Being an empath archetype

Empath Archetype

Let’s all help amplify voices, dispel myths, foster acceptance, and celebrate neurodiversity during Neurodiversity Awareness Month and Autism Awareness Month this April.

Being an Empath

There is overlap between people who have the empath archetype and those who are neurodivergent. As to the extent of that overlap, I am uncertain, but my guess is that it’s quite extensive. I say this as a member of both groups, having plenty of experience with being an empath and falling somewhere along the autism spectrum. I also have multiple close family members who are one or both of these.

Neurodivergence includes autism, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Highly Sensitive People (HSP), ADHD, synesthesia, and many other variations from neurotypical.

Unique Sensory Processing

Most types of neurodiversity include an unusual way of processing sensory information, either being over- or under- sensitive to sensory input. The empath archetype also has this pattern.

Our bodies have myriad ways of sensing the world around us. This is the case before we look at more esoteric things such as intuition, clairvoyance, etc. Let’s start with the basic five senses: touch, hearing, taste, smell and sight.

An important keyword here is “exteroception”. This is the sense of what is happening outside of our bodies. The basic five senses inform our exteroception, so are components of it. People with the empath archetype often focus on their heightened sense of exteroception. They feel especially sensitive to the external world around them. This includes the emotional lives of others.

To learn more about sensitivity and being a Highly Sensitive Person, read my article on the “Princess and the Pea Story: Valuing Sensitivity.

Basics of Interoception

In contrast to exteroception, we also have the sense of “interoception” which is the ability to perceive what is happening within our bodies. This is the sense through which we feel our own hunger, relaxation, pain, temperature, joy, grief, etc. Interoception tells us about our emotional and physical states. When someone tells you to “check in with your body” or to “talk about how you are feeling”, you are using your sense of interoception. Somatic practices exercise interoception. When a person would like to become more “embodied” this is the sense they wish to heighten.

These two sensory systems are not mutually exclusive. We don’t have one set of sensors for internal conditions and another for external inputs. The sensors and neuropathways we use to sense what is around us and in us are interwoven. Exteroception and interoception dance.

Challenge of the Empath Archetype

This is where the challenge of the empath archetype comes in. When a person’s empathic abilities are underdeveloped, the person will not be able to discern which input is outside of her system and which is happening within her body. She doesn’t know what is and isn’t hers. She can’t tell the difference between someone else’s pain and her own. The unaware empath is unable to locate the origin of a sensation.

In the challenged state, the empath archetype has us picking up other people’s feelings. We mistake our friend’s anguish for our own. Soon we are carrying a lot of emotional baggage around that doesn’t belong to us. This emotion and sensation overload takes a toll on our bodies. This is the shadow side of being an empath that most people are familiar with.

This is not to say that we don’t share suffering or joy with others, we do all of the time. But, if we are constantly commingling our emotions, we misjudge the amplitude of these feelings. If we combine our grief with the global grief about a war, we are saddled with a crippling sadness beyond what our systems can handle.

personality archetypes explained workshop

POLL Results

Do you consider yourself an empath? And/or are you neurodivergent?

  • I’m an empath = 19%
  • I’m neurodivergent = 11%
  • Both are true = 70%
    (27 VOTES)

Share your answer to these questions in the comments below!

Questions to Ask

To help bring out the gifts of the empath archetype, the first step is to learn about the exteroception and interoception systems. The most helpful question here is, “Where is this sensation coming from?” The answer could be “out there”, “in here”, or “both”. When the answer is “both places”. Then the next question is, “How much is coming from the different places?” Or put another way, “What here is mine and what here is that of others?”

The next challenge for someone with the empath archetype is to then modulate their sensory systems consciously versus unconsciously.

When an empath’s sensory system gets overwhelmed, their automatic, unconscious reflex is to shut down. It’s the equivalent of a hedgehog rolling into a ball. Nothing gets in our out. Nothing happens internally either. This stillness can offer respite, but it is not a lasting solution. As soon as the empath turns their senses back on, it all comes rushing back full force, or maybe even stronger.

This swing between hypersensitivity (feeling too much) and hyposensitivity (feeling too little) is a classic challenge for someone who is unaware of how to work with the empath archetype.

Bringing Out the Gifts

The gift of the empath archetype is navigating the sensory landscape and discerning these key things.

  • Where is the sensation/emotion/experience originating?
  • How much is coming from each location?
  • Which of my senses do I to turn up or down to take care of myself?

This last pieces is really important. As an empath who feels everything strongly, you might be asking, “When would I ever want to feel something more?” A common myth about the empath archetype is that they feel everything too much and they need to set better boundaries. This myth encourages a reactionary shut down that is problematic. See-sawing back and forth between wide open and shut down causes exhaustion and stress.

Take this example: A woman who is unaware of how to work with the empath archetype is flooded by the anguish of a mass shooting in her community. She spends weeks drowning in terror and despair. She scrambles around trying to be there for others who were impacted, but never feels like she’s helping much. This woman continues to take on more suffering the more people she sees. Total exhaustion and physical illness hit. Then she spends days in bed. A chronic illness may settle in. The whole time she feels totally helpless in the face of such an atrocity.

Story of a Balanced Empath

Let’s say this woman is in the gifted empath archetype. She is aware of how to work with the patterns. Here’s how the same circumstances would look. She is flooded with the terror and anguish of the mass shooting. She pauses to turn down the loads of external suffering (exteroception), and turn up her more quiet interoception to “check in” with her own body and system.

The empath archetype in her reminds her to take a break to honor her own emotions first. She goes for a walk in the woods. She turns her exteroception back up to take in the beauty, peace, and comfort of nature. Listening again to her interior, she finds a sense of resolve and strength.

She is ready to visit a friend at the hospital who was wounded in the shooting. She keeps her exteroception at medium volume, micro-tuning it as needed. When her interoception tells her she has given all the care she has for today, she gives her friend a fully present, loving hug and leaves.

Her retreat allows her energy to re-engage day after day, for as long as her friend needs. The woman with the empath archetype is present the whole time to feel the depth and breadth and beauty of life. She feels connected and loved. In the aftermath of the tragedy, her days ebb and flow in the way described above. Always, the woman with the gifts of the empath archetype comes back to center. Always, she listens, senses, and adjusts.

To learn more about neurodivergence, especially in women, I highly recommend the book “Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World that Wasn’t Designed for You” by Jenara Nerenberg.

For more information on sensory differences, interoception, and all EIGHT of our senses see:


Are you an empath? Do you have the empath archetype? Learn your archetypes and how they shape you so you can become more of your authentic self in the
> Personality Archetypes Explained Workshop <


femme fatale archetype

Femme Fatale Archetype

 The Femme Fatale Archetype

The Femme Fatale archetype’s name is a French term meaning “fatal” or “disastrous” woman. Other names for the Femme Fatale archetype include: temptress, seductress, siren, harpy, black widow, man-eater, and succubus.

Superficially, the Femme Fatale archetype comes across a dangerous seductress who lures men into her clutches. Society tends to view her as an attractive and powerful woman who relishes the destruction of men. She is a favorite screen character contaminated by host of stereotypes that prevent us from knowing her full story.

