COMPLEX, ARCHETYPE, SYMBOL in the Psychology of C.G. Jung by Jolande Jacobi

COMPLEX, ARCHETYPE, SYMBOL in the Psychology of C.G. Jung by Jolande Jacobi

This is a book review by Lynelle Pieterse who manages the Jungian Book Club.

Click here to buy this book. Complex/Archetype/Symbol in the Psychology of C.G. Jung (Bollingen Series (General))



In the foreword, Jung writes: “…the concept of the archetype has given rise to the greatest misunderstandings.”

The book is a discussion about the intricate terms Complex, Archetype, and Symbol and specifically about how they are interrelated.

Jolande Jacobi was an associate of C.G. Jung for many years. She is known for her ability to explain Jung’s theories clearly and logically. Jacobi explains how archetypes, complexes and symbols are perceived, interact with each other, and gain autonomous power. She gives an authoritative, structured account and often refers to numerous quotations from Jung’s own writings. Her clear definitions are valuable as Jung’s works often contain elements of ambiguity.


COMPLEX (p.6 – 30)

Feeling-toned groups of representations in the unconscious Jacobi relates the information about complexes by saying, Jung as opposed to Freud, believed complexes reveal more about the unconscious than dreams do. He originally defined the term ‘feeling toned complex’ based on what he observed during his Word Association Test. It is Jung’s definition of “complex” that is widely used today. Complexes have a strong emotional content; they present as powerful feeling-toned thoughts and emotions, they usually accompany a somatic effect in the body. The power they hold is directly related to how primal the psychic depository experience was. Because we are initially unaware of their powerful effect, a complex can take control of our consciousness.

Jung said every complex holds a “nuclear element”, the core which presents beyond the conscious will. The meaning we make of this source depends on our personal disposition and experience. As a potential disturbance, depending on its emotional charge it has the potential to act as an actual disturbance in the psyche. If it resists the intent of ego consciousness and splits off, it presents as a separate controlling entity. For this reason, Jung said: “Complexes have us” (p.9).


Autonomy of the complexes

A complex is independent and acts like an autonomous personality; it has a drive, fears, hopes, desires and intentionality; it uses any opportunity to express itself especially when consciousness is lowered. As an irrational pattern of behaviour it is compulsive and one-sided. The ego-complex forms the centre of the psyche. A complex can only be understood once its emotional content is discharged and assimilated emotionally. An unconscious complex is highly numinous (non-perceptible) and subversive. A conscious complex can only be personalised and rationalised when the dialectic process between the unconscious and conscious makes this possible.


On the phenomenology of the complex

Jacobi discusses the phenomenology of complexes and emphasises, only an emotional experience liberates a complex; resolution and transformation is then possible. A complex presents in the following way:

  1. a) primarily unconscious, not yet present, with an independent will
    b) still unconscious, containing ‘swollen’ energy, acting as a second conflicting ego
    c) a “complex ego” that has split off and presents as a second personality
    d) heavily charged entity, draws conscious ego into its sphere, overpowers and engulfs it – total or partial identification between ego and complex
    e) unconscious complex appears in projected form – as an attribute of an entity on the outside; worst case = paranoia
    f) complex is known only intellectually, still retains its original force; only once it is understood and its content has been integrated can it be resolved.

Jacobi writes: “Maturity implies that the different parts of the psyche are recognised as such and brought into the proper relation to one another. […] This makes it possible to keep the influence and incursions of the unconscious entirely separated from those that have already been clarified by consciousness – the two will no longer be confused.” (p.17)

The ego must gain control over the complex by confronting it; to reconcile it, we should let go of our infantile notions and adapt ourselves into adulthood.


The difference between the conceptions of Jung and of Freud

The difference between how Freud and C.G. Jung’s used the term complex will enable us to eliminate the misconceptions about Jung’s view. He distinguished between the personal and the collective unconscious. Freud said the unconscious held only repressed content, as a symptom of illness in the psyche. Jung said complexes make up the normal structure of the unconscious part of the psyche. And that “Suffering is not an illness; it is the normal counter pole to happiness.” (p.20) He argued a complex provides the stimulus for renewal in the psyche; an opening, potential for discovery. It contains duality as an illness and a path to psychic health.


