What are archetypes?
Carl Jung was a famous psychologist. He was among the first famous psychologists out there.
Jung was friends (and then was not friends) with Freud. He created a hugely influential theory that continues to have a lot of popularity today. One of the main concepts of Carl Jung’s theory is the idea of archetypes.
What are Carl Jung’s archetypes?
Archetypes are elements that exist in the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious refers to the unconscious structures that are shared among all the people who live in the world. Archetypes, like elements of the collective unconscious, transcend cultures and nationalities. They are universal patterns and images that we all have access to. Although the archetype is a universal image, it manifests differently across cultures.
Carl Jung Archetypes: Let’s take a look at an example.
One of the archetypes is the trickster (the joker, the jester, etc.). This refers to the idea of a character who is mischievous, maybe somewhat malicious, and who is famed for playing tricks.
The following description (in large part) of the trickster (joker) is from the work of Jon Rappoport stemming from his excellent lecture on symbols and archetypes……
You can think of a trickster historically as a court jester in the king’s court. He comes into established structure and completely overturns the established reality. The the idea for the trickster is to tip all that on it’s head. This is done with comic relief which pokes holes in the monolithic reality and tears it wide open.
The trickster does this by gestures and by attitude. Trickster’s love to turn things inside out….. to poke fun at the people and calculate just how far they can push things. Living on the edge is how the trickster rolls. They like this risk- i.e. how far can you push the king with your jokes before you get your head chopped off.
The Trickster: Act II
The trickster (aka the joker) is far to mentally rambunctious and sharp to settle for the status quo. The status quo is boring, lame and completely intolerable. A trickster can’t even imagine how anyone can be satisfied to live within that narrow reality tunnel. Pushing the envelope gets him off. The trickster may appear a bit zany and wired to the average person but that is because he probably is. This is one of my favorite Carl Jung archetypes.
He has a tremendous amount if energy and a sharp eye for detail. The trickster can easily hone in on the weak point or flaws and use this to point out how ridiculous everything is. One version of him is that he takes nothing serious…. it’s all a joke…. it’s one big, silly, fantastic cosmic joke. It’s all ridiculous. He sees people getting trapped all the time. They escape from one trap then they are in another trap and this is ridiculous to the joker. The trickster is great at finding the loopholes in the system and uses the loopholes to show how ridiculous things are. He often causes great laughter and immediate outrage.
The joker is working out of infinity and therefore anything is possible.
The Trickster: Closing Act
Some downsides to versions of the trickster…. He is tremendously impatient and may have the desire to do nasty things to people. The trickster may attack with spite and try to upset the apple cart in ways that are malicious.
The idea of a trickster is universal. However, the characters associated with this archetypes vary. There is Loki, the trickster god from Norse mythology. There is the spider god Anansi, from African cultures. Another example is the character Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. All these characters are part of the same archetype but are significantly different.
This is just one of many of Carl Jung’s archetypes.
To learn about the spiritual power of humor check out my article Play with the Funny Monkey on Your Spiritual Path here
The Collective Unconscious
In Carl Jung’s theory, a central concept is that of the collective unconscious. It’s worth looking at it a bit more closely.
The idea of an individual unconscious mind, coming from Freud, may be more familiar. It refers to the part of our mind that is archaic and that hosts our needs, desires, and conflicts. We are not aware of what goes on in this part of our mind, but we can get access to it through dreams and symbols. The unconscious is the foundation of our personality. Ideas that are banished from consciousness are stored here.
The collective unconscious is a depository for the fantasies, symbols, and desires of all mankind. Jung proposed this theory because he recognized symbols that appear again and again. The symbols exist across the world in different cultures and eras. This collective unconscious contains all these symbols, and everyone can access it. Archetypes don’t come from the person’s individual life, but rather from the experiences of many generations. The collective unconscious contains both beautiful and terrible ideas.
Elements from the collective unconscious are those that can be found in fairy tales and myths across the world. They repeat in different cultures and accessed by individuals from different places.
Carl Jung Archetypes: Is there a list of archetypes?
