The world is changing faster than at any other time in history. The influences of globalization, such as the electronic transmission of money as well as ecology. affect us all. There is in some places a move away from patriarchy and in others a reaction toward its alternatives.
In the Balkans old enmities erupted after a period of peace. Today much of the Middle East is mired in bloodshed. It is suggested that these struggles are the birth pangs of a new archetype that seeks expression.
This archetype is not like Artemis, a huntress, or Athena, Zeus’s intellectual daughter, as feminists would have us believe. Instead it is rooted in activity, which like laziness is traditionally considered a male preserve. The archetype is unusual, being male in character whilst serving the traditionally feminine principles of receptivity, service, fecundity and fortitude.
A Brief History of the Dominant Male Archetype
According to Hesiod, the patriarchal god Zeus fathered many children. He also laboured under the guilt of a terrible crime. He had committed patricide. Cronos his father was one of a dynasty of older gods known as the Titans. Cronos was in fact the leader of the Titans and the most powerful god of that period, (prehistory) until Zeus supplanted him.
Although Zeus’s crime is terrible it may be argued that he suffered from mental illness when he committed the crime. The stories about him suggest that he is quite disturbed.
Zeus was like so many of us a victim of our own parents’ fear and rage. Cronos believed that one day he would be supplanted by one of his children, so whilst they were still infants he swallowed them. Zeus’s mother fearing this fate for her son tricked Cronos by wrapping a stone in baby clothes and Cronos swallowed the stone instead of the baby Zeus.
Zeus, being a strategist, recognised that alone he would be unable to overthrow Cronos. He therefore persuaded the wise goddess Metis to give Cronos an emetic, which caused Cronos to vomit up his siblings Poseidon and Hades. With the aid of his brothers, Cronos was bound and defeated.
After this period of conflict a relative calm ensued in which Zeus began to work his way through a host of female goddesses, deities, nymphs and mortal women.
- Metis Goddess of Wisdom ~ Mother of Athena and Mother of the New Archetype?
- Themis Goddess of Justice ~ Mother of the Fates and Seasons
- Euronome ~ Mother of the Graces
- Demeter Goddess of the Harvest ~ Mother of Demeter
- Mnemosyne Memory ~ the Nine Muses
- Leto ~ Mother of Apollo and Artemis
- Hera Goddess of the Hearth ~ Mother of Aries
- Zeus also fathered Hephestus, the lone inventor and god of craftsmanship as well as Dionysus, the wandering god of wine and ecstasy.
Why should we bother about ancient gods?
According to psychiatrist Jean Shinoda Bolen, by understanding the ancient gods and goddesses we can also understand where our conflicts lie and how we might achieve wholeness. Her vision includes both powerful inner archetypes such as Hades and Poseidon and also conformity-demanding stereotypes such as Apollo and Hera.
Her analysis of all of the goddesses and gods is enlightening to those of us who strive to understand those with whom we work, as well as ourselves. They provide insight into the irrational aspects of our nature.
When I met Jean Shinoda Bolen in 1988 she told me of a new archetype that was predicted by Hesiod. Before proceeding with that story however it is worth taking a further look at the mental health and parenting style of Zeus.
Whilst a cunning lawyer would no doubt seek an acquittal of Zeus for the murder of Cronos, either on the ground that Zeus was depressed, (i.e. constrained from achieving his potential), or acting in self-defence, it is clear that murder was done by a method most horrid.
The influence of Cronos and the effect of murdering him must have left a deep impression upon Zeus because he was paranoid about his own sons overthrowing him.
His first consort Metis is the old Titan goddess of wisdom who bore Zeus two children. Under the influence of his ‘illness’ Zeus decided that they must be done away with at birth. Following the example of his father Cronos, he decided to swallow them but, as he knew that Metis their mother might trick him with an emetic, as he had tricked Cronos, Zeus devised a cunning plan. He decided that he would not only swallow the children but Metis as well.
By tricking the pregnant Metis to become very small Zeus was able to swallow her whilst her children were still in her womb. The plan was flawed however because one day Zeus woke with a blinding headache and the baby Athena was born from Zeus’s head.
The birth of Athena from the head of Zeus with Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth, on the right.
Zeus did not perceive Athena as a threat, indeed she was a virgin goddess and a great support to him, often depicted fully armed sitting protectively near to him. She was never an infant but born fully formed. In wartime she presides over battle strategy and in peacetime domestic arts. She is dedicated to chastity and celibacy.
It is perhaps partly due to Athena’s non-threatening influence that Zeus became more reconciled to his role as a parent to subsequent children. Predictably he clashed with some, but he no longer attempted to kill them, although his consorts frequently attempted to hurt children that he had sired by others.
