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_00xsThe transition from the philosophical and literary to the psychological period is marked by a return to ways from earlier periods of negotiating with the unconscious. Most notably is the return of the focus on healing (Ellenberger 47-48), as is the case with shamanism. The religious, philosophical, and literary aspects of the unconscious are still present in the psychological period, but are seen through the lens of healing, or more accurately, of enabling the well-being of the individual. Other earlier ways of negotiating the unconscious also played roles in healing, as seen in religious exorcisms and confessions of the “pathogenic secret” (Ellenberger 47), and while the philosophical was more in the nature of “mental training,” it could inspire forms of therapy (Ellenberger 42). As Carus pointed out, one of the main characteristics of the unconscious is its essential soundness, or health, and this seems to be the main assumption of depth psychology, formulated by Jung’s reference to the “self-regulating’ aspect of the psyche (Storr 17-18). From its earliest expressions in animal magnetism and hypnotism, the attitude of the psychological period continues to assert the inherent health of the unconscious and maintains that it is the main source of healing for the individual.

The Roots of Depth Psychology: Hypnosis, Mesmerism, and Animal Magnetism

_01sEllenberger traces the earliest roots of depth psychology (what he terms ‘dynamic psychiatry’) from the faith healer Father Gassner in the late 18th century, to the period of animal magnetism as practiced by Mesmer and its development by Puysegur into what ultimately became known as hypnosis (54-57; 70-71). Hypnosis grew steadily in popularity throughout Europe, but eventually came under criticism due to its lack of scientific dependability (Ellenberger 171) and declined after 1850 until it was revived by Liebault and Charcot and their competing schools of therapy – the Nancy and the Salpetriere schools respectively (Ellenberger 87-89). Ultimately, Ellenberger sees the ancestry of dynamic psychiatry in animal magnetism, a broader sense of imagination and hypnosis (111-112). The most obvious factor relating all of these forward to the later developments of depth psychology and backwards to the Romantics and the other periods we have discussed, is the basic assumption that there are elements in the mental life of humans which are not available to conscious awareness (Ellenberger 76).

_02The bridge between the early forms of dynamic psychiatry and the later depth psychologies of Freud and Jung was built by Pierre Janet (Ellenberger 331). Janet’s psychology was built on the foundation and substructure of his philosophical education (Ellenberger 356). Thus Ellenberger describes his work in the phases of the philosophical (356), psychological automatism (358), psychological analysis (364), the exploration of neurosis (374), the dynamic theory (377), and the ‘great synthesis’ (386). This categorization of Janet’s career illustrates the main contributions that he made to the psychiatry of the time, as well as the foundations he laid for future work by Freud and Jung. Janet moved from his philosophical background into working with patients through hypnosis, and was especially influential in the development of the concept of rapport – the relationship between patient and hypnotist (Ellenberger 358). During his work in this ‘automatism’ phase, he observed two ‘faces’ presented by patients – one being the roles played by the patient, the other the truly unknown personality (Ellenberger 358-359), and the idea of partial automatism, which was a mixture of conscious awareness and the unconscious (Ellenberger 360). Based on this early work, Janet was able to develop a process of therapy which involved a psychological analysis of the patient followed by a synthesis in which the illness of the patient was reconstructed through a regressive unearthing of experiences (Ellenberger 365). His work allowed him to develop a theory of neuroses (Ellenberger 374), and ultimately develop what Ellenberger called the “Great Synthesis” (386). In this extensive conceptual model, Janet was able to account for all forms of mental processes (Ellenberger 386), which he based on the idea of mental tendencies, which, when activated could achieve their goal. This idea anticipates Jung’s ideas of the archetypes as purposeful psychic energy. Janet also accounted for, at least partly, for the unconscious by arranging these tendencies into a hierarchy of complexity, that allowed for the lower ones to go unconscious when the higher ones were being activated (Ellenberger 387).