A Woman Stripped of Agency

The Femme Fatale did not start out as a violent person, she was made one through man’s (or god’s) need for vengeance. When we trace the Femme Fatale’s roots we see her in stories of the first woman. The Greek goddess Pandora is a perfect example of the Femme Fatale.

The Greek god Zeus was angry with Prometheus for stealing fire from Mt. Olympus and giving it to man. He felt it gave man an unfair advantage and he sought to level the playing field. He commanded all the gods to create Pandora. She was beautiful, beguiling, witty, and extravagantly adorned. Then Zeus delivered her to the doorstep of Prometheus’s brother as a “gift”. She carried with her a jar (or box in some stories) that contained all the ills of the world. When Pandora opens the jar, she does so out of curiosity, not malice, and inadvertently plagues the world of men.

Through Pandora’s story and the stories of other first women like Eve and Lilith, we see that the Femme Fatale archetype begins as a victim or vessel of vengeance. Pandora did not ask to curse the world. She had no choice in the matter. The Femme Fatale’s story is not about a woman with agency, but a woman stripped of agency. She is on a journey to recover the power she’s lost.

Fighting Vengeance with Revenge

The shadow Femme Fatale is a common archetype of victims of sexual discrimination and sexual assault. To escape brutality forced upon her, the Femme Fatale fights violence with violence. The Femme Fatale is trying to heal, but she does so via shadow means. All she knows is cruelty, so she turns to cruelty.

In the movies and TV, the Femme Fatale weaves an elaborate web to trap her perpetrator and make him suffer. If she doesn’t kill him outright, she maims his reputation and ruins his fortune. In the television series Damages, for example, the actress Glenn Close brilliantly portrays a shadow Femme Fatale. This makes for entertaining cinema, but is a terrible depiction of reality. These fictions ignore the power inequity the Femme Fatale, and women, face.

Due to the sexual double standard, most women in real-life don’t consider going after the man that caused them harm. The power inequity is too great. No one will believe her or back her. She doesn’t have the social or financial resources to overpower him. She may prey on weaker men, but she usually looks elsewhere.

In the shadow, the Femme Fatale goes after other women by smearing their reputations and undermining their self-esteem. The Femme Fatale can also invert the violence, and take revenge upon herself. This results in self-harm and isolation.

The Feminist Movement

We don’t use the term Femme Fatale in conversation today, but she’s here in your every day life and her name is “slut”. The terms are synonymous. Efforts to raise awareness about the cruelty of slut-bashing and slut-shaming are at the heart of the Femme Fatale archetype. In her light side, the Femme Fatale speaks out against the sexual double standard and sexual discrimination. She is in the #metoo, #weasourselves, and other movements for sexual and gender equality.

The feminist movement is powered by the Femme Fatale archetype and her drive to recover agency for women and all gender and sexual minorities.

She endeavors to lift the veil on sexual assault. Her light shines through in the recent testimonies of female US Olympic Gymnasts. In addition to revealing the atrocities of an evil man and confronting him in court, these gymnasts are banding together to unveil systemic violence throughout national organizations and government. The #muteRKelly movement is revealing abuses in the music industry and we’ve seen similar unveilings in Hollywood.

Femme Fatale’s Sisterhood

The Femme Fatale in the light gathers together with other victims of sexual violence and discrimination to create a sisterhood. Part of her initial wounding involves exile and isolation. To heal she must find others to join together with. Together their voices are too loud. Society and those in power can no longer dismiss them. Meeting their demands for change is the only option.

The sisterhood not only serves to elevate voices of the abused, it also employs love to help the Femme Fatale archetype heal. She opens her heart to her fellow survivors. She realizes that true power resides in love. The Femme Fatale moves from destructive indignation to creative action in her experience of being part of something larger than herself.

A Fully Examined Life

The Femme Fatale moves in the light by first identifying the personal injuries inflicted upon her by a specific person or people. By recognizing the perpetrator and naming her abuse, she steps out of shame. To continue her healing she can’t stop there. If she is unable to find justice she may never heal. Even if she does get her day in court and the abuser has to pay for his crime, her mistrust in people will remain.

The path to feeling safe to open her heart resides in a fully examined life. She needs to understand her position in a culture that enables and excuses sexual violence. Her abuser was able to do what he did and get away with it. She realizes that he is not the only problem, the system is. Then she endeavors to change the cultural views and treatment of both women and non-dominate genders and sexualities. She fully examines the system and works toward creating solutions that include loving, equal treatment of all. She balances out her destructive capacity with her creative ability.

The Femme Fatale archetype in the light lives a fully examined life. She is an agent of love. She clears out prejudices and double-standards within herself. The Femme Fatale owns her attempts to overpower others. She dismantles her rage against misogyny. She gives up the fatal lust for power and turns to love. In the end, her commitment to non-violence, awareness, equality, and love wins out.


Explore your relationship with the
Femme Fatale archetype…

The “Lover Archetypes” Online Class

This four-part audio course defines the Lover, Don Juan, and Femme Fatale archetypes. These archetypes are all concerned with affairs of the heart. The Lover shifts from personal to collective to embodied love. The Don Juan shows that the trick to thwarting hypocrisy is being honest and loving. The Femme Fatale confronts abuses of power with the agency of a loving heart.


don juan archetype

Don Juan Archetype

The Don Juan Archetype

The use of the name “Don Juan” in reference to a womanizer began in 1630 with a play called The Trickster of Seville written by Tirso de Molina in Spain. There are many names for the Don Juan archetype including Casanova, ladies man, womanizer, lady killer, Lothario (which comes from the novel Don Quixote), Libertine, Romeo (thank you Shakespeare), playboy, and philanderer.

All of these names originate in the 16th and 17th centuries, which means the Don Juan archetype was likely born in that era. However, archetypes do not materialize out of thin air. Archetypes, by definition, are both timeless and universal. The Don Juan has to come from somewhere, but where?

Origins of the Don Juan

The Don Juan originated from another, well known archetype. That archetype is the trickster. Many qualities of the trickster archetype show themselves in the Don Juan archetype. The Don Juan tricks women into falling in love with him. He also plays tricks on society, thwarting social norms and breaking taboos. The Don Juan, like many tricksters, has a large sexual appetite and considers himself beyond the reach of governing bodies.

The Don Juan archetype turns ideas of honor on their head just like the trickster has a knack for turning things upside down. Moral codes suggest that a man not covet another man’s wife, but this is precisely what the Don Juan archetype in the shadow does. He goes after the women that society tells him he can’t have. He shoots above his rank and position, goes for the unwed maiden, or takes the powerful man’s wife. By society’s standards, the Don Juan is dishonorable. In trickster fashion, he has a way of using dishonor to build a reputation as a ladies man.

It is important to note that the Don Juan arose from the trickster archetype, but is NOT the same archetype. They are two distinct archetypal patterns. The Don Juan is concerned with love and sexual relationships. The trickster encompasses a much larger and different sphere of influences.

The Don Juan vs. The Lover Archetype

The lover archetype and the Don Juan are also similar but distinct. Both are concerned with affairs of the heart and romantic relationships. They evolve from trying to control their romantic partners to cultivating a truly loving relationship that respects the rights and freedom of their partner.

The big difference between the lover and the Don Juan archetype is apparent when looking at their shadows. The lover in the shadow is the one that is duped. The lover falls head over heels and forgets herself entirely in her infatuation with the object of her desire. The shadow lover could be described as loving too easily.

