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Archetype of Christ

Although people generally think of Christ as an historical figure, as a dream symbol he depicts powerful influences acting upon your personality. For a start, Christianity is a huge social and political force in the world. Many of us as children are educated to accept its beliefs or we meet its influence in one way or another. Therefore Christ in our dreams often depicts this enormous influence and how we relate to it – the influence can be many sided, from a recognition of the best in oneself to the hatred and anger about what organised Christianity has done to one.

Like any of the world’s great religious figures, Christ can also be a very potent compensatory symbol. Each of us have feeling responses to events. Some events lead to a pleasurable response, others to a painful response. As children, and often as adults, we are largely at the mercy of events as to whether our life is experienced as painful or pleasurable. But there is also a way of creating our own response that a few of us use consciously. If we are lonely or depressed for instance, we may read a book, go out with a friend or watch a film, stimulating feelings that displace the loneliness or despair. This ability to produce positive or different feelings is often seen in the dream process. By holding in mind an image connected with hope and love, feelings will be produced that will compensate in some measure for pain or depression we may be feeling. Therefore in many dreams the figure of Christ is used to compensate for what may be felt as crushing or defeating life circumstances or inner despair. Such compensation may also be used to deal with things missing from ones life, such as a sexual partner or social achievement.

The fundamental power of Christ as an archetypal force lies in a different direction however. As an archetype Christ enters our life with powers of redemption, aid to help us out of awful life situations, and a type of love transcending the human limitations of jealousy and dependence. But it is a universal consciousness which is a part of every person, whatever their beliefs. To become aware of it we must somehow have broken our heart and self so be aware of such a huge awareness. See Ages of Love.

Example: It is difficult to convey the immediacy of these experiences deep in the sleep state. Over and over I experienced fantasies, the drama, of being a sacrifice. As one who expressed the new ideas, the new consciousness, I was beaten and smashed to death because I was a threat to the old instinctive order. But the fragments of my strewn body, my flesh, were eaten by those who had killed me. And my flesh was like Seeds that grew within those who devoured, and became in them the new awareness they had sought to destroy. In another of the series I was a willing sacrifice. Through the stress and ritual of being willingly lead to death, I would receive the new consciousness and in some way bring it to my people.

I am going through masses of evolutionary feelings. The struggle to develop self-consciousness, and how the Messiah was first of all a fantasy, then an embodiment of this. Then how other people lived certain aspects of it, and were taken to be the Messiah, the Krishna, whatever. They did bring into the body another type of awareness, that mankind had been struggling toward for so long. This is where the mystery of the birth of Christ comes from. Why there is no real historical person. Why there is so much myth and legends surrounding such events. It is the embodiment of something mankind needed so much, to help them out of their crisis.

Often overlooked in this influence is the power to look at oneself and life very clearly, very honestly, without hiding behind excuses or self deceptions. Perhaps more than anything else though, Christ is a cultural image depicting the power of our own highest possibilities. It is the outreach to us of collective human love.

Christ is not the only historical figure with these associations. Krishna and Shiva in the Indian culture, Mohammed in Islamic culture, and Quetzalcoatl/ Kukulkán/ Gukumatz in the South American culture have the same sort of power. Some aspects of the Buddha are approached for redemption and there are many saviour heroes from other cultures such as Anansi in Africa, Cúchulainn in Eire, Osiris in Egypt and Hercules in Greece. Apollonius of Tyana is also recorded as living a sacred life. But Christianity is simply a new expression of an ancient theme.

Mithra was born in a cave, and on the 25th December. He was born of a Virgin. He travelled far and wide as a teacher and illuminator of men. His great festivals were the winter solstice and the Spring equinox (Christmas and Easter). He had twelve companions or disciples (the twelve months). He was buried in a tomb, from which however he rose again; and his resurrection was celebrated yearly with great rejoicings. He was called Savior and Mediator, and sometimes figured as a Lamb; and sacramental feasts in remembrance of him were held by his followers.

