On The Archetypes: Father & Mother by Gary B

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Mother and Father are the first archetypes of human experience.  There is no more primal connection in our lives; no greater first impression.  We are held.  We are loved and we love.  We see the Other for the first time.  We bond, of fail to bond, with these first faces of our memory.  It is these first figures that form a fundamental axis upon which we are built, and thus it is not surprising that the one of the poles of our archetypal world should exist here.  

However, here we will be using the archetypal titles, Mother and Father, in a different way from what you are used to.  We will be expanding their definition beyond the literal connotation of parenting, to a greater symbolic whole and a broader range of archetypal expressions.  Speaking most generally, Mother and Father is the personal archetype that is predominant for those of us whose unconscious energy goes primarily into people in their collective sense.  

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Mother and Father understand who they are through their connections to community.  They find their primary sources of identity in their membership in larger social wholes: bonds to family, work group, school, community, ethnicity, heritage, religion, professional affiliation or nationality provide a basis for their sense of self.  This kinship extends through time and includes our connections to heritage, history, nation and culture. 

Father and Mother’s awareness moves naturally toward the people in their group–their family, their team of coworkers, their community.  Their energy flows to their tribe.  Their priority is the needs and success of their gang.  Their thoughts pop up with the concerns of their peeps.  They will be inspired with good ideas of things for how to have fun as family; work better as a team; play better as a band.  Mother who is a parent may find her children foremost in her awareness.  Father who is a teacher may find his unconsciousness popping with curiosity about little Jimmy is fitting into it grade five.  Mother who is a coach is never happier than during soccer practice.  Their attention flows into the concerns of their collective.

Individual commitment to a group effort -
that is what makes a team work, a company work,
a society work, a civilization work.

– Vince Lombardi

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Mother and Father are authentically fascinated by what can be accomplished by people working together.  Whether they are the quiet volunteer who is there every weekend or the community leader in the spotlight, they are on-board.   They find genuine fulfillment in their service and they can excel as leaders because they are genuinely emotionally invested in the group and it’s success.  

Mother and Father take pride in preserving what has been built up.  They perpetuate and safeguard what has been established.  They are the “stewards of the community” (Priestley / Leier).  They are emotionally invested in what has been achieved and have faith in the culture's shared views.  Doing for others can be primary for Mother-Father. 

"Mother and Father encourage their loved ones to excel in ways that accord with the expectations of the community in which they lives; supports all that is growing and developing toward maturity, whether it be child, a spouse in their career, an invalid reaching for for health, or a garden grwing into flower.  They encourage those in their care to expand in their prime, to find their recognized place within society.  They stand as the protectors of the family and even of civlization itself."
– 
Nan Savage Healy - Toni Wolff & C. G. Jung*


Deep inside, Mother and Father need to be needed.  Taking care of and doing for others is their way of being.  They are rooted psychologically in the family (or in another collective whole).

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Queen Elizabeth II knighting Sir Patrick Stewart

Mother and Father draw their identity from the group.  Their public persona matters to them and they invented saving face.  Hot button issues of loyalty, power and control may lie well-hidden from public sight in the dark closets of Mother and Father.  

They know their place in the world because they know where they come from.  They know who the belong to and who belongs to them.  What’s magical and right in the world and in themselves comes through the safety, security, success and rightness of their tribe.

Closely related to the King and Queen archetype, at their best, Mother and Father can bless us, make us feel seen and valued by the tribe.

* * *

*Quote from Healy, Toni Wolff & C. G. Jung paraphrased for both genders.

The Gods in Other Men & Women by Gary B

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"I will try always to recognize
and submit to the gods
in me and the gods
in other men and women.
There is my creed….”

— D. H. Lawrence

Toni Wolff & The Rediscovery of the Archetypal Nature of Our World 

The woman who was Carl Jung's closest collaborator and who may have been the greatest Jungian analyst of all time is today being recognized for her unique insight into human personality.   Toni Wolff saw an archetypal model operating within the psyche, with timeless patterns functioning like gods within us.

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She felt something was still missing.  Antonia ‘Toni’ Wolff had assisted the pioneering Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung to complete his work on Psychological TypesIt gave us extravert-introvert and other pairs of opposites that we commonly use today and which was the basis for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™ or MBTI. But when it came out in 1921, she was unsatisfied. 

Thirteen years later she laid out the missing pieces in The Structural Forms of the Feminine PsycheToni saw two inherent tensions previously un-described: one between differing ways of relating to people and another in opposing ways of meeting the challenges of the world.  Personally: some folks find identity in the tribe and others gain fulfillment through individual interpersonal connections.  Impersonally: some people are geared to see the world as a challenge to be overcome and others see it as a puzzle to be solved. 

