Archetypes and Instincts
A Moderate Position
Updated September 2021 – added a discussion between matter and spirit as well as some minor edits.
Updated May 2022 – added a quote by Bernardo Kastrup as well as some edits.
Analytical psychology makes the singular claim that the psyche is, at its deepest and most unconscious level, structured. These fundamental psychic structures, called archetypes, produce spontaneous images that can be empirically studied through dreams, fairy tales, mythology, and religions.
There is an undeniable fascination about archetypes, however, the current understanding of archetypes is less than satisfactory. It has to be said, one of the primary reasons for this confusion is Jung’s writings themselves as they are not decisively clear on what an archetype is.
Another aspect of the problem would be the tendency of Jungians to specialize in an archetypal understanding and to neglect more concrete or reductive approaches, which are always partially valid and frequently more effective. This tendency, at its worst, creates an inflated intellectual attitude that negatively impacts real and actionable life. This drift has always to be kept in check, myself included.
Most recently, the YouTube channel Jung to Live By has reintroduced an essential focus on instincts, another neglected aspect of people who read Jung. However, the claim made here goes further than reintroducing instincts but to question if archetypes, as Jung describes them, exist or are as primary as instincts.
To the best of my understanding, the line of thinking behind questioning the existence of archetypes relies on a few fundamental claims:
There are also two empirical claims grounded on biology:
Sources: video 1, video 2, video 3 (especially, 48:20-48:40)
There are many reasons why this position is attractive. The most important one is the therapeutic angle that this provides, as well as being able to ground a claim in biology. In any case, this disagreement is an opportunity to explore the question of the relationship between archetypes and instincts.
A large part of this article is going to be made of definitions and lengthy quotes in order to have a basis for understanding and comparison. I am worried that readers unacquainted with the topic will find this article very pedantic. Not knowing how to present this information in a more enjoyable way, my hope is that at least it provides an overview of material that will allow the reader to make his own mind.
The reader who is interested in a conclusion can skip to the last third of the article starting from “My Position“.
First, we should spend some time reading the definitions of archetypes and instincts found in the lexicon. Here are some selected quotes (underline emphasis are mine):
Archetype. Primordial, structural elements of the human psyche.
Archetypes are systems of readiness for action, and at the same time images and emotions. They are inherited with the brain structure-indeed they are its psychic aspect. They represent, on the one hand, a very strong instinctive conservatism, while on the other hand they are the most effective means conceivable of instinctive adaptation. They are thus, essentially, the chthonic portion of the psyche . . . that portion through which the psyche is attached to nature. [“Mind and Earth,” CW 10, par. 53.]
Jung also described archetypes as “instinctual images,” the forms which the instincts assume. He illustrated this using the simile of the spectrum.
The dynamism of instinct is lodged as it were in the infra-red part of the spectrum, whereas the instinctual image lies in the ultra-violet part. . . . The realization and assimilation of instinct never take place at the red end, i.e., by absorption into the instinctual sphere, but only through integration of the image which signifies and at the same time evokes the instinct, although in a form quite different from the one we meet on the biological level. [“On the Nature of the Psyche,” CW 8, par. 414.]
Psychologically . . . the archetype as an image of instinct is a spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives; it is the sea to which all rivers wend their way, the prize which the hero wrests from the fight with the dragon. [Ibid., par. 415.]
Instinct. An involuntary drive toward certain activities.
All psychic processes whose energies are not under conscious control are instinctive. [Definitions,” CW 6, par. 765.]
Instincts in their original strength can render social adaptation almost impossible. [“The Transcendent Function,” CW 8, par. 161.]
Instinct is not an isolated thing, nor can it be isolated in practice. It always brings in its train archetypal contents of a spiritual nature, which are at once its foundation and its limitation. In other words, an instinct is always and inevitably coupled with something like a philosophy of life, however archaic, unclear, and hazy this may be. Instinct stimulates thought, and if a man does not think of his own free will, then you get compulsive thinking, for the two poles of the psyche, the physiological and the mental, are indissolubly connected. [“Psychotherapy and a Philosophy of Life,” CW 16, par. 185.]
