as in-touch with the long-standing human need to experience something deep (the divine or even just the self) as well as the much newer need of the materialist consumer to pursue superficial ends.
In this light, the vampire looks like a really healthy archetype. He is a blending of the old and the new in a way that meets the specific needs of young people today. I’m not sure there is any reason to think that the transition is anything other than a refocusing of our psychological needs (keeping in touch with our selves). It shouldn’t be a surprise that each new generation would need new images to represent the problems and solutions for that time period.
Kathy Gottberg says
Thanks for another great comment on one of my posts. Have you read any of Carolyn Myss’ work on archetypes? She offers such an interesting perspective–very Jungian with a twist of course–that you might find it worthy of further study as well. Remember, as the blog posts says, according to Myss every archetype is neutral…so it’s us putting the slant on whether they are good/bad, beneficial/hindering, etc. What I found most interesting about her new work is the suggestion on how common archetypes are shifting–ones that we’ve held for a 1,000 or more years. And yes, I agree that they have likely shifted before (and may again) but that anyone who is a student of consciousness would be interested in observing that shift and uncovering possible reasons behind it.
In case you’re wondering, I don’t agree with everything that Myss says myself. I happen to find vampires compelling for a number of reasons. But there certainly is something interesting going on with the vampire obsession in our culture these days don’t you think. Still, even though I find some of the qualities that vampires bring to the table as beneficial–I’m not sure I would agree that they offer a “healthy archetype.” They seem to stand outside the world and are disconnected to the earth and all living things which makes that energy dangerous (although far too common these days!)
Of course, most of the focus of my writing is to help each of us gain awareness of our own choices and consciousness, so I attempt to avoid finding any fault with what others find helpful. Did you happen to read the article about “Fifty Shades of Gray…” that I wrote? In some ways there are similarities that are useful in helping us become clear in our thinking and approach to life.
Thanks again Sherri, for such a thoughtful comment…. ~Kathy
Jody Kristina says
Really interesting. I’ve never read anything by Carol Myss; but I think I will incorporate her writings into my life. 🙂 I’ve always wondered why my energy felt so crazy these past few years, it makes sense and it’s an interesting take that I never even put together! I can see our world being physically and spiritually “on fire.” I feel it all the time. I’ve been searching for answers lately because I’ve felt so drained. I think I was meant to find this post. 🙂
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Jody! Thanks for stopping by SMART Living and your comments around this idea. I’m glad you found some of these ideas as intriguing as I did. It is certainly one way to explain many of the changes occurring in our world these days–and anything that can help us stay more awake and a aware is ALWAYS a good thing! ~kg
I have loved Carolyn Myss’ books. I began to read them at a time I felt lost and helpless to the events around me. Her ideas helped me to find myself and move past the victim persona I carried with me at that time.
I see what she means by the reversal of the vampire and the Priest. Losing the belief in the goodness of the Priests and with the blatant sexuality we are bombarded with daily it was only logical to turn the seductive traits of the vampire into something good. I think many of today who read the newer vampire books are longing for something missing in their lives and are drawn to the sexuality from a place of neediness, others read them as the new romance books just for fun.
I will have to look into her archetypes. I think I finally know myself enough that I will be able to see mine right off. I also believe we made a pact (or whatever word you want to use) to face certain challenges in this life before we were born, a set of challenges to learn from.
Kathy Gottberg says
I’m not surprised that you’ve read the works of Carolyn Myss…we seem to share quite a bit in common huh? Have you been to her website and listened to her talks and/or videos that are available for free. It’s an amazing resource for those of us who appreciate her work. The whole idea of archetypes and the prevalence of The Vampire just intrigued me and made me consider all sorts of character traits I consider relevant in my world. Glad it provided some thoughts for you as well…
Diane Balch says
I have not been drawn to the new vampire stories. I loved Ann Rice’s books. Her vampires were beautiful, intelligent, and charming but they carried much grief from not having died “in the right time” and of having lost all who they loved and will love along the way. I found the older vampires to be more of a comfort about mortality. Immortality to them is a tragedy because they have been deprived of a natural life.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Diane…thanks for your comments about what vampires represent in your life. I hope you found the concept as interesting as I did and find ways to see how vampires and other archetypes show up in your life on a regular basis.