The contents of the collective unconscious are called archetypes. Jung also called them dominants, imagos, mythological or primordial images, and a few other names, but archetypes seems to have won out over these. An archetype is an unlearned tendency to experience things in a certain way.
The archetype itself is empty. Nothing but a possibility of representation which is given a priori.
Archetypes are not determined as regards their content but only as regards their form and then only to a very limited degree.
Jung says clearly ‘the archetype itself is empty.’ What precisely does he mean by empty? We may infer that in the context of his definition, emptiness has something to do with the possibility of imaginal representation as it is filled out by the content of our human experience.
The content of the empty archetype, or the image is not determined. It has infinite variety or a boundless quality. In other words it is always changing, as is the form but to a more limited degree. Implied in Jung’s statement is the important distinction between the archetypal image that may be known and the symbol of the archetype that can never be known.
What precedes the image of the empty archetype, is a movement of energy out of what Jung describes as the psychoid character of the collective unconscious. And from this swell of energy emerges the fluid form that circumscribes the content of my human experience with all of its delight and anguish.
in 1950, having assimilated the themes of impermanence and movement from the Fire Sermon and the Golden Flower he declares that: “The self furthermore, is not a static quantity or constant form, but is rather a ‘dynamic process,’ an active force’ whose essence is one of continual transformation and rejuvenation.” 7CW9.ii.411)
This Self, like the general definition of the empty archetype, is not stable. It is not a substance but a dynamic process; It has no immutable essence only active force; It cannot be grasped because it is both constantly transforming as it is transformed. This is the self that bears a striking resemblance to the Buddhist notion of emptiness or shunyata.
The archetype has no form of its own, but it acts as an "organizing principle" on the things we see or do. It works the way that instincts work in Freud's theory: At first, the baby just wants something to eat, without knowing what it wants. It has a rather indefinite yearning which, nevertheless, can be satisfied by some things and not by others. Later, with experience, the child begins to yearn for something more specific when it is hungry – a bottle, a cookie, a broiled lobster, a slice of New York style pizza.
The archetype is like a black hole full of stars of light in space: You only know its there by how it draws matter and light to itself.
Jung Collected Works: CIVILIZATION IN TRANSITION - MIND AND EARTH
"What, then, are the most immediate archetypes? This question leads us straight to the problem of archetypal functioning, and so to the heart of the difficulty. From what standpoint should we answer the question? From that of the child, or of the primitive, or of our adult modern consciousness? How can we recognize an archetype? And when is it necessary to have recourse to this hypothesis at all?
I would like to suggest that every psychic reaction which is out of proportion to its preciPitating cause should be investigated as to whether it may be conditioned at the same time by an archetype.4 58 What I mean by this can best be illustrated by an example.
Suppose a child is afraid of its mother. We have first to assure ourselves that there is no rational cause for this, a bad conscience, for instance, on the child's part, or violence on mother's, or something else that may have happened to 1 child. If there is nothing of this kind to explain the fear, th I would suggest that the situation be regarded as an archetypal one. Usually such fears occur at night, and are wont to sh, themselves in dreams. The child now dreams of the mother a witch who pursues children.
The conscious material behi these dreams is in some cases the story of Hansel and Gretel. is then said that the child should not have been told such fairytale, because the tale is thought to be the cause of the fe; That is an erroneous rationalization, but it nevertheless contai a core of truth in so far as the witch-motif is the most suitat expression for childish fears, and always has been. That is w such fairytales exist. Children's night-terrors are a typical eve that is constantly repeating itself and has always been express,
in typical fairytale motifs. But fairytales are only infantile forms of legends, myths, at superstitions taken from the "night religion" of primitive What I call "night religion" is the magical form of religion, t] meaning and purpose of which is intercourse with the daJ powers, devils, witches, magicians, and spirits. Just as the chil ish fairytale is a phylogenetic repetition of the ancient nig] religion, so the childish fear is a re-enactment of primitive pschology, a phylogenetic relic.
The fact that this relic displays a certain vitality is in r sense abnormal, for nocturnal fears, even in adults living undecivilized conditions, are not necessarily an abnormal phenomnon. Only an intensified degree of night-fear can be regarded; abnormal. The question then is, under what circumstances this night-fear increased? Can the increase be explained sole] by the archetype of the witch expressed in the fairytale, or mu: some other explanatory cause be adduced? ch We should make the archetype responsible only for a defnite, minimal, normal degree of fear; any pronounced increase felt to be abnormal, must have special causes. Freud, as w know, explains this fear as due to the collision of the child' incestuous tendency with the incest prohibition. He thus e:l\ plains it from the standpoint of the child. I have no doubt tha children can have "incestuous" tendencies in the extended sens, used by Freud, but I doubt very much whether these tendencies can be attributed without more ado to the child's psychology suigeneris. There are very good reasons for the view that the childpsyche is still under the spell of the parents' psyche, especially the mother's, and to such a degree that the psyche of the child must be regarded as a functional appendage of that of the parents. The psychic individuality of the child develops only later, after a reliable continuity of consciousness has been established. The fact that the child begins by speaking of himself in the third person is in my view a clear proof of the impersonality of his psychology.
