..:: The Theory of the Archetypes ::..


Alan Schneider and Jeff Bade (ed.)


             The initial work of Sigmund Freud on repression as the primary contributing factor in neuroses and psychoses is well known, both to psychological professionals and to the informed public as well. Freud postulated a psychic structure composed of three primary areas that combined to create the mind – the ego, the id, and the superego. The ego is the focus of sentience and self awareness – the “me” that I “know” and can observe functioning in the world. The id is a compendium of largely subconscious instinctual drives and drive states that compel the organism to seek gratification of many physical desires, including sexual ones. The superego is the result of acculturation factors that frequently function in opposition to the instinctual id – social and moral prescriptions that tell us what we can and cannot do in a given situation. The ego has the unenviable task of mediating the demands of the id, on one hand, and the superego on the other. Inasmuch as we are social creatures who are dependent on each other for survival, culture is both necessary and inevitable (hence producing the superego), and there would be no population to survive without the action of the id spurring reproduction. Yes, the ego has a rough balancing act!

          According to Freud, the occurrence of trauma in childhood – which could result even from ineffective parenting – caused the occasion of the need to deny, or repress, the memory of the traumatic circumstance(s), thus producing neuroses and, in extreme cases, psychoses. The neurotic ego frequently feels that it is somehow inadequate in one or more key areas of life, and feels driven to compensate for this, either consciously or unconsciously. In the case of the psychotic, the damage to the ego is very extensive, causing large gaps in both integrated thought processing and continuity of awareness, frequently accompanied by hallucinations and delusions of many kinds. While the mind of the neurotic may be characterized as “dented”, the mind of the psychotic is essentially “ruptured” (or broken into dissociated “layers” – e.g. schizophrenia), allowing the mental contents to emerge sporadically and frequently inappropriately. Those contents tend to take the form of symbolic expressions of emotional and psychic states that have become dissociated from what remains of the individual’s sentient self awareness.

          Carl Jung was one of Freud’s contemporaries in the early days of psychiatric investigation. In contrast to the Freudian theory of sexual repression, he had made an extensive study of both the hallucinations of the many psychotic patients he encountered in therapeutic practice, and the traditional beliefs and norm structures of literally every culture in history that he could find information on, and had noticed a fascinating series of correlations in the content of the symbols and representations present in both cases. From this database of information, which has never been equaled, the theory of the Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious Mind was postulated by Jung. Freud was furious with Jung for his departure from the sexually based theories of mental dysfunction, and a subsequent permanent split in psychiatric theory was the result.

          In Jung’s view of the mind, or psyche, as it is more appropriately referred to in scientific contexts, much more is present than the three Freudian elements previously discussed. For Jung, the matter of conscious versus unconscious processing of information is paramount. The ego is seen as a “bright spot” of sentient conscious awareness which incorporates the acculturated superego, and is surrounded by the personal unconscious, a region of repressed material that includes some of the contents of the id (the ones that did not survive the censorship of the superego), repressed memories and urges related to trauma formation, elements of superego functioning of which awareness has been lost, personal dream/myth symbols, and any other psychic material acculturated out of conscious recognition by the individual’s cultural socialization. The key element here is that the unconscious at this level is personal in character, and concerns personal information. Although this information may contain many stereotypes, it does not per se contain the archetypes – they belong to the next, deeper level of psychic manifestation, which Jung referred to as the Collective Unconscious, in view of its universal expression in human culture and consciousness.

          Both the ego and the personal unconscious can be thought of as “floating” on the much larger sphere of the total psyche. Within this sphere of mental activity are found the Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious. Jung defined a hierarchical structure of manifestation for the Archetypes, from those of greater frequency of expression and impact on the psyche, to those of relatively lesser presence and influence. As one “dives” deeper into the collective unconscious, the archetypal symbols encountered become more potent and more universal in expression. At the core of the sphere, at the deepest level of expression, the Primal Self is present as the root driving force for all psychic activity. Freud thought that his concept of the Libido, or erotic life force, was the subconscious ultimate mover of the mind, and was primarily sexual in nature, but Jung felt that this force was first and foremost existential. That is to say we are, in Jung’s model of the mind, driven by the need to understand and experience meaning, as opposed to copulate and experience orgasm in the Freudian model. In fact, both models are correct – on the one hand, we are driven by instinct, and on the other, by the need to make sense of the world around us. The mind cannot well tolerate a void of meaning, and the body cannot well tolerate a void of stimulation.

          The work of Jung took the momentous step of postulating the existence of a world of symbolic conscious expression that stood beyond the physical boundaries of the organism, effectively in a non-observable, non-determinate state. Jung called these symbolic expression generators the Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious. It is important to note here that the specific nature of the archetypes is hidden beyond the threshold of observation – they cannot be known directly. They can, however, be known indirectly through the symbolic expressions they generate in the phases of consciousness that we can access and observe. These archetypal symbols are the building blocks of consciousness in the Jungian psyche. Jung believed that archetypal symbols occur instinctually, are a part of racial memory, and serve to enhance survival by providing an inborn tendency to organize perception along certain lines that result in improved social organization and coordinated activity.

          There are literally hundreds of archetypal symbols – referred to hereinafter simply as archetypes for the sake of literary convenience – perhaps more than one thousand. They demonstrate a clearly hierarchical organization in layers of implicit interaction with each other and the Freudian ego. In most cases, they are valenced, and have clear positive or negative implications for the well being of the organism. And there are certain meta-maps of the mind that appear to be descriptions of the totality of consciousness that extends beyond the personal, Freudian mind. This extended model is usually referred to as Mind, Self, Truth, or Psyche (here capitalized to make the distinction with the personal mind or psyche). Jung felt that the Hindu Chakra System of the States of conscious experience was the most psychologically functional description of the Self referred to above. This relationship of the Chakras to states of experience was explored by Jung in The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga in substantial detail.