Osiris was born on the 361st day of the year, say the 27th December. He too, like Mithra and Dionysus, was a great traveller. As King of Egypt he taught men civil arts, and “tamed them by music and gentleness, not by force of arms”; he was the discoverer of corn and wine. But he was betrayed by Typhon, the power of darkness, and slain and dismembered. “This happened,”says Plutarch, “on the 17th of the month Athyr, when the sun enters into the Scorpion” (the sign of the Zodiac which indicates the oncoming of Winter). His body was placed in a box, but afterwards, on the 19th, came again to life, and, as in the cults of Mithra, Dionysus, Adonis and others, so in the cult of Osiris, an image placed in a coffin was brought out before the worshippers and saluted with glad cries of “Osiris is risen.” “His sufferings, his death and his resurrection were enacted year by year in a great mystery-play at Abydos.” Quoted from Pagan and Christain Creeds by Edward Carpenter

“Such a myth, however, consists of symbols that have not been invented consciously. They have happened. It was not the man Jesus who created the myth of the god-man. It existed for many centuries before his birth. He himself was seized by this symbolic idea, which, as St. Mark tells us, lifted him out of the narrow life of the Nazarene carpenter.” Quoted from Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung

I know I hung on the wind-swept tree Nine nights through, Pierced by a spear, dedicated to Odin, I myself to myself.

There is, above all, the self-sacrifice of the hero-saviour: as Toynbee puts it in A Study of History,  ‘A very god who dies for different worlds under diverse names-for a Minoan World as Zagreus, for a Sumeric World as Tammuz, for a Hittite World as Attis, for a Scandinavian World as Balder, for a Syriac World as Adonis (“Our Lord”), for an Egyptian World as Osiris, for a Shi’i World as Husayn, for a Christian World as Christ.’

Depending upon the culture we were raised in, we will unconsciously put an image to the power of change and transformation that we experience. People in all ages, all cultures and all social circumstances have experienced what is often felt to be a divine influence touching them in some way.

I believe through observation that such long held and powerful traditional beliefs are based on something functional. The description of compensation above is an example of this. To be able to survive crushing life experience is a real achievement, not an imagined one, and is therefore functional. Using an image to evoke hope and motivation doesn’t make it less of an achievement. But the archetype links with patterns of love and strength actually lived by others. They are then patterns remaining in the collective experience of us and can be accessed. When we touch these powerful racial memories we may clothe them in the image of our cultural hero or saviour.

To be clear about this, the power that is found is a release of our own potential emerging from our core self. So in this sense the image of Christ is a graphic presentation of our own innate wonder. The patterns of love and strength mentioned above, and other behaviours lived by past individuals that remain in collective memory, offer keys or clues as to how to release this innate potential. That such keys, as well as ones innate potential, are often clothed in symbols and traditional imagery, is simply because we have not made such parts of our potential or heritage clearly conscious. They thus emerge from our unconscious clothed in whatever imagery or ideas we can accept or allow. See The Inner Path of Christ.

So what does the archetype of Christ the Redeemer and Good Shepherd mean in this sense?

To understand this we must first remember that our ego, the sense that we have of being a distinct person, is not one and the same thing as our body’s biological processes, or of our deep psychological processes. We all have some understanding of this because we can observe in ourselves or in others, that we – our personality – may want something that is very much against what our body wants. People with eating disorders for instance may actually die from malnutrition. People who have a fear of sex may constantly fight or repress their sexual urge. A person is often at odds with the natural processes and urges that underlie their conscious ego.

Norman MacKenzie explains this very well in his book . Dreams and Dreaming. Writing about the clinical use of LSD to help patients deal with various forms of neurosis, he says that the drug enabled a massive observation of how people’s mind worked, and how people related to their unconscious drives. When a patient first took LSD one of the commonest reactions was massive anxiety. This degree of anxiety usually arises only when we are threatened physically or mentally. The patient fears the drug is robbing them of control and will overwhelm them. In fact what is happening is that the repressive defences the person uses to keep their inner drives and processes under control are being relaxed. See The Two Powers Explained.

People relate to this threat in two major ways. They either fight to keep control, and employ all manner of techniques such as keeping their attention focused outwardly by such things as talking, walking about, drawing, holding their breath or dancing – or they surrender to what is being experienced. To meet the parts of ones nature that have previously been pushed into unconsciousness, one needs to surrender in some degree. If the person fights the loss of control as the new material from within is emerging, it sometimes feels as if they are disintegrating. Their body may feel as if it is changing or dying, and they are losing themselves.