The Don Juan in the shadow behaves in the opposite way. The shadow Don Juan archetype is obsessed with himself and wants his partner to join him in that self-absorption. In the shadow, the Don Juan is the one that is doing the duping and does not love easily or openly.

Finding Self-Love

The Don Juan in the shadow is in love with himself and expects everyone else to be too. Not all narcissists are Don Juans, but all shadow Don Juans are narcissists.  He is charming, witty, and attractive which affirms his high opinion of himself. Most people adore him. The Don Juan dresses to impress and is entirely absorbed with what pleases him.

The general consensus about the Don Juan is that he is in love with himself and that he can’t love anyone else. He is seen as selfish and self-centered, which is true when he’s in the under-developed, shadow state.

The Don Juan’s self-love is based on a hardened self-image. This stone-like exterior prevents love from coming in as much as going out. The trick is on him. He has isolated himself from what feeds his soul. To evolve, the Don Juan archetype must soften, die to the image of himself, and truly get to know who he is deep down. Once he meets himself,  he discovers acceptance and honest love of self.

In the light, the Don Juan archetype knows and truly loves himself. He has dropped the trick of the surface image and embraced the vulnerability of being real. Only then can he experience reciprocity in love.

Reforming the Rake or Bad Boy

Another term for the Don Juan archetype is rake. Those of you familiar with the novel or show Bridgerton probably caught Daphne calling Simon a “notorious rake.” The Don Juan archetype is popular in books, shows, and movies these days because there is a special allure to the rake. Many women want to reform him.

The bad boys who slip the grasp of relationships and can’t seem to love their partners are attractive in a backwards kind of way. A woman tempted by the Don Juan thinks, “What if after having sampled all these lovers that I am THE ONE that he can’t live without? What if he loves me so much that he is ready to finally settle down?”

The problem is that this woman places her self-esteem in the Don Juan’s hands and he can smell her weakness a mile away. As much as the Don Juan needs to develop true self-love, he also must find a partner that knows the same self-love. They need to be confident on their own in order to be confident together.

Don Juan Archetype as Taboo Breaker

So far in this article, I’ve talked about the Don Juan as a “he” and his partner as a “she”. These are outdated conventions that the Don Juan archetype in the light breaks every day. The Don Juan in the light is loving and inclusive of all people. His inherent disregard for class, status, race, sexuality, and gender makes him a brilliant champion of human rights.

The Don Juan transcends sexual and gender taboos, breaking all boundaries to love. It is in his/her nature to confuse preconditioned notions of him/her. We find this archetype in people of all genders and all sexual orientations. Great examples of Don Juans who break gender and sexual stereotypes are Shane McCutcheon in The L Word, Samantha Jones in Sex and the City, and Brian Kinney in Queer as Folk.

Expert at Honest Consent

In the shadow, the Don Juan archetype uses deceit and manipulation to gain consent from his partners, or he disregards consent altogether. When looking at the light of the Don Juan, the opposite happens. The Don Juan has the potential to be gifted with consent.

According to Project Respect, “”Consent is a mutual verbal, physical, and emotional agreement that happens without manipulation, threats, or head games.” [1]

In the light, the Don Juan uses their charm, superb ability to read body language and non-verbal cues, and keen intuition to read if a person’s feelings match their words. The Don Juan is an expert at attaining and delivering honest consent. They want to know how their partner honestly feels. The Don Juan knows what they truly want and is honest about it. The Don Juan is committed to discerning and discussing any power inequities in the relationship, and to making sure that the relationship (romantic or otherwise) is based on mutual respect and love.



Explore your relationship with the
Don Juan archetype…

“The Lover Archetypes” Online Class

This four-part audio course on “The Lovers” defines the Lover, Don Juan, and Femme Fatale archetypes. These archetypes are all concerned with affairs of the heart. The Lover shifts from personal to collective to embodied love. The Don Juan shows that the trick to thwarting hypocrisy is being honest and loving. The Femme Fatale confronts abuses of power with the agency of a loving heart.



Dilettante Archetype

Dilettante, Polymath, and Generalist Archetype

The Dilettante Archetype

First thing’s first, what does dilettante mean? The word “dilettante” is Italian in origin and refers to a person who studies something, such as the arts, for amusement. It comes from the root dilettare which means “to delight”. The dilettante delights in learning many different things. The meaning of dilettante today relates to someone who has superficial understanding of a subject, but who pursues it anyway.

Not only is there confusion around the meaning of the word, but also how to say it. The way to pronounce dilettante is “dill-uh-taant”. The “e” at the end is silent.

Many people describe the dilettante as an amateur, a dabbler. The Latin root of amateur is amator meaning “lover”, so we also see that the dilettante cares deeply about what she learns.

Archetypes are NOT measures of intelligence or aptitude. The name of an archetype is not quantitative and it should not indicate person’s skill level. Archetypes help us identify patterns of human behavior along a FULL spectrum of ability.

To say that the dilettante archetype is always superficial is to use the stereotype. At times this archetype is a dabbler and at others she is extremely knowledgeable. We need to expand our understanding of the patterns of this archetype. The easiest way to do that is to look at the many different names that relate to this one archetypal pattern.

The Polymath Archetype

The dilettante archetype is also the polymath archetype. The polymath is someone whose knowledge is far-ranging. She has an omnivorous curiosity and easily impresses others with everything she knows.

The typical polymath is skilled in many art forms, can hold her own in a scientific debate, is well versed in politics and history, and may speak multiple languages. Think of Oprah Winfrey who is a journalist, actor, critic, publisher, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. She is also an influencer in theology/spirituality, psychology, cultural studies, politics, and fitness/nutrition.

Both the dilettante and polymath study many things at once. This pattern is archetypal. In today’s culture, the polymath is viewed as brilliant and talented. The dilettante is seen as a charlatan who pretends to know more than she does. But, throughout history this has not always been the case. There were periods when the term “polymath” was a criticism, and times when the term “dilettante” was a compliment.

Shadow of Superficiality

The common challenge of this archetype centers around superficiality. Her depth of knowledge is under constant scrutiny. This scrutiny can come from others or from within.

There is a myth that says one person cannot know a lot about a lot. The pressure to specialize in a specific field is intense. Just think about the requirement to choose a major in college. Not to mention that universities were originally established to provide a “universal” education. There is not a lot of tolerance for the generalist in today’s society. Think of the put down “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

On the other hand, it is possible that the criticisms are true. In the shadow, the dilettante can be a consummate dabbler. She flits from one domain to the next. Her delight distracts her from staying long enough to know something well. She pretends to know way more than she does.

When the criticism comes from within, the shadow dilettante archetype can be hard on herself. She feels she is superficial no matter what. She focuses on what she can’t do and yearns to know more. This insecurity drives a constant quest for learning everything about everything. It is exhausting.

Information Overload

This brings us to another challenge of the dilettante archetype. She struggles with information overload. In her effort to know everything, she is under immense pressure to learn. The shadow dilettante takes on too many projects at once. She multitasks, and when that doesn’t work she cuts down on self-care. The over-extended dilettante doesn’t get enough sleep or eat regular meals.

There is no way one human can take on all she does. Projects go unfinished and promises unmet. This leads to information anxiety.

