A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF MANKIND
WHAT IS AN ARCHETYPE?
The word 'archetype' from the
Latin 'archetypum' means original form or
imprint. The archetype can be defined as an original, primordial
image common to all mankind regardless of race, creed or color.
Everything in the universe is imprinted with the indelible stamp of an archetype.
Does that amaze you?
Here are two examples:
The TREE is one of the most recognizable and common archetypal imprints known to man. It contains very specific archetypal features and characteristics: roots, a trunk, branches and leaves. The archetype maintains it's intrinsic meaning regardless of cultural variation. It's meaning in man's life as a primal source of food, shelter and tools has given the tree an aura of sacredness and divinity. It has been collectively interpreted down through the ages as the axis mundi or World Axis. It is also called the World Tree-- around which the universe itself revolves.
Below LEFT is a photo of a common oak tree. The ancient Germanic/Nordic tree of life is known as the Yggdrasil--CENTER image. The Scythian crown--CENTER RIGHT--has the Yggdrasil on it with reindeer eating it's leaves. Ever replenishing, the leaves always grow back regardless of how many the deer eat. The Black & White photo RIGHT shows a female shaman of the Mapuche tribe of central Chile standing atop a carved ladder metaphor for the world tree. Beating a drum she goes into a trance and her falling body is caught in a blanket by tribal members.
The EYE is also one of the most recognizable and common archetypal imprints known to mankind. It contains very specific archetypal features and characteristics: it's unique oval shape, Iris (colored part) and Pupil.
The dream image LEFT (somehow reminds us of the Twilight Zone) might help us to visualize the original archetypal imprint of the human eye. The Eye of Horus is one a well-known eye image and represents the left eye. Horus was the Egyptian sun god. The Egyptian Book of The Dead required the priests of Horus to obtain a human left eye to satisfy the provisions of the ritual. For many ancient cultures the sun symbolized the all seeing eye of god. The eye image atop the pyramid on the back of the U.S. One Dollar bill is also very familiar. There are many interpretations of this eye image. Some believe it represents the esoteric 'third eye' or Kundalini Ajna chakra which is located between the brows. Others believe it symbolizes the spiritualized Logos of the Masons. Many of the founding fathers including Jefferson and Adams belonged to the fraternal order of the Masons.
The paintings--RIGHT and far RIGHT are two different versions of Rene Magritte's well known "The Fake Mirror." The darker blue 1929 version is a left eye and the lighter blue 1935 version is the right eye. Perhaps these paintings are a metaphor for gathering storm clouds of WWII? Note that in the far right painting the clouds are beginning to obscure the central pupil.
WHERE DO ARCHETYPES COME FROM?
According to the
psychological model of C. G. Jung the archetypes originate in the
Collective Unconscious, the deepest layer of the collective psyche of
mankind. The Collective Unconscious can be described as a repository
for all of mankind's experience and knowledge over many eons. This is the
universal source of all mythic, symbolic and dream representations. As long
as an archetype remains unconscious, that is unknown to ego-consciousness,
it's meaning cannot be understood. At the point when it reaches the
threshold of consciousness it becomes constellated as feeling toned images,
fantasies and ideas.
The image LEFT entitled "KN 807" is by modern artist Andreas Nottebohn can help us to visualize the activation of an archetype as it reaches consciousness--represented by the central red sphere--within the field of the Collective Unconscious. Jungian analyst and author Marie-Louise Von Franz has liked the origins of the archetypes to "...activated points within an electromagnetic field."
WHY SHOULD I BE INTERESTED IN ARCHETYPES?
| One of the
reasons is that each and everyone of us
inherits specific archetypal behavior patterns handed down through the
generations. Our conscious objective awareness of these patterns can make a
huge difference in our life. Unconscious patterns get worse with every generation. Jung
defined this negative accumulation as the ancestral shadow-- a psychological
backlog that could erupt anytime given the right environment or psychic
Although the Kennedy clan has contributed to the greater welfare of American society for many decades, their unconscious hubris seems to claim another victim with each passing generation. The photo below LEFT of John Kennedy Jr. with his father John F. Kennedy looming in the background seems to be a warning.
