Fascinating Mythical Creatures: Proteus


image via http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/artists/244344135?view_mode=2

Proteus was a wise Greek sea god, a shape changer and a prophet. Pictured as fish-tailed, he was able to change himself into a lion, a serpent, a panther, a wild boar, a tree and flowing water. In order to get answers from him concerning the future, it was necessary to wrestle him and bind him, then wait patiently through all the transformations for the voice of prophecy. He is an image of something elusive, flickering and ineffable that wriggles shakes and transforms many times before it stabilizes as an image that can be comprehended by consciousness.


Proteus is a great metaphor of working with archetypes and symbols. They are creatures of the deep ocean of the collective unconscious and this is where they feel best. They do not fare well in the world of hard matter or clear-cut mental distinctions. Out of water they may get too dry, lose their colour, become lifeless. Like Proteus, they cannot wait to return to their proper realm. Waking up in the morning, we try to capture the dream images, but they change their shapes rapidly, often fading away too fast for the consciousness to capture their meaning. Whatever we say about them will never be enough: it would always be possible to go deeper because their Protean oceanic wisdom is unfathomable. How many times their wisdom is lost, annihilated by the stern voice of the classifying mind. As Jung wrote in Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

I felt that at some time or other I had passed through the valley of diamonds, but I could convince no-one – not even myself, when I looked more closely – that the specimens I had brought back were not mere pieces of gravel.

All the manifest forms have emerged out of the protean, shifting, unstable, shaping and reshaping watery realms of imagination and ceaseless creativity. A 2004 documentary on Ernst Haeckel, a nineteenth-century biologist and artist, who studied tiny radiolaria, ancient one-celled marine organisms, includes stunning animation sequences of the shapeshifting of these tiny creatures, whose geometric skeletons show the infinite creativity of form and pattern. It is a mystical vision: the organic world of radiolaria mirrors the world of the archetypes in its breathtaking beauty and diversity, eternal unity in manifold manifestation. Haeckel went to the valley of diamonds and brought back precious and beautiful gems.


Ernst Haeckel

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37 Responses to Fascinating Mythical Creatures: Proteus

  1. That is a mind blowing video.It did look like an alphabet and snowflakes. Just wow at Creation~


  2. Don says:

    Found the video fascinating and wonderfully mysterious.


  3. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words says:

    I kept coming back to reread and the video was soo Cool!….
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful post today!
    Take Care…


  4. As Jung wrote in Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

    I felt that at some time or other I had passed through the valley of diamonds, but I could convince no-one – not even myself, when I looked more closely – that the specimens I had brought back were not mere pieces of gravel. great quote and intriguing post Monika. This quote evokes past reflections on a mystical experince where what was once on fire with energy or glowing with shimmering splendor seems quite ordinary at a later date.


  5. wonderful post and exquisite video – look like prototypes of all flowers and plants – nature’s designs are breathtaking at all levels – shapes of leaves, architecture of flowers, a trillion types of eyes ( camera designs cannot begin to scratch in the competeion), noses ears, mouths,legs hands, hair – no anarchy, just a set premise, then whoosh unending variety – i want to meet this designer in person but then like proteus he/she will so keep changing form that i wont be able to catch its tail.thanks


  6. james369 says:

    Fascinating as always. You’re a gem!


  7. shreejacob says:

    This was a really interesting post! Thank you for sharing 🙂
    Am currently reading about Carl Jung and am wondering if I should continue with studying his works with regards to Archetypes and such. I am still trying to wrap my mind around a man who attempted to psychoanalyze the Bible! How awesome and yet mind boggling is that! lol


    • I am not objective about Jung because reading him changed my life. There was a time when I read nothing but him. As for analyzing the Bible, I do not think he disrespected it, it was still a holy book to him with profound wisdom. He just looked for archetypal patterns and studied them just like Haeckel did with the radiolaria.
      I am happy you liked my post.


  8. Yaz says:

    Great post again!


  9. ptero9 says:

    Beautiful and thought provoking! Reminded me of an occasional feeling I’ve had of wanting to break out of this form, and suggests that the desire to change may be a visit from Proteus.
    Very inspirational stuff. Thanks Monika!


  10. Great post.. and you chose a great Jung quote


  11. Proteus and the radolaria, both great metaphors indeed for the mystical and unruly road to search for deeper truths. Maybe peeled onions without a real core…

    (See you’ re very productive last week, have been sailing with my daughter for a while, but will read of course 🙂 ).


  12. Reblogged this on Subliminal Spaces and commented:
    An amazing blog has come within my radar and I feel moved to share just one of the many fascinating posts from ‘Symbol Reader’. Capturing the depth of insight and inspiration that is possible when the symbolic aspects of life are delved into, this post on protean fluidity is particularly mesmerising. I hope you enjoy it and get as much out of it as I have. Thank you Symbol Reader 🙂


  13. Pingback: “Odyssey” by Homer: Book IV – The Red-Haired King and his Lady | Stuff Jeff Reads

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