Jung used the term "archetypal behaviors" to include all psychological realities that are typical, stereotypical, or universal. Archetypal behaviors are typical, eternally repeated behaviors among human beings.
Okay... okay... when a newborn baby smiles - its smile is a universal, archetypal behavior. When a newborn baby suckles, frowns, cries - all these instinctive behaviors are archetypal.
Another archetypal behavior? - Most young animals (including humans) have an inborn urge to relate to some sort of a mother figure. So simple inborn, primal instincts such as hunger, reproduction (sex), mother, and anger are all part of the wide range of behaviors that fall within the category of archetypal behaviors.
But Wait... it gets much more complicated...
Jung also believed that many of our more complex social behaviors
and/or "rituals" are also inborn, universal, archetypal behaviors... The intricate mating games and courtship rituals that we humans (as well as other animals) engage in are then also considered to be universal, archetypal behaviors.
A good example of this (and hold on to your hat and take a giant chill pill) is the proverbial "the lover's triangle." Ever taken a good hard look at a "traditional" depiction of the Tarot card called "the Lover?" It's a picture of a man caught between his desire for two very different types of women.
So "the Lover's Triangle" is an archetypal repeated behavior? Yep, it's a very ancient archetypical pattern of behavior going all the way back to the times of the Caveman and the Cavewoman (and you thought you made it up, didn't you)! It's happened innumerable times in history, and it'll happen to humans again and again and again. Not much comfort when you're "caught up" in one, eh?
(And for the ladies in the audience? Let's not get too haughty about it being the guy - believe me, it happens just as easily and frequently on the "other side of the street..." Been there, done that.)
But wait! It gets even more complex.
Going far beyond the basic instincts... and
going beyond social, relational "instincts" (rituals or behaviors)... Jung saw the human desire for spirituality - our
need for experiencing "the Eternal" (i.e. God) - as being an inborn archetypal behavior.
"If therefore, we speak of "God" as an "archetype," we are saying nothing about His real nature - but are rather letting it be known that "God" already
has a place in that part of our psyche which is pre-existent
to consciousness. And that therefore God cannot be considered
merely an invention of consciousness. We neither make Him more
remote or eliminate Him, but bring Him closer to the possibility
of being experienced....
The psyche of the infant in its preconscious state is anything but a tabula rasa (blank sheet); it is already preformed in a recognizably individual way, and is moreover equipped with all specifically human instincts, as well as with the a priori foundations of the higher functions...
And if, by employing the concept of "archetype," we attempt to define a little more closely the point at which the "god" grips us, we have not abolished anything, only approached closer to the source of life." Short Excerpt from Memories, Dreams, and Reflections
Interesting possibility, huh? We're born with the desire to know and experience God...
Repeating Myself... (no pun intended)
Archetypal behaviors are typical, eternally repeated behaviors among human beings. Sure, different cultures dress them up and put different clothes on them... but the core image and energy is
the same. The core image and energy is "typical."
And Again - what Causes These Archetypal, Universal, Typical Behaviors?
The Archetypes (inherent predispositions) residing in the "unconscious..." That, of course, gets us back to the original reason as to why you decided to read this section on archetypes...
And so how does one start to get a handle on archetypes? Jung found a couple of primary places where "archetypal images" could be found and then systematically studied...
Jung found many of the archetypal images "projected" into the symbols of mythology, religion, and alchemy. And in a 1911 letter written to Sigmund Freud, Jung even makes the bold suggestion that astrology (see the rest of my site) seems to be one of the "indispensable" places
to go for a proper understanding of mythology.
Jung found the "archetypal images" residing in our dreams and in our imagination. Yep, this includes both our day dreams (fantasies/imagination) and our night dreams. (See Field of Dreams)
Okay, okay... you're right... I still haven't told you what the core essence of an archetype is... There's a good reason for that.. I don't know what the core essence of an archetype is... and neither does anyone else (for that matter)...
"There is nothing I am quite sure about. I have no definite convictions - not about anything really ... When Lao Tzu says: 'All are clear, I alone am clouded,' he is expressing what I feel in advanced old age" (Jung
- Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, 1965: 358-59).
Disclaimer: To any of you "By the Book" experts out there... Yes, I'm aware Jung sometimes makes a point of distinguishing instincts from archetypes... but there are plenty of other times that he doesn't...
"Together the patient and I address ourselves
to the 2,000,000-year-old-man that is in all of us… in the
last analysis; most of our problems come from losing contact with
our instincts, with the age-old unforgotten wisdom stored up in us." CG
Jung Speaking, p 89, (McGuire and Hull) Princeton University Press
the extent that the archetypes intervene in the shaping of conscious
regulating, modifying, and motivating them, they act like the instincts."
Jung (CW 8,
Archetypes: Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
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A hearty hello to those high school students enrolled in J. Wall's Mythology class! "For it is not that "God" is a myth, but that myth is the revelation of a divine life in man." [Jung - Memories, Dreams, and Reflections]