[Religious Types 15] Archetype vs. Pattern

17 06 2012

[Previous Post in the Series]

I want to focus on the difference between Jung’s typological work and his archetypal work, contrasting the flexibility of the former against the rigidness of the latter. To understand that, we’ll need to focus on how they differ in their conceptions of human cognition. From there, we’ll be in a good position to think about whether or not we can salvage the archetypal work and, if so, how.

Let’s start with the typological work. The typological work presupposes that there are forms of cognition common to all people, but that the way in which those common modes are developed by each individual varies. It then proceeds to articulate the patterns of those variations. It identifies conflicts between forms of cognition in an individual and how those conflicts define an individual’s psychological (i.e. subjective) experience. Those patterns are general, abstracted from the specific conditions of an individual’s experience, but still applicable to them. That application occurs when the individual is able to find the way their specific experiences relate to the general patterns of type. An appreciation for the pattern amplifies our experience of the specific situations to which they are suited.

The trick of any such pattern-driven approach is to learn how and when to apply the general patterns and how the specifics of a situation qualify the general pattern. The pattern derives from specific experiences and is modulated by further specific experiences, but possesses a generality that exceeds them and can be transported between different situations. Its success depends on the successful identification of patterns (the 8 cognitive functions), the milieu in which they operate (subjective experience of objective world), and the way in which pattern and milieu to define still more complex patterns and milieus (types, communities, etc.).

The archetypal work develops in an uneven fashion, mingling patterns and milieu, deriving broader patterns more by association than amplification. Jung’s archetypes derive from comparative work utilizing images produced by an individual in a subjective milieu and images produced and sustained in a cultural milieu. While these do often influence each other, Jung does not seek to establish the lines of influence. Rather, he derives from comparisons of them a catalog of archetypes which he then posits as the source of these images. Once an archetype has been identified, it becomes a stable element in Jung’s archetypal repertoire, under which other images may be subsumed. The particular behavior of those images in their milieu is not examined, in preference for positioning it within a fixed pantheon of archetypes.

The different manifestations of the archetype are construed as variations, emerging from the unconscious realm and adopting certain surface traits suited to the milieu. The role played by the milieu in shaping the archetype is under- or unappreciated, disengaging the image from its specific situation. Since the pattern is only a pattern in a specific milieu, an appreciation for it entails a deepening appreciation for the milieu. By contrast, the archetype takes the milieu to be incidental to the unconscious archetype which manifests in it. The archetype gives shape to the milieu but, being biologically hardwired, does not respond to the milieu. It leads to the elision of one milieu into others (e.g. the cultural into the psychological) without providing any pattern for how this elision occurs.

To the extent that this approach develops broader patterns, they are patterns built up from studying various instances of archetypes, paying little attention to the milieu that unites them. Like the structuralist cataloging of folktales, this produces a repertoire of association between archetypes without establishing a clear reason why one or another develops. This can nonetheless be helpful as the instance has its roots in an underlying pattern. However, without an appreciation of the pattern, it becomes difficult to make use of one instance to understand another.

This lends itself to an archetypal fatalism, in which the manifestation of an archetype is taken to play out deterministically. Since the archetype is stable and the milieu passive, the awareness of archetype tends to be self-fulfilling rather than instructive. The archetype inflates the situation with mythic proportions but does not necessarily clarify it.

There are a few things to be done, though, that might allow us to reclaim material from an archetypal model. First and foremost, the archetypes as archetypes need to be abandoned. The cataloging effort it took to formulate them, though, may be put to use. In the identification of concrete instances, we find the opportunity to apprehend types. In order to do this, though, we need to examine each instance on its own terms, in its milieu. Afterward, the different milieus can be examined in order to appreciate to what extent the instances united in an archetype rest upon a common sort of interaction between pattern and milieu. Slowly, with work, broader systematic patterns can be established that operate across milieus.

We’ll want to examine the extent to which the system of psychological types and archetypal instances can be integrated. Since the psychological type emerged in the integration of subjective and objective, and the archetypes are more complex forms that emerge within the integration of individuals within a community, we should expect the one to influence the other. The specific cultural forms available provide the individual with material for cognition and the results of that cognition can alter the cultural forms, but how profoundly we can see the one in the other is not clear from the outset.

We will also need to pay attention to the limits of a pattern-based approach. It has its basis, too, in specific forms of cognition and, as such, is not well-suited to every situation or individual. Finding the forms through which pattern-based cognition and archetype based cognition can interact fruitfully remains important. Here the work of James HillmanĀ provides one good place to start. His formulation of an archetypal psychology focuses on the diversity and specificity of archetypal forms. Though Hillman does not provide the sort of analysis that would lead toward an appreciation of pattern, his emphasis on the instance provides us with a richer catalog of archetypes that we might be able to integrate into a pattern-based approach. The attention to the specific instance also has the advantage of short-circuiting the sloppy elision of forms that characterizes other archetypal approaches.

I’ll reserve the discussion of pattern, archetype, and their relevant forms of cognition for the next post. That begins to lead us toward an approach in which the archetype and pattern can be incorporated into a broader system that does not repeat the conflation of Jung.

[Next Post in the Series: Typological Basis for Archetype and Pattern]




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