Thomas Aquinas, 13th century theologian, said that wisdom could be defined as lifeability or making one’s life work. Often, this means figuring out how to map and face life’s adversity. Unfortunately, this can happen frequently, issues to solve in one’s life that is. However, there is hope. Even though negativity happens in life, there is way of fostering wisdom to roll with the punches, and come out adept at making one’s life work. Visualizing archetypes is a tool to develop such wisdom.
Archetypes are the main characters in cultural stories. These archetypes embody a characteristic that can help solve our current issues. Stories show tried and true patterns of lifeability.
Usually the mind is full of worries, or sensations but visualizing an archetype quiets the mind and helps a person embody the characteristic of an archetype. This is important since the archetypes in stories hold characteristics of human wisdom built over centuries to create lifeability.
An archetype from a story may demonstrate this. There is a Yoruba story, called “The Children”. The Yoruba are a group of people in Western Africa, and many African Americans in the U.S. can trace their descent there. The main character in this story is an older woman, representing the archetype of an elder. Of course, elders embody wisdom. In this story, the people in the village often helped the elder, fixing her house and bringing her food. But they got tired of this, and decided they didn’t need to do it anymore. The next year, many of their children became sick, and they realized that they had forgotten about the elder and her knowledge. The people didn’t know what to do, but they decided to ask the elder for help. They went to her house and asked for help, and she showed them how to make an herbal remedy. The children then became well. They would never again forget to visit her, and clean her house, and fix leaks, and make her food. They realized that it was essential to give respect to the elder, for the health of the community. One of the elder’s characteristic was knowledge from experience Embodying this characteristic can people reflect and bring their experience to bear on life’s ups and downs.
I’ve chosen the archetype of a tree to represent the knowledge of the elder. Just for a moment, try out the technique of visualizing an archetype. Think about a magnificent tree you have seen and maybe even touched, that represents knowledge to you. Now visualize that tree. In your mind’s eye, look at it carefully, the color of the leaves and the trunk. Reach out in the visualization and touch the trunk. Look up at sky above it, and notice its color and if there are clouds. Can you hear the leaves rustling in the wind? What word comes to you for the characteristic you would give this tree? Now imagine that you embody that characteristic, it is in your bones and courses through your blood. If you had that characteristic how might your face something important in your life, how you could create lifeability for yourself?