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Concept of Archetypes at Carl Jung

In his book on the confrontation between the ego and the unconscious Jung describe the work of psychical assimilation of the unconscious, more precisely of the unconscious contents, namely the archetypal images. Among all these, he mentions a few universal ones: Shadow, Anima/Animus, The Wise Old Man and Mana Personality.

But what is the archetype? An innate tendency which molds and transform the individual consciousness. A fact defined more through a drive than through specific inherited contents, images etc.; a matrix which influences the human behavior as well as his ideas and concepts on the ethical, moral  religious and cultural levels.

Jung talks about the archetype (also called "primordial image") as of biologists' patterns of behavior (inborn behavior patterns). In short, archetypes are inborn tendencies which shape the human behavior.

"The archetype concept - Jung writes - derives from the often repeated observation that myths and universal literature stories contain well defined themes which appear every time and everywhere. We often meet these themes in the fantasies, dreams, delirious ideas and illusions of persons living nowadays".

These themes are representations of archetypes; they are based on archetypes. They impress, influence and fascinate us (our ego). This is why we call their tremendous effect numinous - that is, able to arise deep and intense emotions.

Archetypes do not have a well defined shape "but from the moment they become conscious, namely nurtured with the stuff of conscious experience." Basically an archetype is empty, purely formal, nothing else but a pre-shaping possibility or an innate tendency of shaping things.

We can say that archetypes resemble the instincts in that that they cannot be recognized as such until they manifest in intention or action.

Finally, the archetype is psychoid (psychic-like); it shares both psychic and material aspects and acts as well on a psychic and/or material plane.

  • Learn more about archetypes

- More about archetypes may be found in the book The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Click here to access our Jung Bookstore at

- Learn about the archetypes as they appear in our dreams by taking our email course on dream interpretation method at Carl Jung. Click here to access the course page.

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