Archetypes, Language and Meaning

In Jungian Psychology, The Collective Unconscious (of all of humans) contains a range of a priori generalized omnipresent personality representations (Archetypes), which are themselves given shape by primordial images, or psychic contents that we all are born with.

Archetypes, are our psychic counterparts to Animal Instincts.

*They are only actualized through encountering the outer world, through social interactions and the external roles that we assume, in our attempts to get our needs met and to work through the specific challenges that our “complex” repressions (as a result of our specific early life experiences and perceptions) create.

*The production by humans of images, symbols and the resultant composite cultures that form, are themselves the expressions of these archetypes, through our intentions to convey meaning to others through symbolic form.

“A symbol, like everything else, shows a double aspect. We must distinguish, therefore between the ‘sense’ and the ‘meaning’ of the symbol. It seems to me perfectly clear that all the great and little symbolical systems of the past functioned simultaneously on three levels: The corporeal of waking consciousness, The spiritual of dream, and The ineffable (Inexpressible) of the absolutely unknowable. The term ‘meaning’ can refer only to the first two but these, today, are in the charge of science – which is the province as we have said, not of symbols but of signs. The ineffable, the absolutely unknowable, can be only sensed (intuited). It is the province of art which is not ‘expression’ merely, or even primarily, but a quest for, and formulation of, experience evoking, energy-waking images: yielding what Sir Herbert Read has aptly termed a ‘sensuous apprehension of being.”

-Joseph Campbell

Sign: an object, quality or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else.

In considering the effect of a symbol on the psyche, in his seminal essay “The Symbol without Meaning”, Joseph Campbell proposes the following definition: 

A symbol is an energy evoking, and directing, agent.  

A symbol then, tends to capture our attention and focuses it externally, and directs our actions towards the meaning intended through the symbolic message.

“Concepts and words are symbols, just as visions, rituals, and images are; so too are the manners and customs of daily life. Through all of these a transcendent reality is mirrored. They are so many metaphors reflecting and implying something which, though thus variously expressed, is ineffable, though thus rendered multiform, remains inscrutable. Symbols hold the mind to truth but are not themselves the truth, hence it is delusory to borrow them. Each civilisation, every age, must bring forth its own.”

-Heinrich Zimmer

In the book “Signs and Symbols”, it is stated that a symbol … is a visual image or sign representing an idea — a deeper indicator of a universal truth.

Symbols then, allow humans to communicate a representation of a truth, that itself is in fact inexpressible through the very symbols, words or language that we humans employ. 

The fundamental angst, that fuels the drive that we humans seek to communicate through symbols and language, is our psychic instinctual drive made manifest through the various generalized archetypal expressions known to all humans throughout time and space.

Archetypes act as attractors, or instinctually known (unconscious) focal points of primordial human recognizable expression, that directs us towards other particular dynamical energetic systems (others) that are intended to foster our psychic growth, in a staged and predictable fashion.

Humans, through our own unique complexes (that approximate one or more standard archetypes), unconsciously express typical archetypal behavior patterns, and in doing so attract as we are attracted to, archetypes in others that may assist us in working through our own particular stage of psychic development.  

Complexes are a set of mental images clustered around a set of themes that characterizes an individual’s life experiences and perceptions and attached emotions centered around those experiences.  

The existence of such psychic centers are recognizable to others by their arrangement of expressions externally, and form paterns of affect-laden emotions, memories, perceptions and wishes hovering around a common theme, and thus approximate an Archetype.

The Ego Complex is the center of ones personal consciousness. Complexes are energetic and semi-autonomous unconscious manifestations that interfere with ones normally functioning Ego Complex. Complexes are held in the unconscious, and as such often usurp an individual’s conscious ability to Will as they’d choose to, as ones complexes compete with their Ego Complex for independent expression and control of ones psyche.

This phenomenon creates an imbalance or a polarized tension in ones psyche, leading to a differentiation or an imbalance of ones ego complex and in fact it polarizes ones psyche. 

This all frames the human life experience and ones own personal life struggle, which is either actively accepted by the individual as the Heros journey (the journey of liberating ones true-self held captive by the unconscious Shadow, known as Individuation), or not.

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