Humanizing the Archetype

Since ancient times humanity made stone images of their gods and goddesses, for they experienced the archetype as the deity itself. The statue god was experienced as a living stone, an unconscious projection of the Philosopher’s Stone as symbol of the Self. Over millennia the single simple statue image, like the archetype of the Self, differentiated into vast pantheons but each statue image retained something of the original mystery, combining our primal roots with the ultimate ideal human.

When praying in earnest to the god/ess it was thought to answer by way of nodding. The word ‘numinous’ comes from ‘numen’ and means in Latin, ‘a nod, the nodding of the god when it is questioned.’

Interaction with the archetype may have a more positive or negative outcome: in Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni kills Don Pedro, father of one of his many lovers; later he invites the statue of Don Pedro to dinner and it nods acceptance. But Don Giovanni is unrepentant, insincere, and the statue pulls him into hell. (1)

In contrast, in Ovid’s Pygmalion is told of Pygmalion’s resolve to remain celibate, resisting his natural needs out of fear of women. He became obsessed with his needs, prompting him to make a statue: the archetype burst forth through his natural creative ability, to give shape to herself. It enchanted him, he fell in love with it and thus was influenced to overcome his fear. Lovesick and obsessed but humbled he begged Venus for a wife resembling his statue, and was answered: the statue became alive, that is, the archetypal pattern of relating became manifest in his real lived life. Pygmalion became husband and father; his personality matured into adulthood. (2)

Edinger concludes that by “pouring loving attention into the psyche, it brings the archetypal soul to life,” (1) it humanizes the archetype.

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  1. ARAS Concordance, Image of the Statue: Edward Edinger, Mysterium Lectures, p. 234 – 8
  2. Hughes, Ted. Tales from Ovid: Twenty-four Passages from the “Metamorphoses”, Pygmalion.