I prefer to think of archetypes within 'literature'. Others like to think of archetypes as 'in the head'. I am just wondering how members of Depth Psychology Alliance view archetypes? Of course everything derives from the mind/psyche but I think that it is important to see where such phenomena goes/ends up... so-to-speak. And then we can take a perspective on it.





You need to be a member of Depth Psychology Alliance to add comments!

Join Depth Psychology Alliance

Email me when people reply –


  • At the start of this discussion, Paul wondered "how members of Depth Psychology Alliance view archetypes." I have gained a lot from the various contributions made so far. I'd now be curious to know how members have been moved or affected either by archetypes themselves or by the idea of archetypes.

    My first encounter with the idea that archetypes existed came in the form of the book, Invisible Partners by John A Sanford. As a young man baffled by women and any relationship with women, I remember that this book and its ideas on the anima providing me with an incredible sense of psychic relief. I'd be hard pressed to precisely describe what took place inside but I do remember that it freed me up from an incredible amount of anxiety and opened doors that made my relationship with women so much more enjoyable and meaningful. Coincidentally, I met my wife within a few weeks of purchasing this book. We were living in a small town of 10,000 people and there were three copies at our local bookstore. She bought one, I bought one, and her best friend bought the other. On our first date, I took my copy off of my bookshelf and asked her if she knew of this book.

    I was hesitant in writing this because I value what I've learned from exploring the idea of archetypes, but find it so difficult to verbalize its personal meaning.


  • No, it would be a mistake to think archetypes are "in the head", or that they only exist as fictional symbols in literature. Archetypes are not "in" us anymore than they are "in" literature. It is rather the opposite, WE are caught in archetypes just as much as literary language is caught within them when spoken by a true poet.

    There is a problem in thinking of archetypes as "eternal" or changeless patterns of energy that are "as-such" a "thing-in-itself" not touched by historic temporality. For all we can see and get is the temporal phenomenality of an archetype's existence, never the archetype "as-such", in some kind of u-topian (no-place) realm of "timeless" ahistoric being. Archetypes are only recognizable "as such" through their temporal manifestations, in their ability to invent and reinvent themselves at any stage of human history. In my understanding, therefore, archetypes are thoroughly temporal; they are not supersensible Platonic ideas divorced from historic consciousness; they are, rather, in their alchemical duplex character, thoroughly mytho-historic. And it is indeed the notion of mytho-historicity, which presupposes a careful reading of Heidegger's BEING & TIME (a book that dispels the idea of "eternal" unchanging values), that has brought me nearest to grasping the enigmatic character of these great ciphers of being all around us, the changing temporal essence of encompassing archetypal reality.

    • Although I'm quite sure Paul can (and will) speak up for himself... I heard Paul saying he most easily sees archetypal images as they reveal themselves in literature... and that's a far cry from "archetypes existing only as fictional symbols in literature"...

      As for whether the archetype is within us or we are within the archetype, the answer is, of course, yes.

      "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." Henry David Thoreau

      • Yes, Anthony, I did not mean to imply that Paul had reduced archetypes to literary fictions, but his comment does call for a discerning reflection about the "place" where archetypes are to be found or NOT to be found. In general, I find that the problem among archetypalists (which you and Paul may or may not be, I don't know) is that they tend to think of archetypes as positive things, like the concept of "energy" in physics. But the "energy" of an archetype cannot be measured or transmitted through a wire or via satellite; archetypes don't "exist" as empirical objects of cognition. "As such," they are not a part of our cognitive reality in the least since by definition they are contents of the collective UNconscious. But the logical negativity of the unconscious and its contents is lost in all these easy positivistic definitions we like to "play" with. That is the aesthetic tendency Jung himself criticized in his followers, especially would-be artists, who merely like to "play" with archetypal images rather than take them seriously as shattering and transformative experiences for ego-consciousness. That is why Jung warned his "enlightened" followers that we do not reach true enlightenment by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness [i.e., their logical negativity] conscious.
  • John R. Haule has to be the most scientific minded Jungian ever. In this article he never sounds mystical... on the contrary... he constantly sounds as if Jungian psychology would be not only accepted BUT EVEN RESPECTED... EVEN LIKED by mainstream science... if only all of us were as intelligent (and hard-working) as he is. But Haule is a prolific researcher and writer. Anyway, if you want Jungian psychology to be relevant then you should like what Haule says here:



