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The Temenos Model
 [by Ray Harris]

The Funeral of Phocion (detail) byNicolas Poussin


Temenos is the name I have given to a developmental meta-narrative I developed in the mid-eighties. It proposes that the full spectrum of development has been intuited by every culture and that the ‘narratives’ of that culture reveal valuable insights into the developmental process. Its methodology is the comparative sorting of narratives, whilst clearly understanding that such narratives are themselves the result of developmental stages. It is important to understand that such narratives are often of a composite nature, that is, they include aspects that may, to use Wilber’s spectrum delineations, be magic, mythic, rational and subtle/causal ? or any combination thereof. A ‘myth’ may contain aspects that are typically magical but that nonetheless can be understood to contain a perfectly rational understanding of a deeper truth. Many myths are in fact teaching stories that are not intended to be taken literally. Furthermore, many narratives can be interpreted on many levels. Here it is extremely helpful to distinguish between the subject of the narrative and the translation of the subject into a developmental mode. A teaching story may use the structure of a myth and speak in a ‘mythic’ voice, but the subject may be about, for example, a causal level ‘lesson’. A very good example is the Mahabharata. On the one hand it is a grand mythic tale about ancient India (Bharata). But within Indian philosophy it is understood to be a significant lesson in the understanding of the concept of dharma.

The Temenos system expands Jung’s concept of the structure of the psyche as revealed in the various symbols of the archetype of the Self. There are multiple symbols of this archetype. One of the most fascinating and enduring is the symbol of Cosmic Order [9]. Every society that reaches the early State stage [10] formalizes a cosmological system that contains a meta-narrative that attempts to explain human society. The Asian sphere has been influenced by the circumpolar cosmology of the Chinese empires, a system where the divine court of the Jade Emperor is duplicated in detail by the mundane court of the earthly emperor. The Meso-American sphere had its own unique cosmology. India and the West have been heavily influenced by Sumerian cosmology. Each of these cosmologies can be understood as a projection of the archetype of the Self onto the tabula rasa of the night sky. And whilst there are aspects that are culturally unique in each system, a comparative analysis shows a great many common themes. These themes are often repeated in the many narratives of any given culture, from the major mythic cycles to minor fairytales and children’s stories, from the grand religious themes to the enduring fictional romances, tragedies and comedies.

The most elaborate of the cosmological narratives is the Sumerian ecliptic system that forms the basis of both Hindu jyotish and Middle-Eastern and Western astrology. Temenos finds that this symbol is a significant intuition of the developmental process. Jung stated that the quaternity was a symbol of the Self. In Aion, Jung argued that the number twelve was an extension of the quaternal structure of the unconscious [11]. Temenos argues (for reasons far too detailed to go into in this paper) that the number twelve is perhaps the prime numerical symbol for the Self. Temenos therefore delineates a twelve-fold structure for the archetype of the Self. The symbol of the number twelve is frequently repeated in the narratives of many cultures, (even in the Chinese and Meso-American spheres, whose cosmologies are not based on the Sumerian duodecimal system), thus recapitulating the original symbol.

One of the major gaps in Jung’s work was his failure to make a definitive list of the archetypes, or to place them in a developmental sequence. This has led to a number of confusions. Wilber has correctly pointed out that Jung’s concept of the archetype suffers from the Pre/Trans fallacy. I deal with this particular point in a paper called Revisioning Individuation [12].  However, there are other confusions. How many archetypes are there? For example, Jung speaks of the Anima archetype, then separately delineates the Mother and Kore archetypes whilst suggesting that they are forms of the Anima. So, are they archetypes in their own right, or sub-archetypes?

Are Senex, Puer Aeterna, the Hero and the Great Father archetypes in their own right, or sub-archetypes of Animus? Is the Trickster an archetype in its own right or an aspect of the Shadow? In Symbols of Transformation Jung uses the Miller fantasies as the basis to discuss a process of transformation through various archetypal symbols. This suggests a pattern of unfolding, a pattern of development, one that typically involves working with several archetypes after the fashion of a heroic journey.

Temenos argues that the Jungian archetypes can be placed in a developmental sequence and suggests how that might be done.