Below are two descriptions from people who used LSD therapeutically that illustrates these different responses.

It didn’t happen at first, but gradually I began to feel that if I relaxed I would not be able to hold back my emotions, that I would do something that would be seen as crazy. So I sat holding onto myself, literally tensing my muscles to hold back whatever might happen to me. Time seemed to stretch and I felt as if I would never get out of this tension and difficulty. I just had to sit through it, live through it, and hope there would be an end. I also wanted to get away, but I was frightened I would get lost, like I was a child of four or five. Maybe that’s how I felt at that age, so I had to stop myself from doing what I wanted to do. A.K.

Here is someone else’s description of a similar situation.

Early in the session I started having fantasies about being attacked. Each time it happened I put the fantasy aside because I couldn’t see why I would be having these feelings that I was being attacked. There were a lot of images flowing into my mind also about the horror of life in general – babies abused, children murdered, men and women shot or tortured. The fantasies returned and several men attacked me and were trying to drag me off somewhere against my will. As the fantasy progressed, or replayed, I began to realise that it only appeared like an attack because I was resisting the process. In fact the men wanted to show me something that was important to me. They were being quite gentle, but because of my resistance, it felt to me like an aggressive act. I then let myself be carried off by the men, and began to feel as if a great chunk of my nature has been held back since childhood because of anxiety. In fact I had been frightened to ‘live’ this part of me. I had held so much of myself back throughout most of my life that I constantly felt there was something I was missing and had to search for. But it wasn’t an external thing – it was the me I had denied. B.M.

AK was using tensions and experiencing fears he had developed in childhood to hold back feelings that he had been taught were not acceptable. In BM’s experience he learned to move beyond such tensions and fears.

In observing such struggles in thousands of people, the doctors and clinicians working with them saw that no matter what the patient was experiencing, even if they felt completely overwhelmed for a while and were lost in their fears and emotions, something within them was learning from the experience and attempting to integrate not only the insights gained, but also the various parts of their nature that were in conflict or split. Mackenzie says, ‘No one knows what type of ‘thinking’ this may be. It appears to be different both from ‘reality thinking’ and ‘autistic thinking,’ from the patterns of conscious thought and the imagery of fantasy – a kind of bridge between two types of mental process.’

Jung observed something similar in the psyche. He called it the Transforming Principle, or the self-regulating action, which constantly attempts psychic growth. He stated that one can watch this at work by noting many dreams from the same individual over a period of time. When one does this ‘tendencies become visible, then vanish, then return again. …… one can observe a sort of hidden regulating or directing tendency at work, creating a slow, imperceptible process of psychic growth-the process of individuation.’

Most religions call it the power of God at work in ones life, and many of them teach that if one surrenders to it, one will be healed and made whole. Different people and cultures represent or depict this transforming power within them in their own way. It is often represented as Christ, but equally as well as something more abstract. However, whatever we wish to name it, there is in us a potential that has in it more than we presently know of ourselves, and it has the power to heal and transform. It is observable that healing or therapy proceeds by a series of problem-solving move­ments. As soon as one difficulty is reviewed and removed, another appears, waiting in line to take its place.

In BM’s experience he learned to move beyond such tensions and fears. But also he says something that is at the heart of what this archetype brings. He says, “It wasn’t an external thing – It was the ‘me’ I had denied.”

That is the heart of the Christ archetype. It holds in it the you that may have been crushed, denied, traumatised, repressed, in some way held back from emerging as a reality in your life. It is the potential you hold within you that has not been allowed to flower. It is the very best of what you are, not some distant possibility that you have to get from outside yourself. See: life’s little secrets; compensation theory; self-regulation dreams and fantasy;.

Here is another personal description. This time not from an LSD session, but from a man allowing the transforming action to take place while fully awake and without drugs. This makes clear what it is like to confront the power of transformation within.

In the previous week I had met a feeling I could not account for, which had left me wondering what was happening. I had the very strong impression that I had killed a man and now had the guilt of blood on my hands. This time in the group, when I surrendered, something I could never have suspected happened. I was standing with my eyes closed, but it seemed I could see, because the spontaneous mental imagery was so clear, that I was standing under a clear night sky, with the stars brilliant above. But there was a star more brilliant than the others that fell to Earth, and I knew it was something wonderful and special so hurried to see what it was. Others had also seen it, simple rural people like myself. What we found was a baby. But the wonder of it was so much I fell on my knees and couldn’t stop myself crying out again and again – A baby! A baby!