An instinct which has undergone too much psychization can take its revenge in the form of an autonomous complex. This is one of the chief causes of neurosis. [“Psychological Factors in Human Behaviour,” CW 8, par. 255.]
Too much of the animal distorts the civilized man, too much civilization makes sick animals. [“The Eros Theory,” CW 7, par. 32.]
In short, archetypes are “typical modes of apprehension” and instincts are “the impulse to act“. [“On the Nature of the Psyche,” CW 8, par. 280-282]
Instincts and archetypes as a spectrum (replicated from Daryl Sharp’s Jung Lexicon)
Edward Edinger provides the following definition of archetype in relation to instincts.
The concept of the archetype has a close relation to the concept of instinct. An instinct is a pattern of behavior which is inborn and characteristic for a certain species. Instincts are discovered by observing the behavior patterns of individual organisms. The instincts are the unknown motivating dynamism that determine an animal’s behavior on the biological level.
An archetype is to the psyche what an instinct is to the body. The existence of archetypes is inferred by the same process as that by which we infer the existence of instincts. Just as instincts common to a species are postulated by observing the uniformities in biological behavior, so archetypes are inferred by observing the uniformities in psychic phenomena. Just as instincts are unknown motivating dynamisms of biological behavior, archetypes are unknown motivating dynamisms of the psyche. Archetypes are the psychic instincts of the human species. Although biological instincts and psychic archetypes have a very close connection, exactly what this connection is we do not know any more than we understand just how the mind and body are connected. (Edward Edinger, An Outline of Analytical Psychology)
At this point, a temporary conclusion is that the understanding of archetypes cannot and should not be detached from instincts. They depend and inform each other.
As a pair of opposites, this also entails the typical paradox that, though they are inseparable, their distinct nature cannot be reduced to one or the other.
The first pair of opposites that we encounter is the distinction between matter and spirit. Marie-Louise von Franz describes Jung’s position in the following manner.
In contrast to his father who, in a crisis of doubt concerning his faith, began to accept a materialistic interpretation of psychic contents, Jung rejected a materialistic derivation of psychic phenomena, for the fundamental reason that we do not know what “matter” is, just as we also do not know what the “objective psychic” is, nor what “spirit” is. Both can be described only indirectly, by means of the traces they leave in our conscious minds, but they cannot be defined in themselves. “Matter and spirit both appear in the psychic realm,” he writes in a later paper, “as distinctive qualities of conscious contents. The ultimate nature of both is transcendental, that is, irrepresentable, since the psyche and its contents are the only reality which is given to us without a medium.” Thus one could even define the psyche as a quality of matter, or matter as the concrete aspect of the psyche. “In consequence of the inevitability of psychic phenomena, a single approach to the mystery of existence is impossible, there have to be at least two: namely, the material or physical event on the one hand and its psychic reflection on the other,” so that one is hard put to it to decide what is reflecting what. In this way Jung rejected every attempt to interpret existence materialistically or spiritually. [In the sense that everything is “spirit” and that matter is “only” concretized “spirit.”] For psychology “is not concerned with things as they are ‘in themselves,’ but only with what people think about them.“. (Marie-Louise von Franz, C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time, p. 57)
The word “spirit” requires a bit of elaboration. While the lexicon offers a definition, von Franz explains it as follows.
Jung then sums up the meaning of the word Geist (spirit) as being “a functional complex which originally, on the primitive level, was felt as an invisible, breath-like ‘presence.’ … When therefore something psychic happens in the individual which he feels as belonging to himself, that something is [regarded as] his own spirit. But if anything psychic happens which seems to him strange, then it is somebody else’s spirit,” which can also be regarded as a still unintegrated aspect of the unconscious. (ibid. , p. 82)
Spirit, therefore, according to Jung, is in the first instance the composer of dreams: a principle of spontaneous psychic motion which produces and orders symbolic images freely and in accordance with its own laws. (ibid.)
