The Journey to The Center and the Archetype of You:
Connecting Properly to the “Right Order.”
The following is a discussion of the Sacred Center of creation, the axis mundi. We will be discussing the archaic roots of its effects upon human life socially and personally or individually. The ideas expressed here are indebted to my mentors, Mircea Eliade of the University of Chicago, and Robert L. Moore of the Chicago Theological Seminary and the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago. It was Eliade who first taught me these ideas, and Robert Moore, my
doctoral chair, who helped me see how they applied to Jungian and depth psychology and the four foundational powers of full selfhood. You can find much detailed discussion and elaboration of all this in part two and three of my book, JUNG AND SHAMANISM IN DIALOGUE.
Until his death in 1985, Mircea Eliade, of the University of Chicago, was the world’s foremost historian of religions. He was a student of Jungian psychology, for Jung had noticed a prevalent pattern in world religions and culture, in myth and iconography, in sacred art and architecture. Jung was always scanning for patterns in the myth, art, and religions of the world. He noticed a particular recurring pattern everywhere he looked, which he called the “Quaternio,” illustrated symbolically four-sided temple, a royal palace, four sided image of the cosmos, the four sided mandala. and the four directions of the medicine wheel, each arrayed around a symbol of the sacred Center, be it a a Bindu point, a Sacred Tree, the capstone of a ziggurat, the apex of pyramid, the sacred symbol of crucifix.
Eliade noticed this pattern in the comparative study and history of world religions as well. For Eliade, if you understand the structure of mythology, archaic human beings had a constant and real sense of how fragile right order in the world is, continually being threatened by chaos. I greatly expand this understanding in my book PSYCHOTHERAPY AND THE SACRED. They had a sense that while a habitable space can be created, it always has some level of threat from the forces of chaos.
Human beings can’t live in a disoriented and disordered space. Today we see the forces of chaos gathering and threatening our lives: drive-by shootings, corporate greed, pollution and global warming, threat of thermonuclear war, fascism and xenophobia, and terrorist attacks, an overload of information through social media and the plethora of real and fake news feeds. We are moving away from the right order of the sacred center, towards that chaos which our ancient human forebears dreaded.
Today, while we are not happy about it, we are getting accustomed to the horrors of increasing chaos, and we are unable to shake of the anxiety of a world fragmenting and falling apart.. We are daily terrified by the disintegrative and regressive changes I just mentioned, that we are seeing in our world. But our archaic human ancestors did not assume that you could or should live in a chaos, When things have run down like this,the world that was needed a death and rebirth, a return to the origins, so that a right order had to be found. In those days of old it was usually the role of the shaman, or ritual elder to facilitate the process.
There are a lot of different forms that mythology takes, many myth-themes. For Eliade one kind of myth-theme is foundational to the others, it is one related to creativity, for he believed the cosmogonic myth of the creation of the world was at the root. The cosmogonic myth of origins reveals a theme of a time, in the beginning, when things were created right, coming fresh from the creator’s hands, and formed in an exemplary or archetypal way—forms to be on-goingly repeated, like replication of the DNA pattern. Things were not chaotic or fragmented in the beginning, because of this right order. All things, not only humans, but the elements, the plants, animals, waters, fishes of the sea, the birds, insects, and the medicinal herbs were created in a right ordering. At the center-point of creativity, creation happened, the archaic human version of the Big Bang, and it happened here, at the navel of the world, the “axis mundi” (center of the world). In every archaic society you can find a location of the center of the world, that axis mundi from which the world comes into being and proceeds, spreading out across the landscape and the psyche of archaic humans. This is the world as it should be, before humans pollute it and demonic-destructive forces mess it up.
The art and iconography of the symbolism of the center has been identified as a symmetrical scheme, a kind of geometric structure. If we pay attention to sacred geometries today we may see that it reflects the archetypal right order and exemplary structure of things. In sacred art and mythology around the world, ancient peoples saw the sacred order geometrically, which appropriately balances the opposites and organizes things around a numinous center-point. The Mandalas of Tibet and Nepal, the Four Cardinal Directions, reflected in the Amerindian Medicine Wheel is an example of balancing energy and focusing human attention on all four quadrants (or directions, or elements) symbolized there are arrayed around a sacred center. The good news is that the closer you are to the Center personally and socially, the more likely you are to living in the right way, and be in reasonably good balance and health.
Eliade also had some bad news, but a profoundly useful insight that applies to us socially as well as in terms of our individual psychology. It is this: The farther you move away from that creative and renewing Center of origins, there will be danger to the social and personal world, a running down of things—anxiety will arise, xenophobia, terror, projection of evil, scapegoating, war, murder, or a languishing loss of energy, an entropy, a declining of life energy, a depression, moving towards the wasteland, and chaos. The sense is that the center, not just any center, but The Center with the creative energy and right ordering of things is now remote, and we get very nostalgic for a return to origins, to The Center. As we get more distant from the Center, things begin to run down, we get into regions at the edges of our map, “Here There Be Dragons,” as the Renaissance explores put on the outermost edges their maps. Beyond the known and ordered world those mythic monsters symbolized the destructive powers of Chaos that humans have often dread—a psychotic realm, if you will. When you get too far from the Center, the laws of the right order do not apply anymore. For individual persons, if you are to far from this sacred Center of life, the anxiety that arises, comes to you for a good reason, because the Forces of Chaos are powerful demonic forces, little devils can possess you. Humans can secumb to despair, depression, aimlessness, anxiety, fragmentation, and the fierce Dragons of regression and psychosis.