Sigmund Freud


Subsequent generations were able to continue on the foundational work Janet had started. Freud, for example, built on Janet’s work of partial automatism, and expanded it into free association, which was a method of accessing the unconscious through analysis of patient’s associations with certain words, especially with their response times – the longer the patient took to respond to a certain word, the higher their resistance was to something attempting to emerge from the unconscious (Ellenberger 490; Freud 700). This form of accessing the unconscious led to certain emotions arising from the patient toward the analyst, and thus Freud was able to also further develop Janet’s idea of the rapport, a process he called transference and counter-transference (Ellenberger 490).

Freud’s free association also can be used to illustrate his idea on how the psyche was structured. He separated the psyche into three main categories: the conscious (Cs), the preconscious (Pcs), and the unconscious (Ucs) (Freud 698). The difference between the Pcs and the Ucs is that the content of the former is latent, that is, the ideas and thoughts contained there are able to emerge into Cs, whereas the content of the latter is repressed material that either cannot emerge into Cs, or which can only be accessed and coaxed into Pcs or Cs with great difficulty due to the resistance by the ego of the patient (Freud 700). Ego is defined by Freud as being a “coherent organization of mental processes” (699), which presented him with a problem: if the ego was resisting content from the Ucs, and the patient was not aware of active resistance but only of an uncomfortable feeling, it meant that the ego was also partly unconscious (Freud 699). This is precisely the problem that the practice of free association was intended to circumvent. “By coming into connection with the verbal images that correspond to it” (Freud 700), content of the Ucs was able to be brought into the Pcs, and thus become latent and able to emerge into Cs. The concept of the Id also plays a role in this process, as Freud saw both the ego and repressed content as being contained by the Id: “we shall now look upon the individual as an unknown and unconscious Id, upon whose surface rests the ego” (702).


Though Freud began his career in microanatomy and theoretical neurology (Ellenberger 474), his desire to formulate a scientific psychology (Ellenberger 477), led him to the research that would ultimately place him as the founder of depth psychology (Ellenberger 490). The concept of the structure of the psyche described above, and the means to access the unconscious through free association and symbols formed the basis of most of his theories. This included his form of psychotherapy, which aimed to access the repressed material from the unconscious and allow for the proper engagement of the full nature of the psyche, and thus healing of neuroses. The essential ideas of his overall theory were expounded through his work on the importance of dreams, which he published in 1900 as The Interpretation of Dreams (Ellenberger 490). His main ideas on dreams were that while dreaming, latent content of the unconscious combined with “day residue” would condense into symbols which represented unfilled wishes, usually of a sexual nature, including childhood wishes – Freud insisted on the Oedipus Complex in every male. Since many sexual wishes are considered unacceptable, the symbols of dreams were the way by which the psyche was able to process them without alarming the ego – dreams fulfilled a censorship role, and protected the sleeper as “guardians of sleep” (Ellenberger 492).

Though not possible to cover the vast opus of Freud’s work within the scope of a few paragraphs, the above description of his model of the psyche and his theories on dreams represent the basic outlines of his thought which are relevant and which can be taken as a starting point in comprehending his overall theories of the psyche and psychoanalysis. It remains to be emphasized once again the importance Freud laid on symbols, and not only in dreams, claiming them to be the original language of the psyche, saying that image based thinking “approximates more closely to unconscious processes than does thinking in words, and it is unquestionably older than the latter both ontogenetically and phylogenetically” (701). Finally, Freud’s main contributions should be highlighted: the psychoanalytic theory and method described above, and the idea of a ‘school of psychology,’ which had been unknown before the founding of the psychoanalytical school (Ellenberger 549-550).

