The Impact Of Carl Jung’s Development On The Development Of Archetypes

The Archetype, at first, may seem to be a concept purely derived from literature. With labels such as The Hero, The trickster, and The wise old man, archetypes may seem to be more of a plot device rather than a scientific phenomenon – yet revered psychiatrist and psychologist, and the founder of analytical psychology Carl Jung believed that these archetypes, these images and motifs are the consequence of our collective unconscious developing and subsequently developing themselves into concrete images. How did a man of science such as Jung develop this seemingly mystical concept, and what transpired in his life to believe in these archetypes as such? I will discuss Carl Jung’s background and influences and draw connections to how his connections and influence might have impacted his development of the Jungian Archetype.

Carl Jung was born in Kesswill, Switzerland, on July 26th, 1875, to Paul Jung, a Pastor, and Emilie Preiswerk, a depressed woman who claimed to see spirits at night. She was seemingly normal during the day but underwent a drastic personality change at night. Jung believed he had two personalities – one suited to the 18th century, and one suited to one of a contemporary Swiss. Jung created a mannequin as a child, and routinely conducted ritualistic acts, not dissimilar to the totems of faraway cultures. Jung believed that these rituals were not simply a coincidence, but a result of society’s collective unconsciousness.

Jung believed that humanity had an innate disposition for parallel, identical psychic structures, common to all of us – a universal, human characteristic that allows us to produce ideas that may seem to be the same. How else are there so many similarities from one culture to the other, even in cultures that have never met before?

Jung, while often thought of as a man who is mainly rooted in science, did draw much influence from spiritual and mystical sources. His father being a pastor, and with his mother claiming to see spirits, Jung grew up to believe in concepts not dissimilar to shamanism and even such magical concepts like alchemy. Jung believed that Richard Wilhelm’s translation of Chinese wisdom literature was vital to the growth of his work – in fact, among all of Jung’s influences, an impressive collection of individuals that include the likes of Freud, Bleuler, Janet, and Kant, Jung claimed that “no individual had influenced [Jung], more than Wilhelm.” In fact, it was it was Jung’s deep dive into Chinese literature and alchemical texts that led him to find experiences and images that paralleled experiences frequently found in Western patients, which subsequently allowed him to derive psychological meanings, and form his theory of a shared psychological bedrock – a collective unconscious. So infatuated and enamored with Eastern symbolism, Jung concluded, after studying imagery such as the Mandala, that psychological development was not one-dimensional, such as prescribed by Western psychological theory at the time, but exists as a circular process.

In C.J. Groesbeck’s article discussing the shamanistic vision of Carl Jung, Groesbeck postulates that Jung’s archetype, and subsequent life, was lived as that of a Shaman, a mystical healer of the old and ancient who could control and communicate with spirits, the dead, and demons, without succumbing to these maladies themselves. A Shaman’s primary goal, as defined by Groesbeck, was to restore peace to that of the soul through healing. Groesbeck then declares that Shamans must have endured a severe illness, that is received as a “calling,” of sorts, and for this pre-Shaman to power through, he must learn to become a healer – should the candidate survive, he will receive powers that can only be determined as supernatural to aid in illnesses that may only be described as supernatural. This is not to say that Jung declared himself a Shaman – Jung, however, did act in such a way that I believe can only be described as more mystical than scientific.

Carl Jung had such maladies Groesbeck described as necessary for a Shaman’s growth – including a life full of terrifying, prophetic dreams, full of choking and suffocation fits that exacerbated an already serious case of anxiety. Jung was able to then overcome these dreams and fits of his childhood and became a renowned healer – acting almost as a shaman in his quest to blend the mystical and the scientific. He would travel from alien and foreign places, such as India, Arabia, and Africa, attempting to find influences and knowledge on this collective unconscious that Jung believed that we all shared – it is these shared experiences and imagery that Jung found during his travels that lead him to develop the concept of the archetype.

Jung first coined the word “archetype” in 1919, on a symposium regarding the “Instinct and Unconscious,” characterizing this word as biological, hereditary, and innate ideas that can be passed down and are a part of all of us. Further iterations were inspired by Kant and were finally reformed with a distinction of archetypes of expressions, and archetypes as such, which were considered irrepresentable (psychoid factor, using Hans Driesch’s and Eugen Bleuler’s terms). Jung heavily relied on hermeneutics, or heavily relying on interpretation, to give concrete meaning to and draw parallels from one culture to another and help support his theory of a collective unconscious. This is regarded as controversial, and is reason why much of Jung’s work is subject to a great source of criticism and skepticism – after all, there is no logical or universally concrete way to define or express Jung’s theory of archetypes, as defined hermeneutically, especially when one distinction of archetypes is defined as “impossible to define with words.”

While Jung may not have explicitly believed in astrology, he did utilize astrological materials, such as horoscopes and astrological charts to help conduct his research into the psychologically supernatural nature of his research. Jung’s parents after all, or at least his mother, did believe in spirits and communication with the dead – in addition, Jung frequently took part in séances, and believed that he himself had also encountered spirits. Though Freud, who Jung shared a professional and personal relationship with was hesitant to endorse Jung’s theory of supernatural psychology, it was later discovered through The-Freud Jung letters and The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi that while these psychologists were hesitant to wholly endorse supernatural psychologically (in large part due to Jung’s inability to wholly prove much of his claims), these psychologists frequently discussed the truth and credence of astrology and the occult. While these phenomena often cannot be explained, Jung claimed that these things, as bizarre as they are, are simply “just-so,” a claim that is repeated when certain archetypical phenomenon simply could not be explained.

Jung spent much of his time on the concept of synchronicity – it was his dear friend and frequent collaborator Richard Wilhelm’s request to validate and prove synchronicity – the concept of that two events are connected by things such as their meaning rather than explained by things such as coincidence. Yet again, Jung purports the unprovable is true, and in this case, Jung even claims that if an event is truly synchronic, it cannot be causally connected. This belief is yet another trend in Jung’s work – the belief of a phenomenon that cannot be proven, yet for the same reasons, cannot quite be disproven.

Carl Jung was a man of controversy and acclaim, whose claims and works had varying levels of accuracy and veracity, depending on who you asked. He was a man who concurrently made important contributions on how we understand the mind and the unconsciousness, yet additionally allowed us to believe in a mysticism of sorts. Inspired from vivid dreams of bizarre sorts, a mother who saw spirits, Eastern traditions and literatures, and his fellow pioneering psychologists and philosophers, Jung’s development and influences clearly impacted how he not just created the Jungian Archetype as we know it, but also interpreted the collective unconscious, or the bedrock of the Archetype.


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14 May 2021
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