Author Topic: Defining Archetype  (Read 10971 times)

Matt Koeske

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Defining Archetype
« on: June 13, 2007, 05:19:26 PM »
I belong to a minority group of Jungian thinkers that prefers to define technical terms in as efficient and clear a way as possible.  Therefore, when I have given a working definition of an archetype, I've been inclined to say "It is an instinct, period," in order to avoid as much confusion as possible.  But as I've recently read about 50 different definitions for archetype, I can see that it remains a confusing concept for Jungians and non-Jungians both.

I have taken my own personal eclectic survey of these definitions (95% of them come from Jung himself, who I feel obscured the archetype by giving so many, sometimes conflicting, definitions of it . . . as much as he illuminated it).  Somewhat selfishly, I prefer my culled definition of archetype to any other definition I've come across yet.  So, I suppose I will throw my hat into the ring, too.

An archetype is an instinct.

At Wikipedia we read:
Quote
Instinct is the inherent disposition of a living organism toward a particular behavior. Instincts are generally inherited patterns of responses or reactions to certain kinds of stimuli. Instinct provides a response to external stimuli, which moves an organism to action, unless overridden by intelligence, which is creative and more versatile.

I would add something that is implied in the above but not elucidated: instincts, being genetic/inherited, have evolved or proven themselves to be adaptive (i.e., have been naturally selected) for the species in possession of, or possessed by, them.  Instincts are thus survival oriented, and they don't only reinforce the survival of individual organisms, but (and perhaps more specifically) they reinforce the survival of groups or whole species.  This is especially noticeable in social animals like human beings.  We have strong instincts for sociality, a sociality that powerfully reinforces our survival.

Now for the problems . . . .

1.) Why not just call archetypes instincts then?  This is partly due to Jung's lack of contemporary biological knowledge (although he often came very close to calling them instincts, Jung waffled between the instinct-as-archetype and the representation of the instinct as archetype).  It is also partly due to an age-old prejudice in our species that devalues and tries to disown instinctuality (seeing instinct as only a characteristic of "lower animals" or "beasts").  This prejudice should not be underestimated; it is still very much alive, sometimes even among biologists . . . and always among more spiritualistic thinkers (i.e., those who believe human beings have special, non-corporeal souls or spirits that differentiate them from other animals . . . "ghosts in the machine" by which our unique consciousness and intelligence are derived).

This prevailing prejudice has led us to typically see the instincts most specific and important to our species as non-biological or non-animalistic.  So when Jung wrote of archetypes like the anima/animus, the wise old man/woman, or the hero, he was talking about instincts that seemed to be specific to our species (and therefore, instincts largely dealing with consciousness and of specifically human sociality).  I don't entirely agree that such archetypes are "purely human", though.  As I have discussed elsewhere (for instance, in Agism and the Animi), I thing the animi archetypes are founded in the pre-human instinct of leaving the nest/finding a mate.  The hero archetype is also connected to this instinctual drive to leave the nest or separate oneself from the parent.

I have recently proposed a mostly human instinct (uniquely human perhaps in its degree rather than in its basic form or purpose) that I call the "super-adaptive instinct".  My theory is that this is the instinct guiding individuation, and that it evolved as part of our extremely dualistic consciousness (the severely dissociated ego and Self).  The super-adaptive instinct would be a coordinating instinct that channels other more primal instincts (i.e., the animi and hero) in the establishment and ongoing reconstruction of the ego.  Therefore, the super-adaptive instinct attempts to reconstruct the ego in such a way that it (the ego) can adapt both to the instinctual needs of the organism (the Self's Will or libido) and to the social/environmental needs of the organism (culture/sociality).  I call it "super-adaptive", because it works very much like evolutionary adaptation (adaptation to an environment or niche), albeit without the constraint of extremely slow genetic mutation.  It "mutates" ego strategies at the "rate of thought" (more specifically, the mental and emotional processing of complex experiences) rather than at the rate of genetic mutation.

The super-adaptive instinct is something like an advance in software, taking advantage of the powerful hardware of the human brain.  It is software that can only run on hardware as advanced as this, and has been enabled or potentiated by this advanced hardware.  I use this analogy, because this scenario is fairly common in contemporary computer technology where hardware frequently restricts the potential of software development.  The super-adaptive instinct is a very complex program, perhaps something like an operating system that must host an coordinate other, older, simpler instincts.

And the comparison to the ever-buggy Microsoft Windows OS is really quite apt . . . especially when we consider the onslaught of service packs and updates required to make the damn thing work properly (or "adapt").  I.e., the ego (that thing inspired by the super-adaptive instinct's relationship to the environment) is flaky and breaks down pretty easily.  The blue screen of death.  The recent personified Mac vs. PC commercials give a clever advertising twist on the theme of adaptability.  I.e., they suggest that the PC is a proverbial dinosaur, that it's maladaptive in comparison to the Mac.  Therefore (in line with actual human psychology), the personified PC is always exhibiting a slew of neurotic symptoms.

Of course the super-adaptive instinct would fit into the analogy above as the Will that seeks to create a PC (or Mac) that is adaptive and high-functioning and can respond to the demands placed on it by the environment . . . rather than the specific end-product.  Microsoft's design and sales goals are like ego's neurotic complexes that seem to hold back the adaptivity or functionality of their OS.  They would represent deviations from the Will of the super-adaptive instinct.