Carl Gustav Jung


_06aOne early member of the psychoanalytical school was Carl Gustav Jung, who eventually left due to the inadequacies he perceived in Freud’s theories of the unconscious and well-being of the patient. For Jung, this inadequacy was especially apparent in Freud’s theories on the interpretation of dreams and symbols, which he thought should be interpreted from a much deeper and broader perspective (Jung, Memory 45-46). Instead of seeing latent content in dreams, as does Freud, Jung felt that the dream should be met on its own ground, interpreted for what it is, and symbols of the dream should not be seen as those of repression or sexual wishes as in free association, but through the process of amplification, on a broader scale, considering all possible connotations, and in context of the dreamers current life situation (Ellenberger 716).  Jung’s break with Freud was a difficult time for him, and he descended into what can be called a ‘creative illness.’ Ellenberger called this Jung’s “intermediate period” (698), in which Jung engaged on a journey through his own unconscious, active imagination, symbol interpretation through comparative mythology, and the study of ancient wisdom traditions such as Gnosticism (699). He emerged from this period with a clearer understanding of his own system of psychology – which he termed analytical psychology – and a clear formulation of his theory of the unconscious, which he published in an article in 1916 (Ellenberger 699), and later in more complete form as The Psychological Types in 1921 (Ellenberger 702). It is even more difficult than Freud’s to encapsulate Jung’s work in the short summary that follows, but hopefully it will provide a high level overview, however inadequate, of his thought.

_07Jung’s psychology is based on his model of the structure of the psyche, which he saw as being comprised of three levels – consciousness, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. The psyche has an autonomous energy that it is directed to some goal, but otherwise is similar to physical energy in regards to principles of conservation, transformation, and degradation (Ellenberger 704). Consciousness refers simply to conscious awareness, which occupies a liminal space between the inner and the outer worlds of the individual (Ellenberger 706). The personal unconscious is mostly comprised of undesired and repressed material such as fears, anger, or shame (Jung, “Essential” 67), forming what Jung originally called complexes, and later the shadow, which exerts control over the individual without he or she being aware (Ellenberger 707). Another ‘sub-personality’ of the individual is what Jung called the persona, the mask one wears in order to meet societal or personal expectations (Ellenberger 707). The collective unconscious is made up of material not gained through personal experience (Ellenberger 706). This consists mainly of hereditary material which is dormant, but to which the individual has access, once the material is activated through environmental stimuli (Stevens, “Archetypes” 86). The collective unconscious is comprised of the archetypes, which are patterns of psychic energy, inherently unknowable, and inferred through their manifestation in the archetypal images encountered in dreams and mythology (Ellenberger 706).


The backbone of Jungian psychology is the individuation process – the method of ongoing psychological development in which an individual is engaged over the course of life (Ellenberger 711). Though the individuation is a process that occurs over the course of an entire lifetime, the stage at middle age was seen by Jung as the most important, or at least the one where the most significant transformations occur, taking on an increasingly archetypal nature (Ellenberger 711). It is in the individuation process that the individual becomes just that, an individual, and is able to identify the natures of his or her shadow, persona, and archetypes of the collective unconscious, and to integrate them into his or her psychological life. A successful navigation of this period of transformation results in the ego no longer being the center of the self, but instead the higher Self becomes the center, with the psychic energies of the personal psyche integrated with that of the collective unconscious. This integration allows the individual to correct deficiencies or to meet archetypal needs that have been neglected, such as love or spirituality (Ellenberger 711). Jungian psychotherapy is designed to assist the individual in engaging the individuation process through a process of slowly coming to reality of the current situation, purging pathogenic secrets, and through an active collaboration with the analyst, access the energies of the psyche and become aware of its contents. It is through what Jung called the ‘transcendent function’ that the opposites of the psyche – the conscious and unconscious – are integrated, and the person becomes an individual (Ellenberger 713-715).

The process of individuation is a highly contextual one, dependent on the personal situation of the person as he or she engages the process. There is no recipe for this process; only through symbols arising from the unconscious, can the person understand the self-regulating and autonomous nature of the psyche and participate in the process (Ellenberger 716). The process of individuation is a positive approach to psychology which seeks to tap into the inherent soundness of the unconscious, in contrast to the Freudian approach, which is pessimistic (Jung, Memory 46), and is based on the idea of proactive development and growth, and not dependent on psychopathology.