Temenos is based on a sequence of twelve archetypes that interact in multiple harmonic patterns. This harmonic structure is typical of symbols of the Self (which can be read as a simple linear development, or as an interactive mandala, or, at a higher level, as a multi-dimensional holograph). The most important of the harmonic patterns is the pairing of the archetypes into six dyads. Each of the dyads represents a creative tension, the resolution of which allows the transformation to the next dyad in a developmental sequence. This tension helps explain Jung’s concern with the symbol of the opposition.

It is important to note that each of the dyads has a set of core needs. These must be ‘secured’ for development to take place. These follow Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reasonably closely, with the exception of the higher stages. For example, the major project of the first dyad is to secure food and shelter. People who struggle daily to meet these basic needs will hardly be concerned with other matters.

The dyads are as follows: 


The primal tension is between order and chaos, birth and death. The defining characteristic of life is pattern recognition, finding order. Early forms distinguish between light and dark, hot and cold and so on. Sensing pattern allows life to exist. However chaos is always there to bring novelty and change. A meteor strikes, a volcano erupts and the pattern is broken, yet, in time order is restored. The libido (eros) is the impulse toward life. Its natural flow is toward higher order through transformation. Its opposite is the force of death and destruction - regression.

The symbols for this dyad are many and involve images of birth, life, sex, abundance and order, and images of death, chaos, destruction, evil, decay and waste. Here I want to make special note of Grof’s Basic Perinatal Matrices and the dual images of birth and death that arise in the birthing struggle. [13]

The classic mythic theme is that of paradise and the fall. Other symbols are: first chakra, Taurus/Scorpio, the Tree of Life, the Serpent, Kundalini and the Bull.

In individual development: Sensorimotor.

In societal development: survival bands, Archaic and Archaic-Magic.

The core needs of the first dyad are the basics, food and shelter.

Jungian archetype; none specified. Aspects of the Mother.

Wilber: Fulcrum 0 - 2 [14]


Life devises a strategy to transcend the life/death struggle. This is the creation of self-sustained structure that provides both nurturing safety and protective safety and purposive order and structure. This is family, tribe and group. Usually it is the female who provides nurture and the male who provides discipline, however, these functions can be assumed by groups themselves or other individuals. They are principles.

The individual ego in relation to these two principles takes the position of the child who both struggles against parental discipline but is wholly dependent on it. It is the realm of emotion and of the distortion of libido through the Oedipus and Electra complexes.

The symbols of this stage are often to do with the Great Mother and Great Father and the multiple variations thereof. Second chakra, Cancer/Capricorn, the Cave, the Mountain, the Moon, the Ram.

In individual development: Preoperational (mother), Concrete Operational (father).

In societal development: Tribal groups to Big Man Collectivities to Archaic State. Magic to Mythic.

The core needs of the second dyad are the emotional needs of belonging, identity and security.

Jungian archetype: Mother, Father, Puer Aeternus, aspects of Kore, aspects of the Child.

Wilber: Fulcrum 3 - 4


The tension of dyad two creates the need to separate from the constrictions of the symbolic parents. This is the creation of a strong and independent self-sense that seeks relationship with other individuals. The main force is toward ‘self’ expression and freedom in free association with like-minded individuals. Combined self-expression then leads to the formation of high culture and of civilization.

The symbols of this stage centre around the Hero/Heroine and of the feminine as the inspiration for civilization: Athena Polias, the Muses, Justice holding her scales, the Statue of Liberty. Third chakra, Aries/Libra, The Sun, the Knight and the Maiden/Bride.

In individual development: Formal Operational to Post Formal.

In societal development: Advanced State, democracy. Rational to Integral.

The core needs of the third dyad are a sense of individual purpose and creativity, and finding one’s place in a community of equals.

Jungian archetype: the Hero, aspects of Kore, aspects of the Conjunction.

Wilber: Fulcrum 5

Note: This is the level most of society is still experiencing. The later dyads refer to the transpersonal and transsocietal levels.


When the individual has ‘mastered’ the arts of civilization he/she reaches a period of fulfillment. At this point there is an inner tension that calls for a ‘deeper’ exploration. On the one hand there is satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, on the other is a gnawing feeling of something greater.

