The Unconscious World of Dream
The concept of archetypes is central to Jungian psychology and myth analysis. However there are many different ways of looking at what exactly an archetype is (cf Heiddegger). Carol Pearson, in her book, Awakening The Heroes Within shows how five different individuals would view the idea of archetypes . . .
A Shaman, or other seeker after spiritualism, will conceive of archetypes as gods and goddesses, encoded in the collective unconscious, whom are scorned at great risk.
Academics and other rationalists, who are typically suspicious of anything that sounds mystic, may conceive of archetypes as controlling paradigms or metaphors, the invisible patterns in the mind that control how we experience the world.
Scientists may see the process of identifying archetypes as similar to other scientific processes.
Physicists learn about the smallest subatomic particles by studying the traces they leave; psychologists and other scholars study archetypes by examining their presence in art, literature, myth, and dream.
Carl Jung recognized that the archetypical mages that recurred in his patients' dreams also could be found in the myths, legends, and art of ancient peoples, as well as in contemporary iterature, religion, and art. They know that they are archetypical becausethey leave the same traces over time and space. People who are committed to religious positions that emphasize one all-encompassing God, can distinguish the spiritual truth of monotheism from the pluralistic psychological truth of archetypes. The god we mean when we speak of "The One True God" is beyond the human capacity to envision and name. The archetypes are like different facets of that God, accessible to the psyche's capacity to imagine numinous reality. Thus these archetypes helpthe person connect to the Eternal; they make great mysteries more accessible by providing multiple images. This is evident in both the Catholic idea of the Trinity (The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost), and the Buddhist idea of one Buddha (which is then divisible into the 40, the 400, and the 4000 facets or aspects of that single deity, each with it's own name and story). Finally archetypes are the primal symbols of aspects of our own nature. By identifying with one of more archetypes we can identify our own nature. By portraying these archetypes, we portray ourselves. Thus we can use these archetypes as a spiritual guide to the discovery of selfhood. And what does an archetype mean to ? That's simple. Archetypes are symbols. In the Hermetic Tradition there is very little difference between the symbol and the thing it represents. This is explicit in the Law of Association. By manipulating the symbol it is therefore also possible to directly manipulate the thing. And because archetypes are symbols representing facets of ourselves they allow us to change ourselves. As within, so without. The macrocosm embodies the microcosm.
Dreams and myths are constellations of archetypal images. They are not free compositions by an artist who plans them for artistic or informational effects. Dreams and myths happen to human beings. The archetype speaks through us. It is a presence and a possibility of "significance." The ancients called them "gods" and "goddesses."
What then is an archetype? Jung discovered that humans have a "preconscious psychic disposition that enables a (man) to react in a human manner." These potentials for creation are actualized when they enter consciousness as images. There is a very important distinction between the "unconscious, pre- existent disposition" and the "archetypal image." The archetype may emerge into consciousness in myriads of variations. To put it another way, there are a very few basic archetypes or patterns which exist at the unconscious level, but there are an infinite variety of specific images which point back to these few patterns. Since these potentials for significance are not under conscious control, we may tend to fear them and deny their existence through repression. This has been a marked tendency in Modern Man, the man created by the French Revolution, the man who seeks to lead a life that is totally rational and under conscious control.
Where do the archetypes come from? In his earlier work, Jung tried to link the archetypes to heredity and regarded them as instinctual. We are born with these patterns which structure our imagination and make it distinctly human. Archetypes are thus very closely linked to our bodies. In his later work, Jung was convinced that the archetypes are psychoid, that is, "they shape matter (nature) as well as mind (psyche)" (Houston Smith, Forgotten Truth, 40). In other words, archetypes are elemental forces which play a vital role in the creation of the world and of the human mind itself. The ancients called them elemental spirits How do archetypes operate? Jung found the archetypal patterns and images in every culture and in every time period of human history. They behaved according to the same laws in all cases. He postulated the Universal Unconscious to account for this fact. We humans do not have separate, personal unconscious minds. We share a single Universal Unconscious. Mind is rooted in the Unconscious just as a tree is rooted in the ground. Imagine the Universal Unconscious as a cosmic computer. Our minds are subdirectories of the root directory. If we look in our personal "work areas," we find much material that is unique to our historical experience--could only have happened to us--but it is shaped according to universal patterns. If we humans have the courage to seek the source to which our "account" belongs, we begin to discover ever more impersonal and universal patterns. The directories of the cosmic computer to which we can gain access are filled with the myths of the human species.