As a summary of the importance of the individuation process, and of symbolic form as the means to engage the process, Jung says:

How the harmonizing of the conscious and unconscious data is to be undertaken cannot be indicated in the form of a recipe. It is an irrational life process which expresses itself in definite symbols. It may be the task of the analyst to stand by this process with all the help he can give. In this case, knowledge of the symbols is indispensable, for it is in them that the union of conscious and unconscious contents is consummated. Out of this union emerge new situations and new conscious attitudes. I have therefore called the union of opposites the “transcendent function.” This rounding out of the personality into a whole may well be the goal of any psychotherapy that claims to be more than a mere cure of symptoms. (Archetypes 289)

The Ongoing Evolution of Archetypal Theory

Jung’s ideas of the archetypes evolved over the course of his life. Initially, he followed Freud’s example and referred to the psychic energy as the libido, expanding it though from the Freudian idea of a purely sexual essence, to include all mental energy and instinctual drives. Later he referred to the archetypes as “primordial images,” then as “patterns of psychic energy,” before finally referring to them as archetypes (Nagy 125). As this transformation of terminology suggests, the Jungian concept of the archetypes is in fact a formalization of a much older and common perception of unconscious mental energy. This formalization enables a better understanding of the human psyche by organizing this mental energy into recognizable mnemonics of universal patterns. The definition and re-definition of the archetypes has continued up to the present. James Hillman, for example, summarized the archetypes as being:

semantically metaphors. They have a double existence which Jung presented in several ways: 1) they are full of internal oppositions, positive and negative poles; 2) they are unknowable and known through images; 3) they are instinct and spirit; 4) they are congenital, yet not inherited; 5) they are purely formal structures and contents; (6) they are psychic and extrapsychic (psychoid). (156)

_09aJames-Hillman2010While archetypes are psychic structures analogous to instincts, according to Hillman, they are also spirits and possess a numinous quality; they are gods residing in a collective soul (134). Being more overtly mystical than was Jung, he leaves aside the collective unconscious, placing instead more importance on the idea of soul (69). Thus, instead of Jung’s collective unconscious, it is the soul who is the collective and deeper part of the psyche, and it is in the soul we find the archetypes, or “persons of the psyche” (Hillman 179-180). Representing the collective part of the psyche as soul gives more wildness, independence, and life to it – instead of the seemingly static realm of the collective unconscious, inhabited by the archetypes, we find the idea of a malleable, ever changing entity which is the container of other ever changing entities.

Building on Jung’s assertion that the archetypes are possibilities of thoughts, ideas and behavior, inherited through the generations of human existence, an evolutionary perspective of the archetypes has been offered by Anthony Stevens. For Stevens, the archetypes are clearly products of evolution:

To sum up, archetypes form the basis of all the usual phenomena of human existence and we inherit them as part of our genetic endowment. They are the phylogenetic (evolutionary) foundations on which ontogenesis (individual development) proceeds. An individual’s entire archetypal inheritance makes up the collective unconscious , whose authority and psychic energy is co-ordinated by a central nucleus which Jung termed “the Self” or the “archetype of archetypes. (“Archetypes” 79)


The potentialities represented by the archetypes are activated through appropriate stimuli in the individual’s environment, and accordingly, psychopathology can occur when archetypal promptings for development are hindered by the environment (Stevens, “Archetypes” 86). Jung often compared the archetypes to instincts, or claimed that they were the source of the instincts. Stevens feels that the instincts and the archetypes share a common, unknown source, but embraces the idea that they are related and he points to recent empirical evidence supporting the idea (Stevens “Archetypes” 77). He relates them to what Levi-Strauss termed “cultural universals” (Self 17), and on an extrapolation of this has formulated an anthropological law which states that “ whenever a phenomenon is found to be characteristic of all human communities, irrespective of culture, race, or historical epoch, then it is an expression of an archetype of the collective unconscious” (Self 15). These archetypes take the form of “archetypal intent” in individuals, and the satisfaction of these archetypal needs are a main factor in the motivation of behavior. When these archetypal needs are met, the result is psychological health. The challenge is that, as products of evolution, Stevens holds that they grew out of a response to particular circumstances of our prehistory and are aimed at realizing an archetypal need for survival, which can lead to psychopathology  since these circumstances are no longer present in the form in which the archetypes originated. This leads to the ‘confusion of the two-million-year-old self,’ which leads to efforts of this ancient self to struggle to adapt resulting in a cultural labeling of pathology.

