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Gordon, R. (1985). Losing and Finding: The Location of Archetypal Experience. J. Anal. Psychol., 30(2):117-133.

(1985). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 30(2):117-133

Losing and Finding: The Location of Archetypal Experience

Rosemary Gordon, Ph.D.


Much Has Been Written by analytical psychologists from Jung onwards about the nature of the archetypes and of those mental processes that can be described as archetypal. But over the years I myself have come to be more and more concerned with what I now regard as also a central, if so far, neglected problem: man's actual or possible or potential relationship to archetypal contents, processes and experiences. It is this theme, the relationship to archetypal processes, that I want to explore in this paper.

I can recognise two sources—ideas, questions—that have challenged me quite particularly to reflect more deeply and consistently about archetypes and our relationship to them. One of them has been Bruno Bettelheim's introduction to The Uses of Enchantment. He writes:

Our greatest need and most difficult achievement is to find meaning in our lives … gaining a secure understanding of what the meaning of one's life may or ought to be—this is what constitutes having attained psychological maturity (BETTELHEIM 1).

This statement by Bettelheim, a psychoanalyst, is strangely close to Jung's own belief, that the search for meaning is indeed one of man's most primary needs, a belief he has expressed with urgent, forceful and stubborn insistence earlier on, so many years ago.

Acting as a second source is my impression that among analytical psychologists there seem to be, on the one hand, those who think of ‘the archetypal’ as that potential source inside us that we must trust, almost blindly, so that it can guide us towards the maximum fulfilment of ourselves.

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