"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.
She felt something was still missing. Antonia ‘Toni’ Wolff had assisted the pioneering Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung to complete his work on Psychological Types. It 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 Psyche. Toni 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.
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.
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.*
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
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.
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.