Alcohol and substance abuse are also archetypal behavioral patterns originally rooted in mythic traditions. Dionysus, the Greek god of the grape initiated his female followers into unrestrained self-destruction. Those who identify with this archetype, unconsciously live it out. The more connected they are with the archetype, the more difficult to break the habit. Judy Garland--CENTER Photo--was a remarkable entertainer, but 25 years of hard drinking took it's toll. By the age of 39 she had cirrhosis of the liver. She died from an overdose of pills when she was 47. Her daughter, Liza Minnelli--photo RIGHT-- inherited these patterns of musical talent and substance abuse. Yet she seems to have some realization of these inherited patterns and has broken the cycle (we hope).
DO ARCHETYPES EFFECT MY RELATIONSHIPS?
Many of us operate within
an inherited archetypal family structure and don't realize it. Unconscious complexes or 'parts' within us
can engulf the ego and take over. Power trips, avarice,
over-possessiveness, jealousy, inflated pride, depression, abusive anger and ungrounded
idealism all have an archetypal pattern working at the core. If one is in
the grip of an archetypal pattern it is very hard to perceive it. It's like
being a flea on the back of an elephant. Loving relationships can create a
supportive environment for constructive growth or unconsciously create a
crippling co-dependence. Conversely, what seems at first to be a difficult relationship
can be the catalyst for personal insight and growth. The dynamics involved depend on the
particular archetypal pattern.
One of the main keys to unlocking unconscious attachment to a specific archetypal pattern is objective awareness. Understanding how we relate and interact with these 'parts' is the beginning of real soul growth. Please explore the collective images and interpretive text throughout this site to get a greater sense of what we are talking about.
To understand an archetype takes time, patience, humility, and a willingness to explore and unlock the symbolic meaning behind it. Self-examination through therapy, dream work, somatic explorations, reflective study, artistic creation and any number of other methods can to help objectify the underlying meaning inherent in the personalization of collective archetypal images.
The 'bad hair day' clip images below are self-explanatory and visually represent parts or complexes needing attention:
ARCHETYPES: THE WAVE THEORY-- OPPOSITES SEEKING ANTINOMY
Comparative mythology, religion and ethnology have demonstrated that the archetypal world is divided into dyadic pairings: every upper world is reflected in an equivalent underworld and visa versa. Every upper god (archetype) has his/her equivalent counterpart: Atum/Osiris, Zeus/ Hades, etc. Every hero/heroine has a monster to conquer--his/her own opposite shadow side.
One of the theories we delineate in our book Unraveling Collective Confusion is the Wave Theory. Using the metaphor of a wave with a trough and a crest, representing the archetypal extremes on either side, we seek the pivotal center where the archetypal forces on either side can come into greater balance. This middle ground is not always clear cut and necessitates living in a somewhat ambiguous state of consciousness where neither moral/immoral, good/bad, black/white, up/down are the absolute, dominate poles. The more entrenched and rigid our affiliation with a particular archetypal role--for example a father figure--the more polarized we can ultimately become. Individuation, Jung's term for the process toward wholeness, only happens when the ALL the opposites are moving into a state of antinomy or inner balance. Directly below are some examples of our wave metaphor:
Trough Center Crest
Modern artist Andy Warhol helped to establish the puella (eternal girl) image as an icon in modern society with pop art images of Marilyn Monroe. The Marilyn Monroe Diptych of 1962--RIGHT--is perhaps prophetic. The repetition of unconscious puella behaviors has now become an epidemic of eating disorders and self-image problems for millions of young women around the world.
| Among the
first to formulate a hypothesis about the archetypes was the Greek philosopher
Plato. In Timaeus he talks of the fundamental 'receptacle' and says,
things that pass in and out are to be called copies of eternal things."
uses the metaphor of the mother as a receptacle or original vehicle for the
creation of prototype offspring. Psychologically, the descendant of a
receptacle is the archetypal image.
As Jung has pointed out the term is also mentioned by a few of the early Christian writers including Philo Judaeus, Dionysius the Areopagite and Irenaeus.
C. G. JUNG AND THE ARCHETYPES
psychological opus would be inconceivable without the archetypes. Because of
the vast scope of Jung's work in this area, we can only touch upon the
subject here. (Please use the links to learn more about each of the
archetypes). Indeed the archetypes
serve as the very foundation of Jung's discoveries into the nature of psyche
In 1934 Jung published his groundbreaking essay entitled, "The Archetypes Of The Collective Unconscious." Embodied in this article were some of the archetypal theories that were to become an important core of Jungian psychology: the collective unconscious, shadow, anima, and The Wise Old Man. Jung's understanding and knowledge of the archetypes came from many sources:
ARCHETYPES: SCIENTIFIC THEORIES
The question of whether or not the archetypes are evolving remains unanswered. If evolution means greater consciousness, then the collective effects of the Eros archetype on women of the 20th century have been profound. Consider the advancement of women's legal rights over the past century. Below we look at two scientific pioneers whose hypotheses can be related to the evolution of the archetypes. In the future we will be adding more sections on the new sciences and their relationship to the archetypes.
