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Mythology and the Primary Archetypes

The Principles Behind the Myths
We live in an extraordinary age filled with enormous choice. Never before in the history of humankind has so much been available to us at any one time. It has been estimated that the average UK citizen is now faced with making more choice decisions in one day than our Neolithic ancestors made in the whole of their lifetime. This range of opportunity applies equally to the spiritual seeker for we can now readily explore spirituality through a wide range of traditions both ancient and modern. From Celtic mysticism to Taoism, from Yoga to Tai’ Chi, from the Runes to the I Ching, from the Kabbalah to Shamanism it is all there for us in its richness, set out like a vast spiritual feast. This presents a wonderful opportunity for accessing our spiritual heritage; those cultures and traditions where we explored spiritual beliefs in our past lives. It also allows for a great cross-fertilisation of ideas giving us the opportunity glimpse different viewpoints of truth as perceived through a wide variety of cultural eyes. And words such as karma, charka and yin/yang have slipped quietly into our vocabulary.

One of the themes that has run through my life has been the quest to understand the principles that underpin all established traditions and mythologies. The thesis is simple. If the laws of physics are consistent across the planet – the laws governing the falling of Newton’ apple are the same whether we be in China, England or America – then so too must be spiritual laws and principles. The challenge has been to assess different traditions, in a meditative way, to sort out what these principles might be, for sometimes the relationships are not so obvious. Can we reconcile religious beliefs such as Christianity or Buddhism, with the gods of Ancient Egypt or Greece or the workings of the I Ching? I believe so. This article dips into this theme through some of these great traditions and China is a good place to start.

The I Ching and Feng Shui
China has given birth to some of the most profound philosophies of the world. Its most significant contribution is surely the insight into the dance of two polarity principles called yang (masculine) and yin (feminine). These dynamic forces were shown graphically as either a solid line  () yang, or broken line (– –) yin. All of life was said to manifest these forces and everything was classified into being yang, yin or a mixture of both. From this derived aphorisms such as ‘even in extreme yin there is yang and extreme yang there is yin’, which gave rise to the beautiful symbol of the Tao. This is an expression of the working of the law of polarity on which all modern computers are based. A circuit is either on or off and using this principle, all of the computing power in the world is generated. To this can be added that every polarity has it’s opposite and when one pushes a polarity to an extreme then ultimately it will switch into it’s opposite. Extreme yin will eventually turn to yang and so on.

Seeing how this principle works through our lives can give much insight. For example any statement that I make about myself will always contain its opposite. If I say “I am a truthful person” or “I am a loving individual” then I need to also acknowledge the potential of both the liar and hateful part of my nature. If I deny my potential to hate or lie then someone else close to me will carry these qualities for me. The person who denies their anger or jealousy will always be surrounded by angry or jealous people. One revealing way we can explore ourselves is by looking at our relationships with our friends, family and colleagues for they will reflect back to us our balances and imbalances. What bugs us in our neighbour is what irritates us within ourselves. In this it is also important to remember that in order to explore the light we have to acknowledge and integrate the shadow. The aim ultimately is to find balance or as the Buddha so aptly stated to walk the noble middle path.

From the weaving of yin and yang all else flows. In Ancient China this was taken to two more levels. First, by combining two lines, either yang or yin, gives four possible combinations.  To get to the final stage a third line is added to this pattern, which gives eight specific groupings. These are known as trigrams (combining three yang or yin lines), each representing a different quality or principle. The I Ching is based on uniting any two trigrams to create a hexagram (six lines). Each hexagram is given a different name with a detailed set of interpretations on it’s meaning.

We can look on these eight key trigrams in the same way that the Greeks or Ancient Egyptians viewed their gods. So interpreted another way the I Ching is trying to understand or interpret what happens when say the principle of Aphrodite (Greek goddess of love) is combined with the principle of Ares (Greek god of war). 

In China these principles were seen as a family; a father and mother with three sons and three daughters. Each was endowed with a specific set of attributes in a similar way to how the gods and goddesses of other pantheons were portrayed.

In Feng Shui these principles were set out in a specific pattern known as the Bagua, which is based on a magic number square of nine numbers. Eight of these numbers relate to the eight trigrams, whilst the ninth, in the centre of the square, represented by the number 5 relates to us.  Each of the other numbers is ascribed one of the eight key directions (North, North-East, East and so on). We can therefore see that each direction or part of a building was ascribed to the influence of one or other of these principles. For example Khan the Middle Son (number 1) who is associated with water sits in the North. His influence highlights dangers, hardships and also transformation and cleansing. This is the ideal placement for a bathroom. As Khan also looks after the career it is important the bathroom is not neglected but kept clean and tidy with the toilet seat down and any leaks attended to promptly to ensure that money does not flow away.

I Ching chart

There is not space here to examine each of these principles in detail. In summary all we need to say at this stage is that the development of yin and yang into the Bagua shows eight primary principles, centred around a ninth, which in the magic square is shown as the number 5. 

