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Merchant, J. (2009). A Reappraisal of Classical Archetype Theory and its Implications for Theory and Practice. J. Anal. Psychol., 54(3):339-358.

(2009). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 54(3):339-358

A Reappraisal of Classical Archetype Theory and its Implications for Theory and Practice

John Merchant, Ph.D.

This paper begins with an overview of contemporary approaches to archetype theory and notes the radical nature of certain deductions. Some argue that there is no ‘archetype-as-such’ as a pre-existing entity at the core of a complex driving its formation whilst the findings of current neuroscience are calling into question one very thing on which the classical theory is built—innatism. Knox's argument for image schemas raises the question as to the extent to which archetypes can be conceived in any preformationist sense.

The question is then posed—to what extent can Jung's classical theory of archetypes be read in light of these current models? The case examples Jung uses to evidence the existence of archetypes, his explications of synchronicity and his own Philemon experience are then reappraised.

The conclusion is drawn that it is difficult to evidence the existence of autonomous archetypes unrelated to personal affective experience. Not only would this be expected by emergent/developmental models of archetype but it can explain many of Jung's disjunctive statements about archetype constellation; the difficulties in separating personal and collective psychic content and Jung's apparent Lamarckianism. The implications of these models for theory, clinical practice and analyst training are then offered for discussion.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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