Modern man fancies that he has escaped the myths through his conscious repudiation of revealed religion in favor of a purely rational natural religion (read: Natural Science). But consider his theories of human origin. In the beginning, there was a Big Bang, a cosmic explosion. This is an image from which reason may begin to work, but it is not itself a rational statement. It is a mythical construct. Consider the theory of biological evolution. Man's ancestors emerge from the seas, and they in turn emerged from a cosmic soup of DNA. The majority of creation myths also begin with the same image of man emerging from primordial oceans. See Genesis 1 or the Babylonian creation epic. Consider the Modern tendency to call ourselves persons from the Latin persona. The term derives from the "mask" of Dionysus. Moderns are the wearers of masks! The reality is concealed in the darkness of mystery. This too is a mythical construct.
The most basic potential for patterning is the Shadow Archetype. This is the potential of experiencing the unconscious side of our unique personalities. As we move deeper into the dark side of our personality personal, identity begins to dissolve into "latent dispositions" common to all men. We experience the chaos which indicates that we are drawing close to the material structure of psychic life. This "Other Side" may be manifested in a wealth of images. The image of "wilderness" is fundamental. Remember that Hänsel and Gretel were led "into the woods" and were trapped. Knights discover dragons, ogres, and thieves in the woods. Robin Hood is at home in the wild. The image may be that of the mob and its underworld, an urban equivalent in which "Pretty Boy" Floyd is a hero. There is always "the concrete jungle." Dragons sail the sea, "the watery wilderness." Jesus and John the Baptist met God "in the wilderness," as did Israel at Sinai.
The Shadow is the easiest of the archetypes for most persons to experience. We tend to see it in "others." That is to say, we project our dark side onto others and thus interpret them as "enemies" or as "exotic" presences that fascinate. We see the Shadow everywhere in popular culture. He is Batman. She is Spider Woman. It is the Ninja Turtles. We see it in popular prejudice as well. We "imagine" that the Black Man is our enemy; that Communists are devils. We incline towards Hawaii as the "land of paradise." We accept people uncritically if we perceive them as "Fair Haired." Of course, Satan is the great Shadow image of popular religion (Consider: the word only occurs 54 times in the entire Bible.)
The Shadow is the personification of that part of human, psychic possibility that we deny in ourselves and project onto others. The goal of personality integration is to integrate the rejected, inferior side of our life into our total experience and to take responsibility for it.
The Anima Or Animus
The second most prevalent potential patterning is that of the Soul (Anima is the male name for soul; Animus is the female name for soul). Here we meet our inner opposite. Males meet their Anima; females their Animus. The Anima may appear as an exotic dancing girl or a weathered old hag--the form generally reflects either the condition or the needs of our soul presently. Remember the wicked witch encountered by Hänsel and Gretel. The Animus may appear as an exotic, sensual, young man or as an old grouch. Remember the Great Oz who ran the Emerald City? There is always Simon Legree who took in Little Eva. Consider Super Man and Lois Lane. Clark Kent is the inferior, shadow side of Super Man, but he is also closer to ordinary people. Lois Lane has no interest in Clark. She is infatuated with Super Man, her Animus; the masculine completion of her personality. Wonder Woman offers us an example of the Anima in action.
You must understand that these archetypes are not really biological things, like Freud's instincts. They are more spiritual demands. For example, if you dreamt about long things, Freud might suggest these things represent the phallus and ultimately sex. But Jung might have a very different interpretation. Even dreaming quite specifically about a penis might not have much to do with some unfulfilled need for sex.
It is curious that in primitive societies, phallic symbols do not usually refer to sex at all. They usually symbolize mana, or spiritual power. These symbols would be displayed on occasions when the spirits are being called upon to increase the yield of corn, or fish, or to heal someone. The connection between the penis and strength, between semen and seed, between fertilization and fertility are understood by most cultures.
The Syzygy (Divine Couple)
If one comes to terms with the Shadow and the Soul, one will encounter the enchanted castle with its King and Queen. This is a pattern of wholeness and integration. The opposites of the outer and the inner life are now joined in marriage. Great power arises from this integration. Christ and the Church, God and Israel are syzygy images. The believer who aspires to be the "bride of Christ" is modeling his or her experience in response to the syzygy archetype.
The Child Archetype is a pattern related to the hope and promise for new beginnings. It promises that Paradise can be regained. Child images like the New Year's Babe obviously derive from this archetype. So do the golden ring and the golden ball and most flower and circle related images. The birth of the Christ Child who unites Heaven and Earth, Man and God, is a powerful archetypal event. Were the life of Jesus not interpreted by this archetype, it would lose most of its meaning. Jesus would just be one more teacher from the Hellenistic world.