ARCHETYPES: TEIHARD DE CHARDIN
Jesuit priest and paleontologist, Teihard de Chardin wrote a
significant book called "The Phenomenon Of Man." In it he delineates the
biological origins of man from pre-life to life, the emergence of reflective thought toward
collective thought. At least several of Teihard's concepts can be related
to the evolution of the archetype.
In the Law Of Complexity-Consciousness, Teihard states that as life evolves the collective learning curve moves to a peak of understanding and then a new pattern (based on the previous design) suddenly comes into being. According to Teihard's theories, at critical stages in the process of bio-psychic evolution the loop accelerates. Put into psychological terms, does this also mean that the archetypal god-image (which Jung called the Self) is learning from it's own creation and therefore evolving hand-in-hand with humanity? This is one of the questions Jung examined in his controversial essay, "Answer To Job."
ARCHETYPES: MORPHOGENETIC FIELDS
| In his 1981
book entitled "A New Science Of Life" biologist
Rupert Sheldrake purposed
the new theory of morphogenetic resonance and morphogenetic fields. The word
Morphic is derived from the Greek word 'form' and genetic refers to
Sheldrake believes that morphic fields have measurable physical effects and ..."are responsible for the characteristic form and organization of systems at all levels of complexity, not only in the realm of biology, but also in the realms of chemistry and physics. These fields order the systems with which they are associated by affecting events which, from an energetic point of view, appear to be indeterminate or probabilistic; they impose patterned restrictions on the energetically possible outcome of physical processes."
Perhaps the most exciting part of Sheldrake's hypothesis is that morphic structures are the result of previous analogous systems acting on present and future systems through "cumulative influence which acts across both space and time." Collective replication of specific forms and structural patterns over time has a snowballing effect: species adapt to changes at an accelerated rate of learning. (The question is: does that learning include the whole psyche or just ego-consciousness? Otherwise it's not real change.)
ARCHETYPES: REEMERGENCE IN TODAY'S EVENTS
| The reappearance of the mythic archetypal image
is often psychic premonition of a larger, unforeseen future event.
In May of 2001 numerous residences of old Delhi, India encountered an primitive beast with steel fingers--LEFT image--in the form of a monkey like monster leaping effortlessly from roof tops. In some cases residences described terrifying personal encounters with the beast:
Archetypes often make their entrance through the back door of the cultural underbelly--those groups closer to the instinctual layer and hence with less rational defenses to dismiss an archetypal event as nonsense.
India has only one Hindu god that sychronistically relates to this event: the half-human, half monkey Hanuman--CENTER image. In India he is viewed as a figure of power and strength. Also as a healer and peacemaker. In the epic poem Ramayana he has the ability to not only leap from continent to continent, but also to fly--perhaps symbolic of surface-to-air-missiles?
From an Jungian perspective, we could see this as a collective archetypal forewarning of a dangerous crisis in the making. A year later--in May of 2002--India and an it's shadow side--Pakistan, were on the verge of nuclear war with Delhi to be Pakistan's first targeted sight. Below CENTER RIGHT is Pakistan's Ghuri missile, named after Mohammed Ghauri, the 12th century mogul leader who conquered India and FAR RIGHT is India's Prithvi or nuclear cow missile.
ARCHETYPES AND AMERICA
|Throughout our book, Unraveling Collective Confusion we speak of the possible dangers of humanity becoming obsessed with a particular archetypal symbol. Today the collective consciousness of the world (Freud called it the Super Ego) has a strong identification with the masculine archetypal complex of the father/son or the Terrible Father/Puer. We experience the Terrible Father in America as a collective tyrant who bullies and browbeats the rest of the world while his other shadow side--the Puer--makes war into a Virtual Reality video game with the mass media competing to score points. The Puer tells us that we are just grand and should have no limits what-so-ever, while the Terrible Father backs it up with punishing force.|
Designed, Built, Written and Maintained by Kent Carr
Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved.