Thursday, January 28, 2010


As I was researching about the word archetypes, I had assumed that I knew the main definition of the word, as it used in more everyday language. Typically it means, "an original model of a person, an ideal example, or a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned or emulated, " or a symbol universally recognized by all. It can also apply to psychology, referring to a model of behavior. Archetypes are also found in literature, as they used to be important to ancient mythology.

However, the most interesting and artistic use of this word takes on a slightly different use. Carl Jung in the year 1919, came up with the concept of Jungian archetypes. He was a psychiatrist who believed that archetypes are innate, universal prototypes for ideas and may be used to interpret observations. He claims that archetypes are unconscious, and arise from patterns of behavior and images, and then are actualized when they enter the conscious after being manifested in someone's interactions with another's behavior. So for example, when you see a certain symbol or interact with a certain kind of a "archetypal" person, it triggers memories and forces you to question truth and reality. In essence, archetypes are visual symbols that exist in our subconscious that are actualized in certain moments to grant us understanding.

If you want to become aware of these Jungian archetypes, Jung says that they come about through meditation, dreamtime and outer body experiences. The five main archetypes are:
The Self- the regulating center of the psyche
The Shadow- opposite of the ego image
The Anima- feminine image in a man's psyche
The Animus- the masculine image in a woman's psyche
The Persona- how we present ourselves to the world

Other archetypes include the child, hero, great mother, wise old man, and often refer to stages of life such as marriage, birth, death, courtship etc. These images of people are often expressed in art through ancient times and even now are explored in a more modern context. Egyptians and Native Americans relied on these symbols often, as they were used to tell narratives that influenced their cultures. They are also expressed in architecture, as the pendulum archetype is used in St. Peters Square at Vatican City in Rome, and the World War II memorial in D.C. They have also appeared in crop circles and space observations.

Hope this gives you a better understanding of the word, even though the concept behind it is quite confusing. They are no accounts of anyone claiming that they have witnessed the process of interacting with these archetypes, however.

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