62 I am therefore inclined to explain the possible incestuous tendencies of the child rather from the standpoint of the psychology of the parents, just as every childish neurosis should be considered first and foremost in the light of the parental psychology. Thus, a frequent cause of increased infantile terrors is an especial "complex-proneness" on the part of the parents, that is, their repression and disregard of certain vital problems. Anything that falls into the unconscious takes on a more or less archaic form. If, for example, the mother represses a painful and terrifying complex, she will feel it as an evil spirit pursuing her -a "skeleton in the cupboard," as the English say. This formulation shows that the complex has already acquired archetypal force. It sits on her like an incubus, she is tormented by nightmares. Whether she tells "nightmare-stories" to the child or not, she none the less infects the child and awakens in its mind archetypal terror images from her own psychology. Perhaps she has erotic fantasies about a man other than her husband. The child is the visible sign of their marriage tie, and her resistance to the tie is unconsciously directed against the child, who has to be repudiated. On the archaic level this corresponds to childmurder. In this way the mother becomes a wicked witch who devours children.
As in the mother, so in the child the possibilities of archaic representation lie dormant, and the same cause which first produced and laid down the archetype during the course of human history reactivates it again and again today. This example of the manifestation of an archetype in a child has not been chosen at random. We began with the question of what are the most immediate archetypes. The most immediate is the primordial image of the mother; she is in every way the nearest and most powerful experience, and the one which during the most impressionable period of man's life. Since ccsciousness is as yet only poorly developed in childhood, one ca not speak of an "individual" experience at all. On the contral the mother is an archetypal experience; she is experienced by t more or less unconscious child not as a definite, individu feminine personality but as the mother, an archetype chargl with an immensity of possible meanings. As life proceeds tJ primordial image fades and is replaced by a conscious, relative individual image, which is assumed to be the only mother-ima: we have. But in the unconscious the mother always remains powerful primordial image, colouring and even determinil throughout life our relations to woman, to society, to the wor of feeling and fact, yet in so subtle a way that, as a rule, there no conscious perception of the process. We think all this is on a metaphor. But it becomes a very concrete fact when a ma marries a wife only because in some way she resembles h mother, or else because she very definitely does not. Mothl Germania is for the Germans, like la douce France for dFrench, a figure of the utmost importance behind the politic scene, who could be overlooked only by blinkered intellectual The all-embracing womb of Mother Church is anything but metaphor, and the same is true of Mother Earth, Mother Natur and "matter"
in general.The archetype of the mother is the most immediate one f(the child. But with the development of consciousness the fath( also enters his field of vision, and activates an archetype whm nature is in many respects opposed to that of the mother. Just;: the mother archetype corresponds to the Chinese yin) so th father archetype corresponds to the yang. I t determines our reI; tions to man, to the law and the state, to reason and the spir: and the dynamism of nature. "Fatherland" implies boundarie. a definite localization in space, whereas the land itself is Mothe Earth, quiescent and fruitful. The Rhine is a father, as is th Nile, the wind and storm, thunder and lightning. The father i the "auctor" and represents authority, hence also law and th state. He is that which moves in the world, like the wind; th guide and creator of invisible thoughts and airy images. He i the creative wind-breath1the spirit, pneuma, atman.
Thus the father, too, is a powerful archetype dwelling in th psyche of the child. At first he is the father, an all-encompassing God-image, a dynamic principle. In the course of life this authoritarian imago recedes into the background: the father turns into a limited and often all-too-human personality. The father-imago, on the other hand, develops to the full its potential significance. Just as man was late in discovering nature, so he only gradually discovered law, duty, responsibility, the state, the spirit. As the nascent consciousness becomes more capable of understanding, the importance of the parental personality dwindles. The place of the father is taken by the society of men, and the place of the mother by the family.
It would be wrong, in my view, to say that all those things which take the place of the parents are nothing but a substitute for the unavoidable loss of the primordial parental imagos. What appears in their stead is not just a substitute, but a reality that is interwoven with the parents and has impressed itself on the mind of the child through the parental imago. The mother who gives warmth, protection, and nourishment is also the hearth, the sheltering cave or hut, and the surrounding vegetation. She is the provident field, and her son is the godlike grain, the brother and friend of man. She is the milk-giving cow and the herd. The father goes about, talks with other men, hunts, travels, makes war, lets his bad moods loose like thunderstorms, and at the behest of invisible thoughts he suddenly changes the whole situation like a tempest. He is the war and the weapon, the cause of all changes; he is the bull provoked to violence or prone to apathetic laziness. He is the image of all the helpful or harmful elemental powers.
