Daimon Publishers

Archetypal Chirology
Yael Haft


II. Introduction to Archetypal Chirology

In the Zohar it is written:

... the hands of man are forms and higher mysteries that God put in man, and arranged them in the fingers outside and inside, and in the palm of the hand ... and God, when He created man, arranged in him all the forms of the high mysteries of the lower world, and these mysteries are imprinted in man that was created in God's image. And, therefore, he was called 'palm-creation,' meaning 'the creation of God's palm.'

It is for us to try to become aware of these mysteries, which hold an essential psychological meaning for each one of us.

It was Julius Spier, working with Jung, who emphasized the psychological dynamics of the hand, rather than the functional dimension; he called his theory "Psychochirology." Jung, in his introduction to Julius Spier's book, The Hands of Children: An Introduction to Psycho-Chirology, writes that:

... the totality conception of modern biology ... and research does not exclude the possibility that hands, whose shape and functioning are so intimately connected with the psyche, might provide revealing and therefore interpretable expressions of psychical peculiarity, that is, of the human character.

What is understood as the human character is in fact the realization of two distinct factors: the structure of the personality, which is a given that cannot be changed, just as much as the structure of our physiognomy cannot be changed, unless by external intervention such as operations on face and body or active therapies such as bioenergetics or rolfing. The second factor is the dynamic process of life experiences, introjections of important figures, defense mechanisms that we have adopted to avoid pain and the dynamic functioning of the archetypes working within. All these can at times make us hide or distort our basic structure.

Chirologically, the structure of the personality can be seen in the forms of the hands and fingers. Its dynamic aspects reveal themselves in the expression, position and relationships of the back of the hand and the fingers, as well as in the lines and mounts in the inner palm, as we shall see in the chapters to come.

I took in my work three of Spier's five basic forms, the conic, the square and the spatulate, and added a fourth one, which I use from Ursula von Mangold, the oval. I omitted Spier's "philosophical" and "dysplastic" forms, as the former is, in fact, a combination of the conic, square and what I call oval forms and the latter is one or more of the basic forms in the palm and a combination of all the forms, in that each finger belongs to a different one. I came to this conclusion from my experience. None of the forms exists purely as such in reality; usually one finds combinations and variations of the basic forms.

In classical chirology only male archetypes were depicted in the fingers - with the exception of Venus and Luna in the inner palm. I was never content with this concept of Venus and the Moon as the sole feminine archetypes. It occurred to me: Why not add the feminine counterparts to the masculine archetypes referred to in classical chirology? I took up mythology and was fascinated to find that I could immediately correlate it with chirological findings, which gave me immediate assurance that I was going the right way. Since 1970 I started working with the feminine counterparts, as well as the masculine in the hand and I found that they coincided to a remarkable extent with the personality traits.

The idea of seeing in the fingers and in the mounts of the inner palm, the archetypal images, i.e., the gods and goddesses, enables us to become aware of the inherent faculties, tendencies and possibilities within the archetypes as such. In the words of James Hillman "there is always a god in what we are doing"... and "The gods are the archetypal premises within all experience and all attitudes."

Marie-Louise von Franz says: "The gods are representations of certain natural constants of the unconscious psyche, of the ways in which the emotional and imaginative elements of the personality behave." Thus they can serve for inner growth and transformation and increase the experience and expressions of whatever there is in the various archetypal images within the person's capability at any given time.

The archetypes contain all the modes and levels of existence, from the gross, basic level or stage up to the highest and most sublime ones. They manifest themselves in each individual in a personal way. By becoming aware of their manifestations, we can also become conscious of the possibilities of evolving within the archetypal realm from wherever we are at a certain time in our history to other, higher levels of the archetype. Each archetypal image has various characteristics, both in its positive and negative aspect. The opposites are always there. By recognizing the archetypal image behind the complex working within, we are one step away from it and we can transcend things as they are or appear to be from a more or less "static" state to a new phase of understanding and insight.

By perceiving the myths of archetypal images that appear in the fingers and mounts in the inner palm, we can then enlarge our knowledge of possible unconscious ways of behavior that dominate our lives. The myths are archetypal scenarios that rule us in more ways than we realize, as long as we are oblivious to their impact on our lives.

