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Addendum G -
Jung and the Archetype[table of contents]  [previous]  [next]

We shall introduce the concept of the archetype, to which we turn our attention in this section, by recapitulating a discussion of the unconscious presented by Liliane Frey-Rohn in her book, From Freud to Jung: a comparative study of the unconscious. In the discussion we have in mind she begins by reminding the reader that Freud distinguished between a descriptive and dynamic sense of the unconscious. As we have pointed out (in section B) that which was only unconscious in the descriptive sense Freud called the preconscious, reserving the term 'unconscious' for that which was unconscious in the dynamic sense, the unconscious proper. In Frey- Rohn's opinion,

It can readily be seen that the latent unconscious [preconscious] largely coincided with the "fringe of consciousness", which is close to consciousness, and, at the same time, with the chiaroscuro of the fringe phenomena of consciousness-- an idea which Jung borrowed from William James. 173

This reflects our attempt to construe references to the preconscious as references to subsidiary awareness. However, as Frey Rohn correctly points out, far as Freud was concerned, the unconscious constituted an essentially different agency than the (pre)conscious. 174

In section B we recognized that it was Freud's desire to conceive of the unconscious proper as a separate agency and we argued for the possibility of construing the unconscious proper in terms of subsidiary awareness. Jung referred to Freud's unconscious proper, as distinguished from the preconscious,

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as the 'personal unconscious' for reasons which we shall shortly see, and Frey-Rohn tells us that...

In contrast [to Freud], Jung could not see a basic difference between the two spheres of consciousness [the conscious and the preconscious] and the personal unconscious [unconscious proper], that is, the repressed. 175

Indeed, she mentions...

...Jung's repeated statement reducing Freud's repressed- unconscious [unconscious proper] to nothing other than "a subliminal appendix to the conscious mind"... 176

Jung, it appears, would have been essentially in agreement with the strategy we adopted in the last section (F), according to which the unconscious proper was understood in terms of a complex of rival contexting components of subsidiary awareness. But, we learn, just as soon as it looks as if all references to the preconscious and unconscious can be construed as references to subsidiary awareness or some specific feature of subsidiary awareness, Jung reintroduces the concept of an unconscious separate from consciousness! This unconscious is totally different from the 'personal unconscious', that is, Freud's unconscious proper. Jung call it the collective unconscious.

In later life Jung came to see the unconscious as an agency which differed from consciousness. This seeming contradiction to his earlier statements might be only the consequence of his placing the dividing line between the two agencies deeper than before (that is, between consciousness and the collective unconscious), while at the same time, accentuating their differences in content. 177

Jung used the concept of the archetype to identify the content of the collective unconscious.

According to Jung, the archetype resides in the collective unconscious, constituting its content. The archetype itself never enters consciousness although it can manifest itself in consciousness in the form of an 'archetypal

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representation'. Like the dream which, according to the Freudian analysis, points beyond its manifest content to a latent content, the archetypal representation points beyond itself and consciousness to the archetype in the postulated collective unconscious.

In this section we shall offer an interpretation of the archetype which obviates positing the existence of an agency separate from consciousness, a reified unconscious. In doing this we shall purge Jung's concept of the unconscious of the residual reificationism exhibited in his understanding of the collective unconscious.

The archetype, according to Jung, can never enter consciousness. All we know about it we know by virtue of its manifestations in consciousness in the form of archetypal representations. We must, according to Jung, be satisfied with such indirect knowledge as it is the product of inference from such representations.