In the 1980’s, MBTI workshop leaders Tad and Noreen Guzie felt that something was missing too.  They found Toni’s map and saw it in the lives of men and women and gave new names to the Masculine archetypes that are used here. Today attention is returning to Toni’s work and life.  Following the release and widespread interest in Jung’s Red Book over the last decade, it is appropriate today that the woman who was there with him while he was creating it, is now getting her due.  In 2017, the wonderful new book Toni Wolff & C. G. Jung: A Collaboration by Nan Savage Healy came out and the Guzie’s About Men & Women and is again in print. 

Vice and Virtue: Our Archetypal Orientations

The word archetype comes from the Greek for first impression or original form, and in our use it refers to a type of character structure that represents itself in us across time and culture.  Recognizing the psyche’s archetypal character enables us to gain sight of the moral dilemmas that we deal with eternally.  We know why it is that the same plays that moved ancient Greek audiences can still pull on our heartstrings today and why fairy tales, fables and myths continue to fascinate us.  Those art forms speak to timeless quality of the human character and this work seeks to better understand those forces within us.

Because the internal affiliations described here are primarily unconscious, sometimes it is easier to see these archetypes in others than in ourselves.  Furthermore many of us come from a consumer attitude that expects that we can be all things and we expect to be able to be all of the archetypes.  However, Nature tends to afford its gifts to us in more selective ways.  People tend to be blessed in some ways and unskilled in others.  There us a symmetry to our characters; as the saying goes we tend to have the vices of our virtues. 

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Archetype pinpoints differences in the direction of our unconscious energy flow, the areas of life into which our attention moves or avoids.  These energy flows live through us in varying sources of identity and differing paths to fulfillment.  It points to our blind spots and shadows, to the unconscious assumptions about the world that we take for granted.  Archetype lies beneath the beliefs we never question and even to differences in where the sacred lives for us.  

In the following descriptions: the origin comes from Toni; the titles used here are from the Guzies.  Each describes a single archetype; the gender pairings offer an image of the energy’s yin-yang but both descriptions apply to all people of that type.  Please see more on the caveats here.  No “shoulds" are being prescribed and the only goal is greater awareness of ourselves and better understanding of others.

The Personal Archetypal Axis: Belonging–Collective or Intimate

Toni saw a blueprint of human personality anchored by profoundly opposing character essences. The first archetypal axis Toni described illustrates our varying orientation toward people–some find identity and fulfillment through the collective and others through individual connections.

Father-Mother:  Father and Mother’s awareness moves naturally toward the people in their group–their family, their team of coworkers, their community.  Their energy flows first to their tribe.  Their priority is the needs and success of their gang.  Their thoughts pop with the concerns of their peeps.  They will be inspired with good ideas for ways to: have fun as family; work better as a team; play better as a band.  They find genuine fulfillment in their service and are genuinely emotionally invested in the group and it’s success.

Seeker-Companion:  Seeker and Companion’s awareness moves toward people as individuals and the emergent.  Their unconscious pops with new possibilities, better ways and fresh steps.  Hang out, bliss out, strut out, make out–they want to do it with you.  They’re inspired with good ideas for ways to: do something cool; have fun as a couple; buy you a gift you’ll love.  Egalitarian, they’re anti-authoritarian and frequently vegetarian.  The brother- or sister-type, they find fulfillment in becoming who they truly are and hope that you do too. They might be gifted at reflecting your unique beauty back to you.

The pull between these two orientations is one of the most fundamental in our society.  Where Father and Mother draw their identity from cultural and social belonging, Seeker and Companion draw their’s from personal attachments.  Father and Mother tend to be more invested in the status quo and keeping up with the Joneses, whereas Seeker and Companion may seek freedom from stifling expectations that they outgrew or never matched up with. 

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This tension is so ripe inside us that it has produced many of the landmarks of Western artistic culture.  From Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” and “to thine own self be true,” to Kerouac’s On The Road and James Dean’s Rebel Without A Cause, the Seeker suffers his angst to secure the future he wants.  And what future is that? As Benjamin tells his father in The Graduate, he wants it to be ‘different.’  The Great Gatsby, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The Big Chill, American Beauty and The Big Lebowski and innumerable other classics, all focus on a Seeker-Companion searching for self-realization in a Mother-Father world.

