HERMIT IN THE WOODS
Dedicated to the American Spirit
Archetypes in Psychological Development
Technology addicted Americans have been seduced by the comfort, luxury, and entertaining distractions of contemporary society and feel little motivation to separate from these things which bring pleasure. People have become helplessly bound to the enticement of public self-aggrandizement and technological gratification through a variety of digital entertainment which encourages ego-centricity and materialistic sensuality. No one realizes, or will admit, that an environment of comfort, ease, and self-indulgence is as dangerous to the long-term well-being of the individual as toxic pollution.
When comfort and self-amusement are enjoyed to the extreme, there is no motivation to move beyond the entrapment of this enticing and illusory matrix. Intoxicated by sensual pleasures, no one considers the detrimental effect such addictions have on the human psyche and physical body; the body becomes soft and unhealthy; the will becomes weak. Human nature avoids and resists separation from pleasurable things unless extreme conditions, external catalysts and/or adverse circumstances leave no other choice. The bottom line is that only when people are hard-pressed and out of balance are they compelled to change.
There is an underlying imbalance which results from this degenerating state; it is increasingly difficult for the human species to adapt to the unnatural influences of contemporary life. Humans often find themselves in urban environments that are indifferent, unhealthy, misleading and at times, hostile. No human can adapt the physiology to ceaseless agitation, adulterated foods, polluted air, drug and/or alcohol abuse, sexual excesses, noise, environmental hazards, and over-indulgence in sensual gratification. Humans have forgotten what a deep and profound sense of well-being is felt when the psyche, nervous system and organs are healthy and functioning like a smoothly running engine. They have forgotten that harmony within the organic function gives a feeling of peace and balance.
Without realizing it, people have become the victims of this contemporary world. The degenerating state of man in this corrupted society has instilled confusion or “ignore-ance” of what responsibility a self-conscious human being has for living in a balanced, harmonious and integrated state within, with others, and within the planetary environment. Present society has lost its ability to be a positive and influential force. The cultural myths and heroic archetypes which inspire, mold and guide the development of individual personalities are hidden behind the confusing and false facade that is perpetuated by the excitement-oriented media culture and then, further distorted by viewing life through a mind and psyche infected by virtual reality.
Archetypes are patterned fields of behavior which have shaped human understanding throughout history; they are patterned imageries which express the human unconscious. To understand human archetypal energy is to benefit from its patterns and meaning so one can recognize corresponding patterns of behavior within oneself. Since the archetype is a composite of images and experiences that have a common theme, it elicits a similar response from people who have comparable life-altering circumstances. Unlike one’s daily activities in which the reactions to life events are spontaneous and culturally specific, the archetypal response is based on universally established patterns of behavior that all people tend to follow. Psychologists from Carl Jung to the present consider the wholeness of Self as one central archetypal theme around which patterns of order are established for guiding the psyche and the conscious unfoldment of the individual.
In the case of the hero archetype like King Arthur, there is patterned behavior representing the desire to achieve lofty goals and ideals, courage to transcend the mundane in quest of the miraculous, a desire to serve a higher purpose than oneself and a willingness to move forward regardless of the obstacles. The warrior archetype represents the courage and determination of the loyal knight on a quest, the steadfast resolve and confidence to accomplish the mission, selfless service to a higher ideal, and the willingness to lay down one’s life for a just cause.
The wizard or hermit archetype represents the lone soul who ventures into the unseen to discover divine wisdom and understanding regarding life’s mysteries. Embracing these ideal behaviors and qualities of being helps to instill inspiration, confidence, and determination within the individual psyche. Carefully directing one’s motivation toward selfless ideals purposefully establishes healthy behavioral patterns and keeps the self-serving, self-indulgent ego out of the equation.
Today such archetypes are needed to guide the attitude and the direction of the individual because our culture has lost its “story.” Our society has become so homogenized and lost in virtual delusions that the cultural hero myths and what they truly represent have become lost to those who need them the most. The hero and warrior types are represented in movies and videos, but in our godless, secular society, they do not consistently exhibit the kind of behavior or attitude that is worthy of emulation. The right kind of cultural stories or hero myths represent ideals and behaviors that people want to model.
Those on a spiritual quest benefit by establishing and internalizing their own inspirational ideals and fearless behaviors through experiencing the examples of the teachers, sages, saints, heroes and warriors of the past. The strength, conviction, and inspiration that are mustered utilizing the archetypal patterns become the armor and the driving force which dispel worldly illusions and help the would-be hero transcend the self-indulgent patterns promoted by contemporary society. The attempt to awaken from the illusion and get a glimpse of higher reality is an attempt to dislodge oneself from the distorted effects that sensual, material and virtual realities have on individual consciousness.
