Primordial Components of Archetypes
This page describes the five distinctions used to construct the 48 archetypes on my main archetypes page.
The 48 elemental archetypes on my main page arise out of all combinations of the following five distinctions:
- task versus relationship (which developed through historical gender-bias into masculine versus feminine),
- four aspects of capability discussed below: physical, emotional, mental/intellectual and spiritual/integrative,
- adult versus child,
- balanced versus shadow, and
- the two extremes of each shadow: aggressive versus passive on the "task" side and co-dependent versus isolated in the "relationship" side.
Most of these distinctions, taken alone and not combined with any of the others, result in various primordial archetypes discussed by Jung, Freud and others. These include the id, ego, and super-ego; the anti-ego, persona, anima and animus, wild man, and child. I have placed some of these in the periodic table although their positions really do not fit well with the rest of the table and for that reason I did not give them numbers. Select any of the links in this paragraph to read more about them.
1. The Dimension of Task vs. Relationship
The most fundamental investigations of psychology originate from biology. For the purposes of this discussion, consider any animal or person with a central nervous system. The study of psychology begins with investigating the mechanisms of the nervous system, and determining how it works.
On the most basic level, the operation of the nervous system (including the brain) can be divided into three functions:
- Input : gathering sensory information and "deciding" what to pay attention to.
- Understanding : combining senses with memory and learning to generate a higher-level assessment of the input.
- Decision : choosing appropriate responses and actions.
- Action : controlling the muscles and other parts of the body.
This simple model is found in almost every discussion of phenomena in neuropsychology, psychology, and personality.
As study progresses from simple animals to more and more complex animals, the relatively greater amount of brain complexity is devoted to the two middle steps of this process (understanding and decision), while the first and last steps (input and action) are fairly well handled by the autonomous functioning of the various sensory cortices, cerebellum, peripheral nervous system, etc. Most of the "psychology" is in the understanding and decision areas.
It is important to note that in most higher social animals, and in humans, the "understanding" stage involves a lot of two-way communication with other individuals. This includes subconscious and intuitive communication as well as more obvious, explicit forms of communication.
To begin a useful classfication of personality and behaviour functions, I begin by placing the first two (input and understanding) into one category and the other two stages (decision and action) into another. The two sides of this division are referred to as RELATIONSHIP and TASK respectively. This distinction forms the first dimension of the archetype taxonomy.
2. The Four Aspects of Ability
In the human world there is a succession of four types of phenomena:
- spiritual and integrative
I sometimes call these four "aspects of existence", based on the observation that:
- All (living and inanimate) things are physical,
- Animals also have emotion,
- Human beings also have intellect, and
- Some but not all human beings experience spirituality, and/or manifest an ability to integrate the other three types of skills.
This is an evolution that occurred through time: living things came first, then animals with emotion, then intellectial (human) beings, and then the human experience of spirituality. (Animals do integrate their limited physical and emotional abilities, but humans have arguably brought this to a much greater level of sophistication and effectiveness).
When viewed independently from this evolutionary progression, the four aspects can also be called dimensions of existence.
In some of my other writing (such as my article on gaining trust) I refer to these as levels, with the physical being the "lowest" and spiritual "highest". The interpretation as "levels" is tied to the following assertions, which are not definitively true:
- All things that have or experience emotion, have a physical existence, but the reverse is not true.
- All things that have or experience intellect also have emotions, but the reverse is not true.
- All things that have spiritual experience also have mental/intellectual ability, but the reverse is not true.
If you do not believe or agree with these, then you should not use the label "levels" to refer to the four aspects of ability. I have mostly avoided the use of the word "levels" in my archetype discussions.
A Note About "Spirituality" and "Integrative"
I distinguish between "religion" and "spirituality" as follows: Religion includes all aspects that are physical, emotional and mental. Spirituality includes is what is "left over" after those parts have been "removed". In other words, spirituality is the part of the religious experience that is neither physical, emotional, mental/intellectual or any combination of those three. Some people never have (any noticable) spiritual experience in their physical lifetime.
