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Carl Jung Foreword to Complex, Archetype, SymbolC

1 complex

Symbolic Life

The problem this book is concerned with is one in which I, too, have been interested for a long time.

It is now exactly fifty years since I learned, thanks to the associaton experiment, the role which complexes play in our conscious life.

The thing that most impressed me was the peculiar autonomy the complexes display as compared with the other contents of consciousness.

Whereas the latter are under the control of the will, coming or going at its command, complexes either force themselves on our consciousness by breaking through its inhibiting effect, or else, just as suddenly, they obstinately resist our conscious intention to reproduce them.

Complexes have not only an obsessive, but very often a possessive, character, behaving like imps and giving rise to all sorts of annoying, ridiculous, and revealing actions, slips of the tongue, and falsifications of memory and judgment.

They cut across the adapted performance of consciousness.

It was not difficult to see that while complexes owe their relative autonomy to their emotional nature, their expression is always dependent on a network of associations grouped round a centre charged with affect.

The central emotion generally proved to be individually acquired, and therefore an exclusively personal matter.

Increasing experience showed, however, that the complexes are not infinitely variable, but mostly belong to definite categories, which soon began to acquire their popular, and by now hackneyed, names—inferiority complex, power complex, father complex, mother complex, anxiety complex, and all the rest.

This fact, that there are well-characterized and easily recognizable types of complex, suggests that they rest on equally typical foundations, that is, on emotional aptitudes or instincts.

In human beings instincts express themselves in the form of unreflected, involuntary fantasy images, attitudes, and actions, which bear an inner resemblance to one another and yet are identical with the instinctive reactions specific of Homo sapiens.

They have a dynamic and a formal aspect.

Their formal aspect expresses itself, among other things, in fantasy images that are surprisingly alike and can be found practically everywhere at all epochs, as might have been expected.

Like the instincts, these images have a relatively autonomous character; that is to say, they are “numinous” and can be found above all in the realm of numinous or religious ideas.

For reasons that I cannot enter into here, I have chosen the term “archetype” for this formal aspect of the instinct.

Dr. Jacobi has made it her task, in this book, to expound the important connection on the one hand between the individual complex and the universal, instinctual archetype, and on the other hand between this and the symbol.

The appearance of her study is the more welcome to me in that the concept of the archetype has given rise to the greatest misunderstandings and—if one may judge by the adverse criticisms—must be presumed to be very difficult to comprehend.

Anyone, therefore, who has misgivings on this score can seek information in this volume, which also takes account of much of the literature.

My critics, with but few exceptions, usually do not take the trouble to read over what I have to say on the subject, but impute to me, among other things, the opinion that the archetype is an inherited idea.

Prejudices seem to be more convenient than seeking the truth. In this respect, too, I hope that the author’s endeavours, especially the theoretical considerations contained in Part I, illustrated by examples of the archetype’s mode of manifestation and operation in Part II, may shed a little illumination.

I am grateful to her for having spared me the labour of having constantly to refer my readers to my own writings. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Pages 532-533