Primordial, structural elements of the human psyche. (See also archetypal image and instinct.)
Archetypes are systems of readiness for action, and at the same time images and emotions. They are inherited with the brain structure-indeed they are its psychic aspect. They represent, on the one hand, a very strong instinctive conservatism, while on the other hand they are the most effective means conceivable of instinctive adaptation. They are thus, essentially, the chthonic portion of the psyche . . . that portion through which the psyche is attached to nature.["Mind and Earth," CW 10, par. 53.]
It is not . . . a question of inherited ideas but of inherited possibilities of ideas. Nor are they individual acquisitions but, in the main, common to all, as can be seen from [their] universal occurrence.["Concerning the Archetypes and the Anima Concept," CW 9i, par. 136.] Archetypes are irrepresentable in themselves but their effects are discernible in archetypal images and motifs.
Archetypes . . . present themselves as ideas and images, like everything else that becomes a content of consciousness.["On the Nature of the Psyche," CW 8, par. 435.]
Archetypes are, by definition, factors and motifs that arrange the psychic elements into certain images, characterized as archetypal, but in such a way that they can be recognized only from the effects they produce.["A Psychological Approach to the Trinity," CW 11, par. 222, note 2.]
Jung also described archetypes as "instinctual images," the forms which the instincts assume. He illustrated this using the simile of the spectrum.
The dynamism of instinct is lodged as it were in the infra-red part of the spectrum, whereas the instinctual image lies in the ultra-violet part. . . . The realization and assimilation of instinct never take place at the red end, i.e., by absorption into the instinctual sphere, but only through integration of the image which signifies and at the same time evokes the instinct, although in a form quite different from the one we meet on the biological level.["On the Nature of the Psyche," CW 8, par. 414.] Psychologically . . . the archetype as an image of instinct is a spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives; it is the sea to which all rivers wend their way, the prize which the hero wrests from the fight with the dragon.[Ibid., par. 415.]
Archetypes manifest both on a personal level, through complexes, and collectively, as characteristics of whole cultures. Jung believed it was the task of each age to understand anew their content and their effects.
We can never legitimately cut loose from our archetypal foundations unless we are prepared to pay the price of a neurosis, any more than we can rid ourselves of our body and its organs without committing suicide. If we cannot deny the archetypes or otherwise neutralize them, we are confronted, at every new stage in the differentiation of consciousness to which civilization attains, with the task of finding a new interpretation appropriate to this stage, in order to connect the life of the past that still exists in us with the life of the present, which threatens to slip away from it.["The Psychology of the Child Archetype," CW 9i, par. 267.]