THE ULTIMATE ROMANCE
The Archetype of Transformation, Individuation and Evolution
Why are so many of us obsessed by stories of love lost and regained? Such stories make up the best-selling genre in publishing and are among the most beloved and highest grossing films worldwide. What is the secret underlying the powerful drive that generates and demands these stories?
Joseph Campbell's revelation of the hero monomyth, The Hero with 1000 Faces, is a classic bestseller across the categories of religion, spirituality, mythology and psychoanalysis. Its influence and value for students and lovers of story is incalculable. I have discovered a parallel monomyth, and in The Ultimate Romance I lay out this Romance Archetype and unlock its secret code.
The Romance monomyth consists in Four Characters -- the Hero, the Heroine, the Saboteur and the Nurturer –
and Five Acts, as follows:
1) The Primordial Union, in which the Lovers are established as belonging together.
2) The Separation, in which the Saboteur distracts the Hero and abducts the Heroine.
3) The Intervention, in which the Nurturer clarifies the situation and proffers a Magic Implement having special power.
4) The Battle, in which the Hero tries to overcome the Saboteur by force, thereby strengthening the antagonist. One or both of the Lovers remember to use the Magic Implement, which catalyzes the Saboteur.
5) The Reunion, in which the power of the Saboteur is neutralized and the Lovers reunite in the spirit of the Nurturer.
In The Ultimate Romance, I lay out this monomyth and show how such stories of lovers separated and reunited are present in every culture, how they tap into our deep subconscious, into the very roots of our being, and why we revisit them over and over in our instinctive search for wholeness and fulfillment.
I wrote my undergraduate dissertation at Yale on the psychological significance of Campbell's Hero Monomyth, and continued my studies of comparative religion, philosophy, and psychology at Harvard and King's College, Cambridge. I then researched myth and ritual performance in India and Bali over many years. On the basis of my research, I developed a practical method for using both the Hero and the Romance Monomyths to guide individuals to generate their own personal myth through psychodrama and then to analyze the characters and plots as a powerful form of therapy and self-development. Through ORIGINS I have presented workshops based on the meaning of these archetypal forms and created original performance works in theater, dance and opera that have been produced around the world.
The Ultimate Romance parallels Campbell’s classic, and I show both its universal meaning and its practical application. The dominant theme of the book is the integration of masculine and feminine elements as they cross the contending forces of evolution and devolution. Between each chapter there is a summary of one well-known romance, demonstrating the underlying monomyth. These Romances include stories from every epoch and source, from the Ramayana to Cinderella, to Pride and Prejudice, to the first Sex and the City movie. Like a steady drum beat, these summaries build the case for the universal form, and provide an entertaining and powerful fund of illustrations and examples to enhance the theoretical progression of the book.
In this Introduction to the Romance Archetype I describe my quest to understand the Ultimate Romance and its mysterious power. I explain the universal form as a plus sign, with the dynamic between the lovers crossing the dynamic between the forces towards life and death. Act 5, The Reunion of the lovers represents the completion of one complete cycle of transformation, one evolutionary step.
The form of the Ultimate Romance is intuitively and universally understood. Its structure reveals a formula for transformation at all levels: psychological, anthropological and metaphysical.
Three other books on the subject have been written and will appear in succession over the next years.
In a second book, The Inner Romance, I present the meaning and value of the Archetype in terms of psychological individuation and spiritual transformation, using many illustrations and examples from my own experience and case studies from the ORIGINS Inner Romance workshops.
In a third book, The Great Romance, I use illustrations from the ORIGINS Projects to consider how collectives evolve, from couples, through groups and nations all the way up to world culture, expanding upon a claim made by my friend Jean Houston that the Romance Archetype is the seminal idea of the 21st century.
In a fourth book, I use illustrations from the ORIGINS productions and further scientific and philosophical research to describe the greater context and meaning of the Archetype as a key to understanding what we are, where we come from, and where we are going. This book will show how the Archetype is central both to Christianity, as found in the Fall and the generation of Christ, and to Hinduism as found in the Ramayana.