This was written as a grad student at the University of Ottawa in 1993. Things have changed a lot since then. I tend to write simpler sentences and my beliefs have evolved. So I post this partly out of nostalgia, and partly for its sound presentation of Jung’s ideas.
When citing this essay please use one of the standard citation styles for online sources.
Elsewhere I have indicated that the work of C. G. Jung reveals his bent for constructing elaborate psychological theory on the basis of selective data. This charge was mingled with a somewhat reluctant admiration for the creation of a fictional system that seemed to surpass the usual, and I would add, artificial dictates of scientific rationalism. Like a political leader who after safely retiring exposes party corruption, Jung retrospectively concedes to being a myth maker in what was then, modern times.(1)
To continue from previous work, I will examine Jung’s concepts of ego, archetype and self to determine if the above charge of selectivity – not to preclude other potential difficulties – applies to these seminal components of his analytical model of the psyche.(2)
* * *
Jung speaks of ego as a highly continuous “complex of ideas which constitutes the centre of [one’s] field of consciousness”(3) Ego is also referred to as the “point of reference”(4) of the psyche; its partly biological inheritance is offset by unconsciously acquired material.(5) Ego is not the entire psyche, but, according to Jung, it has a monumental role in the regulation and maintenance of psychic balance.(6) To illustrate precisely what is balanced by the ego, we must examine Jung’s constructs of archetype and self.
Archetype. It sounds impressive: definite, timeless, metaphysical; Jung made an astute choice by modifying this essentially Platonic idea, providing a certain scholarly credibility to work that was quite avant-garde for the medical science of the time. While Jung had not fully developed a definition of archetype for entry into Psychological Types (where we find most of his terms described), a survey of various statements he makes about archetypes renders their character fairly clear.
Jung’s mature thought demarcates the archetypal image from the archetype proper. As a sort of crystal-lattice structure inherent in all nature,(7) and thus a bio-culturally transmitted content of humanity’s collective unconscious,(8 ) the essence of the archetype is not amenable to representation.(9) Of the numerous archetypal structures, their diversity is represented by so many archetypal images and ideas,(10) and is individually experienced with the evocation of corresponding feeling values, these sometimes taking the form of ‘magical’ heightened awareness.
This ‘luminous,’ ‘spiritual’ aspect of archetypal experience may be either healing or destructive for the overall psyche, depending on its relation to the ego.(11) When made conscious by the ego, the archetypal image is positive; if not encapsulated by ego consciousness, it may be regressive.(12) Yet we have seen that Jung stresses the archetype, itself, to not be accessible to representation. Elsewhere he says that it cannot reach ego consciousness.(13) Granted Jung introduces the archetypal images and ideas, we must still ask: if the extra feeling value of the archetypal image or idea originates from the archetype, how is ego unaware of that archetypal source which it ‘feels’?
An additional function of the archetype is to organize images and ideas.
Archetypes, so far as we can observe and experience them at all, manifest themselves only through their ability to organize images and ideas, and this will always be an unconscious process which cannot be detected until afterward.(14)
From this it seems that the archetypal images and ideas are productions of the hidden, secret aspect of the archetypes. Now according to Jung, the self – our final concept to be illustrated – is itself an archetype.(15) And here Jung seems to say that the self can be anything. If an archetype, then it has an unmanifest, invisible aspect that cannot be grasped. That is, part of our own self must be inaccessible to ourselves. But that is not all. The self is alternately described as the “sum total of conscious and unconscious contents,”(16) a “complexio oppositorium,”(17) and as the “psychic totality of the individual.”(18 ) I do not object to Jung describing the self as illimitable, I do object, however, to his use of the term individual. Individuals cannot all be infinite. There must be some mark of difference among them. And Jung seems to agree with me: he himself says that the unconscious part of the self “cannot be distinguished from that of another individual.”(19)
Lets untangle this mess, and in so doing, try to be fair to Jung. It seems the problem lies in his notion of self as a “psychic totality.” For Jung really offers a two-tiered model of the psyche. The conscious part is individual, the unconscious collective aspect is impersonal. Jung would have done better to dismiss the “totality” component of his definition of self. As he did not, however, “self” is ambiguous and indistinct from a strictly theoretical standpoint. Why call it self if indeed it is everyone?