Two kinds of complexes

In terms of its “nuclear element”, there is the complex that is split off from consciousness, repressed after painful emotional trauma; it is of a personal nature and feels as if belongs to the personal psyche, originating from the personal unconscious. The second kind is one that has a different source, contains irrational content which the person does not feel belongs to him, as if from an outside source; contains mythical universal human material originating from the collective unconscious. If energy is released in the first instance, then healing is possible. However, not all complexes can be resolved. Some belong to an eternal matrix, made up of nodal points in the collective unconscious that have a core magnetic pull, only once they become overcharged and split off as a complex can they become conscious.


Complexes belong to the basic structure of the psyche

Jacobi states Jung’s use of complex became the forerunner for the study of archetypes She discusses the core aspect of a complex; that it is cannot be controlled, and lies laden with energy in the unconscious. In addition, a complex is known for the various associations it makes with the “nuclear element”. Jung said a complex is part of the normal structure of the psyche. Originating from the collective unconscious it is not yet pathological, only when it rises from the personal unconscious does it need to be resolved, Once the personal material collected around the nodal point is released it affords great psychic relief and can become fruitful as an energy giving aspect through which psychic life can flow.

When a complex is overcharged, and becomes autonomous it invades the realms of consciousness and results in neurosis and psychosis. He uses an example of a father-son problem which shifts from individual guilt to the realisation that his liberation is from the dominant influence of consciousness; personal complex material as it relates to the collective unconscious. The stability of the ego personality therefore determines the role of the complex.


Neurosis and psychosis

It is therefore not the content of the complex, but the condition of the individual’s mind that determines the unhealthy or healthy aspect of a complex. If the ego fears the unconscious material, the individual will remain in imbalance and one-sidedness. The lowering of consciousness then causes neurosis.

Complexes from the personal unconscious are less feared as they are in a way familiar to the person who created them in the first place. When they originate from the collective unconscious they are perceived by the psyche as a more serious threat, resulting in psychosis. Both these pathologies can mean total transformation and renewal of the psyche when confronted and be life renewing and life promoting. Jung’s view was revolutionary and differed from Freud’s view that these pathologies only signified psychic illness.

Eventually Jung’s view about complexes lead to the fundamental discovery of archetypes. He wrote: “The contents of the personal unconscious are chiefly the feeling-toned complexes, as they are called; they constitute the personal and private side of psychic life. The content of the collective unconscious, on the other hand, are known as archetypes.” (p.30).


ARCHETYPE (p.31 – 73)

Of the nature of the archetype

Jung’s concept of the archetype illustrates how it has undergone considerable development over the last 30 years. It has expanded and in doing so has become more abstract. Based on his view, Jacobi says an archetype expresses itself in the first instance as a metaphor in that an aspect of it remains unknown. It can be recognised only by the effect it has on the psyche. It forms the dominant structural aspect of the psyche, its origin only known in as much as it lies in the collective unconscious. We have an indirect knowledge of archetypes based on our encounters with them as they present a metaphysical question.


The historical development of the concept of the archetype in the work of Jung

Jacobi presents the development from a biological and philosophical angle and says Jung is known for not having a dogmatic approach to psychological dynamics. In 1917 he termed archetypes the “dominants of the collective unconscious.” (p.33) Before that he referred to them as “primordial images”, as mythological manifestations of human behaviour. Archetypes are part of the psychic structure and are represented by the conscious mind. In 1946 in his article “The Spirit of Psychology” he distinguished between two kinds of archetypes – the “archetype as such (per se) which is potentially present, and the perceptible archetype with its potential to be “represented” – the so called archetypal image. Archetypes (per se) are described as structural factors in the collective unconscious, invisible nuclear elements and potential carrier of meaning. The distinction is based on the aspect of representation when an archetype is expressed by the individual’s own psychology and enters consciousness.


