Archetypes and Mythology

goetia One of the books I'm reading is The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by Jung. I've never read his work before and in the course of researching Pop Culture Magic 2.0, I came across some references to his work that intrigued me enough to crack open some of this work. Something he mentions in the book is that the word archetype shows up a fair amount in classic literature, something I wasn't aware of. His treatment of the word is focused on the psychological use of it, but he makes some interesting connections to it and mythology, arguing that archetypes are unconscious content that becomes conscious and through being perceived becomes personalized to fit the consciousness of the person perceiving it.

What makes this connection of archetypes to mythology intriguing is how the interaction with the spiritual world confirms it. For example in faerie work, your spirit contact will show up in whatever form is most appropriate to interacting with you. If you do an evocation of a daemon, part of that process involves requesting the spirit to show up in a form that is recognizable to the person. Patrick Harpur, in his books, argues that even UFO and Bigfoot sightings are essentially the spirit world connecting to people in the guise that is most familiar to them.

Where I differ from Jung is that I'm hesitant to write this off as just a psychological phenomena. What he perceives as symbolic and just part of the subconscious of a person is a simplification of the relationship a person has with their spiritual contacts. Part of how spirits connect with people is through the assumption of something that is familiar to them. I makes sense that spirit might draw on the content of a person's consciousness to affect that assumption. Additionally we might consider that spirits have a closer relationship to consciousness or a more primal one then we do since they don't have the limitations of a body to deal with. On the other hand, one of the reasons the spirits want to connect with people is to get a taste of the very limitations we have.

Jung's use of the word archetype is, in a way, problematic because of the definition he applies to it and how that changes the awareness people have about the word. The original context of the word has been reshaped to fit the context he has established for it. While I don't necessarily think that was his intention, it is interesting to recognize how much awareness or lack there of a word's origin shapes the understanding a person has about the word. For that matter, I suppose the same applies to the spirits, in the sense that our contextual awareness of them plays a role in our interactions with them. In any case, I know that I want to do some more research about the word archetype and how it is used, instead of simply using it in the way I previously have, mistakenly assuming that the word originated from Jung.