This book is
primarily an exploration of archetypes.
We will see how the archetypes form the basis for our
And we will learn how to use this understanding for
our happiness, our material well-being, and our spiritual
Jump to the following topics:
- What are archetypes?
benefits from an understanding of archetypes.
- The archetypes have
been known throughout history.
- There are many
- Techniques for
developing our ability to recognize archetypes.
- Other chapters
What are archetypes? They
have been described in various ways:
- Archetypes are the "seeds" from which all things originate,
both animate and inanimate.
Collectively, archetypes have been compared to a blueprint or
a genetic code which presents predetermined plans for the
structure and function and development of each aspect of human
life. We might wonder whether some or all of the archetypes are
biologically based in the genes themselves, with one archetype per
gene; if so, then our awareness of archetypes is founded on our
intuitive awareness of our own genetic structure. (Carl Jung said
that the archetypes are "present in the germplasm," i.e., the
genes [Jung 1959, page 75].)
They are the primary contents of the "collective conscious."
In contrast to the personal unconscious (which contains entities
which are unique to each person's experience) the collective
unconscious holds the archetypes -- the entities which are common
to all of humanity. Although Carl Jung was credited with the
"discovery" of the collective unconscious, previous writers in
philosophy and religion had offered similar ideas about a common
source from which we all draw; for example, the Jesuit philosopher
Teilhard de Chardin described a "noosphere" which is "composed of
particles of human consciousness ... formed by the inner
experiences of mankind." The collective unconscious does not
exist in geographical space (or in a specific part of the brain);
it is merely the "field" (like a magnetic field which surrounds a
magnet) which is created in the presence of archetypes. This field
surrounds each archetype, and it also reaches out to connect with
the archetypes which are in everything else.
They are aspects of spirit. Spirit is one homogeneous
substance, but it has various distinct functions when it expresses
itself into material form; when we perceive each function, we
attribute it to an archetype. For example, the soul -- through its
human embodiment -- can act as a healer; therefore, we can say
that there is a Healer archetype within the substance of spirit.
Archetypes per se, do not exist (i.e, they are not actual
entities, like a physical object which we could hold in our
hands); the theory of archetypes is merely a conceptual model by
which we understand and categorize the distinguishable aspects of
- Human life. They are the common foundations from which
human beings develop their lives. That is why the people in
different cultures tend to have similar emotions, behaviors,
rituals (social and religious), symbols, social organizations,
and ways of perceiving and thinking; each of those phenomena is
based upon an archetype which exists in everyone.
- Animal life. If universal human behaviors can be attributed
to archetypes, we can attribute animals' universal
instinctive behaviors to archetypes.
- Inanimate objects. If the behaviors of living things can be
attributed to archetypes, perhaps we can attribute the
"behaviors" of inanimate objects to archetypes; those
"behaviors" would include the chemical activities, electrical
activities, etc., of rocks, water, stars, galaxies, etc. -- and
the universe itself.
benefits from an understanding of archetypes.
- We recognize the common ground which we share with other human
beings (and with everything else). Some spiritual teachers claim
that the foundation for this oneness is in our undifferentiated
spiritual essence; however, if we do not perceive that spirit, we
can surely recognize the archetypal expressions of it, e.g., our
similar emotions, etc. With this commonality in human society, we
understand one another's feelings and behaviors, because those
people are responding to the same archetypes which we know.
(Without archetypes -- if such a scenario can be imagined --
humans might not be able to communicate at all from our separate,
individual worlds.) Through our connection to the archetypes, we
are linked with all other people, and with everyone's ancestors
and everyone's future descendants -- and with the rest of
- We clarify and simplify the tasks of human life and of
spiritual growth. We "clarify" in the sense that we recognize
underlying archetypes in each situation; we "simplify" in the
sense that we are not bewildered by the infinite variations of
life but instead we can methodically deal with the finite number
of archetypes from which those variations arise. The clarification
and simplification assist us in both our human life and our
- Human life. Sometimes life seems to be a random array of
experiences; at other times, we recognize recurring events,
e.g., a pattern of unpleasant relationships. As we look deeper,
we realize that these patterns are based on our continued
attempt to understand the underlying archetypes. (In the case
of relationships, those archetypes might be Power, Love, or
another). When we understand the nature and dynamics of those
archetypes, our future relationships improve. Thus, our life is
simplified -- because we are not confronting a large number of
relationships but instead we are confronting the same one or
- Spiritual explorations. In one sense, the "spiritual path"
is merely our experiments in dealing with archetypes. In our
human life, spirit does not confront us with its totality;
instead, it reveals itself in its individual aspects, so that
each aspect can be studied one-at-a-time. Those aspects are
archetypes. Thus, as we learn about archetypes, we learn
cumulatively about spirit itself. Our spiritual explorations
are simplified because we are not caught up in the diversity of
religious concepts and rituals; instead, we recognize the few
archetypes which underlie those concepts and rituals, e.g.,
humility, service, love, forgiveness, detachment, etc. And we
work directly with those archetypes, in a manner which suits
us, knowing that our examination of archetypes can be equally
enlightening in either a religious context or in everyday life.