The ultimate pattern is the Self. For Jung this is the God image. Human self and divine self are incapable of distinction. All is Spirit. Images of Spirit abound. Wind and breath being two very common ones. The Spirit descends as a Dove upon Jesus in the wilderness. The voice declares to him his true nature: "Your are my Son, my Beloved." This is an archetypal drama of the Self. Galahad achieving the Grail and ascending with it to Heaven is likewise an archetypal drama of Self. Lancelot's failure to achieve the Grail speaks of his failure to achieve the final discovery of Self. Chariots and cars point in this direction. Remember the death car which comes in Darby O'Gill and the Little People? Enoch is taken up in a chariot of fire. Ezekiel Chapter One describes the chariot conveying God into the world.
Jung said that there is no fixed number of archetypes which we could simply list and memorize. They overlap and easily melt into each other as needed, and their logic is not the usual kind. But here are some he mentions:
Besides mother, their are other family archetypes. Obviously, there is father , who is often symbolized by a guide or an authority figure. There is also the archetype family, which represents the idea of blood relationship and ties that run deeper than those based on conscious reasons.
There is also the child, represented in mythology and art by children, infants most especially, as well as other small creatures. The Christ child celebrated at Christmas is a manifestation of the child archetype, and represents the future, becoming, rebirth, and salvation. Curiously, Christmas falls during the winter solstice, which in northern primitive cultures also represents the future and rebirth. People used to light bonfires and perform ceremonies to encourage the sun's return to them. The child archetype often blends with other archetypes to form the child-god, or the child-hero.
Many archetypes are story characters. The hero is one of the main ones. He is the mana personality and the defeater of evil dragons. Basically, he represents the ego -- we do tend to identify with the hero of the story -- and is often engaged in fighting the shadow, in the form of dragons and other monsters. The hero is, however, often dumb as a post. He is, after all, ignorant of the ways of the collective unconscious. Luke Skywalker, in the Star Wars films, is the perfect example of a hero.
The hero is often out to rescue the maiden. She represents purity, innocence, and, in all likelihood, naivete. In the beginning of the Star Wars story, Princess Leia is the maiden. But, as the story progresses, she becomes the anima, discovering the powers of the force -- the collective unconscious -- and becoming an equal partner with Luke, who turns out to be her brother.
The hero is guided by the wise old man. He is a form of the animus, and reveals to the hero the nature of the collective unconscious. In Star Wars, he is played by Obi Wan Kenobi and, later, Yoda. Notice that they teach Luke about the force and, as Luke matures, they die and become a part of him.
You might be curious as to the archetype represented by Darth Vader, the "dark father." He is the shadow and the master of the dark side of the force. He also turns out to be Luke and Leia's father. When he dies, he becomes one of the wise old men.
There is also an animal archetype, representing humanity's relationships with the animal world. The hero's faithful horse would be an example. Snakes are often symbolic of the animal archetype, and are thought to be particularly wise. Animals, after all, are more in touch with their natures than we are. Perhaps loyal little robots and reliable old spaceships -- the Falcon-- are also symbols of animal.
And there is the trickster, often represented by a clown or a magician. The trickster's role is to hamper the hero's progress and to generally make trouble. In Norse mythology, many of the gods' adventures originate in some trick or another played on their majesties by the half-god Loki.
There are other archetypes that are a little more difficult to talk about. One is the original man, represented in western religion by Adam. Another is the God archetype, representing our need to comprehend the universe, to give a meaning to all that happens, to see it all as having some purpose and direction.
The hermaphrodite, both male and female, represents the union of opposites, an important idea in Jung's theory. In some religious art, Jesus is presented as a rather feminine man. Likewise, in China, the character Kuan Yin began as a male saint (the bodhisattva Avalokiteshwara), but was portrayed in such a feminine manner that he is more often thought of as the female goddess of compassion!
The most important archetype of all is the self. The self is the ultimate unity of the personality and is symbolized by the circle, the cross, and the mandala figures that Jung was fond of painting. A mandala is a drawing that is used in meditation because it tends to draw your focus back to the center, and it can be as simple as a geometric figure or as complicated as a stained glass window. The personifications that best represent self are Christ and Buddha, two people who many believe achieved perfection. But Jung felt that perfection of the personality is only truly achieved in death.
