The gods of old have been reborn as the archetypes of the collective unconscious. And it is through us that they seek to gain expression.
Once it was thought that a god might shine favourably upon one, or curse one. Now, when we honour an archetype, we benefit from its strengths. Conversely, if we deny the archetype, we suffer from a lack of its energies.
Take for example the hero. When honouring the hero archetype, we challenge ourselves. Our life will have meaning and purpose. Conversely, if we fail to live the hero archetype, we are left feeling that we are without a purpose and calling. Here we may grow world-weary. This ennui and boredom, however, are designed to prompt us into action. “What are you doing with your life?”, comes the question.
Here is where Jung’s premise, that the gods have become our diseases, finds its place. The dis-ease, or ill feeling we experience, is simply the god or archetype calling for our attention.
We may also be possessed by an archetype, in which case it dominates our personality to the extent that we become a caricature of the god. If one is possessed by the hero archetype, for example, one may grow to be egotistical and full of self-importance. Here the archetype has overwhelmed the individual.
The mother goddess, when honoured, offers a sense of belonging. We care for others and feel cared for, or part of a tribe. When we neglect the mother archetype, we may lack empathy and connection, and may feel alone in the world, or become needy. If possessed by the mother, we might give too much of ourselves and tend to smother people. A balanced expression must be found.
Mercury, the wily trickster, and messenger of the gods, now appears as our intelligence, quick-wittedness and as our ability to communicate and persuade others. Without Mercury’s blessings, we might find ourselves lost and confused. If Mercury dominates, we may become too smart, and too cunning.
Venus, the goddess of love, is our beauty, our charm and joy. Deprived of Venus, we lack flair, and life may grow grey and dull. Too much Venus, however, can result in an overly sociable nature. Hedonism is a sign of Venus running wild.
Mars, the war god, is our courage and strength. He allows us to strike out in the world. No Mars energy leaves us fearful and timid. Too much Mars renders us aggressive and domineering.
Jupiter, the expansive and freedom-loving god, relates to our aspirations and the broadening of our horizons. If this archetype is absent from the personality, we will lack ‘spirit’ and a sense of adventure. Gambling can be a low-grade way of drawing some of this god into our life. If Jupiter dominates, then we may become reckless and irresponsible.
Saturn, the old god of time, by contrast, is the more conservative god. Within our personality, his strengths are our stability, our self-discipline and containment. Without Saturn, we lack maturity. If possessed by Saturn, we become overly rigid, too sensible, and old before our time.
Prometheus, the rebellious god, allows us to think differently. This archetype lends us inventiveness and creativity. When his rebelliousness overrides our personality, the individual may quickly find themselves in conflict with authority figures, mainstream society, and the law.
Dionysus, the god of ecstasy, equates to that part of us that seeks an otherworldly experience. This is the dreamer and idealist in us. If denied, or not lived, we may find ourselves turning to drugs, or in search of love. When Dionysus takes over, we become the drifter type dreamer, addict or alcoholic, whose attempt to escape normality takes on a pathological dimension.
Pluto, the god of death and the underworld, describes our capacity for transformation. A positive relationship with the Plutonian archetype allows us to undergo a process of renewal. Without Pluto on our side, we stagnate and may be called to his realm through a state of depression. Pluto’s dominance of the personality can result in a dark and destructive disposition.
Clearly, the archetypes are upon us. On the one hand, we need to protect ourselves from such overwhelming forces, on the other, we need to allow them into our life and our being. Knowing which archetype is calling for our attention, and engaging that archetype, is essential for our psychological health.