Towards the Hermeneutics of Culture


(Inspired from the essays of:   Karin Barnaby and Pellegrino D'Acerino in  C. G. Jung and the Humanities: Toward a Hermeneutics of Culture)


The coming of age of the archetypal movement

through its convergence with postmodern thought

along with a commensurate insistence on Jung’s

transpersonal psychology or

the psychology of the unconscious.




OBJECTIVE:  To bring together a cultural movement that criticizes Capitalism and Postmodernism utilizing the penetrating psychological analysis of Jungian thought in reshaping the pervading narcissistic phenomena that plague the contemporary art world.



“ It was the artists engaged in the work of revision – in the work of transforming the artistic inheritance rather than obliterating it – who ultimately effected the profoundest changes, for it was they who altered irrevocably our sense of the past; it was they who liquidated its authority in the very process of harnessing its energies.”



Formation of the Archetypal Art Movement

 Where Art Becomes Universal


"An attempt is here made to bring psychological analysis and reflection to bear upon the imaginative experience communicated by great art, and to examine those forms or patterns in which the universal forces of our nature there find objectification"


Archetypal Art, that which contains images from the collective unconscious, or the unconscious of the human race becomes the basis for what makes art a universal experience.


Archetypal theory is principally shaped by the multidisciplinary theories behind:

Religion, philosophy, mythology, psycholinguistics.


Archetypal theory is based on depth-psychological (or the psychology of the soul) structures posited by Jung.  Jung termed his own theory "analytical psychology," as it is still known especially in Europe, commonly referred to today in all disciplines as "archetypal psychology."


Archetypal theory took shape principally in the multidisciplinary journal refounded by Hillman in 1970 in Zurich, Spring: An Annual of Archetypal Psychology and Jungian Thought. According to Hillman, that discourse was anticipated by Evangelos Christou's Logos of the Soul (1963) and extended in religion (David L. Miller's New Polytheism, 1974), philosophy (Edward Casey's Imagining: A Phenomenological Study, 1976), mythology (Rafael Lopez-Pedraza's Hermes and His Children, 1977), psycholinguistics (Paul Kugler's Alchemy of Discourse: An Archetypal Approach to Language, 1982), and the theory of analysis (Patricia Berry's Echo's Subtle Body Contributions to an Archetypal Psychology,1982).

These archetypalists focused on the imaginal and making central the concept that in English they call "soul," assert their kinship with Semiotics and Structuralism but maintain an insistent focus on psychoid phenomena, which they characterize as meaningful.


Their discourse is conducted in poetic language; that is, their notions of "soul-making" come from the Romantics, especially William Blake and John Keats. "By speaking of soul as a primary metaphor, rather than defining soul substantively and attempting to derive its ontological status from empirical demonstration or theological (metaphysical) argument, archetypal psychology recognizes that psychic reality is inextricably involved with rhetoric" (Hillman).

            Jung described "Archetypes," as patterns of psychic energy originating in the collective unconscious and finding their "most common and most normal" manifestation in dreams.  Jung was also more preoccupied with dreams and fantasies, because he saw them as exclusively (purely) products of the unconscious.


A primordial image is a part of the collective unconscious, the psychic residue of numberless experiences of the same kind, and thus part of the inherited response-pattern of the race by a theory of a collective unconscious.


Archetypal criticism based on Jung was never linked with any academic tradition and remained organically bound to its roots in depth psychology: the individual and collective psyche, dreams, and the analytic process.


Indeed, myth criticism seems singularly unaffected by any of the archetypal theorists who have remained faithful to the origins and traditions of depth, especially analytical psychology --- James Hillman


Hillman locates the archetypal neither "in the physiology of the brain, the structure of language, the organization of society, nor the analysis of behavior, but in the processes of imagination".


Feminist Archetypal Theory (A Sample)


This last text explicitly named the movement and demonstrated its appropriation of archetypal theory for feminist ends in aesthetics, analysis, art, and religion, as well as in literature.


Feminist archetypal theory, proceeding inductively, restored Jung's original emphasis on the fluid, dynamic nature of the archetype, drawing on earlier feminist theory. as well as the work of Jungian Erich Neumann to reject absolutist, ahistorical, essentialist, and transcendentalist misinterpretations.


Thus "archetype" is recognized as the "tendency to form and reform images in relation to certain kinds of repeated experience," which may vary in individual cultures, artists, authors, and readers.


The archetypal concept can  become a useful tool for artistic analysis that explores the synthesis of the universal and the particular, seeks to define the parameters of social construction of gender, and attempts to construct theories, of the imaging, and of meaning that take gender into account where each artistic product can elicit a personal, affective, and not "merely intellectual" response.


Archetypal theory, then, construed as that derived from Jung's theory and practice of archetypal (analytical) psychology, is a fledgling and much misconstrued field of inquiry with significant but still unrealized potential for the study of art and of aesthetics in general.


* * *


“…Since every part, however blazingly new, fails to affect us as doing more than hold the ground

for something else,some conceit of the bigger dividend, that is still to come, so we may bind up the aesthetic wound, I think, quite as promptly as we feel it open.  The particular ugliness is no more final than the particular felicity…The whole thing is the vividest of lectures on the subject of individualism, and on the strange truth, no doubt, that this principle may in the field of art…often conjure away just the mystery of distinction which it sometimes so markedly promotes in the field of life.”


--- Henry James


“…neo-avant-garde, or postmodern art at once mocks and denies the possibility of therapeutic change. As such, it accommodates the status quo of capitalist society, in which fame and fortune count above everything else. Stripping avant-garde art of its missionary, therapeutic intention, neo-avant-garde art converts it into a cliché of creative novelty or ironic value for its fashionable look. Moreover, it destroys the precarious balance of artistic narcissism and social empathy that characterizes modern art, tilting it cynically toward the former.”

------ Donald Kuspit

“The Cult of the Avant-Garde Artist”