The dynamic which produces such inner symbolic patterns in the psyche is what Jung understands by the word “spirit.” (ibid. , p. 83)
This view led to a disagreement with Freud.
From the beginning of his work Jung took this approach to psychology, on the one hand as polarity between ego-consciousness (No. 1) and the unconscious (No. 2), and on the other hand as polarity between matter (biological basis) and spirit (that is, the form-giving ordering factor). […] In his reminiscences Jung presents a dramatic description of the first type of polarity. He relates how, in his own life, conscious and unconscious were polarized, and in this respect his convictions coincided with those of Freud. They did not coincide with Freud’s, however, in respect to the second kind of psychic polarization, namely the tension between spirit and matter, since ultimately Freud was convinced that psychic processes have their origins in matter. (ibid. , p. 80-81)
While Freud sees the fundamental human conflict as a collision of instinct with collective consciousness (the superego), Jung is of the opinion that both poles are present in nature, or in the human unconscious, that both of them have always been there and that neither is an epiphenomenon of the other. (ibid. , p. 89)
In distinction with the Freudian view, the polarity between spirit and instinct can be seen in the following way.
[T]he close association between instinct and religion in the broadest sense can be explained by this primordial association of drive with symbolic image. Religion, says Jung, “on the primitive level means the psychic regulatory system that is coordinated with the dynamism of instinct” the psychic regulatory system being the form-giving spirit. (ibid. , p. 84)
It is peculiar to the spirit, or to the symbol-forming function of the psyche, to bring the multiplicity of instinctual drives into a unified structure. Concerning animal life Konrad Lorenz speaks, for example, of a “parliament of the instincts“; in man the symbol-forming function of the unconscious would correspond to the president of such a parliament. This function is the spiritus rector of the individuation process described in the previous chapter. Man, in Jung’s view, is a natural being, full of primitive animal instincts on the one hand and on the other of a spiritual heritage consisting in the structural dispositions created by the symbol-forming function of the psyche. These structural symbolic patterns serve to hold man’s instinctive drives in check. (ibid. , p. 89)
Finally, when interpreting symbolism from the unconscious, Jung observes that
The fact that the dream as well as consciousness rest on an instinctual foundation has nothing to do either with the meaning of the dream-figures or with that of the conscious contents, for the essential thing in both cases is what the psyche has made of the instinctual impulse. The remarkable thing about the Parthenon is not that it consists of stone and was built to gratify the ambitions of the Athenians, but that it is—the Parthenon. (Carl Jung, Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, CW 9ii, par 316, note 63)
In conclusion, we can observe that the viewpoint proposed by Jung To Live By is a Freudian position, not a Jungian position. While Freud subscribes to a conflict between matter (id) and cultural norms (superego), Jung proposes a dual view of matter and spirit, each having a transcendental and irrepresentable dimension.
Instincts and archetypes also stand for the pair of opposites that is the animal and the divine.
The phenomenon of contamination, which we meet so frequently in the psychology of dreams and of primitives, is no mere accident but is based on a common denominator; at some point the opposites prove to be identical, and this implies the possibility of their contamination. One of the commonest instances of this is the identity of the god and his animal attribute. Such paradoxes derive from the non-human quality of the god’s and the animal’s psychology. The divine psyche is as far above the human as the animal psyche reaches down into subhuman depths.