There are two types of unconscious, the personal unconscious and the collective. The personal unconscious is pretty much self defining and doesn't need to be perceived as mysterious or supernatural (though it is occult in the truest sense of the word - 'hidden'). The personal unconscious contains all the stuff that simply isn't conscious. It contains stuff that can be made conscious by simple act of will, stuff that requires some digging, as well as stuff that may never be recalled to consciousness ever again. It is made up of the things you've experienced every day of your life. I'm not sure if it is strictly true that nothing is ever really and truly lost, totally forgotten, but it seems that the psyche is very reluctant to let much go in the event that it might come in handy someday. The psyche is a pack rat, the unconscious full of its stuff.
The personal unconscious is also a dumping ground for things we aren't comfortable with and which we'd really rather not have in consciousness very often. Repressed memories are a hot issue at the moment, but even without total all out suppression of memory, we are adept at not thinking about things we'd rather not think about.
Another interesting aspect of the personal unconscious is that recall can be influenced by context. For example, being slow to recognise a person on the street who you know very well from school or work or wherever. There is no sharp dividing line between conscious and unconscious mind.
The collective unconscious likewise is pretty much self defining. While you participate in it, it isn't your exclusive property, we all share in it. It belongs to the species. When Jung had his official doctor hat on and was defining things ex cathedra , the collective unconscious was something passed on genetically. It was like an edition of a book of which we each had our own copy. However, in more off the record materials such as letters, Jung seemed to possess a more spiritual understanding of something which we are all tapped into somehow, an understanding which would not have sold in medical circles then and doesn't sell in any academically oriented circles now, though Jung has become very popular with the general reading public who seem to enjoy very much those ideas of Jung's which are farthest out on a limb.
In any event, it was a theory which took courage to advance, but Jung felt it necessary to do so, since he was noticing a strong degree of correspondence between dreams of patients, both private and institutionalised, and mythological motifs. In alchemy he found not only parallels in terms of content, but process as well. What he was seeing he felt to be a psychic fact, and the only acceptable explanation for the persistence of these patterns down through millenniums was biological inheritance.
The Dynamics of the Psyche
So much for the content of the psyche. Now let's turn to the principles of its operation. Jung gives us three principles, beginning with the principle of opposites. Every wish immediately suggests its opposite. If I have a good thought, for example, I cannot help but have in me somewhere the opposite bad thought. In fact, it is a very basic point: In order to have a concept of good, you must have a concept of bad, just like you can't have up without down or black without white.
This idea came home to me when I was about eleven. I occasionally tried to help poor innocent woodland creatures who had been hurt in some way -- often, I'm afraid, killing them in the process. Once I tried to nurse a baby robin back to health. But when I picked it up, I was so struck by how light it was that the thought came to me that I could easily crush it in my hand. Mind you, I didn't like the idea, but it was undeniably there.
According to Jung, it is the opposition that creates the power (or libido) of the psyche. It is like the two poles of a battery, or the splitting of an atom. It is the contrast that gives energy, so that a strong contrast gives strong energy, and a weak contrast gives weak energy.
The second principle is the principle of equivalence. The energy created from the opposition is "given" to both sides equally. So, when I held that baby bird in my hand, there was energy to go ahead and try to help it. But there is an equal amount of energy to go ahead and crush it. I tried to help the bird, so that energy went into the various behaviors involved in helping it. But what happens to the other energy?
Well, that depends on your attitude towards the wish that you didn't fulfill. If you acknowledge it, face it, keep it available to the conscious mind, then the energy goes towards a general improvement of your psyche. You grow, in other words.
But if you pretend that you never had that evil wish, if you deny and suppress it, the energy will go towards the development of a complex. A complex is a pattern of suppressed thoughts and feelings that cluster -- constellate -- around a theme provided by some archetype. If you deny ever having thought about crushing the little bird, you might put that idea into the form offered by the shadow (your "dark side"). Or if a man denies his emotional side, his emotionality might find its way into the anima archetype. And so on.
Here's where the problem comes: If you pretend all your life that you are only good, that you don't even have the capacity to lie and cheat and steal and kill, then all the times when you do good, that other side of you goes into a complex around the shadow. That complex will begin to develop a life of its own, and it will haunt you. You might find yourself having nightmares in which you go around stomping on little baby birds!
If it goes on long enough, the complex may take over, may "possess" you, and you might wind up with a multiple personality. In the movie The Three Faces of Eve, Joanne Woodward portrayed a meek, mild woman who eventually discovered that she went out and partied like crazy on Saturday nights. She didn't smoke, but found cigarettes in her purse, didn't drink, but woke up with hangovers, didn't fool around, but found herself in sexy outfits. Although multiple personality is rare, it does tend to involve these kinds of black-and-white extremes.
