Archetypes are visual symbols, imprints, mythic characters, figures, primordial images, notions and thoughts, which are universal for the entire human race. Carl Jung believed these universal archetypes or mythic characters dwell within the collective unconscious human psyche. They are imprints everyone carries irrespective of his culture, race, or nationality.
Since archetypes embody fundamental human patterns or motifs they elicit deep emotions.
The word ‘archetype’ has been derived from the Greek words ‘archein’, and ‘typos’. ‘Archein’ means original and ‘typos’ means a pattern or type. Jung came across these symbols, images, figures and patterns in his extensive work with his patients, especially when he interpreted their dreams.
Erich Neumann, a student of Carl Jung and a psychologist, says the archetypal symbols manifest through us as, “positive and negative emotions, in hallucinations and projections … in anxiety, in manic and depressive states, and in the feeling that ego is being overpowered. Every mood that takes hold of the entire personality is an expression of the dynamic effect of the archetype, regardless of whether this effect is accepted or rejected by human consciousness; whether it remains unconscious or grips consciousness.”
Carl Jung writes, “The contents of the collective unconscious are archetypes, primordial images, that reflect basic patterns that are common to us all, and which have existed universally since the dawn of time.”
Archetypal symbols are open to interpretation and, therefore, can be interpreted in many different ways. They are shifting patterns, fluid by nature. They cannot be defined, labelled, or compartmentalized. They fluidly fit into each and every person very differently, just like water assumes the shape of the container into which it is poured. And, it is upto the person how he chooses to express his archetypal influences in this world.
They are universal patterns or energy guides, which help us unfold our greatest potentials.
Archetypes are never good or bad, though each archetype has two components – the Shadow Archetype and the Light Archetype.
The Shadow Archetypes are buried deep in our unconscious minds and often express themselves through a person as disturbing emotions, sabotaging or destructive thought patterns, and actions.
The Light Archetypes always guides a person reach his highest potential and be the best version of himself. They constantly encourage him to hold on to his values, integrity, compassion, faith, confidence and guides him towards his dreams.
Every individual on this planet is aligned with the energies of some key archetypes. Individual key archetypes unconsciously influences a person and the person finds himself expressing through his thoughts and behaviour, elements of those particular key archetypes, be it the warrior archetype, the peacemaker, the joker, the teacher etc.
Another way of looking at this is we human beings have a pool of archetypal knowledge within us. We can tap into it and choose and pick, whatever it is we need, from this pool containing creativity, strength, wisdom, and tactics of survival.
All the religions and mythological tales are replete with archetypal symbols.
The Gods, Goddesses, and themes such as birth, death, rebirth, form a part of the archetypes and archetypal patterns too. If we face any crisis in life, the answers at all times are within. All we need to do is simply tap into our unconscious minds, to activate the power of the archetypes of Gods and Goddesses, lying dormant, deep within us.
Ancient rituals of a priest telling an individual to offer any kind of worship to any deity, simply signified that, that person’s energies need to be aligned with a particular unconscious archetype of a God – unconscious in that particular person. Worship would make the unconscious conscious. That way the qualities of that specific archetype will become prominent in this person and will help him overcome his particular problem.
The same is with the mythological creatures. At many levels we embody mythological creatures, whether it be the phoenix, the unicorn, the dragon etc. Their qualities are already present within us; we carry their imprints deep in our unconscious minds.
At an individual level, we each one of us are nothing but an expression of life, an expression of the universal process.
Thus, the archetypal patterns, an inseparable part of our collective unconscious, and of our existence, constantly expresses themselves through us, even in the most mundane of tasks in our day-to-day lives.
As human consciousness evolves, archetypal patterns in the collective unconscious, too, collectively transforms. And in return they influence human actions. Please see Influence of the Collective Unconscious.
Jung believed that the most prominent archetypal tendencies in an individual express themselves through his dreams. He arrived at this conclusion after doing dream analysis for his numerous patients. What was astonishing was how each time the dreams through archetypal symbols accurately projected into a person’s awareness his main issues, fears, and sometimes even solutions.
During sleep when a person’s conscious mind is at rest it becomes easy for the unconscious mind to reveal its deepest secrets to the individual. This way it tries to reach the person’s conscious mind so that the person becomes aware of what lies within him.
Archetypal dreams in particular show us the tremendous potential that lies dormant within us, patiently waiting to be unleashed.
Among your many faces, in the cover of darkness, that you hide, Buried somewhere beneath them is your Light…. Although its been many years now, I haven’t forgotten her shining face, and sparkling eyes as she spoke to a crowd of around a hundred and fifty odd people.
Deafening noise. That’s what I experienced when I first set out to practice silence. There was nowhere I could escape to. The din was in my head. Practicing silence in life, initially, can indeed get maddeningly noisy. It tears apart and rips all that you are not, to shreds; it tosses you around in the darkness, mocks at who you think you are by showing you all the stories you have told yourself, about yourself.