From the original Bohemians, to the Beats, to the hippies, counter-cultural movements flourish with those for whom the dominant culture is not working.  To understand this difference archetypally is to recognize that the tension between these types is perennial–the divide between the inherently tribal-oriented and the freaky free-rangers is always with us and within us.  The pressure on the individual against the collective was one of Jung’s primary concerns as it was Nietzsche’s:

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”*

The Impersonal Archetypal Axis: Power, Truth and Mastery

The second archetypal axis Toni described illustrates our varying orientation toward power.  This impersonal axis highlights our innate response to the challenge of the world.  As lyricist Robert Hunter has observed: “some folks look for answers, others look for fights.”*

Warrior-Amazon:  Warriors and Amazons know who they are through what they can do.  They take pride in their strength, in their resiliency, in their ability to get the job done.  They are driven and self-sufficient.  As kids they may turn every walk into a race and even as elders they might still enjoy turning everything into a competition.  Trash talkers; they may express their creativity in the ring or on the ice; or with a sharpened chef’s knife.  Goal-oriented, counting coup comes first, they crush it daily.  For Warriors and Amazons it’s about #Winning

Sage-Mediatrix:  Sage and Mediatrix understand themselves through what they know.  Problem-solver; solution-finder; way-shower; they speak the magical jargon that keeps the world spinning.  They ponder. They’re curious, they want to figure it out.  Their unconscious flows into understanding what makes it tick.  Whether through precise calculation or inner observation they want to get it right.  Mediatrix finds authentic knowing through inner means.  Some Sages seek purely rational knowledge.  Some listen for clues from both.  Sapiophile? 

This tension in our culture is often drawn in cartoony forms but it remains as real a psychological divide as ever.  While nerd versus jock high school stereotypes may have passed us by, many people see the tension between these energies everyday in their workplace.  From Warriors in sales over-promising and expecting the Sages to magically deliver (and on-time too), to Sages remaining unrealistic about how difficult it is to make a sale, it is often very hard for Sages to appreciate Warrior ways and vice-versa.*

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Truth or dare?  Is the pen mightier than the sword?  Does fortune favour the bold?  These aphorisms echo this tension in our culture.  Does might make right?  For a long time, chivalry dictated that the victor in battle was the truth-speaker, the morally correct one.  Physical prowess was afforded power even over truth.  In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, while Caesar is at the top of his power, his wife Calpurnia warns him that: “your wisdom is consumed in confidence.”  And in a new commercial, author Malcolm Gladwell gives a new view of the David versus Goliath story following from the suggestion that, for all of his strength, Goliath may have been unable to see.  While Warriors and Amazons typically bring an urgency that Sages and Mediatrixes may lack, that urgency may also be blind to the circumstances surrounding it.  For all of the drive, they may be pushing in the wrong direction. 

“There are only two powers in the world, sabre and mind; at the end, sabre is always defeated by mind.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

While Napoleon might be right in the long run, in the short term the squeaky wheel gets the grease and the assertive regularly defeat the knowledgeable in the boardroom, at the ballot box and elsewhere.  While we might value the mind higher than brute force, the Warrior and Amazon know that truth of action is its own universal principle–sometimes you have to put your money where your mouth is.  Knowing the right thing is not enough without the courage to act.

Recognizing Real Differences Enables Real Understanding

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While some people’s lives are characterized by a single archetype, many find their story in a blend of two.  Other ways of looking at the model are possible as well but most folks have at least one archetype that is less than fully developed. Knowing our primary archetypes is a good first step but it is only the beginning.  Archetypes are a part of the collective unconscious and exceed the ego’s awareness.  Our archetypal story has a shadow side and best qualities living inside us that can lead us to tragedy and triumph but consciously recognizing those forces within us can be a life’s work.  Even recognizing our own archetypal story can be hard.  Toni wrote that one’s archetype:

“. . . Need not necessarily coincide with the outer form of life. Psychological structure and actual fate sometimes fail to correspond, either for exterior reasons . . . or else because of an inner uncertainty about one’s real nature.”*

Our inner archetypal affiliations are seen in what is most important to us.  They lie behind what fascinates and repels us.  They drive us to our great successes and fuel our real world tragedies.  To speak of them, as D. H. Lawrence did, as the Gods is appropriate because their energy operates autonomously within us and they have us more than we have them.  Relating to them consciously is the beginning of self-acceptance and avoiding an unconscious fate.

Despite our varying individual preferences for how people should be, Toni’s archetypal view offer insight into how people actually are.  Because of this, it provides insight that is applicable to the real world.  In the face of archetypal opposition, we often get into an unexpected confrontation without really knowing why.  The people in our lives (and offices) with whom we tend to automatically disagree tend to be of opposite archetype; we react unconsciously may find ourselves arguing before we know what happens.  Understanding the archetypal differences defuses our unconscious reactivity and enables us to choose how we respond.  Knowing the archetypes beneath our cultural divide, we can move past them; we can recognize where goodness lies for our neighbour and meet them there. 