My most recent ideas pertain to the oppositions within archetypes and between archetypes, appearing in the fingers and mounts. I was intrigued with the question: Is there oneness beyond these opposites? A transcendent oneness that completes the opposition? By "complete" I mean a wholeness that includes the opposites but goes beyond, usually with the aid of a third factor. What is found is that the opposites always come together: one cannot be without the other, though the completion is not apparent. We can say, then, that completion may be the missing element in the opposites.

Our very conception prior to our birth into the oppositions of reality, is an outcome of the unification of opposites, man and woman in the act of love, ovum and sperm forming a foetus, foetus and womb in unison and opposition. So, our very essence is imbued with the archetype of oneness, the "echo" of the moment of union, and its "shadow" side as opposition. The one splitting into others, from the formation of cells to organs, nerves, characteristics, behavioral patterns, ego and inner parts, ego and world, ego and self. Our very act of being created into this world is a journey through oppositions where wholeness and oneness act as a striving force towards that utopian idea underlying ultimate oneness and completion beyond the opposites. This, in fact, is the most profound dynamic that operates in us on all levels of our being, outwardly and inwardly in all the facets of our life.

I had concentrated on the interplay between the left and right hands. Julius Spier out of his vast experience contends that in a right-handed person the right hand pertains to the parental images, what he calls the "ancestral" hand, and the left hand is the hand of the individual personality. In a left-handed person it will be the reverse, namely, the right hand will personify one's own individuality and the left hand the ancestral images working within. Spier's use of the word "ancestral" is based on the fact that our lives and patterns of character and behavior are linked to our ancestors and immediate family, that we either inherit, genetically, were influenced by, or introjected and interpreted. Having them portrayed in the predominant hand emphasizes and shows how their activity works within ourselves. Often we are unaware of how our inner parental figures determine our lives, and how easily we unconsciously take upon ourselves unresolved problems of our parents, thus not really living our own lives, but continuing theirs. Our own individual self is, so to speak, in our "passive" hand pointing to the "opus" of our life; to make "active" our own individual personality by differentiating and becoming conscious of what is one's own and what pertains to the parental images working within us.

As observed in the hospital while doing research on schizophrenia, this distinction came out in the case studies, that the parental figure (right hand) was confirmed even in outer reality (when the therapist met the parents). The pathology was sometimes even more accentuated in the right, parental, hand, but the carrier of the family pathology was the person whose hands I was analyzing. This finding correlates with Arieti's and Laing's contention that a sick person is often the carrier of the illness of another family member, mother or father, who are "schizophrenogenic," or, that he represents a sick family.

Often we consciously try to be different and to live differently than one or another of the parental figures, not realizing that by so doing we continue to do to ourselves what the parent, whom we tried so hard to "exclude" from our lives, did to us. We unconsciously may marry someone who personifies this parental figure, or meet these figures in our life again and again. Usually the two hands are different, one from the other, both in the form of the palm and the fingers, their expression and the way the fingers relate to each other, as well as the lines on the inner palm. This implies the dynamic aspect of conflict arising out of these oppositions and points to their possible complementariness. Where conflict arises lies the possibility for change and transformation but when the differences between the hands are too great the inner conflicts can be devastating.

The more similar the hands are, the less the conflict between the parents and between them and the person. This will convey the need to follow the road well-travelled of the parents and continue in the same pattern. It also points to repetitions of characteristics and behavior and for generational repetitions of problems. Similarity can also be difficult at the stages of maturation, i.e., in childhood and adolescence.

The ability to assess parental images, influences and relationships in our own hands, provides a useful tool for the understanding of parent and also child bonding that continues to operate into our own adult lives. We can never run away from our parental images - they are within us. We can, however, learn to utilize differently and potentially transform their archetypal characteristics and patterns of behavior within us.

It may be the first time that the person meets the parents as people with their own problems, pathologies and suffering. Just as frequently, the lived or unlived potentialities of the parental images can add to the understanding of a drive within the person. Having them in our own hand potentiates their capability to become available to us. It is derived from the parental, yet disowned within us.

