It came to my attention over the past few weeks, as I’ve been diving into the idea of archetypes, that many people, they don’t understand what they are or they simply do not believe in them. And I came to the conclusion that, it’s not that these people who seem to reject the idea of archetypes don’t believe them, it’s that they only don’t understand them, or have a false interpretation of them, causing them to reject the idea completely.
And there’s several people out there really giving it an effort to explain what the idea of an archetype is, but many people seem to fail, or at the very least, confuse those who already believed, or push away those who were already rejecting of the idea.
In most of my posts, I’m not trying to make them inherently religious, but for this particular topic, archetypes, it’s nearly impossible to not have some underlying religious tone to it. And with that said, let’s dive into what I think most people (religions in particular) get wrong about archetypes.
To start off, we should probably get a mutual definition of what an archetype is. For this task, I’ll grab the definition laid out by Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Archetype: the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies
For the most part, many people can agree that archetypes exist, in the casual term that is. They might say stuff like He’s an archetypal businessman, or other things like, He embodies the archetype of the ideal father. The point is, we seem to accept the idea of an archetype when it is used in a, more or less, casual sense.
Now, what I’ve noticed, is that people only start to reject the idea of archetypes when it has a religious flavor to it. And I’m not sure if it’s that they reject the archetype itself, or it’s because they reject the religion as a whole. Either way, when I told my friend about the story of Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Moses, I tried to explain how we as humans act out these stories, even in our day to day, seemingly simplistic lives.
When I told him that’s what he’s doing, he immediately rejected he is unconsciously acting out these religious stories because he doesn’t believe in Christianity. He’s an atheist. And from there, I was telling him, but it’s not just a Christian story! It’s the story of all religions. If you look at every (almost every) religion, they tend to tell the same stories, but with different characters and different gods, but the underlying message is the same.
Then I went on to tell him, that’s why I don’t take all the stories of the Bible literal, but merely the core message it is conveying; its archetype.
So I thought about this, and was trying to think of a good metaphor or analogy to explain what archetypes are. After careful and somewhat lengthy thought, I found a way to present exactly how archetypes can be explained, at least, the simplest way I could conceive of its explanation.
Here it is.
Think of all the colors in the world, and think, how many colors are there in the world? An infinite amount right? But the funny thing about colors, and I’m not sure exactly how they discovered this, that all the colors can be broken down to the three primary colors, red, green, and blue, which cannot be broken down any further. From those three colors, you can create new colors, and from those new colors, you can create even newer colors, and so on, and so forth. We all accept this as fact more or less, and don’t really bat an eye at it. No one really has an argument against it. It’s just colors right?
So I took this idea, and analogized it to archetypes. Archetypes are the primary colors, but there’s more than three (obviously). In a way, we’re still trying to figure out how many there are exactly. And that’s what the the Bible does, and what other religious and mythological stories do. That’s what movies do, what art does. That’s what pretty much everything that we can’t get a concrete explanation for (art) essentially, does. It translates the archetypes into something we can loosely understand. There’s an infinite amount of stories we can conceive of to translate these archetypes.
And that’s why I think people reject religion. They (the atheists) see, or even religions that reject other religions, the interpretations of archetypes that, for example, Christianity presents are false. That could be in part because many Christians, and especially many preachers/pastors do, in fact, believe that the stories of the bible are literally true. Now I haven’t read the Bible in its entirety, but I have a feeling, that never once it says, these stories are literally true. I think it’s presented more like this, these are my words, and what I have said is true. – God. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the stories themselves are true, but the underlying message is true. Again, that depends on what definition you are using of “true”. And we have to come to a mutual agreement of what it means to be “true”.
All in all, as I discover more of the work of the great minds of the past, Jung in particular, as well as Peterson of the present, who, it’s a miracle he’s still alive (and I mean that in the best way, because he’s really doing important work), but all these people seem to understand this, and they try to break down the psychological significance of the bible and these old mythical stories. What they are actually saying.
And it seems pretty clear that they don’t take these stories as if they literally happened, but rather, that these stories, religions, are trying to uncover and interpret the core essence of what it means to be a human being, a conscious, living, divine human being not simply an animal on rock hurdling through space, only to meet our eventual deaths.
My goal is to continue the work of these people, and what they have set forth. And I think that goal far extends what most Christians aim to do in their own life. From what I’ve gathered, it seems as if most Christians (not all, but a lot), only seem to do good works, have faith, and go to church because they believe it will redeem themselves. But that’s inherently a selfish act. I think our goal, or at least mine, is to study the past, the present, so that I can help shape a better future for all of us.
Call me crazy for having such an ambitious goal, but there are people out there who did exactly that and people out there that are doing that same thing now.
And I’ve now decided, it’s time to join them.
thanks for reading.