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The tenor of our day has us imagining that there’s nothing new to know–certainly not about human character. Our culture lives under an inflation that imagines us to be somehow separate from Nature and anything timeless.  We’ve invested all of the magic that we used to put into our God-image into ourselves.  That inflation requires a deflation–a coming back down to earth.  As we let go of inflated self-understandings generated by a disconnected culture, Toni invites to see eternal patterns playing out through our lives.  Somehow it is grounding to recognize that the timeless is alive in us.  

Occasionally there are moments when something hidden becomes seen. One day the dust falls away and a prehistoric vertebrae finds a searching eye.  Sometimes we really can understand something new about the world.  Once in a long while we blow the dust off and are surprised to see a living vein, a pathway in Nature that we hadn’t even imagined.  There are moments of cultural self-discovery and we’re having one today about the archetypal nature of our world.

On The Archetypes: CAVEATS – Gender, Safety & Process by Gary B

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In the widest use of the term there are thousands of archetypes–every motif in folklore could be considered an archetype.  In this sense, there are nearly innumerable archetypes to be found in the collective unconscious..  

However, in Archetypal Nature we use the word archetype to refer to something more specific - a core psychological dynamic which is alive in all of us (mostly unconsciously).  Your archetype is why you ‘build your nest’ the way you do.  We see archetype in ourselves and others through the varying ways in which we find identity and fulfillment.  It is your innate inner philosophy.  It lies behind the kind of unconscious assumptions you make about the world and the people around you.

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Archetypes “act like magnetic fields which,
though unseen, arrange responses, emotions
and actions into specific patterns.”
– Ann Ulanov

Titles

In discussing archetype however, we exceed the limits of language because, for example, an archetype cannot be defined by a one word title—and thus the titles that we use for the archetypes are imperfect.  Focusing on the titles means missing the point of the work.  To understand these archetypes look at the whole picture, no single quality of the archetype should be used to determine our or others connection to it.  All of the archetypes have a variety of good and bad qualities, mature and immature forms.  

Gender

Each of the archetypal pairings used in Archetypal Nature (such as Father and Mother) refer to single archetypal whole.  The qualities are fluid, all qualities of one gender description may apply to both. We use gender differences here to illustrate archetypal qualities, and not archetypal qualities to illustrate gender.  Women often identify with a masculine archetypal form and men may see themselves in the feminine archetypal stories.  There are no shoulds being put forward about how someone is best to live (other than with greater self-awareness).  

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Natural

Archetype is natural, in-born.  Siblings often have completely differing archetypal dispositions and children often arrive into families with an archetypal stamp that is the opposite of their parents.  Television sitcoms are very popularly based on these kind of tensions (Family Ties, American Dad, All In The Family, etc...)  Parental preferences and how we are raised only influences how we feel about the archetypal energies living within us.  Ask yourself, which ways of being did your family bless and which did they shame?

Value Neutral

We believe that each archetype brings an important perspective and do not consider any archetype to be inherently good or bad.

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Personality Type

Any personality type can be any archetype.  Toni worked with C. G. Jung in his development of Psychological Types.  It was the insufficiency of the type model in this regard, that led Toni Wolff to the discovery of these archetypes following the publication of Jung's Psychological Types in 1921.   

Developing the ability to accurately differentiate between type and archetype takes time and is part of the art of this work.  Identifying that correctly helps us to better understand each other and ourselves.

Generational Karma

Archetypal Nature offers a whole new set of maps that can illustrate the motivations behind family struggles and identity patterns.  In doing this work people have uncovered layers of generational false adaptation and burdens placed on children that were never rightly their own.  Sorting through that can be challenging but it is ultimately liberating.   

Process

For some folks recognizing their archetype is immediate and easy, but for others their roles and ingrained biases make it difficult to see their archetype.  And that is okay.  That might mean they have the most to gain from this work.  One of the challenges in identifying our personal archetype is confusing our outer roles with who we are.  Many people have difficulty recognizing that despite living their life in a certain role it is not their archetype.

One’s archetype “need not necessarily coincide with the outer form of life.  Psychological structure and actual fate sometimes fail to correspond, either for exterior reasons . . . or else because of an inner uncertainty about [one’s] real nature...” – Toni Wolff

Learning to recognize archetype is a more-than-rational process.  It develops over time.  Some of these terms comes with tremendous social baggage.  As much as possible try to step beyond that and look at the energy-activity of the archetypes in your experience of them.  This material is also 'psychoactive' – it generates strong (often unconscious) responses that require patience to sit with.  True self-discovery is sometimes unsettling.  Coming to consciousness is the turning point between fate and free will.  Uncovering the archetypal dynamics within us frees us from the potentially tragic consequences of living a life driven by these otherwise unconscious forces.