The final principle is the principle of entropy. This is the tendency for oppositions to come together, and so for energy to decrease, over a person's lifetime. Jung borrowed the idea from physics, where entropy refers to the tendency of all physical systems to "run down," that is, for all energy to become evenly distributed. If you have, for example, a heat source in one corner of the room, the whole room will eventually be heated.
When we are young, the opposites will tend to be extreme, and so we tend to have lots of energy. For example, adolescents tend to exaggerate male-female differences, with boys trying hard to be macho and girls trying equally hard to be feminine. And so their sexual activity is invested with great amounts of energy! Plus, adolescents often swing from one extreme to another, being wild and crazy one minute and finding religion the next.
As we get older, most of us come to be more comfortable with our different facets. We are a bit less naively idealistic and recognize that we are all mixtures of good and bad. We are less threatened by the opposite sex within us and become more androgynous. Even physically, in old age, men and women become more alike. This process of rising above our opposites, of seeing both sides of who we are, is called transcendence.
The Persona is that which we present to the outside world. It isn't really our selves, though there is a danger we can identify too much with it and believe it to be so. It is a mask. It's not a bad thing to have, in fact it's necessary for getting along with others. Jung seems to talk about it in the singular, but I suspect that a well adjusted person has several masks and is adept at juggling them and knowing which one is appropriate when and just how opaque it needs to be. In any event, singular or plural, it's a fact of life. Ask a doctor what he does and he won't say, "I do medicine", he's unlikely even to say, "I practice medicine". What you'll likely hear is "I'm a doctor". Occupation isn't the only shelf where masks are pulled from. Religion, sexual orientation, politics, the social sciences....
The ego is the centre of consciousness. It is identity. It is 'I'. But it is not the totality of the psyche. Being the king of consciousness amounts to dominion over a small but important land surrounded by a wide world of terra incognita. The more aware the King is of lands beyond his domain the more secure he will be on his throne, but he must not be tempted to open the borders to it all. In Jungian theory the unconscious is far too vast to ever be made fully conscious, poking about in it is not without danger, yet ignoring it is also a mistake since it leads to a brittle fixedness which at best impedes growth, at worst can break when under the pressure of the 'threat' of change.
Personality theorists have argued for many years about whether psychological processes function in terms of mechanism or teleology. Mechanism is the idea that things work in through cause and effect: One thing leads to another which leads to another, and so on, so that the past determines the present. Teleology is the idea that we are lead on by our ideas about a future state, by things like purposes, meanings, values, and so on. Mechanism is linked with determinism and with the natural sciences. Teleology is linked with free will and has become rather rare. It is still common among moral, legal, and religious philosophers, and, of course, among personality theorists.
Among the people discussed in this book, Freudians and behaviorists tend to be mechanists, while the neo-Freudians, humanists, and existentialists tend to be teleologists. Jung believes that both play a part. But he adds a third alternative called synchronicity.
Synchronicity is the occurrence of two events that are not linked causally, nor linked teleologically, yet are meaningfully related. Once, a client was describing a dream involving a scarab beetle when, at that very instant, a very similar beetle flew into the window. Often, people dream about something, like the death of a loved one, and find the next morning that their loved one did, in fact, die at about that time. Sometimes people pick up he phone to call a friend, only to find that their friend is already on the line. Most psychologists would call these things coincidences, or try to show how they are more likely to occur than we think. Jung believed the were indications of how we are connected, with our fellow humans and with nature in general, through the collective unconscious.
Jung was never clear about his own religious beliefs. But this unusual idea of synchronicity is easily explained by the Hindu view of reality. In the Hindu view, our individual egos are like islands in a sea: We look out at the world and each other and think we are separate entities. What we don't see is that we are connected to each other by means of the ocean floor beneath the waters.
The outer world is called maya, meaning illusion, and is thought of as God's dream or God's dance. That is, God creates it, but it has no reality of its own. Our individual egos they call jivatman, which means individual souls. But they, too, are something of an illusion. We are all actually extensions of the one and only Atman, or God, who allows bits of himself to forget his identity, to become apparently separate and independent, to become us. But we never truly are separate. When we die, we wake up and realize who we were from the beginning: God.
When we dream or meditate, we sink into our personal unconscious, coming closer and closer to our true selves, the collective unconscious. It is in states like this that we are especially open to "communications" from other egos. Synchronicity makes Jung's theory one of the rare ones that is not only compatible with parapsychological phenomena, but actually tries to explain them!