The Archetypal Psychology of Rizaliana Lore: Implications to Education

By Sensei Erwin L. Rimban
Word Count: 1928
Rating: G (suitable for all audiences)
Summary: The Sensei discusses his country’s great hero Jose Rizal.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
Joseph Campbell

The Rizal history course in the Republic of the Philippines is mandated by our Constitution. Republic Act 1425 requires the curricula of private and public schools, colleges, and universities to include the life, works, and writings of Jose Rizal, particularly his novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. According to the Official Gazette, the law was made effective on August 16, 1956. How relevant is this subject of study to the modern Filipino youth? Can its archetypal content be made comprehensive? What are the educational and philosophical implications of such an approach? This essay tries to explore these paradigms.

Rizaliana Lore as Archetypal Psychology
The study of the life, works, and ideas of our national hero is an exercise in archetypal psychology. Rizal was the hero and his life was a virtual map of the Hero’s Journey. A young boy was born in a humble town, and from that moment, his life progressed in mysterious ways, preparing him for the arduous task of becoming his nation’s champion. Mentally, his mother and his uncles began his education at a very young age. Emotionally, a fine family support system existed as a cocoon that nurtured Jose Rizal and prepared him for a destiny worthy of a hero. In the years that followed, he would need this cocoon, for he lived in extremely interesting but dangerous times. Let us try to capture the spirit of the era in which he was born.
The Philippines was a colony of Spain, which just happened to be one of the maritime empires of the world, a rival of Britain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. The Galleon Trade served as the conduit of this vast empire, stretching from the East to the West. Trade was dependent on the ability of the ships to navigate the treacherous oceans of the world, for airplanes did not yet exist. The fates of nations and individuals rested on the daunting waves of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, as well as the other seas of the world. The Philippines was only a set of islands in the Far East. This archipelago was a conglomeration of tribes that the Spanish conquistadores and friars were trying to assimilate and merge into a comprehensive whole. The various tribes had different linguistic systems, such as Tagalog, Ilokano, Bisaya and the like, so there was no national linguistic force that bound this nation, and knowledge of Spanish was limited only to the rich middle and upper classes, a state of affairs that was maintained by the Spanish conquistadores to hold the natives in thrall. No national organization of luminaries existed at that time. Martial champions like Diego Silang of Ilocos and Francisco Dagohoy of Bohol were, at best, regional luminaries, whose brilliant lights championed the cause of their respective areas. It would be up to Jose Rizal, and the company of heroes who followed in his footsteps, to transform this nascent vision into a practical living philosophy. It would be up to Rizal to propose the concept of true nationhood.  
Into this vacuum, Rizal was born. He was given the proper educational training step by step, as fortune allowed. Though women were not given equal status with men, the beloved mother of our national hero was highly educated. It was a distinct advantage for the Rizal children, and must be underscored as a significant piece of data when we understand that the genius of Rizal needed schooling if it was to reach stratospheric proportions. A hero needs allies in the journey to reach his destiny. His mother was his first teacher. In many ways, his mother was his first ally. In later years, scholastic triumphs at Ateneo de Manila and the University of Santo Tomas prepared him for the eventual mental battles that would become his birthright. Still, the mental acumen, driving vision, and moral integrity that can be only be the weapons of a hero are not forged in solitary environs.
During the childhood of Rizal, the country was rocked by the execution of Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora, a singular event which may have set the stage for the awakening of patriotism among Filipinos. This event was the culmination of an incipient struggle of our countrymen. Our native-born priests, the emerging Filipino clergy, may be said to be the first aspect of nationhood to blaze the trails for the other sectors to follow. And it was a dangerous trail, one which led to the untimely deaths of three martyr priests. This event must have ingrained itself into the young consciousness of our national hero. A noteworthy fact is that Paciano Mercado himself, our hero’s older brother, was a disciple of the revolutionary ideas of Fr. Jose Burgos.
