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.
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.
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.
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.
I invite and welcome all of your comments and stories!