          Another significant aspect of the archetypes is their nature as chaotic strange attractors. The strange attractor is the governing influence of chaotic systems. By definition, a strange attractor cannot be directly observed (since chaos is defined as the condition that exists beyond organized sensory impressions consistent with observation), exerts a definite, but not readily measurable, effect on surrounding systems, and is known indirectly by the secondary effects of its activity emerging as observable data in the more orderly systems (e.g. the physical senses and perception). Such orderly systems all, however, are themselves located in a setting of primary chaos. In the case of the human organism, the border of chaos is the physical body. Paradoxically, we experience the body, and the world, through the impressions of the senses. And we can only experience our sensory impression of the body – the ultimate reality of the body lies beyond the senses in the Self. What we do experience is the emergence of archetypal symbols into observable form, from the threshold of chaos. These symbols then tend to structure and influence our perception and behavior – clearly secondary effects, as noted above.

          Perhaps the most important implication of strange attractors is what they infer about the Mind (Self, Psyche) and its physical reflection, the universe. The very “existence” of this phenomenon suggests an organizing influence present even in apparently chaotic conditions. This influence appears to possess a subtle expression of intelligence and purpose that extends beyond the occurrence of isolated strange attractors. The Self is knowable as God – the Self is God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The implication of Jungian psychodynamics is that God exists in a (normally) unobservable state, but can be inferred from, and experienced through, the organization of the archetypes – particularly the Chakras.

          Science doubts what cannot be observed and experimented upon. Jung warned of relying too heavily on logical, scientific thought in view of the circumstance that it was only one possible method of observing the world. Feeling, intuition, and sensation are other, equally valid methods that, however, do not lend themselves to quantification and measurement. The Jungian postulate that consciousness essentially originates in a realm beyond personal experience and control was too controversial (then, and now) for most scientists to accept (as demonstrated in the curriculum of modern universities, almost all of which insist on maintaining the strictly scientific method of inquiry). Preference was given to Freud’s model, which was at least contained within the organism. It was not until the advent of Quantum mechanics and Relativity physics that the non-specific nature of observation itself was seen as the defining factor in all observations. Under such non-determinate circumstances, chaos, and what lies beyond chaos, becomes a pliable and observable condition about which much of value can be learned. Perception, as it turns out, is conditional, and manifestation is interpretive. But the Self has left a subconsciously imprinted map of its nature, one which can be accessed through the process of meditation.

          The concepts of Yoga, meditation, and the Chakras are closely related in the philosophy of Hinduism. Yoga is actually a form of “moving” meditation, and the Chakras are centers of consciousness being “activated” by the Yoga process. Although Yoga can be engaged in as a purely physical activity, its original and traditional goal is the union of the Freudian self with the Jungian Primal Self in the condition of religious ecstasy known as Samadhi. (3) When Yoga and static meditation are practiced in the spiritual context, the Freudian ego is relaxed into a state of inactivity, and removed from the center of consciousness (thus permitting the observation of the Self to begin to take place in the individual’s perception), and permitting the subsequent experience of the Chakras as active Jungian archetypes. The non-ego-referenced consciousness successively experiences each Chakra, generating progressively more involved and intense spiritual perception for the practitioner. The ultimate state of Samadhi is tantamount to complete experiential reunion with God (as expressed in conventional religious terminology). The condition of Yoga in Samadhi is the long term goal of most Hindu schools of spiritual conception.

          As Primary Archetypes (perhaps the most Primary Archetypes that can be experienced in any state of consciousness) the Chakras represent a succession of stages of perception, first of the Freudian self at the first Chakra, Muladhara, and transitionally culminating with the Jungian Primal Self at the seventh Chakra, Sahasrara. A brief description of the implications of each Chakra follows:


1) Muladhara – the center of conscious manifestation concerned with the physical survival of the body, located at the base of the spine.

2) Svadhisthana – the center concerned with sex, pleasure, and reproduction, located at the abdomen.

3) Manipura – the center concerned with social power and prestige, located at the navel.

4) Anahata – the center concerned with the Soul, compassion, and selfless love, located at the heart. In Anahata, we feel the Truth.

5) Vishuddha – the center concerned with vocal and verbal processing, communication, and mantra chanting. In Vishuddha, we can teach and speak about the Truth.

6) Ajna – the center concerned with extrasensory perception, intuition, and spiritual visions. In Ajna, we perceive the Inner Truth.

7) Sahasrara – the center of Supreme Consciousness, located above the head. In Sahasrara, we reunite with and directly experience the Truth.

          Depending on the individual’s Karma, or destiny, and the level of spiritual development permitted by that Karma, life is perceived as being controlled by a given Chakra or combination of Chakras. It is the goal of Yoga, meditation, and all other higher consciousness practices to promote awareness of the meaning and existence of the Chakras and to foster the process of ascension through the stages of Chakra expression as far and as high as circumstances will permit at any given time. In a word, the Chakras represent the psychological “royal road” to the Self. If this road is less traveled, it is nonetheless well worth the journey for the investigator courageous and disciplined enough to make the trip!


                                                                                   - With Love, Alan -

                                                                            (CR2008, Alan Schneider)


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