Complementricizing Your Archetypes

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article looks a little at our personal experience of archetypes and how we can create a complementary harmonic between the different ones that we have within ourselves.

Yours in the spirit of harmony,


Complementricizing Your Archetypes

When I was around 19 I read a book by Herman Hess called Narcissus and Goldmund. Narcissus is a venerated monk in a monastery, Goldmund is a child who is left at the doorstep of the monastery, and who, once taken in seems to be heading for the life of a monk. However, as Goldmund reaches puberty Narcissus recognizes that Goldmund is not of the right temperament and type for the austere life of the monastic, and so he basically kicks him out of the Monastery. Goldmund then embarks on a series of worldly adventures that leads him into the lap of many women, and he becomes a passionate and sensual artist, dying somewhat early after a life very fully lived.
I can remember when I read this that both characters made an extremely powerful impact upon my mind; I could associate with them BOTH almost equally. After a while I forgot the novel, but in my forgetfulness I them went to art school and became an artist. Then after that I trained in meditation and became a monk for a decade or so. One reason I did not remain as a monk was because I felt a strong urge to start doing art again. So now I am an artistic ex-monk who teaches meditation and mindfulness, and creates art when he can.

So, l if I look back over the last twenty years I can see within myself an exploration of the themes of these two archetypes within me; the monk and the artist, the aesetic and the sensualist, the worldly and the divine, the highly controlled and the passionately released. At times there is no doubt that these archetypes an energies have been in conflict within me as they are (superficially) so different, but overall the journey for me has been toward learning how to create a complementary harmonic between these two aspects of myself so that they feed, inform and strengthen each rather than being in conflict. I have learned that it is perfectly possible for these two powerful aspects of who I am to live in harmony with each other within my own body-mind-soul. One does not have to destroy the other to live, or vice versa.
My basic point in this article is that, like me, you will have these powerful and very different archetypes and themes within you. You may have seen them articulated in a book, poem or movie like I did with Narcissus and Goldmund, or you may simply have observed them as they play out in your life over time; the warrior and the peacemaker, the wise man and the fool, the gentle reconciler and the powerful changemaker, the vulnerable child and the capable adult, the radical and the establishment wo/man, the list goes on.

  • What are the most powerful character archetypes in you?
  • Are they working together to make you stronger and wiser, or are they in conflict, ripping you apart?
  • How can you ‘complementricise’ them? That is means create a complementary harmonic between your contrasting archetypes so that they are making you more whole, complete, capable, wise, loving?

I want to end this article with a quote from Narcissus and Goldmund where Narcissus speaks to Goldmund about their relationship: “We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.”

So it should be when we harmonize our own inner archetypes.

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website 

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