An Interpolation of Jungian Archetypes

An Interpolation of Jungian Archetypes

            The model of genesis in modernity is contained in the relationship between genotype and phenotype. The former is Godhead, the latter humankind. In all such patterns, something innate makes itself known through indirect expressions of spirit into world, form into content. This is known as ‘manifesting’ and the object to which the spirit tends or has contrived, as a ‘manifestation’. Though the very idea of innateness may seem archaic, it is at least clear enough that consciousness has its seat in a complex neural architecture no longer so much automatically endowed with faithful reason but rather to be imbued with a reasonable faith.

            Faith in itself, for one. For Jung, our connection with the wellspring of human expression cross-culturally and universally to be found amongst individual persons hailing from every such known culture, can be traced backward, as it were, from the manifestations of archetypical conceptions of essential life and its utter limits to what he referred to as the ‘collective unconscious’. This is a different understanding than say, Durkheim had, of what could constitute shared being in the world. Durkheim’s ‘conscience collectif’ was something only innate due to the internalization of purely social forms in childhood. Its expression was moral indignation – though not, it should be noted in our days of feigned anxiety, moral panic – and its archetype was society alone, or rather the ‘ideal society’, to borrow from Santayana. In this singular ideal, the individual found herself trending upward and outward, so that her inevitably and originally small-statured person became enlarged with the life of the world itself.

            But our relationship to the collective unconscious is not as clearly defined. As with his mentor, Jung saw in both dream and myth the recurring clues to what must be something both potent and patent to the human soul. Whereas Freud looked to the trauma of birth and growth for the key to these expressions, Jung instead found in them a different kind of imagery, that of the archetypes. These are abstracted and stylized figures and forces that cleave well to Weber’s ideal types analysis, worked out during the same time period as Jung’s archetypes. Famous examples of Jung’s figural archetypes include the mother, the child, and the Syzygy and Shadow. The yet more abstract archetypical concepts, something one could refer to as ‘ideations’, include the flood as well as his famous anima and animus. I am going to choose four of the most salient archetypes to modernity in terms of its relationship to pre-modern myth and interpolate between each cardinal direction based on Jung’s ‘mandala of modern man’ (frontispiece for his 1959). But I will not be limited by his specific understanding of the relations amongst the archetypes. Instead, I will propose that for each set of archetypes there are hybrid figures which ‘occupy’ the spaces in between the cardinal points; half-way beings that are made up of aspects of both of the more basic archetypes that themselves occupy the diagrammatical spaces on either side of them.

            Though it took Jung four decades to completely work out his understanding of the innate ordering of essential human consciousness, his 1919 conception yet rings true as a basis upon which we can magnify the myriad expressions of cultural life that seem to uncannily hold together within our shared beliefs and even in our popular entertainment. It is commonplace, for instance, to read of digital media narrative being based upon archetypes such as the hero or the warrior. If one shrinks away from such realities and accuses his fellow human of a basic lack of imagination, that same one must recall to herself that for Jung, at least, our imagination is itself based upon the dynamic presence of the archetypes and their ability to be expressed ‘phenotypically’. We can pause just here, of course, to ask the immediately docketed question, ‘is it the case then that in order for humanity to mature further our set of archetypes must be altered or even abandoned altogether?’ Certainly there have been enough more recent critiques of Jung’s understanding – the most obvious being the stereotypes of gender to be found within it (but then again, are these not the realities of historical expression that are themselves to a certain extent predetermined but are by no means instinctual or ’natural’, by the dynamo of the collective unconscious?) – to issue a reasonably well defined caveat. In terms of gender, since this is itself a most fluid conception, Jung’s prefigurations adapt, I think, quite well. After all, we note the presence of female warriors throughout known history, as well as male nurturer figures. That the balance of these archetypes are represented by varying degrees of genderedness is a tendency alone, and not an essentiality. I hope my interpolations will underscore this sensibility.

            Let us first take four well known archetypes in their cardinal dyads, Mother-Warrior and Syzygy-Shadow. Figure ‘a’:

                                                Syzygy (all genders)

Warrior (masculine)                        EGO                                                 Mother (feminine)

                                                Shadow (no gender)

            Ego occupies the very center of the diagram just as it does for the mandala. We can now see how, in each quarter or corner of the proposed circle, there is a space which is occupied by a combination of the two closest archetypes already present. Filling them in with the most obvious hybrids, figure ‘a’ generates the following. Figure ‘b’:


            Visionary (moderate)                                   Nurturer (intimate)

Warrior                                                      EGO                                                    Mother

            Adventurer (immoderate)                           Disciplinarian (distanced)


            As with the original four archetypes, the hybrids are situated in opposition to one another, both within the ambit of traditional gender dominance and across it. Now it is time to detail within each of the conceptions their specific and essential characteristics, beginning with the top of the diagram or stylized mandala and ending at the bottom, travelling left to right.