The symbols of this stage are of Rex/Regina - the righteous or dharmic monarch and of the ‘seeker’, or of the ‘caller’, the voice that urges the Hero to a higher challenge. Fourth chakra, Leo/Aquarius, the Heart, the Lion, the apprentice, and marriage. Here special mention must be made of the classic righteous monarchs: King Arthur and the Round Table, the mythic Richard the Lion-Heart, King David, Prince Arjuna and Emperor Ashoka.

In individual development: Piagetian terms no longer suffice; so in Wilberian terms, late Vision-Logic to Psychic.

In social development: here we need to refer to the symbol of Utopia, a social system in perfect balance. There are many utopias and the study of them reveals interesting information about this stage. Jung recognized that the idea of a divine city (Jerusalem) or a perfect state was itself a symbol of the Self (particularly as a projection of Cosmic Order).

The core needs of this dyad are compassion, selflessness, intuitive understanding and free information flow.

Jungian archetype: aspects of the Conjunction.

Wilber: Fulcrum 6 - 7


The tension between the comfort of success in the material world and the intuition that there is much more must be resolved by the shift to the dyad of active searching. Here the primary lesson is of discrimination and wisdom. The Fool represents the confusing stage in which the neophyte’s projections and preconceptions are tested and literally ‘played’ with. The Fool has a tendency to fall back on to comfortable and manageable paradigms. However, a deeper impulse to genuine gnosis tests the neophyte over and over again until true insight and wisdom is gained.

The symbols of this stage deal with wizards, shamans, tests, challenges, mazes, illusion and clarity, wisdom and conquest of the demons/chimera of the subtle world. Fifth chakra, Gemini/Sagittarius. A special note to Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. 

In individual development: subtle to causal.

The core needs are discrimination and wise council.

Jungian archetype: the Trickster, Senex.

Wilber: Fulcrum 8


This stage has best been explained in the Shaivite philosophies as the union of Shiva/Shakti. The Sage surrenders to the final great anima image of the Cosmic Mother and is absorbed into nondual realisation. The tension at this level is all about final surrender.

The western symbol at this stage is that of the Virgin and of the son conceived by the Virgin (a common theme not exclusive to the Christian story). Christos represents the impulse toward creation, of immanence. Other symbols, the Veil, the sixth and seventh charka, Virgo/Pisces.

In individual development: causal to nondual.

The core needs are reflection and ultimate service.

Jungian archetype: aspects of Kore, aspects of the Child, aspects of the Self.

Wilber: Fulcrum 9 


A few paragraphs ago I mentioned that the archetype of cosmic order typically contains harmonic patterns. Another pattern I need to draw your attention to is the division of the twelve into four groups of three.[15]

The first is called the matriarchal matrix and consists of the archetypal themes of birth, death and the mother.

The second is called the patriarchal matrix and consists of the archetypal themes of father, the individual and civilisation.

The third and fourth matrices are transpersonal and are discussed elsewhere.

Many writers have commented on the historical shift from matriarchal systems to patriarchal systems. During the time of the Jewish Patriarchs all references the traditional consort of Yahweh, Asherah, were removed from the Old Testament and her image was removed from every temple. In some cultures there was a dramatic split, as in the fiercely patriarchal Abrahamic religions, in other cultures the goddesses remained but were made secondary to male gods. It seems that only in India did the vestiges of the earlier matriarchal cults remain in some Tantric systems.[16]

In both the matriarchal matrix and the patriarchal matrix we see the development of a dual aspect to both the mother and father symbol. We can call these dual aspects the Great Mother/Terrible Mother and the Great Father/Terrible Father.

These dual aspects are frequent themes in all religions. We see the Great Mother in the Virgin Mary and in the many forms of the goddess. We see her Terrible aspect in the blood-drenched form of the Hindu goddess Kali. The Terrible aspect is usually associated with ritual sacrifice linked to fertility rites. This makes perfect sense, as the very act of birth is associated with blood, as is the act of hunting and preparing the kill. Often the worship of the Great Mother, in both her aspects, involved sexual ritual as well. The early goddess cults were associated with sacred prostitution, but even the act of sacrifice sometimes involved sex. Joseph Campbell tells of the fairly common act of sacrificing young couples in the act of copulating. [17] The purpose of the sacrifice is to continue the cycle of life for life.

