FOUR ARCHETYPES Mother, Rebirth, Spirit, TricksterStephen Farah
By C.G. Jung
Published by Routledge, 2003
“The hallmarks of spirit are, firstly, the principle of spontaneous movement and activity; secondly, the spontaneous capacity to produce images independently of sense perception; and thirdly, the autonomous and sovereign manipulation of these images.” (pp. 107-108, CW9 par. 393)
When Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) passed away aged 86, he left a prolific legacy of profound psychological writings which even in recent years have been gradually released to the public, such as the recent publications of his Red Book (2009) and the Black Books (2020). Jung’s oeuvre is simply vast, both in quantity (his collected works, minus the new works being released, run to 20 volumes) and in scope. As a scientist and a man of genius, the psychiatrist Jung left no stone unturned in his creative exploration of the human psyche, engaging in studies which ranged from the purely empirical – such as his famous work on the word association tests which led to the invention of the lie detector test – to work which is speculative and almost metaphysical, such as Answer to Job (1952). In other words, throughout his long and productive career Jung tirelessly examined the universe of the human mind from its smallest details to its overall meaning. Even among professional Jungian psychologists and analysts, very few will have probably read Jung’s vast work in its entirety; his amazing overall contribution to the field of human psychology led the British author and poet Kathleen Raine to say, “Jung was probably the most significant original thinker of the century”.
In this selection of four of his essays from the Collected Works vol.9, Jung analyses four different archetypes which are fundamental in his model of the human unconscious. It’s important to point out that Jung was never simply a student of Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939), who was 19 years Jung’s senior; while Jung greatly respected Freud and championed the cause of psychoanalysis in very difficult historical times, he nevertheless had his own view of the operation of the psyche both before collaborating with the great Viennese father of psychoanalysis, and also after their ways parted and Jung went on to found his own school of analytical psychology. In contrast to Freud, Jung believed that the unconscious was not only the repository of personal instincts and repressed memories; it is also a matrix of universal patterns or potentials for behaviour, known as archetypes. For Jung therefore, there is both a personal and a collective unconscious.
Every school of depth psychology – classical psychoanalysis, object relations theory, Kleinian theory, Kohutian self-psychology, the Lacanian school etc – all have their own original ideas and therapeutic concepts to offer our understanding of the operation of consciousness and the unconscious. In Jungian psychology, ideas can be found which were passionately discussed with his psychoanalytic contemporaries and also stimulated the formulations of later schools; but perhaps three characteristics of Jungian psychology form its most distinctive contribution: the concept of individuation, the understanding of the purposive character of symptoms (teleology), and the concept of the archetype.
The word and concept of the ‘archetype’, as Jung makes clear in the introduction to this brief volume, is not Jung’s invention: it goes back to the classical world of ancient Greek learning and early Christian philosophy, being found in Philo Judaeus, in the Corpus Hermeticum, and in early church fathers such as Irenaeus and Dionysius the Areopagite. Its early meaning usually referred to the Imago Dei, or the image of God within man. Jung developed his understanding of the archetypes throughout his work, seeing the archetypes originally as ‘primordial images’ akin to the French anthropologist’s Lévy-Bruhl’s ‘représentations collectives’. Today, the word ‘archetype’ has passed from Jungian psychology into common parlance, and naturally enough has also at times been distorted through popularization. Books exist which set out the archetypes in rational groups of four or twelve or some other combination up into the hundreds, as though the list is exhaustive and the associated images are always clear and well-defined; but Jung’s idea of the archetype, as this book attests, is nuanced and investigative, searching and profound. In fact one might argue that the clearer the image we have of an archetype, the further away we are from the original, raw experience which Jung addressed (and the closer we are to a stereotype).
Beginning with an introduction to the concept of archetypes, the book we will be studying goes on to discuss the archetypes of Mother (“Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype”), Rebirth (“Concerning Rebirth”), Spirit (“The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairytales”) and Trickster (“On the Psychology of the Trickster-Figure”). Although erudite and often quite dense in its rich conceptual background, Jung’s writing is clear and richly rewards the reader upon repeated readings. This short volume of 179 pages is the perfect way to enter Jung’s conceptual universe of the psyche, as well as his methodology for approaching its numinous realm. The book is widely available in online stores and bookshops, and it is advisable to purchase a copy before joining the Jungian Book Club. Over a period of three months, we will discuss each of Jung’s essays on these four archetypes, which as the back cover explains Jung “considers fundamental to the psychological make-up of every individual”. The discussion will be broad, and you are encouraged to offer both philosophical and personal reflections on the content. The intention is not to dissect Jung in a purely academic way, but to engage as he would have wanted us to, in a living and transformational encounter with these rich and meaningful ideas.
Byron J. Gaist
We are currently reading this book in The Jungian Book Club