The archetypal representations (images and ideas) mediated to us by the unconscious should not be confused with the archetype as such. They are very varied structures which all point back to one essentially "irrepresentable" basic form. The latter is characterized by certain formal elements and by certain fundamental meanings, although these can be grasped only approximately. The archetype as such is a psychoid factor that belongs, as it were, to the invisible, ultraviolet end of the psychic spectrum. It does not appear, in itself, to be capable of reaching consciousness. I venture this hypothesis because everything archetypal which is perceived by consciousness seems to represent a set of variations on a ground theme. One is most impressed by this act when one studies the endless variations of the mandala motif. 178

Indeed, Jung reasons that since we can only know the archetype indirectly there is little sense in speaking of archetypes (in the plural -- all one need postulate is the existence of a single archetype which all archetypal representations can be said to manifest or refer back to.

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We must, however, constantly bear in mind that what we mean by "archetype" is in itself irrepresentable, but has effects which make visualizations of it possible, namely, the archetypal images and ideas. ...When the existence of two or more irrepresentables is assumed, there is always the possibility-- which we tend to overlook--that it may not be a question of two or more factors but of one only. The identity or non-identity of two irrepresentable quantities is something that cannot be proved. 179

In both passages Jung characterizes the archetype as 'Irrepresentable'. The archetypal representations, we may conclude, are representations of the irrepresentable. What sense can we make of this curious notion of 'representing the irrepresentable'? Or must we admit that this is essentially a paradoxical formulation of a nonsensical notion?

Jung is attempting to describe the relationship between contents of an unconscious agency and the contents of consciousness in terms of the concepts of archetype and archetypal representation. We suggest, however, that the relationship he is in fact describing is the relationship obtaining between the normal or mundane state of consciousness (as bifurcated into subsidiary awareness and object of attention) and the non-bifurcated or primordial state of consciousness we discussed in Part III. When Jung says that the archetype is irrepresentable in consciousness we can understand him to mean that experience in the non- bifurcated state cannot be represented in normal consciousness because any presentation in normal consciousness occurs in the fundamental figure-ground form by virtue of the bifurcation of consciousness into subsidiary awareness and object of attention. Mundane consciousness can, however, point beyond itself to the non- bifurcated state by entertaining a paradoxical representation, one in which context and object are in a relationship of contradiction. A paradoxical representation is a representation of an inconceivable duality, a logically impossible pair. As such, a paradoxical

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representation points beyond duality-- indeed, it may induce the dissolution of gestalt and obscure the figure-ground distinction.

As Jung mentions in the first passage above, the archetypal representation can be studied by investigating what he calls the mandala motif.

I therefore took up a dream-image or an association of the patient's, and, with this as a point of departure, set him the task of elaborating or developing his theme by giving free reign to his fantasy. This, according to the individual's taste and talent, could be done in any number of ways, dramatic, dialectic, visual, acoustic or in the form of dancing, painting, drawing, or modeling. The result of this technique was a vast number of complicated designs whose diversity puzzled me for years, until I was able to recognize that in this method I was witnessing the spontaneous manifestation of an unconscious process which was merely assisted by the technical ability of the patient, and to which I later gave the name "individuation process". 180

He describes the complicated designs referred to in the following way:

The chaotic assortment of images that at first confronted me reduced itself in the course of the work to certain well- defined themes and formal elements, which repeated themselves in identical or analogous form with the most varied individuals, I mention, as the most salient characteristics, chaotic multiplicity and order; duality; the opposition of light and dark, upper and lower, right and left; the union of opposites in a third; the quaternity (square, cross); rotation (circle, sphere); and finally the centrist process and a radial arrangement that usually followed some quaternary system. Triadic formations, apart from the complexio oppositorum in a third, were relatively rare and formed notable exceptions which could be explained by special conditions. The centering process, is, in my experience, the never-to-be-surpassed climax of the whole development... 181

The archetype is manifest in the mandala which is characterized by a reconciliation of opposites in a third-- the Many becomes the One. The nonbifurcated state is represented in normal consciousness.

In the following passage Jung classifies the mandala as a yantra.

I need say only a few words about the functional significance of the mandala, as I have discussed this theme several times.

