Gold trail

On the trail of eternity

Archetypes as spiritual primordial forms and C.G. Jung

The victorious knight in The Ironman

By on 9 April 2020

Mountain range in Alaska as dragon ("mother")

The archetype of the "dragon

Archetypes as spiritual archetypes

Symbolic character 

Archetypes are generally accepted ideas that are shared by several people. Examples are "the hero", "the father", "the virgin" but also abstract concepts such as "God", "wholeness" or "the meaning". They convey complex contents and have a symbolic character with which they can influence people in their lives.

Word meaning and coinage by C.G. Jung

The syllable "arch" comes from the Greek arché and means "beginning" or "origin". The term "archetype" goes back to C.G. Jung. He describes archetypes with these words:

The archetypes are numinous structural elements of the psyche and possess a certain independence and specific energy by virtue of which they are able to attract the contents of consciousness that suit them. [...] The symbol has a suggestive, convincing effect, and at the same time expresses the content of the conviction.[1] [Numinos means divine or supernatural].

Meaning: Archetypes as archetypal models for traits

Primordial human types

In other words, archetypes are primal types or models that belong to being human. Some of these are as old as humanity itself. Archetypes such as the HUNTER, for example, already appear in the beginnings of human culture. Time and again, people have also seen ANIMALS as symbols for certain character traits with which they identified. (Thus the lion stands for courage, the fox for cunning, the owl for wisdom, etc.).

Traits and relationship constellations

Later, GODS as archetypes represented various models for human traits, possibilities of action and also relationship constellations.

Example: The archetype of the father

The idea of "father" is shaped on the one hand by the biological father and on the other hand by society's image of the father. However, the more someone comes to terms with the father role, the more it can become his or her very own identity. C.G. Jung called this process individuation.

The Virgin, left arm of the Father

Archetypes - basic human concepts or ideas

Archetypes are general basic ideas that shape people. For example, everyone has an idea of the archetype of the father. Although the image of the FATHER is often shaped by one's own father relationship, there are also strong collective ideas and images.

  • Other types of the male are, for example, the HERO, the MAGICIAN or the OLD WISE MAN.
  • Types of the feminine on the other hand are the PRINCESS, the WITCH or the VIRGIN.
Fairy tales and myths as shadow theatre (Snow White)

Spiritual archetypes

Archetypes act like given forms that are filled with life. They also give a deeper meaning or a higher significance to a certain function, through which they exert a formative and shaping influence.

For illustration: archetypes as sand forms

In their mode of action as "spiritual archetypes", archetypes can be compared to sand moulds. These give a certain shape to an amorphous mass of sand. Thus sand becomes stars, hearts, little men or flowers ... In the same way, life can be shaped as a formative basis by archetypes, in that the human being identifies with the HERO, the HUNTER, the VIRGIN, the DRAGON or with CHRIST.

Slipping into prefabricated roles or certain clothes

Man can stand with his life into archetypes as into prefabricated "forms" or roles and thus bring them to life. Then he himself becomes a MAGICIAN or a noble KNIGHT, a PRINCESS or a GODDESS.

Thus the ideal shapes the person. And so man also often becomes what he "worships", namely by "putting on" the corresponding qualities, for evil as well as for good. In this understanding, the Apostle Paul, for example, also exhorts his protégés: "Put on the Lord Jesus CHRIST ...[2]".

Abstract archetypes

There are also abstract archetypes such as CONSCIOUSNESS or WHOLENESS, SENSE or PARADISE, which can give people direction and shape their lives.

The magic of archetypes

Person archetypes 

The evil fairy or witch (Maleficent from Disney's Sleeping Beauty)

Man gets "unconsciously" into their "spell circle" through identification with archetypal figures. Without thinking much about it, he ratherexperiences their energy and thus - with his own life - gives them real form. For example, a woman who consciously or unconsciously identifies with the archetype of the WITCH comes under the influence of the corresponding energy field.