The Tarot
Let us jump now to see whether these same patterns can be found within a totally different tradition -  the Tarot. Whilst the origins of the tarot are obscure it first emerged in the 13th century and has continued to be developed since as part of the Western Mystery tradition. This compares with the I Ching whose origins probably date back more than four thousand years. We therefore have two completely different systems, separated by both time and locality.

The tarot is divided into two main sections known as the Major and Minor Arcana. It is the Major Arcana, containing twenty-two picture cards that interests us here. Remarkably, when we examine the deck, we find there are eight cards that are quite distinct from the rest. These are the main character cards comprising the following:

  • The Hierophant
  • The High Priestess
  • The Emperor
  • The Empress
  • The Fool
  • The Devil
  • The Magician
  • The Hermit

It is these eight cards and the principles behind them that reflect the eight trigram principles of the Bagua. For example, Chien the Father principle of the Bagua equates with The Hierophant in the tarot and Chen (Thunder) the eldest son is The Magician in the tarot deck and so on.

Hierophant tarot card Devil Tarot card The Fool tarot card
The Empress - tarot card The Sun tarot card The Magician tarot card
The High Priestess tarot card The Emperor tarot card The Hermit tarot card
The Eight Character cards of the Major Arcana set out in the corresponding Bagua positions (see above), with the Sun card in the centre.

It is worth just pausing for a moment to consider the other cards of the Major Arcana for they too tell an interesting story. Of the remaining fourteen cards twelve relate to the astrological signs and represent an initiatory journey through the zodiac, rather like the twelve labours of Hercules. The other two cards – The Sun and The Tower – relate to the spiritual and physical aspects of our world and more directly how these principles relate within us. In other words The Sun represents our spiritual self, whilst The Tower is the physical body.

The Sun tarot card The Sun card in the tarot represents our soul or spiritual self. It is the divine part of our being that enters incarnation to experience in the world of matter and form. In the Rider Waite pack this part of us is symbolised by a child riding upon a white horse. The card reminds us of Christ's statement "Unless ye be like little children you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven."
The Tower tarot card The Tower card symbolises our physical body and the material world in which we live. This card was originally known as "La Maison Dieu" - The House of God, for is not the body the 'temple of the soul'. The card shows two characters - the masculine and feminine parts of our being tumbling into matter. The lightening is the life force but reminds us that the descent into matter dislodges our 'crown' or spiritual connection. We might say then that the path of the initiate is to learn to re-crown him or herself.

The zodiac cards and their initiatory aspects are as follows:


The Chariot

The start of the journey. The Charioteer has the Winged Disk the Symbol of initiation on his chariot


The World

The step is the need to come to terms with the physical world.



Balancing the masculine and feminine aspects of the self, with our Guardian angel overlighting


The Moon

The need to come to terms with illusion in the psychic realms



Connecting to the inner power of our being.


Hanged Man

The for self-sacrifice and the need to turn truth on it's head to truly understand life.



Balancing past deeds from our karma



Letting go of attachment to the physical world.


Wheel of Fortune

Accessing higher wisdom and learning as part of the initiatory journey.



The re-birth to higher consciousness and the connection to higher guidance


The Star

Integrating the divine within the physical body.



The final initiation where the wings sit on the shoulders and the circle and triangle lie in the heart

I have found the ‘Rider-Waite’ pack the most revealing of the symbology of these principles and if you set out the journey as I have shown you will get some fascinating insights into our initiatory challenges. I do appreciate that this is not a standard association. For example the Chariot is usually connected with the astrological sign of Cancer but when looked at as I have shown the associations are obvious.

Like the I Ching the tarot can be used for divination as well as an initiatory, meditative tool for gaining insight into ourselves, our journey through life and the spiritual principles that shape our world. Effectively the hero or heroine, in their journey, needs to understand and work with the principles contained in the eight character cards. In Greek mythology the gods and goddesses would come to the aid of the heroes to help them in their quest, which is saying the same thing. Today many people will call upon their angels to assist them. Raphael is The Magician in the tarot deck, Gabriel is The Emperor, Uriel The Hermit and Michael The Empress and so on.

The Kabbalah
If the tenet of my thesis is correct then the eight principles of the I Ching, and the corresponding eight principles within the tarot should also be found within the Judaic system of mysticism known as the Kabbalah.

Here we hit a problem for the Kabbalah is based on ten principles or Sephiroth not eight, so how do we reconcile this difference. Moreover the tarot is traditionally associated with the pathways on the Tree of Life not the Sephiroth themselves. This I believe is a misconception for whilst the tarot cards can also relate to the pathways the eight key archetype cards most certainly also relate to the Sephiroth. To make up our ten principles of the Kabbalah we need to add in two more principles; these are represented by the two cards of The Sun and The Tower, in other words the physical and spiritual sides of our being.

