Demystifying Archetypes – Lionel Messi As The Messiah

 It took me about two years of reading Jung daily and a decent experience with active imagination to fully grasp this idea. But what actually inspired me to write this section was witnessing Argentina winning the World Cup. As a Brazilian living in Buenos Aires, this experience was utterly astonishing. I’ll begin by introducing the concepts and tying up everything in the end.

Let’s begin with a footnote from volume 9.1:

“To the best of my knowledge, no other suggestions have been made so far. Critics have contented themselves with asserting that no such archetypes exist. Certainly they do not exist, any more than a botanical system exists in nature! But will anyone deny the existence of natural plant-families on that account? Or will anyone deny the occurrence and continual repetition of certain morphological and functional similarities? It is much the same thing in principle with the typical figures of the unconscious. They are forms existing a priori, or biological norms of psychic activity” (C. G. Jung – V9.1 – P. 646).

The first thing we have to realize is that archetypes don’t physically exist, they’re actually an organizing principle and exist as a potential to experience something psychologically and physiologically in a similar and definite way. In that sense, archetypes are like a blueprint, a structure, or a pattern and all four functions are required to apprehend it. Archetypes will evoke a typical thought pattern, a definite set of emotions, typical physical sensations, and definite fantasies.

Archetypes – The Image of Instincts

Archetypes will also elicit patterns of behavior and this happens because they form an axis with instincts, where the former is an imagetic representation of the instinctual pattern. Jung places both on a spectrum, where instincts are represented by the infra-red part and archetypes by the ultraviolet part. Using a nerdy analogy, instincts are the hardware of a computer and archetypes the software, and together they form the “Human Operational System”.

Being influenced by Kant, Jung disregards the notion that humans are a “tabula rasa to be marked by experience”, and establishes that archetypes are forms exiting a priori (or beforehand) exactly because they aren’t learned but inherited. Archetypes act as a filter to our human experience, therefore, humans have similar patterns of behavior, a similar thought structure, a similar way of experiencing emotions, physical sensations, and symbolic representations.  

A bit of theoretical foundation:

“There are, in fact, no amorphous instincts, as every instinct bears in itself the pattern of its situation. Always it fulfills an image, and the image has fixed qualities. The instinct of the leaf-cutting ant fulfills the image of ant, tree, leaf, cutting, transport, and the little ant-garden of fungi. If any one of these conditions is lacking, the instinct does not function, because it cannot exist without its total pattern, without its image. Such an image is an a priori type. It is inborn in the ant prior to any activity, for there can be no activity at all unless an instinct of corresponding pattern initiates and makes it possible. This schema holds true of all instincts and is found in identical form in all individuals of the same species. The same is true also of man: he has in him these a priori instinct-types which provide the occasion and the pattern for his activities, in so far as he functions instinctively. As a biological being he has no choice but to act in a specifically human way and fulfill his pattern of behaviour. This sets narrow limits to his possible range of volition, the more narrow the more primitive he is, and the more his consciousness is dependent upon the instinctual sphere. […] We may say that the image represents the meaning of the instinct” (C. G. Jung – V8 – §398).

  • Instincts: ”Instincts are typical modes of action, and wherever we meet with uniform and regularly recurring modes of action and reaction we are dealing with instinct, no matter whether it is associated with a conscious motive or not” (C. G. Jung – V8 – §273).

   Examples: Hunger, sexuality, reflection, and creativity.

  • Archetypes: ”Archetypes are typical modes of apprehension, and wherever we meet with uniform and regularly recurring modes of apprehension we are dealing with an archetype, no matter whether its mythological character is recognized or not” (C. G. Jung – V8 – §280).

Archetypes x Archetypal Images

Here’s where the confusion usually starts and opens precedents for the wildest things. Remember that archetypes don’t exist, their true nature is actually irrepresentable, that’s why Jung refers to them as psychoid. What our conscious mind can perceive is a set of ideas and images that allude to this organizing principle. A great example is the Tarot cards, they aren’t archetypes, but their symbols can allude to one.

Furthermore, archetypes lie in the unconscious realm, which means that they’re not accessible to our conscious mind and aren’t subject to our will, we can simply perceive them. So things like learning to “activate archetypes” or “using their energy” are simply a scam. Also, there aren’t a definite number of archetypes, they are as infinite as human experience can be. So don’t fall prey to things like the 12 archetypes (or any number really).

A note on its psychoid nature: 

“The archetype as such is a psychoid factor that belongs, as it were, to the invisible, ultraviolet end of the psychic spectrum. It does not appear, in itself, to be capable of reaching consciousness. […] Since other archetypes give rise to similar doubts, it seems to me probable that the real nature of the archetype is not capable of being made conscious, that it is transcendent, on which account I call it psychoid. Moreover every archetype, when represented to the mind, is already conscious and therefore differs to an indeterminable extent from that which caused the representation. […] We must, however, constantly bear in mind that what we mean by “archetype” is in itself irrepresentable, but has effects which make visualizations of it possible, namely, the archetypal images and ideas” (C. G. Jung – V8 – §417).