The Archetypal Lebowski by Gary B

“There was a lot about the Dude that didn't make a whole lot of sense. And a lot about where he lived, likewise. But then again, maybe that's why I found the place so darned interestin’.” – The Stranger

The Big Lebowski is cinematic perfection carved from archetypal oppositions. It is The Dude versus The Man throughout; the prototypical anti-authority figure versus a series of archetypal Fathers and Kings. Nearly a century ago, Antonia “Toni” Wolff observed a pair of binary axis in the psyche; two essential oppositions that constitute a significant part of human personality. One of these primary tensions is between our draw to community and away from it, toward freedom. We know toward which of these poles The Dude swung.

Our most beloved movies are the most archetypal ones.

The greatest movies are always archetypally true and The Big Lebowski gets its true-to-life color from fanning out a bright rainbow of authority figures. From the chief of police of Malibu (“a real reactionary”), to the fellas down at the league office, to Mr. Lebowski and Walter, the film is driven by the Dude’s interaction with power figures. These characters–many of whom are based on real life friends of the Coen brothersare all archetypal King or Father types: men who are deeply invested in their own authority (“this aggression will not stand”); men who are strongly opinionated about right and wrong (“the bums will always lose!”); and men whose identity comes through attachment to community (“three thousand years of beautiful tradition”). As the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers would no doubt attest, these men are also about doing for; whether it’s for their “quiet little beach community” or their country, they want to be of service. At the same time, these are men who are unconsciously driven by shadow power drives (“shut the fuck up Donnie!”). The Father-King is often compelled to make things right and even to use force to do so (“mark it zero!”). Are they wrong? “You’re not wrong you’re just an asshole.”

El Duderino epitomizes of the opposite archetype: he hates authority (and is completely disconnected from society and worldly values (“’Dude . . . uh, tomorrow’s already the tenth.’”); he's the eternal boy, more brother-type than Father figure for sure. And even if he’s unconscious of it, there is something of the trickster in him, a measure of the clown. We give the title ‘Seeker’ to this way of being, but no one word title could ever properly sum up an archetype (certainly not this one). The Seeker is a little more in touch with his Feminine side – he’s comfortable with the “feminine form” and the “natural zesty enterprise.” This archetype is the Lover too and The Dude is most certainly that.

What’s an archetype Walter? An archetype is a primordial pattern that (usually unconsciously) guides how we create our lives. As with birds and their nests, your archetype suggests your modus operandi, the way you want to roll through life, the parts of life to which you are drawn and the ones which automatically repel you (“the fucking Eagles man!,” “do you have to use so many cuss words?”).

I guess what I'm trying to tell you is that this is one of the ways that the “whole darned human comedy keeps perpetuatin’ itself."

The Big Lebowski is constructed out of these mirrors of opposition in the human DNA; it’s a study in deep archetypal contrasts. We see this explicitly when the Dude encounters Mr. Lebowski’s wall of awards and plaques–“Are you a Lebowski achiever?” The movie is about authority (“get your own fucking cab!”) and the exchange of it (“her life is in your hands Dude”), who deserves it and who does not (“he doesn’t approve of my lifestyle and I don’t approve of his”). The authority figures initiate all of the action–the Dude only abides. He is an anti-hero; the movie is not about what he does (“fuck it”). The movie happens to him.

“Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude.”

As happens in many naturalistic (and psychologically healthy) folktales of the anti-hero form, our protagonist (“and I’m talking about the Dude here”) succeeds by going with the flow, by being guileless and in harmony with events, by being in accord with the Tao (“is that some kind of Eastern thing?”).

Have no doubt this is a story about “what makes a man, Mr. Lebowski?” There’s The Dude’s way and everyone else’s modes of assertion and control–they can be very un-Dude. However we do get shown some good sides of his opposite archetype; Walter, for one, shows its cellular-level loyalty and devotion to a brother. And in the end The Stranger shows us the mature form of the King: he knows The Dude is different from him and he doesn’t understand him, but he isn’t envious or rejecting. The Stranger sees The Dude's good qualities–you could maybe even go as far as to say he blesses him (or that could be just, like, my opinion, man).

 “The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners."

 

Fascinated? Compelled? Think Archetype . . . by Gary B

In the premiere episode of the new Netflix series Love (starring Gillian Jacobs), a radio psychologist uses the word ‘archetype’ and the caller then asks him what an archetype is. He stammers and replies “well, I don’t really have the exact definition, but I do know what it means obviously because I just used it. Um . . .” One definition of archetype is as an intrinsic pattern of behavior and motivation in the unconscious of human personality.