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before. Moreover, if we have a little feeling in our fingertips we can guess from these pictures, painted with the greatest devotion but with unskillful hands, what is the deeper meaning that the patients tried to put into them and express through them. They are yantras in the Indian sense, instruments of meditation, concentration, and self-immersion, for the purpose of realizing inner experience, as I have explained in the Golden Flower. At the same time they serve to produce inner order-- which is why, when they appear in a series, they often follow chaotic, disordered states marked by conflict and anxiety. They express the idea of a safe refuge, of inner reconciliation and wholeness. 182

Again we are presented with the idea of reconciliation of conflict and transcendent wholeness. In classifying the mandala as a yantra, Jung connects it with the Shri Yantra, the 'yantra of yantras' which we have analyzed in Part Three. Our analysis of the Shri Yantra is consistent with the interpretation we are giving to Jung's discussion of the functional significance of the mandala and we may understand the Shri Yantra as a paradigm of the archetypal representation.

Although the concepts of conflict, opposition, and multiplicity play a part in Jung's descriptions of such representations, the idea of paradox, which played a major role in our discussion of the Shri Yantra, is not brought explicitly into relief by Jung (although it is implied by the notion of 'representing the irrepresentable') until Jung mentions

...that pathological analogies of the individuation process are not the only ones. There are spiritual monuments of quite another kind, and they are positive illustrations of our process. Above all I would mention the koans of Zen Buddhism, those sublime paradoxes that light up, as with a flash of lightning, the inscrutable interrelations between ego and self. 183

So far we have been dealing with the various designs and representations produced by individuals-- the 'infinitely variegated' patterns which, nonetheless, exhibit features characteristic of the 'mandala motif'.

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But we might also mention the archaic ideas and mythological themes which crop up from time to time in different cultures-- representations considered to have a more or less universal appeal. For these symbols tend to re-occur in the configurations produced by patients who have, according to Jung, "only a minimal knowledge of mythology" 184 and they are exemplary archetypal representations. Erich Neumann, whose study of such symbols was praised by Jung for having arrived "at conclusions and insights which are among the most important ever to be reached in this field", 185 will be the primary source of information in our discussion of the archetypal representation in mythology. It is on the basis of his research that we conclude that archetypal representations in mythology possess the essential feature of paradox.

It is Neumann's thesis that an archetypal representation or 'primordial image', when it exerts a power of fascination over a particular individual, achieves its power to do so by virtue of the stage of ego development that that individual has reached. The uroborus, or symbol of "the dragon devouring itself tail first" (which Jung first discussed in connection with alchemy), 186 for example, dominates during the infantile phase of ego consciousness, according to Neumann. 187 Some of the other symbols of which Neumann speaks are the son-lover connected with the image of the Great Mother: "they are loved, slain, buried, and bewailed by her, and are then reborn through her", 188 the virgin birth associated with the image of the Hero, 189 the image of the fertile-dead associated with the Transformation Myth, 190 and the mythological formula expressing the goal of the Hero" "I and the Father are one". 191 Each image is essentially paradoxical when taken literally. The act of devouring necessitates a devourer separate from the devouree; to slay is to take life

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away, not to give birth to that which one slays; a virgin is not impregnant; to be dead is to be deprived of the power of fertility; and one does not beget oneself. Of course one can attribute a metaphorical meaning to any of these ideas, but the point is that when taken literally they constitute paradoxes.

If, as we have suggested, consciousness intrigues itself with the non-bifurcated or primordial state by entertaining paradox it could be expected that the specific guise the paradox takes will indicate an attitude in respect of the non-bifurcated state. In the childhood stage of weak ego consciousness paradox will have the effect of inducing the primordial undifferentiated state, if we are to believe Neumann, who speaks of the propensity, at this stage of development, for the archetypal image to 'knockout' normal consciousness and induce a return to the non-differentiated state. 192 As the ego gains strength the paradoxical archetypal representations will indicate a fear of the return to the primordial state (manifest, for instance, as a fear of the Terrible Mother who gives life by devouring). And in later stages the return to the non-bifurcated state will once gain be sanctioned by the particular paradox corresponding to that state-- the transformation image of fertility-in-death.

