Romance Archetype Theory
The Hero’s Journey and the Romance Monomyths are the patterns behind all stories of adventure and romantic love. The meaning or “mythologic” of each of these refer to the archetypal process of transformation. The two monomyths are the Archetypes of Transformation referring to the transformation cycles that a person undergoes throughout life in the process of Individuation. Each of them has its own mythologic, its lawful referent or meaning.
In the Hero’s Journey, there is one protagonist who represents the one who is responsible and must choose. What is fundamentally different about the Romance Archetype is that the chooser is articulated into two capacities: active and receptive. The Hero represents agency, the actor, the active (Yang) capacity, and the Heroine represents the communal, open, receptive (Yin) capacity. Choice consists in receptivity to the matrix of circumstances in any given situation and activity appropriate to the matrix. Every choice has these two components. Their union is inborn and given within each of us, representing our capacity to choose optimally. Their ongoing development and balance is necessary for survival, fitness and adaptability. These two elemental capacities of choice are always, each in its own way, subject to the influence of the forces towards evolution and devolution.
Evolution (transformation) is generated from the Source and represented by the Nurturer, or Nature Spirit, who aids the Lovers to balance and unify. The Saboteur, or Monster, is generated by the force of devolution, who acts to disempower the Lovers and take things ultimately towards death and destruction.
The Romance Archetype Mandala shown below represents the constellation and interrelationship of the four character elements of the whole Self, unified by the power of the Magic Implement.
The trajectory of the Five Acts displays the mythologic by which these two capacities and their balance, with the exigencies of changed circumstances, are routinely and habitually compromised, but successfully pass through fulcra of change to reach a new union synthesized by the power of the Magic Implement.
What is dramatic about romance is that at any point the Lovers may be separated and their union dissolved. What would romantic stories be without their villains? They are the function of the force towards dissolution. The Lovers must overcome their separation by the Saboteur by uniting at a new, deeper level, or their union will dissolve. The trajectory through to a successful consummation is the fundamental pattern of transformation. Being lawful it is traced through the mythologic of the Five Acts of the Romance Archetype.
ACT I. The Primordial Union
The chooser has two inborn capacities, the active capacity to act appropriately as an entity in its own right in accordance with its identity, and the receptive or communal capacity to accord with its environment at all levels. Appropriate choice, adaptation, depends upon the balance of these two capacities responding to the force towards evolution at work in changing circumstances.
The fitness of survival is a function of the balance and union of these two capacities. The sensitivity of this balance is extremely susceptible, but when aligned with the force of evolution constitutes true well-being, the “fitness of the survivors.”
ACT 2. The Separation
The force towards dissolution in the image of the Saboteur profits from altering circumstances to promote the imbalance and disempowerment of the Lovers. In the Hero, it produces excess of action without receptivity, distractedness, which is unstable. In the Heroine, it produces excess of receptivity without appropriate action, which is passivity, equally unstable. What is thus destabilized cannot adapt appropriately.
To destroy the chooser, the Saboteur takes advantage of changing circumstances by exploiting any weaknesses in either or both of the two capacities to foster and strengthen itself. Fostering imbalance in favor of activity without receptivity leads to distracted action. Imbalance towards receptivity leads to passivity.
Therefore the first strategy of the Saboteur is to abduct, that is, to take possession of the receptive capacity rendering it passive. The second is to distract the agent into non-essential activity, or action that is inappropriate to the union and the general circumstances. The Saboteur essentially feeds off of the energies of these two capacities, growing ever stronger.
In this way the Saboteur takes control. Control equals double Yang, which is action arising from personal will without any receptivity to the exigencies of the whole and its environment.
When the whole is fixed in this Separation, the Saboteur is in a position of control that leads to the deadness, dissolution and death of the whole. This unwholesome situation is the essence of neurotic behavior. It is the function of the Saboteur to keep it this way until the whole is destroyed. In Romances, this circumstance is dramatically portrayed as the overwhelming spell or power of the Saboteur that makes things appear hopeless.