Archetypes operate like an internal gravity that determines what we are attracted to or repelled by; what fascinates and compels us; why one person is drawn to something and another person repulsed by it. Pioneering Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung brought that word into common usage as a part of his discovery of the collective unconscious – our shared inner biosphere of inherited dynamic patterns.

“Myths and fairytales of world literature contain definite motifs which crop up everywhere. We meet these same motifs in the fantasies, dream, and delusions of individuals living today.”– C. G. Jung*

Jung noticed in the dreams and fantasies of his patients that the images seemed to be pulled not only from personal experiences but from foreign and even ancient cultures. He first spoke of these as primordial images, considering them to represent the foundational patterns of intelligence within the psyche. Eventually, he named the specific dynamic complexes ‘archetypes,’ from the Greek term whose root terms are archein meaning original and tupos meaning impression or model.

For the Greeks, archetypes constituted the basis of their worldview. For common citizens, as well as for Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, such ‘original impressions’ were:

“. . . an ordered expression of certain primordial essences or transcendent first principles, variously conceived as Forms, Ideas, universals, changeless absolutes, immortal deities, divine archai. . . . Archetypal principles included mathematical forms of geometry and arithmetic; cosmic principles such as light and dark, male and female, love and hate; and the Ideas of the Good, the Beautiful and the Just, and other absolute moral and aesthetic values. . . . As well as the more personified figures such as Zeus, Prometheus, and Aphrodite. In this perspective, every aspect of existence was patterned and permeated by such fundamentals.” – Richard Tarnas

Archetypes are a part of our nature, a part of who we are.  Archetypes link both body and mind, conscious and unconscious. They are many sided–we can know their type without knowing how that type will manifest in a particular case. In practice, it is often only through an archetype’s activity in our lives and the particularly strong feeling tones that it evokes in us that we begin to notice them.

Archetypes entrance us.

Both individually and culturally, an archetype can emerge into the forefront of our imagination and captivate us. When a particular archetype resonates for us, we react strongly to it; it may strike us numb; we may become animated by it, identify with it, or over-react against it and reject it, but when we are in its grip, it will always “impress, influence and fascinate us.“*

For better or worse, we are pulled by our heartstrings and lifted towards a new (or old) direction when the wind of its voice blows upon us. Archetypes enfold us into a participation with them–we become bound, enthralled, overwhelmed or even exalted. An archetypal dynamic takes us on a rollercoaster of possibilities, inflating us, making us feel on top of the world, or deflating us–removing all hope from us.

In the background, looming like a powerful God, our archetypal complexes sit enthroned. When our relationship to that energy is unconscious it becomes compulsive and can turn into obsession. In that case, winning or losing such a person, object, or issue is felt to be a world constituting or destroying reality. We know that an object has enchanted us when we become deflated by its loss. Think of all of the teenage drama over love and the feeling of ‘the world will end if I can’t have this person.’ At such times, we are unconsciously substituting a concrete object for a deeper, more powerful force.

Archetypal fascinations redirect our energy; when unconscious it’s often experienced compulsively and negatively, in shadow form–damning us to the dead-end of trying to literalize regressive fantasies. One may feel out of control when exposed to it, or controlled by it. Yet psychologically, redemption is always possible. Where there is a negative pole there is always a positive pole too–a way out, if we have the strength to grasp it.

“[Archetypes] act like magnetic fields which, though unseen, arrange responses, emotions and actions into specific patterns expressed in the form of symbolic images. If the ego can relate to these archetypal centers of energy through their symbolic expressions, the use of instinctive energy can be consciously guided for [healthy] purposes.” – Ann Belford Ulanov

Overcoming passive captivity in an archetype begins with conscious engagement with it. Turning an archetypal dynamic into its positive form requires making our participation conscious, a process that is begun by an honest recognition of our own fascination.  We can look at an archetype, complex, or emotion rather than continue to lay caught in it.  Gaining that clarity nearly always means defeat for our ego, for our view of the world, and we may need help to achieve it.  Successfully discovered, however, our ego’s loss becomes our soul’s gain.

Shadows & Light: Understanding Our Archetypal Nature by Gary B

Shadows & Light: Our Archetypal Nature

“I thought of Jung as a noetic archeologist, [he] provided maps of the unconscious.” – Terence McKenna

Most of us imagine that we know ourselves pretty well.  But like a periscope that thinks it’s the whole submarine, our self-image makes no accommodation for the fact of the unconscious.  Yet there are maps that can help us.  If we are honest, we can come to discover how to orient ourselves in the tidal pathways of the unconscious; we may come to see that our shadows and strengths fall into archetypal patterns.  If we are lucky, these maps may help us to come into possession of the greatest possible treasure–our inner gold.

