Archetypes

ARCHETYPES SUPPLY THE MOTIFS with which to structure the chaos of experience and they also structure the developing psyche itself. At this juncture it is important to briefly try and consider the nature of archetypes and, in particular, certain component archetypes of the psyche – for example the ego, persona, self, psychoid and God-image (Imago Dei) – which, as we shall see later, figure prominently in certain conceptions of landscape. Carl Jung argued that:

“the archetypes are as it were the hidden foundations of the conscious mind, or, to use another comparison, the roots which the psyche has sunk, not only in the earth in the narrower sense but in the world in general. Archetypes are systems of readiness for action, and at the same time images and emotions.”[i]

However Jung’s definitions of the ‘collective unconscious’ and ‘archetypes’ are fluid. Heisig claims that Jung “invokes for the archetypes at least three different theoretical functions: (1) as models for classifying psychological data, such archetypes are used as offering evidence helping to suggest the hypothesis of a collective unconscious (2) as specific innate patterns of psychic behaviour, they function as the formal causes of the psychic phenomena that constitute the data (3) as the primordial structures behind specific fantasy-images, they are said to embody the meaning of the processes of collective unconscious”[ii] Whatever the precise and definitive definition of Jung’s concepts of the ‘collective unconscious’ and ‘archetypes’, there is no doubt that he was the first immediate father of archetypal psychology. It is from Jung, for example, that comes the idea that:

“the basic and universal structures of the psyche, the formal patterns of its relational modes, are archetypal patterns. These are like psychic organs, congenitally given with the psyche itself (yet not necessarily genetically inherited), even if somewhat modified by historical and geographic factors. These patterns or archai appear in the arts, religions, dreams, and social customs of all peoples, and they manifest spontaneously in mental disorders. For Jung they are anthropological and cultural, and also spiritual in that they transcend the empirical world of time and place.”[iii]

Hillman, who takes a rather postmodern line, emphasises the cultural, mythical, metaphorical and imaginal aspects of archetypes: “archetypal psychology’s first links are with culture and imagination rather than with medical and empirical psychologies, which tend to confine psychology to the positivistic manifestations of the nineteenth-century condition of the soul”.[iv] For Hillman the irreducible language of archetypes is found in the “metaphorical discourse of myths”, thus:

“To study human nature at its most basic level, one must turn to culture (mythology, religion, art, architecture, epic, drama, ritual) where these patterns are portrayed. The full implication of this move away from bio-chemical, socio-historical, and personal-behavioristic bases for human nature and toward the imaginative has been articulated by Hillman as “the poetic basis of mind”. Support for the archetypal and psychological significance of myth, besides the work of Jung, comes from Ernest Cassirer, Karl Kerenyi, Erich Neumann, Heinrich Zimmer, Gilbert Durand, Joseph Campbell, and David Miller.”[v]

The second immediate father of archetypal psychology is Henry Corbin (1903-1978), the French scholar, philosopher, mystic and translator/interpreter of early Islamic and pre-Islamic mystical thought.[vi] And, as Hillman points out, the predecessors of Jung and Corbin go back to:

“…the Neoplatonic tradition via Vico and the Renaissance (Ficino), through Proclus and Plotinus, to Plato (Phaedo, Phaedrus, Meno, Symposium, Timaeus), and most recently to Heraclitus (Corbin’s works on Avicenna, Ibn’Arabi, and Sohrawardi belong also to this tradition as does the work of Kathleen Raine on William Blake [1758-1835] and on Thomas Taylor, the English translator of the main writings of Plato and the Neoplatonists.”[vii]


[i] C.G. Jung, ‘Mind and Earth’, in: The Collected Works of C.G. Jung,( 1953-78). vol.10, para. 53.

[ii] See James W. Heisig (1979) Imago Dei – A Study of C.G. Jung’s Psychology of Religion, 137.

[iii] James Hillman, (1993) Archetypal Psychology, 2.

[iv] Ibid, 1.

[v] Ibid, 3.

[vi] Ibid, 3.

[vii] Ibid, 4.

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