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And yet at the same time, along with the features that characterize it as an archetypal image, this main figure has something about it that, in spite of everything, suggests to our feelings that we experience it as an ego and thus identify with it. Therefore we must also see this figure that vehicles the action as the archetypal basis of the individual ego complex. As such it symbolizes that unknown structural aspect of our psychic makeup, inherent and the same in all human beings, that presents a pattern in accordance with which the particular ego of each individual is formed. However, in its mythical manifestations this archetypal ego complex often possesses traits that suggest that the forms it takes on be understood, not in terms of ego, but rather as symbols of the Self—traits such as divinity, invincibility, magical power, and so forth. Thus we must also see the figure of the mythical hero as a function of the Self, whose special action is to form, further broaden, and maintain the ego and, as it were, to assure its “proper” functioning, that is, assure ego functioning that remains in proper relationship to the wholeness of the psyche. This functional aspect of the Self constitutes the archetypal basis of the ego complex mentioned above. This is precisely why the mythical hero is so often depicted as a renewer of culture, a savior, and a discoverer of the “precious treasure that is difficult to attain”—because he symbolizes a “proper” posture of the ego, that is to say, one that is called for by the psychic totality. Thus for the individual ego, which often deviates from its instinctive basis, he is something like a guiding image. In this connection, however, a practical difficulty in the interpretation of myths arises—the absence of an Archimedean point outside the myth itself. In interpreting a dream, the dreamer’s conscious situation can almost always serve as a reference point for a given dream content.7 However, with a mythologem, initially such a reference point seems to be lacking. Thus with a fairy tale, which can usually neither be dated nor connected with a specific locale, one finds oneself in a situation similar to that of having to interpret a dream without knowing anything about the dreamer or his or her attitude and situation. One would have to interpret the dream purely on its own ground, without any reference point “outside” the unconscious material. And indeed the mythologem is actually the form taken on by an unknown event, which is played out fully within the collective unconscious itself, purely between archetypal contents. As an aid to understanding this, one can imagine the archetypes as

Profile for Lewis Lafontaine

Marie - Louise Von Franz - Archetypal Dimensions of the Psyche -  

Marie - Louise Von Franz - Archetypal Dimensions of the Psyche -  

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