In addition, as people experience the physical body in nature, they become attached to bodily pleasures, sensual gratification, personal beliefs, and human associations from the material world. The pattern or configuration of this nature experience in the body is the combination of sensations, heredity, and the cultural environment. This makes the individual susceptible to the indoctrination, enticements, and habits which come from lifestyle choices and societal influences. It is difficult to resist a technologically sophisticated environment designed strictly to amuse, entertain, and captivate the individual into being a consumer of its products.
Without self-discipline, moral integrity, and self-knowledge, such an environment can bring about the degradation of anyone who resides in it. Individuals reared in such a materialistic and superficial environment have difficulty distinguishing between the frivolous and the important. When values are misplaced and the individual fails to develop the critical skills of discernment and judgment needed to be a human being, this weakens one’s grip on reality and a person’s life may go astray. Only by recognizing the dangers of a degenerating environment can the individual avoid the narrow, specialized, immoral, unintelligent, and materialistic pitfalls of modern life.
Unwittingly, people have lost their internal resilience or their “grit” by living in the comforts of modern society. Living with modern conveniences has conditioned people to the point that their adaptive functions as well as their willingness to change have atrophied. In the “snowflake” world, individuals live in controlled climates, consume more food than the body needs, sleep as much as they want, never make an intellectual or moral effort, learn only what amuses them, and never struggle against anything. The negative aspects of this style of living result in self-centeredness, a lack of discipline, minimum endurance, no intellectual acuteness, little or no moral sense, low motivation, and a lack of nervous resilience. These are not inherited deficiencies, but environmental and cultural conditioning which people have naively allowed into their lives.
Liberation from the snares of modern society is no easy task. To understand the necessity and to possess the knowledge for making this change are not sufficient. What is required is the courage to unravel, to deconstruct, and to voluntarily relinquish one’s personal worldview in order to release the present habits, impulses, and cravings that keep one attached to the pleasures of the world. People cannot be liberated from the world without suffering. We are the marble and the sculptor. In order to uncover our true nature, we must shatter our own substance with heavy blows. It is not that we are incapable of transforming our lives; it is just that we have trouble submitting to such treatment unless driven by necessity or fear.
Discipline, Solitude and Liberation
Although an abundance of knowledge has been generated throughout the ages about the human experience, in today’s world, there is still uncertainty and division regarding the understanding of the human being. This is in large part because the egotistical, divisive, competitive, and superficial aspects of society perpetuate confusion about the true nature of our human beingness. The broad diversity of agenda-driven perspectives leaves no common agreement as to what the composite wholeness of a human being might be. In the fragmented thinking of the material and virtual worlds, the ideal direction for the development of humanity remains unclear, and consequently, humankind spins in circles like a compass without a magnetic north or a clear vision.
Yet, in an effort to devise a meaningful formula for what a person is so as to bring order to the experience of life, one must contemplate the composite aspect of the human being. This is difficult because from individual to individual, there is a marked difference in consciousness, especially when considering physical intensity, quality, and strength. The composite view becomes even more complex when one considers the characteristics of the emotions, intellect, moral values, personal temperament, esthetic vision, and religious/spiritual inclinations; an infinite combination of possibilities makes defining individuality illusive at best. Miraculously, what brings this diversity together, like the hub of a wheel, is the commonality of the spiritual nature. In the spiritual core of all human beings, differences and distinctions are unknown; the enlightened soul perceives harmony and oneness, not separation and illusion.
Unfortunately, contemporary civilization is not conducive to creating an environment that nurtures spiritual practices. Today, many religions condemn exploration outside of their doctrines, and some fundamentalist religions discourage internal contemplation. Nevertheless, in human history, there have always been two distinct ways of molding the consciousness of humankind: one operates from without and the other from within. The first method results from all of the external conditions, states or relationships imposed on the individual by the family, culture, religion, social environment, virtual connections, and worldly affairs. Individuals are powerless against these influences which imprint their experience, stir their emotions and alter their thinking. Security or insecurity, wealth or poverty, confidence or anxiety, struggle or slothfulness, responsibility or apathy, harmony or violence create psychological states which unconsciously mold human beings in very specific ways.
The problem with this arises from people blindly adhering to other people’s personal, educational, religious, or political ideological beliefs to the point that they relinquish their own personal power to such influences. The governmental, technological, economic, and religious institutions of civilization continuously attempt to keep the masses under control by reminding them that the ruling members of these systems know what is right. Adhering to this thinly-veiled manipulation from institutions or political ideologues results ultimately in a negative consequence, enslavement. People who subjugate themselves in such a way do not expand their minds through intelligent and original thought; they do not develop personal perspective through spiritual insight. By relinquishing personal power and individual judgment to an institutional view or to a technological/political narrative, one forfeits the impulse to develop a unique and expanded perception of oneself and the conditions of life.
