You Were Born With This Knowledge. Remember?

By Nick Polizzi

About three years ago, my wife Michelle gave birth to our first child, River, and our lives have taken on a whole new meaning ever since. As one of my teachers once told me, “If you think that shamanic medicine is strong, watch out! Children are the strongest medicine of all”. I cannot express how right he was! What an incredible growth experience. My son River is like a cosmic mirror who reflects every emotion and thought pattern that we show him. We’re constantly learning from this little one.

The most profound teaching to date has been the realization that River came into this world with a unique personality already in place. From the moment he could open his eyes, he’s had a certain relationship with the world that couldn’t have been taught by us. The midwives all chuckled at how alert and coordinated he was on the day he was born, as he deftly smacked their probing hands away. By the time he was a month old he was already demonstrating an understanding of how the world worked.

Intrigued by this phenomenon, I decided to do some research on these innate abilities and found some pretty mind blowing information from a couple of the greatest thinkers in human history, Plato and Carl Jung.

Both Plato and Jung taught that we humans are born with a variety of built-in knowledge sets that each relate to a particular archetype. Jung defined archetypes as innate, universal prototypes for ideas that may be used to interpret observations. He felt that these patterns of behavior were embedded in a “collective unconscious”. A few that we commonly identify with are: the hero, the sage, the martyr, the jester, and the teacher.

Jung referred to them as “psychological organs”, because both are morphological constructs that have developed through
human evolution.

Harnessing the healing potential of archetypes:

In more recent times, legendary healers like Caroline Myss have taken Jung and Plato’s work a step further by teaching patients how to work with their dominant archetypes in order to achieve substantial physical and emotional healing.

*One of the first steps in many of the archetypical healing modalities is to hone in on what archetype(s) you are currently leading with in your day to day life.

This may sound strange but this strategy is not new. Although Jung and Plato made the archetype concept popular, these symbols have been used in folk medicine and folklore for thousands of years. I’ve come across many of these archetypes in my own healing work, but under different names. If you scan the list of Carl Jung’s 5 root archetypes below, you will probably recognize some of them.

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Jung’s Famous Five:

The Self: the regulating center of the psyche and facilitator of individuation.

The Shadow: the opposite of the ego image, often containing qualities with which the ego does not identify, but which it possesses nonetheless.

The Anima: the feminine image in a man’s psyche.

The Animus: the masculine image in a woman’s psyche.

The Persona: the image we present to the world, usually protecting the Ego from negative images (like a mask), and considered another of ‘the subpersonalities.’

Looking at the above list, I noticed quite a few parallels between Jung’s five archetypes and the sacred symbols used by other indigenous cultures.  For example, Jung’s “Shadow” is what the Lakota Tribe of North America refers to as the “Shadow Man”. Both of these terms refer to the darker side of our persona that can sabotage us but also help / teach us.

It doesn’t matter which one you’re referring to, these powerful symbols of our psyche and spirit are almost always looked at as being an innate aspect of who we are. In most schools of traditional healing, there seems to be a strong emphasis placed on this ancient, yet extremely relevant phenomenon.

One of my favorite aspects of each archetype is that they always possess dualistic, positive and negative characteristics. You might have helped someone greatly today and are beaming with The Hero archetype, but watch out because this archetype also comes with a potentially dangerous and self-destructive dose of individualism (“I can do anything, and I don’t need your help!”) – which can get you in to trouble.

On the other hand, some of the less appealing ones, like The Prostitute, have some very redeeming and useful qualities. This particular archetype has been associated solely with women for hundreds of years, but according to Carolyn Myss, this is 100% inaccurate. Myss sees the prostitute as an innate male and female trait of “demonstrating a willingness to negotiate the sale of his or her power”. Not just the act of selling the physical body, but any service we have to offer, including hard work and creativity in our professional life. Myss says that the potentially dark aspect of embracing our inner prostitute is that one needs to admit to themselves that “I can be bought”. However, if we acknowledge that we use certain positive aspects of “the prostitute”, we turn it from scandalous to sacred.