My belief is that the postulate of such an instinct is necessary, because the animi, hero, and other instincts do not account for all of the instinctual impetus behind ego/Self relationships.  That is, if the animi represent (to state it reductively) mating instincts, I couldn't see why this would require the kind of increase in consciousness that individuation inspires.  Therefore, it seemed to me that the mating instinct had to be harnessed to another instinct (the super-adaptive instinct) in order to channel instinctual libido into individuation.  And as we can see quite clearly in alchemical symbolism (Sol and Luna uniting), the individuation process definitely harnesses sexual drives at least in its initial stages.  Anyone who has been seized by the anima or animus understands this implicitly.

There is another important reason why archetypes are not simply called instincts, which I will discuss below.

2.) Are archetypes images or "patterns of behavior" or something purely biological?  This problem is, I believe, the key cause of confusion in Jungian (and anti-Jungian) thinking about archetypes.  Skeptics have long criticized Jung's notion of archetype for being "Lamarckian".  That is, for the implied idea that images or symbols could be inherited (although it should be noted that Jung mostly did not say this).  This notion is not compatible with contemporary evolutionary biology (which is Darwinian, not Lamarckian).  We now know that inheritance is a matter of genetic mutations that proved adaptive and were reinforced by reproduction.

So the notion that archetypes are in any way images is not scientifically viable.  It should simply be discarded.  Why the confusion then?

Because there are archetypes and there are archetypal images . . . the two must be differentiated.  The simplest way to think about this is to see that there are instincts in themselves and then there are our perceptions of those instincts.  Instincts (I will forgo the appendage "in themselves" as this is implied by the term "instincts") are genetically inherited.  They are biological.  But they also appear to be "non-local" (i.e., there is not one spot in our brains or bodies where a specific instinct is materially housed).  Instincts in all species seem to exist in potentia, and they drive an organism's interactions with its environment (or with other members of its species).  That is, they typically require the environment in order to manifest properly, in order to become complete.  Without the necessary environment, they are only improperly realized drives toward some form of organized behavior.

We can see this in the archetypes of our species, perhaps most of all when we do not find or allow ourselves to exist in the kinds of environments needed to complete our instinctual drives.  Our neuroses and complexes are often founded in archetypes that have not discovered a way to access their necessary environments.  For most species, such a denial of instinct would eventually spell extinction, but we can often stumble on with the aid of our providential, sheltering societies.  But in the grip of such complexes, the archetypal need is often quite nebulous, even unintelligible at first.

What we experience instead of an unconscious will that directly compels a specific action or behavior is an onslaught of "consciousness-invading" images, symbols, feelings, and moods.  Why?  Well, how might other animals experience their drives and instincts?  We are animals that live inside elaborate psyches.  Our experience of reality is one made up of complex narrative streams.  We perceive the world and our inner states narratively and anthropomorphically.  We personify.  We relate all input (from without and within) to what we already know or to our sense of self.  We (as personalities) are collections of strategic stories, stories that we identify with and that represent our decision making and valuation systems.

When we perceive our instincts welling up to compel us toward a specific behavior, we perceive them as we perceive all input and see them as personified, narrative, and symbolic (i.e., highly condensed complexes of valuation and relational image/sensation memory).  Since we instinctively personify or project our sense of mind onto everything (in order to understand it and for strategic relationships with it), we are inclined to personify instincts . . . all the more so, because they appear to have will and a specific desire to motivate us to act in a certain way.  That is, we think that if something has a will, it has a mind . . . and if it has a mind it is human (or humanesque, at least . . . like aliens or intelligent "spirit animals").  We could also express this anthropomorphism as an instinct for animism, for seeing spirits in everything that demonstrates "will" (as all living things do, as well as all things that change or move or seem to present themselves relationally to us, e.g., mountains and landscapes, celestial bodies, weather, water, etc.).

I am suggesting here that the model for spirit is instinct, and that animism is instinct/spirit projected into things (just as instinct feels "other" and perhaps outside to us).

But these perceptions, narrative and personified, are archetypal images.  These images are not truly equivalent to the instinctual archetypes, but are egoic perceptions of them.  These egoic perceptions are basically limitless in their potential variety . . . but they all cohere to an archetypal potential.  And by cohere, I mean that they are logically associated with the purpose of the particular instinct.  This logical connection can sometimes be tricky to suss out due to the abstractness of personalization . . . but once we understand how an individual thinks and perceives and values and associates, we can see the logical connection between their archetypal images and the instinctual archetype from which they are derived.  In some sense, the archetypal images can be "reduced" (traced back) to the archetype itself.

But it is important to note that such reductionism, although it can trace an archetypal image to its root, does not provide a complete explanation or demonstrate a "meaning" of the archetype.  This meaning is a matter of personal interaction with the archetype, and it necessitates a complicated mixture of memory, ego strategies, and "adaptational situation".  To say something is rooted in instinct and to relate it to biology does not "satisfy the gods" or tell us how to manage a situation that perplexes and overwhelms us.  But understanding the instinctuality and biology at the root allows us to have a tether to "the Real".  I think it is beneficial to keep reminding oneself that the purpose of such a situation is to find an adaptive solution and that our complexes tend to be matters of conflict between instinctual drives and dysfunctional ego-strategies.  Also, being able to spot a specific instinct at work (say, the animi instinct) can give us orientation when we think about the purpose of such an instinct biologically. 

