|Editor's note: Archetypes are universal forces originating at the highest levels of creation to shape the physical world of Nature as well as the human soul. Larger than a single “thing,” they are the prototypes or patterns that emanate from the spiritual world and are revealed in symbols, images, gestures, energetic patterns and qualities in both nature and human culture. The ability to become articulate in this language is a fundamental practitioner skill in flower essence therapy. Following is an archetypal character study written by Zöe McCaffrey (Prescott, AZ) as part of her requirements for the FES Certification Program.
Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway (Jodie Foster) is the lead character in Robert Zemeckis’ 1997 film “Contact.” When we meet Ellie, age 9, we see a bright, confident and affectionate child enthralled with the world around her and supported by the love of her adorning father (her mother passed away during childbirth). Ellie’s father inspires her passion for astronomy and we get a sense of her core beliefs as they talk about the Universe only a few nights before his death by heart attack in their living room.
That evening she makes contact with a truck driver in Pensacola, Florida over her CB radio and she asks her Dad how far her radio can reach. “Can you hear all the way to New York? Alaska? China? Could we talk to the moon?” “If we had a really, really big radio,” her father replies. Then she asks, “Dad, could we talk to Mom?” Her father answers, “I don’t think even the biggest radio could reach that far.” We gain insight into Ellie’s understanding of the world in this scene. Ellie is taught to trust and revere the language of science and technology. However, her father concedes that this language falls short of being able to communicate with her mother—Ellie’s deepest heart's desire. This shortcoming makes it difficult for Ellie to trust in that which cannot be seen and contributes greatly to her sense of spiritual estrangement as an adult. Later in the conversation Ellie asks, “Dad, are there people on other planets?” “I don’t know, Sparks,” he replies, “But I’d guess I’d say, if it is just us, seems like an awful waste of space.” Her Dad’s suggestion inspires wonder, a sense of vast potential and fuels her professional aspirations as an adult.
When her father dies suddenly a few nights later, we watch Ellie’s world collapse around her. She is shown running in desperation to the medicine cabinet for a bottle of pills, but it is already too late. At the funeral, the priest tries to console her: “Ellie, I know it’s hard to understand this now but we aren’t always meant to know the reasons why things happen the way they do. Sometimes we just have to accept it, as God’s will.” Young Ellie rejects this perspective, shouldering the blame and replying sternly, “I should have kept more medicine in the downstairs bathroom. Then I could have gotten to it sooner.” In this scene we see Ellie’s basic sense of security and protection crumble as the childlike innocence and trust erodes. In this moment, she becomes completely estranged from the concept of God.
As an adult astronomer, Ellie maintains a different sort of faith in the laws of science. Her character is defensive, protected by a fierce need for empirical evidence to substantiate any theory. Despite her innate cynicism, a sense of childhood wonder is still alive within her, illustrated as a deep wellspring of hope that there is life on other planets. “There are 4 hundred billion stars out there just in our galaxy alone. If only one out of a million of those had planets, and if just one out of a million of those had intelligent life, there would be literally millions of civilizations out there.” This vision fuels the film and is reflective of her hope that science will somehow prove to her that there is meaning in the world and a deeper reason for the suffering inherent to the human experience.
Ellie spends months monitoring radio waves from outer space, in hopes that some day she will receive a coherent message from another civilization. She is described by another character as “brilliant, driven, a major pain in the ass, and obsessed with a field of study that is considered tantamount to professional suicide (i.e. “listening for little green men”).” This search for life outside our solar system becomes a personal and spiritual quest for the young researcher who tries to reconcile the vast void of sadness within her by exploring the void “outside” of her known universe.
Ellie’s character type is best reflected by the Baby Blue Eyes archetype, indicated “for those souls who find it difficult to ‘let down their guard’ and who develop a protective shell of defensiveness, or intellectual cynicism (Kaminski and Katz, 2004).” The loss of her father—a quintessentially positive source of protection and guidance- coupled with her belief that the larger universe is separate from her being—equates to a complete loss of faith that she is supported and held by anything larger. This loss of fundamental trust results in defensiveness, insecurity, and a fear of letting anyone close to her heart. “This soul posture can lead to emotional isolation,” writes Kaminski and Katz (2004), reflected in Ellie’s habit of spending long hours alone listening to telescope static or spending her evenings on the edge of a solitary canyon bluff.
