“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” -Revelation 3:20
“ I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” –John 15: 1-2
Archetypes are the symbols of myth. An archetype can be defined as a fundamental primal image, character, or pattern that recurs throughout literature and thought. Archetypes are the original models or perfect examples of a type or group. Through archetypes, mythology relates collective experience symbolically in story form.
Each culture has its own archetypical stories, which typify beliefs and values considered important to the people in a certain region and time. Similarities in content and theme are often found across barriers of distance, time, and language because our perceptions of life contain overriding generalities.
Even today a study of millennia-old Greek and Roman mythology helps us understand the classical foundations of many masterpieces in English literature. An example is Aesop’s fables, dating from 600 B.C. They are still recited to young children as simple illustrations of moral messages, as real now as they were 2,600 years ago.
One example of a timeless Greek myth is the story of Echo and Narcissus. Echo was the most beautiful of all the nymphs or minor nature goddesses, a special favorite of the queen goddess Juno and the moon goddess Diana. One day Juno became angry with Echo, and as punishment took away all her power to begin a conversation—Echo could only answer when spoken to, repeating the speaker’s last words. Later, Echo fell in love with the handsome and charming youth Narcissus; however, she could only follow him around, reciting back to him what he had just said. Narcissus thought she was ridiculing him and shunned her. In despair Echo faded away to become nothing more than a haunting voice, heard today in caves and desolate places.
Narcissus was not really interested in any lovely nymph—he was conceited and thought no one else was good enough for him. A particular lovesick maiden finally asked the gods to show Narcissus how unrequited love feels. Her plea was answered when Narcissus bent over a mountain pool to drink and became enamored of his own reflection, talking to it and making love to it—all in vain. So, like Echo, he too pined away and died, and from his body sprang the flower bearing his name.
Many psychological principles are illustrated in this myth. For example, Echo can represent the codependent woman devoid of her own identity, unable to assert an opinion and doomed relentlessly to seek approval. Narcissus is the prototype for narcissistic personality disorder, a condition diagnosed by clinicians of today and characterized by excessive preoccupation with self.
We empathize with stories. Concepts touch only our cognitive reasoning, but stories elicit feelings. Jesus filled His talks with stories, parables of truth, through which we can relate to the actions of characters. We put ourselves into good stories, wondering how we would choose to behave in similar circumstances. In fact, all human history can be understood as story, with characters and plot as living examples of God’s principles in action.
Only one set of stories has the magnitude of archetypal myth with the absolute reality of truth. These stories are archetypes in that their themes are universal, crossing all cultures and times. They are also real, in that they tell of historical events and expose the lives of real individuals. The stories of the Bible are universally understandable and true.
Carl Jung espoused the idea of a collective unconscious, a well of subterranean memories hidden below awareness in everyone. Though there are basic common themes across cultures, we don’t believe a universal collective unconscious memory bank exists outside the Bible. The Bible, however, taps into a spiritual “collective unconscious”; all its stories and parables point to the mysterious Creator of the universe. The God who made us in His image uses these supernaturally significant stories to touch deep places in our hearts.
Each of us discovers his own life as an unfolding story. Individual history is contained in memories; we are constantly inwardly trying to weave together past and present. By this mental integration, we strive to find purpose and plan for today and direction for the future. We are made with a desire to share our personal stories, as part of the process of integrating past and present.
Jesus’ resurrection gives Him place to live within us and be the foundation of all our stories. God has themes and plot lines to craft and tell in everyone’s life. He created us to watch His story unfold again differently through every unique person. He delights in seeing the infinite variety of characterizations and situations generated as we look to follow His perfect plan for our lives. At the places of profound intersection of His ideas and will with our own, personal histories can take on archetypical proportions. In heart healing ministry we look for His presence in the person’s story. The Lord’s involvement is always available because Jesus Christ exists outside of time.
An important way we glorify God is by honoring His existence in every chapter of our documentary, as we share our experiences with each other. Therefore, we participate in Christ’s life by telling our stories. When we can accept ourselves and be in this world as original creations of the Father’s mind, He delights in helping us find His way day-to-day. In one-on-one or family-style get-togethers, we can recognize the significance of sharing with one another God’s writing and editing of our individual stories.