The Tree of Life

The tarot associations for the Kabbalah then become:

KetherThe Fool

Chokmah The Hierophant

Binah The High Priestess

GeburahThe Emperor

ChesedThe Empress

Tipereth The Sun (our spiritual self)

Hod The Magician

NetzachThe Hermit

Yesod The Devil

MalkuthThe Tower (our physical self)

The Sun and The Tower
What does this tell us? The Sun represents our spiritual self or soul consciousness, The Tower our physical mind and body. The Tower traditionally was known as La Maision Dieu, the house of God, which is another way of saying that the body is the temple of the soul. It is us falling headlong into our incarnation and in the process disconnecting from the crown or spiritual aspect of ourselves. The first step in the journey then is the need to connect mind to soul and we have three pathways to do this. There is the path via The Magician, on the left hand pillar of the Tree, representing magic, philosophy and reason, the central pathway via The Devil, always seen as the hardest, which is the path of self-transformation by confronting and integrating our shadow aspects, or the right hand path via The Hermit, representing mysticism and meditation. Once we have connected to TiparethTheSun, our spiritual self, then we can go on and access the other aspects of the Tree.

Again there is a great deal more that could be said about this journey than space here permits. The Kabbalah offers another lens through which to view these archetypal principles and how they can be worked in a methodical and meditative way. From my own perspective the present pattern of relationships on the Kabbalistic Tree is Piscean in nature. As we move into Aquarius certain amendments need to be made to the placements, particularly in the lower part of the Tree. However that is another story.

The Heliopolitan Pantheon of Ancient Egypt
Our final excursion in this brief journey into archetypal principles is to Ancient Egypt and in particular the Heliopolitan cosmology that tells the story of Isis and Osiris and their attendant gods and goddesses. The starting point in Egypt begins with the self-creation of the god Atum-Ra who emerged from the primordial ocean of Nun. Ra gave birth to two gods Shu and Tefnut or wind and moisture, which are very reminiscent of Feng Shui, which literally means wind and water. Shu and Tefnut in turn give birth to two more gods Geb and Nut. Geb is the male Earth god whilst his consort Nut is the great sky goddess. They in turn give birth to four more gods and goddesses Osiris, Isis, Set and Nepthys. Once again we have eight gods and goddesses spawned from a central creative energy Atum-Ra, which in Ancient Egypt was associated with and symbolised by the sun.

As the mythological story developed with the slaying of Osiris (the slaying of Christ?) by his evil brother Set and the search by Isis for her beloved husband another four characters are drawn into the group. These are the falcon headed Horus, the cow-headed Hathor, the jackal headed Anubis and the ibis headed Thoth. Effectively it is this group of eight gods and goddesses that form the dynamic energy for this present time. We can now equate this group with the tarot cards characters.

Osiris   The Hierophant  Thoth The Magician
Isis The High Priestess  Set  The Devil
Horus  The Emperor Anubis The Fool
Hathor  The Empress  Nepthys The Hermit

The portrayal of these principles and their inspired attendant stories, set out by the initiates of Ancient Egypt, give wonderful insight into these great truths. Because of their vastness, in my book Develop Your Intuition and Psychic Powers, I called these principles ‘Quantum Universities’. This was the closest term I could find to describing their spheres of reference. They are not difficult to access and draw inspiration from, we just need a few keys and all are part of a matrix of spiritual energy that infuses this planet. We can track any one of these principles through the different pantheons. For example, the Magician principle of the tarot was Thoth to the Ancient Egyptians; Hermes to the Greeks; Mercury to the Romans; Odin to the Teutonic peoples; Merlin in the Arthurian legends; the archangel Raphael in Christian and Islamic belief; Dian Cecht to the Celts; Lemminkainen in the Kalevala of the Finnish peoples and Chen the eldest son in the Chinese Bagua. The same principle of healing, balance and communication perceived and represented by widely ranging peoples.

In summary we can say that the great spiritual traditions point to the influence of eight primary forces or archetypal principles centred around a ninth. Whether we choose to see this central ninth as God, the sun or our spiritual Self, it matters not. Outside of these eight key spiritual forces are arranged the twelve astrological principles. It is the combination of these energies at a spiritual level that gives form to our world.  As we move forward into the twenty-first century these same principles will make their presence felt and as they do they will take on new forms that reflect our modern world. This is one of the gifts that global awareness brings us. We can connect to them by simply opening our hearts to their energies.

David Furlong (First published in Light Magazine 2004)

Some interesting links to visit with complementary information:
Space Clearing
Spirit Release

Space Clearing
Working With Earth Energies

Spirit Release and Soul Integration
Psychic Protection
Healing Principles
London's Ley Lines

Spirit Release Forum

For further information please write to David Furlong
Myrtles, Como Road, Malvern Worcs WR14 2TH
or phone T: 01684-569105    M:0777-978-9047                           Email: David Furlong

David Furlong David has been working as a healer, therapist and sensitive for more than 40 years. He is the author of five books including Develop Your Intuition and Psychic Powers from which this article is taken.

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