As I am not one to admire muddled, confused systems, Jung’s primary mentor Freud might suggest that unduly punitive washroom socialization resulted in my fixation at the latter’s ‘anal stage’ of psychosexual development.(20) Such a psychoanalytic interpretation may not have been entirely dismissed by Jung. Part of his self includes the personal unconscious, yet for Jung and quite unlike Freud, the personal unconscious is “more or less superficial;”(21) and Jung would not necessarily have given a psychosexual etiology(22) to an obsession with order. In fact, Jung would most likely view the above paragraph as a temporary intrusion of the “trickster” archetype – a mildly evil, sometimes positive archetype – into my ego consciousness. Recall that as mediator that strives for psychic integrity (see top to endnote 12), ego must balance good and evil,(23) these polarities producing a tension that for Jung is a universal law.(24) So we see two differing analyses – Freudian and Jungian – which perhaps points more to the role of investigation and interpretation of a situation than to the supremacy of either model.(25) But perhaps not. It is possible that one system explains events better than another. And if in our uncertainty we choose to define theory as an approach to an ever-changing, relative ‘reality,’ as do anti-theorists Paul Feyerabend(26) and Jean Baudrillard,(see endnote 25) we cannot escape the fact that even anti-theory is a type of theory.
Jung calls all this intellectual diaphaneity ‘rationalistic twaddle’ and claims, as do his adherents, that the value of his system lies in its practical application. While academic analysis implicity and expressly states one should not dispense with critical reflection, Jung also does not advocate the abandonment of critique. As Naomi Goldenberg points out:
According to Jungian lore, Carl Jung once said he was glad to be Jung and not a “Jungian.” As Jung he could be a thinker who tested ideas and modified theories to fit maturing insights and experiences. As a Jungian he would be pressured into defending dogma and clutching to ideas which had outlived their utility.(27)
* * *
With the basic explication of ego, archetype and self complete, I will now offer a more intensive appraisal, recalling that to be critical is to assess the positive and negative aspects of a given truth-claim. For the last half of the paper I will reverse the order and first look at self, then archetype, and lastly, ego.
Jung says the self as archetype is represented by the mandala, a sanskrit term meaning ‘circle.'(28 ) Part of the self, as noted, cannot be represented. This “psychoid” aspect is “identical in all individuals.”(29) The act of representing the self, such as in the visual mandala, brings order to chaos(30) as the tension of opposites is, if not permanently, at least to some degree reconciled.(31) Because the mandala (self) may imprison or protect the individual (ego),(32) it is like the archetypal mother–it absorbs or nurtures. Thus the mandala is also said to parallel the mother archetype.(33)
But Jung takes the mandala out of context. For mandala is an eastern construct specifically designed to both represent and aid in the abolition of the ego. Mandala refers to that beyond ego; it does not include ego as suggested by Jung. For instance, Lama Anagarika Govinda notes that the Tibetan ‘Mandala of Highest Bliss’ is “a vehicle of an all-embracing, imperishable wholeness, in which the limits of individual egohood do not exist any more.”(34) Likewise, W. Y. Evans-Wentz says the ‘Mandala of Liberation’ entails a “gradual dispersion of the psychic or mental atoms of the…thought body.”(35) Prior to Buddhism, the Hindu mandala refers to each of the ten books of the Rig Veda, which collectively are designed to return one to an undifferentiated original state that apparently existed prior to such dualisms as life/death, real/unreal, good/evil and, I should add, self/ego.(36) As a symbol of self and its relation to ego, Jung could have equated mandala with the absorbing, yet not the nurturing aspect of his mother archetype. This self-mother-mandala triad provides an excellent example of unwarranted and selective cross-referencing within the exposition of Jung’s theory.
Previously I have argued that Jung confuses the asian atman with his definition of libido.(37) To complicate matters, Jung seems to equate atman with his concept of self.(38 ) Thus perhaps not in the way Jung constructs quaternities, we may draw from his work our own analogical foursome: self-mother-mandala-libido. What else will he add to the list?
