It’s a psychology focused on archetypes that looks at the individual’s behavior and personality through the lens of primordial images archetypes.
Each person’s psyche comes from a common background, the collective or universal unconsciousness where are imprinted some basic aspects of humanity that have run since the beginning of times. That’s the reason we can mirror ourselves when we read or watch movies about stories that happened centuries ago. The main events in human life are still the same, as well as the instincts, desires, struggle, needs, feelings. The eternal battle of humanity in its many aspects belongs to each of us and we immediately recognize its elements from a few signs.
Thus the prefix “arche”, which in ancient Greek means “what is in the beginning”, the “first”, the “original”. “Type” is what we know as type, a model, and more specifically and image. Because image is the most effective way of communication and it’s the major psyche way to express itself, archetypes are images coming from primordial times exposing aspects of the human life.
Now, because an image transposed into a visual art (painting, sculpting, drawing, etc.) can only be done by people belonging to a specific time in history, archetypes, when represented, are always historically located. This doesn’t mean that their meaning is exhausted when its historical representation becomes outdated. Each archetype’s physical image is rather like the tip of an iceberg, you can cut it out, but the invisible body remains intact.
The first who “discovered” archetypes and their psychological influence was Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939) in 1913, when he realized that the unconscious mind was not a personal closet filled with the unwanted contents we throw in. Unconsciousness is a reservoir of the past and future history of the psyche, in which it’s also settled a personal closet for the unwanted items.
Jung came to his founding after years of research and comparisons among the psychic material (mainly dreams, but also visions, free associations, etc.) of people from different places in the world and diverse level of education and understanding. He concluded that there are common elements belonging to the human psyche.
Following Jung, Archetypal Psychology. Deepening in the study of Mythology, the main source of archetypes, Hillman developed a new viewpoint. He aim to balance the excessive importance the ego claims for itself, thus Hillman focused on the soul and its variety of “fantasies” represented by gods, semi-gods and all the mythic and legendary figures of human history.
The soul’s voice is expressed by archetypes which are more powerful than the ego can or want to realize. They are so potent that when neglected or banished from our lives, they return as diseases, social as well as individual’s. Thus, archetypes are soul’s forces that we should consider in order to be psychological healthy.
Hillman’s ideas influenced many authors and psychologists. It’s worth mentioning at least a few of them for the very interesting work they have done: Jean Shinoda Bolen, Jennifer Baker Woolger and Roger J. Woolger, and Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette.
Jean Shinoda Bolen, a Jungian psychiatrist, published in 1984 by HarperCollins “Goddesses in Every Women: A New Psychology of Women“. She’s the first to introduce the seven feminine archetypes based on ancient Greek mythology. Each Goddess represents a primordial image for women’s personality; they are: Hestia, Athena, Demeter, Aphrodite, Hera, Artemis, Persephone.
The Woolger couple, Jennifer Baker and Roger J., advanced in Shinoda Bolen’s steps publishing in 1989 their “The Goddess Within”, a practical guide to find the feminine archetypes and to develop or balance their presences in one’s life. They include six of the Goddesses taking away Hestia. The book is full of notes, citations and tips. Very useful.
On the male’s side, a couple of Jungian psychologist, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, reading it we get a sense of hope and joy. The patriarchal crude society has its chance to grow to a mature and more peaceful level of evolution.
Many others are currently working with archetypes, just one last name I wouldn’t like to forget: Iron John: A Book About Men (1990), an excellent interpretation of a pre-Christian story about men’s transition into maturity.
Wrapping up, Archetypal Psychology is a fascinating field of Jungian psychology that cannot be summarize in a short article, but that deserves the attention of those who look for a self-understanding tuned with the colorful and mysterious aspects of the human soul.