The mature dilettante is different. She learns how to classify and categorize information so it’s easily accessible. She knows how many projects she can handle at once. The sensible dilettante discerns when she knows enough and readily admits when she doesn’t know. This alleviates the pressure to know everything and allows her interests to guide the way.

Power of the Generalist

When she learns how to moderate her project load, there is a light side to the dilettante archetype. She has many gifts. First of all, today’s world needs more generalists. Our problems are too complex to solve from the myopic lens of one specialty. We need generalists who are able to carry solutions between disciplines.

The more wide-ranging the generalist’s interests, the more likely she is to bring revolutionary ideas. For example, my lessons in natural horsemanship provide analogies for working with emotions on the spiritual path. Patterns I observe in nature help me know more about my own nature.

Taking knowledge from one field and using it as an analogy in another is called “deep analogical thinking”. The generalist, aka dilettante archetype, is much better at deep analogical thinking than the specialist. Here we see that the dilettante is a deep thinker. She sees the deep, underlying structure of a problem. Just like that, the superficiality stereotype dissolves.

Inter-Spiritual Dilettante

The dilettante archetype in today’s world is the “inter-disciplinary”, the person who studies many disciplines. The popularity the inter-disciplinary is increasing in academia and business, but less so in spirituality. There is a criticism of a person who studies many religions and spiritual paths at once. She is called the “spiritual dilettante”. People say her spirituality is superficial because she hasn’t committed to a single path. She is simply dabbling. But as we now know, this is one end of the spectrum of this archetypal pattern.

The person who follows many spiritual paths can be the dilettante in the light. She indeed goes deeper. Mirabai Starr teaches that the spiritual dilettante in the light uses many tools to dig one deep well. Mirabai has coined the term “inter-spiritual” in relation to the person of many faiths.

The spiritual path is littered with complex problems. The inter-spiritual dilettante’s far-ranging knowledge gives her an advantage. Think of how many spiritual masters answer questions with parables. Parables are deep analogies, which the dilettante excels at.


Explore your relationship with the
dilettante, polymath, and generalist archetype…

the learners class

The “Learner Archetypes” Online Class

In this four-part audio course, “The Learners,” Stacey Couch goes in-depth into the student, dilettante, and seeker archetypes. These archetypes share a perpetual love of learning, driven to know about the nature of life. The student converts experience into knowledge and wise action. The dilettante turns information overload into the grace of awe. The seeker transforms ambiguous questions into universal truth.



mentor archetype

The Student Archetype

Student Archetype

The student is all about learning. She looks to own information and skills, but knowledge is more than a collection of facts. Knowledge is also awareness and experience. To bring the learning to fruition, the student must gather the courage to apply it in the real world. She must give up living by the book, and learn to think for herself.

For the immature student, learning is a process that happens by transmission. A teacher relays information to the student. The student absorbs this information, and regurgitates it in original form. The teacher’s pet is the one who parrots information back the best, and that is the pinnacle of performance for her.

The student archetype who is underdeveloped swings between two extremes. On one end, she has no confidence in her own intelligence and thinks that she isn’t good at learning. This presents a barrier to education and causes her to be close-minded. This sets the student up to default to the teacher and not own her previous experience and ability to learn. On the other hand, the student archetype is overly confident in her ability. She thinks she already knows everything because she’s studied so hard. This also results in a closed mind.

Learning to the Test

The student starts out with an obsessive, insatiable hunger to learn. She wants to get all the answers right. For the undeveloped student archetype, good grades and being the top of her class are everything.

When she gets a bad grade, the student archetype can blame her teacher. She may fault the curriculum and badmouth the school. Whether the accusations are true or not, the student can place the responsibility for her education outside of herself.

When it is time to put her knowledge to use, the student can refuse to act. She uses the excuse of too few credentials, degrees, credits, or certifications. The antithesis of trial by fire, the student studies instead of acts. She prefers to remain in the ivory tower, naive of real world problems she’s ill equipped to solve. She’d rather take another exam and try for a better score than leave academia.

In her unevolved form, the student learns to ace the test. She much prefers the critical eye of her teacher over that of public opinion. Extrinsic approval and the reward of a high GPA motivates her.

Student in Experiential Learning

As she grows, the student archetype realizes that learning involves building on pre-existing knowledge. Learning is a process of construction and creation that needs her engagement. Passive absorption no longer satisfies her. Instead of taking in raw information without thought, the mature student intentionally processes experience.

As the student finds her role in the learning process her mind opens. She enters into the cycle of experiential learning. In the first step she takes in experience with mindfulness, watching with curiosity. Next, she reflects on what happened and sits with what puzzles her.

Paramount for the mature student is the act of metacognition – thinking about her own thinking. She engages her to come up with potential solutions. Coming up with answers on her own versus insisting someone provide the right answer, means the student is taking responsibility for her own learning process. She not only thinks for herself, but evaluates her own learning process to learn about how she learns.

The empowered student is willing to make an educated guess, and put this theory to the test with intentional action. This is testing to learn. She is the self-author of her knowledge, willing to carry it out into the real world and put what she knows to the test.

Multiple Forms of Intelligence

The student archetype initially focuses on IQ. She sees learning purely as an intellectual pursuit and wants to sharpen her cognitive abilities. She relies heavily on reasoning and logic to get her through. The immature student feels good about herself when she scores higher than her classmates on exams. She believes she can think her way through anything if she learns the right facts and procedures. There is definitely a shadow of competitiveness when IQ scores and GPAs are in the picture.

The enlightened student archetype stands back from the impulse to be a smarty-pants, know-it-all and opens up to the intelligence of others. She sees everyone as her equal regardless of who knows more or less than she does. She enjoys a good study session with colleagues with a mutual sharing of ideas.

As she matures, the student opens to other forms of intelligence within. These include emotional intelligence and intuitive intelligence. The biology also has its own intelligence. She starts listening to aches, pains, and pleasures of the body as valuable sources of information. The student learns to access the greater cosmic intelligence, and uses faculties beyond the five senses to receive information through spiritual guidance.

Learning from the physical, emotional, intuitive, and spiritual systems, the student grows into a truly talented learner. No longer does she need textbooks because knowledge is everywhere. She actively engages with creating and using it.

Student vs. Teacher

The student archetype is primarily interested in learning, period. If someone wants to hear what she’s learned, she’ll be glad to share. However, she doesn’t want to help someone else understand. The student is interested in her personal learning and advancement. She doesn’t make a good teacher.

Some people wonder if they have both the student and the teacher archetypes. These two archetypes are too similar to have both as your primary archetypes. People who are dedicated to helping others learn are inherently learners themselves. Thus, the student is embedded within the teacher. For the people who prefer to learn for learning’s sake, they have the student archetype only.


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The “Learner Archetypes” Online Class

In this four-part audio course, “The Learners,” Stacey Couch goes in-depth into the student, dilettante, and seeker archetypes. These archetypes share a perpetual love of learning, driven to know about the nature of life. The student converts experience into knowledge and wise action. The dilettante turns information overload into the grace of awe. The seeker transforms ambiguous questions into universal truth.



exorcist archetype

The Exorcist Archetype

The Exorcist Archetype

The exorcist archetype drives out evil spirits from a person or place. Originally the word “exorcise” meant to conjure up an evil spirit. This shows the thin line the exorcist walks between expelling the darkness and invoking it.