As I went deeper into the mythical figures, I realized that I might be led by them into a more differentiated understanding of the type of psychology that rules a person at a certain time, and its significance to the therapeutic process. I call them Patterns of the Internal Familial layout as portrayed by the fingers.

The first finger, portraying Zeus/Hera, relates to the couple. They symbolize the archetype of the couple: husband and wife. Our stand in the world is connected to this archetype which is the structured foundation of society. The basic need of each one of us to be married, to have a wife or husband, in order for us to feel secure in our dealings with the world and in the "inner world" within us. Taken on an internal level, it points to the inherent necessity to be "married" to our inner wife/husband, i.e., to our inner contrasexual part.

The second finger, Saturn/Athena, relates to the adult, wise old man and to the eternal youth (not child), Senex and Puer - be it feminine or masculine. Our thinking, therefore, belongs in fact to the adult or 'grown-up'-part of us (in the sense that to be "grown-up" is to act reasonably), because it holds within it the potential for an independent, responsible thinking function.

The third finger, Apollo/Artemis, brings out the free man and woman in each of us. Our feeling values and clarity of sight and the ability to analyze belong to our need for freedom and independence. We can be impersonal in our clear seeing-through, free to dance the dance of life, or very personal in our feeling judgments. We can imprison ourselves as dutiful, pleasing or rebellious and defiant daughters or sons - in captivity or in bondage - portraying the psychology of the son/daughter, personified by Persephone, as shadow figure to Artemis.

The child in all of us is connected to the fourth finger, Hermes/Mercury. He can be childish, shy, playful, ingenious or compliant, submissive, crushed, fearful, rejected and unwanted. He is always vulnerable and very often in pain. Our whole life depends on this energy. The child is the carrier of the Self as he appears symbolically. He holds the essence of our being and is therefore the activating force in our personality. We cannot reach our "core" without first integrating, by accepting, our child in all its vulnerability. The child never grows up - he does not need to grow. He always represents the possibility of renewal or of finding new ways.

Our thumb represents the ego as the carrier of consciousness: the ability to differentiate, to will, to choose and to execute. He is the one who can make use of the different aspects of our inner "family," without negating the experience of these inner figures, and the one who can accept, let be and become aware of their manifestations. He can hold the opposite inherent within the images themselves, as well as the oppositions between the fingers and the archetypal images located in the palm of our hands. The more aware the ego becomes, the more these parts of energy patterns can transform within themselves.

I am amazed at the inner law of opposites as it is laid out in our hands. The order of the archetypal images as they are located in the fingers and in the palm opposite each other portrays how they are connected in their manifestations, both positively and negatively. They are also influenced by their neighbors but the connection is within the location, so to speak: this cannot be separated; it can only be faced and acknowledged, like a given decree. These ideas have come to fruition in a theory of an inner law imprinted in the hand. They opened to me new venues of understanding of inner psychic patterns that I could incorporate in my work as a therapist.

Opposites intensify each other, either by joining forces in complementation or by combatting each other. They operate on all levels or only on some levels. The key to the opposition does not lie in the transmutation of these instinctual powerful energies, to do this would cause further splitting of the opposites. To transmute the energies even to a higher plane cannot be done, because by averting them one loses the experience which can be very important, although difficult, for one's development. Suppressing an archetypal energy makes it become lethal, demonic and evil. Suppressing the principle of natural growth, which is inherent in the life force, might cause it to go into a "wild" growth, like cancer, or an epidemic. Whatever we have in our hands, we have for a purpose: for example, fear as opposed to love. The idea is not to eliminate anything.

Fear is needed for our survival, so too is anger. Anger is a necessary emotion when wrong has been done: anger as protest, as stamina for change. Jealousy can serve as a signpost for the things we want and are not allowed, either by ourselves or others, or the things we deny or disown. All of these, and others, are the means whereby we may become aware of the need for transformation. As James Hillman says:

The archetypes ... like the gods, rule all at once and together the same realm of being, this our world. But they provide distinction within this world, different ways of regarding things, different patterns for psychizing instinct, different modes of consciousness.


Daimon Publishers

Email: info@daimon.ch