If we try to go at these predicaments sans tether, we can very easily get lost in our narrative abstractions.  That is, we can conflate ego-desires with instinctual drives.  Therefore, seeing archetypes (and the spirit) as instincts can function like a mantra that reminds us that 1.) the will that compels us to change is distinctly Other and beyond our control, and 2.) the will of this Other is ultimately adaptive, functional, healing, orienting, libido circulating (although the negotiation between the instinctual will and the demands of modern culture can require very complicated and novel compromises).

When thinking about archetypes in terms of gods or spirit, we lose an important level of differentiation, and potentially, a notable degree of adaptability.  There is substantially more conflation between ego and Self in spiritualistic language or the spiritualistic mindset than in the biological . . . perhaps because the notion of ego tends to be overvalued in spiritual languages.  That is, attributes of the ego are granted to the instincts (or to the Self) in spiritualism.  E.g., intelligence, conscious willfulness, a concern for laws or abstract strategies, elation or transcendence (as opposed to survival and adaptation), etc.

It is also worth mentioning that when we start to bemoan the notion that archetypes are "only biological", we are failing to understand the complexity of biology and biological systems.  Spiritualistic or egoic language may offer a more compelling (i.e., anthropomorphic) description of archetypal interactions, but this language is more reductive than biological or scientific languages can potentially be.  The anecdote I have used before (and will reiterate) is the comparison between Creation and evolution.  Yes, classic Creationism is more anthopically compelling (a more humanistic story), but it lacks the complexity and natural elegance of evolution (as a system of coming into the world).  Evolution may lack some of Creationism's unsolvable, nebulous mysterious, but it is in many ways more wondrous as a process (for all its chance and coincidence and complex interrelationality).  It should also be mentioned that Creationist myths give us symbolic narratives regarding the formation of the ego and not the development of the human species.  That is, they are ego-centric . . . as we might expect them to be considering they are egoic perceptions of an archetypal, instinctual event (i.e., the emergence/differentiation of ego-consciousness from the unconscious).

3.) Why are archetypes numinous and what does that really mean?  The notion that numinousness is an abstract, transcendental, spiritual state is a prejudicial self-deception.  But it is completely understandable that we would perceive the numen of archetypes in this anthropomorphic way.  If instincts were impotent and utterly under our control, they wouldn't be very effective instincts . . . and would never have evolved.  The numen of archetypes is the power of instinctual Will compelling our behavior.

If we look more closely into the numen, it is not difficult to recognize it as a kind of chemical (or maybe bioelectric) effect, perhaps not unlike an adrenaline rush or a fight/flight response.  That is, it doesn't seem to be a neocortical function.  To be in the presence of the numen is a primal feeling.  But because of the chemical nature of numinousness, it is possible to differentiate it as a kind of coloring from the thing itself being colored (in most cases, an idea, feeling, or strategy that is being compelled by an archetype).  This "coloring" denotes profound value, value that must in some way be acted upon.

Like any peak or altered state, numinousness is also addictive.  The feeling/sensation itself is so powerful, so transcendent, so elating or expansive or freeing, that we often want to return to it as much as possible (it seems to provide the only, or at least the easiest, way to access transcendence or freedom from socially-constructed egoism).  It could also be terrifying . . . but in a way that "makes us feel more alive" or more meaningful.  But I contend that this is a dangerous preoccupation (as any addiction tends to be), because the numen is meant to help compel a certain, adaptive behavior or strategy.  If we choose to continue to return to the numen without adopting the reinforced strategy, we run the risk of falling into Bad Faith . . . or a state of neurotic dissociation from our instincts.  Such numen-worship/addiction is one of those ways of "cheating" our bodies.  Since our bodies are "more mechanical" or conditionable than our egos, we can stimulate them in ways that compel them to provide certain responses (that we find pleasurable and meaningful).  These behaviors might not serve any adaptive or healthy function at all . . . but because they feel good, we return to them again and again (and our species is by no means alone in this preoccupation).

But since these pleasurable, altered states are "chemical additives" meant to reinforce specific, adaptive experiences . . . and can be differentiated from those experiences, we can loose ourselves from the biological purposes (compelled behaviors or strategies) of these pleasure reinforcements.  In other words, contact with the numen of archetypes is not in itself equivalent to following the will of those archetypes.  The numen merely tells us that something potentially important lies here . . . what to do about this important potential is still largely in the hands of the ego.  And the ego may perceive the instinct-compelled behavior as unwelcome or too difficult to enact . . . even as it falls in love with the numinous sensation of perceiving the archetype.

