The Navaho and the Western Psyche : Where the Paths Diverge

A nearly identical dual masculine, solar-lunar balance is duplicated in the relationship of the twins’ Sun-Father with his lunar counterpart, Water Carrier:

[Water Carrier] is the representative of that unpredictable, tidal sap-power, which is the polar opposite to the regular passing fire of the sun, and yet collaborates with the sun in the maintenance of the world-process. Sun-Father and Water-Father, Fire-man and Moisture-Man; together they are discovered in the House of Strength; together they test the heroes who are to serve the cause of life. (p. 75)

Water-Carrier is instrumental in assisting Sun-Father in administering the series of trials through which the twins prove their worthiness. In the sand painting series, the twins are represented as identical in both form and color up to the pivotal point of transformation, when Sun-Father and Water-Carrier will bestow upon them their proper names, at which later time they will also gain their individual colors, black and blue (Plate VI). The color blue is specifically associated with the lunar twin, Child Born of Water, who plays a key role in compensating the aggressive nature of his solar warrior brother. Campbell attributes the ultimate success of the Twin Heroes to the blue twin’s mitigating influence:

… one cannot help but feel … that it is largely the balancing presence of Child Born of Water which guarantees the benevolent end of (their) martial labors. (p. 38)

In the last several volumes of his Historical World Atlas of Mythology, posthumously published, Campbell was to return to the motif of the Twin Heroes and to explore its prevalence in indigenous cultures. He had long been aware of an imbalance in the many Western cultures that inflate either the solar or the lunar aspects of the central Hero archetype and he felt there was sill much to be learned from indigenous cultures, where solar and lunar aspects of the Hero were balanced in the Twin Hero Archetype.

The qualities aligned with the solar twin—clarity, willfulness, competitiveness, physical strength, endurance—are the qualities we have historically in the West labeled “masculine.” The “lunar” qualities—tenderness, receptivity, intuitiveness, compassion, emotional availability—have been quite unnecessarily feminized or homosexualized. Based on our one sided model (and ever since Roman times, our dominant culture has worshipped the sun) a man’s strength, like the power of light over darkness, could only be measured against its opposite; his forward momentum derived only from his imperative need to dominate another.

The solar masculine principle is obviously not without value, but it has become notoriously inflated in our society. Attempts to address the problem on a cultural level—as through, for instance, feminist discourse—have not succeeded in ridding us of its influence. Proposed solutions to this outmoded notion of masculinity have largely taken the form of solar feminine injunctions and theory, and have consistently failed to capture the imaginations and psychological energies of men. Men continue to be resistant to alternative solutions that encourage them to become “more like women,” with the implication that their masculinity is shameful or suspect.

A solution that would not wound in a new direction must involve some recognition that the style of masculinity embodied in the solar hero stereotype represents only half of the full masculine potential. The Twin Heroes archetype offers such a solution, giving men a potential resolution of the imbalance generated by a split in their gender identity.  The myth enables a man immediately to revalue his lunar masculine energy.  An empathic reading of the Twin Heroes’ journey, accompanied by meditative study of the accompanying sand paintings, may invoke in us a very different archetypal experience of what it means to be male in relationship to the feminine.

The limitations inherent in the heroic stage of consciousness have been explored at great length by many Jungian writers. It is well known that the Hero—whether singular or twin—does not represent the highest state of transcendence. There is a danger in inflating the mythologem and getting stuck there. The way of the twins is better understood as a path for the individual who aspires to an even higher, and deeper, level of consciousness. Joseph Henderson described the Hero as “an archetypal stage in the unconscious, denoting the formation of a strong ego identity, which precedes the stage of the true initiate.” (C.G. Jung. Aspects of the Masculine.) John Beebe also suggest that while the hero stage may be a leap forward for individuals “at risk of drowning in the unconscious,” a continued identification with the Hero may persuade a person to feel an inflated sense of control over the unconscious, and, consequently, to anticipate a degree of control over life that is unrealistic.

Campbell emphasizes that the full import of the twins’ journey is to be revealed not in the culmination of their initiation rites in the House of Strength, but throughout the process of their unique odyssey:

“The final sense of the initiation was not contained in the room full of sparklings but in the passage of the Twin Heroes from the house of Changing Woman to the House of the Sun and back again.” (p. 98)

It is to this hint that, in closing I should like to draw the reader’s attention. The journey of the Twin Heroes, as depicted in the sand paintings, illustrates not the culmination of a singular journey, but an end to which one repeatedly returns to partake of its endless immortality. As a living myth, “Where the Two came to Their Father” has the power to engage the imaginative reader again and again. No matter how much conscious effort one has made in determining an individual path, the sand paintings cannot fail to evoke an unconscious response.

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