Archetype, instinct, and brain structure

Jung said an archetype is a priori historical condition, a kind of blue print so to speak of an instinct: “…the archetype [is] a structural quality peculiar to the psyche, which is somehow connected to the brain.” (p.37) He continues to say it is an autonomous element of the unconscious inherited with the brain’s structure. This kind of instinct is numinous – it cannot be known in a normal way and differs from purely biological instincts, i.e. not conditioned but adheres to laws inherent to autonomous rules of life itself. Jung’s most recent writings explored the concept that there is an additional function of the brain which carries psychic functions – which he called the “trans cerebral nature” of the brain.


The biological aspect of the archetype

An archetype moves toward the outer world and is at the same time oriented to the internal world. Jacobi refers to Adolf Portman and Hedinger and to child psychologists Spitz and Wolf. Portman speaks of the “primordial images” wherein he compared the ordering/gestalten aspect of animals to the human psyche’s ability to produce archetypes. Hedinger illustrated in a study how the action of archetypes can be found in animal’s instinctual behaviour.
Jung said: “The term [archetype] is not meant to denote an inherited idea, but rather an inherited mode of psychic functioning, corresponding to the inborn way…” (p. 43)

Here archetypes present as numinous, an important experience which in a way possesses the human psyche. Spitz and Wolf illustrated how a child responds to a Gestalt image of the human face. Jung confirmed this by saying the psyche of a new born child is not a clean slate, it resonates to stimuli in its environment based on embedded factors that have been inherited and are planted in the brain’s organic system. Another reference is made to F. Stirnimann’s studies on new-born babies who said the psyche is already structured at birth and compared it to a photographic plate which reveals its parts through exposure. Jung emphasised, Archetypes are not like reflexes, they have a meaningful expression related to consciousness; the psychical and psychic are separately observable in parallel with each other. He compared the human body and its organs to the psyche – both have an inherent structure, and manifest their functionality because of physical events and impressions.


Realistic and symbolic understanding

Man tended to express regular events such as the rising of the sun in the form of images. Jung’s view is this supports the argument that the psyche has the unique capacity to translate physical events into archetypal images. Children manifest this when they express their imaginative view of the world not based on the physical world they perceive with their five senses. Jung viewed this as the root of man’s creative ability. E.g. the myth of the solar hero describes how the psyche experiences the physical phenomenon of the sun’s journey through the sky. Jung explains, the archetypes act like a magnetic field that transforms psychic processes into images, as a structure of the unconscious which appears in “definite forms by way of projection.” (p.48)

The word archetype holds two elements: 1) “arche” – meaning original, a primal source, a dominant, and “type” denoting an action like the imprinting a coin. It supports the formative ability contained in the archetype.


Archetype and Platonic idea

Archetypes relate to Plato’s “Idea”. His concept relates to the a priori idea “inherently immutable” which is like Jung’s archetype as such (per se) which are not perceptible. Jung distinguishes this from the represented or already perceptible archetype. The first one precedes the conscious experience of the psyche, it goes beyond consciousness. The archetype is not merely an idea, it is a dynamic “living organism, ‘endowed with generative force”. (p.50) Archetypes were formed prior to the conscious mind’s thinking ability. This is the basis for Jung’s view that archetypes are typical forms of apprehension and perception, being active and passive in a process that takes place in the material, physical and spiritual realms.


The archetypes are not inherited images

In agreement with Jung’s view of archetypes Jacobi stresses the point that archetypes are not ready-made images like Plato’s Idea; they can be distinguished as non-perceptible and perceptible (or represented) psychic entities. This has been the basis for many misunderstandings regarding archetypes. It is important to remember that Jung’s view is that archetypes are structural components of the psyche that manifest in various patterns – the images are therefore not inherited representations, but have the nature of bearing inherited potential for representation. They act like hidden organisers with furrows into which universal experiences have dug deep into the psyche.

