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The Daughter Archetype - Observing or Projecting?

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

In my book, I draw out sketches for each member of the archetypal family. This morning, a thought popped into my head - a revision, a reconsideration. I was never satisfied with the heading I used for the section on the daughter archetype.

Divine Daughter archetypal caricatures
Daughter - Observed and Unrecognized

The subtitle for the section on son didn't settle perfectly either, come to think of it. While recording the audiobook, I changed it. With some luck, maybe it will become an easter egg for eager readers and fussy nitpickers. But I didn't change the heading for the daughter section. I didn't have today's insight until... well, until today.

To be fair, it's not just me. Of all the things I've read about archetypes and psychology, it still surprises me how traditional and terribly un-insightful people can be about child archetypes, child wisdom, and especially daughter-as-wisdom figures (not that I've read everything out there, of course... I'm still on my journey after all...)

Still, it felt a little funny this morning. Here I am, two years after publishing, and I find I'm arguing with myself... again. "You know what you should have done is....."

Oh well. You don't get to schedule insights. You don't find them at the bottom of a bottle, though many artists have tried. You can't force them to emerge through some act of will or determination or power. Insights arrive on their own time and calendar, like beautiful muses out of ancient myths or mischievous wizards scheming adventures. Prepare a place for them, pay attention, and open yourself to be receptive, or else you may be left behind.

Bernard Lonergan was so intent on the role of insight in our thinking, he wrote a book about it. Lonergan had this idea that we do not really generate our own insights. Much like we don't generate our own values, we cannot simply manufacture an insight ourselves. Instead, insights come to us when we make ourselves open and ready, almost like grace or wisdom.

Here's how Lonergan put it:

In the ideal detective story the reader is given all the clues yet fails to spot the criminal. He may advert to each clue as it arises. He needs no further clues to solve the mystery. Yet the reader can remain in the dark for the simple reason that reaching the solution is not the mere apprehension of any clue, not the mere memory of it all, but a quite distinct activity of organizing intelligence that places the full set of clues in a unique explanatory perspective.
By insight, then, is meant not any act of attention or [reference] or memory but the supervening act of understanding... Its function in cognitional activity is so central that to grasp it in its conditions, its working, and its results, is to confer a basic yet startling unity on the whole field of human inquiry and human opinion.

A line in one episode from the original Star Trek captures a part of this issue. In The Ultimate Computer, Dr. Richard Daystrom attempts to reach one last achievement in his already long, genius-level career. But he puts the horsepower of his ambitions before the metaphorical cart of wisdom. He tries to force genius into a schedule of his wishes instead of inviting insight to play its part in his work.

All too often, I came across the daughter archetype as a mere sub-manifestation of the mother archetype or the feminine. Freud, Jung, and Neumann seem to do this. Jordan Peterson, in his Maps of Meaning, can't seem to bring himself to write the word daughter unless mother is mentioned on the same page. After lengthy discussions of mother, father, and son, he settled on the "Divinity of Interest" as the fourth aspect of his family of archetypes. So, three archetypes have person-centred descriptions, but the fourth goes against pattern and morphs into some non-person-like abstract idea??

Even novice yoga students might suggest a simple stretch of the imagination could complete the family. One breath in a child's pose, let's say, can reveal the daughter as separate and unique from the other three family members!

Often enough in feminist literature I came across the maiden-mother-crone idea as though these things were all-in-one - basically different examples of the same inseparable figure through feminine transitions of life.

In reading Carl Jung's examination of the Kore, where he takes the time to really think through the story of Persephone, I came away feeling disappointed too. We find in this doctor, scientist, and truly out-in-his-own-dimension thinker an extremely limited sense of the role of observation and insight in wisdom. Will no one take seriously the figure of a child realizing and playing with an insight?

Jung's use of the Sophia figure, from what I've found so far in his work at least, again doesn't seem to distinguish between maiden-mother-crone, and instead puts them together. It's as though the feminine-child cannot be separated from the feminine-child-bearer. Hagia Sophia, or Sancta Sapientia, is bride, mother of god, and holy ghost all together... but not a daughter caught up in the delight and joy of discovery or invention!

Imagine for a moment that feeling of working on a puzzle. You may focus on it intently for minutes or hours. You feel a growing, intimate relationship with mystery. But in a flash, the pattern within the puzzle blossoms in your mind, or the work reaches a completed manifestation. What do you feel? What is that overwhelming, joyful realization?

If the scientific revolution does teach us anything, is it not about the role of observation in our thinking? - What we think we know, and why we engage with the puzzles of the unknown the way we do.

How we differentiate between acting upon something and observing something turns out to be very important to our relationship with things in the world. The moment something reveals itself to you - maybe it's just a funny quirk or a weird connection of ideas - that's the missing aspect that people like Bernard Lonergan wanted us to explore.

I have to playfully thank Jung for my insight this morning. Jung spent a lot of time on the idea of projection. For Jung, our personalities have a dark side, something he called the shadow, which could be the instinctual, irrational, and even egotistical side of ourselves. When we become offended or emotional or judgemental about others, according to Jung, that's the shadow projecting elements of our own personality outward. This is an opportunity for personal reflection rather than personal confidence.

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. ~ C. Jung

The person you judge ends up being your mirror, your reflection. And what you end up judging could be understood as a projection of some part of yourself onto something else so that you can observe it and distance yourself from it... or potentially process it.

In my book, I used the heading Daughter - Observed and Unrecognized. And although it is extremely close to what I was aiming at, it doesn't fall from the tongue smoothly, like lyrics or poetry. A certain clunkiness in the choice of words makes the heading miss the mark. I tried to force an insight. But with time and space, it came to me. It may have come earlier if only I was more receptive and ready... or get distracted with drinks on the weekend...

Today, if I were to revise the book, I think I would use this instead:

Daughter - Observing and Projecting

This would have changed how I wrote the section in the book, too. I would have played more with the relationship between observation and projection. The scientific method of inquiry, after all, can be seen as an innovation that attempts to remove the scales of projections from our eyes. And through the effort of asking more and more honest questions, we can develop our relationship with observation into something like a lover and beloved instead of a master-judge over a subordinated-other.

Perhaps someday we shall see our true selves in the world... and fall in love... rather than peer through these glasses darkly...

What visions will

invite you in,

offering gifts when

you pay attention?


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