Demon / Daimon / Daemon

Evil spirits are often described as demons. Demons have a reputation for causing torment, illness, and calamity.

The term demon originates from the Greek word “daimon” (also spelled “daemon”), which started out with a neutral connotation. Those of you who watch His Dark Materials on HBO or BBC are familiar with this definition. Daimon refers to a spirit of any kind from a guardian angel to a malevolent force. The exorcist archetype is able to tell the difference between different types of daimons.

Her ability to tell good from evil is a valuable skill because seemingly mild things can be dangerous. On the other hand, apparently fierce beings turn out to be benevolent. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “The devil is a skillful painter.

Not every spirit that possesses us is bad. We can be possessed by the spirit of a helpful, creative idea. Psychics, mediums, and shamans are possessed by helping spirits to receive insight for others. They are trust the exorcist archetype within to discern what energy is appropriate to channel.

Inner and Outer Demons

Outer demons manifest as literal evil in the world that can inhabit people and places. These are the demons of TV shows and movies such as The Exorcist. Outer demons cause good people to turn into monsters. Outer demons can inflict terrible illnesses. One example in the Bible is the story of Jesus and the boy with seizures in the gospel of Matthew chapter 17: 14-21.

It takes years of training to learn how to conduct exorcisms of outer demons. Anyone learning to expel outer demons should have an expert mentor or teacher. Becoming a professional exorcist requires rigorous initiation and training.

If you are going to a professional exorcist to battle outer demons besieging you, be mindful. You run the risk of developing a codependent relationship with your exorcist. You are less likely to be ensnared by outer demons if you are able to confront your inner demons.

Inner demons manifest in a myriad of ways. Some of the most common are the demons of fear, craving, hatred, grudges, pride, depression, anxiety, and addiction. We often use the term “he is battling his demons” when someone is struggling with mental illness or addiction. We all have our own inner demons to clear. Even though we use the language metaphorically, inner demons can inflict real harm.

Exorcist Archetype versus Shaman Archetype

Not all shamans are exorcists, and not all exorcists are shamans. Just like not all priests are exorcists, and not all exorcists are priests. A person can carry the exorcist archetype without being associated with shamanism or any clergy. There are many specialties in shamanism, and exorcism is just one of at least a dozen specialities.

The exorcist archetype is concerned with clearing out or neutralizing evil spirits and evil traits. She works with the fundamental polarities of light and dark. She is the candle in the darkness that pitches good against evil.

The shaman archetype is an intermediary between the worlds. She navigates the spirit, human, and natural worlds. The shaman  has a foot in both worlds. She communicates with nature spirits and the elements, and performs healings.

The Shadow Exorcist Archetype

In the shadow, the exorcist archetype mistrusts any spirit. An example of this is the Catholic priest that exorcises a little girl who plays with nature spirits in her backyard. The girl’s affiliation with pixies and sprites is innocent and natural. However, the exorcist in the shadow makes the little girl feel wrong. He taints her innate intimacy with the helping spirits of the natural world. At the most extreme, the exorcist archetype works to cast out traits of people he does not agree with. An example of this is conversion or reparative therapy for LGBTQ+ people. The shadow exorcist puts the label of “evil demon” on someone’s human nature.

The exorcist archetype in the shadow may have trouble handling all the evil around her, and, if she’s not careful, the darkness can overwhelm her. This is the cautionary tale of the exorcist becoming the possessed person. The demon jumps off the person she’s exorcising and onto her.

The shadow exorcist can become possessed with a lust for power. She may be so good at her job of expelling demonic spirits that she gets high on the power and prestige. In battling so many blood-thirsty demons, the exorcist archetype becomes a monster. She can’t help herself but find demons everywhere and pride herself on being the person who can conquer them.

Light Attracts Dark and Dark Attracts Light

The exorcist archetype in the light is a master at one particular mystical law: the law that light attracts darkness and darkness attracts light. This is the mystical law of yin and yang, of opposing forces.

The exorcist is mindful that as her light grows so will the darkness that comes to her door. Therefore, she is careful not to amplify her light beyond her capacity to manage the darkness.

Many exorcists are overwhelmed by dark forces when they focus solely on conjuring the light and refuse to meet their own inner demons. The exorcist in her power knows that working through her own fears and insecurities is just as important than nurturing her inner light.

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.” – Carl Jung

Exorcist Archetype in the Light

The exorcist archetype in the light is a master at navigating the stages of exorcism. She is able to name and engage with the demon. This shines light on the darkness, which is the first step to neutralizing it.

Demons have a natural ability to re-sprout like the hydra’s head. The exorcist knows this. In the story of the Buddhist goddess Kali and the Demons, she struggles to defeat the last demon king because every drop of blood he sheds sprouts a new demon horde.

The exorcist archetype in the light knows that the demons will always come back. Mara always returned to Buddha the Enlightened One. Jesus exorcised many. The exorcist in her power knows that does not mean she’s failed. This is a matter of mystical law – light attracts darkness.

There is a link between the exorcist archetype and the practice of feeding. Kali drank Raktavira’s blood to staunch the flow of demons. Machig Labdron, a famous 11th century Tibetan yogini, feed a horde of nagas (the Buddhist term for demons) from her own body. There is something about nourishing one another that breaks polarization. Polarization keeps the demon alive.

The exorcist in the light is able to carry the paradox of dark and light. She is able to hold her center in the midst of the most powerful dualities – dark and light; good and evil. She does not shy away from darkness, nor does she become intoxicated by the light. She neutralizes duality into oneness.


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The “Purifier Archetypes” Online Class

All three archetypes clear out the status quo to make way for an expansive, naked awareness. They purify us along the spiritual path and address the fears we encounter. The exorcist transmutes demons into allies and separation into union. The destroyer embraces the cycle of destruction to unlock hidden potential. The liberator uses wisdom to free us from attachment and suffering.



destroyer archetype

The Destroyer Archetype

The Destroyer Archetype

The destroyer archetype is a force of nature, a simple truth that just is. When you consider the destroyer archetype, think of natural disasters – wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earth quakes, volcanoes, landslides, and avalanches.

Just as creation is a cosmic force, so is destruction. Destruction is at work everywhere. All that is in the cosmos is impermanent and will come to an end. This is the truth of the destroyer archetype.

The destroyer archetype brings about the end of things. Another way of saying it is that the destroyer brings death. As Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the United States, once said, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

The Destroyer is Chaotic

Destruction, by definition is to take apart structure and order in a disorganized way. The destroyer archetype is chaotic and messy. This frightens us because it highlights the fragility of life, of our lives, and how small we are in the grand scheme of things.

The fear of loss and death breeds the need to attach meaning to destructive events. If we can explain why our neighbor’s house burned down, then we presumably can avoid the same fate. The trouble with the destroyer archetype in the shadow is that it draws us into false narratives. If we can’t find a reasonable physical cause of a disaster, we blame the immoral behavior of the victims. We say that God punished them.

Deluge myths are the most famous of these narratives. From Noah and the flood in the Bible, to Utnapishtim and the flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh, we find countless stories of destroyer gods punishing man for poor behavior. The men and their friends and family that survive the floods were rewarded for being kind or virtuous.