As primordial patterns they underlie the invisible order of the psyche and are pre-figured in the unconscious. They do not have a material existence until the moment the conscious mind puts flesh to their invisible bones, and an image is born. E.g. in dreams, as soon as we become conscious of an archetype it has already drawn from the material world its form that is visible form to the conscious psyche; an ‘internal presence’ which the conscious mind constellates depending on the moment in which it finds itself. Archetype as a vessel of potential existence is fluid and continues to hold a new interpretation based on each unique experience of the psyche. Jacobi emphasises our explanations of what archetypes are seems like various translations into various metaphorical languages.


Archetype and Gestalt

Archetypes with their inherited form correlate to the Gestalt theory, in that the images of Gestalt are also inherited. Jacobi refers to Christian von Ehrenfels who said Gestalt is more than the sum of elements, it preserves an inherent character like a melody retains its basic form regardless of the instrument involved or the key in which it is played. She continues to explain Gestalt is more formal and relates to the primordial pattern. Archetypes express content in the form of images when aroused by the emotional charge they contain and is therefore richer. Both Gestalt and archetype result from the play of psychic forces which differs from the ready-made Idea of Plato.


The hierarchy of the archetypes

Archetypes have infinite ways of manifesting, but Jacobi says they do fall under typical and basic experiences; the latter as primordial opposites such as the concepts of Light and Dark that relate to creation itself. She refers to the genealogies of the gods where the primary god or parent is the carrier of the archetype in its simplest or purest form, and the off-spring manifest in various ways and this does not change the essential aspect of the original carrier which is the parent. She explains the use of primary, secondary and tertiary archetypes where tertiary archetypes are the least rich and numinous. Motifs of the collective unconscious can be compared to systems of biology; they feature a priori forms able to exhibit the primordial pattern specific for personifications, and are able to exhibit the more abstract structures such as spirit, an autonomous entity universally present in the psyche. Jung warns we should not diminish the archetype by defining it in unambiguous terms for at its core feature lies its ambivalent nature.


On the collective unconscious

Jacobi writes: “The collective unconscious is a supra-personal matrix, as the unlimited sum of fundamental psychic conditions accumulated over millions of years, in a realm of immeasurable breadth and depth.” (p.59)

Jung emphasises the difference between the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. The latter has a neutral character which takes on form and has value when it encounters consciousness; its objective aspect. But when personal consciousness adopts a primarily personal standpoint it is primarily subjective. He emphasises that there are no definite lines between consciousness and the collective unconscious and explains that it functions as a hybrid, a mix of the two consciousness planes. The unconscious content connects the psyche to physiological states on the one hand and archetypal material on the other, but it also moves it forward by means of intuitions.


Archetype and synchronicity

Jacobi explains synchronicity when inner occurrences of the psyche seem to manifest at the same time with outer situations or events. Jung says, when the conscious and unconscious realms blend together, the same as when consciousness is lowered and the unconscious content spontaneously rises to the fore the psyche, the individual, experiences it as occurring simultaneously. He explains the experience lies not in the causal nature of these events, but it is the archetype which effects the cause. His later view was: “Space, time, and causality, the triad of classical physics […] would then be supplemented by the synchronicity factor and become a tetrad. […] a coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have a similar meaning.” (p.63)

The a priori knowledge in the unconscious makes itself know where it seems suitable, in a way, latching onto a related occurrence and projects causality onto it. The archetype here functions as a higher order and other (outer) aspects fall under its rule. This relates to the psyche’s ordering function in that the archetypes have a forward and backward function – to the past and to the future which affords them their bipolar aspect. They are not insulated from each other and are interrelated.
Archetype and consciousness
Jung said an archetype is constellated in the unconscious when an external situation, usually with an emotional charge, arises and corresponds to it. The numinous character of the archetype means that it holds specific energy and attracts the relevant experience of the conscious psyche which enables it to be realised. When a psychic entity assimilates the quality of an image it is said to represent it. Only then can it be translated into conscious material. This is the only way for energy charged nuclei of meaning from the collective unconscious to surface into consciousness and be translated into a communicable language to produce new psychic energy.

Dreams depicting archetypal images are a way through which previously trapped energy in the unconscious is release. Jung compares the action of archetypes to the action of atoms that often present in a seemingly small way but are connected to a much larger entity. He explains, the greatest effect comes from the smallest cause, e.g. the more deeply one delves into the field of micro-physics the more explosive are the forces that one would find there. And so it is with an archetype.