The non-bifurcated state is represented in normal consciousness by the paradoxical archetypal image and the guise the paradox assumes will correspond to a stage of development and indicate an attitude in respect of the non-bifurcated state.

...originally the archetype acted upon the ego en masse, in all the undifferentiated profusion of its paradoxical nature. This is the chief reason why the ego is over-whelmed, and consciousness disoriented, by the archetype... 193

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But then, as Neumann puts it,

...consciousness learns to protect itself against the effect of the primordial archetype... 194

It does this by treating the paradoxical qualities of the archetypal presentation as elements of a dialectical process, thereby taking up an attitude towards them which reconciles the initial paradox.

The antithetical structure of [archetypal representation] makes conscious orientation impossible and eventually leads to fascination. Consciousness keeps returning to this content, or to the person who embodies it or carries its projection,and is unable to get away from it. New reactions are constantly released, consciousness finds itself at a loss, and affective reactions begin to appear. All bivalent contents that simultaneously attract and repel act in like manner upon the organism as a whole and release powerfully affective reactions, because consciousness gives way, regresses, and primitive mechanisms take its place. Affective reactions resulting from fascination are dangerous; they amount to an invasion by the unconscious.

An advanced consciousness will therefore split the bivalent content into a dialectic of contrary qualities. Before being so split, the content is not merely good and bad at once; it is beyond good and evil, attracting and repelling, and therefore irritating to consciousness. But if there is a division into good and evil, consciousness can then take up an attitude. It accepts and rejects, orients itself, and thus gets outside the range of fascination. This conscious bias toward one-sidedness is reinforced by the rationalizing process we have mentioned. 195

The acceptance of some of the paradoxical qualities and the rejection of others, the taking up of an attitude with the use of which these qualities can be dialectically resolved, is tantamount to depotentiating the paradox by attributing to it a metaphorical meaning. The idea of a death-which-is-birth, for instance, which is paradoxical when we take it literally and attribute to one and the same entity both a coming-into-being and a simultaneous termination of being, turns into the idea of the death of one entity (or demise of one mode of being) bringing about the birth of another entity (or

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the onset of another mode). Consciousness protects itself against a return to the non-bifurcated state by attenuating the paradoxical nature of the representations by which the non-differentiated state gains entry, so to speak, into normal consciousness.

But as consciousness becomes inflexible, overly biased or 'one-sided' to use Neumann's words, paradox can be used to break the hold habitual patterns of contexting have over the individual. Inherent in the confusion and interspersal techniques Erickson uses for 'depotentiating the conscious set' of a subject in order to replace it with an alternative (see page 166) is the possibility of the use of paradox for the intentional re-organization of personality. These techniques, in fundamental respects, resemble the individuation process of which Jung speaks, a process which, by virtue of the production of such archetypal designs as the mandala, a new wholeness of personality is to be achieved. Both can be analyzed in terms of a process in which consciousness is presented with a paradox which triggers the altered state in which consciousness is no longer bifurcated into object of attention and subsidiary awareness. The altered state, characterized by the dissolution of gestalt, and in these particular cases induced by paradox, allows for the restructuring of patterns of contexting. For this reason alone, we can understand why the mythological symbols corresponding to the later stages of life indicate a more favorable attitude toward the non-bifurcated state than do the earlier stages, which treat it as inimical to the necessary strengthening of the ego.

All the differentiations and personality components that were built up during the first half of life, when consciousness was developing, are now unbuilt. 196

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This "transformation process" is connected, via the transformation mythology associated with this stage of development, with the image of the 'fertile-dead'. Speaking of this stage of development, Neumann says,

The wholeness that comes into being as a result of the individuation process corresponds to a profound structural change, a new configuration of the personality. Whereas in the first half of life there was a tendency to differentiation and ever-increasing tension at the expense of wholeness, the integration process tends towards increased stability and a lowering of tension. 197

Among the traditions which sanction the return to the primordial unity of the non-bifurcated state stands Yoga. Eliade summarizes the goal to be achieved in the following way.

