Tuesday, April 26, 2016

[AVW 003] Archetypes and the Subconscious

Previous: [AVW002] Archetypes - Patterns That Keep Showing Up

"I am the Self, seated in the hearts of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle, and the end of all beings." - Bhagavad Gita

Archetypes are patterns that keep showing up in human psychology and human literature/myths/video games. The question is, why? Why do these story patterns and character types keep showing up in culture after culture? There is no doubt that these patterns exist, but the reason they exist is still up for debate.

Jung theorized that the answer lay in the human mind. In a way, it's kind of obvious - what do all of these stories have in common? They were created by humans to entertain and teach humans. And the one thing that all humans of all cultures have in common is the same basic human brain.

Jung advocates a sort of three-tiered structure of human consciousness. The chart below is extremely simplified, but hopefully it illustrates the three levels in a way you will find helpful:

We can describe the three levels in many different ways, but the most broadly applicable is perhaps Deep Sleep (Unconscious mind) / Dream Consciousness (Subconscious mind) / Waking Consciousness (Conscious mind).

As the chart shows, Jung claimed that Archetypes are ultimately derived from the Unconscious mind, from the primal energies of the human libido. This is the aspect of the human mind that is not directly accessible by the Consciousness – what you don't know you know, so to speak. It is the truth which can only be expressed to the Conscious mind through symbols, for it itself is beyond the categories of rational thought.

This libidal energy “bubbles up” into the Subconscious (dream consciousness) where it is expressed in symbols and motifs. Jung searched for patterns in his patients' dreams that would help him unlock what their Unconscious minds were trying to express through the Subconscious.

Now the Archetype itself differs from any given manifestation in an individual dream or story. The Dark Father figure that appears in one patient's dream is one manifestation of the Archetype – one figure modeled after the pattern.

This applies to stories as well - Darth Vader is not the Dark Father, he is a Dark Father. Luke Skywalker is a Hero (an individual instance of the Archetype), not the Archetype itself (the Hero). The individual is not the pattern.

To understand the distinction better, we might look at the following passage from The Golden Ass. In this section, Apuleius has a vision of the goddess Isis, who claims to be all of the goddesses of the ancient world:

"My name, my divinity is adored throughout all the world, in diverse manners, in variable customs, and by many names. For the Phrygians that are the first of all men call me the Mother of the gods at Pessinus; the Athenians, which are sprung from their own soil, Cecropian Minerva; the Cyprians, which are girt about by the sea, Paphian Venus; the Cretans which bear arrows, Dictynnian Diana; the Sicilian which speak three tongues, infernal Proserpine; the Eleusians their ancient goddess Ceres; some Juno, other Bellona, other Hecate, other Rhamnusia, and principally both sort of the Ethiopians which dwell in the Orient and are enlightened by the morning rays of the sun, and the Egyptians, which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustom to worship me, do call me by my true name, Queen Isis."

Apuleius sees that all of the many goddesses of the various pantheons are but one name for a single being. He sees the Archetypal figure of the Mother goddess lying behind the Characters of the various pantheons.

But this vision of Apuleius is perhaps still too limited. Isis too is not “The goddess” in and of herself, but rather one more expression of Apuleius' Unconscious mind, his libido taken shape as a symbolic being. "Isis" herself is just one more name for the nameless archetype of the Mother.

Apuleius is correct in acknowledging that all of these goddesses come from a common root. They are all built on one pattern, on one archetype residing in the minds of human beings. Queen Isis is Paphian Venus, because they both are born from the same source - the patterns of the unconscious human mind.

We have gone fairly far from video games at this point, but we'll bring it back around in the next post by looking at the source of the Damsel in Distress: the Anima.

Next: [AVW 004] The Anima and the Animus

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