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Tip: To sort articles by year…

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After you perform a search, you can sort the articles by Year. This will rearrange the results of your search chronologically, displaying the earliest published articles first. This feature is useful to trace the development of a specific psychoanalytic concept through time.

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Johnson, N.B. (1991). Primordial Image and the Archetypal Design of Art. J. Anal. Psychol., 36(3):371-392.

(1991). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 36(3):371-392

Primordial Image and the Archetypal Design of Art

N. B. Johnson

I invent nothing. I rediscover.

—Auguste Rodin

Pictorial Imagery and the making of images, art, occur only among human beings. Non-human primates such as the chimpanzee and gorilla paint and draw, but their impressive paintings and drawings are non-pictorial. Pictorial images are synonymous with the human, and pictorial imagery is what Rodney Needham deems a primary factor of human experience (Needham 21, p. 8). C. G. Jung acknowledged the human importance of art and pictorial imagery. The mere existence of art is an argument for the existence of the psyche and for Jung's conception of the nature, and form, of psychic wholeness.

Archetypes, what Needham considers as spontaneous products of unconscious cerebrational vectors , (Ibid., p. i) are embodied as images. Jung, borrowing from Plato and Jacob Burckhardt, employs the term primordial image to define archetypes of the collective unconscious, and of individuation. These images are primordial images, Jung states, in so far as they are peculiar to the whole species, and if they ever originated their origin must have coincided at least with the beginning of the species (Jung 11, par. 152; cf. also Needham 19, 21). The concept of a primordial image is the basis on which Jung argues for a psychic structure shared among homo sapiens sapiens. Primordial images are spontaneously generated and autonomous yet consistent in form throughout time and over geographic space. The consistent form of primordial images, for Jung, is testament to the psychic unity of human beings.

The Double Figure: Archetype and Primordial Image

Every pictorial image known to human beings is not a primordial image.

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