Technicians of the Sacred & Reconstituting the Axis Mundi
We’ve discussed what the Sacred Center is, and how important the right order it provides is to human communities and individuals. We’ve discussed the Forces of Chaos that threaten the human world socially and personally. Now we must ask, what do we do to reconstitute the sacred orienting Center?
Eliade’s most profound insight into archaic humanity is their belief that periodic return to the source for renewal was ontologically necessary. They knew the initial jolt of energy would run down and they’d need to return to the Center for another vitality engendering jolt. You don’t repair a worn out world, you re-create it. you return to the Center for this Re-creation and renewal of vital creative energy. This is the basis of the New Years festivals, in which the old world dies, and the New Year is rung in with great ceremony. For archaic human being it wasn’t simply adding another new year onto the past year. it was Renovatio—a complete re-creation from the Origins, the navel of the universe, the axis mundi. If you lost it, or forgot where it is, you have to find it again.
The shamans, technicians of the sacred, could do this, could find the true Center again. After you find it, you have to get connected to it properly, plugging into 200,000 volts so you can start running things again. These technicians of the sacred could perform a ritual and take the people safely through a renewal by death and rebirth. As we shall see, by properly locating, accessing, activating and developing your archetypal Shaman Within, you will develop the capacity to locate and safely connect with the sacred Center, for yourself and your clients.
If you are a psychotherapist or life coach, listen up. This mythology is has much to teach us about the creative formation of the self in individuals, from the “right order” of the Archetype of You, to your human self expression of it. And it is about the restoration of the right order in the afflicted. In archaic and current indigenous shamanic healing, Eliade observed that shamans often called on their tribe’s cosmogonic myth to support, ground and in-form the their healing ceremonies with their patients. The healing rite itself is considered creative and every form of creation repeats the patterns of the Cosmogonic myth of origins, or of the first shaman, the first medicines, and so on. This repetition of the archetypal-mythological forms.
There is much about our archaic ancestors that we can and should learn from, because they were closer to the sacred Center in their lives, than we in the modern world today are, and they had ritual wisdom and knew how to properly access, regulate, and express the archetypal energies of the psyche. What we can do and ought to do today is activate the Shaman Within each of us, and return with open heart through the “technology of the sacred,” to the spiritual arts of ritual, of prayer, or worship and song, of questing for vision, of repentance, atonement, and the vessel of renewal, of symbolic ritual death and rebirth, and once again appropriately connect and align with the sacred Center of life and renewal. Once a strong connection and alignment with the sacred Center is made, we are ready to begin appropriately accessing and activating and developing the Four Foundational Archetypes of selfhood towards optimal expression.
Locating the creative sacred Center that founds the right order, is the key to developing the other foundational archetypes into fullness. Living close to your Center creates a right order and balance in your life, and keeps you plugged into the source power to be able to succeed and fulfill your reason for being here, in this life. Distance from the Center drains you of energy and progressively distracts you from the right order for your life, You slide in anxiety toward the chaos dragons that possess and may destroy you, unless you renew yourself at the Center, or locate the Center if you have lost it. This is why sacred transformative ceremonies of renewal and death/rebirth initiation are so important, because they renew the world, renew a life. The process of personal “altaring” can help you relocate the sacred center each day, and the NGS helps you track the right order of Your Archetype. This Archetype of You is surrounded by the four foundational archetypes, which it empowers.
The Shaman Within, called on by the sacred Center, locates and properly accesses and regulates the Sacred Center. On the public scale this is the creative sacred Center of the world for a community, but on a personal level, it is the creative sacred Center of the individual psyche, and once active it calls for the development of King, Warrior, and Lover, as well. The highly uniquely patterned essence that I call the Archetype of You, is the Right Order, for you to embody. in your life, as you move away from chaos by developing each quadrant into its fullness.
I like to begin my teaching by directing my students first to the archetype of the Shaman Within, for it is as technician of the sacred that it is able to locate your deep psychic Center which functions as your Daimon, or Guardian Spirit, conveying the deep ground plan, the right order your life is called to embody and expression. You need full expression of each of the foundational archetypes of Selfhood to full accomplish the life you are called to live in the world, throughout the life-cycle. We need to know how and when to summon each foundational archetype, and the Shaman Within has this potentiality as part of its basic configuration of possibilities. Like the King’s of Israel who summoned its generals, prophets and wisemen, and artists, you need to know which foundational archetype you need whenever you need it on line and helping out. Von Franz, offering classic Jungian perspective on the Shaman, says that it is the archetype of the Self that stands behind the life and work of the shaman. (von Franz. Jung: His Myth in Our Time).