[Carl Jung on The Unconscious: Archetypes]
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?
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. They 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.
Evans: Could this also be described as spontaneous?
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. That is 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.
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.”
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 preestablished through the genes.
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?
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.
Evans: Now would you say the number of such archetypes are limited or predetermined, or can the number be increased?
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’Atlantideby Benoît—c’est la femme fatale.
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?
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.
- The Unconscious: General Conceptualizations
Evans: Dr. Jung, to pursue our discussion of the unconscious further, let us take the particular situation of a dream and its interpretation. It is my understanding that, in your view of the unconscious, what you would find in the dream would not necessarily be an image or symbol of what has happened in the past to the individual.
Jung: Oh no! It just is a symbol of the—the symbol, you see, this is a special term— It is the manifestation of the situation of the unconscious, looked at from the unconscious. You see, I tell you, for instance, something which is my personal subjective view. Then if I ask myself, “Now are you really quite convinced of it,” well, I must admit I have certain doubts. There are certain doubts, not in the moment when I tell you, but these are doubts in the unconscious. When you have a dream about it, these doubts come to the forefront. That is the way the unconscious looks at the thing. It is as if the unconscious says, “It is all very well what you are stating, BUT you omit entirely such and such a point.
Evans: Now if the unconscious acts on the present situation, looking at this in broad motivational terms, this effect of the unconscious is not something which is a result of repression in the way the orthodox psycho- analyst looks at it at all. Then…
Jung: It may be, you know, that what the unconscious has to say is so disagreeable that one prefers not to listen, and in most cases people would be probably less neurotic if they could admit the things. But these things are always a bit difficult or disagreeable, inconvenient, or something of the sort; so there is always a certain amount of repression. But that is not the main thing.
The main thing is that they are really unconscious. If you are unconscious about certain things that ought to be conscious, then you are dissociated. Then you are a man whose left hand never knows what the right is doing, and counteracts or interferes with the right hand. Now such a man is hampered all over the place.
In 1918, I wrote a disquisition about the relation between the ego and the unconscious. There I tried to formulate the experiences that are more or less observable in cases where consciousness is exposed to unconscious data, to interferences or intrusions; where the unconscious is considered as an autonomous factor that has to be taken seriously; where one doesn’t say any more or under-value the unconscious by assuming that it is nothing but discarded remnants of consciousness. It is a factor in its own dignity, and a very important factor, because it can create most horrible disturbances.
When I wrote that pamphlet in 1918, it was published in French and nobody understood it. I saw, however, the reason why nobody understood it. It was because nobody had had a similar experience, because the question had to be pursued to such an end. To pursue that end, one has to take the unconscious seriously and consider it as a real factor that can determine human behavior to a very considerable degree.
Evans: Looking at the unconscious in this way, as you say, “If it’s unconscious, how do we know about it?” But just as an illustration let us consider a particular individual, for example, one who has been brought up in a culture such as the culture of India. Would this individual in India, if we could examine his unconscious, be in many respects similar to the unconscious of a particular individual who, let us say, has lived in Switzerland all his life? You spoke earlier about these universals.
Would there be quite a lot of equivalence between the unconscious of a particular individual who was raised in one culture, and another individual who was raised in an entirely different culture?
Jung: Well, that question is also complicated because when we speak of the unconscious, Jung would say, “Which unconscious?” We say, “Is it that personal unconsciousness which is characteristic for a certain person, for a certain individual?”
Evans: You have talked in your writings about a personal unconsciousness as being one kind of unconscious.
Jung: Yes. In treatment, for instance, the treatment of neuroses, you have to do with that personal unconsciousness for quite a while, and then only when dreams come that show the collective unconscious can it be touched upon. As long as there is material of a personal nature, you have to deal with the personal unconscious; but when you get to a question, to a problem which is no more merely personal but also collective, you get collective dreams.
Evans: Now the distinction between the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious, then, is that the personal could be more involved with the immediate life of the individual, and the collective would be universal—the unconscious realm composed of elements which are the same in all men?
Jung: Yes, collective. For instance, the psyche has collective problems, collective convictions, etc. We are very much influenced by them, and there are examples to prove it. You belong to a certain political party, or to a certain confession; that can be a serious determinant of your behavior. Now if there arises a matter of personal conflict, the collective unconscious isn’t touched upon. There is no question and it doesn’t appear. But the moment you transcend your personal sphere and come to your unpersonal determinant—say you respond to a political question, or to any other social question which really matters to you—then you are confronted with a collective problem; then you have collective dreams.
Evans: Another very interesting concept or idea in your work is the “persona.” This seems to be highly relevant to the daily living of the individual. I wonder if you would mind elaborating a bit more about how you construe this term, “persona.”