“Archetypes are typical forms of behaviour which, once they become conscious, naturally present themselves as ideas and images, like everything else that becomes a content of consciousness” (C. G. Jung – V8 – §435).

Archetypes and Religious Experiences

Archetypes are also responsible for religious experiences, which means they have a numinous (compulsive) quality and force themselves upon consciousness when constellated. To Jung, “Religion, as the Latin word denotes, is a careful and scrupulous observation of what Rudolf Otto aptly termed the numinosum, that is, a dynamic agency or effect not caused by an arbitrary act of will. On the contrary, it seizes and controls the human subject, who is always rather its victim than its creator. The numinosum —whatever its cause may be—is an experience of the subject independent of his will. At all events, religious teaching as well as the consensus gentium always and everywhere explain this experience as being due to a cause external to the individual. The numinosum is either a quality belonging to a visible object or the influence of an invisible presence that causes a peculiar alteration of consciousness. This is, at any rate, the general rule” (C. G. Jung – V11 – §6).

Whenever we’re experiencing an archetypal situation, a definite set of thoughts, emotions, sensations, and fantasies will arise, all with a compulsive quality, evoking the feeling that we’re hostages to this overwhelming experience.  For instance, the rapturous feeling we have when we fall in love and all the ideas and ludicrous displays that come with it. All the arduous challenges we face in the transition from childhood to adulthood, how the first sexual experience changes someone forever, or even the experience of parenthood or the death of a beloved one. All of these experiences are typically human,  and we get to live and share them in a collective way.

Lastly, an archetypal situation is also a living thing that places us inside a drama, with certain characters, obstacles, conflicts, and decisions. An archetype is attached to a definite narrative and evokes a storyline, with a beginning, its peripeteia, and a culmination. Like the great temptation Jesus had to endure for forty days in the desert. Or when we feel completely raptured by a femme fatale or Don Juan figure, or even when we feel completely torn in the face of a tough decision.

A few examples of archetypes:

  • The Idea of God or “the first cause” shaped many schools of thought and all religions.
  • The Mother, Father, Child, Shaman, Wise old Man and Woman.
  • Mythological Motifs: The hero’s journey, the magical escape, descending to hell (Katabasis), helping animals, metamorphosis, the treasure hardly attained, the cave and the dragon, the guardian of the threshold, psychopomps, animus and anima, femme fatale and Don Juan.

Lionel Messi As The Messiah

Being born in the country of football you must think that I’ve witnessed everything there’s to see about it. Well, I thought that too. Until the World Cup started and I constantly heard Lionel Messi being referred to as “Messi – The Messiah”. It’s important to remember that an archetype is completely amorphous and only takes a definite form and fixed qualities when it’s projected. What’s interesting is that for something to be projected, the receiver has to bear at least a resemblance to that image. For instance, you can’t project an inner tyrant if the person in question isn’t minimally sure of himself and possesses a minimum degree of authority, projection needs a “hook”.

Now, the Christ or savior archetype can also overlap with the Divine Child or the Child of Promise, and they always have to fight against evil or something destructive as soon as they’re born, plus they’re always rescued by a miracle. This happened with Jesus of Nazareth and also a few fictional characters like Naruto and Harry Potter. If you research a bit, you’ll learn that at the age of 11 Lionel Messi was diagnosed with a rare disease, called Growth Hormone Disorder. This condition doesn’t allow the body to grow as it should according to age. At the age of 12, Messi had to inject growth hormones into his leg every night.

However, the cost of the treatment was too high, and his family was struggling to continue to afford the hormone injections. At this time, FC Barcelona came to Messi’s rescue and the 13-year-old boy was offered a spot in their team and sponsored his medical expenses. You might think that this is completely random, and there’s a great chance that you’re right, but I find it fascinating how things have developed. You must also know that Argentina once was one of the richest countries on earth but now they’re experiencing their darkest economic times. I’m witnessing protests every single week and the country is extremely polarized, what an auspicious moment for a savior to come. Also, It’s astonishing how football occupied the place of religion in Argentina and the power it acquired to unite people. 

Thereby, the savior is the one who can unify the opposites, bring peace, and end every battle. It’s the one that can set us free and allow us to be happy, to celebrate, to be in communion with our neighbors, he can give us that sublime feeling that lifts our spirit. Here it comes Messi – The Messiah, a brilliant player who can grant us this grace.

At this moment, Argentinians are collectively projecting the savior image upon Messi, which prompts them to have their religious experience. In the exact same way people feel saved by Christ (or any other religious personality), they felt saved by Messi. In every single game, there were people in the streets celebrating as if they had won the World Cup until they reached the finals, and their dream finally came true. Chills! Witnessing all of this happening at a five-minute walk from the city center – “The Obelisco” – was one of the craziest experiences of my life, and I’m extremely lucky to be a part of it.

Read Next: Demystifying The Animus and Anima

Rafael Krüger – Jungian Therapist

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