Nietzsche’s Archetypes : Camel, Lion, Child

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Osho Zen Tarot: rebirth card.

In Zen you are coming from nowhere and you are going to nowhere. You are just now, here, neither coming nor going. Everything passes by you; your consciousness reflects it but it does not get identified. When a lion roars in front of a mirror, do you think the mirror roars? Or when the lion is gone and a child comes dancing, the mirror completely forgets about the lion and starts dancing with the child–do you think the mirror dances with the child? The mirror does nothing, it simply reflects. Your consciousness is only a mirror. Neither do you come, nor do you go. Things come and go. You become young, you become old; you are alive, you are dead. All these states are simply reflections in an eternal pool of consciousness.

Osho Osho Live Zen, Volume, 2 Chapter 16

In Zarathustra, Nietzsche describes the archetype of the camel as the typical state of unconsciousness pertaining to the general population. The camel does not strive, except for trying to fit in or keep up with the Joneses. The camel is comfortable with mediocrity and unsettled by the unusual. The camel follows the herd and does not question authority. Nietzsche was unapologetically scathing of camels. Carolyn Myss relates this archetype to what she refers to as the tribal level of consciousness.

The lion wants to do anything but follow the herd. It wants to fight and win. The lion seeks power and acknowledgment. The lion must always be right. Nietzsche’s lion fights the dragon. Myss relates the lion to the libel of the individual, the cult of which is prevalent in contemporary Western society.

The child symbolises awareness, rebirth, awakened consciousness. The child is innocent, not naive. The child forgives and let’s go because it is completely in the moment. It does not need to win, it simply is. The child is Nietzsche’s ubermensch and Myss’s level of the symbolic. From this level of consciousness we are able to step away from the drama of the tribe or individual and see the forest for the trees; we are able to recognise patterns across cultures, time and space, to rise above the herd and drop the fixations of ego. This is the level that archetypes work on, on which folk tales and mythology function; it is the level on which astrology, as a symbolic languages, resides.

The card in the image above also explores these archetypes, as follows:

Commentary:

This card depicts the evolution of consciousness as it is described by Friedrich Nietzsche in his book, Thus Spake Zarathustra. He speaks of the three levels of Camel, Lion and Child. The camel is sleepy, dull, self-satisfied. He lives in delusion, thinking he’s a mountain peak, but really he is so concerned with others’ opinions that he hardly has any energy of his own. Emerging from the camel is the lion. When we realize we’ve been missing life, we start saying no to the demands of others. We move out of the crowd, alone and proud, roaring our truth. But this is not the end. Finally the child emerges, neither acquiescent nor rebellious, but innocent and spontaneous and true to his own being. Whatever the space you’re in right now–sleepy and depressed, or roaring and rebellious–be aware that it will evolve into something new if you allow it. It is a time of growth and change.

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