Jung: It is a practical concept we need in elucidating people’s relations. I noticed with my patients, particularly with people that are in public life, that they have a certain way of presenting themselves. For instance, take a doctor. He has a certain way; he has good beside manners, and he behaves as one expects a doctor to behave. He may even identify himself with it, and believe that he is what he appears to be. He must appear in a certain form, or else people won’t believe that he is a doctor. And so when one is a professor, he is also supposed to behave in a certain way so that it is plausible that he is a professor. So the persona is partially the result of the demands society has.
On the other side, it is a compromise with what one likes to be, or as one likes to appear. Take, for instance, a parson. He also has his particular manner and, of course, runs into the general societal expectations; but he behaves also in another way which combines with his persona that is forced upon him by society in such a way that his fiction of himself, his idea about himself, is more or less portrayed or represented.
So the persona is a certain complicated system of behavior which is partially dictated by society and partially dictated by the expectations or the wishes one nurses oneself. Now this is not the real personality. In spite of the fact that people will assure you that this is all quite real and quite honest, yet it is not. Such a performance of the persona is quite all right, as long as you know that you are not identical to the way in which you appear; but if you are unconscious of this fact, then you get into sometimes very disagreeable conflicts. Namely, people can’t help noticing that at home you are quite different from what you appear to be in public. People who don’t know it stumble over it in the end. They deny that they are like that, but they are like that; they are it. Then you don’t know—now which is the real man? Is he the man as he is at home or in intimate relations, or is he the man that appears in public?
It is a question of Jekyll and Hyde. Occasionally there is such a difference that we would almost be able to speak of a double personality, and the more that it is pronounced, the more people are neurotic. They get neurotic because they have two different ways; they contradict themselves all the time, and inasmuch as they are unconscious of themselves, they don’t know it. They think they’re all one, but everybody sees that they are two. Some know him only for one side; others know him only for the other side. And then there are situations that clash, because the way you are creates certain situations with people in your relations, and these two situations don’t chime; in fact, they are just dishonest. And the more that is the case, the more the people are neurotic.
Evans: Actually, would you say that the individual may even have more than two personae?
Jung: We can’t afford very well to play more than two roles, but there are cases where people have up to five different personalities. In cases of dissociation of personality, for instance, the one person—call him A— doesn’t know of the existence of the person B, but B knows of A. There may be a third personality, C, that doesn’t know of the two others. There are such cases in the literature, but they are rare.
Evans: Very rare?
Jung: In ordinary cases, it’s just an ordinary dissociation of personality. One calls that a systematic dissociation, in contradistinction to the chaotic or unsystematic dissociation you find in schizophrenia.
Evans: What is the difference between the term “ego” as you see it and the term “persona”?
Jung: Well, you see, the ego is supposed to be the representative of the real person. For instance, in the case where B knows of A, but A doesn’t know of B. In that case one would say the ego is more on the side of B, because the ego has a more complete knowledge, and A is a split-off personality.
Evans: You also use the term “self.” Now the word “self”—does it have a different meaning than “ego” or “persona”?
Jung: Yes. When I say “self,” then you mustn’t think of “I, myself,” because that is only your empirical self, and that is covered by the term “ego”; but when it is a matter of “self,” then it is a matter of personality and is more complete than the ego, because the ego only consists of what you are conscious of, what you know to be yourself. For instance, let’s take our example again of B who knows A, but A who doesn’t know B. B is relatively in the position of the self; namely, the ego is on the one side and the self is on the other side, the unconscious personality which is in possession of everybody—not in possession— Very often it is just the other way around; the unconscious is in the possession of consciousness. That is a different case.
Now you see, while I am talking, I am conscious of what I say; I am conscious of myself, yet only to a certain extent. Quite a lot of things happen. When I make gestures, I’m not conscious of them. They happen unconsciously. You can see them. I may say or use words and can’t remember at all having used those words, or even at the moment I am not conscious of them. So any amount of unconscious things occur in my conscious condition. I’m never wholly conscious of myself.
While I am trying, for instance, to elaborate an argument, at the same time there are unconscious processes that continue, perhaps a dream which I had last night; or a part of myself thinks of God knows what, of a trip I’m going to take, or of such and such people I have seen. Or say when I am writing a paper, I am continuing writing that paper in my mind without knowing it. You can discover these things, say in dreams; or if you are clever, in the immediate observation of the individual. Then you see in the gestures or in the expression in the face that there is what one calls “une arriere pensée,” something behind consciousness. You have finally the feeling, well, that that man has something up his sleeve, and you can ask him, “What are you really thinking of? You are thinking all the time something else.” Yet he is unconscious of it, or he may be.
