[Religious Types 16] Pattern, Archetype, Psychological Type

4 07 2012

[Previous Post in the Series]

I spent much of the last post critical of the way in which Jung’s concept of archetype has been applied. Much of that rests on a concern for how the concept elides differences between images, effectively short-circuiting genuine comparative work by positing their identity ahead of time. In place of the notion of archetype for comparative work, I suggested a concept of pattern, modeled on the way psychological types are used. Now, I want to examine the concepts of archetype and pattern from the perspective of Jung’s psychological type. An examination of them reveals the way in which each depends on the integration of  two different psychological functions. This enables us to talk about a couple of things.

First, the examination of the relationship of pattern and archetype to psychological type is itself an examination of a pattern and so provides us with an occasion to see pattern-based thinking in action.

Second, by situating the two ways of thinking in relationship to the functions that support them, we can consider the foundations for their operation. This appreciation of their genesis in turn lays the groundwork for describing the ways in which they develop. That helps us to trace the limitations and interactions of each.

As developed modes of thought, both archetype and pattern are concerned with ideas developed over time. As such, they are the expression of not just one function, but of two related functions operating in tandem. While individuals who express these functions with native facility are at an advantage in employing these forms of thought, it is important to remember that the capacities to employ these functions are shared by all, even by those who prefer not to rely upon them.

Archetype-based thinking has its roots in Introverted Sensation supplemented by Introverted Feeling. It is a form derived from a specific experience that becomes the standard by which to judge subsequent experiences. It is rooted firmly, like Introverted Sensation, in the past and in the maintenance of the past through communal solidarity in maintaining the archetype. The archetype is the repetition of the past in the present and derives its force and meaning from that. For those who operate comfortably in these modalities, the proper repetition of an archetype evokes a strong emotional response.

Archetypes help define a culture by reviving the past, placing all those who share in the maintenance of the archetype in relationship to that past. It presents them with a visceral sense of something in common that transcends, toward the past, their immediate situation. The complications arise when, as in Jungian thought, these are mistaken for fundamentally human patterns. Here, the archetype becomes unlinked from both the specific past that gives it value as well as from the communal actions that invigorate it in the present.

By contrast, patterns are the product of Introverted Intuition supplemented by Introverted Thinking. Patterns emerge from the identification of a common set of relationships shared by otherwise disparate instances. It minimizes the specificity of those instances to emphasize the dynamic elements which they have in common. Subsequently, it speculates (in theory or practice) as to how those elements might be altered to produce common results in different instances. For those who use these functions comfortably, the identification of a pattern reveals an underlying unity between two things that is often described as possessing truth.

Because it is possible to compare the results of comparisons, pattern-driven thought can become quite abstract. The more abstract the pattern becomes, the more care must be taken in applying the results of speculation derived from it to the examination and manipulation of a specific instance. The pattern must be once again compared to the new instance in order to establish its unity or disunity with the pattern’s truth. When that comparison does not take place, the pattern merely becomes the expectation of unity without the realization of it.

These two ways of thinking can be summarized according to the elements basic to each. Archetypal thinking values precision of repetition and representation, while pattern thinking values sophistication in the elaboration of truth.

Here we can see an oft-overlooked synergy between introverted and extroverted functions. Introverted Sensation supported by Introverted Feeling reinforces the Extroverted Thinking function that navigates the external world. The desire for precise repetition encourages and rewards attention to technical detail of Extroverted Thinking. Introverted Intuition supported by Introverted Thinking encourage the development Extroverted Feeling to deal with the external world. The desire to trace the relationship between an extroverted appearance and a pattern that defines its truth fosters a sense of care with the external world that nurtures an attitude of Extroverted Feeling.

The more deeply we appreciate that these concepts are rooted in these forms of cognition, the better off we will be going forward. Because a pattern and archetype differ in function but not necessarily in content, what is a pattern for one person, can become an archetype for another, and vice versa. Especially in contexts where knowledge is fairly undifferentiated, the difference between archetype and pattern is fluid, with archetypes casting a ‘shadow’ of patterns (e.g., the Romans penchant for describing foreign gods according to their own pantheon).

That does not mean that a complex pattern is as good as a powerful archetype for archetypal thinking or that a clear archetype can be treated as complicated pattern. A pattern that depends upon an archetype tends toward simplicity as the archetype’s careful preservation discourages the sort of variation in form that pattern thinking depends upon. An archetype derived from a complex pattern is, by virtue of referring to a number of disparate instances, vague and lacking a clear connection to an original and so difficult to repeat in a satisfying manner.

When pattern and archetype depend upon common content, the two tendencies are at odds with each other. There is something of a tug of war between those employing the content for differing ends. Innovations are introduced into the archetype by pattern-users attempting to extend the archetype’s scope, while variations generated by pattern-users are elided by those striving to preserve the singularity of the archetype.

As knowledge becomes more differentiated, these patterns become more complex. That’s where I’ll pick up with the next post and start to turn my attention back specifically toward the issue of religious experience that began this series.

[Next Post in the Series: Archetype and Pattern and Jung’s Religious Experience]

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