Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Vernon, Mark. "Carl Jung, Part 4: Do Archetypes Exist?" GUARDIAN June 20, 2011.

Jung took the inner life seriously. He believed that dreams are not just a random jumble of associations or repressed wish fulfilments. They can contain truths for the individual concerned. They need interpreting, but when understood aright, they offer a kind of commentary on life that often acts as a form of compensation to what the individual consciously takes to be the case. A dream Jung had in 1909 provides a case in point.

He was in a beautifully furnished house. It struck him that this fine abode was his own and he remarked, "Not bad!" Oddly, though, he had not explored the lower floor and so he descended the staircase to see. As he went down, the house got older and darker, becoming medieval on the ground floor. Checking the stone slabs beneath his feet, he found a metal ring, and pulled. More stairs led to a cave cut into the bedrock. Pots and bones lay scattered in the dirt. And then he saw two ancient human skulls, and awoke.

Jung interpreted the dream as affirming his emerging model of the psyche. The upper floor represents the conscious personality, the ground floor is the personal unconscious, and the deeper level is the collective unconscious – the primitive, shared aspect of psychic life. It contains what he came to call archetypes, the feature we shall turn to now. They are fundamental to Jung's psychology.

Archetypes can be thought of simply as structuring principles. For example, falling in love is archetypal for human beings. Everyone does it, at least once, and although the pattern is common, each time it feels new and inimitable. . . .

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