An example from the world of dreams

Jacobi gives an example of a dream that Jung documented where he demonstrates how the unconscious brings to the fore an archetypal dream to restore the subject’s psychic balance. The archetypal image of the “Wise old Man” comes to the aid of the dreamer (the hero in his own dream) and compensates for what is lacking in the hero psyche. Jung concludes by saying: “In reality we can never legitimately cut loose from our archetypal foundations unless we are prepared to pay the price of neurosis, any more than we can rid our body and its organs without committing suicide.” (p. 72)

The archetypes with their ordering function will forever try to restore the healthy functioning of the psyche. They are the protectors and the bringers of salvation; they close the division in the psyche. This closing of the psychic divide is mankind’s destiny and it becomes our own personal destiny which is able to save us.


SYMBOL (p.74 – 118)

Archetype and symbol

In the section on symbols there is an interesting discussion on the relation between symbol, sign and allegory that Jacobi initiates.
Jung explains the conscious mind can perceive and experience symbols. It can be said that symbols are in a way representations in the conscious mind of archetypes per se and that when an archetype manifests in real time, we speak of a symbol. He explains that symbols are archetypes that are determined by the hidden archetype per se. Yet this is only a potential symbol. When a situation arises in the conscious realm of the psyche an archetype’s dynamic nucleus holds the potential to present itself in the form of a symbol. Symbols always have their basis in the unconscious archetype, but the conscious mind gives them their form. And the archetype becomes a concrete image and acts like a vehicle which transports itself into the conscious mind. Jung defines the symbol as “the essence and image of psychic energy.” (p. 75)

A symbol is the archetype incarnated and is thus not purely an abstract entity. Symbols are the psyche’s way of informing the countless myths with content. E.g. the Gospels featuring parables and metaphors. Jacobi says even Jung found it challenging to differentiate between a symbol and an archetype. Language is finite and it challenges the description of an infinite concept or phenomenon.


What is a symbol?

Symbol is described as pertaining to an image-like entity accessible from the unconscious mind that the conscious mind can perceive. Jacobi explains that symbols can be inherited and they are our personal or collective source of all mythic, symbolic and dream representations.

Symbol and sign

The difference between the two still confuses at times. Symbols are not available directly but make themselves known as images and created patterns which manifest as symbols and have an unlimited potential with regards to number and variety. Jung distinguished between allegory, sign and symbol. Symbol is beyond the obvious. Allegory interprets symbolic expression through an intentional paraphrase. If something refers to a known thing it is merely a sign as it relates to an entity in the physical world. A symbol on the other hand relates to the world of meaning. One cannot create a symbol from known content. Jung agreed with W. Piaget who said symbols contain conscious and unconscious aspects, and said there are two kinds of observers – the one who observes the concrete or the literal and the other who looks for the meaning behind what is being observed. Jacobi refers to A. Weis whose view was that the Christian symbols function as signs in that they represent the transcended reality. Jung’s view is that the Christians symbols have their value because they relate to the psychological field of experience. He explains that through his study of archetypes he could brave the confines of Christianity’s signs and to view Christianity instead as a psychological fact. He says, “They are images that for the most part transcend consciousness.” (p.84) For Jung their value lies in the fact that we can believe in them; that they are living entities because they are pregnant with meaning and can be created from known associations. E.g. for some the cross is a sign and for some it is a symbol that calls up the Passion of Christ.

Jacobi refers to Goethe’s theory of colour where the concept of colour is applied as an allegory and its meaning must be explained, e.g. green means hope. But when colour is used in a mystical sense it is used as a symbol.

Jung laments that too many individuals are cut off from the figurative use of signs. The word symbol means to throw together opposites so that they can become unified. He emphasises, we can only understand symbols when we employ the four functions of the psyche, i.e. thoughts, feelings, senses and intuition.