The problem is that these stories oversimplify the complex nature of the destroyer archetype. When the force of destruction is unleashed it is impossible to predict who will be hit and how. Think of the tornado that levels a house and leaves the one next door completely intact. There are a multitude of GoFundMe pages with stories of inexplicable devastation striking good people.

The destroyer archetype touches everyone’s lives in different ways at different degrees and different times.

The destroyer archetype works in a chaotic fashion and does not follow a direct line to the finish. It works in fits and starts. She turns back and devours her own tail. However, there are recognizable stages in a destructive event that progress over time.

Stages of the Destroyer Archetype

The first stage of destruction is evacuation. This is when you may or may not receive warning. The tornado siren may blare. A flash flood warning could buzz into your phone. You might smell smoke. Either way, you have a very short amount of time to get out and take whatever you can with you.

Next is the stage of shelter. We have bomb and tornado shelters. You might “shelter in place.” This is when the chaos is at its peak, raining down destruction all around, but in the shelter you sit tight.

The third stage of destruction is surveying. At this point, we seek an arial view to assess the damage and gauge if it’s safe to return. Noah used a raven and dove. Today we use helicopters, drones, and cameras. When you have experienced a destructive event, you dig through the rubble at this stage to see what and who has survived. This is the same for literal disasters as well as life tragedies such as an illness, divorce, death of a loved one, and loss of a job.

Then come the aftershocks. After the initial catastrophe, most people try to start rebuilding immediately. The chaotic temperament of the destroyer archetype is not over yet. Aftershocks, landslides, or additional storms that no one saw coming undermine the new construction. This can be the most trying stage of working with the destroyer archetype because the aftershocks thwart every last shred of hope.

Lastly, is recolonization or “succession” as the biologists call it. This is when new seeds can take root and you can rebuild your inner self and outer life.

Shadow Destroyer

There is no way to live a life without loss, but the shadow destroyer fights this truth. The shadow destroyer may convince you that you can control the devastation. You may decide what to get rid of and think that you can keep everything else intact. Once the destruction begins you realize too late that the flood you unleashed is going to take more and harm more than you intended. This can breed a distrust of one’s destructive ability.

We all have and use the force of destruction. In this moment, your body is breaking down food to produce energy which is used up and destroyed. Destruction is as much as part of our nature as creation. The shadow destroyer may tempt you to repress your destructive capacity. We all know what happens when we repress forest fires. Fuel builds up and an out of control mega-fire erupts eventually.

The shadow destroyer can also go too far with destruction and reveal in it, preventing anything in your life from taking root. The shadow destroyer cuts off life. At the most extreme, the shadow destroyer is abusive, suicidal, and murderous.

Destroyer Archetype in the Light

The destroyer archetype in the light has many critical functions. The first is providing a blank slate. If you create without end, eventually, like an overgrown forest, no more light, no more inspiration will be able to get in. There will be no room left to make anything new. The destroyer archetype comes in and makes space for new endeavors and experiences. The destroyer is the left hand of creation.

Destructive events unlock and uncover hidden resources within you. The heat of a forest fire breaks open pine cones and releases the seeds. The intensity of a disaster can call up strength you never knew you had. When your life is busy and full you don’t have time for certain talents. A destructive event opens up time and space to explore new aspects of yourself.

There are always legacies that survive a disaster. Bits of plants or tiny fungi and insects may be the first to recolonize a volcano blast zone. You come to treasure the aspects of your inner self that survived the eruption. These qualities are what help you rebuild.

Finally, the chaotic nature of the destroyer works in your favor, touching different aspects of yourself and your life inconsistently. This creates a diversity of interior, a mosaic of being. After a destructive event, you are in various stages of construction. Some of you is brand new and other parts of your inner landscape are like an old growth forest. In biology, diverse ecosystems are the most resilient and the same is true for you. The destroyer archetype in the light is an agent of resiliency.

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The “Purifier Archetypes” Online Class

All three archetypes clear out the status quo to make way for an expansive, naked awareness. They purify us along the spiritual path and address the fears we encounter. The exorcist transmutes demons into allies and separation into union. The destroyer embraces the cycle of destruction to unlock hidden potential. The liberator uses wisdom to free us from attachment and suffering.



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The Companion Archetype

The Companion Archetype

A companion is someone who travels through life with another person sharing his or her ups and downs. The companion spends a lot of time at this person’s side and acts in a supporting role. A companionship is a partnership, a pairing of two people with one supporting the dreams and motivations of the other. The companion archetype is also known by the names friend, sidekick, wingman, and right arm.

We all have friends and are friends to others, so do we all have the companion archetype?

We all have experience with the companion archetype, but some people have it as a ruling force in their life. You can be a companion to a friend, a family member, a coworker, or a boss. As the companion, you support the other person who is front and center on the main stage.

Dealing with Comparison

As the second fiddle, she can discount her contributions to the partnership. The companion archetype in the shadow gets caught up comparing herself to the person she assists. In the supporting role it is easy for her to think the other person is better than her. The companion in the shadow can assume she isn’t as pretty, smart, or creative as the person she supports.

She feels like she needs another person’s purpose or ideas to follow because she can’t come up with her own. The shadow companion believes the work she does is trivial and not as important as the work of the person in the lead. All of this is a myth.

The companion archetype brings a critical skill set to any pairing. She is able to anticipate what the other person needs before they know they need it. She has a knack for lining things up and for being in the right place at the right time. Just like the little robot R2D2 in the Star Wars movies, the companion shows up with the perfect tools to get the job done when her counterpart needs her.

The unique skill set of the companion is just as valuable as the skills of the person in the limelight. Her ability to pull all the right strings behind stage keeps the show going. Without her, everything would fall apart. When she realizes this, the companion comes into a place of confidence and drops the comparison.

Loyalty and Betrayal

The companion is staunchly loyal. This breeds the expectation that she’ll always be there for the one she supports. In the shadow, the companion feels self-conscious about asking for recognition while struggling with a lack of acknowledgment. She helps out because that’s what she does and who she is. She worries that asking for recognition calls her loyalty into question.

It doesn’t help matters that she is likely to pick a person to assist that is harsh and closed off. This person may be greedy with her compliments. The person in the lead feel threatened by admitting how helpful the companion is. Her assistant is supposed to be less than her after all. If the leader acknowledges how incredibly helpful the companion is, wouldn’t the second in command go out and do something on her own where she could be first?

This tension around recognition and having one person appear better than the other can result in betrayal. If the companion gets frustrated with playing second fiddle, she may demand more appreciation. When the leader is loathe to hand over power, the companion may up and leave with the appointment calendar, financial records, passwords, or worse.

If the leader feels that the companion is getting too full of herself, has too much access to sensitive information, or simply is exerting too much control over the details of her life she could easily oust the assistant in favor of a more submissive helper.

Another form of betrayal could be the leader failing to grant the companion the privileged position of second in command.

Difference Between the Servant and Companion

The companion archetype is devoted to one person at a time and tailors her support to their needs. She is all about one-to-one relationships The servant archetype helps a community of people or is in service to a specific calling. She works in the service industry and helps whomever is in need.

The companion is the second in command, in a favored position. The servant can be anywhere along the social hierarchy.