There is however, a dramatic change with the appearance of the Great Father. The act of sacrifice shifts from being a part of the sacred round of birth, life and death to being a way to realise a higher, abstract order. The Great Father is associated with grand visions, whether they are political ideologies, claims to ethnic superiority or religiously inspired attempts to build the divine order on earth. A great many of the world’s wars have been in the name of a greater cause, a vast murderous rampage of ethnic, religious and political conquest tied into the assertion of the core need of identity. In every one of these cases the Great Father sacrifices his children, particularly his sons, in the name of the cause. There is a dramatic painting by the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya that shows Saturn [18] eating his children. This is the manifestation of the Terrible Father, the father who destroys his own children, just as the Abrahamic god promises to destroy the whole world if his children are not obedient to his higher order.

A significant part of the patriarchal matrix is the appearance of the Son, or of the Hero, who represents the individual ego. Jesus is the good son who models obedience and offers a way for his followers to avoid the promised apocalypse. But just as there is the good son there is also the evil son. King Arthur was eventually killed by his own son, Mordred. There is a family tragedy at play here. It contains the awful reality of patricide, fratricide and incest. This drama is played out everyday as sons and daughters attempt to create a separate identity and escape the psychological games of the family. Some never make it and remain locked in a psychological inner family. This is an important point because it happens to cultures as well.

The symbol par excellence of the final escape from the family is marriage. It is the union of male and female which allows a new round of birth to occur. In patriarchal societies the daughter is given away by the father into the care of the husband. The marriage ceremony is a rite of passage into full adult responsibility (and marks the symbolic taming, the civilising, of the wild youth). It recapitulates the ancient union of the god and goddess (hence the use of the veil) and it is a theme I will return to at the end of this paper.

The above themes develop the archetypes of the father, the individual and civilisation, the patriarchal matrix. Joseph Campbell explores these themes in his famous book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The psychologist C.G. Jung also elaborates on this theme. [19] There are many aspects of this grand narrative, sometimes the Hero is escaping the clutches of the Terrible Mother, at other times he is escaping the injustice of the Terrible Father. The Hero then undergoes a tremendous journey and through a series of challenges returns to the world with a greater understanding. The whole heroic cycle is a metaphor for the successful transformation of the psyche and it shows us what must be done in order to achieve the final goal. 

Unfortunately the whole idea of comedy and more importantly, tragedy, is that the Hero can also sometimes fail. These tales of error are important because they warn us that things can indeed go wrong, that if the archetypal pattern is not followed then there can be fatal consequences.

© Ray Harris, May, 2002

[9] Joseph Campbell has explored this theme in detail. See The Mythic Image Bollingen, Princeton University Press 
[10] See Johnson & Earle, The Evolution of Human Societies, Stanford University Press
[11] Jung, C G, Aion.  CW Vol 9, Para 351. Bollingen, Princeton University Press
[12] Available at
[13] Grof, S, Beyond the Brain. State University of New York.
[14] The inclusion of Wilber’s Spectrum delineations will provide a way to link Temenos with other developmental schemata. See his appendix in Integral Psychology.
[15] In fact Temenos contains several interesting harmonic patterns, each with distinct meaning. There is the standard division of 12 by the factors, 2, 3, 4 and 6. Each of the levels appears as Sub-levels that explain process. There is also a mirror harmonic which reveals a symbolic connection between Dyads 1-6, 2-5 and 3-4. There is also the disharmonic of 5 and 7, with 5 symbolic of descent and 7 of ascent. But these are all subjects for a larger work.
[16]Through the worship of shakti in the form of Kali/Durga
[17] Campbell, Joseph, The Masks of God, Vol I. Penguin.
[18] What is interesting is that the Hebrew for Saturn is sabbatai, from which is derived the word Sabbath, traditionally held on Saturday ? Saturn’s day. 
[19] Jung, CG, Symbols of Transformation, CW Vol5, Bollingen, Princeton University Press. 

Created 5/02 - Posted on The Noosphere Network 5/8/02 as part of  "The Blood Broterhoods" - Posted as a separate text at 1/9/02 -