Shadows & Light: Understanding Our Archetypal Nature

by Gary S. Bobroff

“I thought of Jung as a noetic archeologist, [he] provided maps of the unconscious.” – Terence McKenna

Most of us imagine that we know ourselves pretty well.  But like a periscope that thinks it’s the whole submarine, our self-image makes no accommodation for the fact of the unconscious.  Yet there are maps that can help us.  If we are honest, we can come to discover how to orient ourselves in the tidal pathways of the unconscious; we may come to see that our shadows and strengths fall into archetypal patterns.  If we are lucky, these maps may help us to come into possession of the greatest possible treasure–our inner gold.

In the 1920’s, after they had finished developing their ideas on Psychological Type – the root of today Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™ – Antonia “Toni” Wolff and Carl Gustav Jung discovered that they felt like something was still missing.  Not fully satisfied, Toni soon identified larger psychological structures that were evident, yet hitherto unnamed.  Calling them Structural Forms of the Feminine Psyche, she initiated the process of identifying the primordial forms of the human psyche, forms which we know today by the singular term, archetype.

She observed two poles, two axes, in our internal world.  On the first, she saw displayed a natural split in how our energy flowed toward people: for some it moved toward people in a collective sense, toward the group, the family, the team, the tribe, society and the social group; for others it moved toward people in the one-on-one sense, with thought and concern primarily flowing toward individuals, friends and lovers. Toni saw this difference in what we were fascinated by and drawn to; what compelled us forward in life; in the differing pathways our libido took toward our fellow humankind.  In her observations, she brought consciousness to an inherent dialectic tension in human nature.

This characteristic tension is highlighted in bright psychedelic neon in the last fifty years of American history.  It is the divide between belonging and freedom from belonging; between a value system that is group-oriented and one that is individual-oriented; one emphasizes escape from society and other connection to it.  It has provided us with two opposing views of goodness in American life: the redemption in community of Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life versus the redemption in breaking away from community of Kerouac’s On The Road and Kesey’s Acid Test and Cuckoo’s Nest.  Of course, this split goes back to our earliest days: we can see it in our ancient mythologies and philosophies. It is evident in perhaps the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet, wherein ‘to be or not be’ also has a lot to do with ‘to belong or not to belong.’

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