The Slaying of the Minotaur
We are all linked together in a Psychic-mesh by common instinctual motifs, “mental forms whose presence cannot be explained by anything in the individual’s own life and which seem to be aboriginal, innate, and inherited shapes of the human mind” (C.G. Jung).
Jung called these “archetypes of the collective unconscious.” The claim that these motifs exist among all cultures has been much heralded by Joseph Campbell, author of many books on comparative mythology. Campbell presents strong inductive evidence for the existence of the archetypes. As one example, the figure of a mother goddess exists in the mythology of many diverse cultures, even those separated by vast oceans.
The collective unconscious is a powerful rhizomal presence in human experience. It is an infinite, subterranean root system that snakes and intertwines all humans in the tangle and convolution of Soul. This collective entanglement will one day decentralize the self-aggrandizing and narcissistic tendencies of human ego. The rhizomal Soul will one day replace the Me Generation with the We Generation. No, it will not be perfect; Utopia will never totally manifest on earth, but we are a world of strivers, even though our goal may not always take us in a particularly linear evolutionary path. We may wander around the Labyrinth of Life for a thousand years or more, but, eventually, the leap to higher consciousness will come. The more we allow the rhizomal root structure of Soul to grow, the quicker we will get there. It is up to us to care for Soul and nurture it.
King Minos of Crete had Daedalus design and build his famous Labyrinth to keep at bay the Minotaur, half man, half bull, that had been conceived when Pasiphaë, daughter of Helios, had intercourse with a bull. The Minotaur was named Asterios (Star). The Labyrinth was so complex and extensive that even Daedalus had much difficulty finding his way out after constructing it.
Every seven years, seven young men and seven young women were chosen to be sacrificed to the Minotaur to appease Minos. These were chosen from the noblest of Athenian families. Theseus was chosen to be among them. Being the son of both Poseidon and Aegeus, Theseus was very brave and full of valor. When the daughter of Minos, Ariadne, saw Theseus step off the boat, she immediately fell in love with him. She contrived a way for Theseus to easily find his way out of the Labyrinth. She gave him some string to mark his path as he walked through the maze. After he had slain the Minotaur, Theseus followed the string and exited easily.
The Labyrinth is like the infinite depths of Soul. If one falls into it, it can be very difficult to find one’s way out again. Many do not, and must spend the rest of their lives in asylums.
The Minotaur is like the out-of-control Ego we are so accustomed to seeing in Western society, especially in America. Its self-aggrandizing hunger for power and wealth is insatiable. Its name is Asterios, or “Star.” Ego loves the spotlight. It wants to be the brightest star in the human psyche. Many so-called stars in our culture are egomaniacs. It is the nature of Ego to tend to over-inflation.
Theseus represents the noblest qualities of humanity, especially love and courage. The myths say he was the founding hero of Athens and was responsible for the synoikismos, the “dwelling together in the same house,” which consisted of the political unification of Attica under the rule of Athens. In this, Theseus ushered in a horizontal, rhizomal movement that transformed Greek society. The slaying of the Minotaur in the Labyrinth is the final victory over the bloated Ego of humanity that will usher in the next evolutionary leap in consciousness, which will include the rhizomal synoikismos of Soul.
Many artistic depictions of the Minotaur show him in the center of the Labyrinth. This is not surprising, since Ego always wants to be at the center of the psyche and rule us from a position of power. A “center” always denotes a position of power. There is nothing the Ego wants more than to rule every aspect of our lives.
Giordano Bruno recognized in the sixteenth century that the universe is acentric. I am venturing to guess Soul is also, by applying the principle of correspondence, As above, so below. The notion of centrality seems to be the product of the Western overemphasis on monotheism. Since the universe does quite well without a center, I see no reason to posit one for the psyche, especially one occupied by Ego. The fact is, Ego is only one archetype among many. The psyche is multiplicitous and polytheistic. This is easily seen by the many figures of our dreams.
Theseus defeated the Minotaur, Asterios, in the center of the Labyrinth, but he did not remain there and take the place of power the Minotaur once held. He had no need to. He only wanted what was best for the people he loved and that is what he set out to do.
Tags : Depth