The Sun Archetype – Part 2
Myths express in stories and legend how an archetype arises within a culture. But an archetype also expresses itself deep inside you, and plays a key role in your personal psychology.
No archetype could be more central to your sense of yourself than the sun.
Imagine looking at the solar system with a bird’s eye view. See the burning sun hurtling through the universe as it orbits the dark centre of the Milky Way. And imagine the planets of the solar system, including our home the Earth, flying around the giant sun as we are pulled by gravity into its orbit.
Unlike the solar system planets, the sun is a star; blazing, dazzling, exploding with nuclear fusion reactions, transforming matter into energy. It is centre stage of the solar system, and crucial to life.
The sun archetype within you can be imagined as a star. It is the fire and the spirit at the very heart of you. It is
- your life force,
- your will power,
- your vitality,
- your will to live.
It is also your self-awareness. It is what allows you to know yourself as an individual person on a life journey. It puts you in the driver’s seat of that journey, and equips you with initiative and purpose.
Your sun drives you to be who you are and to fulfil who you are. And to do more than that, to leave your mark. To contribute your special light to this world.
Let us turn to some ancient stories to explore how this may not be a simple matter.
If there is a single image that best expresses the solar archetype, it is the hero.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell writes in ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ that the journey of the archetypal hero is found in all world mythologies.
The hero is always on a journey. For the shining light of the hero’s true self is the treasure to be won at the journey’s end. This is important, and perhaps a little confusing. For does not the archetype of the sun already roar like the lion king deep at the heart of who we are?
The hero’s journey helps us see that although our shining light is who we are, it is also our goal to find, and we must undertake a journey to get there. A journey to the heart.
Psychiatrist Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, called this process individuation, and for him it was the purpose of life.
Along the hero’s journey, the hero will be tested.
Each of our ordeals must be faced and negotiated before we claim the prize of more self-discovery, growth, and fulfilment.
A hero myth that describes such a testing journey is the 12 Labours of Heracles, where the hero Heracles is tasked to serve 12 labours as punishment for a grievous crime. One of these impossible tasks is to kill the many headed Hydra, which grows 2 heads to replace any one that is struck off.
Homer’s epic poem ‘The Odyssey” is the classic story of the hero’s journey. It describes the 10-year adventure of the hero Odysseus as he fights off monsters and temptations in the quest to return home after the Trojan War. It is a tale of the getting of wisdom, as Odysseus learns many life lessons along the way. Including the need for humility, cleverness, and perseverance.
Parsifal and the Holy Grail
But perhaps the most poignant of the hero’s tales is the legend of Parsifal and the Holy Grail.
The tale begins with Parsifal as an innocent young knight on a heroic quest. He eventually meets with the Grail King, the keeper of the Holy Grail, who is sick with an incurable wound. Parsifal has been instructed by a mentor to ask the question “whom does the Grail serve” if he encounters the Grail King, for that would cure the Grail King’s wound. But he fails to speak up when put to the test.
This torments Parsifal, and is the cause of many years of wandering, facing further tests and battles, before he is once more directed to the Grail Castle and has another chance. And this time, wise from his years of troubles, Parsifal asks “whom does the Grail serve?”. Amidst jubilation, the Grail King at last is healed.
What does Parsifal’s question mean?
Simply that the life journey is about something far greater than the whims of personal ego. We are here to serve the Grail, which symbolises who we are deep within, at the level of soul, our true nature, our heart’s plan.
The profound wisdom of the story of Parsifal is that it embraces our failures, troubles and woes as necessary to the journey. When we are battle weary, disillusioned, bitter with regret, bemoaning lost chances, or directionless, like Parsifal we are indeed on the hero’s journey, becoming more able with the passage of each test to ask the question, and put ourselves in the service of an inner wisdom.
My goal is to assist you on this path, by helping you gain insight into your heart’s plan and the unique brilliance of your archetypal sun.