All this amounts to saying that we are dealing with a coincidentia oppositorum achieved on all levels of Life and Consciousness. As a result of this union of opposites experience of duality is abolished and the phenomenal world transcended. 198

And speaking of the undifferentiated state, Eliade says:

...we are dealing with a transcendental situation which, being inconceivable, is expressed by contradictory or paradoxical metaphors. 199

But we should like to supplement Eliade's discussion by pointing out that the fundamental differentiation in normal consciousness is between figure and ground-- it occurs when an object of attention is relevated from the whole which remains in subsidiary awareness. It is this initial bifurcation of consciousness which produces the subject-object distinction and creates for the subject his or her 'phenomenal world'. It is an elusive duality underlying everyday experience precisely because the experience of subsidiary awareness cannot be captured in attention, and yet subsidiary awareness plays a significant part in experience in influencing the deployment of attention. It is not surprising, then, that the traditions which advocate a return to

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the primordial non-bifurcated state should employ paradox, not merely as a way of speaking about that state, but as an instrument to achieve it. In the analysis we have given of the Shri Yantra we described paradox in terms of the double bind phenomena in which the subsidiarily experienced context in which an object of attention is entertained is incompatible with (or contradicts) the object. Hence, to seriously entertain a paradoxical representation such as the Shri Yantra is to make an impossible demand on consciousness structured as subsidiary awareness/object of attention and to insist upon assumption of the primordial non- bifurcated state.

Earlier in this paper we quoted a passage which suggested that the 'obscure, esoteric metaphors' of the East constituted an obstacle for a clear understanding of the insights such metaphors were intended to express. If, however, we give Eastern systems the benefit of doubt, we might discern not a mere vagueness of expression which demands clarification, but an indication that the transcendental state of consciousness which is the primary interest of such systems is fundamentally different from normal consciousness. That the difference between the two is a fundamental one becomes apparent when we conceived of normal consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention and the transcendental state of consciousness as lacking this characteristic bifurcation. We may then understand the esoteric pronouncements of the East to reflect both a reluctance to use descriptions which would confuse the altered state with normal consciousness and an attempt to induce the state in question or a facsimile by the use of paradox.
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173. L. Frey-Rohn, From Freud to Jung, translated by F.E. Engreen and E.K. Engreen (New York:Dell Publishing,1974) p.119.
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174. Ibid., p.120.
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175. Ibid.
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176. Ibid.
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177. Ibid., p.121.
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178. C.G.Jung, On the nature of the psyche, op.cit., p.123.
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179. Ibid., p.124.
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180. Ibid., p.112.
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181. Ibid., p.113.
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182. C.G. Jung, Mandala symbolism, translated by R.F.C. Hull (Princeton:Princeton Univ. Press,1972),p.99.
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183. C.G. Jung, On the nature of the psyche, op.cit., p.135.
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184. Ibid., p.113.
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185. E. Neumann, The origins and history of consciousness, translated by R.F.C. Hull (Princeton:Princeton Univ. Press,1954), p.xiv.
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186. C.G. Jung, Dreams, op.cit., p.200.
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187. E. Neumann, op.cit., p.41.
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188. Ibid., p.46
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189. Ibid., p.133.
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190. Ibid., p.225-227.
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191. Ibid., p.360.
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192. Ibid., p.329.
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193. Ibid., p.322.
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194. Ibid.
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195. Ibid., p.327.
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196. Ibid., p.412.
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197. Ibid., p.416.
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198. M. Eliade, The two and the one, op.cit., p.118.
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199. Ibid., p.121.
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