In the schools where Rizal learned the rudiments of his craft, he became a living witness to the injustices perpetuated by the Spanish authorities, in many different ways and circumstances. This instilled in our young hero the determination to succeed at all costs, for much depended on him, and the balance of destiny rested squarely upon his shoulders. A hero’s mettle is forged in the fires of experience. The development of Rizal was like the forging of an exceptional katana sword. Imbued with versatility, he chose the arena of writing to present his emerging talents. Indeed, the pen is mightier than the sword, but Rizal’s pen was like a sword in the midst of battle. A sword arrayed against the Spanish armor of greed, injustice, and discrimination. Into this vortex, our hero wielded weapons such as clarity of thought, wit, rock-solid determination, and linguistic acumen (he was versed in multiple languages), while forging a network of friends and allies along the way. For such is the fate of an archetypal figure, to attract those who would stand by his side in the battles to come. He had numerous allies, among them Ferdinand Blumentritt, Jose Maria Basa, Jose Panganiban, Mariano Ponce, and Taviel de Andrade. In the heat of battle, he concocted two masterpieces of literature, the Noli Me Tangere and the El Filibusterismo. These were destined to become the literary instruments of awakening during his time. Burgos, Gomez and Zamora lit the flames of nationhood. Rizal took that flame and nurtured it into a blazing torch! And it was up to the heroes who would come later to take that blazing torch and illuminate every nook and cranny of the Philippine islands, thereby awakening our national consciousness.
And yet, the path of our national hero was not easy. It was a destiny strewn with thorns, a chess game whose every strategic move had far-reaching consequences. Many times Rizal could have chosen the easy way out, but time and again he withstood the storm and continued his path into the maelstrom of destiny, there to meet his eventual fate. In the pageant of our history, Rizal was the archetypal genius, as Marcelo Del Pilar was the archetypal sage and Andres Bonifacio was the archetypal warrior. Three different personalities, but one vision—freedom.
Using the technique of Archetypal Psychology, we can say that Jose Rizal deftly manifested Fire, Air, Water and Earth. These are Jungian symbolic elements to describe the powers of the psyche. The “fire element” of Rizal can be seen in his determination, his singular vision, his initiative, his drive to learn and explore new worlds and places. The “air element” of Rizal can be seen in his linguistic facility, his sparkling wit, his oratorical eloquence, his poetic genius, and his drive to meet new friends and forge new friendships, both here and abroad. It is noteworthy to recall that his best friend was Blumentritt, and his wife was Josephine Bracken, both foreigners. The “water element” of Rizal can be seen in his sensitivity to his people’s needs, and his ability to forge new ideas and generate change. The “earth element” of Rizal can be demonstrated by his ability for sculpture and practical accomplishment, underscored by his facility in medicine, engineering, and constructive work as shown by the Dapitan interlude. Rizal as a hero captures all the dimensions of thought in an excellent fashion and shows us how one versatile genius can aspire to the heights of accomplishment.
Any student of the modern era who dabbles in Rizaliana lore can only be transformed by the experience. This student will come to realize Jose Rizal’s greatness, as well as his literary genius. In the study of his life, one can come to a personal awakening, which parallels the great effort by our national hero to awaken us to national consciousness. This personal awakening can take many forms. For me, it was the realization that the talents given to us by Divine Providence can be amplified by perseverance, diligence and unwavering determination to achieve a worthy goal, whatever that may be.
Teachers of the Rizal Course can initiate a lot of innovations in the classroom setting to spark interest in studying the life as well as the ideas of our national hero. The best way is to make the course itself relevant to modern times. Why are we studying Jose Rizal, anyway? What moral lessons can be gleaned from his life? What are the implications of these lessons to the struggle of modern youth? These are the questions that continue to titillate our minds and hearts as we study this segment of historical lore.
At the same time, teachers of history must not forget that cross-fertilization is implicit in the social sciences. Insights of one field of the social sciences do cross over and impregnate segments of other fields. To this end, an interdisciplinary approach in historical fields is a very powerful way to convey a message to a variety of learners. Thus, historical study can be complemented by the injection of critical insights from other fields, such as psychology and philosophy. This author has indeed taken this approach in his handling of the Rizal Course this semester. Students were made aware of the possibilities of interdisciplinary studies in Philippine history.

Studying the life and works of Jose Rizal can be a transformative experience for anyone. It is an immersion in the world of the past, whose relevance to the present and future cannot be overstated. It is to be recommended to learners of all ages. The moral lessons and creative ideas that one can gain by such an experience far exceeds the investment of time and effort that the study entails. Why? Because there is a Jose Rizal in all of us. There is a hero and heroine in all of us!

Sensei Erwin Rimban has been a spiritual, metaphysics and meditation teacher for over a decade. His works are featured in the Journal of Metaphysics and Connected Consciousness, the Mindful Word, Panegyria Journal, The Minds Journal, and others. (You may correspond with him

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