    "First, we need a paradigmatic archetype to let the world know what we are talking about; and we would be well-advised to choose one that is familiar, easily defined, easy to observe, and broadly studied. I propose the language archetype; for it unleashes an amazing cascade of effects quite suddenly around the age of three years. Archetypes give us the capacity to learn some things rather than others, to learn some things more quickly and easily than others, and to learn some things at some times and other things at other times. The language archetype guides the infant’s attention to its parents’ loquacity and enables it to learn vocabulary, grammar, and syntax with amazing speed and without special effort. By this means, each of us learns a mother tongue. And it makes no difference whether it is English or Mandarin. Language is the archetype; while English and Arabic are cultural variants. The learning of language itself is “a distinct piece of the biological makeup of our brains … [much as] spiders spin webs because they have spider brains, which give them the urge to spin and the competence to succeed.” (Pinker, 1994, 18) No chimpanzee or dolphin that has been taught a kind of sign language ever grasps the most elementary notion of grammar or syntax. After years of training, they are no match for a three-year-old human infant. Lacking a language archetype, other mammals have to learn these things with their “general intelligence.”

  • After 30+ years, I'm still not clear on what an archetype is... but it's fun to play with...


    Archetypes are like:


    In graduate school I remember a behaviorist professor that talked about clusters of neurons that would become excited and fire in response to certain pictures or words. And for instance when a baby saw their grandma, a very specific and different cluster of "grandma neurons" would be excited and fire than when the baby saw (for example) their father... 


    Jung (unlike my behaviorist professor) would have likely said this demonstrated the inborn hardwiring that Bonnie brought up:

    "The psyche of the infant in its preconscious state is anything but a tabula rasa (blank sheet); it is already preformed in a recognizably individual way, and is moreover equipped with all specifically human instincts, as well as with the a priori foundations of the higher functions... " Memories, Dreams, and Reflections

  • I think of the archetypal as the undergirding of the universe -the internal structure and content of the "Animal Mundi." In its widest sense, isn't this how the cosmos is organized, archetypally?
    • Lets try this on for size.

      Archetypes are gravitational centers unable to be experienced until physical characteristcs are pulled to it to take form. The "second stage" of the process is triggered by emotions of the individual starting quite early in life. The emotions cry out for an image and the archetypal gravitational pull begins to accumulate characteristics that eventually become image (broadly defineds as anything discernable - archetype can be a sound as much as visual image). The culture then supports, redefines, or jettisons the image when it is presented by the individual. For me, this response by the culture, beginning with the family, is where the initial wounding in our lives takes place.

  • I am fascinated with the idea that archetypes are images that carry emotion and the body connection this implies. The images that matter are the ones that carry emotions. Do archetypes "in the head" move us? Who was it that said that Jung considered psyche and body to be one and the same?
  • Three Post-Jungian Archetypes

    The Jungian archetypes heyday was in pre-modern times when they were just lived. For example unconsciously projecting God into a tree and then identifying with the tree (participation mystique) equates to living the archetype. Now, for modern times I associate the lived archetype with transformation1 because it is in sudden transformation that moderns experience a high in sharp contrast to pre-moderns who experienced meaning within a born into/lived unchanging participation mystique. In another article I wrote approvingly of the technological Singularity2 - - - albeit I said that there would be no collective rapture experienced by the masses as a result of it. This is not a contradiction. Only those who genuinely apply themselves to a worldview that they sincerely accept and believe in - - - and which is then overturned by something that they hadn’t believed in, hadn’t understood, were unaware of and so forth.......... then and only then do moderns experience the archetype in-question. Classical Jungians refer to the archetype that I am advocating as the REBIRTH ARCHETYPE. I am happy with that label. I am also happy with it being termed the transformation or eureka archetype. It is the high of a new idea.