The tears and the cries were because I had the clear feeling or knowledge, a direct knowing, that all of the heavens, all of life’s mystery, had come to life in this baby. And to actually know this, to feel the impact of it, was almost more than I could bear. But part of the amazement was that this was every baby born. It wasn’t just one special baby. It was my own birth too! All the mystery of life was born in me. I sobbed with the pain and wonder of it.

Then the scene changed and I was standing by a dirt road. There were lots of people lining the road waiting. I didn’t know what for. Then excitement rose as a man came walking along the road toward us. He looked very ordinary to me. But as he got near he looked right at me and a huge feeling of love swept through me. I knew this man loved me in a way I had never been loved before. Then he walked directly to me and took hold of my hands and said, ‘You are my disciple’.

I stumbled backwards away from him. The love was too much, too painful. Looking into his eyes I knew I had been born with all that love, but I had killed it in myself. The blood on my hands was because I had murdered Him/myself. I had crushed the flower of my sexuality through fear. I had denied my own wonder and value in the world, looking to others for guidance. I had killed Christ in me – Christ who was the splendour of my own life and love if I dared to live it – my own birthright. But he had touched my hands, and I went to each of the people in the group and put my hands on them, trying to rub some of that magic onto them. Thomas.

As can be seen from Thomas’s description, the image of Christ holds in it not only the power of self-revelation for him, but also the relationship of teacher to disciple, and transforming love for one in need of wholeness. Thomas cannot help but think of Christ as separate from himself, even though at the same time he realises with deep emotion, that he is gazing at and being touched by his own wholeness, his own potential. See: compensation theory; the fundamental process.

This paradox needs to be remembered not only when meeting the Redeemer archetype, but almost any archetype. Also implicit in this meeting is the possibility that because confronting ones own wholeness and seeing ones own guilt, or the smallness of oneself, can lead to great personal transformation, it may lead the present personality, as it is at the moment, to dying and being left behind. Thus the meeting with Christ may include a personal experience of death and resurrection.

So the experience of meeting Christ may be a representation of the denied force of joyous life within – denied out of attempting to live social or religious rules and regulations, or social pressure to conform. Therefore, because ultimately we are an integral part of the universe, and have no existence outside of it, when we meet Christ/our wholeness and potential, we also become aware in some degree of the hugeness we are a part of or an expression of. We meet a sense of eternity, an awareness of the symbiotic – or cooperative processes or forces – operative in human life and the cosmos.

The Sunday School or Church Christ

This is another aspect of the Christ archetype and depicts social norms, the generally accepted morals and social rules. This ‘Christ’ comes about because the church tends to represent traditional values and national history, and attempts to press people to live these values. The dreamer may have a child-like relationship with this Christ, or if attempting to be self responsible, be in conflict with it. Some people find this Christ has a castrating role in their life, and flee in horror. In fact this aspect of social indoctrination may lead to such a burden of guilt and suppression that it can create psychic cripples. Trying to do all the ‘right’ things may lead us to the point where ‘we can’t say no to a glass of water without a pang of guilt.’

Two of the great forces that push at the human soul or psyche are, firstly, social pressure, such as the moral norm; and secondly, biological pressures such as the sex drive. Individuals may fight a lifelong battle with one or the other of these. The social criminal typifies battle with social authority pressures and rules; the ascetic and the bulimic battle with biological drives.

These two forces can be seen in the symbols of Christ and Mary Magdalene. The battle of these two immense forces is not really won until there is the marriage or unity between the two. The following dream and its exploration illustrate this dynamically.

I was in the basement of the house where I lived in London. I had taken some floorboards up because they were rotten. Underneath I saw a large white serpent or worm, somehow connected with a dead evil woman like a force of destruction and evil. I seemed to understand the evil could corrupt all of London, that it lived in a great underground lake that existed under all of London. I poked at the serpent with a piece of wood and it came to life and plunged into the earth. There seemed to be an air filled hole that I poked into and the wood I was using was wrenched away from my hands.

My family thought I was crazy because I was trying to tell them about this and sent for a doctor. I was very pleased to see him because he was very unbiased though, not believing – nor disbelieving. I explained my experience and feelings. With him there I dared to poke at the floor with a long scaffold pole. The pole was ripped from my grasp by some force below. Then we tied the pole to a beam and it ripped part of the beam off. I felt there was enough power to tear down my house if I had used it as an anchor. Then I saw Christ standing on my right, and the terrifying woman on my left, and they came together and the evil was neutralised – but so was the power of Christ. Mathew

Mathew saw the Christ figure as the moral norm in the society he was raised; a morality he had struggled with all his life. The woman he experienced as the urges such as his sexual needs, with which he had also struggled. When Christ and the woman merged he felt enormous peace.

The positive aspect of ‘Sunday School Christ’ is that prior to maturing enough to take realistic self and social responsibility, people need guidelines for behaviour. They often yearn for security or certainty. Religion in the form of powerful positive declarations of ‘truth’, supply this need for many people. For such people, making personal decisions in the face of the ever shifting external situations is enormously stressful. So organised and dogmatic religion is of great strength to them.

The Ideal Christ

This is yet another facet of this archetype, and is the psychological process which causes us not to take responsibility for our own highest ideals; our own yearnings for the good; our own most powerful urges arising against what we see as evils in the world. This influences us to wait for a sign from Christ or God in our dream or waking life in order to gain authority, or to overcome the anxiety associated with the urges. We want God to say we should act in a certain way because we are not willing to be self responsible. We deny in ourselves the core self and its divinity.

Example: ‘I stood outside a castle. It was closed and guarded by soldiers in armour. Wondering how to get in I thought that if I dressed and acted as a soldier I would be allowed entrance. It worked and inside Christ met me and said he had important work for me to do.’ Sonia.

The closely guarded secret is Sonia’s own impulses to do some sort of socially creative work. She doesn’t want to own them as her own. It is much easier if she can say ‘Christ told me to do this.’ In this way she avoids direct encounter with opposition and has a feeling that she has greater authority than her own. Joan of Arc might well be seen in this light.

 

The Healing Christ

The Christ archetype has powerful healing influence for many people.

Example: ‘A fierce battle was raging with bullets flying. I immediately fell down and ‘played dead’. It wasn’t that I was hurt in any way, but I didn’t want to be at any risk in the fight. As I lay there I saw a tall well built man in soldiers uniform walk to me. He gave no sign of any fear concerning the bullets, and quietly knelt beside me. I felt he was Christ, but was confused by him being a soldier. He placed a hand on my back and gradually worked his fingers under the shell of a large limpet type creature that I had never before known was parasitically attached to my back. I could feel him pull it away, but knew its tentacles still ran right into my chest. It seemed and alien had entered me. He then sat me up and told me how I could rid myself of the tentacles and so be healed.’ Peter Y.

Peter, whose dream this was, had a debilitating psychosomatic illness at the time of the dream, causing pain where the tentacles ran. The shell is his defences against feeling his own hurts and inner conflicts. The dream shows him contacting a strength which is not afraid of his internal battlefield or conflicts, and can show ways of healing real human problems. The healing rests upon the dreamer’s conscious action, not Christ’s, suggesting the dreamer taking responsibility for his own situation. Peter realised he had been avoiding his own internal battles, but felt he had found a strength – in the Big Man – which would support his efforts to find healing. In fact he met his conflicts and grew beyond his ailments.

Peter’s conflicts were between his love for his children and his love for another woman. The Christ he met was his own undammed life, the flood of loving sexuality, the strength to burst through social rules and regulations because love or life pushes. When we find it in ourselves we don’t give a hang about bullets, death, right or wrong, because we have a sense of our own integral existence within life, and our own rightness and place in eternity.

The Integral or Cosmic Christ

Each of us have, perhaps deep in their unconscious, a sense of connectedness with the whole, with the cosmos. Perhaps it is best to call this our own wholeness, which incorporates all the light and darkness in us, all the expressed and the potential. We may be little aware of this. We may be denying it sceptically as Lester is in the example below.