In the 1920’s, after they had finished developing their ideas on Psychological Type – the root of today Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™ – Antonia “Toni” Wolff and Carl Gustav Jung discovered that they felt like something was still missing.  Not fully satisfied, Toni soon identified larger psychological structures that were evident, yet hitherto unnamed.  Calling them Structural Forms of the Feminine Psyche, she initiated the process of identifying the primordial forms of the human psyche, forms which we know today by the singular term, archetype.

She observed two poles, two axes, in our internal world.  On the first, she saw displayed a natural split in how our energy flowed toward people: for some it moved toward people in a collective sense, toward the group, the family, the team, the tribe, society and the social group; for others it moved toward people in the one-on-one sense, with thought and concern primarily flowing toward individuals, friends and lovers. Toni saw this difference in what we were fascinated by and drawn to; what compelled us forward in life; in the differing pathways our libido took toward our fellow humankind.  In her observations, she brought consciousness to an inherent dialectic tension in human nature.

This characteristic tension is highlighted in bright psychedelic neon in the last fifty years of American history.  It is the divide between belonging and freedom from belonging; between a value system that is group-oriented and one that is individual-oriented; one emphasizes escape from society and other connection to it.  It has provided us with two opposing views of goodness in American life: the redemption in community of Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life versus the redemption in breaking away from community of Kerouac’s On The Road and Kesey’s Acid Test and Cuckoo’s Nest.  Of course, this split goes back to our earliest days: we can see it in our ancient mythologies and philosophies. It is evident in perhaps the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet, wherein ‘to be or not be’ also has a lot to do with ‘to belong or not to belong.’

Our culture has many names for the first kind, the group-oriented, society-aware folks: patriarch or matriarch, father and mother type.  This is the Queen or King archetype and the King can be a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of guy (and notice the pressurized conflict between belonging and freedom from belonging in his motto).  However we lack names for the second kind, the non-group-oriented, individual-focused folks. Defined by their freedom from belonging this type has no positive definition in our language, but many negative ones: he or she is the Slacker who has failed to adapt to society; a Rolling Stone, a Peter Pan, an Eternal Boy, in the 1920’s they called him a Gadabout.  Here a lack of language reveals the unconscious tension between these two forms and our hidden value judgments.

Yet Toni Wolff saw a universal home for the man and woman of this type in the combination of the Lover and the Eternal Child (puella/puer).  He or she is about becoming, about furthering the process of becoming in themselves and others. The archetypal Child brings forward the new into consciousness, and these folks both gravitate to, and create, the original, novel, new quality that’s needed by the culture.  The Lover is that part of us that is gifted at seeing and valuing the others around us for who they are and enjoying sexuality and love regardless of societal expectations. They find endless enjoyment in doing with others.  At their best, the Seeker’s question of ‘Who am I?’ can flower into beautiful mystic-religious poetry in a thousand forms.  It is this energy in us that seeks the ‘road less travelled’, invites us to ‘follow our bliss’ and knows reminds us to “all: to thine own self be true.” As one might expect, these folks tend to resist being categorized (they’re too original / special / pathologically anti-authoritarian for that!).  And that’s why it’s partially their fault that our culture has no words for their archetype – they refuse to be put in a box and their rebelliousness is part of their strength and part of their shadow. 

Each end of this spectrum becomes cartoony when we fall into identification with it. Being too much of a Seeker too long may mean never putting down roots and never settling into a community: ‘I took the road less travelled and now I don’t know where the hell I am.’ Jumping off the cliff and hoping for wings to form on the way down once too often, they can find themselves to have drifted too far from shore. The group-oriented person’s shadow can be equally unsatisfactory (none of these paths are inherently better than any other) and is equally well known to us.  Seen in cartoon-like form in TV shows (King of the Hill, That 70’s Show, Archie Bunker), he is the Father who carries forward the values of the past (often unconsciously) and who may be resentful of those who break out of the mold.  Finding genuine satisfaction in doing for others, a shadow quality in them may be desire for power over others. When unconsciously identified with the King, their right to power is taken for granted.  This is vividly illustrated in the Frost-Nixon interviews, when Frost asks Nixon if it is sometimes okay for the President to do something illegal, he responds “when the President does it that means it’s not illegal.”  However, at their best the archetypal King or Queen “can deal with your gold without hating you for it.  They can see you’re shining and not envy you” – Robert L. Moore.  The King or Queen can bless us, knight us, and make us feel seen, valued and a part of the whole in a way that no other archetype can. 