All these things are the early immediacies of the child's life, impinging on him, directly or indirectly, through the parents. And as the parental imago shrinks and becomes humanized, all those things, which at first seemed only like a background or like marginal effects, begin to stand out more clearly. The earth he plays with, the fire he warms himself at, the rain and wind that chill him, were always realities, but because of his twilight consciousness they were seen and understood only as qualities of the parents. Then, as out of a mist, there emerge the material and dynamic aspects of the earth, revealing themselves as powers in their own right, and no longer wearing the masks of the parents. They are thus not a substitute but a reality that cc responds to a higher level of consciousness.
Nevertheless something is lost in this development, and this the irreplaceable feeling of immediate oneness with the pa ents. This feeling is not just a sentiment, but an important ps chological fact which Levy-Bruhl, in an altogether differel context, has called particiPation mystique. The fact denoted 1 this not immediately understandable expression plays a gre; role in the psychology of primitives as well as in analytical ps chology. To put it briefly, it means a state ot identity in mutul unconsciousness. Perhaps I should explain this further. If tf same unconscious complex is constellated in two people at tf same time, it produces a remarkable emotional effect, a proje tion, which causes either a mutual attraction or a mutual repu sion. When I and another person have an unconscious relatio to the same important fact, I become in part identical with hin and because of this I orient myself to him as I would to the conplex in question were I conscious of it.
7° This state of particiPation mystique obtains between parenand children. A well-known example is the stepmother whidentifies herself with the daughter and, through her, marries thson-in-law; or the father who thinks he is considering his son welfare when he naIvely forces him to fulfil his-the father'swishes, for instance in marriage or in the choice of a professiOl The SOn who identifies himself with the father is an equally wel known figure. But there is an especially close bond betwee mother and daughter, which in certain cases can actually b demonstrated by the association method.5 Although the partic pation mystique is an unconscious fact to the person concerne< he nevertheless feels the change when it no longer exists. Ther is always a certain difference between the psychology of a ma whose father is still living and one whose father is dead. So Ion ~s a particiPation mystique with the parents persists, a relativel mfantile style of life can be maintained.
Through the particiPt tion mystique life is pumped into us from outside in the form c unconscious motivations, for which, since they are unconsciou: no responsibility is felt. Because of this infantile unconsciousne the burden of life is lightened, or at least seems so. One is not alone, but exists unconsciously in twos or threes. In imagination the son is in his mother's lap, protected by the father. The father is reborn in the son-at least as a link in the chain of eternal life. The mother has rejuvenated her father in her youthful husband and so has not lost her youth. I need not cite examples from primitive psychology. A reference to them must suffice.
All this drops away with the broadening and intensification of consciousness. The resultant extension of the parental imagos over the face of the world, or rather, the world's breaking through the mists of childhood, severs the unconscious union with the parents. This process is even performed consciously in the primitive rites of initiation into manhood. The archetype of the parents is thereby driven into the background; it is, as we say, no longer "constellated." Instead, a new kind of participation mystique begins with the tribe, society, Church, or nation. This participation is general and impersonal, and above all it gives unconsciousness very little scope. If anyone should incline to be too unconscious and too guilelessly trusting, law and society will quickly shake him into consciousness. But sexual maturity also brings with it the possibility of a new personal particiPation mystique) and hence of replacing that part of the personality which was lost in identification with the parents. A new archetype is constellated: in a man it is the archetype of woman, and in a woman the archetype of man. These two figures were likewise hidden behind the mask of the parental imagos, but now they step forth undisguised, even though strongly influenced by the parental imagos, often overwhelmingly so. I have given the feminine archetype in man the name "anima," and the masculine archetype in woman the name "animus," for specific reasons which I shall discuss later. 6 The more a man or woman is unconsciously influenced by the parental imago, the more surely will the figure of the loved one be chosen as either a positive or a negative substitute for the parents.
The far-reaching influence of the parental imago should not be considered abnormal; on the contrary, it is a very normal and therefore very common phenomenon. I t is, indeed, very important that this should be so, for otherwise the parents are not reborn in the children, and the parental imago becomes so completely lost that all continuity in the life of the individual ceases. He cannot connect his childhood with his adult life, and therefore remains unconsciously a child-a situation that is the best possible foundation for a neurosis. He will then suffer from all those ills that beset parvenus without a history, be they individuals or social groups.
It is normal that children should in a certain sense marry their parents. This is just as important, psychologically, as the biological necessity to infuse new blood if the ancestral tree is to produce a good breed. It guarantees continuity, a reasonable prolongation of the past into the present. Only too much or too little in this direction is harmfuL
So long as a positive or negative resemblance to the parents is the deciding factor in a love choice, the release from the parental imago, and hence from childhood, is not complete. Although childhood has to be brought along for the sake of historical continuity, this should not be at the expense of further development.
When, towards middle life, the last gleam of childhood illusion fades-this it must be owned is true only of an almost ideal life, for many go as children to their graves-then the archetype of the mature man or woman emerges from the parental imago: an image of man as woman has known him from the beginning of time, and an image of woman that man carries within him eternally.