Though “instincts” or “drives” can be formulated in physiological and biological terms they cannot be pinned down in that way, for they are also psychic entities which manifest themselves in a world of fantasy peculiarly their own. They are not just physiological or consistently biological phenomena, but are at the same time, even in their content, meaningful fantasy structures with a symbolic character. An instinct does not apprehend its object blindly and at random, but brings to it a certain psychic “viewpoint” or interpretation; for every instinct is linked a priori with a corresponding image of the situation, as can be proved indirectly in cases of the symbiosis of plant and animal. In man we have direct insight into that remarkable world of “magical” ideas which cluster round the instincts and not only express their form and mode of manifestation but “trigger them off.” (Carl Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, par 601-602)
There is another aspect to the fact that the divine psyche and the animal psyche are linked to each other and it has direct clinical relevance. Whenever a patient – or oneself for that matter – is grappling with intense instinctual urges, whenever the animal psyche is highly activated, one should be on the lookout for the religious aspect of the phenomenon. Wherever the animal is, one should look for the god. Contrariwise, wherever the god is, one should look for the animal, because, you see, they pull us in opposite directions. The god pulls us into grandiosity, inflation, and the animal pulls us down to the earth. Whenever there is an excess of one, we need to look for its other side. (Edward Edinger, The Mysterium Lectures, Lecture 21)
Another pair of opposites is the sexual instinct and the religious attitude.
If man’s striving for a spiritual goal is not a genuine instinct but merely the result of a particular social development, then an explanation according to sexual principles is the most appropriate and the most acceptable to reason. But even if we grant the striving for wholeness and unity the character of a genuine instinct, and base our explanation mainly on this principle, the fact still remains that there is a close association between sexual instinct and the striving for wholeness. (Carl Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10, par 653)
On a similar topic, Edinger writes:
We thus have a good reason to believe that the core of the human personality is either erotic or religious, or both.
It is usual to take sides on this question and, depending on which side is chosen, to interpret sexual material religiously or religious material sexually. Certainly theologians reveal this tendency when they interpret obvious erotic contents in the Old Testament as referring to Christ and His Bride, the Church. Freudian psychoanalysis does the same thing in reverse when it interprets religious belief as deriving from the family Oedipal situation and, therefore, as being primarily erotic. These attempts to magnify one aspect of life at the expense of the other create distorted, one-sided pictures of reality.
Religious and erotic terminology are notoriously interchangeable. The visions of the mystics abound in erotic imagery and, on the other hand, the language of lovers is often religious. I would suggest that the erotic and religious viewpoints correspond to what we have previously called object love and centroversion1. They are the extraverted and introverted aspects, respectively, of individuation. The religious attitude and the mature erotic attitude are essentially one. The religious or centroverted1 attitude relates reverently to the inner source of life, to God. The mature erotic attitude relates with equal respect and significance to fellow humans. […]
Just as centroversion1, the religious attitude, must be cleansed of the personal power motive, so eros, object love, must be purged of needy love and possessiveness. They then have the status of equal principles, or, more correctly, two equally valid manifestations of the same principle. What had once been a pair of opposites becomes reconciled. Both extraverted and introverted ways of life are honored. (Edward Edinger, Science of the Soul, The Transference Phenomenon)
1 Erich Neumann has defined centroversion as “the innate tendency of a whole to create unity within its parts and to synthesize their differences in unified systems. The unity of the whole is maintained by compensatory processes controlled by centroversion, with whose help the whole becomes a self-creative, expanding system. At a later stage centroversion manifests itself as a directive center, with the ego as the center of consciousness and the self as the psychic center. … [Centroversion] operates unconsciously, as the integrating function of wholeness, in all organisms from the amoeba to man.” (Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness)
As observed earlier, Jung concludes that psychic processes are necessarily made of both spirit and instincts. Distinguishing them is a tricky, if not futile, endeavour.
