ARCHETYPE (Grk. ’αρχετυπος [archetypos]—first model, prototype, original)—potential forms, original models of the “collective unconscious” which are the chief source of man’s reaction and behavior.
The term “archetype” was taken from the Corpus Hermeticum and the De divinis nominibus of Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagite. The contemporary conception of archetype was formulated by C. G. Jung and has been developed in psychology, the phenomenology of religion, and the study of religion.
Archetype in psychology. Jung’s theory of archetypes is connected with his views on the genesis of man (man as a conscious being developed from a primitive unconscious state identical to the organic process of life), his views on the dualism of nature and spirit, and his distinction between man’s consciousness and his unconscious psyche, the great base of the conscious. Along with the drives, archetypes are the basic elements of the “collective unconscious”. They are potential forms (models), primordial images that appear in various epochs and cultures as component parts of myths and as autonomous and individual constructs of unconscious origin. Thus the archetype is an eternal unchanging structure (primordial form) which marks a mode of thought, feeling, and reaction in all the situations that are typical and important to man. The concept of archetypes does not imply “innate ideas” but innate modes, unconscious (a priori) conditionings of psychic function. Archetypal motifs come from primordial models of the human spirit that are transmitted not only by tradition but also by inheritance.
Man cannot know an archetype directly. It appears in the consciousness by the mediation of symbolic contents and motifs that are constantly repeated in historically and culturally varied forms in myths, beliefs, art, and the customs of different epochs and cultural circles.
Archetypes belong to the transcendent-numinous sphere (the spiritual sphere). They designate “models of behavior” in biological, socio-cultural, and psychological-religious life. The archetype is a border concept similar to Kant’s concept of the thing in itself. Archetypes are the centers and dominant factors of the unconscious. The structure of the archetype is bipolar. It has a constructive and destructive aspect.
The archetype as such is inaccessible to consciousness, while archetypes are accessible in the form of symbols. Archetypes may be described as psychic processes transformed into “primitive images”, the modes of all concrete phenomena.
Among the most important archetypes Jung listed the archetype of the shadow, the anima and animus (the feminine and masculine element in man’s psyche), the old sage, and the great mother. The archetype of the self is the highest archetype, while God is the archetype that represents general psychic energy and the hierarchically highest object of direct religious experience.
Archetype in the phenomenology of religion and the study of religion. M. Eliade, K. Kerényi, and G. Can der Leeuw applied the Jungian conception of the archetype to the explanation of the phenomenon of religion. In the study of religion an archetype means the deepest structure of meaning in manifestations of the sacred, the model of the most primitive religious behavior. Archetypes are the basic relics of mankind’s primitive experiences. They are expressed in the earliest mythological systems, especially in cosmogonic systems. They contain symbols of gestures or events performed in the dawn of mankind (“in illo tempore”) by divine beings or mythical figures. Archetypes are found at the foundations of all religions and they provide an explanation for the uniformity of basic religious experiences despite their historical variations and cultural differences.
The life of those who profess every religion (work, play, sanctification) is meaningful, normal, and true only when it imitates the deeds performed “in illo tempore” by gods and mythical heroes. All religious actions, esp. ritual actions, refer to archetypes and are meaningful insofar as they are a repetition of the ideal first model. Ritual, by recreating archetypes and by repetition, indicates man’s desire to realize an ideal form in the conditions of human existence in order to be found in continuity of duration (eternity). Thereby religious ritual takes on a salvific character, for the archetype gives human life a transcendent and non-temporal dimension.
C. J. Jung, Psychologie und Religion, Z 1942 (Psychologia i religia [Psychology and religion], Wwa 1970); M. Eliade, Le mythe de l’éternel retour. Archetype et répetition, P 1949; idem, Traité d’histoire des religions, P 1949 (Traktat o historii religii [Treatise on the history of religions], Wwa 1966, Łódź 1993²); C. G. Jung, Gestaltungen des Unbewussten, Z 1950; idem, Wurzeln des Bewussten. Studien über den Archety, Z 1954; K. Kerényi, Archetypical Images of Greek Religions, Lo 1962; M. Eliade, Sacrum, mit, historia [The sacred, myth, history], Wwa 1970, 1993³; H. H. Belmer, Die Archetypen theorie von C. G. Jung, B 1972; C. G. Jung, Archetyp i symbole. Pisma wybrane [Archetypes and symbols. Selected writings], Wwa 1981², 1993³.
Zofia J. Zdybicka