            Syzygy: This is Jung’s own hybrid being. In its original conception it holds within it both male and female but we can update this with a more contemporary sensibility that simply says that this archetype includes all possible genders and does not make any discrimination amongst them, whatever their total number may be. In that Jung is careful to note that his archetypes, unlike say, Plato’s ‘ideas’, are essentially dynamic – we may then ask after what they are responding to, and kindred with the dynamic between the moral and the historical, the ideal and the real, we could very well answer ‘society’ itself – it is not a logical stretch to extend and refigure the Syzygy, the ‘conjoined being’, as containing multitudes in the same manner as we shall see that each elemental archetype is more abstract than their hybrids. Along with its being, each archetype has a simple mantra. In this case, the Syzygy passionately declares its love for each and all. ‘I will love you’ is thus its fail-safe and essential Ursprachlichkeit. Hence the authentic lover, unbiased regarding form or content, is a Syzygy. Its opposite is the Shadow, the being of no gender and possessed by the absence of love given its premonitory stance towards death itself.

            Visionary: A blend of Warrior and Syzygy, the visionary being tends toward the masculinity – though not the maleness per se; recall that women and men, in Jung, each have strong traits of the ‘opposite’ gender even if one often is predominant – but is not compelled to manifest this orientation in its vocation. The visionary is the active and activated lover. It is not content to love the world as is, nor those within it. It rather seeks both a higher love and a transformed world. The artist and the philosopher are visionaries. We will see that its opposites are, as the diagram declares, both the Adventurer and the Disciplinarian, the one due to its very indiscipline – which also makes it the opposite of the other opposite, as it were – and the other in its defense of the world-as-it-is. The visionary’s mantra is ‘I will change you’. In this, it states with unction both its purpose and its goal, and the fact that along with the world, I myself as I now am is not either what I could, or yet should, become.

            Warrior: This is the quintessential masculine archetype. It, like the Visionary, is outward facing, away from Ego, since its primordial duty is to defend it against external attack. It’s mantra is ‘I will protect you’ and thus it leaves the internal workings of Ego to other figures and forces, specifically the Mother and its ‘feminine’ hybrids. The Warrior is likely the most commonplace and cliché hero, so much so that indeed heroism has been defined in certain phases of cultural development as courage in combat alone. Yet the definition of what may constitute combat is rarely so single-minded. Coming to one’s own defense, as an expression of the Warrior archetype, involves reason and rationality as well as bravery and indefatigability. It also may entail vision or a sense of adventure as well as maintaining a faith, ultimately in oneself. Thus the worker and the officer of the peace are Warrior types, as well as of course the soldier. Though the Warrior’s opposite is the Mother, both are charged with the same duty to Ego, it is just that the former extends this duty outward and the latter inward.

            Adventurer: The contemporary home of ‘toxic masculinity’, the Adventurer is, even so, not always self-aggrandizing and self-serving. It does have the tendency to exhibit Ego’s most outwardly niggardly traits, such as hedonism and narcissism. The pirate and the politician are alike adventurers, for they live for the day and their goal is status and repute. Both positive and negative attention serve equally well in this quest, and indeed, the very ignobility of the Adventurer’s questing places it in direct contrast with that of the Visionary’s. Its other opposite, the Nurturer, places compassion foremost, whereas the Adventurer idealizes passion alone. Yet its base desires framed by basic passions drive the Adventurer also to new worlds, as the Visionary is also driven, but these worlds are more simply heretofore undiscovered rather than inexistent. In a word, Ego’s outwardness is given both worldly and rootsy form through the Adventurer archetype. ‘I will desire you’ is thus its mantra.

            Shadow: Traditionally understood as the dark undersoul of humanity, one’s Shadow figure perhaps has gained a bad rap and rep alike. It is reasonable to say that though the Shadow, in its genderless and distanciated state, is the most challenging archetypical aspect of selfhood, it also represents the most basic perspective on our shared existence. Just as the Syzygy calls us to the transcendental through the love of another and ultimately, the love of all, so the Shadow reminds us of our mortal limits. Both are existential figures and they are, in this, obvious opposites. In love, human existence reaches its nadir, in death its lowest point; indeed, its completion of being in itself, whereas the Syzygy demands that we lose our being in the presence of the other. In an additional opposition, Ego loses itself in love only to another human other, but in death, it loses itself to the Other as otherness itself. The Shadow is expressed in the criminal, specifically the murderer, but also in the dictator and perhaps as well in the melancholic. If the Syzygy knows nothing but affirmation, the Shadow understands nothing but denial. So its mantra is ‘I will doubt you’; not only is my existence placed in doubt because of its mortal limit, but also each of my decisions, future-directed as they are, can be called into doubt given that, as Gadamer has eloquently put it, ‘we can only be said to have a future as long as we are unaware that we have no future’.