The Work, then, is not merely a matter of having archetypal perceptions and visions, or even of granting a religious value to these visions, but of choosing to interpret these visions as motivations on which to take specific actions or formulate specific strategies.  This particular issue (the dissociation between perception and action) is the deep wound in the Jungian mindset.  Most of us are (or first came to Jung because we were) numen-worshipers.  We perceive the unconscious and delight in its power and wonder . . . but we do not often take action as it compels us to.  In this sense, we tend to live in Bad Faith and to usurp the instinctual unconscious for its chemical effects rather than its adaptivity.

In saying this, I don't mean to disparage the numen of archetype.  It is another part of the biological instinct.  That is, it evolved because it proved adaptive.  I don't think the numen "lies".  I think the ego manages to cleverly misinterpret and misappropriate the numen in many cases.  If we can recognize that the numen of the archetype is basically equivalent to the compelling value of the archetype, but not equivalent to the behavior the archetype compels, then we stand a better chance of living more instinctually and adaptively (in Good Faith) rather than egocentrically and neurotically.

The problem of archetypal inflation is characterized in this scenario.  Archetypal inflation is a state in which the numen of an archetype is appropriated for ego-gratification or strategic self-protection.  In this state, the ego is "too close to the numen", and cannot effectively differentiate itself from that numen.  But the numen is recognized as powerful, and empowerment is a highly effective ego-strategy.  If the inflated individual can find others to reinforce the inflation, then s/he may be able to "hide behind the numen" indefinitely, never abiding by the Will of the archetype itself.  This individual will fight tooth and nail to interpret all of the feedback from the instinctual unconscious opposing this ego-strategy as evidence of the suffering plight of his or her genius or avatarhood.  That is, the "persecution" of the ego by the Self will be projected onto others, onto anyone who doesn't accept the individual as the embodiment of the numen.  The individual who falls into this predicament will have to increasingly conceal his or her dreams, fantasies, and instinctual wellings up of feeling from his/her disciples, thus perpetuating the personal mystique.  The entire illusion depends on this mystique, and the inflated individual will do everything possible to perpetuate the mystique . . . probably believing all along that this is part of the divine calling, or that truth can only be found in the esoteric or arcane or occult . . . in riddles and abstract obfuscations and abstruse mysticisms.

4.) OK, so archetype are instincts.  Big deal.  What the hell do we do with them?  As I mentioned above, I do believe the biological language can help bring meaning and definition to archetypes and aid in the differentiation of ego from archetype . . . but this is no magic guarantee that the relationship with our archetypes will become easy for us.  Not even remotely.  Bringing a conscious, intellectual understanding to archetypes does not relieve them in any way of their power over us.  Science isn't word magic.  Knowing the name of a thing does not relieve it of its power or mana.  Most of the time, even if we utilize biological language to understand our archetypal predicaments and complexes, we will still be swept up in the narrative drama of the process.  And this should not in any way be opposed, in my opinion.  We are human and this is how we naturally perceive our instincts.

In order to follow the cues of these instincts, we must work through the symbolic narratives.  Scientific language won't help us in our personal quests to change and adapt.  In other words, the psyche is real.  At least as far as we are concerned.  It can't be transcended or depotentiated by act of will or intellectual trickery.  We might know in some rational corner of our minds that our anima is part mating instinct, part super-adaptive instinct, but it won't make any difference when it comes time for us to interact with it.  We will still fall in love, lose ourselves, obsess, project, dissolve, etc.  We will still be forced to personify the instinct and interact with and relate to the instinct as a person, as She.  And our instinctual process will not be a riddle to solve with wit alone, but a difficult transformation that is likely to take years, even decades, to complete.

I think it is important for us to remind ourselves that the "advice" of the archetypes cannot be taken up by conscious decision alone.  Consciousness, in this situation, is limited to acceptance or refusal of stepping into the process.  But the process itself is an adaptation, a maturation, an evolution.  Additionally, there is no pre-made answer to how one should follow an instinct.  Adaptation takes a lot of trial and error, and therefore an ability to accept the inevitability of failures.  The secret to "perfect living" is not locked away in our instinctual Selves waiting for us to merely realize it.  There is only the Will and the capability (or plasticity) to adapt in the instinctual unconscious.  Finding a way to guide that Will successfully into living is a tremendously difficult task that relatively few people succeed at in any significant way (in modern society).

But as our understanding of how the Self and the psyche function increases, as our language to explain these things becomes increasingly efficient and accurate, we stand an increasingly better chance of learning how to live in Good Faith, in adaptivity or equilibrium with our environments.

Jung left us so many confusing and contradictory definitions of archetype that it is no wonder the concept has always been confusing.  But we now live in an era in which the biological, evolutionary language to better clarify and revise the definition of archetype is available.  It is up to us, then, to extricate ourselves from the numinous mystique of the multiplex definitions and abstractions surrounding the archetype itself.  Understanding archetype as instinct (and archetypal image as our perception of instinct) can greatly facilitate our contemporary understanding of the psyche and help us finish (or at least further) the work that Jung started in the conjunction of psyche and matter.  Since Jung died, Jungian psychology has been regressing steadily to a state of opposition between psyche (or spirit) and matter.  This is a retreat from individuation and gnostic science back into a kind of animism.  Although some Jungians congratulate themselves for "returning the spirit to matter" in this way, I don't believe they have accomplished this in the alchemical sense (i.e., adaptively).  They became half-wise from venturing into the unconscious, but then decided to retreat back to a providential/parental/religious/totemic relationship to the unconscious.  In this retreat, consciousness, adaptivity, and the embrace of instinctual libido have been sacrificed for "religious security" and the egoic will to believe merely what pleases it (the ego) most.