There are, of course, great individual differences. There are individuals who have an amazing knowledge of themselves, of the things that go on in themselves. But even those people wouldn’t be capable of knowing what is going on in their unconscious. For instance, they are not conscious of the fact that while they live a conscious life, all the time a myth is played in the unconscious, a myth that extends over centuries, namely, archetypal ideas—this dream of archetypal ideas that goes on through one individual through the centuries. Really it is like a continuous stream, one that comes into daylight in the great movements, say in political movements or in spiritual movements. For instance, in the time before the Reformation, people dreamt of the great change. That is the reason why such great transformations could be predicted.
If somebody is clever enough to see what is going on in people’s minds, in their unconscious minds, he will be able to predict. For instance, I could have predicted the Nazi rising in Germany through the observation of my German patients. They had dreams in which the whole thing was anticipated, and with considerable detail. And I was absolutely certain—in the years before Hitler, before Hitler came in the beginning; I could say the year, in the year 1919—I was sure that something was threatening in Germany, something very big, very catastrophic. I only knew it through the observation of the unconscious.
There is something very particular in the different nations. It is a peculiar fact that the archetype of the anima plays a very great role in Western literature, French and Anglo-Saxon. But in Germany, there are exceedingly few examples in German literature where the anima plays a role. . . . She must have a title; otherwise she hasn’t existed. And so it is just as if—now mind you, this is a bit drastic, but it illustrates my point—in Germany there really are no women. There is Frau Doctor, Frau Professor, Frau the grandmother, the mother-in-law, the daughter, the sister. That is the idea, you see, no woman—la femme n’existe pas. Now that is an enormously important fact which shows that in the German mind there is going on a particular myth, something very particular. Psychologists really should look out for these things, but they prefer to think, “I am important.”
Evans: This is of course a very interesting and remarkable set of statements here. How would you look at Hitler in this light? Would you see him as a personification, as a symbol of “father”?
Jung: No, not at all. I couldn’t possibly explain that very complicated fact that Hitler represents. It is too complicated. You know, he was a hero figure, and a hero figure is far more important than any fathers that have ever existed. He was a hero in the German myth, mind you, a religious hero. He was a savior; he was meant to be a savior. That is why they put his photo upon the altar even. And that’s why somebody declared on his tombstone that he was happy that his eyes had beheld Hitler, and that now he could lie in peace. Hitler was just a hero myth.
Evans: To get back more specifically to the idea of the self. . . .
Jung: The self is merely a term that designates the whole personality. The whole personality of man is indescribable. His consciousness can be described; his unconsciousness cannot be described, because the unconscious—and I repeat myself—is always unconscious. It is really unconscious; he really does not know it. And so we don’t know our unconscious personality. We have hints and certain ideas, but we don’t know it really.
Nobody can say where man ends. That is the beauty of it, you know. It is very interesting. The unconscious of man can reach—God knows where. There we are going to make discoveries.
Evans: What seems to be a very fundamental part of your writing and one of your main ideas is reflected in the term “mandala.” How does this fit into the context of our discussion of the self?
Jung: Mandala. . . . Well, it is just one typical archetypal form. It is what is called ultimo exquadra circulae, the square in the circle, or the circle in the square. It is an age-old symbol that goes right back to the pre-history of man. It is all over the earth and it either expresses the Deity or the self; and these two terms are psychologically very much related, which doesn’t mean that I believe that God is the self or that the self is God. I made the statement that there is a psychological relation, and there is plenty of evidence for that.
It is a very important archetype. It is the archetype of inner order; and it is always used in that sense, either to make arrangements of the many, many aspects of the universe, a world scheme, or to arrange the complicated aspects of our psyche into a scheme. It expresses the fact that there is a center and a periphery, and it tries to embrace the whole. It is the symbol of wholeness. So you see, in a moment during a patient’s treatment when there is a great disorder and chaos in a man’s mind, the symbol can appear, as in the form of a mandala in a dream, or when he makes imaginary and fantastical drawings, or something of the sort.
A mandala spontaneously appears as a compensatory archetype during times of disorder. It appears, bringing order, showing the possibility of order and centralness. It means a center which is not coincident with the ego, but with the wholeness—it is wholeness—the wholeness which I call the “self”; this is the term for wholeness. I am not whole in my ego as my ego is but a fragment of my personality; so you see, the center of a mandala is not the ego.
It is the whole personality, the center of the whole personality, and the very great role that it plays can be seen, for instance, in the culture of the East, past and present. In the Middle Ages it played an equally great role for the West; but there it has been lost now and is thought of as a mere sort of allegorical, decorative motif. As a matter of fact, however, it is highly important and highly autonomous, a symbol that appears in dreams, etc., and in folklore. It is, we should say, the main archetype.