Throughout my day, I can see 2 to 5 different characters within me at play from hour to hour, sometimes in combination. Although I’m a novice in this particular school of wisdom, I can say this: when I fully embrace the archetype that I am currently exhibiting, without guilt, pride, or shame, I harness a deeper source of empowerment and inner peace.

My question for you: Which archetypes do you associate most strongly with, and how have they positively or negatively affected your life?

Stay curious,

Nick Polizzi
Director, The Sacred Science


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59 Responses

  1. Thanks Nick. Just mentioning that Tarot works as a useful tool to help reveal out shadow side in any given situation. It helps us to balance ourselves by owning our archetypal patterns and so work towards our higher goals. Jung even designed his own deck.

    1. I am sure that there are many books out there, but a journal is excellent book on you that you happen to write yourself…this can be an amazing tool if practiced with honesty.

      1. Nick mentions Caroline Myss in the article. She has some amazing books regarding your archetype. Sacred Contracts and Archetypes, Who are You? are a couple to start with. She even has a deck of cards about the different archetypes. Amazing information!

  2. Awesome article thank you 🙂

    Do you perhaps have a link to a more comprehensive list of the different personalities?

    I think, as a guess, I would most readily associate with: The teacher, The jester, and the Healer 🙂

  3. I love synchronicity. This is a rather newish subject for me, however just this week I started reading a book called the Gene Keys, which is based on the sacred I Ching. The author says based on our time and date of birth we possess several primary archetypes that we work with in this life. (he calls them gene keys) Each key has both a positive and negative aspect. He refers to the negative aspect as the “shadow”. It is very interesting to me because some of the shadows I am working with profoundly coincide with the my primary archetypes that I incarnated with based on my date and time of birth. The authors claim is that if we accept and heal the shadow we can reprogram our DNA… and transform our life. I believe our “Junk DNA” is our akashic record” and healing our DNA can indeed heal our lives.

  4. Nick, the longer I walk this road of self realization, the more contact I have with these archetypes. It’s as you stated they dance with me throughout the day, each taking a turn to show me more about my true self. The experience is absolutely fascinating as well as educating, I’ve accepted them for who they truly are…..a part of me, since the time of my birth. I ‘m thrilled to have this knowledge revealed to me. They offer the most insight as to who I am & where I’m heading. Thought I’d share as you have done.. Barbara

  5. What you state here is similar to what an indigenous person told me years back. How important it is to be able to use dark and light energy together for the good. Because it can be used for the bad. At that time, I felt one should totally steer away from the dark side of any thing. Then it was explained to me as an example: a ravaging storm can be a good thing when it causes rejuvenation that cannot take place without it..

  6. Thank you for shedding a light on this knowledge. I have been studying and embracing this
    Ancient wisdom since the early 2000. I am observing this in my grandchildren!

  7. Hi Nick,
    Back in June I believe I ordered 3 copies of the sacred science cook book. Since it never arrived, I wonder if someone from your office can check to see if my order was processed and or payment received.
    One of the recipients intended is a leading exporter of high grade new zealand manuka honey and I know he and a traditional kampo herbalist are both excited to read your cookbook and the story behind the herbs. Many thanks for all you do from Tokyo! Liame

  8. Check out the Myres and Briggs personality test at it is very interesting. I’m INFP what’s yours? I can see the traits can be positive and negative but now I am conscious of these. 🙂

    1. As someone who used the MBTI for research while a university professor, I found over time and location that it has a very Western slant. My Middle Easten or Asian students didn’t understand many of the questions (to determine type) and couldn’t grasp some of the contexts because they were unfamiliar in their part of the world. I stopped using it because it skewed the research. I’ve found Caroline Myss’ archetypes much more universal and accessible to everyone and so became a certified professional archetypal consultant. I’m also a shamanic practitioner so the two constructs go hand in hand. Great article, Nick!

  9. I definitely agree about the innate personalities we are born with – I always tell people that I can’t take much credit for the way my daughter is – she’s just her own fabulous ball of energy!