Companion Archetype in the Light

The companion archetype in the light appears in complementary friendships. Think of two friends, a romantic couple, or business partnership where each is a yin to the other’s yang. These fellow sidekicks fill in each other’s gaps. When one is up, the other is down. When one person plays the lead, the other supports. In addition, they switch roles fluidly and in a way that balances out over time.

The Netflix show Grace & Frankie is a great example. Grace and Frankie are very different but in their differences they help each other out. When Frankie needs help solving a concrete-world problem like paying for a new product line, Grace helps her think through the finances. When Grace struggles with how to reconcile with a new boyfriend, Frankie is there to help her deal with the emotions. They are the head and the heart.

Twins are another great example of the companion archetype in the light. They are equals in every way, finishing each other’s sentences and knowing what the other needs. Folklore says that both twins must be treated well because if one suffers so will the other. They are representative of the bond of two coming together as one.

With a true companionship, there is no concern about who is first and who is second. Each person trusts that they have equal but different merit, power, intelligence, and creativity. Each person’s loyalty is firm, which breeds a spirit of sharing and love. This is where the terms brotherly and sisterly love originated. The companion’s love includes gratitude for the other expressed openly and often.

Softening a Hard Heart

There is a beautiful parallel between the companion archetype and man’s best friend. Dogs are infinitely loyal and forgiving. This dogged nature of the companion can draw her into relationship with disagreeable people. Part of the companion’s talent is to help soften the hard hearts of cruel people. The companion shows up again and again regardless of the treatment she receives. She tries over and over to please the one she supports. She becomes incredibly adept at assisting her leader. Eventually the one in charge can’t help but appreciate the help and open up their hearts.

For those of you Game of Thrones fans think of Podrick and how doggedly he served the bitter Brien of Tarth. She treated him harshly, tried to get rid of him more than once, constantly insulted him, and repeatedly refused his help. To her credit, Podrick was a terrible squire at first, but he worked hard and became the right arm she never knew she needed. Sam in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy stuck similarly close to Frodo’s side even as Frodo turned sour and mean at the end of the arduous journey.

The art of working with the companion archetype is to choose the one you companion wisely. Softening a hard heart is a noble task, but it does not compare to the work of companioning your own rough edges. Remember that to have the resiliency to stick by another’s side, you must also know how to be your own best friend.

Another aspect of the companion archetype is spiritual companionship. To learn more, read this post on “Ways to Find Soul Friendship


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The “Nurturer Archetypes” Online Class

All three archetypes love to care for others and pour their energy into giving. They reach their full potential once they complete the journey through the self and into their unique form of service. The divine mother aligns with the cycles of life. The loyal companion softens the hardened heart. The humble servant embraces service to all.


mystic archetype

The Mystic Archetype

The Mystic Archetype

The mystic archetype brings us into another world, the world of the soul. I have little hope to encompass the whole of the mystic archetype. However, I can direct you to the depths and the places to watch.

A thick mist surrounds the mystic, shrouding her so you can never quite grasp her. To those around her she is a reservoir of peace. Inside she struggles in turmoil. The keystone of what makes the mystic relatable is her suffering. It is intense and enduring. It is unreasonable. Just like her unyielding love of the Divine. 

Suffering of the Mystic Archetype

As a young woman, Julian of Norwich prayed to experience a bodily sickness when she was thirty years old and receive three sacred wounds. Who prays to get sick? Who asks to be wounded? The mystic, she does.The mystic longs to stretch her faith past bodily concerns. She believes this unites her with the infinite. She is often conveyed into divine union through suffering, be it welcome or uninvited. 

During her thirtieth year, Julian did fall gravely ill as she had asked for. In the midst of the pain everyone was sure would take her life, Julian had second thoughts. She was read her last rites. She survived to receive sixteen revelations (visions) from Christ, his Mother, and the Lord. Julian lived many more years. 

St. Teresa of Avila was plagued by illness throughout her life. She too fell so ill that she was incapacitated for an extended period and nearly died. She survived to experience many spiritual ecstasies and teachings and lived well into her sixties. Her companion, St. John of the Cross, endured painful beatings during an extended imprisonment. This lead him to compose his great work The Dark Night of the Soul.

There are endless stories of the overwhelming suffering of holy people of every faith. This is the pattern of the mystic archetype.

In the shadow, the mystic archetype inflicts bodily pain upon herself mostly through deprivation to try and reach spiritual ecstasy. She can put suffering above all else and lose sight of the One for which she suffers.

Siddhartha, the man destined to become Buddha, nearly starved to death during an intense fast meant to convey him to enlightenment. He was revived by the tears of his deceased mother and gave up the stark ascetic path. There are many merits to the way of asceticism. However, with the mystic archetype in the shadow these self-depriving tendencies can be taken to unhealthy, counterproductive extremes.

Devotion to the Beloved

Serious bodily ailments often do afflict someone with the mystic archetype, but not nearly as much as her own deep yearning for The One. She loves God so much it hurts. She wants to be married so completely to God’s will that she aches endlessly. St. Teresa speaks of this holy matrimony in the fifth through seventh mansions of her workThe Interior Castle. In her teaching, we are the bride and the Lord is the bridegroom at the center of our souls. He waits for us to come and give ourselves over absolutely.

The Sufi poet Rumi best writes of what this wild, abandonment looks like. He tells of the Beloved being the winemaker that crushes us like grapes into wine. Rumi’s poems are drunk with love for the infinite. Rumi’s work is vast and steeped in the power of the mystic archetype. In much of his writing, he brings the indescribable to life through transcendental passionate symbols. 

The mystic archetype’s devotion borders on madness, for who in her right mind would hand herself over what she cannot know? She strives to surrender, to give her hand in marriage to the One Who Moves Through All Things. She is the blushing bride in love with God / Yahweh / Great Spirit – the One of many names. 

Absorbed in Mysticism

When you look up the definition of “Mysticism” you see that it starts with “belief”. That is mysticism – to believe in something that cannot be felt, seen, heard, tasted, or touched with the senses of the body. The mystic awakens her soul’s faculties so that she can catch glimpses of God, but most of her devotion must rest in belief. She believes in a higher power. She believes in a unifying, pure, undying, omnipresent force. The mystic can’t help but have faith.

The mystic archetype studies, but unlike the student archetype, she studies that which doesn’t make sense. She forgoes rational thinking for mystical thinking. No longer does she take the world literally or personally, she perceives life mystically and impersonally. This does not mean she does not care – oh she knows how to love. In her power, it means she loves with and through the Sacred Heart. 

She tries to know Divine will, always knowing the futility of such a quest. She will never fully assimilate a mystical reasoning ability while still in a human body with the necessary attachments to life. Nevertheless, the potential fertility of her ongoing engagement is endless. 

The mystic stands apart from the seeker archetype because her ultimate goal is to let go of the need to know. The seeker carries on always as the self that questions. The mystic looks to dissolve any sense of self that is the one who knows. The mystic does not work to be the sage archetype or guide. She does not endeavor to guide others, instead she looks rather to incarnate Divine guidance and show her love for the holy through works.

Virtuosity and False Humility

In the light, the mystic archetype brings a beautiful grace. She is a sea of tranquility for those around her. The mystic models virtuosity and pure devotion. In her presence, others feel the grace of the holy seep in. Quietude surrounds her. She is a source of divine light, a well of faith for others to drink from. 

