Falling in love is an archetypal event! The greatest clue to this is the description itself. When we see the word “falling” we can assume that the unconscious is at work and the conscious mind is following in response. We can fall in love with people we do not even like; witness the young woman who falls for the cad, she may not like him personally but she may at the same time fall for his masculine strength and daring. On the other had this young woman may have a friend who she likes but does not feel eros for. One does not have to be virtuous or clever for someone to fall in love with you – you just have to reflect the archetypal to them. When we fall in love we fall for the underlying archetypal image they represent to us. And we can equally fall out of love when we no longer project the archetypal masculine or feminine on that person. It is often the case that other feelings take over from that point such as affection and companionship and the building of a common life, or the feelings of being in love may come and go.
Not only can the process of falling in love be intoxicating because we directly experience the archetypal masculine and feminine but added to this is the wonder of being on the receiving end of the other person’s archetypal experience. If they see the archetypal feminine or masculine through us then it is inflating. We feel enlarged and uplifted as though we were gods ourselves and not just the channel of the archetype. Inflationary, but often in a good way, because it is like someone seeing the image of God in you; sometimes we can even become a little bit more of what they see in us.
One of the tensions in relationships is that between the archeypal and the personal. One of the most helpful ideas in Christianity is the doctrine of Christ being fully human and fully divine at the same time; it seems to promise to me a way through this tension that someone can relate to us both archetypally and personally at the same time. I think about my relationship with my daughter – I do not think that I could relate to her outside an archetypal relationship of father and daughter but yes she does need to be known and loved as my daughter and the unique person that she is. One of the interesting things is that the archetypes never come to us in the abstract it is always a particular lover, mother etc. And as far as Christ goes – there is no generic Christ but the one who appears as Jesus or Buddha or Krishna. One of the essential functions of the mother and the lover archetypes is that they are to “know us as we really are” and if that does not happen it is a failure of archetypal function. If a relationship only stays on the archetypal level it is very dissatisfying but I also think that if a relationship also stays on a human level it is also dissatisfying – that is equivalent of a lover saying, “I love you but I am not in love with you” or “let’s just be friends”, in other words they want the relationship to be personal but not archetypal.
Mysticism as falling in love
The mystics have rightly pointed out that the experience of falling in love with God is very like the that of falling in lover with a man or a woman. In this case the archetype is not so much mediated by another person but by an image of God that is internalised. So mystics such as Theresa of Avila can write of a vision of Christ:
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it…