    Also I am interested to know what people think about entity attachment. I have done years of research personally for my own healing process and have found the issue of discarnate spirits to be lesser known but equally relevant. How do people deal with spirit attachment versus shadow work? I for one don’t like the idea of owning things that aren’t even mine!

  10. This is a fantastic write-up and simple explanation of a lot of correlating belief systems. Super cool to see them brought together in one place/article.

    I think the key to this article is this phrase:
    “When I fully embrace the archetype that I am currently exhibiting, without guilt, pride, or shame, I harness a deeper source of empowerment and inner peace.”

    I don’t know what archetype it falls under, but one of the lessons I’m getting in all areas of life is this idea of acceptance. The more I rebel against whatever moment I’m currently experiencing, the more that moment is reflected back in negative ways. Where if I just accept and breathe through whatever I’m experiencing, it seems to pass and I move into greater awareness of myself and my surroundings, more able to see the strength of myself in any moment, and more able to experience the love of the people around me.

    What do you think is the archetype for acceptance of one’s current moment, and the antithetical archetype to it?

  11. Just wanted you to know that your final words, “stay curious”, gave me validation for what many see as odd. I am grateful for all of your words. With respect for your work of passion. Christiana

  12. This is fascinating. Since a I am 10 years and 14 years older than my sister and brother who were born at home, I too was intreagued by how each came into the world with their own personality.
    I’d like to know if River was vaccinated at birth, since he was so alert and aware.

  13. As a pre-school teacher for 25 years, and a mom of adult children, and now a grandmother- I still say all of my greatest teachers have been under 3 feet tall. Children’s lack of inhibition and connection to the source being unbridled means they live in the truth and the now, much more than we who have layers of experience and learning. Each child I am honored to encounter, witness and walk beside, has taught me so much about the planet, and so much about being human. Thanks for this article!

  14. Great article, Nick.

    The knowledge of the archetypes gives us a tool to understand ourselves on so many levels.

    Many Blessings,

  15. What I would rather say about Nick is it isn’t simple… but CLEAR ancient understanding. May Nick and his family find many interested readers world wide

  16. Thank you for the reminder! I have read ‘He’, She and ‘We’, -as well as Inanna and Women who run
    With the wolves for story and archetype identification. Ho!

  17. Very interesting article. I’ve read about archetypes before, but I can see which archetype I associate with.
    Very cool.

  18. Ifa, the indigenous religion of the Yoruba people of West Africa, works with archetypes in the form of orishas, deity/intermediaries between humans and the Creator Oludumare. We all have all the orishas within us although one may dominate. Ceremonies with drumming, dancing and chanting help balance our orisha energies. Read about it in Honey in the River.

  19. nick, from what i understand, stan grof wrote a book about how some don’t complete the shadow-seeking regiment and choose to remain ‘in’ the shadow. it’s titled HR Giger and the Zeitgeist of the Twentieth Century i guess grof worked with giger until giger abandoned the work, choosing to draw aliens. have you read it?

  20. Some of what I read has came to me over time. I have learned that you do have what I call mirrors
    of every aspect of your personality. As a man I learned that you are a prostitute when you sell your skills just like if you sold your body. Keeping up a persona is one of the hardest things for me, I was bullied as a child and when I grew up I decided that it would never happen again. I have acted tough for so long it is hard to show the real me. I am a gentle person who loves most everything on the planet. I look forward to going on an Ayaquest in the future to open my mind even further. Thanks. .

  21. Fascinating.
    You might want to familiar yourself with the Enneagram, which talks about 9 types – 9 ways of dealing with reality and life. I strongly recommend that you give it a look.

  22. Thank you for this, you are opening up a truth in ways that will bring greater clarity and focus for me. I am grateful and look forward to reading the material I have just downloaded.

  23. Thanks for the post 🙂 archetypes seem to be good symbols to pay aggrntion in life, now i want to find out more about the topic!

