What is an Archetype?By Tim Drown
Archetypes are primal concepts, deeply embedded within the unconscious mind or psyche that hold common meaning for all people across all cultures. They represent realities and truths that are held in common by humanity and recognisable by all.
Carl Jung was a famous psychologist and psychotherapist who identified what he called the “collective unconscious”. This concept assumed that all humanity is unconsciously connected. The archetypes were said to be an expression of the collective unconscious.
A classic example of an archetype is the King archetype. The mere mention of the word “king” summons a rush of associations, concepts and images. Language and mental associations may be influenced by culture and therefore differ slightly, but the general concept of kingship is recognised and understood by all. Even where there may be no formal concept of kingship, the archetype of King plays itself out in our domestic lives – from rivalry in the work place to our most intimate relationships, the movement towards kingship is inevitable for a male and the activation of this archetype a defining mark of maturity.
There are as many archetypes as you can imagine. The major archetypes that are commonly considered to be present in the journey from boyhood to masculine maturity exist in two groups - the child and the adult acrchetypes. The child (or immature) archetypes include the divine child, precocious child, the hero and the edible child. The adult (or mature) archetypes include the warrior, lover, magician and king. The pinnacle of masculine maturity is aspired to in the lesser known sacred archetypes. This is a coming together of the mature archetypes in balance and harmony that lifts a man's conscious awareness to a transcended state. There are a myriad of minor archetypes that influence our development to a lesser extent. Examples of these inlcude the joker, young fool and wild man among others.
There is no exact science when it comes to the realm of the unconscious, and masculine archetypes are certainly not limited to these, however they cover a broad range and are helpful for a deeper exploration of our masculinity.
If you’re not sure an exploration of the archetypes is going to be helpful, consider the direct implications they have on our lives. Hidden deeply in our unconscious minds are primal urges that drive our decision making on a daily basis. If we are consciously aware of them, we can use the archetypes and draw on the insight they provide to guide our choices and actions. If we relegate them to the darkness, the archetypes remain equally active, directing us from behind the scenes, desperately seeking to fulfil hidden needs. Thus we can spend a lifetime chasing ghosts, driven by energies we have no mastery over.
Beyond this, archetypes open deep insights into ourselves. To know as men, we have equal capacity to love as to stand for what we believe in – and to know how to access these capacities can enhance our relationships with ourselves and our loved ones without being afraid of conflict or loss of love. To know our journeys are destined for kingship brings meaning and purpose to so much of our lives, as we unleash the hidden leadership potential and embrace a higher calling.
The archetypes can empower us and disempower us. Each archetype has a shadow that is active when we don’t pay it attention and bring it into the light of consciousness. The shadow is the unfulfilled potential that gathers momentum and works against our life journey, leaving us disempowered, disillusioned and bitter as life’s promises remain unfulfilled and our shadows slowly consume us. We spend most of our lives denying or running from our shadows, and in doing so running from ourselves. The archetypes provide a context in which we may confront the shadows that lurk within and transform them into the golden potential they reveal.