But the gnostic drive is the drive behind individuation and behind the idea of the scientific method.  To keep to the path of the pursuit of knowing is to listen to the instinctual Will to adapt.  This is perhaps the greatest contribution of gnostic thinking: to demonstrate that the path of knowing is not a path that deposes meaning or spirituality.  To know or to be conscious does not threaten the gods (i.e., the instincts).  It only threatens the prevailing rigidity of the ego's sense of itself.  So, yes, gnosis is dangerous, as it encourages change in the ego . . . but it is not dangerous to the relationship between humanity and God (the ego and the Self).  When we fear that "rationalism" or "scientific reductionism" will wound our gods, it is a sure indication that our gods are largely made up of ego that we have erected certain beliefs around in an attempt not to realize our own self-worship.

The "real" gods are not shaken or deposed by our ideas.  They will be with us whether we resist or embrace them, taking whatever shapes they must.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2007, 05:42:48 PM by Matt Koeske »
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Kafiri

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Re: Defining Archetype
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2007, 10:59:54 PM »
Matt,
This article appears to say many of the same things you do in your post:  www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/papers/EJP.pdf  Do you know this author?
Cheers,
Kafiri
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Matt Koeske

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Re: Defining Archetype
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2007, 08:43:11 AM »
Matt,
This article appears to say many of the same things you do in your post:  www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/papers/EJP.pdf  Do you know this author?
Cheers,
Kafiri

Thanks, Kafiri!

I hadn't read this yet and don't know MacLennan.  I'm glad to see that some Jungians are open to evolutionary psychology and neuroscience.  Still, I was slightly disheartened by what I took as "hand-holding" in the article.  I don't blame MacLennan.  It's disheartening to think that a professional community needs such a basic argument to convince them of the value of evolutionary biological ideas.  The tone of the article says a great deal about the way MacLennan images his audience (and I trust he knows the professional Jungian audience better than I do).

But the real debate shouldn't be whether evolutionary psychology has something to contribute to Jungian psychology (or even vice versa).  That should be recognized as a given.  The discussion should be more advanced and the debate should be over precisely how biology affects/constructs archetypal and psychic phenomena.  So far I've read four or five Jungian stabs at incorporating some aspects of evolutionary biology and/or neuroscience . . . and all of these stabs were slightly different from one another.  And all are slightly different than my own preferred approach.

I worry that the problem with trying to teach Jungians a remedial approach to evolutionary biology or neuroscience is very much like the problem of trying to "dumb down" Jung's ideas for a more novice audience.  That is, you lose some of the most valuable pieces of the philosophy/science.  From what I've read, many of the subtleties in evolutionary thinking are still being debated by the experts in that field.  There's more agreement in evolutionary psychology than there is in quantum physics, for instance, but Jungians (I think) should be very cautious about dipping into the well of another field without really understanding the prevailing thinking in that field sufficiently.

I mean to say that Jungians cannot merely adopt a few ideas from evolutionary psychology.  They have to partake of the field and read more of the literature.  If we let ourselves be intellectual scavengers (only nipping out a little bit unquestioningly from one field or another), we will only ever learn how to suit our preexisting ideas.  We will only look for supporting ideas from other fields that seem to bolster our intuitive ideas.  This seems to me an intellectuality in Bad Faith.

Jung himself was a better scholar (though some still fault him).  He actually explored the other fields he drew from extensively (e.g., theology, anthropology, mythology, symbology, alchemy).  I think Jung formulated his notions based on the data he collected from all of these fields.  He didn't have a completely pre-made idea for which he then shopped around (in other fields) to find the perfect hat.  His approach was largely scientific in that he wanted to learn from the data available.  He was an interpreter of various data, not a creative writer, per se.  Just think of how suspicious he was of his artistic talents and inclinations.

I relate to that aspect of Jung (i.e., Jung the scientist) . . . even though I am more openly an artistic personality than he was.  When I first started reading evolutionary psychology about 5 years ago, I completely reordered my thinking based on the data and arguments that seemed valid to me.  I didn't say, "Hey, this has to be conformed to Jungian theory!"  Quite the opposite.  It's Jungian theory that has to keep growing to keep in touch with other fields and with the scientific method.  I think Jung would have been the first to admit that he didn't have it all figured out and that those that followed him would have to keep learning and maintain a scientific attitude.

I will post another biology/neuroscience article by a Jungian in the Science and Psychology forum.

Yours,
Matt
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Bruce MacLennan

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Re: Defining Archetype
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2007, 08:25:28 PM »
As Matt noted, my article, "Evolutionary Jungian Psychology," does some hand holding. I was trying to convince Jungian psychologists of the contributions that evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, and Jungian psychology can make to each other.  In particular, I wanted to dispel the fear that bringing evol. psych. and neurosci. into Jungian psychology would lead to materialist reductionism and a devaluing of lived experience.  Certainly, the ongoing development of evol. psych. and neurosci. will have much to contribute to Jungian psych., and I agree that specific research results should be incorporated as they become available.  Conversely, empirical research in Jungian psychology can help keep evol. psych. and neurosci. from limiting themselves to easily observable & measurable phenomena.

