The Spirit in Man, Art and Literature

The primordial image, or archetype, is a figure—be it a daemon, a human being, or a process—that constantly recurs in the course of history and appears wherever creative fantasy is freely expressed.

Essentially, therefore, it is a mythological figure.

When we examine these images more closely, we find that they give form to countless typical experiences of our ancestors.

They are, so to speak, the psychic residua of innumerable experiences of the same type.

They present a picture of psychic life in the average, divided up and projected into the manifold figures of the mythological pantheon.

But the mythological figures are themselves products of creative fantasy and still have to be translated into conceptual language.

Only the beginnings of such a language exist, but once the necessary concepts are created they could give us an abstract, scientific understanding of the unconscious processes that lie at the roots of the primordial images.

In each of these images there is a little piece of human psychology and human fate, a remnant of the joys and sorrows that have been repeated countless times in our ancestral history, and on the average follow ever the same course.

It is like a deeply graven river-bed in the psyche, in which the waters of life, instead of flowing along as before in a broad but shallow stream, suddenly swell into a mighty river.

This happens whenever that particular set of circumstances is encountered which over long periods of time has helped to lay down the primordial image  ~Carl Jung, CW 15, Para 127