Archetypes and the New Mythology

The term Archetype began with Carl Jung. In Jung's terms, 'Archetype' is defined as the first original model of which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are merely derivative, copied, patterned, or emulated. These patterns derive from a universal collective unconscious which in metaphysics is called the Grids, Akashic Records, Sea of Consciousness, that which creates our reality. In this context, archetypes are innate prototypes for ideas, which may subsequently become involved in the interpretation of observed phenomena. Consider the following questions:


Are there specific archetypes derived from Mother Nature?

Are technological advances also supported by archetypes?

Do archetypes last forever?

Do archetypes show us what is sacred?

Do our archetypes change as the universal collective unconscious evolves?


 The Flat Earth

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  • Joseph: Thank you for sharing your insights in the workings of the archetype with us! 5 questions follow....

    “Although it manifests in lower phyla as automatic and inflexible patterns, greater brain complexity gives animals increasingly greater freedom in adapting those patterns to individual circumstances.”

    Is this evolution?


    Are we born with a full set of archetypes and instincts?


    Are you saying that, in the final analysis, archetypes are a matter of belief?


    How do I know when I have triggered / experienced an archetype?


    Humans and their planet are in such big trouble, I wonder what value archetypes really have for us? Is it not fair to say that these forces have accompanied / programmed / patterned us to the brink of extinction?

    • Willi,

      Glad to offer any insights I have on the topic!  I don't know if I have adequate answers to your questions, but I can share my takes on some of these.

      I think it's a reasonable assumption that humans (as a more complex creature) would have greater complexity and flexibility with regards to the instincts.  More ways to enact an instinct as well as more ways to trigger them and also the ability to repress or hold back on or adapt one set of instincts in order to achieve other desired outcomes.  This is adaptation.  How human beings got here in the first place would be a topic on evolution.

      If an archetype is not content, then we're not born with it in the sense of possessing some "thing."  An archetype is more like a Morphogenetic field.  See:  It's more like the "field" in which everyone is swimming.

      As the grammar behind patterns, archetypes are something which can be deduced from observable phenomena, and so would not be beliefs.

      As to experiencing an archetype, by definition they are in operation all the time, behind the scenes.  However, those places where this would be most noticeable - where one would have the greatest chance of noticing it, I think would be in those complexes which when constellated would create a strong affect in the individual.
        Where in your life are you experiencing the greatest "charge?"   Either a positive charge as in something highly exciting and desirous, or a negative charge - something highly disturbing (fear/anger/etc..).

      As to the value of the archetypes themselves, I'm not sure that's a useful question.  It's like saying what value do protons have?  If they're a fact of phenomenal existence, it's not like you have any say in the matter.  But as to the question:  "What value is it to become aware of the archetypes?"  Then I'd have to say that the value is that by becoming aware you can see more of reality and live more consciously.  If you know what the universe is up to, it creates a greater possibility of consciously cooperating with the movement of the universe.  For example, once humans figured out the cycles of the seasons, they were better able to plan when to plant their crops.


    • Fascinating!!  Thanks for assisting my work into a unified theory (can I call it that!?) for New Global Mythology.

      1. Are instincts triggers?

      2. One hypothesis here is that alchemy could be a trigger / instinct source and have evolved over the years to connect us to the universal archetypes. I have created two sets of new alchemies already!

      Your thoughts?

      Thanks so much.

    • I've yet to read through the rest of the enties that I missed over the weekend, but your final note about how these forces have brought us to the brink of extinction is intriguing. Mind you, we've always been there and always will.

    • Hi Robert - are you implying that humans are hard wired on a suicidal course?!
    • No, not hard wired on a suicidal course. After all, the vast majority of humanity will not commit suicide during our lives. But the other side of coming into the world (as we all have) is leaving the world. As finite beings, we only have  temorary visas to this sphere. Everything (and everyone) is only here for a limited amount of time. The second law of thermodynamics I think. Also Freud's notion of the death drive.

  • Hello Willi,

    I'll try and offer some distinctions on the topic of archetypes.  First off, there is more than one definition of an archetype. 

    In Jung's writings he goes back and forth on the definitions, sometimes defining them similar to what you have written above and sometimes from a more phenomenological perspective regarding themes and images which arise up out of dreams and imaginations.  As universal patterns of creation they are more in line with the Platonic Archetypes, and as themes and images arising out of a person's unconscious and dreams, I would call them Jungian Archetypes.  To just equate the metaphysical Platonic Archetypes with the phenomenal experience of images arising up from the unconscious (the Jungian) would be making quite a leap.  In fact it was just this kind of conflation that prompted philosopher Ken Wilber to coin the term "Pre-Trans Fallacy." 

