“Man ‘possesses’ many things which he has never acquired but has inherited from his ancestors. He is not born as a tabula rasa, he is merely born unconscious. But he brings with him systems that are organized and ready to function in a specifically human way, and these he owes to millions of years of human development.”(1)
According to Jung countless archetypes are coded in our collective unconscious. Archetypes are unconscious infrastructures of the psyche that may correspond to the deep strata of the brain. (2) Plato referred to archetypes as Forms, which he saw as pre-existing ideal templates or blueprints. Jung called them ‘primordial images’ and the ‘fundamental units of the human mind.’ Jung wrote that archetypes “are the living system of reactions and aptitudes that determine the individual’s life in invisible ways.” (3)
As basic prototypes, archetypes are instinctual patterns of behavior. Like the human genome, archetypes contain information/code transferred from one generation to the next, mapping the evolution of humankind and consciousness. Archetypes manifest in universal symbols in religion, mythology and fairytales as well as in the dreams and fantasies of ordinary human beings. Archetypes are enduring motifs in art, literature, ritual and the underlying themes of our lives.
The archetypal realm is inhabited by non-ordinary numinous beings; gods, goddesses, superheroes, villains, angels and demons/devils, the basis of the myths and religious lore of humankind. Archetypes manifest in different symbolic images in each person. Archetypes provide the structure or mold. The specific symbolic form of the images differs from culture to culture. The manner in which an archetype finds expression in the psyche differs in everyone. Each person will experience the archetype through his or her unique lens of perception, depending on individual experience.
Jung considered four major archetypes as separate systems within the personality: persona, shadow, anima/animus, and the Self. Other examples of archetypes include the mother, father, child, hero/heroine, warrior, witch, wise man/woman, wounded healer, trickster, lover, fool, savior, thief and many other.
By becoming increasingly aware of the immense role that archetypal patterns play in our lives, we can expand our consciousness. When we increase our awareness of and understand the narratives that run like threads through the fabric of our lives, we are able to be mindful and responsive in the world, instead feeling at the mercy of the fates and eruptions of feeling.
Image credit: Vitruvian Human - Amanda Sage @amandasageart https://www.amandasage.com/
A social media post I wrote for @jungsouthernafrica
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