The scientific hypothesis of the archetype was proposed by Jung as an innate formal element that structures the psyche at its most basic levels. In itself psychoid and therefore anchored in reality beyond the psyche (in "spirit" or nous, the non-biological mind), the archetype is responsible for coordinating and organizing the psyche's homeostatic balance and its programs for development and maturation. Essentially there is one master archetype, the self, which defines the skeletal form of human wholeness.
The archetype itself is not available directly to experiencenly its images and created patterns can become manifest and subject to experience by the psyche. These archetypal images are potentially unlimited in number and variety. They are embedded in the universal patterns of myth, in religious symbols and ideas, and in numinous experiences; they are also often represented in symbolic dreams and in altered states of consciousness. Within the psyche, archetypal images are linked to the (five) instinct groups, giving them direction and potential meaning. Like the archetype, the instincts are psychoid and rooted in reality beyond the psyche itself (in the physiological base of the psyche, the body). Archetypal images and instinctual impulses, united within the psyche, together make up the collective unconscious, the primordial psychosomatic basis of all psychic functioning.
Jung first used the term "archetype" in 1919. This was preceded by several years of speculation on primordial images and impersonal dominants. The implications of the archetypal hypothesis were developed by Jung himself and by his many students over subsequent decades in numerous case studies and investigations of myth, religion, and esoteric practices, especially alchemy. As the field of analytical psychology has grown and developed, the notion of the archetype and the role of archetypal images in psychological functioning and development have assumed a central role and have become the most distinctive feature of this school of psychoanalysis. Archetypal psychology, led by James Hillman, is a later offshoot of analytical psychology.
Jung himself found important connections between archetypal theory and the work of such ethologists as Konrad Lorenz who studied innate patterns of animal behavior and discovered innate releasing mechanisms. There are also parallels to be drawn between archetypal patterns and the innate mental schemas described in cognitive psychology. Recent findings of innate human patterns in neuropsychiatry and sociobiology also suggest confirmation of the hypothesis of the archetype. Some leading thinkers in analytical psychology have found close similarities between the theory of archetypal images and Kleinian notions of unconscious phantasy.
Criticisms of the archetypal hypothesis have come from many quarters. As an essentialist position, it has drawn fire from social constructionists who argue that human nature is infinitely malleable and defined more importantly by social and material conditions than by innate propensities. It has also drawn criticism from clinicians for whom the personal conflicts and traumas inflicted in childhood define the universe of therapeutic concern. For Jung and his adherents, however, the archetype has been seen as the source of healing and as the guide to potential wholeness of the individual.
See also: Amplification (analytical psychology); Animus-Anima (analytical psychology); Imago; Mother goddess; Numinous (analytical psychology); Self (analytical psychology); Symbolization, process of; Synchronicity (analytical psychology); Transference/counter-transference (analytical psychology).
Jung, Carl G. (1935b ). Archetypes of the collective unconscious. Coll. Works (Vol. IX, Part I). London: Rout-ledge & Kegan Paul
Neumann, Erich. (1955). The great mother: An analysis of the archetype. London: Routledge.
Stein, Murray. (1996). Practicing wholeness. New York: Continuum.
Stevens, Anthony. (1982). Archetypes: A natural history of the self. London: Routledge.
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