Inside, the mystic’s experience of herself can be much, much different. She knows too well what St. Teresa calls the “inner clamor of battle”. The mystic is constantly spotting her own wretchedness and bemoaning it. When she finds herself in quagmire of her own ugliness, she realizes she’s moved even farther from the Source and feels even worse about herself. And so on it goes. 

St. Teresa calls this a “false humility”. It is a trap of self-deprecation that pulls us away from God’s grace and into our own imperfection. Yes, she encourages, let’s strive to be virtuous, but please let’s not spend all our time trying to be perfect. For, as Julian of Norwich teaches, we will always find woe.

In Julian of Norwich’s Showings she says, “He wants us to see our wretchedness and meekly to acknowledge it; but he does not want us to remain there, or to be much occupied in self-accusation, nor does he want us to be too full of our own misery.” Julian continues on to say,  “He wants us promptly to attend to the touching of his grace, rejoicing more in his unbroken love than sorrowing over our frequent failings.”

The Shadow of the Mystic Archetype

The shadow of the mystic archetype is best seen in the false humility and extreme asceticism. It can also show up as righteousness judgement of others who are not following the path.

The mystic’s shadow has her chasing spiritual ecstasy and visions, thus worshiping the false idol of the rush that comes from being infused with divine light. She gets caught up in comparing her spiritual favors to those of others.

The shadow mystic gets lost in her love of the Divine and forgets to love her neighbor. She needs to be here, with her feet planted firmly on the earth, engaged with the people around her.

The Light of the Mystic Archetype

In the light, the mystic must learn to accept spiritual aridity with the same open arms as spiritual fertility. She continues to deepen her faith and moves on divine guidance without a care for proof.

She is able to recollect herself around the sacred and feel the same inner peace she shares with others.

The mystic learns that service is the pinnacle of showing her love for God. She turns herself over to acts of kindness. She embraces selflessness while holding the knowing that she too is worthy of God’s love. The mystic lives a deeply spiritual life demonstrated by works both great and small.


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The Vampire Archetype

The Vampire Archetype

A deep, dark aura steeped in mystery and symbolism surrounds the historically demonized, currently glamorized vampire archetype. Energetically, yes, the vampire archetype represents people who drain your energy. However, it goes well beyond this oversimplification.

When you’re ready to go to bed, anyone wanting to keep you up and talk is going to be a drain on your energy. That doesn’t mean that they embody the vampire archetype. It means you’re tired and they’re not.

When considering if the vampire is one of the main archetypes you are working with, you need to look at the whole picture. Both the shadow and the light of the vampire must be present. In addition, important synchronicities with key symbols of the vampiric should be palpable as well.

Blood and the Vampire Archetype

With two sharp incisors vampires pierce the neck of their victims and quench an animalistic thirst. Blood itself carries heavy meaning for us warm blooded creatures. It is our life force, our means of transporting oxygen and nutrients and moving out waste. Blood is cleansing and nourishing like the sap of a tree. Blood provides us with life, vitality, and warmth. “To the ancient Greeks … blood engendered the popular sanguine temperament associated with the sun, warmth, cordiality, and magnanimity.” [1]

When we say that our blood is rushing or boiling, we are talking about passion. Blood symbolizes intense lovesickness and rage. Strong emotion is associated with blood, blood that is pumped by the center of emotion, the heart. The vampire is seen as pale and emotionless. In the light, the vampire archetype is warm and feeling.

Cold Blooded Vampires

Vampires are cold-blooded creatures who give up their souls in exchange for eternal life of the flesh. This craving for blood gives us a clue of the trajectory of the vampire archetype from the shadow to the light. The vampire’s evolution involves a loss of humanity followed by a longing for soul, for warmth, love and kindness. He drinks blood from the throats of his victims to try and heal the choice (the throat chakra involves the power of choice) he made to give up her humanity.

Paradoxically, it is when he gives up feasting on human blood and turns to matters of conscience that he returns to a life with soul. We see this in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the characters Angel and Spike) and in the Twilight movie series (the characters Edward and the Cullen family) in particular. This is part of the light side of the vampire archetype, a conscious choice to give up the temptation of dark power that feeds off of others and live a soulful, loving and life affirming existence.

The Vampire’s Conscience

Mythology around the vampire tells us that he cannot cross a threshold into a house unless he has permission. The vampire archetype in the light teaches us the importance of asking permission before entering into someone’s private life. In the shadow, the vampire enchants his victims into doing whatever he wishes with a complete disregard for their own free will.

Some stories say that virgin blood is lethal for the vampire. That is unless he gets permission from the virgin to drink, then it can be a powerful boost stronger than average human blood. Again, the theme of respect of boundaries comes in. The virgin symbolizes an impenetrability, a purity, that the vampire lost when he took the devilish deal for immortality.

The vampire is not able to see his own reflection in the mirror. In the shadow, this archetype is associated with the inability to reflect on one’s own actions. Again, we see another way that a lack of conscience is shown in vampire mythology. In the light, the vampire archetype is self-reflective and conscientious.

Other stories tell us that the vampire cannot survive exposure to daylight. In the movie Interview with a Vampire, the vampires literally burned to dust when trapped outdoors in the sun. We all have something to hide, something that wouldn’t survive the light of day. This shows the shadow of the vampire and his need to hide his wicked acts. The vampire in the light, sees the light of day and shines in it (much like the vampires in the Twilight series) because his conscience is clear.

Bats & the Vampire

Many classic depictions of the vampire show him shape-shifting between bat and human form. In the animal kingdom, there are  vampire bats that drink blood from live animals including humans. Bat spirit animal has to do with death and rebirth. This parallels the energy of the vampire archetype in that the vampire’s immortal soul dies so that his mortal flesh can become eternal. Eventually, the immortal, blood sucking life becomes monotonous. The vampire begins to learn from history and find his trespasses too burdensome. He seeks to be reborn into his humanity. In this way, he enters into the life and death cycle which is the gateway to immortality.

The Goddess Chinnamunda

The Buddhist goddess Chinnamunda correlates directly to the vampire archetype. Depictions of her show a youthful goddess holding her severed head. Blood shoots like a fountain from her neck (remember that vampires drink from the neck) and into the mouth of her disembodied head (some mythology around vampires says they can only be destroyed by beheading). She drinks her own blood and is symbolic of the life-death cycle.

“One who masters the yoga of Chinnamunda literally transcends death and attains the Buddhist equivalent of immortality.” [2] By dying to the ego, we encounter eternity beyond duality. The vampire archetype paradoxically helps us know what is immortal by helping us move into the the cycle of life and death.

“Chinnamunda brims with vitality in a scene of death and destruction, confronting the viewer with the most seemingly irreducible opposition in human experience, the polarity of life and death … she proclaims that death is essential to transformation. Death is to be understood not as the decease of the physical body but rather the demise of the illusion of separate, egoic existence and passage into a greater reality that lies beyond and yet within the self.” [2]

When considering the vampire in your own life, look for a keen familiarity with symbolic death and rebirth. We all go through intense cycles of transformation, but with the vampire, these cycles involve swings between cold-blooded passion and craving and into calm, warm blooded conviviality and generosity.

[1] Quote from The Book of Symbols by The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism
[2] Quote from Buddhist Goddesses of India by Miranda Shaw

For more on the vampire archetype, view this video.


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