The psyche is made up of processes whose energy springs from the equilibration of all kinds of opposites. The spirit / instinct antithesis is only one of the commonest formulations, but it has the advantage of reducing the greatest number of the most important and most complex psychic processes to a common denominator. So regarded, psychic processes seem to be balances of energy flowing between spirit and instinct, though the question of whether a process is to be described as spiritual or as instinctual remains shrouded in darkness. Such evaluation or interpretation depends entirely upon the standpoint or state of the conscious mind. A poorly developed consciousness, for instance, which because of massed projections is inordinately impressed by concrete or apparently concrete things and states, will naturally see in the instinctual drives the source of all reality. It remains blissfully unaware of the spirituality of such a philosophical surmise, and is convinced that with this opinion it has established the essential instinctuality of all psychic processes. Conversely, a consciousness that finds itself in opposition to the instincts can, in consequence of the enormous influence then exerted by the archetypes, so subordinate instinct to spirit that the most grotesque “spiritual” complications may arise out of what are undoubtedly biological happenings. Here the instinctuality of the fanaticism needed for such an operation is ignored.
Carl Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW8, par 407
Edinger also warns about the danger of splitting the spirit from the instinct:
As Jung has demonstrated in his essay “On the Nature of the Psyche,” the archetype is bipolar. At one pole it expresses itself as instinct. At the opposite pole it is spirit. The angelic principalities are the spiritual dimension of the archetype, and the animal aspects of the accrescent soul are its instinctual dimension. The basic necessity is that the individual avoid identification with either pole of the archetype. Identifying with the one brings about spiritual inflation, with the other, psychotic passion.
Edward Edinger, The Psyche in Antiquity (Book Two): Gnosticism and Early Christianity, p. 66
More recently, Bernardo Kastrup summarized the split as follow.
In Jung’s own words, instinct (“the biological pattern of behavior”) and spirit (“the mythological archetype”) are “modos agendi,” ways of acting of the archetypes (The Jung-White Letters: 70). It is the tension between the ‘low,’ egotistic energy of instinct on the one hand and the ‘high,’ impersonal energy of spirit on the other that fuels psychic life and creates its dynamisms (cf. On the Nature of the Psyche: 138-139).
Bernardo Kastrup, Decoding Jung’s Metaphysics, Chapter 3: Archetypes
Archetypes as instinct and spirit
Like all pair of opposites, there is a danger to one-sided attitudes. The danger of being overwhelmed by instincts has been described by Jung in the following manner.
The spiritual principle does not, strictly speaking, conflict with instinct as such but only with blind instinctuality, which really amounts to an unjustified preponderance of the instinctual nature over the spiritual. The spiritual appears in the psyche also as an instinct, indeed as a real passion, a “consuming fire,” as Nietzsche once expressed it. It is not derived from any other instinct, as the psychologists of instinct would have us believe, but is a principle siti generis, a specific and necessary form of instinctual power. (Carl Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW8, par 108)
[God] appears at first in hostile form, as an assailant with whom the hero has to wrestle. This is in keeping with the violence of all unconscious dynamism. In this manner the god manifests himself and in this form he must be overcome. The struggle has its parallel in Jacob’s wrestling with the angel at the ford Jabbok. The onslaught of instinct then becomes an experience of divinity, provided that man does not succumb to it and follow it blindly, but defends his humanity against the animal nature of divine power. (Carl Jung, Symbols of Transformation, CW5, par 524)
While commenting through The Book of Revelation, Edinger mentions:
Yet each letter ends with the promise of an extraordinary gift, with the proviso, “if you are victorious”. […] And so we need to ask ourselves first of all what it means to be “victorious”. We know that John – in so far as he understood the message he was delivering – was referring to the persecution of the early Christians and to the possibility of martyrdom. Thus, to be victorious would mean concretely and literally to be true to the faith and even to the point of death. But what did this historical fact of christian martyrdom mean psychologically? I believe it meant to have survived what Jung calls the “onslaught of instincts” – the onslaught against the ego of any affect of passionate intensity. (Edward Edinger, The Archetypes of the Apocalypse, Chapter 2)
The other side of the problem is to continually suppress instincts by an attitude that is too spiritual or intellectual. After centuries of Stoic philosophy and Christian psychology, what was a beneficiary and necessary development is now plaguing modern society. More recently, the tendency to psychologize everything has to also be included in the list of detrimental attitude to one’s instinctive nature.
