The difference between archetypes and archetypal symbols

In 1912 Jung turned away from Freud and his individual level standard symbols. According to Jung, individual symbols cannot actually be given any standard meanings, and that even sexuality itself is not the ultimate final point where interpretations could find their fulfillment, but only one of the manifestations of forces of existence, higher than all our instincts and drives.

 

But even Jung had his standard symbols. They were not individual, but collective symbols, so universal that they apply to all cultures and across all generation gaps. He called them archetypal symbols and they have a central position in his thinking. They are symbols that have no dependence on the individual and his life experiences. They appear in dreams and fairytales, mythologies, religious traditions, fantasies, confusional states, and illusions.

 

Almost everybody knows some of them, usually Animus (male archetype in woman) and Anima (female archetype in man), Persona (our personality, our face, our exterior towards others, like an actor’s mask), Shadow (unpleasant things in ourselves, which we have pushed aside into the shadow, away from the daylight of our consciousness), and Self (the essence, the central core of us). 

 

Archetypes are not archetypal symbols, however. Archetypes are not images, but transcendent, totally beyond any conscious perception, even beyond dreams. They are like mirrors, which do not contain any images in themselves, but are essential prerequisites as reflectors of them. They are like the “idea” of salt solution with salt crystals that have not yet begun to crystallize. The salt solution contains thus an invisible prerequisite, which does not manifest itself in the realm of perception until the crystallization process has begun. In the same way, respectively, archetypes are manifested only through archetypal symbols, which appear in forms conditioned by individual and cultural characteristics, most clearly in dreams.

 

Jung considered his archetypes to be universally real, but they are not. Despite their seemingly all-embracing, elegant nature, they are only Jung’s own constructs born from his personal experiences. In the vortices of  capricious history, it just happened to be now, in our time, Jung's turn to create this kind of explanatory classifications for the ever-present mystery beyond our consciousness.

 

(More detailed treat of this topic is found on pages 44-47 in my book Understanding Dreams - The Gateway to Dreams Without Dream Interpretation)