The archetype of the Hero slaying the dragon of inner and outer chaos
St George on Horseback, 1505, engraving, Albrecht Durer
Reading time: 15 mins
The four instinct / survival archetypes
The idea of archetypes is very useful as a metaphorical tool in relation to healing and clawing back some self-respect – indeed to understand all of the 31 suggestions we’ll eventually explore. This might be a long way round the block to arrive at self-respect, but bear with me, you’ll see how it all comes back to this quality by the end.
Firstly, what are archetypes?
The concept of archetypes goes back to Plato who called them “forms” which he believed were reflected in the material world. But the basic concept is probably as old as human evolution itself. This theory was further advanced to a considerable degree by the swiss psychologist Carl Jung who called the source of these accumulated blueprints archetypes which fuelled the little “I”s or “psychic complexes” within the human mind.
Archetypal images, iconography and literary themes are sourced from universal patterns or motifs which in turn, are accessed from what is known as the collective unconscious, and closely connected (if not the same) as the akashic records mentioned in theosophical and anthroposophical literature. Think of it like a psycho-spiritual reservoir of ancestral experience, containing both the darkness and light of collective wisdom spanning possibly hundreds of thousands of years of human interaction with social groups and the environment.
This accumulated energy has a direct connection to personal unconscious and has defined the content of mythologies, legends and fairy tales of global cultures. It is the soul’s software, if you will, and a source of great teaching. Archetypes are psychic blueprints of emotion and instinct that lie in the triune system of the brain (reptilian, limbic and neo-cortex) as a psychic and structural template to primordial nature. They have a positive and negative aspect, the latter known as “The Shadow” which has been discussed frequently throughout this blog. The idea is that through confronting and then integrating these dark elements which have been denied and locked away we can dissolve the negative impact which would otherwise surely have occurred.
They are dualistic in nature and operate according to the nature of the unconscious which economises and conserves energy whilst also remaining highly adaptable. New personal narratives containing these archetypes appeal to the its adaptive processses and lay down new neural pathways from intense learning carried out in the present and overlaying the now defunct patterns of the past. The personal reservoir of the unconscious has a creative, tailor-made version of archetypes which are a unique product of your own stored life experiences. Along side this personal source is the collective or universal unconscious. Our intention is like an upload to that resources which responds in kind offering an automatic download which we access through our dreams. The images, motifs and mythical themes are identical for all.