Complex Archetype Symbol in the Psychology of C.G. Jung by Jolande Jacob

Complex Archetype Symbol in the Psychology of C.G. Jung by Jolande Jacobi, Ralph Manheim (Translator) – Princton University Press 1959

The title covered the major concepts , but I couldn’t get a German version anymore so I settled for the translation which seems to be good. Most of more recent C.G. Jung scientific research is only available in English anyway.

There have always been discussions about the nature of the terms complex, archetype and symbols and their interrelation, not to mention my confusion. In  the foreword to Jolande Jacobi’s book,  Jung wrote: “for reasons that I cannot enter into here, I have chosen the term “archetype” for this formal aspect of the instinct . . . . the concept of the archetype has given rise to the greatest misunderstandings and—if one may judge by the adverse criticisms—must be presumed to be very difficult to comprehend”.

As a layman, I do enjoy C.G. Jung’s ambiguity and mystic,  but my more rational side wanted clear definitions especially on these three interrelated concepts.  Jolande Jacobi has gained a considerable reputation as an expositor of Jung’s theoretical formulations.  I have read more than work of her and never grasped Jung’s concepts as clearly and logical as in her books.  Jacobi makes these basic concepts accessible, last but not least when she tries to visualize them with diagrams (which she doesn’t in this book.

The first part of her book divides into three sections defining, examining and exploring complexes (typically in the personal unconscious), archetypes per se (collective  unconscious)  and symbols (archetypes represented in the conscious mind).  Quite frankly, it was the first time I understood the  interrelation – and – Jolande Jacob dryly notes, that in a way, these term complexes, archetypes (not per se) and symbols are used by C.G. Jung interchangingly. The complex usually denotes something nonperceptible, whereas the term symbol denotes something image-like, perceptible and accessible from the conscious mind. But both are charged entities around a nucleus. 

  • Complexes are described as sources of intensity or energy around a nucleus ( an archetype per se) which may drain (or provide) energy and integrity from/to  the conscious Ego and are typically in the personal unconscious.  The book presents also a well written phenomenology of complexes as they can come the personal unconscious, or the collective unconscious,   may be also partly conscious or even conscious.  Jolande Jacobi describes the “complex” as a node of unconscious feelings and beliefs, detectable only indirectly, through behavior. The book explains also the difference of Freud and C.G. Jung on this matter.  Complexes  consist primarily of a “nuclear element,” an archetype per se as common vehicle of meaning, which is beyond the realm of the conscious will, unconscious and uncontrollable; and secondarily, of a number of associations connected with the nuclear element.
  • Archetypes (per se) are described as structural factors in the collective unconscious, invisible nuclear elements and potential carrier of meaning.   Jolande Jacobi presents them first  from a biological and philosophical angle. Among the first to formulate a hypothesis about the archetypes was the Greek philosopher Plato.  Jung has pointed out the term is also mentioned by a few of the early Christian writers and he took it taken from his alchemist studies. The concept can also be found in Kepler’s astrology and in Teihard de Chardin’s book “The Phenomenon of Man.” At least several of Teihard’s concepts of the emergence of reflective thought toward collective can be related to the evolution of the archetype. As C.G. Jung, the books stresses the point that archetypes are not inherited  only  structural patterns of potential representation. When they are touched by the light of the conscious mind  they may become in the lower plane instincts and the higher realm images. If I understood right,  archetypes (not per se!) may be equated with complexes,  particularly the those of  personal unconscious (like shadow)  which are often refered as functional complexes.
  • Symbols  are  perceptible to the conscious mind  and are for  the most part a representation of archetypes per se conscious mind. Obviously  they can can be inherited and they my personal or collective as  source of all mythic, symbolic and dream representations. According to the psychological model of C. G. Jung the archetypes originate in the collective unconscious, described as a repository for all of mankind’s experience and knowledge and are therefore  not available directly —only its images and created patterns can become manifest as symbols potentially unlimited in number and variety. Symbols are the core of our culture being the universal patterns of myth, religious symbols and ideas.

Jolande Jacobi’s book gives  also a good explanation of how archetypes, complexes and symbols are perceived , interact with each other and gain autonomous power.   Jacobi’s analysis delivers the structure in the Jungian theory, which I expected but always with hooks from to C.G. Jung’s original text. In all her books, also in this one, I’ve highlighted one or two sentence per page, as her texts are concise and straight to the point.

The second part of the book gives very good Jungian dream analysis.  This chapter is heavy and shows a very different Jolande Jacobi. It is really a separate work – an interpretation of one dream – written in a poetic way.The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost of the soul, according to C.G. Jung the royal way. Jolande Jacobi describes  THE DREAM OF THE BAD ANIMAL, a dream of an eight year old girl, who died a year later of scarlet fever.  The dream is explained and interpreted in great detail: the hermaphroditic aspect of the animal,   the meaning of dragon and snake, the horn and the  serpent, the dual psychological aspect of the animal,  the little animals  and  the blue fog or vapor in the dream. The mystic  of  “the four”,  “the one and four”  in the dream is explained and  the rite of the  night sea journey as a metaphor for life,  death and rebirth.