Please comment to include your reflections here.


In my mind, I translated this title to something like "An Archetypal Survey of Tuberculosis" because of the images. With no need to colonize other people's work for some fantasy of archetypalism, do you find yourself wishing that "archetypal" were better understood and more widely used to deepen the way in which beautiful work is understood?

--Brandon WilliamsCraig.....2013-07-09 18:06:13 +0000


Hi, Brandon. Do I wish that "archetypal" were better understood? Yes. Do I wish it were more widely used? No. Let me explain. In the past few weeks I have been referred to as an iconoclast, a person who challenges cherished beliefs or one who destroys images; I like that. In the same on line exchange (which I was not really a part of) Stephanie Pope also referred to me as a mythoclast, and I think I like that even better. That is a bit of a preamble to what I'm about to offer as I, if I can do it successfully in a relatively brief space, try to turn the idea of archetype upside down and inside out. I would not like to see "archetypal" used more often and more widely precisely because it isn't better understood. In my experience, people tend to refer to archetypes as though they were material phenomena, as though they were things rather than no-things. I hear all the time "that's my Aphrodite," or "that's your Puer," etc. and the seeing or the imaginal encounter stops there as though by identifying the presence of Aphrodite, one has revealed all there is to reveal. The archetypes appear first, and primarily as images (at least I think so) and as such invite a deeper and deeper always evolving looking into. The world is never what it appears to be, but sometimes people speak of archetypes as though they know exactly what they are. Those who utilize "archetypal" in this way tend to focus literally on one particular, narrow aspect or characteristic of the archetype which to them appears particularly compelling or psychologically compatible with their present level of emotional adjustment. In such a situation as this, affective fiat alone determines the signification of a given archetypal experience. Archetypes are not perfect, they are incomplete, and they are often less than the ideal form one would like them to be. Another problem I think I have is with the way that the word archetypal is nearly monolithically associated with Jung particularly and also with Campbell, through no fault of theirs, and not with a wider cultural experience. The word archetypal seems to me to have little cultural capital, and while it appeals to a certain group of scholars and enthusiasts who coalesce around Jung and Campbell (and I do count myself a member of this group) it has little impact on the wider world. Encountering archetypes without an expectation of knowing what they are, or moving more deeply into them in an apophatic way (knowing something by knowing what it's not; neti, neti) may literally re-wire the mind by introducing novelty of thought and emotion—inner experiences which call into conscious awareness new or unrecognized, powerful emotions, complex thoughts; phenomena which, modern neuroscience tells us, contribute to neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to change) and the repair and growth of injured and aged brains. I think it is most useful for one to see oneself in relationship to the archetypes not as an individual so much as an ever changing, multivariate, archetypal figure oneself. This may not even be the sort of response you were looking for, Brandon, and if so I apologize for my long windedness. I dashed this off in a free hour between clients. Thanks for starting such an interesting conversation.

--Bradley Olson.....2013-07-09

I tend to agree with Bradley, although I too find myself using the word in its strict Jungian-Hillmanian sense. I do think most of the time we're simply using the word to denote something 'generic' or 'universal' in an empty sort of way, like a set of abstract features that are the same across the ages. This kind of empty universalism needs to be contrasted with a sense of what Hegel calls 'concrete universality'---which in this sense is a stronger notion of the archetype than the archetypalism which has turned it into an ideology. For when an archetypal idea becomes an ideology--an ism or a belief system---it is as good as dead, merely co-opted by the status quo mindset. t could very well be that we need to drop the term ---or to reinvent it (as I have done along Hegelian lines of concrete universality)--- in order to preserve the thing to which the word refers concretely as a MYTHO-HISTORIC reality, rather than to surrender the concept in this pure 'mythic' take which has merged with common-place ideological fantasies which serve to maintain status quo thinking-feeling. That's why archetypalism appeals so much to conservatives and religious fundamentalists, because in its abstract form, as pure 'myth,' is simply fodder for the status quo. I think the road of the archetype as such will have to make us choose between a conservative fantasy of archetypes--merely being in line with tradition---and a revolutionary materialistic-historic notion of archetypes as modes of concrete universality--which are there TO TRANSFORM tradition. All my work in myth and philosophy aims to champion this latter stance over against the former, without playing idealistic games to blur the distinction through a pseudo-Hegelian 'synthesis of opposites.'

--Norland Tellez.....2013-07-09

 I like your response, Norland. I agree that it might be better in the long run to consider dropping the term or at the very least, certainly rehabilitating/reclaiming it. And your notion about archetypalism appealing to fundamentalists of all stripes is a very good point and has me fascinated at the moment. There is much there; have you written about this? If so, point me in that direction.

Tuesday at 9:54pm · Like · 2Reply

--Bradley Olson.....2013-07-09

Thanks for the thread. Brandon, I've only quickly scrolled through this article on tuberculosis--and I'm wondering what you mean by "because of the images." What are the images here? The photographs, images worked or appearing through the text, both? And I'm wondering what it is about these images that bring in an archetypal reading of the issue. The use of the word "survey" is also interesting to me, and it stirs the question: is "our" aim in archetypal acts, to "make census"? As for the question about wishing "archetypal" were better understood... for me, the rephrase of that desire would sound something like: I wish critical imagining were better enacted (which, I think, echoes some of the points brought up by Bradley and Norland?). I'm reminded of something David Miller wrote in his article Legende-Image: The Word/Image Problem... many "have become attached precisely to unimaginative images of perception, pictures that depict modes of ego's sensation rather than imagination that de-pictures depictions. When the eye/I sees pictures of perception, the theory of imagination is in the domain of ego psychology rather than that of depth psychology." ... and from Ed Casey, "imagining cannot be reduced to imaging." Regarding the use of archetypal psychology in general, I hope Gustavo Beck might add some lines here as well. (Miller article:

--Roxanne Partridge.....2013-07-10

I suppose I may jump too quickly into assuming that students of Jung and Hillman et al, such as those taking part in this conversation, will not use such an idea simplistically. When "archetypal" has been worked to the point that it so explicitly evokes multiplicity of meaning, I consider it a potential antidote to "empty universalism", to use Norland's phrase. I was thinking of Miller, for instance, when I came upon the TB article and found myself drawn, as I had been as his student, by image-reproductions into re-thinking (Imagination de-picturing the depictions) the particulars of my assumptions. I imagined in me the dialogue of Big Shared Narrative with personal experience, felt energized and inclined to follow associated threads into greater complexity, and wished that this process, which I associate with "archetypal" were more common. Now I feel gratified that that same process, but in service to a critical imagining of "archetypal", has been enacted in part here. Satisfying, but not to the point of complacency, as I feel provoked to continue.

--Brandon WilliamsCraig.....2013-07-11 23:34:41 +0000