Neuroscience and the New Mythopoetic


The idea of what constitutes the mind has changed dramatically since the writings of Jung and Freud. Many of their ideas, which even to them often seemed to be vague and nebulous concepts, have been proven by science. Neuroscience is still young, but studies are emerging, the results of which are very similar to the ideas put forth about the nature of the psyche for a very long time.

_11sSpecifically, Jung’s concept of the archetypes as the basic structure of the psyche has been confirmed. The unconscious itself has been confirmed. We now know that the brain is comprised of a vast network of neurons, around 100 billion of them (Claxton 241). These neurons are in the habit of forming connections with other neurons in the area, all 10,000 of them (Claxton 242). Communication occurs through these connections as electrochemical energy, and whenever a connection is active, it has the ability to activate other nearby connections (Claxton 242). These connections can easily be described in the language of depth psychology. The description of the archetypes as patterns of psychic energy which must be activated conform to the network of connections and their electrochemical activation described by Claxton, and the difference between an active and inactive neural connection clearly describes the difference between the conscious and unconscious. The neural connections can be changed by experience (Claxton 242), and the relationship to archetypes can be changed through the individuation process, which can also be said about other historical methods of dealing with the unconscious – the practices of a shaman, the participation in mythology through ritual, the confession of the pathogenic secret. All of these things are intended to bring about transformation, which is reflected in neuroscience as the changing of the neural connections. It is also becoming apparent through scientific research that some of these neural connections are responsible for doing specific tasks (Claxton 242). Jung referred to several specific archetypes, with specific qualities and goals. It seems in more than one way that Jung was anticipating neuroscience, and that with consistent accuracy.

Claxton suggests the proper question to ask is not how the brain is structured, but what it actually is for (245). From an evolutionary perspective, the answer seems obvious: for survival. The archetypes, that is, the psyche, are products of evolution that have developed over the entire course of human history with the goal of ensuring survival of the species (Stevens, “Archetypes” 79). The question, as reformulated by Claxton, though closer to what is needed, is still inadequate. The question is not how the brain is structured, nor what the brain is for, although they are certainly interesting questions. The real and important question that needs to be asked (and answered) is just how to live within the structure of the brain in order to achieve its purpose, regardless of what that structure or purpose might currently be understood to be. This is the question that the mythopoetic worldview has been answering for thousands of years. The evolutionary and archetypal theory of the psyche, as proposed by Stevens, is the bridge allowing travel back and forth between the scientific structure of the brain and the mythopoetic understanding of how to effectively engage the human experience….

Works Cited

Claxton, Guy. The Wayward Mind: An Intimate History of the Unconscious. London: Little, Brown, 2005. Print.

Ellenberger, Henri F. The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry. New York: Basic, 1970. Print.

Freud, Sigmund. “The Ego and the Id.” Ed. Robert Maynard Hutchins. Great Books of the Western World. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., in Collaboration with the University of Chicago. Vol. 54. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1952. 697-717. Print.

Hillman, James. Re-visioning Psychology. New York: HarperPerennial, 1992. Print.

Jung, C. G. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Trans. R. F. C. Hull. [Princeton, N.J.]: Princeton UP, 1980. Print.

—. The Essential Jung: Selected Writings. Ed. Anthony Storr. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1983. Print.

—. “In Memory of Sigmund Freud.” The Collected Works of C.G. Jung. Trans. Richard Francis Carrington. Hull. Princeton: Princeton Univ., 1978. 41-49. Print.

Nagy, Marilyn. Philosophical Issues in the Psychology of C.G. Jung. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1991. Print.

Stevens, Anthony. “The Archetypes.” The Handbook of Jungian Psychology: Theory, Practice and Applications. Ed. Renos K. Papadopoulos. East Sussex: Routledge, 2006. 74-93. Print.

—. The Two Million-year-old Self. College Station: Texas A&M UP, 1993. Print.

Storr, Anthony. “Introduction.” The Essential Jung. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1983. 13-27. Print.