Symbolic Life

Esther Harding, the author of this book, is a physician and specialist in the treatment of psychogenic illness.

She is a former pupil of mine who has endeavoured not only to understand the modern psyche but also, as the present book shows, to explore its historical background.

Preoccupation with historical subjects may at first glance seem to be merely a physician’s personal hobby, but to the psychotherapist it is a necessary part of his mental equipment.

The psychology of primitives, folklore, mythology, and the science of comparative religion open our eyes to the wide horizons of the
human psyche and give us that indispensable aid we so urgently need for an understanding of unconscious processes.

Only when we see in what shape and what guise dream symbols, which seem to us unique, appear on the historical and ethnic scene, can we really understand what they are pointing at.

Also, once equipped with this extensive comparative material, we can comprehend more nearly that factor which is so decisive for psychic life, the archetype.

Of course this term is not meant to denote an inherited idea, but rather an inherited mode of psychic functioning, corresponding to
the inborn way in which the chick emerges from the egg, the bird builds its nest, a certain kind of wasp stings the motor ganglion of the caterpillar, and eels find their way to the Bermudas.

In other words, it is a “pattern of behaviour.”

This aspect of the archetype, the purely biological one, is the proper concern of scientific psychology. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, Para 1228