The modern comic book superhero, Wonder Woman (circa ~1942), may not seem like Ancient Wisdom at first glance, but a closer look will reveal timeless concepts and ideals which surround this fictional character. Often times, what appears to be contemporary fictional characters, are actually modern re-tellings of mythological figures and the Archetypes they represent. (Archetypes are universal patterns of personality types and character traits that can be played out in an infinite variety of ways, yet still retaining their original theme or idea. Much more will be made of Archetypes in future posts). So even wrapped in a modern cloak, these universal elements still remain and, once they are properly revealed, can be a source of wisdom for solving difficulties that arise in one's experience.
There is much mythology inserted in the Wonder Woman character, such as her Amazonian origin, etc., but for this essay, we will just focus on on the relation between disguise and true identity.
Wonder Woman © Adam Hughes - used without permission:)
Coming up with a disguise and concealing one's true identity is a hallmark of just about all the comic book superheroes. Peter Parker puts on a leotard and spandex hood to become Spiderman; Bruce Wayne dons a mask and wings to become Batman. Both conceal their true human identity through their disguises. Others go through some sort of physiological transformation to become the Werewolf, or the Hulk, usually after some incident triggers the event. But, Wonder Woman - and Superman - stand alone as being fundamentally different when it comes to their true identity. For them, Diana Prince and Clark Kent are actually disguises to conceal their true identity, which is their superhero self, not the human one. Diana Prince is the impostor, and to "become" Wonder Woman, she actually strips away her street clothes by spinning around Dervish-like, for it's what's underneath that counts. To sum it up, Batman is actually Bruce Wayne in disguise, and, conversely, Diana Prince is actually Wonder Woman in disguise.
Why is this important and how is this useful for me? The distinction is a vital one, and examples from art and religion can provide further insight. A sculptor does not chisel a sculpture into being, rather, she chips away at the pieces of marble that are NOT the sculpture, which already "existed" in the rock in the first place. From Buddhism, we learn that our true Buddha-nature is already inside us, we just need to strip away the attachments to desire and "clinging to self" that get in the way of experiencing this illumined existence. Christianity too reminds us that "It is the Father within me that doeth the works," and, "...this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Psychology makes the distinction between the "small-s self" and the "capital-S Self," that there is a higher Self that we can become once we strip away our persona (which means "mask") and let our true nature shine.
The practical application of this concept can have a profound impact on various areas of our lives, particularly concerning Self Image, Health and Spiritual Enlightenment. Many today are experiencing a sort of identity crisis, both as an individual and as a nation. So much time and effort is spent on bringing in adornments from the outside, rather than releasing attributes from within. An honest assessment of ourselves will quickly show that we are not "all that," and that we are not all that bad either. Again with the popularity of the "law of attraction," our focus tends to be on what (or who) we can bring into our lives that we don't have already. We are seeking, looking here, looking there - everywhere but within. It may be the case that in reality, we need to get rid of old ideas, beliefs, wounds, fears and other forms of psychic clutter before we can bring in new ones. And if we take inspiration from Buddha or Wonder Woman, we realize that we don't really need to bring anything in, rather, we need to let something out, so that WE bring something to the world. We probably were much closer to our true selves when we were children, and since then we've been bound by societal norms, cultural expectations and personal self-censure, which have distracted us and covered up our true being. So, on the subject of personal identity, we need make and honest assessment of ourselves and determine which aspects of our personality are our true self, and which ones are disguises that we put on because we "feel we should," for whatever reason. In the words of Joseph Campbell, "Follow your bliss." This is sage advice, since your bliss emanates from your true self.
In the realm of health and healing, Wonder Woman can be useful as well. If we consider HEALTH to be a natural state, the rule and not the exception, then we see dis-ease as being something unnatural and a distraction or diversion from our true healthy self. Most of todays ills are a result of putting the wrong things in our bodies, on our skin, the wrong images and thoughts in our minds, the wrong words in our ears and coming out of our mouths, and an array of emotional anxieties, doubts, fears and betrayals which have poisoned our otherwise healthy being. Seen this way, our ailments are our disguise, tricking us into thinking and feeling that we are something other than healthy. Like the Christ within or our buried Buddha-nature, this healed self is already there - pre existing and continuous - and what we need to do, instead of bringing health into our lives, is to strip away the unhealthy behaviors, attitudes and situations so that we can release the healthy being within.
Finally, in regards to Spiritual Enlightenment, as the afore mentioned Christ Consciousness and Buddha-Nature examples have shown, from a Wonder Woman perspective, enlightenment is not so much that the Light from above shines down upon you and enters your interior darkness, filling you with peace and security. Actually, the word Illumination is perhaps a better term, in that there is already the Light within, and that we need to remove the darkness heaped upon it that obscures its radiance, and return it to it's original luminous nature so that we can shine our Light and bring peace and security into the dark and discouraging world around us, and to help others - by demonstration of our own example - to let their own light shine.
So, we can draw Ancient and Timeless Wisdom from contemporary figures, whether they be real life people or fictional characters. And, like all wisdom, this releasing our Higher Self is not something to just talk about or "understand" on an intellectual level, rather, it has to be EXPERIENCED first hand, so that it is a living fact. Therefore, you can use the archetypal image of Wonder Woman (or Superman) as a touchstone that reminds you that your true self, your healed state, and spiritual enlightenment ALL exist within, complete and lacking nothing additional from the outside. Just strip away all that is not YOU, and you will find yourself comfortable and confident in your own skin, healed from a myriad of ailment and deeply connected to the Universe and Life itself.