In my own thinking, I have been influenced by the work of Anthony Stevens (Archetype Revisited, The Two Million-Year-Old Self; Stevens & Price: Evolutionary Psychiatry), which make more specific use of evol. psych. & neurosci. than I was able to do in my short article.  (Indeed, one of the main purposes of my article is to get more Jungians to read Stevens.)  Certainly, this is not a finished project, but just a beginning.

Best wishes,
Bruce

P.S. I have several other articles on the topic; see <www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/other-res.html#neurotheol>.

Matt Koeske

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Re: Defining Archetype
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2007, 10:18:00 PM »

Hi Bruce and welcome to Useless Science.  Also, thank you so much for responding.

I was happy to see your article and look forward to reading the other writings you linked to.  When I first read some the evolutionary psychology literature I was instantly excited.  Although some of the earliest ideas coming out of evo. psych. were a bit limited in a materialistic sense, I could see that many of the ideas from this field were entirely compatible with Jung's archetypal theory.  In fact, my first response to evo. psych. was "these people really need to read Jung!"

But in the last years it seems that the evo. psychologists have expanded beyond some of their initially restrictive reductionism.  It's a growing, vibrant field making new discoveries (scientific and philosophical).  It reminds me of the early days of Freudian psychoanalysis . . . complete with persecution (this time it's from the social constructionists).  Still, I feel that the phenomenological and experiential (both clinical and personal) data from Jungian psychology could serve as an essential "missing link" for some of the evo. psych theories.  And vice versa.

It's been about a decade since the first flood of popularized evo. psych. books hit the shelves . . . and I personally feel that that is more than enough time for Jungians to have incorporated at least some of the basic ideas (and data) from this field into an evolving Jungian theory.  Yet it seems that the Jungians who have embraced evo. psych. are still few and far between . . . and as I mentioned above, we are still communally undecided on exactly how to incorporate and apply evolutionary theories to more intuitive Jungian thinking.

That particular pursuit is one of the goals of this forum (and more specifically, my personal Work and obsession).

Thank you again for your post.  I hope you will find something here that compels you to return.  Best of luck with your research and writing!

Yours,
Matt

PS: Sold!  I will have to read Stevens now.  I've seen him referenced so many places now, I almost feel as though I already have read him.
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Matt Koeske

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Re: Defining Archetype
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2007, 10:02:32 AM »

From Daryl Sharp's Lexicon:
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Instinct. An involuntary drive toward certain activities. (See also archetype and archetypal image.)

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    All psychic processes whose energies are not under conscious control are instinctive.[Definitions," CW 6, par. 765.]

    Instincts in their original strength can render social adaptation almost impossible.["The Transcendent Function," CW 8, par. 161.]

    Instinct is not an isolated thing, nor can it be isolated in practice. It always brings in its train archetypal contents of a spiritual nature, which are at once its foundation and its limitation. In other words, an instinct is always and inevitably coupled with something like a philosophy of life, however archaic, unclear, and hazy this may be. Instinct stimulates thought, and if a man does not think of his own free will, then you get compulsive thinking, for the two poles of the psyche, the physiological and the mental, are indissolubly connected. ["Psychotherapy and a Philosophy of Life," CW 16, par. 185.]

Psychic processes which ordinarily are consciously controlled can become instinctive when imbued with unconscious energy. This is liable to occur when the level of consciousness is low, due to fatigue, intoxication, depression, etc. Conversely, instincts can be modified according to the extent that they are civilized and under con-scious control, a process Jung called psychization.

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    An instinct which has undergone too much psychization can take its revenge in the form of an autonomous complex. This is one of the chief causes of neurosis.["Psychological Factors in Human Behaviour," CW 8, par. 255.]

    Too much of the animal distorts the civilized man, too much civilization makes sick animals.
[The Eros Theory," CW 7, par. 32.]

Jung identified five prominent groups of instinctive factors: creativity, reflection, activity, sexuality and hunger. Hunger is a primary instinct of self-preservation, perhaps the most fundamental of all drives. Sexuality is a close second, particularly prone to psychization, which makes it possible to divert its purely biological energy into other channels. The urge to activity manifests in travel, love of change, restlessness and play. Under reflection, Jung included the religious urge and the search for meaning. Creativity was for Jung in a class by itself. His descriptions of it refer specifically to the impulse to create art.

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    Though we cannot classify it with a high degree of accuracy, the creative instinct is something that deserves special mention. I do not know if "instinct" is the correct word. We use the term "creative instinct" because this factor behaves at least dynamically, like an instinct. Like instinct it is compulsive, but it is not common, and it is not a fixed and invariably inherited organization. Therefore I prefer to designate the creative impulse as a psychic factor similar in nature to instinct, having indeed a very close connection with the instincts, but without being identical with any one of them. Its connections with sexuality are a much discussed problem and, furthermore, it has much in common with the drive to activity and the reflective instinct. But it can also suppress them, or make them serve it to the point of the self-destruction of the individual. Creation is as much destruction as construction.["Psychological Factors in Human Behaviour," CW 8, par. 245.]