Archetypes, as I have noted, have two faces. One face is forever turned away, essentially supramundane and inaccessible to women and men; the other expresses various healing and destructive images and ideas into mundane psychological reality. But archetypes need not take a human or animal form. For cohesiveness, we will look at Jung’s views on Ufos, specifically on flying saucers, for in their circular shape they may be likened to the mandala symbol. In this connection we should note that for Jung flying saucers were the quintessential Ufos(39) and something of a pop phenomenon in the 1950’s: the pre-Star Wars/Star Trek era of modernity in which Jung’s writings on the subject are located.(40)
In flying saucers, then, we have an archetype that Jung says, by virtue of its shape, is analogous to the mandala,(41) and by implication, the self.(42) Belief in, or dreams of the saucers, like any archetypal formation, represents a double-edged desire for individuation(43) in combination with a fear for personal destruction: Alien inhabitants of the saucer could be benevolent, benign or malicious. Likewise, the journey to mandalic totality (to use Jung’s selective interpretation) has potential danger in that immense and equally tumultuous psychic forces may be unleashed from the collective unconscious, which if not successfully integrated by consciousness, could lead to psychic ruin–recall the absorbing, also referred to as the ‘devouring’ mother archetype as the negative instance of the self.
If one, however, believed or dreamed of extraterrestrials as being neither helpful nor harmful, this for Jung would indicate a state of psychic stagnation–no loss nor advancement within the individuation process. And a belief or dream of pleasant aliens would suggest that one’s ‘yonder shore’ of the collective unconscious is about to guide the ego toward a new, more comprehensive ontology. I noted above that critique should be balanced, and here indeed we find a good example of Jung’s impressive ability to adapt his theoretical structures to the symbols and social imagination of his time. Not to imply that Jung is merely vying for popularity and personal recognition. His work is too thorough, thoughtful, and serious to be so summarily dismissed. But as suggested elsewhere, he also knew the professional legitimacy of his writing necessitated scrupulous selectivity; he thus displays great acumen for creating schematic ‘meaning’ out of a massive and diverse body of data, even if that data is liberally corralled into his analytic theory.(44)
This leads us to the problem of agency, identity and ego. Ego is said to emerge from the self; its relation to self is one of “moved to the mover.”(45) Although it may be subsumed by the archetypes, as in inflation, ego is also the real limit of the person.(46) Ego is not to be confused with the self; although Jung claims ‘ordinary’ persons, in ignorance, take ego as the entire psychological being. Not so for Jung. When ego is unaware of, or attempts to deny the self’s existence, the ‘sleeping giant’ of the unconscious(47) self may grumble mightily at any time. The result: psychic catastrophe.(48 ) That is, ego becomes assimilated by the self–a situation praised in eastern religious and cultural ideals, but not endorsed within the scientific materialism of western modernity.
Thus as mentioned at the outset, ego plays a tremendous role in Jung’s vision of the psyche. By balancing inner and outer realities, it serves to regulate both collective unconscious and collective conscious forces(49) (and implicitly, moral opposites of good and evil residing in the psyche and expressed in the sentiments and acts of external reality). Ego is, therefore, busy. So busy that Jung sees it as the high achievement of western humanity. Unlike the so-called ‘primitives,’ the egos of modern individuals are more differentiated and less luminous than those of their, as Jung would have it, cruder ancestors.(50)
Concerning luminosity and ego, two points should be made. First, Jung says even modern persons have egos surrounded by a “multitude of little luminosities.”(51) Their unconscious provides various shades and textures to ego consciousness. And considering everyone is variously configured as such, each possessing different ‘lights’ from the unconscious, we must ask how Jung is able to make sweeping statements regarding the ‘normal’ ego constitution of western women and men. To propose for the sake of argument two stereotypes, does an artist necessarily see and experience in the same manner as an astrophysicist? Jung would say no, of course.(52) While he humbly acknowledges being a lay-person and doctor who happens to be very well read, at times his lack of academic training (and rigour) shows. By analogy, Albert Einstein admits to being poor at math, and Jung’s achievement was perhaps made possible by the fact that he was not confined by corridors of acceptable thought. But in spite of this, certain unacceptable margins of vagueness and redundancy may be discerned in his writing.
