Thank you for this interesting essay! Some thoughts:
In 1918, Dr. Oswald Spengler published the first volume of Decline of the West, a book which might be familiar to readers of Joseph Campbell as he had read that book multiple times and the book deeply informed some of his thinking. In that book, Spengler attempts to employ a process similar to depth psychological amplification to develop a morphology of history, one which would allow him to use history to make predictions about the future. And this he would do about the future of Western culture which had, according to Spengler, entered the period of a culture’s life called ‘decline,’ the near exhaustion of its possibilities, a period he would call ‘civilization,’ and particular to the West, the ‘Faustian’ stage. In that work, Spengler would write that there is no “technique of analogy,” something that I feel remains largely true a century later (I would stipulate here that there is no rigorous technique of analogy). In my experience, it has only been mathematics which has offered rigorous notions and formal proofs of what equality and equivalence mean in disciplines such as topology, homotopy theory, and especially category theory (∞-cosmoi). Unfortunately, within depth psychology, we still grapple with the important notions related to archetypes and synchronicity which include correspondence, analogy, equivalence, etc. For example, the process of concluding that a set of archetypal images gathered from distant cultures over potentially vast periods of time are of the same archetype is not formally defined. This is not to say that it should be. Unlike mathematics, we use the whole human, not just reason, to judge and argue for similarity, analogy, etc. But, the process itself is very seldom articulated. When Jung would deliver seminars and there was some disagreement on whether a given image was of the archetype they were discussing, the criteria for judgment appeared to be ever shifting, its basis grounded in variations of breadth (of psychological data) or depth (of history, religion, etc.). Thus, this process even in the 21st century needs more reflection and explication, and the task for doing so should be, in my estimation, multidisciplinary.
It is worth mentioning that Joseph Campbell explored two different reasons for what he considered to be universal mythical themes applicable to cultures across geography and time. The first, as you mentioned, was based on the depth psychological hypothesis of the archetype. We can categorize this as an acausal-based explanation. Crucially, Campbell would use great care here and call this a provisional explanation (this certainly comes out in his interviews). The other explanation Campbell would focus on was the causal-based perspective of diffusion (e.g., common themes emerge due to migration, trade, conquest, etc.). We get into very difficult and complex territory when we develop explanations which require the mixing of the two, for I don’t see them as being necessarily mutually exclusive. But, here we are often in the position Jung was in when discussing synchronicity – to argue for synchronicity as an explanation, he had to rule out causal explanations, normally by arguing that the causal explanation had an exceedingly low probability associated with it. In the present case, we might approach a universal theme by saying diffusion could not account for it because the historical facts as we know them doesn’t support the sharing that would be required.
You wrote that archetypes are “abstract constructions, theoretical classifications that are deduced after the fact to address sources that precede the fact.” But, are they necessarily so? Are archetypes necessarily deduced? Here, I draw on a number of things. First, consider the meditation on the Sri Yantra. It is as much meditating on the outgoing of creation from the zero-dimensional point as it is the return from the outer patterns back toward that central zero-dimensional point (and beyond). I am also reminded of Sophia in Jung’s Answer to Job where he quotes from Proverbs:
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was by him, as a master workman, …
In other words, his creation and that from which he draws comes from that which cannot be seen, experienced, or known, reminding one of how Philemon described ‘magic’ – “Above all, you must know that magic is the negative of what you can know. … there is nothing for you to understand. … Magic happens to be precisely everything that eludes comprehension. … Magic is neither to be taught nor learned. It’s foolish that you want to learn magic.”
It is also helpful to consider Philemon’s Sermon on the Pleroma (Sermon I) since that gives us a better sense of the difficulty we have in using human notions to experience and understand the Pleroma. And we see in Philemon a certain pragmatism when he says “But why then do we speak of the Pleroma at all, if it is everything and nothing? I speak about it in order to begin somewhere.” The reason this is important is because almost 40 years later after this Sermon was delivered (in the Black Books), Jung would publish is magnum opus Mysterium Coniunctionis (CW 14) in which he would explore the work of the 16th century alchemist Gerhard Dorn and his stages of the coniunctio, the final stage being the union with the unus mundus which, deeply informed by Genesis I, was “the original, non-differentiated unity of the world or of Being,” “the potential world of the first day of creation, when there was as yet ‘no second,’ ” before God separated the heavens and the Earth, and that from which all was created and, in some readings, back to which all returns. Jung would see his psychoid unconscious as analogous to the unus mundus and the archetypes as its facilitators.
Dr. Jeffrey Raff has said that Jung’s Analytical Psychology supports only the first two stages of the coniunctio, but does not support union with the unus mundus. And here lies the essential question. If such a union were possible, what would that mean regarding our experience of the archetypes? In Jung’s tradition, the psyche is the only medium for human experience. As the archetype is (likely) beyond the psyche, the psychoid archetype cannot be experienced. Is Jung correct, though, when he says we cannot experience that which is trans-psychic? In his seminar in 1932 on Kundalini with respect to the seventh chakra, the sahasrāra, Jung said:
To speak about the lotus of the thousand petals above, the sahasrāra center, is quite superfluous because that is merely a philosophical concept with no substance to us whatever; it is beyond any possible experience. In ājñā there is still the experience of the self that is apparently different from the object, God. But in sahasrāra one understands that it is not different, and so the next conclusion would be that there is no object, no God, nothing but brahman. There is no experience because it is one, it is without a second. It is dormant, it is not, and therefore it is nirvāna. This is an entirely philosophical concept, a mere logical conclusion from the premises before. It is without practical value for us.
There is another aspect of archetypes which question whether they are necessarily deduced. This has to do with whether they are truly a priori eternal or whether they have genesis in time. Jung would write both in his many works, sometimes favoring them as eternal, other times favoring their being created through activities done innumerable times. In 1924, Jung would write in CW 17, para. 207:
The inherited brain is the product of our ancestral life. It consists of the structural deposits or equivalents of psychic activities which were repeated innumerable times in the life of our ancestors. Conversely, it is at the same time the ever-existing a priori type and author of the corresponding activity. Far be it from me to decide which came first, the hen or the egg.
He would never definitively resolve this issue. But, the notion of archetypes resulting from activities repeated innumerable times reminds one of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake’s formative causation. We also have to consider the extreme difficulty in connecting archetypes to psychic energy. How does an archetype seemingly acquire such immense concentrations of libido? It appears to me to be able to channel this energy somehow; govern its flow. And with the added complication of the Jung-Pauli hypothesis that archetypes govern both psyche and matter (physis), the situation becomes even more complicated. I mention all of this because one of the things I am working on is an explication of how Jung’s hypothesis of the archetype and the principle of synchronicity anticipate the later developments in complexity science and the mathematics of category theory. In other words, the archetype and synchronicity are intuitive notions of that which became rigorously defined and proved such as strange attractors in dynamic systems, emergence of order from chaos, self-organization, etc. In these disciplines, then, we may get a better sense of whether the archetype is necessarily deduced.
Finally, it is worth mentioning, since you wrote that Jung advises learning and then forgetting images, that he did so only for a particular context which is contained in the 1928 work Contributions to Analytical Psychology. There he specified the context to be the act of conducting depth psychotherapy: “Learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of the living soul. Not theories, but your own creative individuality alone must decide.”
My question after all of this is why is “unseen aid” linked exclusively with archetypes? Why can’t such “unseen aid” be rendered by (currently) unknown (but, crucially, not Unknowable) figures?