Along with "Spiritual" I also use the word "Integrative". This refers to a person's ability to integrate his/her physical, emotional and mental/intellectual skills into a complete facility and maturity. For example, a person who can overcome physical challenges is manifesting the Warrior and/or Maiden; when they are overcoming emotional challenges they are manifesting the Lover and/or Mother but if they can overcome both types of challenge at the same time they are also manifesting some of the King and/or Queen.
Archetypal Skills and Related Regions of the Brain
So, we have four categories that can be applied to personality and behaviour, and which will henceforth be called PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, MENTAL/INTELLECTUAL and SPIRITUAL/INTEGRATIVE. This forms the second dimension of my archetype taxonomy.
The initial two categories of the first dimension combine with these four to produce a total of eight combinations; these are the Eight Primary Archetypes as described in my comparative literature discussion.
To help illustrate the differences between the "communication, perception and understanding" (relationship) and "deduction, decision and action" (task) functional categories, and to further illustrate what I mean by the four aspects of "physical", "emotional", "mental/intellectual", and "integrative/spiritual", here is a rough guide to the specific neurological functions that are associated with the eight archetypes in the literary classification. (Note that the literary classification incorporates historical gender-roles and as such appears to have an inherent sexism, unless the reader understands that character-genders to not limit the applicability of stories to real people of any physical gender).
This list is not comprehensive, in most cases there are more brain regions than are shown here. Also, the eight-way classification does not correspond exactly with the literary archetypes, nor do either of them correspond exactly to the brain regions' functions.
|relationship||physical||Maiden||sight, sound, touch, etc.||occipital and temporal lobes, somatosensory cortex, parietal lobe|
|relationship||emotional||Mother||empathy; facial expressions; tone of voice||amygdala, limbic system, premotor cortex, (?)|
|relationship||mental||Crone||language: speech, listening, and comprehension||left Wernicke's and Broca's areas; anterior insula|
|relationship||integrative||Queen|| attention-balance |
| default network and dorsal attention network (?)
|task||physical||Warrior||voluntary muscle movement||cerebellum, somatomotor cortex|
|task||emotional||Lover||overcoming fear/anger/etc.; "deep acting"||amygdala, limbic system, premotor cortex, (?)|
|task||mental||Magician||logical deduction||prefrontal, lateral frontal, and parietal cortex|
|task||integrative||King|| oversight, judgment |
| cingulo-opercular and fronto-parietal networks
3. Adult versus Child
So far we have 8 archetypes that are differentiated by two dimensions. All of them represent fully-developed skills, such as most adult members of society are capable of manifesting.
However, it takes many years for an individual to acquire these abilities and learn how to use them effectively. Child development of personality is familiar to everyone, and is a major area of study in the science of psychology. Mythology and literature include many examples of child characters.
So, a 3rd dimension is added, creating another 8 archetypes to go along with the existing 8, for a total of 16. Each of the new ones represents a child's best effort at manifesting the abilities of the adults in one particular area of personality. These 8 archetypes will be distinguished from the other 8 by labeling each as either ADULT or CHILD.
I won't make another table hare, but you can look at the periodic table at the beginning of the archetypes article. They appear in the 3rd and 4th rows of the table (rows beginning with "king" and "divine child"), ignoring the two primordial types in the center column ("wild" and "child").
4. Balanced versus Shadow
Now we have 16 archetypes that are differentiated on three dimensions. All 16 represent positive, desirable and beneficial abilities and behaviours.
Human psychology also includes phenomena that undesirable, ineffective, counterproductive and harmful. The archetypes in mythology and literature reflect this; in fact, most of the popular myths and stories derive their value from their handling of these negative, "shadow" aspects of personality.
