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Archetype of the Spirit

Archetype of the Spirit: Origins of Spirituality—Individual and Collective
by Peter Tufts Richardson
Rockland: ME, Red Barn Publishing, 2007
146 pages
Reviewed by Karen Lewis Foley 

Peter Tufts Richardson proposes a structure for understanding human consciousness and spiritual development in Archetypes of the Spirit: Origins of Spirituality—Individual and Collective. A rich, dense, and multi-layered book, Archetypes of the Spirit explores the world’s religions in order to correlate symbols and historical expressions with the Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator, Jung’s compass, and his previous work describing four primary spiritualities. Helpful charts and diagrams are included, especially for visual learners who want to view relationships among complex ideas. Numerous color photographs of religious and spiritual artifacts and symbols from around the world are included, and help demonstrate the archetypes Richardson describes.

Familiarity with Richardson’s previous book Four Spiritualities: Expressions of Self, Expressions of Spirit: A Psychology of Contemporary Spiritual Choice, or at least with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Jungian psychology will be helpful in the early chapters. However, Richardson offers a good overview of his four spiritual types in chapter three, and a familiarity of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is less necessary for the later chapters.

Richardson’s Four Spiritualities Mandala (28) demonstrates how each of the four Myers-Briggs functional types is aligned with a particularjourney of spirituality, both individually and historically. Richardson writes “It is the purpose of this book to document and show the dynamics of this Mandala as an archetype of human spiritual origins” (17). The history of human spiritual development is traced with earth and sky, sun and moon polarities, parallels between the human bodily form (chakras), and the World Tree and caduceus symbols. Five expansive meditations titled Earth, Sky, Sun, Moon, and Tree conclude the book.

Chapter six describes spiritual poise and will be of particular interest to spiritual directors and anyone engaged in spiritual or religious leadership. Richardson writes, “Spiritual poise involves the integration of the Archetype of the Spirit into a wholeness of the self, mediated by the presence of a balanced consciousness” (101). Spiritual directors meet people exactly where they are at any particular time in their life. This is always the beginning and where most of the time is spent with spiritual directees. But, the spiritual director can also be interested in where a spiritual directee is headed. People often seek direction at times of stuckness, when unexpected crisis breaks up a comfortable stasis, or when they just sense inner signals that something new may be breaking forth within. Perhaps most spiritual directors find themselves at times with people who are out of balance and seekingspiritual poise, a condition when “the question of ‘Who am I’ or ‘What is myself?’ will be balanced if not resolved” (107).

Richardson’s thoughts about the development of meditative practice, and the spiritual director’s role will be helpful. Like many of us, Richardson “long wondered why meditative disciplines needed to take years and decades until I perceived them…as exercises of typedevelopment” (115). He describes that when meditative practice quiets the ego, the personality’s inferior function (the one least developed and used in Myers-Briggs Type Indicators, or known as the shadow in Jungian terms) can surge to the forefront and create imbalance. One’s usual way of understanding the self can get overwhelmed. Here the spiritual director can be a steadying and reassuring presence.

Models or typology structures can give spiritual directors—and those who train, educate, and supervise spiritual directors—a context for understanding an individual’s pattern of relating to Spirit. Archetypes of the Spirit is a good resource for spiritual directors, and for anyone who enjoys the intricacy of human spiritual life as it unfolds for the person, in history, with diverse expression. 

Karen Lewis Foley, a Unitarian Universalist minister, is a spiritual director, retreat leader, church consultant, and writer. She completed the Shalem Institute’s Individual Spiritual Guidance Program and is currently studying with the Shalem program, leading contemplative prayer groups and retreats. Her poem appeared in the September 2005 issue of Presence journal.

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