The symbol in Freud and Jung

Based on their different view of the unconscious Freud said in the personal unconscious, there are no archetypes because only personal experience make up the unconscious, therefore there are only signs. Jung on the other hand said the content from the collective unconscious are symbols because they do not spring from any individual’s experience. True symbols spring from a universal source and are the expression of an intuitive idea. Jacobi writes: “The symbol as Jung sees it is a psychic factor that cannot be analysed or apprehended based on causality, nor can it be determined in advance; it is ambiguous and bipolar.” (p. 90)
Jung explains how elements in creation can become symbols for the characteristics of man while man at the same time and in parallel contains elements of the cosmos, which illustrates the concept of micro-macrocosm. Our ability to move concretely real content to the psychic arena makes it possible for us to express both realities as we hold the content of the real and the symbolic at the same time. Jung says this is the only way in which we can heal our psychic imbalances.

Freud uses the term symptom when something is causally condition and caused by an underlying process. But Jung says our interpretive ability is key to whether we view a psychic occurrence as a mere symptom or afford it the value of a symbol.


The symbol as mediator

Man differs from the animals in that the animals have signals and signs and man has the added dimension of the symbolic reality. The symbol enables us to transition between the conscious and the unconscious, the psychic opposites. It is the basis of the bipolar aspect of the archetypes and it is here the potential to reconcile the opposites exist. The German word Sinnbild refers; ‘Sinn’ meaning sense and ‘Bild’ meaning image which takes on shape and meaning through union with the sense. In a way like a marriage between the masculine and feminine aspects in the psyche.

A symbol is alive if it contains all its content, i.e. its form, the opposites, the raw material of imagery drawn together as a whole. It has a life-giving function when it expresses the numinous in the best possible way as it draws together the unconscious and the conscious elements. This mediating function is one of the most important abilities of the psyche. Through transcendence the opposites are united and the symbol enhances the psychic energy and moves it to its desired end. Jung calls this state the third end illustrating that each symbol moves beyond the realms of good and evil into a third dimension. This is what Jung calls the transcendent function of a symbol; when it creates a transition from one attitude to another.


The symbol as transformer of energy

Jacobi explains how symbols release psychic libido. Jung says a symbol has a healing character. For Freud, psychic energy could only be released one way, from a repressed state to an unrepressed expression. For Jung, this energy is bipolar. It continuously flows between two conflicting elements; a synthesis of conscious and unconscious material.

The energy from the nucleus of meaning in the collective unconscious is relieved of its tension and makes a new imprint on the psychic process. It opens a road for energy to flow through. E.g. when a dream is understood symbolically, Jung said: “I call every interpretation which equates the dream images with real objects an interpretation on the object level. In contrast to this is the interpretation which refers every part of the dream and all the actors in it back to the dreamer himself. This I call interpretation on the subjective level.” (p. 102) This enables the seemingly dislodged elements of the dream to be reunited with the subject who dreamed them. And powerfully engages the psyche’s creative ability to releases psychic blockages. In a nutshell, it is this is where the balancing of instinct and spirit happens.


Individual and collective symbols

For Jung, the value of a collective symbol lies in the fact that it “formulates an essential unconscious factor that touches the corresponding chord in every psyche.” (p. 104) When the universal archetypal pattern of a symbol becomes the symbol of the people i.e. a collective symbol such as the ones found in myths and religion, it has an intrinsically valuable effect on the psyche. Jung explains, an individual symbol is more short lived and is created by each individual’s psyche. The individual symbols arriving in the consciousness from the deepest realms of the psyche have the power to illuminate and utilise the full numinosity of the archetype when the individual symbol is experienced in parallel with the collective symbol. This is when it is most powerful, being fully integrated into the psyche as a whole.

Jung says, symbols always present themselves spontaneously; they are not a rational product of the mind but rather a result of a psychic process which expresses itself symbolically. Symbols reveal aspects of the subject’s inner psychic character and religion functions as a symbol in this way; they spring from the natural life of the unconscious and express it appropriately. He expands and says an appropriate metaphor for the collective unconscious is the ‘universal soul’. “Individual and collective symbols are formed in outwardly different ways, but ultimately both are based on an identical structural pattern or archetype.” (p.106) Religious symbols and dogmas correspond to the archetypes. Mythology is the primal route of the archetypes as they manifest toward becoming symbols.

