Note: This is the second in a series of blogs about Jungian archetypes inspired by artist Tammo de Jongh’s The 12 Faces of Humankind (pictured above). The first blog can be found here along with the location key to the names of all 12 archetypes pictured.
In Jongh’s painting, the archetype of the Fool is the ruddy “laughing man with the wispy beard” in the right side panel. Some may recognize him as King Crimson since this particular artwork was used for one of that rock group’s albums in the 70s.
In Jungian parlance, the Fool is the archetype of Self. In Chrysalis, I chose Merlin to represent this archetype for several reasons. First, although Merlin is often referred to as a magician, he is, in fact, an alchemist. The simple definition of an alchemist is a person able to transform one substance, usually spiritual, into another. Merlin, as you recall, helped transform young Arthur Pendragon into a heroic King. Secondly, we chose Merlin because tarot, again in Jungian parlance, allegorizes the monomythic Hero’s Journey, the overarching theme of Chrysalis Tarot. Your first reading with Chrysalis launches you on a Hero’s Journey of personal transformation.
In tarot, this quest is an alchemical, inward journey leading to enlightenment. It’s also referred to as an awakening or ascension. In Chrysalis, Merlin’s role is to accompany the individual making this journey. Merlin can best be described as that individual’s alter ego or best friend. He is spirit guide, mentor, and guardian.
That said, the archetype of Self, whether idealized as carefree Fool or courageous Hero, is a persona growing comfortable in his or her own skin. Jung called this growth process individuation – the process of becoming whole and wholly individual. The cartoon below explains quite well what this both does and does not mean:
Jung harbored no fondness for groups like the one depicted above because groups, and over-identification with them, stymie individuation and impede spiritual progress. The ego, as we all know, loves to be admired and accepted. It gets along by going along. But the Hero’s Journey requires the difficult unification of opposites and consequently it can be a lonely journey.
For example, the unification of conscious and unconscious; of sun and moon, light and dark, seen and unseen, God and man – of acceptance and rejection – are all struggles characterized by the illusion of separateness. The Hero’s Journey is about reconciling opposites and embracing wholeness (coincidentia oppositorum). Unity of opposites is the “great work” of alchemy: We are all connected; we are all one.
We often write Self with a capital S. We do this to call attention to undifferentiated ego-self from unified Higher Self, which is a way of expressing unification of personal conscious and unconscious (the shadow) with the Collective Unconscious. The archetypes of the Collective Unconscious actively aid the conscious mind in coming to terms with the totality of Self (Psyche) by loosening the grip of ego.
Coming to terms with the totality of Self is an unpleasant notion for the ego, which desires to be in control. You overcome the struggle with ego simply by being aware of it. Ego and awareness cannot coexist.
“Most people are so completely identified with the voice in the head–the incessant stream of involuntary and compulsive thinking and the emotions that accompany it–that we may describe them as being possessed by their mind. As long as you are completely unaware of this, you take the thinker to be who you are. This is the egoic mind. We call it egoic because there is a sense of self, of I (ego), in every thought – every memory, every interpretation, opinion, viewpoint, reaction, emotion. This is unconsciousness, spiritually speaking.”
~ Eckhart Tolle quoted from A New Earth, Chapter 3 titled, “The Core of Ego.”
The Fool (center left) is flanked by The Actress (center right). The Actress is the subject of our next installment. In Chrysalis Tarot, this important role is performed by La Bella Rosa.
© Toney Brooks