In Carl’s Jung original theory, a list of archetypes can not exist because there are too many and too many variations upon them. For example, take the idea of the Mother. The Mother is associated with many religious symbols or deities: the Virgin Mary, Mother Earth, and many others. The Mother can be represented positively or negatively. It can be a loving self-sacrificial woman or a wicked stepmother. These are all expressions of the same archetype.
An archetype can have a positive and a negative or dark expression. For example, the “other side of the coin” for a loving mother would be a wicked stepmother, but they are part of the same archetypal image.
However, many authors after Jung have created lists of archetypes. These serve different purposes, for example, for literary analysis. But there is no comprehensive archetype list. Over the years some main themes have developed though. Here are a few major ones:
- The father: Strong, Strict.
- The mother: Loving, Caring, Etc.
- The child: Innocence.
- The wise old man: Full of wisdom. One who guides.
- The hero: Protector, Saver, Defender.
- The maiden: Pure.
Carl Jung Archetypes: Where does the idea of archetypes come from?
Carl Jung’s books express that the idea of archetypes originated in his clinical practice. He could see that his patients showed recurring mythological motifs. But these did not seem to have a direct connection to their personal lives.
In order to find more support for Carl Jung’s archetypes, he also looked at mythology and religion to support this idea. He stated that many motifs are recurring not only in mythology but in dreams and fantasies. For example, he cited the motif of a snake. People who lived in cities and who have never seen a real snake still could dream of snakes or give snakes a certain meaning.
Myths and religion for Jung were an expression of the collective unconscious.
Is Jung’s theory accepted?
This theory is popular. Many people use archetypes in therapy, to write, or for self-reflection. However, it has found a wider acceptance among esoteric practitioners than scientists. This is due to the nature of this theory. You can not prove or disprove it through an experiment, although there is evidence to support the idea of archetypes.
A concept that supports the idea of archetypes is the idea of imprints. Animals are born with innate concepts that guide their behavior. In addition to this, animals can quickly develop constructs or bits of knowledge.
These are based on seemingly innate predispositions. For example, ducklings will imprint on an image of their mother and treat it as their mother. Ethologists who study behavior have found that if the ducks imprint on a person, they will follow the person as if it was their mother. This idea could support the existence of similar concepts in an individual: Carl Jung’s archetypes.
What about personality?
Carl Jung archetypes are associated with personality. You might find a lot of Carl Jung’s personality tests floating around the Internet, with varying degrees of accuracy.
Archetypes are a part of personality. People’s individual unconscious has a link to the collective unconscious. This means archetypes can be parts of our personality. People can interpret their own behavior and that of others in terms of archetypes, giving it meaning.
Archetypes organize experience. For example, a person having a conflict with his mother might view her through the lens of an archetype. Sometimes, she might seem to be perfect and loving, but other times she may appear like the wicked stepmother. The person needs to separate the ideal image of mother and the negative image of the stepmother from their real mother. This will improve their relationship.
A person can recognize archetypes within themselves, for example, using a Carl Jung’s personality test or another tool.
Are these Carl Jung’s personality tests effective? Many of them use a very watered down idea of archetypes but can be useful as a tool of self-reflection.
Carl Jung Archetypes: From mythology to blockbuster movies
Carl Jung’s archetypes are a difficult concept. They refer, essentially, to the core ideas, images, and symbols that appear in all cultures and that we can all identify. These images are part of the collective unconscious. They also influence a person’s individual unconscious mind.
Carl Jung’s archetypes are images that exist in cultures and people that may not have had first-hand experience with them. For example, even if people have never experienced a flood, the archetype of the flood can exist in their mind and appear in their dreams or fantasies. Myths and religions often present these archetypes.
Archetypes can be useful to understand one’s mind and culture as well. Archetypes can be found anywhere from classic mythology and literature to modern blockbusters and B-movies.
PS If you enjoyed the article check out my informative sister article Powerful Carl Jung Quotes here
PSS for an informative break-down of some of the specific manifestations of Carl Jung Archetypes link to this article here