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The Unconscious: Archetypes

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Conversations with Carl Jung and Reactions from Ernest Jones

The Unconscious: Archetypes:

Dr. Evans: You mentioned earlier that Freud’s Oedipal situation was an example of an archetype. At this time would you please elaborate on the concept, archetype?

Dr. Jung: Well, you know what a behavior pattern is, the way in which a weaver bird builds its nest. That is an inherited form in him. He will apply certain symbiotic phenomena, between insects and plants. They are inherited patterns of behavior. And so man has, of course, an inherited scheme of functioning. You see, his liver, his heart, all his organs, and his brain will always function in a certain way, following its pattern. You may have a great difficulty seeing it because you cannot compare it. There are no other similar beings like man, that are articulate, that could give an account of their functioning. If that were the case, we could—I don’t know what. But because we have no means of comparison, we are necessarily unconscious about the whole conditions.

It is quite certain, however, that man is born with a certain functioning, a certain way of functioning, a certain pattern of behavior which is expressed in the form of archetypal images, or archetypal forms. For instance, the way in which a man should behave is expressed by an archetype. Therefore, you see, the primitives tell such stories. A great deal of education goes through story telling. For ‐ instance, they call together the young men, and two older men act out before the eyes of the younger all the things they should not do. Then they say, “Now that’s exactly the thing you shall not do.” Another way is they tell them all of the things they should not do, like the Decalogue, “Thou shalt not,” and that is always supported by mythological tales.

That, of course, gave me a motive to study the archetypes, because I began to see that the structure of what I then called the collective unconscious was really a sort of agglomeration of such typical images, each of which had a unique quality.

The archetypes are, at the same time, dynamic. They are instinctual images that are not intellectually invented. They are always there and they produce certain processes in the unconscious that one could best compare with myths. That’s the origin of mythology. Mythology is a pronouncing of a series of images that formulate the life of archetypes.

So the statements of every religion, of many poets, etc., are statements about the inner mythological process, which is a necessity because man is not complete if he is not conscious of that aspect of things. For instance, our ancestors have done so and so, and so shall you do. Or such and such a hero has done so and so, and that is your model. For instance, in the teachings of the Catholic church, there are several thousand saints. show us how to do— They have their legends— And that is Christian mythology.

In Greece, you know, there was Theseus and there was Heracles, models of fine men, of gentlemen, you know; and they teach us how to behave. They are archetypes of behavior. I became more and more respectful of archetypes, and that naturally led me on to a profound study of them. And now, by Jove, there is an enormous factor, very important for our further development and for our well-being, that should be taken into account.

It was, of course, difficult to know where to begin, because it is such an enormously extended field. And the next question I asked myself was, “Now, where in the world has anybody been busy with that problem?” I found that nobody had except a peculiar spiritual movement that went together with the beginning of Christianity, namely, the Gnostics; and that was the first thing actually that I saw. They were concerned with the problem of archetypes, and made a peculiar philosophy of it. Everybody makes a peculiar philosophy of it when he comes across it naively, and doesn’t know that those are structural elements of the unconscious psyche. The Gnostics lived in the first, second and third centuries; and I wanted to know what was in between that time and today, when we suddenly are confronted by the problems of the collective unconscious which were the same two thousand years ago, though we are not prepared to admit that problem. I was always looking for something in between, you know, something that would link that remote past with the present moment.

I found to my amazement that it was alchemy, that which is understood to be a history of chemistry. It was, one could almost say, nothing less than that. It was a peculiar spiritual movement or a philosophical movement. They called themselves philosophers, like Narcissism. And then I read the whole accessible literature, Latin and Greek.

I studied it because it was enormously interesting. It is the mental work of 1,700 years, in which there is stored up all they could make out about the nature of the archetypes, in a peculiar way that’s foolish. It is not simple. Most of the texts are no more published since the middle ages, the last editions dated in the middle or the end of the sixteenth
century, all in Latin; some texts are in Greek, not a few very important ones.

That has given me no end of work, but the result was most satisfactory, because it showed me the development of our unconscious relation to the collective unconscious and the variations our consciousness has undergone; why the being’s unconscious is concerned with these mythological images.

For instance, such phenomena as in Hitler, you know. That is a psychical phenomenon, and we’ve got to understand these things. To me, of course, it has been an enormous problem because it is a factor that has determined the fate of millions of European people, and of Americans. Nobody can deny that he has been influenced by the war. That was all Hitler’s doing—and that’s all psychology, our foolish psychology. But you only come to an understanding of these things when you understand the background from which it springs. It is just as though, as if a terrific epidemic of typhoid fever were breaking out, and you say, “That is typhoid fever— isn’t that a marvelous disease!” It can take on enormous dimensions and nobody knows anything about it. Nobody takes care of the water supply, nobody thinks of examining the meat or anything like that; but everyone simply states, “This is a phenomenon.”—Yes, but one doesn’t understand it.

Of course, I cannot tell you in detail about alchemy. It is the basic of our modern way of conceiving things, and therefore, it is as if it were right under the threshold of consciousness. This is a wonderful picture of how the development of archetypes, the movement of archetypes, looks when you look upon them with broader perspective. Maybe from today you look back into the past and you see how the present moment has evolved out of the past. It is just as if the alchemistic philosophy— That sounds very curious; we should give it an entirely different name. Actually, it has a different name. It is also called Hermetic Philosophy, though, of course, that conveys just as little as the term alchemy.—It was the parallel development, as Narcissism was, to the conscious development of Christianity, of our Christian philosophy, of the whole psychology of the middle ages.

