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Carl Gustav Jung developed an understanding of archetypes as universal, archaic patterns and images that derive from the collective unconscious and are the psychic counterpart of instinct [1] They are autonomous and hidden forms which are transformed once they enter consciousness and are given particular expression by individuals and their cultures. Being unconscious, the existence of archetypes can only be deduced indirectly by examining behavior, images, art, myths, religions, or dreams. They are inherited potentials which are actualized when they enter consciousness as images or manifest in behavior on interaction with the outside world. Strictly speaking, Jungian archetypes refer to nuclear underlying forms or the archetypes-as-such from which emerge images and motifs such as the mother, the child, the trickster and the flood amongst others. It is history, culture and personal context that shape these manifest representations giving them their specific content. These images and motifs are more precisely called archetypal images. However it is common for the term archetype to be used interchangeably to refer to both archetypes-as-such and archetypal images.[2]

In his book ” Psychology & Alchemy” Jung briefly mentioned the history of the word “Archetype” as follow:

” The term “archetype” occurs as early as Philo Judaeus, with reference to the Imago Dei (God-image) in man. It can also be found in Irenaeus, who says: “The creator of the world did not fashion these things directly from himself but copied them from archetypes outside himself.”  In the Corpus Hermeticum, God is called τò άρχέτυπov φώς (archetypal light). The term occurs several times in Dionysius the Areopagite, as for instance in De caelesti hierarchia, II, 4: “immaterial Archetypes,”  and in De divinis nominibus, I, 6: “Archetypal stone.” The term “archetype” is not found in St. Augustine, but the idea of it is. Thus in De diversis quaestionibus LXXXIII he speaks of “ideae principales, ‘which are themselves not formed … but are contained in the divine understanding.’”  “Archetype” is an explanatory paraphrase of the Platonic “Eidos”. For our purposes this term is apposite and helpful, because it tells us that so far as the collective unconscious contents are concerned we are dealing with archaic or—I would say—primordial types, that is, with universal images that have existed since the remotest times.” [3]

The archetypes form a dynamic substratum common to all humanity, upon the foundation of which each individual builds his own experience of life, colouring them with his unique culture, personality and life events. Thus, while archetypes themselves may be conceived as a relative few innate nebulous forms, from these may arise innumerable images, symbols and patterns of behavior. While the emerging images and forms are apprehended consciously, the archetypes which inform them are elementary structures which are unconscious and impossible to apprehend.

Categories of archetypes

Jung described archetypal events:  birth, death, separation from parents, initiation, marriage, the union of opposites;

archetypal figures: great mother, father, child, devil, god, wise old man, wise old woman, the tricksterhero and

archetypal motifs: the apocalypse, the deluge, the creation.

Although the number of archetypes is limitless, there are a few particularly notable, recurring archetypal images, “the chief among them being” (according to Jung) “the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother … and her counterpart, the maiden, and lastly the anima in man and the animus in woman”.[4] Alternatively he would speak of “the emergence of certain definite archetypes … the shadow, the animal, the wise old man, the anima, the animus, the mother, the child”.[5]

The Self designates the whole range of psychic phenomena in man. It expresses the unity of the personality as a whole.

The shadow is a representation of the personal unconscious as a whole and usually embodies the compensating values to those held by the conscious personality. Thus, the shadow often represents one’s dark side, those aspects of oneself that exist, but which one does not acknowledge or with which one does not identify.[6]

The anima archetype appears in men and is his primordial image of woman. It represents the man’s biological expectation of women, but also is a symbol of a man’s feminine possibilities, his contrasexual tendencies. The animus archetype is the analogous image of the masculine that occurs in women.

Any attempt to give an exhaustive list of the archetypes, however, would be a largely futile exercise since the archetypes tend to combine with each other and interchange qualities making it difficult to decide where one archetype stops and another begins. For example, qualities of the shadow archetype may be prominent in an archetypal image of the anima or animus. One archetype may also appear in various distinct forms, thus raising the question whether four or five distinct archetypes should be said to be present or merely four or five forms of a single archetype. [6]



[1]. Fiest J, Friest G, (2009) Theories of Personality, New York New York; McGraw-Hill.

[2]. Stevens, Anthony in “The archetypes” (Chapter 3.) Ed. Papadopoulos, Renos. The Handbook of Jungian Psychology (2006).

[3]. Jung, Carl. Psychology and Alchemy, par. 109, n. 38. ISBN: 0415034523.

[4]. Jung, quoted in J. Jacobi, Complex, Archetype, Symbol (London 1959) p. 114

[5].C. G. Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (London 1953) p. 108

[6].Fordham, Michael Explorations Into the Self (library of Analytical Psychology) Karnac Books, 1985.

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