The ego between the collective consciousness and the collective unconscious
Jacobi emphasises that we must distinguish between the archetype of the collective unconscious and the collective consciousness. The first influences the ego from the realm of the unconscious and has an effect on our specific behaviour. The latter is a representation of our norms, views and customs derived from a specific environment. The first with their numinous character are a spontaneous manifestation of man’s authentic core nature. The latter are mere copies or representations of the former; merely rational concepts.

The ego stands between the realm of the collective unconscious and the collective conscious. Jung’s view is that the ego consciousness is influenced by the two factors, on the one hand social consciousness as a collective influence and on the other hand the dominants of the collective unconscious, or archetypes. The first relates to natural impulses and the latter to the influences that come into consciousness as universal ideas.

Whenever the ego is overwhelmed by the collective consciousness or by the collective unconscious it risks losing its independent function in the psyche. A symbol loses its life-giving function when it is stripped of its archetypal essence, and is rationalised as an entity purely existing in the collective consciousness. The many ‘isms’ in the world today refer; they do not serve to illuminate our understanding. When these two areas of consciousness come into direct conflict we realise how challenging it is to express our individuality freely. The ego that can navigate this tension is the one closest to achieving psychic health and wholeness.


The symbol of the individuation process

Jung’s definition of individuation is when the psyche increases in consciousness and it results in the maturing of the individual. There are specific symbols which characterise this process; they are based on definite archetypes that present in visions, fantasies and dreams. They appear informed by the specific internal conscious situation of the individual and have a specific significance for him. E.g. the Shadow, Wise Old Man, Child (and the Child Hero), Mother, Maiden, Anima, Animus archetypes, each representing an aspect of the psyche.

In the same way, the unifying symbols representing the centre of the Psyche are significant, e.g. the Mandala, the Stone, the Gods which Jung calls “symbols of the basic order of the psyche as a whole.” (p. 115) Jung explains, the individuation process is like a dialogue between the unconscious and the conscious where the symbols act as a mediator or bridge reconciling the contradictions that arise from each side. The psyche contains within its core the potential for wholeness. “Something empirically demonstrable comes to our aid from the depths of our unconscious nature.” (p. 116)


The psyche’s capacity for symbol transformation

The psyche can transform symbols. Jacobi explains, the archetypes correlate to the manifold ‘nodal points’ of the collective unconscious, but the various symbols the individual psyche creates are infinitely more. They acquire their personal expression from an individual’s personal experiences. Jung’s view is the symbol is the eternal mediator between the rational and the irrational which implies that myths will continue to be translated into the current psychological context so that the individual can relate them to his soul. If we do this, we would rescue the essence of a myth and make it relevant for the world we live in today and its mystery would be preserved.
Jung says: “Every attempt at psychological explanation is, at bottom, the creation of a new myth. We merely translate one symbol into another symbol which is better suited to the existing constellation of our individual fate and that of humanity as a whole.” (p. 118)



Symbols are the core of our culture being the universal patterns of myth, religious symbols and ideas. The primordial ground of the psyche are the archetypes which form the universal foundation in every human psyche. The two archetypes are the non-perceptible archetypes which form the structure of the psyche, and the perceptible archetype which is represented to the conscious mind and functions primarily as a symbol. Complexes with their energy nucleus which function from a nodal point in the structure of the collective unconscious can in this regard be equated with an archetype.

As soon as the core of the complex generates feeling toned associations, and functions as an autonomous entity in the psyche, it may present as a symptom, but cannot be said to be a symbol or an archetype. The difference is, the complex denotes something that is as such not perceived by consciousness vs. the symbol which points to an ‘image-like’ entity which is based on perception. According to Jung, complex and symbol have many correlations; both are rooted in an archetypal core (nucleus) of meaning that resides in the collective unconscious. Jacobi explains, this could be why Jung used the terms interchangeably. She continues to say that the key difference between complexes and symbols lie the state of the ego consciousness and how it deals with complexes.

