"The inherited part of the PSYCHE; structuring patterns of psychological performance linked to INSTINCT; a hypothetical entity irrepresentable in itself and evident only through its manifestations.
Jung's theory of the archetypes developed in three stages. In 1912 he wrote of primordial images which he recognised in the unconscious life of his patients as well as by way of his own self-analysis. These images were similar to motifs repeated everywhere and throughout history but their main features were their numinosity, unconsciousness and autonomy.
As conceived by Jung, the collective UNCONSCIOUS promotes such images. By 1917, he was writing of non-personal dominants or nodal points in the psyche which attract energy and influence a person's functioning. It was in 1919 that he first made use of the term archetype and he did so to avoid any suggestion that it was the content and not the unconscious and irrepresentable outline or pattern that was fundamental. References are made to the archetype per se to be clearly distinguished from an archetypal IMAGE realisable (or realised) by man.
The archetype is a psychosomatic concept, linking body and psyche, instinct and image. This was important for Jung since he did not regard psychology and imagery as correlates or reflections of biological drives. His assertion that images evoke the aim of the instincts implies that they deserve equal place.
Archetypes are recognisable in outer behaviours, especially those that cluster around the basic and universal experiences of life such as birth, marriage, motherhood, death and separation. They also adhere to the structure of the human psyche itself and are observable in relation to inner or psychic life, revealing themselves by way of such inner figures as ANIMA, SHADOW, PERSONA and so forth. Theoretically, there could be any number of archetypes.
Archetypal patterns wait to be realised in the personality, are capable of infinite variation, are dependent upon individual expression and exercise a fascination reinforced by traditional or cultural expectation; and, so, carry a strong, potentially overpowering charge of energy which it is difficult to resist (someone's ability to do so being dependent upon his stage of development and state of CONSCIOUSNESS).
Archetypes arouse AFFECT, blind one to realities and take possession of WILL. To live archetypally is to live without limitations (INFLATION). To give archetypal expression to something, however, may be to interact consciously with the COLLECTIVE, his- toric image in such a way as to allow opportunities for the play of intrinsic polarities: past and present, personal and collective, typical and unique (see OPPOSITES).
All psychic imagery partakes of the archetypal to some extent. That is why dreams and many other psychic phenomena have numinosity. Archetypal behaviours are most evident at times of crisis, when the EGO is most vulnerable. Archetypal qualities are found in SYMBOLS and this accounts in part for their fascination, utility and recurrence. GODS are METAPHORS of archetypal behaviours and MYTHS are archetypal ENACTMENTS.
The archetypes can neither be fully integrated nor lived out in human form. Analysis involves a growing awareness of the archetypal dimensions of a person's life.
Jung's concept of the archetype is in the tradition of Platonic Ideas which are present in the minds of the gods and serve as the models of all entities in the human realm. Kant's a priori categories of perception and Schopenhauer's prototypes are also antecedents. With increasing use of the term, we meet frequent references to such phenomena as 'a necessary shift in the paternal archetype' or 'the shifting archetype of femininity'. The word was included in the Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought in 1977. The biologist Sheldrake finds relevance between Jung's formulation and his theory of 'morphogenetic fields' (1981).
In 1934 Jung wrote:
The ground principles, the archetypal, of the unconscious are indescribable because of their wealth of reference, although in themselves recognisable. The discriminating intellect naturally keeps on trying to establish their singleness of meaning and thus misses the essential point; for what we can above all establish as the one thing consistent with their nature is their manifold meaning, their almost limitless wealth of reference, which makes any unilateral formulation impossible (CW 9i, para. 80).
Ellenberger (1970) identified the archetype as one of the three main conceptual differences between Jung and Freud in defining the content and behaviour of the unconscious. Following Jung, Neumann (1954) saw the archetypes recurring in each generation but also acquiring a history of forms based upon a widening of human consciousness. Hillman, founder of the school of Archetypal Psychology, cites the concept of archetype as the most fundamental in Jung's work, referring to these deepest premises of psychic functioning as delineating how we perceive and relate to the world (1975).
Williams argued that, since the archetypal structure remains skeletal without personal experience to flesh it out, the distinction between personal and collective dimensions of experience or categories of the unconscious might be somewhat academic (1963a).
Notions of innate psychological structure exist in present-day psychoanalysis, notably in the Kleinian school: Isaacs (unconscious fantasy), Bion (preconception), and Money-Kyrle (cf. Money-Kyrle, 1978). Jung's theory of the archetypes may also be compared to structuralist thought (Samuels, 1985a)."
We have had a lot of facinating discussions at this forum about the similarity of symbols around the world. Probably the most interesting for me personally have been looking at comparative serpent symbolism. This has obviously been wrapped around tracing cultural lines back though history.
If we bring Jung into the picture then we have an obvious problem: if these complex and often peculiar symbols that exist universally in the cultural projections of art and literature are products of the unconscious mind then their existance is no longer dependent on cultural transmission historically and can be explained as local, universal products of the psyche.
What does this do to the practice of tracing cultural lines though religous or 'esoteric' symbols?