Later he acted as an incubator for his son Dionysus born of a mortal woman Semele who would otherwise have died because of the jealous trickery of his wife the goddess Hera.
When Zeus swallowed Metis and her children, feminine wisdom was shrunk and overshadowed. The ancient Greeks were in many ways the founders of scientific thought as well as clever psychologists.
The complete subjugation of spirit by matter was completed by the 17th century.
Paradoxically this occurred when the Christian Church of Rome made it difficult for us to explore life without being convicted of religious crimes.
Cristiano Banti’s 1857 painting Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition
In order to overcome this, some creative people reframed investigation of life making it positivist science, in which spirit and matter are divided.
The witch trials of the Middle Ages virtually eliminated traces of the ‘old wisdom’ by the late C17 in most North European Countries, the exception being perhaps the northern tundra of Asia, where it required the advent of Stalinism before this was achieved.
In Istanbul the ancient Church of Sophia, (another name for Metis) emerged as a museum after six centuries of domination as an Islamic Holy Place. Rome is at last seeking reconciliation both with Christian factions and Muslims as Pope Paul’s visit to a Syrian mosque demonstrated.
In Ireland, the mothers of Catholic and Protestants provided the accord and the impetus that has lead to a concerted effort at peace. These women can see that the senseless killing of their sons is leading nowhere. Is this Metis emerging?
The New Archetype
Bolen says that we are witnessing the emergence of a new archetype. This is not Metis but her unborn son, the brother of Athena. Unlike Athena who only acknowledges the father, this son acts in the service of his mother Metis, so long buried.
His aim though is to redeem Zeus, to heal his illness and to repair the years of suppression and patricide.
This son is an active force, but one with a connection to the earth and its ecology. He serves a higher purpose than an ‘ego’, or even an ‘ego ideal’. He simply is, and does what is necessary with the respect and obedience of the other gods and goddesses.
What does the archetype look like?
In a recent census in the United Kingdom, citizens were urged to complete the box indicating their religion with the word Jedi. Jedi is a word denoting a Knight serving something called ‘the force’. This mysterious force is a Zen like quality of wholeness. It occurs in the Star Wars films and is the creation of their author, George Lucas. Luke Skywalker seeks a loving father in Darth Vader, a fallen knight who can only survive within a special suit of armour. Finally Vader melts before Luke and in removing his helmet condemns himself to death.
Skywalker is fostered as a child on a backward planet, and only as a young adult does he learn that his true heritage is to become a Jedi knight.
A new villain and hero are currently achieving literary notoriety. Harry Potter the son of a wizard and wizardess who were killed in infancy by the dark wizard who must not be named (Voldemort).
When Voldemort attempts to kill the infant Potter, Voldemort is damaged because Harry is protected by his mother’s love. In a series of books Voldemort, now disabled, disfigured and disembodied, much like Darth Vader, tries to win back his position of power and to defy death.
Meanwhile Harry Potter has survived his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Wizardry, as well as five attempts upon his life by Voldemort and his agents.
Hogwarts operates a house system common in many English Private Schools. In his first year Harry is allocated to Gryffindor House whose founder Goddrick was known for his qualities of bravery and daring. There are three other houses: Ravenclaw, wise and witty; Hufflepuff, loyal and hardworking; and Slytherin, cunning and sly.
The differences between Gryffindor and Slytherin are the most extreme. Whilst Goddrick Gryffindor the founder of Gryffindor House favours inclusion, discussion and action, Salazar Slytherin is a bigot who seeks to confine magic only to those with magical bloodlines dating into pre-history.
In the Potter books, J.K. Rowling hints once again at the new archetype, in which the hero with a magical past, who has been fostered by Muggles (humans without imagination or magical powers) using courage, wins the day.
It may be that Zeus’s anticipated son, and the one predicted to defeat him, cannot arise in common consciousness without considerable ideological and physical battles, if at all!
When parallel motifs begin to appear in art and literature they indicate the presence of secondary processes. These are emerging themes, not quite with us in concrete form, but nevertheless emerging into awareness.
Those of us who believe that consciousness is primary, can take heart from this in the knowledge that the current move towards globalization is not a chaotic force that must be controlled, but part of a rising culture that may bring us some kind of salvation.
Positivists will have greater difficulty in sensing beyond the chaos that we find dividing communities throughout the world. Even they however, are beginning to realize that the pressures of environmental ecology means that we need wisdom as well as understanding.
This article in a slightly different form was first published in Nurturing Potential Magazine Volume 1, Issue 3 – Winter 2002 as: ‘Where Are We Now: Understanding the muddle’. It is based upon a presentation made to the European Family Therapy Congress, Sofia, in the same year.