In itself, an animal is neither good nor evil; it is a piece of nature. It cannot desire anything that is not in its nature. To put this another way, it obeys its instincts. These instincts often seem mysterious to us, but they have their parallel in human life: The foundation of human nature is instinct.
But in man, the “animal being” (which lives in him as his instinctual psyche) may become dangerous if it is not recognized and integrated in life. Man is the only creature with the power to control instinct by his own will, but he is also able to suppress, distort, and wound it—and an animal, to speak metaphorically, is never so wild and dangerous as when it is wounded. Suppressed instincts can gain control of a man; they can even destroy him.
The familiar dream in which the dreamer is pursued by an animal nearly always indicates that an instinct has been split off from the consciousness and ought to be (or is trying to be) readmitted and integrated into life. The more dangerous the behavior of the animal in the dream, the more unconscious is the primitive and instinctual soul of the dreamer, and the more imperative is its integration into his life if some irreparable evil is to be forestalled.
Suppressed and wounded instincts are the dangers threatening civilized man; uninhibited drives are the dangers threatening primitive man. In both cases the “animal” is alienated from its true nature; and for both, the acceptance of the animal soul is the condition for wholeness and a fully lived life. Primitive man must tame the animal in himself and make it his helpful companion; civilized man must heal the animal in himself and make it his friend. (Aniela Jaffé, Man and His Symbols, Symbolism in the Visual Arts)
Before presenting my position, I would like to talk about a dream I had recently:
I am in a medieval village. I meet a monk, I think he is an orthodox priest. He wears golden rings and behind him are golden pictures. Both the rings and the images appear like sacred icons. On a closer look, the rings and pictures are two-sided. On one side, there is an image of Christ and, on the other side, there is an image of an animal with a golden halo around its head. While the image of Christ is common to all the pictures, the animal is different on each of them. I believe one of them was an antelope. Each picture had a different art style, sometimes it looked abstract or contemporary, sometimes it looked more traditional.
The dream introduces me to a spiritual teacher who reveres sacred images. Their golden aspect emphasizes their value.
These sacred images have two sides, which means both sides are the same thing. One side has a haloed animal. We know that animals in dreams are usually representations of instincts (see for instance Barbara Hannah’s The Archetypal Symbolism of Animals). The halo is a symbol for being holy, associated with the sun or solar consciousness. Therefore, the haloed animal is what Jung would call the “sublime” or “pious instincts”, in opposition to “blind instincts”. The other side of the icons represents Christ. Interestingly, I do not remember seeing a halo around Christ’s head. In any case, Christ stands for the self, the center and totality of the psyche.
Finally, the different artistic styles seem to represent not a multitude, but rather different aesthetics to represent the same mystery.
The insight of the dream is to propose an orientation towards a sacred goal, which is the union of opposites of instincts and psyche. As a reminder, the coniunctio is not only a union but also an alchemical transformation that makes the material spiritual and the spiritual material. I would argue that the halo on the animal and the lack of halo on Christ represent that exact phenomenon of elevating the material and incarnating the spiritual.
It is fairly clear that, with a dream like this, I regard instincts and archetypes the same way as Jung does. In fact, I would argue that this dream is a proof that the unconscious (thus the natural order) treats instincts and archetypes as a pair of opposites to be united.
It’s easy to get lost in the nuance of this topic. One way to avoid confusion would be to define, as Jordan Peterson sometimes does, archetypes as “modes of being”. Thus a “mode of being” is both biologically instantiated and archetypal in the psychological sense. Thinking in this way has a clarifying effect that I find valuable. This does not mean that we cannot approach instinct and spirit separately, but it gives way to prudence of not overvaluing one over the other.
