Great Mother

Two other archetypes, the great mother and the wise old man, are derivatives of the anima and animus. Everyone, man or woman, possesses a great mother archetype. This preexisting concept of mother is always associated with both positive and negative feelings. Jung (1954/1959c), for example, spoke of the "loving and terrible mother" (p. 82). The great mother, therefore, represents two opposing forces—fertility and nourishment on the one hand and power and destruction on the other. She is capable of producing and sustaining life (fertility and nourishment), but she may also devour or neglect her offspring (destruction). Recall that Jung saw his own mother as having two personalities—one loving and nurturing; the other uncanny, archaic, and ruthless.

Jung (1954/1959c) believed that our view of a personal loving and terrible mother is largely overrated. "All those influences which the literature describes as being exerted on the children do not come from the mother herself, but rather from the archetype projected upon her, which gives her a mythological background" (p. 83). In other words, the strong fascination that mother has for both men and women, often in the absence of a close personal relationship, was taken by Jung as evidence for the great mother archetype.

The fertility and nourishment dimension of the great mother archetype is symbolized by a tree, garden, plowed field, sea, heaven, home, country, church, and hollow objects such as ovens and cooking utensils. Because the great mother also represents power and destruction, she is sometimes symbolized as a godmother, the Mother of God, Mother Nature, Mother Earth, a stepmother, or a witch. One example of the opposing forces of fertility and destruction is the story of Cinderella, whose fairy godmother is able to create for her a world of horses, carriages, fancy balls, and a charming prince. However, the powerful godmother could also destroy

110 Part II Psychodynamic Theories that world at the strike of midnight. Legends, myths, religious beliefs, art, and literary stories are filled with other symbols of the great mother, a person who is both nurturing and destructive.

Fertility and power combine to form the concept of rebirth, which may be a separate archetype, but its relation to the great mother is obvious. Rebirth is represented by such processes as reincarnation, baptism, resurrection, and individuation or self-realization. People throughout the world are moved by a desire to be reborn: that is, to reach self-realization, nirvana, heaven, or perfection. (Jung, 1952/1956, 1954/1959C).

Wise Old Man

The wise old man, archetype of wisdom and meaning, symbolizes humans' preexisting knowledge of the mysteries of life. This archetypal meaning, however, is unconscious and cannot be directly experienced by a single individual. Politicians and others who speak authoritatively—but not authentically—often sound sensible and wise to others who are all too willing to be misled by then own wise old man archetypes. Similarly, the wizard hi L. Frank Baud's Wizard of Oz was an hnpressive and captivating speaker whose words, however, rang hollow. A man or woman dominated by the wise old man archetype may gather a large following of disciples by ushig verbiage that sounds profound but that really makes little sense because the collective unconscious cannot directly impart its wisdom to an individual. Political, religious, and social prophets who appeal to reason as well as emotion (archetypes are always emotionally tinged) are guided by this unconscious archetype. The danger to society comes when people become swayed by the pseudoknowledge of a powerful prophet and mistake nonsense for real wisdom. Recall that Jung saw the preachings of his own father (a pastor) as hollow pontifications, not backed by any strong religious conviction.

The wise old man archetype is personified hi dreams as father, grandfather, teacher, philosopher, guru, doctor, or priest. He appears in fairy tales as the king, the sage, or the magician who comes to the aid of the troubled protagonist and, through superior wisdom, he helps the protagonist escape from myriad misadventures. The wise old man is also symbolized by life itself. Literature is replete with stories of young people leaving home, venturing out into the world, experiencing the trials and sorrows of life, and hi the end acquirhig a measure of wisdom (Jung, 1954/1959a).


The hero archetype is represented in mythology and legends as a powerful person, sometimes part god, who fights against great odds to conquer or vanquish evil in the form of dragons, monsters, serpents, or demons. In the end, however, the hero often is undone by some seemingly insignificant person or event (Jung, 1951/1959b). For example, Achilles, the courageous hero of the Trojan War, was killed by an arrow in his only vulnerable spot—his heel. Similarly, Macbeth was a heroic figure with a single tragic flaw—ambition. This ambition was also the source of his greatness, but it contributed to his fate and his downfall. Heroic deeds can only be performed by someone who is vulnerable, such as Achilles or the comic book character Superman,

Superman Fatal Flaw
The hero archetype has a tragic flaw. With Superman, the fatal weakness was kryptonite.

whose only weakness was the chemical element kryptonite. An immortal person with no weakness cannot be a hero.

The image of the hero touches an archetype within us, as demonstrated by our fascination with the heroes of movies, novels, plays, and television programs. When the hero conquers the villain, he or she frees us from feelings of impotence and misery; at the same time, serving as our model for the ideal personality (Jung, 1934/1954a).

