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Jung's Archetypes

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Archetypes As Defined By Carl Jung

The Archetypal Patterns

The Nature of the Archetypes

Dreams and myths are constellations of archetypal images. They are not free compositions by an artist who plans them for artistic or informational effects. Dreams and myths happen to human beings. The archetype speaks through us. It is a presence and a possibility of "significance." The ancients called them "gods" and "goddesses."

What then is an archetype? Jung discovered that humans have a "preconscious psychic disposition that enables a (man) to react in a human manner." These potentials for creation are actualized when they enter consciousness as images. There is a very important distinction between the "unconscious, pre- existent disposition" and the "archetypal image." The archetype may emerge into consciousness in myriads of variations. To put it another way, there are a very few basic archetypes or patterns which exist at the unconscious level, but there are an infinite variety of specific images which point back to these few patterns. Since these potentials for significance are not under conscious control, we may tend to fear them and deny their existence through repression. This has been a marked tendency in Modern Man, the man created by the French Revolution, the man who seeks to lead a life that is totally rational and under conscious control.

Where do the archetypes come from? In his earlier work, Jung tried to link the archetypes to heredity and regarded them as instinctual. We are born with these patterns which structure our imagination and make it distinctly human. Archetypes are thus very closely linked to our bodies. In his later work, Jung was convinced that the archetypes are psychoid, that is, "they shape matter (nature) as well as mind (psyche)" (Houston Smith, Forgotten Truth, 40). In other words, archetypes are elemental forces which play a vital role in the creation of the world and of the human mind itself. The ancients called them elemental spirits How do archetypes operate? Jung found the archetypal patterns and images in every culture and in every time period of human history. They behaved according to the same laws in all cases. He postulated the Universal Unconscious to account for this fact. We humans do not have separate, personal unconscious minds. We share a single Universal Unconscious. Mind is rooted in the Unconscious just as a tree is rooted in the ground. Imagine the Universal Unconscious as a cosmic computer. Our minds are subdirectories of the root directory. If we look in our personal "work areas," we find much material that is unique to our historical experience--could only have happened to us--but it is shaped according to universal patterns. If we humans have the courage to seek the source to which our "account" belongs, we begin to discover ever more impersonal and universal patterns. The directories of the cosmic computer to which we can gain access are filled with the myths of the human species.

Modern man fancies that he has escaped the myths through his conscious repudiation of revealed religion in favor of a purely rational natural religion (read: Natural Science). But consider his theories of human origin. In the beginning, there was a Big Bang, a cosmic explosion. This is an image from which reason may begin to work, but it is not itself a rational statement. It is a mythical construct. Consider the theory of biological evolution. Man's ancestors emerge from the seas, and they in turn emerged from a cosmic soup of DNA. The majority of creation myths also begin with the same image of man emerging from primordial oceans. See Genesis 1 or the Babylonian creation epic. Consider the Modern tendency to call ourselves persons from the Latin persona. The term derives from the "mask" of Dionysus. Moderns are the wearers of masks! The reality is concealed in the darkness of mystery. This too is a mythical construct.

The Archetypes

The Shadow

The most basic potential for patterning is the Shadow Archetype. This is the potential of experiencing the unconscious side of our unique personalities. As we move deeper into the dark side of our personality personal, identity begins to dissolve into "latent dispositions" common to all men. We experience the chaos which indicates that we are drawing close to the material structure of psychic life. This "Other Side" may be manifested in a wealth of images. The image of "wilderness" is fundamental. Remember that Hanzel and Gretel were led "into the woods" and were trapped. Knights discover dragons, ogres, and thieves in the woods. Robin Hood is at home in the wild. The image may be that of the mob and its underworld, an urban equivalent in which "Pretty Boy" Floyd is a hero. There is always "the concrete jungle." Dragons sail the sea, "the watery wilderness." Jesus and John the Baptist met God "in the wilderness," as did Israel at Sinai.

The Shadow is the easiest of the archetypes for most persons to experience. We tend to see it in "others." That is to say, we project our dark side onto others and thus interpret them as "enemies" or as "exotic" presences that fascinate. We see the Shadow everywhere in popular culture. He is Batman. She is Spider Woman. It is the Ninja Turtles. We see it in popular prejudice as well. We "imagine" that the Black Man is our enemy; that Communists are devils. We incline towards Hawaii as the "land of paradise." We accept people uncritically if we perceive them as "Fair Haired." Of course, Satan is the great Shadow image of popular religion (Consider: the word only occurs 54 times in the entire Bible.)

The Shadow is the personification of that part of human, psychic possibility that we deny in ourselves and project onto others. The goal of personality integration is to integrate the rejected, inferior side of our life into our total experience and to take responsibility for it.

The Anima Or Animus

The second most prevalent potential patterning is that of the Soul (Anima is the male name for soul; Animus is the female name for soul). Here we meet our inner opposite. Males meet their Anima; females their Animus. The Anima may appear as an exotic dancing girl or a weathered old hag--the form generally reflects either the condition or the needs of our soul presently. Remember the wicked witch encountered by Hanzel and Gretel. The Animus may appear as an exotic, sensual, young man or as an old grouch. Remember the Great Oz who ran the Emerald City? There is always Simon Legree who took in Little Eva. Consider Super Man and Lois Lane. Clark Kent is the inferior, shadow side of Super Man, but he is also closer to ordinary people. Lois Lane has no interest in Clark. She is infatuated with Super Man, her Animus; the masculine completion of her personality. Wonder Woman offers us an example of the Anima in action.

The Syzygy (Divine Couple)

If one comes to terms with the Shadow and the Soul, one will encounter the enchanted castle with its King and Queen. This is a pattern of wholeness and integration. The opposites of the outer and the inner life are now joined in marriage. Great power arises from this integration. Christ and the Church, God and Israel are syzygy images. The believer who aspires to be the "bride of Christ" is modeling his or her experience in response to the syzygy archetype.

The Child

The Child Archetype is a pattern related to the hope and promise for new beginnings. It promises that Paradise can be regained. Child images like the New Year's Babe obviously derive from this archetype. So do the golden ring and the golden ball and most flower and circle related images. The birth of the Christ Child who unites Heaven and Earth, Man and God, is a powerful archetypal event. Were the life of Jesus not interpreted by this archetype, it would lose most of its meaning. Jesus would just be one more teacher from the Hellenistic world.

The Self

The ultimate pattern is the Self. For Jung this is the God image. Human self and divine self are incapable of distinction. All is Spirit. Images of Spirit abound. Wind and breath being two very common ones. The Spirit descends as a Dove upon Jesus in the wilderness. The voice declares to him his true nature: "Your are my Son, my Beloved." This is an archetypal drama of the Self. Galahad achieving the Grail and ascending with it to Heaven is likewise an archetypal drama of Self. Lancelot's failure to achieve the Grail speaks of his failure to achieve the final discovery of Self. Chariots and cars point in this direction. Remember the death car which comes in Darby O'Gill and the Little People? Enoch is taken up in a chariot of fire. Ezekiel Chapter One describes the chariot conveying God into the world.

Further Internet Resources:

Carl Jung Biography & Theories - Dr. C. George Boeree

The C. J. Jung Page

Jung Links

ILoveULove Links Page

Further Reading - Jung's Books:

         

Return To: Analytical Psychology - Jung

Return To: Psychology Articles


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Last updated: 08/15/08

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