ACT 3. Intervention
As the Saboteur succeeds, the force of evolution kicks in and delivers up a Nurturer. The Nurturer brings clarity to the situation, identifying the true sabotage and offering a Magic Implement that has the power to undercut the hold of the Saboteur and neutralize its power, that is, restoring the power of the joined active and receptive capacities to choose appropriately.
ACT 4. Battle
Having correctly identified the Saboteur with the help of the Nurturer, the Hero actively sets about doing battle with the Saboteur. His first impulse is to resort to force, but this force only strengthens the power of the Saboteur.
At this point the relationship of the receptive Heroine to the Nurturer is critical. It is she who remembers the Magic Implement, giving the Hero to understand that this power alone can neutralize the force of the Saboteur.
The use of this power, often under the guidance and assistance of the Nurturer, alone makes it possible to overcome the Saboteur and its vast destructive powers.
The survival of the fittest is the united capacity of the lovers to follow the Nurturer out of this situation into a higher union.
ACT 5. Reunion
The power of the Saboteur, transformed through the Magic Implement, returns to the Hero and Heroine, restoring the strength of the capacity of both, their balance, and their union.
All of nature celebrates this new evolutionary stasis.
The Reunion, the survival of the fittest, is a newly integrated self.
The Mandala of the Romance Archetype shown above represents the reunited state of the Lovers, now no longer disempowered and separated by the Saboteur, but empowered by the energy freed up from the clutches of the Saboteur with the assistance of the Nurturer and integrated into a new whole unified by the power of the Magic Implement. The Lovers, rebalanced active and receptive capacities of the chooser, have proven themselves fit to survive. They are a new self, a new state of integration, a completed step in the Individuation process, an evolutionary moment.
The course of the adversaries in the two Archetypes displays the true course of evolution.
It is critical to understand how the antagonism between the two forces can be resolved by attending to the mythologic arc of the antagonists in both story forms. The Asian view is that the two forces of evolution and devolution belong to the whole picture and the whole self. It is this dynamic whole which is divine. We never eliminate the force of destruction; we only appease it by recognizing its power and incorporating it into the greater primordial force of evolution. In the Separation, the power of the Saboteur has been wrested from the chooser (Lovers) and belongs to the whole. Force, the reflex of the Hero distracted from the vital union with the receptive feminine, never really succeeds. The true transformative power has to do with the receptivity of the Heroine to the Nurturer, because this is the force of evolution itself. This produces the Magic Implement, which alone can neutralize the Saboteur and return its power to the essential capacities and balance of action and receptivity.
In this way, the Saboteur actually works for evolution, because it eliminates the unfit and sets up the conditions by which the fittest (Heroes and Heroines) must prove themselves in order to survive. Fitness means the skill of using the non-violent gifts of the Nurturer to undercut and transform the destructive, and often-violent track of the Saboteur. If we have the eyes to see it, this is what every Hero’s Journey and every Romance teaches us. But we have to look below the surface entertainment of a film or novel into the mythologic and the particular way in which the transformation is being portrayed. Those who create effective stories are prophets of this mythologic, who teach us how to transcend.
The laws of mythologic unify the infinite variations portrayed in all the stories we know and love. In times past, cultures would have one or two dominating myths, such as the Mahabharata (Hero’s Journey) and Ramayana (Romance) in the Hindu tradition. Due to our knowledge of the cultures of the world and our artistic and entertainment industry, the stories to which we are exposed have increased exponentially. This reflects, on the one hand the profit motive to distract with entertainment, but at a deeper level, it displays a fundamental need to see the mythologic set before us, suggesting an obsessive need to understand the subtle nature of survival. One can envision a culture that understands that stories are not just entertaining distractions, but instructive lessons in the laws that govern our entire human process towards evolution and well being.