Jung also believed that true creativity could only be enhanced by the analytic process.

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    Creative power is mightier than its possessor. If it is not so, then it is a feeble thing, and given favourable conditions will nourish an endearing talent, but no more. If, on the other hand, it is a neurosis, it often takes only a word or a look for the illusion to go up in smoke. . . . Disease has never yet fostered creative work; on the contrary, it is the most formidable obstacle to creation. No breaking down of repressions can ever destroy true creativeness, just as no analysis can ever exhaust the unconscious.[Analytical Psychology and Education," CW 17, par. 206.]

Instinct and archetype are a pair of opposites, inextricably linked and therefore often difficult to tell apart.

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    Psychic processes seem to be balances of energy flowing between spirit and instinct, though the question of whether a process is to be described as spiritual or as instinctual remains shrouded in darkness. Such evaluation or interpretation depends entirely upon the standpoint or state of the conscious mind.[On the Nature of the Psyche," CW 8, par. 407.]

When consciousness become overspiritualized, straying too far from its instinctual foundation, self-regulating processes within the psyche become active in an attempt to correct the balance. This is often signaled in dreams by animal symbols, particularly snakes.

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    The snake is the representative of the world of instinct, especially of those vital processes which are psychologically the least accessible of all. Snake dreams always indicate a discrepancy between the attitude of the conscious mind and instinct, the snake being a personification of the threatening aspect of that conflict.[The Sacrifice," CW 5, par. 615.]
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Matt Koeske

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Re: Defining Archetype
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2007, 01:19:27 PM »

From Daryl Sharp's Lexicon:
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Archetype. Primordial, structural elements of the human psyche. (See also archetypal image and instinct.)

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    Archetypes are systems of readiness for action, and at the same time images and emotions. They are inherited with the brain structure-indeed they are its psychic aspect. They represent, on the one hand, a very strong instinctive conservatism, while on the other hand they are the most effective means conceivable of instinctive adaptation. They are thus, essentially, the chthonic portion of the psyche . . . that portion through which the psyche is attached to nature.["Mind and Earth," CW 10, par. 53.]

    It is not . . . a question of inherited ideas but of inherited possibilities of ideas. Nor are they individual acquisitions but, in the main, common to all, as can be seen from [their] universal occurrence.["Concerning the Archetypes and the Anima Concept," CW 9i, par. 136.]

Archetypes are irrepresentable in themselves but their effects are discernible in archetypal images and motifs.

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    Archetypes . . . present themselves as ideas and images, like everything else that becomes a content of consciousness.[On the Nature of the Psyche," CW 8, par. 435.]

    Archetypes are, by definition, factors and motifs that arrange the psychic elements into certain images, characterized as archetypal, but in such a way that they can be recognized only from the effects they produce.["A Psychological Approach to the Trinity," CW 11, par. 222, note 2.]

Jung also described archetypes as "instinctual images," the forms which the instincts assume. He illustrated this using the simile of the spectrum.

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    The dynamism of instinct is lodged as it were in the infra-red part of the spectrum, whereas the instinctual image lies in the ultra-violet part. . . . The realization and assimilation of instinct never take place at the red end, i.e., by absorption into the instinctual sphere, but only through integration of the image which signifies and at the same time evokes the instinct, although in a form quite different from the one we meet on the biological level.["On the Nature of the Psyche," CW 8, par. 414.]



    Psychologically . . . the archetype as an image of instinct is a spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives; it is the sea to which all rivers wend their way, the prize which the hero wrests from the fight with the dragon.[Ibid., par. 415.]

Archetypes manifest both on a personal level, through complexes, and collectively, as characteristics of whole cultures. Jung believed it was the task of each age to understand anew their content and their effects.

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    We can never legitimately cut loose from our archetypal foundations unless we are prepared to pay the price of a neurosis, any more than we can rid ourselves of our body and its organs without committing suicide. If we cannot deny the archetypes or otherwise neutralize them, we are confronted, at every new stage in the differentiation of consciousness to which civilization attains, with the task of finding a new interpretation appropriate to this stage, in order to connect the life of the past that still exists in us with the life of the present, which threatens to slip away from it.["The Psychology of the Child Archetype," CW 9i, par. 267.]


Archetypal image. The form or representation of an archetype in consciousness. (See also collective unconscious.)

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    [The archetype is] a dynamism which makes itself felt in the numinosity and fascinating power of the archetypal image.["On the Nature of the Psyche," CW 8, par. 414.]

Archetypal images, as universal patterns or motifs which come from the collective unconscious, are the basic content of religions, mythologies, legends and fairy tales.

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    An archetypal content expresses itself, first and foremost, in metaphors. If such a content should speak of the sun and identify with it the lion, the king, the hoard of gold guarded by the dragon, or the power that makes for the life and health of man, it is neither the one thing nor the other, but the unknown third thing that finds more or less adequate expression in all these similes, yet-to the perpetual vexation of the intellect-remains unknown and not to be fitted into a formula.["The Psychology of the Child Archetype," CW 9i, par. 267]

On a personal level, archetypal motifs are patterns of thought or behavior that are common to humanity at all times and in all places.