The other axis that Wolff observed shows the direction of our impersonal energy, our responses to the world: some people’s energy flows into the search for insight, answers, understanding and comprehension; for others their energy flows outward into action, prowess, achievement and autonomy.  Where the Warrior seizes the day, is always up for a challenge (is in fact energized by competition), the Sage finds satisfaction in comprehension and pleasure in problem solving.  Many Warriors knew their identity the first time they laced up their skates, paddled out on their boards, put on their ballet slippers or picked up a guitar.  A Sage’s self-understanding can also come early in a passion for the world of knowledge and ideas and a wonder for how things work.  Additionally, for those folks for whom knowledge comes through the unconscious, Toni saw the ancient tradition of the medial woman.  This path was given it’s place in nearly every culture in human history except ours (we’re hooked on ‘rational’ reduction and the illusion that in our measuring of the world, we’ve mastered it).  Toni gave the name Mediatrix to this archetype.  By including it in her structure she not only honored her own path, she made a place for all women (and men) who recognize that they sometimes possess knowledge non-causally (through the unconscious).  Despite our cultural prejudice against this way of knowing, the Mediatrix archetype reflects Nature’s deeper truth: right understanding can sometimes arrive in ways that can’t quite be explained rationally or directly.

Again, there is shadow in these archetypes too. The Warrior sometimes carries the burden of not understanding, of ‘knowing not what he does,' but at least he or she know the truth of action–right or wrong.  In contrast, the Sage sometimes fails to act, because conscience sometimes does make ‘cowards of us all.’  There is also an inherent tension between the two axes, between our need for other people and between the calling of action or insight; the personal axis pulls into relationship and the impersonal axis away from them.  As master Sage Nikola Tesla describes: “originality thrives in seclusion . . . Be alone, that is the secret of invention; that is when ideas are born.” The genius is quick to serve his muse, but sometimes slow to respond to the warm heart beating right beside him.  The Warrior might unconsciously avoid those spaces that make him or her feel vulnerable? Does our compulsive ingenuity or armored hardness keep us safely separated from the love reaching out for us?

Yet there is reassurance in understanding these qualities exist in human nature because they exist in Nature–throughout Nature: in army ants and nurse bees, even at biological and cellular levels.  They are at play in the world, but most conspicuously displayed in our mythologies, philosophies and cosmologies (including and especially astrology – which is not a causal system of explanation, but a reflection of the way that all things in Nature are meaningfully intertwined); these archetypal energies have a life of their own!

“Called or uncalled the Gods are present.” – C. G. Jung

Most of us fall all too easily into the simplifying projection of imagining that everyone wants the same things out of life that we do.  But seeing the reality of these other Gods in the psyche helps us to withdraw our projections from each other and accept that different folks are coming from different places and truly do want different things from the world and from us.  By understanding this we become better able to see those around us for who they are and it offers us a route to better see ourselves. 

Seeing ourselves in our archetypal nature and recognizing our timeless parts, allows us to both gain sight of some of our shadow and to better own our inner gold.  In the compulsive ways that we overdo things, we see the shadow of our archetypal selves; we see a rabbit hole that we’re in danger of falling into.  Many of us plunge headlong into tragedy throughout our lives because we fail to recognize the story that is playing out through our actions.  Having a mythic sensibility about ourselves offers a clue to how we might be unconsciously acting out archetypal patterns and shadows and possession of that awareness is at least half the battle.

But just as importantly, an archetypal self-understanding allows us to own our gifts. Your archetype is the thing that you find ‘flow’ in doing, that thing through which you live an experience of the timeless.  How powerful it is to recognize “Hey! This is me giving my gold to the world right now!” Just remember that there are profoundly different paths of expression for that gold.

The moral challenge in the existence of the unconscious lies in the fact that it is unconscious.  We don’t know that we don’t know.  And so can wonder: where does my creativity come to life? Which archetypes sing through me? To which Gods do I never make a sacrifice? Which temples do I pray at and which do I avoid? Where is my archetypal home?

“There's nothing you can do that's more important than being fulfilled. You become a sign, you become a signal, transparent to transcendence; in this way, you will find, live, and become a realization of your own personal myth.” – Joseph Campbell

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Gary S. Bobroff is the developer and facilitator of Archetypal Nature www.ArchetypalNature.com. In writing and teaching in-person and online, he presents the depth of Jungian approaches in an accessible, engaging, and visual-oriented form.  He has an M.A. in Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and a B.A. from the University of British Columbia, Canada.  

His first book, Crop Circles, Jung & the Reemergence of the Archetypal Feminine, was published in August 2014 by North Atlantic Books.