Joan of Arc

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When I think of archetypal female Elder Leader figures, Joan of Arc comes quickly to mind. She exhibited strengths of a Mystic and a Warrior, and as a Leader, Jeanne d’Arc led an army to victory at Orleans in defense of her beloved France. This brave young woman listened to her own inner voices, whether from her unconscious archetypal assembly and/or spiritual agencies supporting her mission.

I acted in a play while in college in the the role of a schizophrenic woman who believed she was Joan of Arc. For the part, I read all I could find about St. Joan so by the time the play was performed I really did identify strongly with La Pucelle.  The night before the first performance of this play, Chamber Music, a well-known author focussing on women’s psychology gave a talk on my college campus and she mentioned Joan of Arc as a primary example of the highest qualities of a heroic figure. She ended her lecture after mentioning Joan, saying, “having spoken of Joan of Arc, I cannot say anything more.”

I felt the weight of the world land on my shoulders then, and I promptly went to my dormitory to re-read the entirety of George Bernard Shaw’s play, Saint Joan, that night.

The Good Joan

Along the thousand roads of France,
Now there, now here, swift as a glance,
A cloud, a mist blown down the sky,
Good Joan of Arc goes riding by.In Domremy at candlelight,
The orchards blowing rose and white
About the shadowy houses lie;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.On Avignon there falls a hush,
Brief as the singing of a thrush
Across old gardens April-high;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.The women bring the apples in,
Round Arles when the long gusts begin,
Then sit them down to sob and cry;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.Dim fall the hoofs down old Calais;
In Tours a flash of silver-gray,
Like flaw of rain in a clear sky;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.Who saith that ancient France shall fail,
A rotting leaf driv’n down the gale?
Then her sons know not how to die;
Then good God dwells no more on high!

Tours, Arles, and Domremy reply!
For Joan of Arc goes riding by.

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Could there have been a “better ending” for Joan of Arc, who died by being burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19? We know of the tragic betrayal and of her torturous death for having held to her truth and fought for her people. She was declared a heretic for not denying that she heard the archangel Michael and other spiritual agencies directing her campaign. Women were not expected to have a direct communication with God or angels then, let alone to set out to lead an army to victory. St. Joan could have recanted; she might have escaped, but history records how she chose not to betray her spiritual agencies just to save her physical form.
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I can hardly abide the more recent biographical films about Jeanne (though from a modern context they are well acted); it is Ingrid Bergman’s 1948 film depiction of St. Joan, based on Shaw’s play, that feels to me to be the best or better ‘rendering’ of this true tale of valor and faith that has become culturally iconic and archetypally embedded in human consciousness.
I cannot conceive of a better ending than what St. Joan chose by her own nature and conscience to endure for the sake of her faith and her relationship with Divinity Itself.
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The best account of Joan’s passing to my sensibility is Leonard Cohen’s song of tribute, https://www.youtube.com/embed/gtwUyDPXROQ?rel=0“>Joan of Arc, as sung by Jennifer Warnes. Click on this link or select:   to see this excellent YouTube performance.
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images gratefully from pixabay.com
Those attending Joan’s heroic passing witnessed a White Dove flying to the heavens as her bodily form crumbled to dust. Watch this video (above link) and read about St. Joan to contemplate your own archetypal Elder Leader (combined with Warrior and Mystic) potentials!

Take Me to Your Leader

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This week we are pairing—or aligning—the Elder Leader archetype with the monthly life metaphor of Life is What You Make It. This is an especially fruitful alignment because it is a very natural, common combination culturally.  Leaders “make things happen” by their inherent character, so long as they are manifesting archetypal leadership qualities more in Strength than in Shadow mode. Villains (Shadow leaders), on the other hand, interfere with positive growth or survival potentials, requiring a protagonist’s leadership potentials to be ‘stepped up’ in order to meet the challenge.

Consider the prototypical science fiction line, then: “Take me to your leader!”…what’s that about? First, this line recognizes the archetypal nature of a Leader; we expect to find a leader of some sort in any society, on any planet. The Leader is conceived of as a single, central persona figure, representing an organizing principle for that society.  The Leader’s own character permeates all of the alien or subordinate ‘others’ by virtue of her or his influence over their world and lives.

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Second, the visitors want to talk with the Leader because presumably it is s/he who makes the important decisions and gets things done. If the visiting astronauts are ever to get Home, they know it is only the alien Leader who can facilitate their Return and implement the necessary process to make it so. The visitors’ main concern is that the Leader might be in Shadow, a villain; then they will need to count upon their own intrinsic leadership strengths in order to overcome that opposition and find a solution that can get them Home under their own steam, as it were.  Either way, it is archetypal qualities of the Leader that must be appealed to in order to achieve the protagonists’ goal.

To be clear then for those fairly new to this blog or to the concept of archetypal character modes, archetypes can be defined and understood in two interconnected ways. Archetypal characters in one sense are simply character MODES; that is, they are typical forms that are found in fictional, mythical and everyday situations around the world. The Leader is found everywhere with fairly normative character traits, albeit each society may attribute to the Leader archetype some culturally relevant traits.

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In another aspect, archetype character modes–according to archetypal or depth psychologists such as Hillman and Jung—are also found in each of our personal unconscious makeup, so that the Leader is a complex of potential character traits inherent in all of us.  The fact that universal archetype modes show up in the day to day SOCIAL ROLES we occupy as well as in our nightly (or daytime, waking) DREAMS simply shows that as we grow up in and are socialized within any given cultural milieu, we internalize facets of these archetypal character modes as a matter of adapting to our social personas in life.  These sorts of archetypal layerings of our psyche may be more or less conscious to us, and their positive and/or Shadow traits may become embedded in our general personality orientations.

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So then, a useful active imagination or creative visualization technique we can try this week is to contemplate a sticky situation or a difficult decision in your life right now. Imagine you are a member—the leader—of a visiting astronaut crew, shipwrecked on some alien planet. Inwardly imagine a group of aliens approaching and surrounding you. Step up and address the one who appears to head up this alien delegation, and ask: “Take me to your Leader!” Imagine what transpires after that on your own, focusing on the situation about which you are seeking greater clarity.

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I invite and welcome all of your comments and stories!