    I also deem relevant what was psychologically present before the eureka moment. When the individual rightly or wrongly has the psychological experience of something is missing... he or she inevitably goes on to project a fiction in order to fill the gap. I refer to this as the FILLER ARCHETYPE. The filler archetype is inevitably present pre-rebirth. With reference to the filler archetype... the individual can try and experience a fictional sense of intelligence by reading an intelligent book and empathising with the intelligent characters, or by watching a movie or show with intelligent characters in it, or through watching the news or reading a broadsheet newspaper. (etc etc). Here the individual establishes for him or herself a fictional filler intelligence. This psychological sense of intelligence replaces the psychological sense of emptiness of something’s missing. The Jungian scholar, Marie Louise Von Franz, (1915 – 1998) discusses this very issue. She writes “Because the origin of nature and human existence is a complete mystery to us, the unconscious has produced many models of this event. The same thing happens whenever the human mind touches the borders of the unknown. If, for example, you look at maps of antiquity, let us say maps of Greece, Greece is shown more or less in the centre of the map, but on the borderline things become a bit distorted and unknown; the upper part of Yugoslavia tends towards the upper part of Italy, and then at the end of a known area there is simply a drawing of the Uroboros, the snake which eats its own tail, which on olds maps also represents the Ocean. As decoration, at the corners of the maps, there are pictures of animals or monsters, or of the four winds. In the Middle Ages the area of the known world was always shown in the centre surrounded by all-embracing symbols and sometimes even demonic figures: the four winds blowing towards the centre, heads with a blowing mouth, or something similar. These maps demonstrate ad oculos that whenever known reality stops, where we touch the unknown, there we project the archetypal image.
    The same applies in the case of the medieval astronomical charts. In the Middle Ages they drew all the constellations they knew and outside them the cosmos was surrounded by the Zodiac snake, the snake on which were all the signs of the Zodiac; beyond that lay the unknown. There again the snake which bites its own tale, the Uroboros motif, comes up where man reaches the end of his conscious knowledge...”3.
    Remember that I refer to the filler archetype and say that it is the sense of “somethings missing” that counts... the individual does not necessarily have to possess a firm idea of what information he or she is lacking. The individual then inevitably goes on to project the filler archetype.

    There is third point that I deem relevant about the archetype concept. And that is to do with hardening, literalising, or what Classical Jungians refer to as ‘archetypal identification’. An individual can identify with something that is true or false but it is the identification with it that equates to the psychological aspect... as opposed to its truthfulness or falsehood. The identification amounts to the projection of (what I call) the PRIMITIVE ARCHETYPE and then a modern day identification with it (a warped modern-day version of primitive psychology). It is an unhealthy merger of subject and object and inability to differentiate between the two. Hence the individual is possessed by the primitive archetype. In theory the person could project the filler archetype, experience health as a result and then turn the filler archetype into the primitive archetype due to identification.


    The scholar of myth and religion, Robert Segal, once advised me to apply terms to other phenomena in order to illuminate those terms and the field that they belong too.4 In this case the field = Post-Jungian Psychology and the terms = archetypes.

    We can see transformations from pre-science to modern science in the 18th century, from alchemy to chemistry and from science fiction to science fact. This latter example, science fiction to science fact possesses great potential for applying the rebirth archetype in the future because those at the forefront of technological change will (far more likely than not) experience paradigm shifts within their field that will have them experiencing psychological moments of ‘eureka’! Hence I support Segal’s approach... but I also support the approach of using terms in order to check and understand/make sense of one’s own psychology. (e.g., one’s own conscious and unconscious decision making). I advise being aware of the filler archetype and primitive archetype in this regard and checking oneself with reference to them.


    1. Of course, some people may enjoy studying archetypes in literature and fiction in general (whether they be myths, fairytales, religious material or modern day books, television shows and movies). But I regard such endeavours as privatised hobbies in the sense of not connecting with modern day life even if the material selected is modern.

    2. Budding, P, (January 2011)

    3. Von Franz, M.L., in Jung, C, 1998, p241

    4. Segal, R, Personal Correspondence


    Jung, C, (1998) Jung on Mythology (edited by Segal, R) (Routledge)

    Budding, P, (January 2011) Will the Singularity trigger Collective Rapture in the modern Western world? (Docstoc Website:
This reply was deleted.