Tag Archives: Jungian archetypes

Jungian Archetypes

The Archetypes

Strictly speaking, Jungian archetypes refer to unclear underlying forms or the archetypes-as-such from which emerge images and motifs such as the mother, the child, the trickster and the flood amongst others. It is history, culture and personal context that shape these manifest representations giving them their specific content. These images and motifs are more precisely called archetypal images. However it is common for the term archetype to be used interchangeably to refer to both archetypes-as-such and archetypal images.

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.