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Archetype of the animal
Throughout history we can see that humans have created images of animals and worshiped them. So there are many animal archetypes from many different cultures, too many to deal with here. But the animal as archetype is enormously potent and met again and again in dreams and in life if you are discovering the profound dimensions of yourself.
The animal archetype is an expression of the huge area of human mind and process underlying the modern personality. Being an animal is part of our history and is the foundation upon which our human personality is built. The wonder, beauty and power of this archetype can perhaps be appreciated if we consider the emergence of life on our planet, and remember that our unconscious mind is itself an expression of this timeless life process active in us. See The Human Mammal Brain.
Remember the enormity of time that life gradually moved through different forms, realising itself in an infinite number of ways, knowing itself in a multitude of levels. And all of that magnificent unfolding, that bursting out of inanimate matter into self-determined movement, sentience and awareness, is held in the image of the animal, the beast, the creature that now has a head and eyes, that is mother and father and child, being born and dying. In the form of the animal is exhibited all human feelings and failings. The savagery, the gentleness, the strength and vulnerability are all there in this archetype. In it we find the wisdom relevant to the profound patterns of behaviour and hierarchy that we as humans also live and struggle with. In the animal we see the ability to live as an integral part of this planet Earth. The animal demonstrates and includes the knowledge of all climates, of all environments and niche opportunities. It is the reservoir of enormous learning – unconscious, or at least, preconscious, but nevertheless existing as a reality. And all of that is accessible in this archetype. I feel that our human personality is simple a face on a long line of beautiful animals that supports us. See the rock beast.
The negative aspect of this archetype is an influence to slip back into archaic patterns of behaviour; to lose the ability to reflect upon and learn from what we do and feel. Then we might become the member of a pack, attacking or killing whatever is not of our group or type. We might slip back into the simple process of reproducing without bringing in the further levels of learning, culture and creativity open to us as humans.
The positive side of this archetype is the ability to see ones life from the extraordinary longevity of animal existence, to judge our behaviour against the honesty and directness, the self sacrificing and given strength of animal parenthood and existence. We can draw from the incredible diversity of living behaviours developed by our animal kin, and so creatively find problem solving solutions to present difficulties. We have access to the wider awareness of animal intuition, of instinctive knowledge of natural processes and the deep power of perception that arises from the insight into body language that our fellow creatures have. See: animals.
Useful Questions and Hints:
Am I caring for, denying, or even mistreating my animal?
Have I managed to receive any wisdom or qualities from my animal – if so what are they?
Is the flight and fight response of anxiety still dominating me?
Have I managed to lead or integrate my inner animal into my here and now life?
Try being the animal as described in Being the Person or Thing.