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    For years I have been observing and investigating the products of the unconscious in the widest sense of the word, namely dreams, fantasies, visions, and delusions of the insane. I have not been able to avoid recognizing certain regularities, that is, types. There are types of situations and types of figures that repeat themselves frequently and have a corresponding meaning. I therefore employ the term "motif" to designate these repetitions. Thus there are not only typical dreams but typical motifs in dreams. . . . [These] can be arranged under a series of archetypes, the chief of them being . . . the shadow, the wise old man, the child (including the child hero), the mother ("Primordial Mother" and "Earth Mother") as a supraordinate personality ("daemonic" because supraordinate), and her counterpart the maiden, and lastly the anima in man and the animus in woman.["The Psychological Aspects of the Kore," ibid., par. 309.]
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Sealchan

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Re: Defining Archetype
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2008, 02:26:32 PM »
I often come to think of archetypes as patterns that are based on the structure and function of the brain and body.  Our intuition, in producing contents for consciousness, is distinguished by its "reliance" on the "conduits" particular to the human brain and body (as opposed to other theoretically possible sentient beings) to channel neural activity in such ways that patterns are discovered in our sensations, thoughts  and feelings.  These patterns arise as much from the qualities of the world as they do from the qualities of the brain that knows them.  Intuition being the so-called function of unconscious perception is really just a recognition that a considerable amount of our perceptions seem to arise from the brain itself rather than from the sensory stimuli that we take in.

Reflection back on myth and dream reveals the patterns that are universal across psyches.  These patterns are not easily explainable in terms of the direct dissemination of knowledge from one person to the next.  So we see that there are archetypes or universal patterns that seem to give form to the automatic productions of our brains of contents of consciousness.  Again, I would call these intuitions.

So in a community of self-reflective intuitors (and a philosophically inclined Jungian community is an excellent example of such a community) you can get an endless creative conversation about the archetypal character of the world because one is simply preferencing intuition as the conscious function which determines "truths" for consideration in that community.  Both the world and the psyche appear to conform to these archetypes especially as the archetypes are freed to proliferate to whatever extent necessary to cover the field of reality, whether inner or outer, that we want to consider.  The forever trick is to remember that we look at the world and ourselves through "brain-colored glasses".  It is the old philosophical nut of "is the world real or is my perception of it real?"

The only check or limitation to the "archetypal" perspective is that which arises from a preference for a sensation type construction of reality.  In this perspective the intuitive nature of archetypes is revealed as something less concrete and more provisional and even of uncertain value.  Invisible connectedness seems superfluous.  Patterns arise due to coincidence or to chance or even, more sophisticatedly, due to the idea that simple patterns simply arise frequently and our subjective isolation and combination of those patterns is purely a subjective truth with little objective value that masks the infinitude of the same connecting pattern in other phenomena that would tend to descontruct the intuitive "realization". 

For me then the furtherance of the notion of archetypes rests in identifying the source of the archetypes which is in the physical realm that lies just underneath the psychic realm.  For me this is a matter of a study of how the brain gives rise to the mind.  In this, I think, we can begin to see the universal patterns that are the sails of the physical that catch the winds of the mental in ways that take whatever wind and make it into something which the sails, masts and ship can put into the hands of the sailor-homunculi that we are for our more or less conscious manipulation.

Sealchan

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Re: Defining Archetype
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2012, 06:36:30 PM »
I should add, to connect the idea of instinct to my perspective, that instinct is commonly understood as that which we must satisfy because, in our more hard-wired layers of being, we are built to do so.  For me archetypes appear as visions or images when simple means of satisfying the instincts are stymied due to some sort of practical conflict.  For example, one wants to marry so and so but the sincerely felt demands of society and fair treatment of your fellow suitor, prevent you from doing so.  So you have a worldly image of your perfect other right there before you but you cannot consumate, you cannot satisfy the instinct!

What happens?  Libido is pooled, the mind struggles with the conflict, eventually, ideally, a third thing arises.  Insofar as it takes the form of an inner mental vision it will probably produce, what we can now all call, obvious archetypal contents.  Why?  Because of this pooling of libido due to a conflict of instinctual energies.  What results is an intuition that abstracts, relates usually unequated things (metaphor), a spiritual and necessarily non-corporeal, non-provable entity makes itself undeniably real (God, etc) to the individual.  And the meaning of its numinous, contradictory form has all the right subjective hooks to make the experiencer/producer fall on his or her knees in awe and reverence.  One has had an enlightenment or revelation.  One has perceived (intuition) what does not exist in this world (sensation).

So instinct fuels the archetypal experience but I believe that the archetype is like a flash photo that reflects off of the hardware/software of the brain.  Cortical maps are linked that in the practical world only get linked at New Age fairs.  Meaning is made but it is highly subjective and sacred (needs protecting).  It was certainly not of one's own will what one "saw" so it is unconscious, but it is not in any way simply related to a genetically determined instinctual drive.  Archetypes are always illuminated through the conflict of instincts and are not themselves simply instincts.  In a sense archetypes are the shadow of instincts, a complimentary player on the stage that is the human brain.