Example: ‘I am a journalist reporting on the return of Christ. He is expected on a paddle steamer going upstream on a large river. I am very sceptical and watch disciples and followers gather on the rear deck. The guru arrives, dressed in simple white robes. He has long, beautiful auburn hair and beard, and a gentle wise face. He begins to tap a simple rhythm on a tabla or Indian drum. It develops into complex intermingling of orchestral rhythms as everyone joins in. I now realise he is Christ, and feel overwhelmed with awe as I try to play my part in the music. I’m tapping with a pen and find myself fumbling. A bottle or can opener comes to me from the direction of Christ. I try to beat a complementary rhythm, a small part of a greater, universal music.’ Lester S.

Finding this inner connection with things can enrich all that we do in life, even if it is a very humble thing like Lester’s can opener. The awareness of connectedness and wholeness brings with it a realisation of taking part in the unimaginably grand drama of life. It gives a feeling, no matter what the state of our body, crippled or healthy, that we have something that makes any faults insignificant. It doesn’t take all the difficulties out of life, but it is a wonderful companion on the way. We come to know that at base we are a wonderful shining being, and that life and its circumstances and events, are a way in which we are learning to let that internal wonder shine out.

Another way of looking at this is by seeing Christ as a process. Christ might then be seen as a collective identity arising in the consciousness of humanity. This relates to us as individuals much as our identity relates to the cells of our body. Just as our identity survives the death of billions of cells in our lifetime, so the Christ consciousness survives our death and change, integrates our experience, transcends our function, and has a personal relationship with us.

Example: We are each living that mystery play – that mysterious drama of which the Christian myth is a summary.  Each in our own way play out that drama we call life.  Each of us give birth to or abort the divine in us.  Each of us chooses whether we are going to wash our hands of meeting that splendid call of our own being, or whether we will crucify it on our own political, monetary, or power hungry demands.  Each of us makes the decision of whether we will denounce our relationship with the love that is in our own heart.

We don’t have to be a saint to live that Mystery.  We are living it now!  We live every tiny part of the story.  For some of us, one tiny part of that grand story becomes a central theme for us — motherhood, the loss of the lover, the departed parents, the betrayal, the struggle with the forces of evil, or that grand search for the beloved.

What part of the story are you experiencing?  Is it the raising of the dead?  The healing of personal blindness?  Feeding the hunger of the multitude?  Working in the garden of life? Being a shepherd?

In dreams and religion Christ is also represented as the son of the Cosmos or God. This aspect of Christ possibly comes about because of a sense many people have that the origin of their personal life is from beyond the Earth. This powerful urge to see oneself as more than a physical body is symbolised by Christ, a being who transcends physical boundaries. Perhaps this is why the film ET is so moving for many.

Human beings of all ages have, when opening to the influence of their larger perceptions during meditation, trance, prayer, or drug use, experienced awareness of love existing behind the creation of things, a love that is the source of the big-bang itself, a love that willingly died that we might exist. Humanity became aware of this at a particular stage of the development of self-awareness. The arrival at this stage of self-awareness was expressed in what we know as the historical Jesus. The internal awareness of the love that gave us being was projected outwardly and became the Christian Myth.

As one man who encountered Christ said, “Christ is like the sun, a principle of nature. No one can own it, although different individuals or groups can relate to it or use it in various ways, as happens with electricity. The Roman Catholic Church cornered the market so to speak. Prior to the Council of Nicaea there was a free market. You could say the church fenced off a beach and started charging people to go to it on Sundays. And there are different names for this natural principle in different languages.”

See: meetings with Christ; religion and dreamsArchetype of the self.

 

Useful Questions and Hints:

What aspects of the Christ archetype, if any, am I influenced by?

Am I repulsed or held by the influence of the ‘live by these rules’ pressure?

Am I helped by the belief there is a divine loving presence?

Do I feel the power of an inner wonder and potential I am allowing into my life?

In recognising my relationship with Christ, can I evolve it to something more satisfying?

Try Talking with a Dream Character.

Comments

-Lucinda 2015-10-09 22:19:47

In a dream I had last night, I found myself clinging to the head of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio. As I looked down, I thought, there was only 2 ways down. I could jump to my death or climb down. While I was not frightened or scared in anyway, I gradually slid my way down the statue and landed safely on the ground.

While the past 8 years have left me with challenges I feel reassured now that all is not lost and I can endure.

the best dream I have had to date! :)

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