3 min read

What Is An Archetype?

What Is An Archetype?
A statue of Hathor on Elephantine Island, Egypt

I’ve had students on occasion express to me the doubts they have in whether or not any of this is real. They’ll question whether spirits even exist and if such beings (say for example the angels and demons) are even actual entities. I always encourage maintaining an inquisitive approach to our magical work. In fact, it’s healthy to nurture an analytical mind of anything, and seek to prove and verify results. Question everything and let the answers guide you.

At some point, I’ll tackle the bigger lesson of the 7 principles of hermeticism. Those being; Mentalism, Correspondence, Vibration, Polarity, Rhythm, Cause and Effect, and Gender. These are ancient teachings and are generally the foundation of most esoteric systems of magic. For this particular topic though, I think it’s appropriate to refer to the first hermetic principle, that of Mentalism. Essentially, it states that the All is mind and the Universe is mental. What does that mean exactly? At the core, it’s saying that our universe responds and reacts to our thoughts. The energy that we project out into the world is the same energy that the universe responds back with. This is not unlike the teachings of The Secret, which attempts to teach the reader to mitigate self-limiting thoughts and instead turn that energy towards positive affirmations and actions that will benefit the individual. Usually this pertains to wealth (doesn’t it always?), but it really can be applied to many facets of our lives.

From an occultist’s perspective, there is much wisdom in this philosophy. For there is truth in the fact that we create our own realities. That’s not saying that if you concentrate really hard on flying, one day you glide amongst the birds. Or if something bad happens to you, you brought that on by your own negative thoughts (that one really gets under my skin). In fact, it’s deeper than that. It permeates the depths of the collective consciousness and reflects in the world through manifestation. An image or a symbol that connects thought to reality. Most may see this as a peripheral awareness. An awareness which we usually keep on autopilot for a majority of our days. Yet a trained magician will recognize and acknowledge the actuality of what’s happening. It’s Mind emanating an energy that ebbs and flows throughout this existence, and its effects on the world are very real, tangible, and testable. Why? Because everyone and everything is connected. Once one truly understands this and is able to control the true power of their emotions and thoughts, they will be capable of great things.

There is a phrase taught in many occult schools; “By names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened.” Words, names, images, symbols, sigils, colors, songs, sounds, etc., all have powers. They all have specific energies linked to their representations. They are archetypes. If I asked many of you to imagine a bright red triangle and immediately tell me what that image instills, you would likely say fire or anger or danger or war. Maybe action. If I asked what an upside-down blue triangle inspires, many would say water or cold or even emotions. That is because there is an archetypal energy at the root of what either of those images are. Throughout the ages of mankind, our collective consciousness has learned and stored that knowledge. We lose access to much of this information, however, due to the daily bombardment of nonsense and distraction. The cacophony of noise that is constantly hitting us the instant we’re born! From our birth into this world, we’re programmed to forget. But through meditation, application and discipline we can remember.

A crucifix would be another example of an archetype. Why would a Christian wear a symbol of the implementation of the torture and death of Jesus around their neck? Why has the cross carried so much significance over the past two millennia? It’s because it embodies the sacrifice of God’s only son for the forgiveness of humanity. And as a reminder of that sacrifice, it carries tremendous power for the wielder of that faith. A source of archetypal power that millions and millions of people have projected their energy and prayer into for a very long time. It’s no wonder that vampires and demons are affected by its presence! Of course, names and words and sounds and colors can also contain archetypal power. In many grimoires it is stated, of communing with demons, that by knowing their name the magician may have control over them, or at the very least protection. In the western mystery tradition, vibrating the secret names of God can yield various magical results.

To those students who ask if the angels are real, or if the devil actually exists, I explain that at this point, it almost doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant if Lucifer was ever a real being. Or for that matter Jesus or Buddha or Krishna, etc. Because so many people throughout the eons of time have placed so much thought and effort and intent into the energy of the idea of the devil, that he’s actually an archetype. And all archetypes exist and have real traits and abilities. So whether or not they ever existed to begin with no longer matters. We ourselves have created them in our own image.