In addition to submitting to the “thinking” and authority of institutional perspectives, there has developed a tendency among the masses to base their own identity of who they are on one of these fallacious, biased narratives, never realizing that these superficial ideologies do not represent the composite whole of the human being; that essence of who they truly are. These incomplete perspectives leave them lacking in the understanding of the full potential of which we are capable. It is understandable that people are susceptible to these systemic ideologies, political doctrines, and societal beliefs because the mind, which does not think for itself, naturally adheres to such precise and definitive solutions. These belief systems save time. By accepting them verbatim, people do not have to think for themselves. This is a choice of simplicity over complexity with the added benefit of intellectual security for having it already figured out; all one has to do is accept the prescribed view as one’s own.
The preferred manner of molding the consciousness is the deliberate activity of inspirational and creative energies directed to modify the subject from within. Spontaneous insight, meditation, concentration, selfless service, intuition, communion with nature, will power, and renunciation each draw from and exhibit the deep well of internal energy. Once developed through practice, these internal states of being have the capacity to awaken spiritual qualities and attributes which bring about a better equilibrium and durability in the psychological well-being of the individual as well as the harmonious integration of all organic, emotional and mental activities.
There are two essential conditions which have the capability of releasing the individual from the bondage of external societal ignorance with its accompanying illusory worldview: relative isolation and self-discipline. In order to cultivate spiritual qualities, people must have the discipline to temporarily isolate themselves from their attachments to “worldly things” which are disharmonious, unimportant, and counterproductive. Those who give priority to contemplating the truth and beauty of the unseen over gratification from the mundane will develop inner sensibilities which bring peace, happiness, grace, and insight. When the individual consciousness ascends the highest summits and is illuminated by intuition and creative imagination, impetus is provided for enthusiasm and inspiration toward the supreme goal. The awakening of moral ideals, spiritual sensibilities, and the appreciation of beauty leads one to the path of Light.
Where can modern individuals find “psychological isolation” and solitude? They can retire within. No retreat is more peaceful or less troubled than the experience of spiritual Light within. With steadfast discipline, the individual seeks the inner sanctum instead of material comfort and the entertaining pleasures of society, which bear no real fruit. While surrounded and enthralled by the comforts of life, the material illusions and technological marvels engendered by science, humans do not understand the urgency of developing the inner path. Distracted by pleasure and complacency, people fail to realize that they are slowly degenerating. The real peril is that the degeneration is so gradual and persistent that they fail to recognize it.
Spiritual insight, like intelligence, can be developed by education, self-discipline and will power if one is willing to temporarily relinquish sensual pleasures. There must be a temporary separation of the individual from his or her worldview in order to interrupt the habitual attachment to the physical. The illusion that worldly pleasures can bring lasting comfort, in whatever form, must be acknowledged and renounced before self-consciousness can transition from the seen and ascend to the miraculous dimensions of the unseen. For such a transition to occur, the individual must become proficient in the transformation of consciousness through the practices of renunciation and focused meditation.
In order to keep a spiritual, psychological and organic balance, people must impose upon themselves an inner rule. They must realize the necessity of selecting the right and avoiding the wrong, embracing the truth and rejecting the false, recognizing reality and dispelling illusion. Psychological equilibrium is only maintained by an effort of will. Everyone is born with different talents and capabilities, and in order to be actualized, these potentialities require the constant exercise of body, mind and spirit. It is from a solid and virtuously constructed foundation that the spiritual nature arises.
The sublime experiences which come from developing and living in these exceptional states is scarcely understood. Spiritual activity has been banished from most religions much to its detriment. Yet, the strength of religion depends on the focus and inspiration of spiritual activities which infuse it with new life, vision and direction. To take the spiritual or mystical spirit out of religion, leads to its decline, and at the very least destroys its inspiration, wonder and imaginative visions.
Spiritual advancement in its highest state utilizes an effective system of discipline, the practice of renunciation. One cannot enter the realm of the Light and Spirit without ascetic preparation. Renunciation is exactly the prescription needed by modern man to purge from his being the harmful effects encountered within the present civilization. Purification of the individual physically, mentally, and emotionally removes organic imbalances, misconceptions, misunderstandings, emotional pains and fears. Historically, few have shown the courage to venture upon this path.
Thus, in this material world, people rise or sink to the level of life for which they are fitted by the quality of their consciousness, the purity of their souls, the balance of their bodies and the resilience of their self-determination. The awakening of the individual self from the confusion and attachment to the materialistic, fragmentary and illusory worldview is likely to come only when extreme conditions and adverse circumstances leave no other choice, or perhaps, the peril of the degenerating society awakens the sense of urgency. Likely, it will take an “end of time” fear to compel mankind to find a vision and set the compass to true north.