I'm a Swedish writer, artist, and historian of ideas, writing fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an aikido instructor. More about me here.
Psychoanalysis of Myth
The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods, by Stefan Stenudd. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
by Stefan Stenudd. Qi, prana, spirit, and other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Chinese classic, translated and extensively commented by Stefan Stenudd. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
This book presents an imaginative reading of the Tarot divination cards, which is the most appropriate for the Tarot since it consists of symbolic images. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
Psychoanalysis of Myth 6
Sigmund Freud's and C. G. Jung's Theories on Myth and Its Origin.
The clues to self-realization in myths, and in many other cultural phenomena, are according to Carl G. Jung the archetypes, symbolic elements containing aspects of the workings of human life and mind. The term archetype is not one of his invention, but he used it in an elaborate way in his theories of psychology and culture, giving it his own specific meaning.
Archetypes create myths, religions, and philosophical ideas that influence and set their stamp on whole nations and epochs.
Jung's archetypes are not limited to human characters - there are also animal archetypes, like the serpent and the lion, and objects functioning as archetypes, like gold or the castle or the forest. There is a multitude of archetypes - some known, many others yet to be discovered. Jung allows for an unlimited number of them: "There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life."
It might be best compared to mathematical components, such as pi or the x of an equation. A Jungian archetype is like pi in the sense that it has a fixed value, but its applications are just about endless. It is like the x of an equation in the way that it is the solution to a given problem - if that problem is significant enough. The Jungian archetypes carry meanings for the human mind to decipher and utilize. Jung also associates to formula:
The archetype is a symbolic formula which always begins to function when there are no conscious ideas present, or when conscious ideas are inhibited for internal or external reasons.
Since the archetypes are symbolic components rather than objects or persons, they are discovered by their function instead of their attire. A symbolic element that reappears in many a myth from separate cultures or time-periods, and seems to contain some kind of significance in those stories, is in the Jungian perspective most certainly an archetype:
An image can be considered archetypal when it can be shown to exist in the records of human history, in identical form and with the same meaning.
Not only that, but in Jung's world, an archetype contains such potency that it is its archetype, wherever it appears. Its symbolic archetypal function emerges, even when that was not intended by its user in that specific case. It is also this primordial potency of the archetypes that makes them attractive and exciting, wherever they appear. People are drawn to archetypes, often obsessed by them, whether they know of their Jungian function or not. They feel a resonance from their unconscious, recognizing and being stimulated by the archetype.
So, where do archetypes come from? How do they appear and remain? Jung is not very talkative about it, but his explanation is quite identical to that of Freud about how memories get incorporated into the archaic heritage - by repetitious experience. Jung imagines the same for archetypes:
It seems to me that their origin can only be explained by assuming them to be deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity.
It is not possible to make a complete list of Jungian archetypes, since many of them are yet to be discovered. Nor is there room for a substantial list of archetypes recognized so far in Jungian theory. Jung himself never even suggested a listing. In addition, some archetypes can be seen as examples of more fundamental ones, or sorts of mixes of other archetypes. It is not a very orderly universe. So, here are just some of the archetypes mentioned by Jung and his colleagues, and my own attempt at shortly explaining them:
Jung's hero meets with certain characters, events and obstacles on his quest. Those are often recognizable from one myth to another, and archetypes as well. The hero myth is the ultimate formula of self-realization, wherefore it is central in Jung's treatments on myth. Other myths - even such of seemingly greater magnitude, like those of creation, the flood, or apocalypse - could more or less be seen as components of the hero myth, symbolizing certain premises or necessary processes of the hero quest.