The origin of the hero motif goes back to earliest human history—to the dawn of consciousness. In conquering the villain, the hero is symbolically overcoming the darkness of prehuman unconsciousness. The achievement of consciousness was one of our ancestors' greatest accomplishments, and the image of the archetypal conquering hero represents victory over the forces of darkness (Jung, 195 l/1959b).


Jung believed that each person possesses an inherited tendency to move toward growth, perfection, and completion, and he called this innate disposition the self. The most comprehensive of all archetypes, the self is the archetype of archetypes because it pulls together the other archetypes and unites them in the process of self-realization. Like the other archetypes, it possesses conscious and personal unconscious components, but it is mostly formed by collective unconscious images.

112 Part II Psychodynamic Theories

As an archetype, the self is symbolized by a person's ideas of perfection, completion, and wholeness, but its ultimate symbol is the mandala, which is depicted as a circle within a square, a square within a circle, or any other concentric figure. It represents the strivings of the collective unconscious for unity, balance, and wholeness.

The self includes both personal and collective unconscious hnages and thus should not be confused with the ego, which represents consciousness only. In Figure 4.1, consciousness (the ego) is represented by the outer circle and is only a small part of total personality; the personal unconscious is depicted by the middle circle; the collective unconscious is represented by the inner circle; and totality of all tlnee circles symbolizes the self. Only four archetypes—persona, shadow, animus, and anima—have been drawn hi this mandala, and each has been idealistically depicted as being the same size. For most people the persona is more conscious than the shadow, and the shadow may be more accessible to consciousness than either the anima or the animus. As shown hi Figure 4.1, each archetype is partly conscious, partly personal unconscious, and partly collective unconscious.

The balance shown in Figure 4.1 between consciousness and the total self is also somewhat idealistic. Many people have an overabundance of consciousness and thus lack the "soul spark" of personality; that is, they fail to realize the richness and vitality of their personal unconscious and especially of then collective unconscious.

Unconsiousness Personality

On the other hand, people who are overpowered by their unconscious are often pathological, with one-sided personalities (Jung, 195 l/1959a).

Although the self is almost never perfectly balanced, each person lias hi the collective unconscious a concept of the perfect, unified self. The mandala represents the perfect self, the archetype of order, unity, and totality. Because self-realization involves completeness and wholeness, it is represented by the same symbol of perfection (the mandala) that sometimes signifies divinity. In the collective unconscious, the self appears as an ideal personality, sometimes taking the form of Jesus Clnist, Buddha, Krishna, or other deified figures.

Jung found evidence for the self archetype hi the mandala symbols that appear in dreams and fantasies of contemporary people who have never been conscious of their meaning. Historically, people produced countless mandalas without appearing to have understood their full significance. Jung (195 l/1959a) believed that psychotic patients experience an increasing number of mandala motifs hi their dreams at the exact time that they are undergoing a period of serious psychic disorder and that this experience is further evidence that people strive for order and balance. It is as if the unconscious symbol of order counterbalances the conscious manifestation of disorder.

In summary, the self includes both the conscious and unconscious mind, and it unites the opposing elements of psyche—male and female, good and evil, light and dark forces. These opposing elements are often represented by the yang and yin (see Figure 4.2), whereas the self is usually symbolized by the mandala. This latter motif stands for unity, totality, and order; that is, self-realization. Complete self-realization is seldom if ever achieved, but as an ideal it exists within the collective unconscious of everyone. To actualize or fully experience the self, people must overcome then

FIGURE 4.2 The Yang and the Yin.

114 Part II Psychodynamic Theories fear of the unconscious; prevent their persona from dominating then personality; recognize the dark side of themselves (then shadow); and then muster even greater coinage to face their anima or animus.

On one occasion during his midlife crisis, Jung had a vision in which he confronted a bearded old man who was living with a beautiful blind young girl and a large black snake. The old man explained that he was Elijah and that the young girl was Salome, both biblical figures. Elijah had a certain, sharp intelligence, although Jung did not clearly understand him. Salome gave Jung a feeling of distmct suspiciousness, while the serpent showed a remarkable fondness for Jung. At the thne he experienced this vision, Jung was unable to comprehend its meaning, but many years later he came to see the tlnee figures as archetypes. Elijah represented the wise old man, seemingly intelligent, but not making a good deal of sense; the blind Salome was an anima figure, beautiful and seductive, but unable to see the meaning of things; and the snake was the counterpart of the hero, showing an affinity for Jung, the hero of the vision. Jung (1961) believed that he had to identify these unconscious hnages in order to maintain his own identity and not lose himself to the powerful forces of the collective unconscious. He later wrote:

The essential thing is to differentiate oneself from these unconscious contents by personifying them, and at the same time to bring them into relationship with consciousness. That is the technique for stripping them of their power. It is not too difficult to personify them, as they always possess a certain degree of autonomy, a separate identity of their own. Their autonomy is a most uncomfortable thing to reconcile oneself to, and yet the very fact that the unconscious presents itself in that way gives us the best means of handling it. (p. 187)

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