Jungian Archetypes and Historical Leaders
Jungian psychology has always fascinated me and I am certainly eager to learn more about his psychodynamic approach and archetypes. The first thought that came to me when considering these archetypes and our class, which is centered on leadership, was how it would relate to well known historical leaders. My first thought was that most historical leaders would be, as noted in the class commentary, confined to either the warrior/hero archetype or the magician archetype. However, I’ve found that it is not necessarily so. As stated in our text, using the psychodynamic theory is known to be subjective (Northouse, 2013) and many may not associate these leaders with their archetypes as I do.
There are of course, too many archetypes to create a singular list, but some of the common character archetypes are as follows: The Hero/Warrior, The Caregiver/Great Mother, The Explorer, The Lover, The Sage/Wise Old Man, The Scapegoat and the Devil (Wedgeworth, 2009).
Certainly Alexander the Great fits the Jungian Archetype of the Hero/Warrior. He has been described by some historians as the Midas of war; everything he touched turned to gold (Upbin, 2010).
A leader that might symbolize the Caregiver/Great Mother archetype could be Harriet Tubman. Nearly all children’s history books about the United States during the Civil War mention her as a leader amongst the slave population. She cared for and led fellow slaves to freedom at great personal risk (Maglaty, 2011).
There have been many explorers in our history, but for this archetype, I am choosing Ferdinand Magellan. He and his crew sailed around the world, not as a conqueror, like Cortez might be considered (and there for a warrior archetype), but to prove the world was round. Though was already accepted in academic circles, it was physically proven after his and his crew’s journey (Halsall, 1998).
The Lover is a difficult archetype to delve into without also delving into mythic or legendary heroes instead of legendary leaders. However, one person who came to mind that would match the Lover archetype was Cleopatra. She was the last Egyptian Pharaoh who used her wiles to ensnare not one, but two Roman emperors. While sources say that she did love Augustus Caesar, she used the relationship to her advantage as a leader as well to secure her throne and protect her country (Crawford, 2007).
The first to come to mind when considering a Wise Old Man or Sage who was also a Leader was King Solomon. While some of the stories about King Solomon may be apocryphal, he was known to be extremely wise. A common story told about him is of the two women who both claimed to be the mother of a child. His unique method of discovering who the child truly belonged to, offering to cut the child in half in order to give each woman a half, and then having the true mother give him up to the other woman in order to save him illustrates how he used his wisdom (Gordon, 2014).
The definition of a scapegoat is a person who has the blame laid upon them for actions of another or for an event. There have been many historical scapegoats and history remembers them poorly, but some were leaders before they became the sacrificial lamb (or in this case, goat). An example of a recent leader who became a scapegoat is Oliver North. A marine officer, Oliver North was appointed Deputy Direct of the National Security Council by then president Ronald Reagan but shortly after that was embroiled in the Iran-Contra scandal. It is a given that he did not sell the weapons to Iran completely on his own and without knowledge from those in higher authority, but Oliver North became the scapegoat on which all attention and legal motions were centered (Biography, 2014).
For some the Devil Archetype immediately brings to mind the biblical story of Lucifer, the Archangel. However, I am choosing a Leader with a bit more recent of a history. Ivan IV of Russia, also known as Ivan the Terrible fits the Devil Archetype quite well. Though at first he attempted to maintain justice and order, his reign descended into chaos due to his paranoia and possible mental illness due to syphilis. He created Russia’s first secret police, the Oprichniki. With the Oprichniki, Ivan slaughtered 60,000 people in the city of Novgorod; the resulting mass of bodies in the Volkhov River caused it to flood. Ivan also beat his pregnant daughter-in-law until she miscarried and when his son rose to defend her, beat him to death in a fit of rage. His friendships were usually short lived and his friends usually ended up dead (Bobrick, 1987).
As you can see, different Jungian Archtypes can be found in many different historical leaders. Not all of them fit the warrior/hero archetype that Jung spoke of. Examining further leaders may result in even further explorations of different archetypes.
Bobrick, Benson. Fearful Majesty: The Life and Reign of Ivan the Terrible. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1987.
Crawford, A. (2007, March 31). Who Was Cleopatra? Retrieved from Smithsonian: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/who-was-cleopatra-151356013/?page=2
Gordon, C. H. (2014, January 23). Solomon. Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Brittanica: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/553506/Solomon/6747/Solomons-Temple
Halsall, P. (1998, June). Modern History Sourcebook: Ferdinand Magellan’s Voyage Round the World, 1519-1522 CE. Retrieved from Fordham University: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1519magellan.asp
Jung, C. G. (1934–1954). The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. (1981 2nd ed. Collected Works Vol.9 Part 1), Princeton, N.J.: Bollingen.
Maglaty, J. (2011, February 2). On the Trail of Harriet Tubman. Retrieved September 13, 2014, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/on-the-trail-of-harriet-tubman-146048/?no-ist
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage.
Oliver North. (2014). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 09:22, Sep 13, 2014, from http://www.biography.com/people/oliver-north-9425102.
Upbin, B. (2010, December 12). Two Great Historians On Alexander the Great, Part One. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
Wedgeworth, P. (2009, April 5). Jungian Archetypes. Center for the Humanities. Retrieved September 11, 2014.