So, we add a 4th dimension, and create another 16 archetypes. Each of these existing 16 represents skills, abilities, and faculties that can be put to use in various ways, some of them productive and some harmful. The new dimension distinguishes the desirable manifestation of each of these abilities from the undesirable manifestations. The desirable manifestations are the BALANCED archetypes, and the undesirable manifestations are called SHADOW archetypes.
5. Two Extremes of Each Shadow, and the Intervening Continuum
The final dimension expands the number of archetypes from 32 to 48, by breaking each of the 16 shadows into two extremes of a continuum. The way the continuum is differentiated depends on the task vs. relationship attribute.
Distinguishing the Shadows in Task vs. Relationship Functions
Each of the shadows (within each of the sixteen "balanced" adult and child archetype classifications) occur as two ends of a spectrum. Thus, there are thirty-two shadows (two "ends of the spectrum" for each of the sixteen non-shadow archetypes). There are seen in the two long bottom rows of my periodic table.
For the task-oriented archetypes, I have chosen to distinguish the shadows by the amount of balance between controlling ("active") and controlled ("passive"). Thus, the shadows of the Warrior are the sadist (controlling) and masochist (controlled). This, like the four aspects, brings additional clarity to the treatment by Moore and Gillette and other authors.
For the relationship-oriented archetypes, I distinguish the shadows by the amount of balance between self ("isolated") and others ("co-dependent"). Thus, the shadows of the Maiden (illustrated by characters in Cinderella) are the closed, isolated orientation of the title character, and the socially-dependent, non-self-defined orientation of her step-sisters.
Note that both shadow-spectrums really constitute a balance of power between the self and others. The distinction can be described thus: the active/passive spectrum involves action, competition and strategy, whereas the isolated/co-dependent spectrum involves communication, relationship and community. All of these things exist on each of the four aspects (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual/integrative).
The Archetypes and Teaching
For this discussion I will use the four "task oriented" archetypes as examples, but the same principles apply to the "relationship and communication" archetypes.
People learn almost all of their archetypal knowledge from others around them, and the best learning comes from the best examples. It follows therefore that teachers take the roles of whatever archetypes they are teaching. Everything that can be taught is either physical, emotional, intellectual, or some combination of these three3.
For example, a sports coach takes responsibility for the success of his players in the sport. This is a primarily physical activity and therefore uses the Warrior archetype's qualities. Players teach each other in practice games, and coaches demonstrate needed techniques; all of these are physical activities and constitute a physical teaching/learning experience.
A teacher of an emotional skill (such as acting) will utilize the abilities of the Lover archetype. Acting skill is a fundamentally emotional challenge: getting in touch with needed emotions, and suppressing an unwanted emotion, such as humor, when portraying a sombre, angry or frightened character. In acting workshops, students generate emotions and try to generate those shown by others (e.g. in the "mirror" exercise). A director might also invoke emotion him/herself either to prod the actor or try to lead them to the needed emotional place.
A teacher of a mental skill (such as a professor of mathematics or of law) will use the Magician abilities, primarily asking questions that are designed to help both the teacher and the student learn from the answer. He/she will encourage the student to ask questions by not giving answers but by presenting just enough information to make the existence of a mystery apparent.
The King teaches mainly by setting an example and being seen. This applies to the social or political King (like some highly-regarded world leaders) or anyone who combines the strengths of the other three archetypes to handle all types of worldly challenges simultaneously. This also applies to the spiritual King (a spiritual leader, or anyone who exemplifies a spiritual life well).
True spirituality cannot be taught it is up to each person to seek it out and find it for themselves. However many have served as an example of pursuing a spiritual quest and achieving admirable results. Since the qualities of the King cannot be taught directly, he teaches by affinity.
Most actual real-world teachers combine different archetypes in varying amounts. For example, there are emotional and intellectual aspects in most sports, and a good coach handles these aspects well.
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This page was last updated on 2014 Feb 01.