Another issue to be raised concerning luminosity and ego is in their application to Jung’s so-called ‘primitives.’ Jung visited Africa and India, so unlike ethnocentrics such as Emile Durkheim – who never travelled to places written about – we would suspect him to be in a better position to understand the inhabitants of foreign societies. But right from the outset Jung envisions such ‘native cultures’ as possessing the stereotypical attributes of ‘primitive man,’ and while he shows some appreciation for indigenous cosmologies,(53) and even made some attempts to learn local languages prior to departures, he nevertheless seems to wear, as it were, his safari hat throughout his adventures into lands exotica. I mean to say, he never let his European side slip–perhaps because he truly showed tendencies towards racism.(54) Possibly Jung’s comments on the luminous primitive ego reflect in part his own fantasy world: a projection of Jung’s psychic contents to others.(55)
* * *
To conclude, in reviewing ego, archetype and self, it seems my suspicions have been further confirmed. Jung’s analogic method displays an almost artistic collage of seemingly related concepts; upon close and careful examination, however, we have seen that mandala is not taken in situ, but rather as Jung – consciously or unconsciously – chooses to portray it. Regarding Ufos, Jung provides a detailed psychological exposition after professing ignorance as to their actuality.(56) While he mentions (in passing) that exclusively psychological relationships to Ufos as archetypal images would not dismiss the possibility of genuine Ufos,(57) he nonetheless proceeds to systematically squelch any tinge of ambiguity as to the latter’s authenticity with an apparent certainty that makes us wonder: is Jung the open-minded investigator he claims to be, searching for knowledge on the basis of empirically demonstrable facts, or is he one of the truly great doctrinaires of modernity, holding fast to new dogma of his own design?
In all likelihood, he is probably both; and that, in Jung’s own fashion, would be consistent with the ‘unity of opposites’ motif postulated within his system. Whether such theoretical coherence arrived with or without ethical consequence remains open to various avenues of debate.(58 )
1) See my unpublished paper for the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa, “Plumbing the Depths: Carl Jung, Freud and Hinduism.”
2) Until the entirety of Jung’s work is studied, forwarded conclusions must be tentative. This critique is based mostly on C. G. Jung, The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vols. 1-11.
3) C. G. Jung, Psychological Types in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 6, 425.
4) C. G. Jung, Mandala Symbolism from The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 9/1 par. 717.
5) C. G. Jung, “Analytical Psychology and Education,” The Collected Works of C. G. Jung Vol. 17, par. 169, cited in Daryl Sharp, Jung Lexicon: A Primer of Terms and Concepts (Toronto: Inner City Books, 1991: 49).
6) Jung, Mandala Symbolism, par. 563.
7) C. G. Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 8, 210.
8 ) C. G. Jung, Psychology and Religion in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 11, 50.
9) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 214. Jung seems to overlook the fact that the words he writes are a type of representation.
10) Ibid, 214.
11) Ibid, 205.
12) C. G. Jung, Civilization in Transition in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 10, 237.
13) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 213.
14) Ibid, 231.
15) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 156.
16) Ibid, 82.
17) Here Jung refers to dialectical opposites of, for instance, good and evil, masculine and feminine, hatred and love. Ibid, 443.
18 ) Ibid, 156.
19) Ibid, 277.
20) As in my previous paper, “Plumbing the Depths,” time restraints necessitate reference to Freud via secondary sources. In this case: Lectures on Psychoanalysis for undergraduate course conducted by Dr. Donald Carveth, 1981-1982, York University, Toronto.
21) C. G. Jung, Four Archetypes from The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 9/1 par. 3; Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 291.
22) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 349-350.
23) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 219.
24) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 197.
25) As an extreme anti-theorist, Jean Baudrillard comments that good theory should lose its own meaning when “pushed to its conclusion” at the “limits of the text.” Jean Baudrillard, Forget Foucault/Forget Baudrillard (New York: Semiotext( ), 1987: 38 ).
26) See, for example, Paul Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (London: Humanities Press, 1975).
27) Naomi R. Goldenberg, “Reply to Barbara Chesser’s Comment on ‘A Feminist Critique of Jung,'” Signs (Spring 1978): 724.
28 ) Jung, Mandala Symbolism, par. 713.
29) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 436.
30) Jung, Mandala Symbolism, par. 645.
31) Ibid, par. 637.
32) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 95-96.
33) Jung, Four Archetypes, par. 156.
34) Lama Anagarika Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (New Delhi: B.I. Publications PVT Ltd., 1960: 166-171).
35) W. Y. Evans-Wentz ed., The Tibetan Book of the Dead, trans. Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960: 126, footnotes 1-3).
36) Troy Wilson Organ, Hinduism: Its Historical Development (London: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1974: 59, 76-77, 80).
37) Clark, “Plumbing the Depths,” 10.
38 ) C. G. Jung, Aion in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 9/2, 144, 194, 222.
39) Jung briefly notes that he cannot determine the falsity or truthfulness of numerous Ufo accounts. See Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 10, 309.
40) Star Wars and Star Trek introduced variously shaped interstellar crafts to the popular imagination.
41) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 10, 325.
42) William McGuire & R. F. C. Hull eds., C. G. Jung Speaking, Bollingen Series XCVII (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977: 414).
43) Jung’s concept that refers to the goal of psychic totality, differentiation and socio-environmental confluence. See Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 258-259.
44) See Clark, “Plumbing the Depths,” 8-10.
45) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 11, 259.
46) Ibid, 470.
47) Which is nonetheless conscious of itself.
48 ) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 9, 24.
49) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 217-218.
50) Ibid, 189.
51) Ibid, 190.
52) In later work I will elaborate on Jung’s 4 by 2 model of the psyche, consisting of thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition, as well as introversion and extroversion.
53) Especially with the Pueblo Indians. See Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 10, 211; and C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, revised, ed. Aniela Jaffé, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Vintage Books, 1961: 250).
54) For example, he believes individuals of all the colonies of England are “slightly inferior,” and that “there are facts to support this view” (in America, this being the psychological influence of the “lax, “childlike” and “inferior” blacks). Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 10, 46-47, 121, 507-509).
55) We are indebted to Freud for the mechanism of projection; Jung also recognizes the primacy of projection and notes that archetypes are usually expressed through this process. Dr. Donald Carveth, Lectures on Psychoanalysis, 1981-1982, York University, Toronto; See also, C. G. Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. William McGuire et al., trans. R. F. C. Hull, Bollingen Series XX (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954-79) Vol. 7, 95.
56) Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 10, 309.
57) He utilizes the concept of ‘synchronicity’ to account for this. Ibid, 313. Unfortunately it is beyond the scope of this paper to do justice to this pivotal component of Jung’s schema.
58 ) Jung’s theoretical extrapolations reveal not only racist, but strong sexist tendencies. While apparently progressive, saying women should be regarded on the basis of “merit not gender,” Jung also exemplifies the expected ‘men are men, women are “girls”‘ mentality of his day. Jung, The Collected Works, Vol.7, 25; and Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 8, 286. Concerning his sexist views on rape, and for other examples of extreme sex-role stereotyping, see Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 9/2, 15-17; and Jung, The Collected Works Vol. 10, 117-119. On marriage, he claims i) all women desire children and ii) are attracted only to one man while married men are naturally attracted to many women; at the same time, however, iii) women aim to “loosen” the marriage structure. Ibid, 101 (i), 42 (ii), 132 (iii). Jung also assumes all lesbians are interested and/or active in gender/political issues by categorizing lesbian love as a stimulus for women to organize for increased social empowerment. Ibid, 99. Lastly, Jung’s professional practice entailed having sex with at least two of his female clients. Naomi Goldenberg, “Looking at Jung Looking at Himself,” Soundings, 73/2-3 (Summer/Fall 1990): 395.
Copyright © Michael W. Clark, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
- Our friend, the devil (epages.wordpress.com)
- For a Jungian Turn in Comics Studies (tedfriedman.com)
- Freud & Jung in “A Dangerous Method” (psychologytoday.com)
- Carl Jung’s Archetypes (wiredcosmos.com)
- Rampage | The Shadow (riotofspring.wordpress.com)
- 12 Archetypes by Jung (sparkideasnl.wordpress.com)
- Dreams (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- H-Team ~ Archetypes – A Basic Understanding (shiftfrequency.com)
- Archetypes ~ A Basic Understanding (ascendingstarseed.wordpress.com)
- Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes. (sandscriber.wordpress.com)