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The Quest for the Archetype

by Miguel A. Fernandez


Whereas in modern societies everyone has a particular handwriting that is conditioned by the most diverse combinations of values, self-discipline and work environments that are present in such societies, in traditional cultures (such as medieval Gothic) the initiates of practically all arts aspire to attain the same `typical´ `archetypal´ writing, a writing that spontaneously –and not by means of applied arts- expresses the same symbolic character. Therefore, in traditional cultures -such as in many Catholic orders of the 13th century- the aspiration is towards the `typical´, that is to say, it´s an aspiration towards a synthesis of the universal, and along this cosmological pursuit the modern notion of the “individual” necessarily dissolves. This essentially means that, in this traditional context, the separation that´s conceived between one human and another human is not defined by their particular physical, physiological and psychological differences, nor by their socioeconomic place in society, but defined by the state of `Being´ incarnated by them. This state of `Being´ is impersonal, invisible, yet it becomes manifest during human action, gesture and technique. Such mode of revelation `during motion´ is what in such cultures is also mediated by actors, who during their theatrical plays wore masks that symbolized the archetype linked to a specific state of `Being´… It was deeply understood in such cultures that the true cosmic interplay (the “only game in town”, so to speak…) takes place exclusively at the archetypal level, and therefore to succeed in thoroughly embodying such archetype after dissolving one´s artificial individuality (this is, after dissolving the common notion of `ego´) was conceived as the only mode of participating in divine purposes that are free from the determinations caused by the constricted, passive and arbitrary lives of all those humans who don´t aspire to embody any divine archetype. As a consequence of the latter, in these cultures the notion of `freedom´ was radically in opposition to the ideological notions of freedom that emerged in modern societies after the French Revolution, and referred to the higher or lesser correspondence of a given human with his/her `Being´, this is, with the archetype he/she had to pursue through a life of hard discipline and self-sacrifice… Therefore, it can be affirmed that all humans are individuals, but only those who pursue their archetype can be referred to strictly as “Human `Beings´”, and only such `Beings´ can attain `freedom´ in the most traditional sense of the word.


This understanding connects relatively well with the Hindu traditional notion of `dharma´, but the problem with the modern interpretation of this Hindu concept is that several Western scholars interpreted `dharma´ as being exclusively determined by one´s birth in in a given caste, in a caste system that´s often interpreted as rigid and consequently as fatalistic, mainly because it´s then concluded that one´s destiny exclusively depends on which caste one was born in. However, in European traditional societies the hierarchies based on caste were far from being as so extremely rigid and conservative as today´s class hierarchies of socioeconomic and political power, and neither the archetypes that defined each caste were as rigid as many historians of medieval times have interpreted. Rather, such archetypes varied in a similar way as how Gothic architecture required particularized techniques of construction depending on the availability of resources, techniques, craft capacities, and other geographic and cultural conditions. Also, the cosmological and traditional idea of `Being´ was never rigidly fixated during such medieval period (as for instance is presented in Abrahamic religions in the accounts of “fixed” divinities that exist beyond time and space), and even though in a caste hierarchy the archetype incarnated by the father was passed down to the son as a “seed” or potential of development for the son´s life (as for instance in the artisan, warrior castes, nobilities, kingship, etc.) there was always present a margin of improvisation available for the individual to pursue a completely novel divine archetype by means of a completely improvised ascetic lifestyle. In other words: medieval Europe granted space for the authentic heroic quest.

Such margin of improvisation is what makes the medieval caste hierarchies that existed in Europe to have granted much more space for the individual´s genuine pursuit of his/her archetype than the margin conceded in other cultures and caste systems worldwide, in which essentially one´s destiny is determined by one´s birth. This margin is perfectly shown in the harsh recruitment methods for the lower castes undertaken by the Knight Templars during the 13th century in Spain, a recruitment that was extremely tough and totally unimaginable for today´s education systems, yet which aspired to discover the potential archetype of the candidate by first “tempering” his character, similarly as occurs in the tempering of a sword when the steel finally reveals its authentic qualitative properties. The same margin was provided by the Operative Freemasons –although with different methods than the Templars- and this margin of improvisation is very likely the main cause of the great capacity for innovative thinking (mostly in sciences and art) that characterized European culture after medieval times.

However, in this margin granted by the European caste hierarchies for individual improvisation was potentially present the risk of promoting another radically different notion of the individual, a purely ideological one: individual-ism, that is to say, an ideological notion where everything starts and begins with the individual, and no longer with the archetypal figures that symbolize the diverse states of `Being´. It´s impossible to understand the roots of the French Revolution, the Renaissance nor the extinction of the Knight Templars, Operative Freemasons and the Rosicrucian during such times without realizing the anarchic growth of the “seed” of individual improvisation that had its soil in the understanding of the very genuine understanding of caste that prevailed in medieval Europe.


So contrarily to the aspiration towards the `typical´ that characterizes traditional cultures, in modern society is vastly promoted the “individual” (this is, a human who embodies a customized, particularized, tailored, anarchic and arbitrary modes of action, in combination with highly subjective, unrealistic, artificial, mediated and relativistic modes of thought…). Rarely would this “individual” even dare to pursue any archetype, to pursue any state of `Being´, mainly because the scientific and ideological worldviews in vogue in today´s society and public opinion have convinced such “individual” that the only dynamics in life is that of “units of matter against units of matter”, at all levels. However, as Ernst Jünger excellently exposed in his literature, the real game takes place as a constant conflict between the dynamics of archetypes and figures; it´s a fight of these figures for attaining the highest and most illuminated state of `Being´, and one of the figures that had the most diverse historical and metahistorical incarnations is the Solar Warrior, a figure that is potentially present today as it is in all times.


by Miguel A. Fernandez

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