The archetypes have
been known throughout history. Carl Jung developed his concept of
archetypes when he noticed the recurring symbols and themes in his
patients' dreams, and as he realized that those same symbols and
themes have appeared in both ancient and modern art, mythology
(particularly in the assortment of Greek gods and goddesses), fairy
tales, legends, and religion (including Buddhism's Tibetan Book of
the Dead, where the archetypes are encountered in "the Bardo").
Archetypes have been described by Plato as "ideal forms," and by
Europe's rationalistic philosophers as our innate tendency to
perceive and understand in a particular manner, and by practitioners
of various types of divination (such as numerology, runes, I Ching --
and astrology with its "signs of the zodiac").
There are many archetypes.
Potentially, human life contains an infinite number of possibilities
-- but those possibilities are based on a finite number of
archetypes. (In another section of this book, I have listed some of
those archetypes, such as Teacher, Parent, Birth, Servant, etc.)
Despite the limited number of archetypes, human life is varied
because we each express the archetypes in our own way. The archetypes
are impersonal and autonomous. But when we create our lives, we flesh
out these pre-existing archetypes in accordance with various factors:
- Cultural factors. For example, in a modern culture, the Home
archetype might present itself as a house or apartment; in another
type of culture (or sub-culture), the Home archetype might present
itself as a tipi, tent, cave, or another type of housing. While
the collective unconscious is shared by all of humanity, groups of
people create their own "group unconscious"; in any sub-culture
such as a family, ethnic group, religion, or corporation, there
are shared myths, symbols, legends, heroes, and other indications
of the presence of archetypes which are being expressed in a
manner which is unique to that group.
- Personal factors. These factors can include our intuitive
perceptions regarding the needs of the moment, and our logical
analysis, and our habitual responses, etc. For example, at any
moment, we might be a compassionate Warrior or a vicious
Techniques for developing
our ability to recognize archetypes. We can look for the underlying
archetype or constellation in every object and action in our life,
and in the world around us.
- Empirical evidence. For example, we know, by simple
definition, that a human mother is expressing the Mother
- Logical deduction. For example, if we are looking for the
Death archetype, we can logically expect to find it in words (such
as "fatal" or "funeral"), or in the presence of a hearse in
traffic, or in a memory of a deceased relative, or in the sadness
which we feel when we see a dead animal next to the road, or in a
movie or novel featuring a murder mystery, or in the perception of
death in a remotely related subject such as autumn leaves (which
are, of course, dead). The Death archetype can be present even in
something which seems to be completely unconnected to the subject;
for example, it could be evoked by a photograph of Star Trek's
"Mr. Spock" because we saw a Star Trek movie on the day when our
- Literature. We might notice that a story from mythology,
legends, or fairy tales is being played out in our life.
- Dreams. Archetypes are represented in the characters, objects,
settings, and scenarios of our dreams.
- Nature. As explained earlier, archetypal behavior can be
viewed in animals and in inanimate objects.
- This book. Archetypes are specified throughout the book,
particularly in the chapter regarding "archetypal cycles." The
chapter regarding "archetypal fields" helps us to discern the
contents of those fields; as we explore the fields, we learn about
the archetypes themselves.
regarding archetypes. Throughout this book, we will explore the
influence of archetypes upon the various aspects of our life,
particularly the human mind, emotions, and behaviors. Some chapters
deal specifically with archetypes.
- Archetypal fields. These fields (which can be compared roughly
to magnetic fields) surround an archetype, and they retain
an impression from every thought, image, energy tone (i.e.,
emotion and feeling), and action which we generate whenever we
encounter that archetype. Then, in future encounters with that
archetype, we tend to re-use those previous "elements" (i.e., the
thoughts, etc.) which have been recorded in the archetypal field.
- Archetypal field-work. This is a collection of techniques by
which we deliberately implant new elements into our archetypal
fields, so that our automatic response to archetypes tends to be
effective and vibrant.
- Archetypal constellations. These are the groupings of related
thoughts, images, energy tones (i.e., emotions and feelings), and
actions corresponding to a particular archetype.
- Archetypal cycles. In this chapter, we examine the
relationships among archetypal situations, and we recognize the
many archetypal roles which we play in life. Archetypes are not
merely an academic theory; they are the heart of everyday life --
our material life, our psychological life, and our spiritual life.