    Here's an interesting definition of Archetype from the book "Jung for the 21st Century," by John Ryan Haule:

    The archetype is always some sort of structuring principle that lies outside of everyday consciousness and, when it emerges suddenly, exceeds all subjective expectations.

    Archetypes guide our perceptions and behavior, often without our awareness.
    Our concern, therefore, is to determine what an archetype would have to be if it were more than a "mere superstition," indeed a concept harmonious enough with modern biology to aspire to the status of a genuine "human science." It would have to be inherited with our DNA and give rise to typical brain structures whose employment correlates with the behaviors ascribed to the archetype. Furthermore, it would have to have identifiable precursors in evolutionary history, as seen in primates, mammals, and even "lower" animals. Fortunately a great many of Jung's assertions about human mental inheritance seem very much in tune with natural selection.

    We are born with a structured brain and mind, not a "blank slate" (tabula rasa); rather the "instincts ... engender peculiar thoughts and emotions" that express "ever recurring patterns of psychic functioning"

    It is still true today that instinct remains a fairly loose notion. Jung called it "a biological phenomenon of immense complexity ... a borderline concept of quite indefinite standing". Nevertheless it remains useful to speak of "instincts" or "drives" when trying to describe the archetypes. In 1919, Jung wrote: "Instincts are typical modes of action", while "archetypes are typical modes of apprehension" ; instinct and archetype "determine one another". The instinct drives the behavior pattern, while the archetype apprehends the environmental and/or physiological conditions under which the instinctual behavior is an appropriate response. No instinctual behavior will be initiated unless its archetype "apprehends" the necessary conditions.

    Archetypes shape innate tendencies that predate all learning. An innate releasing mechanism is identical with the archetype and functions in place of learning. While an instinct "drives" them to reproduce, a closely related archetype enables them to "recognize" the appropriate season and the specific plants necessary for depositing eggs and feeding future larvae.

    Jung proposed in 1919 is based in this higher complexity, where the archetype "might suitably be described as the instinct's perception of itself or as the self-portrait of the instinct". The reproductive archetype of the yucca moth apprehends the flowering yucca plants as "affording" it the opportunity and necessity of reproducing.9 It sees, smells, and feels the blossoming plant as an archetypal image. This is the trigger that fires the instinctual pattern. An archetypal image gives the instinct direction.

    [So an archetype is something which triggers an instinct.]

    An archetype is a module of inheritance recognizable by typical patterns and images. It is the instinct's recognition of appropriate conditions and goals. Subjectively, it manifests as a powerful emotional charge that invests what we see with overwhelming significance. Although it manifests in lower phyla as automatic and inflexible patterns, greater brain complexity gives animals increasingly greater freedom in adapting those patterns to individual circumstances.


    If an instinct is an unconscious tendency, universal in a species, that makes us do things even when we do not know why, language is surely one of them; for it unleashes an amazing cascade of effects quite suddenly around the age of three years. What amazes us about language and tempts us to deny its instinctual nature is the fine instrument we can make of it. But at bottom, it is an instinct and an archetype like any other.

    To say that language is an archetype rather than an instinct is to emphasize the "apprehending" and purposive aspect of language.

    As a student of Noam Chomsky, Pinker believes evolution has equipped us "with a plan common to all grammars of all languages, a Universal Grammar, that tells us how to distinguish the syntactical patterns out of the speech of our parents" . "Huge chunks of grammar [become] available ... as if the child were merely flipping a switch to one of two possible positions". This claim looks similar to Jung's idea that the archetype itself cannot be known although it structures everything that we do come to know.

    [Archetypes as a kind of universal grammar behind all grammars.]


    The investigation of the language archetype allows us to list at least nine factors that describe what an archetype is:

    1. An archetype is a species-universal pattern
    2. of meaningful recognition, imagination and behavior
    3. that resembles behaviors in closely related species,
    4. allowing us to trace a hypothetical line of inheritance back to a (possibly extinct) ancestor species,
    5. and entails identifiable physiological alterations (brain-tracts, hormones, etc.).
    6. As a result of hormone and autonomic nervous system involvement, archetypes are usually experienced as powerfully emotional, even numinous.
    7. The archetype itself is an "empty program" that needs life-experience to "fill" it,
    8. and this filling process "wires" the brain according to local and cultural styles of living,
    9. with the result that "archetypal," in the sense of "mythic" images and expectations always take culture-specific forms.

    We have also implied a tenth trait, namely that the forms of an archetype's expression may be thought of as "nested" within one another.

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