  24. I definitely like the facts stated in this article. I am new with this knowledge yet I am experiencing or had experienced some consequences stated in here. (Y)

  25. Good reminder of the Jungian archetypes and that we all get to face our shadows at some point of our life.
    I also like the book ‘Goddesses in every woman’ by Jean Shinoda Bolen (she also wrote the male version of it ‘Gods in every man’). She applies the same archetype theory based on greek goddesse personalities for a more spiritual version. The author is a successful Jungian psychologist herself and also a bit of a witch 😉 as it can be discoverted in her other book ‘Crossing to Avalon’.

  26. My passion is to see if I can make someone ‘s day better either by helping them or smiling or just saying hello.. I have not always been this way but I am working on a more positive way to be and by serving others I feel better.

  27. This is fascinating. I have been doing some reading about recognizing and shedding layers of the ego. Wondering how to begin. What techniques to use. Your article here will help me. It also makes me think of the theory/technique called Core Qualities and how to identify both positive and negative traits of ones character.
    One more thing…my son was born 28 years ago. I remember looking into his eyes at the first moments and seeing a complete person. One who knew everything already. Shharing the wisdom of past lives perhaps. Now he is on a journey( of life) perhaps retrieving the forgottem knowledge he was born with. Thank you!

  28. Thank you Nick .This is a really ingenious article and eye opener. I read a lot of Jung’s books this winter and studied Plato for years, there is no end to this kind of study. As a grandma now I realize that my grandson is a miracle and a teacher too.

  29. I can say that my archetypes are the Hero, the Teacher and Jung’s the Shadow (which surprised me several times both ways) and the Persona which I use when dealing with the materialistic people. I experienced many times Jung’s term of Synchronicity. Thanks Nick

  30. We breed horses and dogs etc. for specific strengths including temperament. We humans are no different, we inherit or emotional state from our parent/s. It is now accepted that phobias are inherited, I believe all feelings/emotions are inherited. But we have an independent mind/brain. Once we accept that our emotions may be giving us false info. we can question them and make a more logical decision.

  31. greetings, thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, I do not go by archetypes anymore as I regard them as iconic figures perpetuating the pyramid of world power but the 7 Hermetic Principles, commonly known as Natural Laws. And Natural Laws are not ni agreement with psychoanalysis at all. I expound on this in my free ebook, titled The Metaphysics of Sex, which will be available by the Fall this year. If you are intrigued, you may wish to glance at the prologue…. at In the event you’d like to make a documentary about it, I’d be glad to be featured as a guest speaker.

  32. I always related to the “Teacher or “sage” archetype. The positive aspects were great listening and observational skills. The negative were not realizing the drain emotionally and spiritually of being negative people into my life thinking U had the capacity to heal them through live and service. Now I resonate with “the Old Crone” wise with inner strength and knowledge of whom to spend my time with. The Great Myatery, Farher Sky and Mother Earth are the great healers as are the 4 directions.

  33. I resonate with all of the Archetypes that you have listed. No one jumps out as that is me. It seems as though I use something of each one on a daily basis.

  34. Hey Nick,
    Thank you so much for this helpful information about archetypes. I know I do change my behavior around certain people. The change can be positive but it can also be negative and when that negative side of me comes out I get really aggravated with myself. This ability to identify what archetype is showing up and try to figure out why they are present in those moments I think will be really helpful. Sometimes you don’t know you are sleeping until someone comes around and wakes you up! Thank you:)

  35. I so appreciate the synchronicity of your lessons for me. I am deep in Shadow at this time, and realize that Prostitute is one that I need to name and claim….the realization that I can be bought….with sweet seductive words from an online “relationship” that has left me humbled, to say the least. And humbled by the part of me that rose up, with harshness (more than warranted) in response to a perceived threat by this person (didn’t even give them a chance to ask for what I feared that they would be asking me for.) and also trying to embrace this darker side that gets afraid and lashes out, but is also perhaps trying to fiercely protect me and get my attention. I am humbled by the infinite shades of grey and lack of total black and white, good and bad, in everything. I am so grateful for the teachings and guidance here….and trying to learn and stay open….through the storm. Thank you.

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