Finally, it would benefit us greatly if we can facilitate the task of the conscious mind to assist the psyche in ordering the dynamics of our primordial psychic nature. The ideal would be that not instinct or intellect but rather spirit which is unique to man and that views both, may ensure the balance of the psyche. Jung concludes by saying it is “man’s capacity for consciousness [which] alone makes him man.” (p. 124)


ARCHETYPE AND DREAM (p. 127 – 198)


The second section of the book provides an analysis of a single dream in the Jungian style. The style is different from the first section of the book, and is written in a more poetic style. It is an interpretation of one very rich dream. Jung’s words come to mind, that the dream is a little hidden door in the innermost of the soul.
Jacobi uses Jung’s method of dream analysis, followed by the amplification of a dream which an 8-year old girl gave to her father. And it is a good example of the kind of symbolic dream which children sometimes have. Jacobi collects myths from many sources over the next 50 pages, and they leave no doubt about the evidence on which the nature of the symbol, as conceived by Jung, is based, and demonstrates the richness of the amplificatory material at her disposal. The child whose dream was used died two years later and not much personal detail about her is known so conclusions could not be made with utmost certainty.


The Dream of the Bad Animal

It is the dream an 8-year old girl dreamt who had a rich inner world and would write her dreams down. This one is a dream she gave to her father for Christmas. She died a short while after she had the dream. The dream is explained and interpreted in great detail: the hermaphroditic aspect of the animal, the meaning of dragon and snake, the horn and the horned serpent, impaling and devouring, the dual psychological aspect of the animal, the little animals, and the blue fog or vapor in the dream are all explained by Jacobi. The mystic of “the four”, “the one and four” in the dream is also explained, and the rite of the night sea journey as a metaphor for life, death and rebirth.
Jacobi concludes by reminding us of Jung’s view that dreams “are self-representations of events in the unconscious and a compensation for the situation of the conscious mind.” (p. 190) She continues to explain that the dream confronted the young dreamer with a reality which presented itself far beyond her ability to interpret it; that the symbols in the dream show how the unconscious psyche has a mysterious ability to reveal its content. It illustrates how each dream is a self-commentary of the psyche. She ends by saying: “The answer to the secrets of the day and the solutions to riddles of the future are all contained in [the] primordial womb of the collective unconscious.” (p. 198)


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Comments (6)

  • Gill Andrew Reply

    Wow, Anja! What a very satisfying and helpful article. I thought i was reading Jolande Jacobi, then saw it had been your work. So full of clear and clarifying explanations. Most valuable and enjoyable to read. I made a great discovery. Jung said that ‘Christianity is a PSYCHOLOGICAL FACT’. Xxxxx

    February 8, 2017 at 2:07 pm
    • Anja van Kralingen Reply

      Thank you so much Gill. That said, please note the synopsis was written by Lynelle Pieterse.

      February 14, 2017 at 10:55 am
  • Carina Tuerlinckx Reply

    The possibility of the transfer of the symbols through the individual experience into vivid symbols to preserve the essence. And further the statement that in case the individual symbols are the most intense and effective if they are parallel to the manifestations in the collective unconscious seems a contradiction to me. But one thing is certain we all are invited to open all our sences to make the transformative energy of the symbols true

    February 14, 2017 at 3:16 am
  • Madhu Kundra Reply

    This is indeed the best I read !!! It s the best expalantion i got !!

    December 6, 2018 at 2:14 pm
  • Joseph Tracy Reply

    I am particularly interested to find out more about serpent dreams ( as, in this case, described briefly as young girl’s dream of a “Bad Animal”. What I wish to know and would appreciate any leads, books, articles etc. is this: How universal are serpent dreams in world cultures? I have been searching the web but to little effect. Seems to fall in an area between Jung and Anthropology.

    March 23, 2019 at 3:13 pm
  • Maryana St Hiliare Reply

    Thank you the imperative article. It is the best ever for one of my assignments.
    Also it adds to my knowledge!


    April 15, 2019 at 9:55 pm

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