            Disciplinarian: This is the rule-enforcer and the defender of the normative. It is the opposite of both the Visionary, who seeks to overturn all norms and social forms, and the Adventurer, who transgresses the one and flouts the other at will and for its own device. ‘I will guide you’ is the Disciplinarian’s mantra, and like the Shadow, of which it is half composed, such a statement belies its ultimate suasion. Guidance in this case may be reasonably taken for a limited vision, the very thing the Visionary is compelled to reject. Society as formed, culture as expressed, are the Disciplinarian’s own guideposts. All authoritarians and others who are charged with reproducing society – teachers, pastors, judges, and mentors in athletics specifically – take the form of expressions of the Disciplinarian. Reproduction of the already created is the ultimate goal and duty of this archetype, as opposed to the creation the new itself in the Visionary, or the mere seeking of the novel in the Adventurer. Yet the Disciplinarian is not after all the Shadow alone, it is also composed of the Mother. So in its strict heeding of the rules and their enforcement upon Ego, it is also called to the duty of basic care. And it remains the case, no matter what genius which youth possesses, that in order to overcome something we first must understand in the greatest detail what that something is.

            Mother: One of Jung’s most famous archetypes, the Mother figure is traditionally understood to be quintessentially feminine, though once again, not necessarily female in its worldly representation. The Mother’s mantra  ‘I will care for you’, includes both the guidance of the more authoritarian oriented Disciplinarian as well as the development which, as we will immediately see, is embodied in the Nurturer. Thus the Mother figure is of the same rank as the Warrior, only taking care of the inward looking aspect of Ego rather than protecting it against forces emanating from elsewhere. In this primordial vocation, we discover the ‘care of the self’, so historically lit by Foucault, for one. The social worker or even the prostitute are examples of this archetype’s material expression. Its form of love is concernful being, and thus it expresses in its manifest duties one of Dasein’s ownmost essentialities. Ego’s very ability to exert care about its world comes from its own auto-maternal ‘instinct’. Though in opposition to the Warrior in terms of the spatiality over which it exerts its care and protection, the Mother archetype remains the ‘warrior of Ego’s inner world’, so to speak, and hence the Bourgeois contraption of placing the real-time mother as both architect and defender of the Domus.

            Nurturer: Finally, the last of the hybrid archetypes, which in this case combines the care of the Mother with the love of the Syzygy. Its mantra, ‘I will develop you’ nods in the latter’s direction by acknowledging that the love of another alters and grows our own being as Ego, and indeed one can reasonably suggest that only through the radical departure from ourselves that love requires of us on the intimate plane do we in fact develop the wider care for others and for the world around us. The Nurturer is aware of this demand and seeks to prepare Ego for its advent. For before falling in love in the passionate  and shameless grace of lovers as seeking a unified and genderless being, Ego must come to understand the compassion required to recognize that an other has both desires and needs which I might thence fulfill. It is the task of the Nurturer to engender this understanding, trending away from the purely inner care that the Mother so engenders. The artistic mentor or the friend in general are examples of the Nurturer archetype. The Nurturer’s opposites, the Visionary and the Adventurer, are both far too externally oriented to develop the compassion necessary to love other human beings instead of the abstracted world of visions and the all too passionate experiences of the one who only and always ventures forth. Even so, in its opposition, the Nurturer nevertheless prepares Ego for all worldly Erlebnisse, as well as forming the basic framework for the recognition of human suffering, which then the Visionary takes up as its call to arms.

            In sum then, each of the eight primary aspects of Ego in this new mandala of the modern person requires of us to stand centered and balanced and to not completely eschew any single figure, let alone be possessed by any one as well:

                                    Syzygy                        Loving of the other

                                    Visionary                    Changing of the world

                                    Warrior                      Protecting against the external

                                    Adventurer                Desiring of experience

                                    Shadow                      Doubting of existence

                                    Disciplinarian         Reproducing of what is

                                    Mother                       Caring for the inner life

                                    Nurturer                    Developing of compassion

            Taken together, these eight archetypes envelop Ego existentially as manifestations in cultural expression as well as essentially, as aspectual elements of Ego’s ‘primordial’ being-present. It is clear that amongst them, if all are called to as a set of balanced acts and thus as the outcome of a great variety and permutation of actions in the world at large and with and amongst others in that shared world, that Ego itself should not want for any ability and should be able to rise to any occasion, no matter the stringency of its demands. The task then for any psychological or even humanistic interlocutor is to help the patient access each of these archetypes and develop manners of expressing them. A common case in my own professional experience is the person who is attempting to leave a cult-like organization behind, replete as it is with authoritarian demands and highly structured role types. Here, Ego has suffered an absence of the Disciplinarian as well as the Visionary, opposites though they are but as in Jung, such dynamics can be imagined by envisioning arrowed lines between the relevant two figuresin each diagram that are then connected via the ‘Mysterium Coniunctionis’ which is also said to have created the Syzygy being. Hence this person has sought out, uncontrollably and with a violence toward the self, a cultural space in which both forms of demanding authority are consistently expressed. In so doing, of course, both the nobility of the authentic vision as well as the caring of the authentic rule-enforcer and reproducer are lost in the narcissism of the leader of such organizations, himself solely an adventurer at the cost of others’ autonomy and autochthony.  

            By now it should be understood that in each ‘case’, this or that Ego will be struck with an imbalance regarding these eight forces as anthropomorphized figures or cultural configurations, and it is the analyst’s duty to discover which imbalance is present and set about aiding the person in recovering that centeredness of being from which all human endeavors must begin.

            G.V. Loewen is the author of fifty-five books in ethics, education, social theory, health and aesthetics, as well as fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.