Having presented both positions to the best of my ability, I would like to review some commonalities and differences between my understanding of Jung and my understanding of Jung To Live By.
The main commonality is that, indeed, instincts are part of psychic processes. Therefore, archetypes must not be limited to the study of their archetypal images but must be understood as complete situations.
Another commonality is that we are always at the risk of emphasizing one side over the other. While it is necessary to distinguish them, this separation is dangerous if unchecked. Overvaluing the psychological side leads to intellectual inflation whereas overvaluing the instinctive side leads to a blindness of passionate affectivity.
As far as disagreement goes, I want to discuss the following three points:
In all transparency, I have been struggling for months to find a common ground between these two positions. Whereas focusing on the psyche and archetypes can be described as psychoreductive, it seems to me that putting instincts a priori of archetypes is a bioreductive approach.
After a long pondering on how to reconcile these two positions, I have come to the conclusion that there might be a semantic problem. I would like to present the hypothesis that what the Jung To Live By team is questioning is not archetypes per se, but egregores.
As the Wikipedia definition lays out, an egregore is “a distinct non-physical entity that arises from a collective group of people”. It also says that it is “a psychic manifestation, or thoughtform, occurring when any group shares a common motivation—being made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of the group”.
A short survey of the literature on egregores shows that they can be created voluntarily through occult or meditative practices (for instance tulpa). More dangerously, it also happens that an egregore can become independent from the group and start acting autonomously. In other words, the egregore who was created by the group is now controlling the group. Under other traditions, these egregores are golems (in Jewish folklore) or servitors (chaos magic).
At a political and philosophical level, egregores are best understood as ideologies that have become autonomous from the collective and now tyrannize the population they have become independent from. In his hauntology, Derrida calls them specters, referring for instance to the specter of communism. I believe that the so-called “wretched -isms” can be seen as manifestations of egregores at a cultural level.
For people who still struggle with understanding egregores, the best visual representation that I know of is the move Branded where we can see brands becoming egregores and fighting against each other.
Branded (2012, imdb) shows marketing brands as egregores influencing people unconsciously and fighting among each other for market domination.
The problem here is that egregores are not archetypes. Psychologically speaking, egregores are best understood as “collective autonomous complexes” as James P. Driscoll writes in his book Jung’s Cartography of the Psyche.
James P. Driscoll’s, Jung Cartography of the Psyche, pp. 31-32. Rights were extended from Academia Press.
While I am not aware of any books where Jung talks about collective complexes, Edinger touches on them briefly as the basis of factionalism:
The angels who rule over the various nations and ethnic groups correspond to the archetypal powers which lie behind the warring collectivities that are so familiar on the front pages of our newspapers. At the heart of all national, ethnic, religious and political factions are what could be called collective complexes. These, as is true of every complex, have an archetypal core. […]
It seems possible that this idea will one day be elaborated into an archetypal sociology. There is great need for it, because the world is being torn apart by conflict among the various collective complexes of humanity. As this material indicates, these collective complexes are really psychic organisms which were personified by Basilides as ruling angels. The angels themselves are in conflict with one another, and their individual adherents are like cells that go to make up a larger organism. In Christian and in Gnostic writings, these collective psychic organisms are called variously “angels”, “principalities” or “powers.” (Edward Edinger, The Psyche in Antiquity (Book Two): Gnosticism and Early Christianity, pp. 64-65)
In conclusion, archetypes are not autonomous collective complexes, but archetypes exist as psychic predispositions for autonomous collective complexes to appear. In other words, archetypes necessarily involve images, emotions, and instincts but are not reduceable to any of them.
With this semantic distinction in mind, we can revisit the position held by Jung To Live By. If I replace their use of the word “archetypes” with “egregores” or “collective autonomous complexes”, it becomes something I can fully embrace and agree with:
Hopefully, my intuition here is correct and this understanding can bridge some of the gaps between these two incompatible positions. I will let the reader decide if it manages to do so.
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