In the course of the story, Ellie meets the handsome and faithful Palmer Joss, a missionary and writer on his own search for understanding. Palmer tries to persuade her to accept the existence of a higher power but as their relationship grows intimate, Ellie pushes Palmer away, unable to reveal the vulnerable, wounded child within. In this moment, we see that her core trust in the world is still shattered. She still holds herself responsible for her father’s death, a sentiment that she keeps hidden behind a defensive shell of protection. This is further reflective of the Baby Blue Eyes type: souls who find it especially difficult to be “engaged in spiritual causes or pursuits, because they feel a lack of trust and support from the spiritual world (Kaminski and Kata, 2004).”
Ellie's hard work is rewarded when her team picks up a signal from the star cluster Vega. Ellie decodes the message, which turns out to be plans for a spacecraft, and is given the opportunity to be the Earth's emissary on the mission. Her journey through a network of wormholes lends fantastical views of different celestial formations and creates a sense of the grandeur of the universe.
During the journey, we see Ellie’s understanding of the world begin to deconstruct, and we get the impression that her psyche is being profoundly altered. Her adult face morphs into her face as a child and she says in utter wonderment, “It’s so beautiful… I had no idea…. I had no idea.” When she glimpses an alien civilization, her hypothesis is confirmed: we are not alone.
Shortly after, the metal walls of her spacecraft becoming translucent, and we see a glimpse of a world outside. We see an image of the adult Ellie’s body floating through space in the fetal position, and arriving on a beach fashioned after Pensacola, Florida (a location linked to her father and memories of unconditional love). As she marvels at the celestial bodies floating above her and the crystalline sand beneath her feet, a figure appears and begins to walk towards her. The creature turns out to be her father. She stares in disbelief, and when he greets her in a familiar way (“Hi Sparks”), she melts into his arms, pressing her cheek into his chest and the moment is unbelievably tender.
While she quickly realizes that his image is just a reflection of her own subconscious, she remains open to the magic of the moment. When he casually yet sincerely says, “I missed you… I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you sweetheart,” we see her begin to transform—the angularity of her face softening, the deep well of longing filling with awe and wonder. Before her journey back, her father speaks to the core of Ellie’s suffering, and to the dysfunctional aspects of the Baby Blue Eyes archetype—estrangement from the spiritual world, and thus a deep mistrust of others. “You are an interesting species,” he says. “You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other.”
Returning to Earth, her story is thoroughly discredited by the international science community. Though met with incredulity and skepticism, and pressed to admit she has no proof of her experience, Ellie expresses vulnerability and her newfound faith in the unseen forces at play in the universe. “I had an experience…. I can’t prove it, I can’t even explain it… but everything I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me it was real. I was given something wonderful. Something that changed me forever…. A vision of the Universe that tells us undeniably how tiny and insignificant and how rare and precious we all are... A vision that tells us we belong to something that is greater then ourselves- that none of us are alone. I wish I could share that… I wish that everyone, if even for one moment could feel that awe and humility and hope.”
Ellie’s journey to Vega was a profoundly spiritual experience, gifting her an epiphany that helps her begin to rebuild her trust in the world and reconnect her to her soul’s greater purpose. Flower Essence Practitioner Rosana Souto reflects about Baby Blue Eyes ability to heal a rift in one’s spiritual connection: “This plant's affinity to the water element is passed to the individual through the flower essence. The Baby Blue Eyes seems to mine the water deeply hidden in the individual's soul, helping the soul to encounter and heal its innate sensitivity. The pure blue color of this flower speaks of how the blue depths of the waters reflect the spiritual heavens. It is a picture of how the soul's capacity for sensitivity and creativity stem from being able to receive the influence of a higher divinity (www.flowersociety.com).”
The positive aspects of the Baby Blue Eyes archetype are personified in Ellie’s transcendent experience which “[restores her] soul’s original innocence and childlike trust.” When Palmer Joss expresses his faith in her before the media and she takes his hand, we witness Ellie beginning to feel more at home in the world.
In the final scene of the movie we find Ellie speaking to a group of school children about her work, a large array of telescopes in the background. She shares her innocence and wonder, inspiring the children to consider the possibility of life on other planets. In this moment it is clear how Ellie’s soul has learned to “trust in the goodness of others and in the world, and thus to become more accepting, positive and open in (her) expressions and actions (Kaminski and Katz, 2004).” We see how Ellie’s once hardened personality has softened and how her soul's conflict has been healed by the transformative power of faith.
About Zöe McCaffrey, M.A. Educational Psychology
Zöe earned a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Colorado, and worked as a classroom teacher for six years before starting her family. Zöe has lived in concert with flower essences since she was a child, and continues to use this beneficial healing system to fully embody her authentic self. Zöe became a Flower Essence Practitioner in 2014. She offers private consultations in which she creates custom-blended formulas for adults, children and animals in her private practice in Prescott, AZ.