So you see, in our days we have such and such a view of the world, a particular philosophy, but in the unconscious we have a different one. That we can see through the example of the alchemistic philosophy that behaves to the medieval consciousness exactly like the unconscious behaves to ourselves. And we can construct or even predict the unconscious of our days when we know what it has been yesterday. Or, for instance, to take a more concise archetype, like the archetype of the ford—the ford to a river. Now that is a whole situation. You have to cross a ford; you are in the water; and there is an ambush or a water animal, say a crocodile or something like that. There is danger and something is going to happen. The problem is how you escape. Now this is a whole situation and it makes an archetype. And that archetype has now a suggestive effect upon you. For instance, you get into a situation; you don’t know what the situation is; you suddenly are seized by an emotion or by a spell; and you behave in a certain way you have not foreseen at all—you do something quite strange to yourself.

Dr. Evans: Could this also be described as spontaneous?

Dr. Jung: Quite spontaneous. And that is done through the archetype that is concerned. Of course, we have a famous case in our Swiss history of the King Albrecht, who was murdered in the ford of the Royce not very far from Zurich. His murderers were hiding behind him for the whole stretch from Zurich to the Royce, quite a long stretch, and after deliberating, still couldn’t come together about whether they wanted to kill the king or not. The moment the king rode into the ford, they thought, “Murder!” They shouted, “Why do we let him abuse us?” Then they killed him, because this was the moment they were seized; this was the right moment. So you see, when you have lived in primitive
circumstances, in the primeval forest among primitive populations, then you know that phenomenon. You are seized with a certain spell and you do a thing that is unexpected.

Several times when I was in Africa, I went into such situations where I was amazed afterwards. One day I was in the Sudan and it was really a very dangerous situation, which I didn’t recognize at the moment at all. But I was seized with a spell. I did something which I wouldn’t have expected and I couldn’t have intended.

You see, the archetype is a force. It has an autonomy, and it can suddenly seize you. It is like a seizure. So, for instance, falling in love at first sight, that is such a case. You have a certain image in yourself, without knowing it, of the woman—of any woman. You see that girl, or at least a good imitation of your type, and instantly you get the seizure; you are caught. And after ward you may discover that ‐ it was a hell of a mistake. You see, a man is quite capable, or is intelligent enough to see that the woman of his choice was no choice; he has been captured!

He sees that she is no good at all, that she is a hell of a business, and he tells me so. He says, “For God’s sake, doctor, help me to get rid of that woman.” He can’t though, and he is like clay in her fingers. This the archetype. It has all happened because of the archetype of the anima, though he thinks it is all his soul, you know. It is like the girl—any girl. When a man sings very high, for instance, sings a high C, she thinks he must have a very wonderful spiritual character, and she is badly disappointed when she marries that particular “letter.” Well, that’s the archetype of the animus.

Dr. Evans: Now Dr. Jung, to be even a bit more specific, you have suggested that in our society, in all societies, there are symbols that in a sense direct or determine what a man does. Then you also suggest that somehow these symbols become “inborn” and, in part, “inbred.”

Dr. Jung: They don’t become; they are. They are to begin with. You see, we are born into a pattern; we are a pattern. We are a structure that is pre-established through the genes.

Dr. Evans: To recapitulate then, the archetype is just a higher order of an instinctual pattern, such as your earlier example of a bird building a nest. Is that how you intended to describe it?

Dr. Jung: It is a biological order of our mental functioning, as, for instance, our biological-physiological function follows a pattern. The behavior of any bird or insect follows a pattern, and that is the same with us. Man has a certain pattern that makes him specifically human, and no man is born without it. We are only deeply unconscious of these facts because we live by all our senses and outside of ourselves. If a man could look into himself, he could discover it. When a man discovers it in our days, he thinks he is crazy—really crazy.

Dr. Evans: Now would you say the number of such archetypes are limited or predetermined, or can the number be increased?

Dr. Jung: Well, I don’t know what I do know about it; it is so blurred. You see, we have no means of comparison. We know and we see that there is a behavior, say like incest; or there is a behavior of violence, a certain kind of violence; or there is a behavior of panic, of power, etc. Those are areas, as it were, in which there are many variations. It can be expressed in this way or that way, you know. And they overlap, and often you cannot say where the one form begins or ends.

It is nothing concise, because the archetype in itself is completely unconscious and you only can see the effects of it. You can see, for instance, when you know a person is possessed by an archetype; then you can divine and even prognosticate possible developments. This is true because when you see that the man is caught by a certain type of woman in a certain very specific way, you know that he is caught by the anima. Then the whole thing will have such and such complications and such and such developments because it is typical. The way the anima is described is exceedingly typical. I don’t know if you know Rider Haggard’s She, or L’Atlantide by Benoît—c’est la femme fatale.

Dr. Evans: To be more specific, Dr. Jung, you have used the concepts, anima and animus, which you are now identifying in terms of sex, male or female. I wonder if you could elaborate perhaps even more specifically on these terms? Take the term “anima” first. Is this again part of the inherited nature of the individual?

Dr. Jung: Well, this is a bit complicated, you know. The anima is an archetypal form, expressing the fact that a man has a minority of feminine or female genes. That is something that doesn’t appear or disappear in him, that is constantly present, and works as a female in a man.

As early as the 16th century, the Humanists had discovered that man had an anima, and that each man carried female within himself. They said it; it is not a modem invention. The same is the case with the animus. It is a masculine image in a woman’s mind which is sometimes quite conscious, sometimes not quite conscious; but it is called into life the moment that woman meets a man who says the right things. Then because he says it, it is all true and he is the fellow, no matter what he is. Those are particularly well-founded archetypes, those two. And you can lay hands on their bases. ~ Conversations with Carl Jung and Reactions from Ernest Jones