Thus, figuratively speaking, man actually descends from the spiritual or supernatural figures that define him. Or to put it another way, they are "his gods", because ...

Archetypes give shape and identity beyond the boundaries of personality.

Hilma af Klint, Pigeon no. 8 (detail)

Demonic power of archetypes?

C.G. Jung referred to person-like archetypes as daimonos, demons.
This makes deeper sense in that archetypes can take control of bodies and actions directly from the unconscious.


C.G. Jung literally:

The archetypes, namely [...] reveal themselves as daimonos, as personal agentia [as a driving force]. In this form they are first experienced, not conceived, as rationalism would have it. Consequently, man derives his personality character only secondarily, to a certain extent, as the myth says, from the descent of heroes and gods. This means psychologically: his personality consciousness arises from the influence of person-like archetypes. [3]

Power and magic from the shadows 

Archetypes - like most things between heaven and earth - can appear in positive and negative ways. The positive is rarely a problem. Because what one likes and appreciates, one likes to show and that may also be in the light of life.

Negativity and bondage

As "demonic" factors, however, archetypes exert power over people from the shadows by means of negative energy. Under certain circumstances it can go so far that a person feels "occupied" or "controlled by others", unable to mobilise their own will.

Under the spell of magic

That is why archetypes always exude an irresistible, "magical" fascination that has always fascinated people. They like to let go of all control in order to indulge in the intoxication of the senses. What they then experience, they interpret as supernatural or "divine" experiences. In reality, however, these are nothing more than unconscious mechanisms anchored in the body that take over. [S. Magic, the Power of the Unconscious.]

Virgo, symbol of potential

Archetypes as fateful complexes of experience

C.G. Jung described patients from his work as a psychiatrist who seemed to be completely taken over and "occupied" by such archetypes, even to the point of losing their identity. He explained that:

Archetypes are complexes of experience that occur by fate, and indeed their work begins in our most personal lives.

And about the archetype of the anima (as "goddess" and inner woman of the man) in particular:

The anima no longer confronts us as a goddess, but under certain circumstances as our very personal misunderstanding. If, for example, an old, highly deserving scholar marries a twenty-year-old, red-haired actress, then - we know - the gods have taken another victim. This is how demonic supremacy manifests itself in our country. Until recently, it would have been easy to dismiss this young person as a witch. [5]

Anima as goddess of dawn for coffee advertising

Awareness and the process of individuation

Overcoming through awareness

Negative mechanisms that work from the unconscious, from the shadow, lose their "magical", irresistible and often destructive power when they come to the light of consciousness (see How do I concretely integrate my shadows?).

By becoming conscious, the human being becomes free to shape his or her life according to his or her own ideas. C.G. Jung calls this the process of individuation.

The hero's journey to kingship in one's own life

By recognising his motives and unconscious structures that "drive" him independently of his will, man can learn to influence them and change his behaviour. This is his heroic path, on which he takes all areas of his life for love. This is how he achieves kingship in his own life).

Knight George, Red - White - Black

Become who you are! 

The goal for the human being is that he stops being externally determined and instead develops his own personality. In this way, he can give life, which is a gift, his very own imprint. C.G. Jung called this the process of individuation.

To conclude, here is this littleHasidic story by Rabbi Sussya:

Before the end Rabbi Sussiah said: In the world to come I will not be asked, Sussiah, why were you not Moses? Nor will they ask me, Why were you not David?
In the world to come I will be asked: Sussiah, why were you not Sussiah?


[1] C.G. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 5, Symbols of Transformation, p. 295 § 3445.

[2] Bible, New Testament, Letter of Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 13,14 (Elberfelder). Note the symbolism of the verse numbers, from 13 (the number of the ego) to 14 (7, the number of creation to wholeness, male and female).

[3] C.G. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 5, Symbols of Transformation, p. 328, §388

[4] C.G. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 5, Symbols of Transformation, p. 290 f., § 337

[5] C.G. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 9/I, "The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious", p. 38 f., §61 (emphasis by the author).

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