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Archetypes in Religion and Beyond

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The Jungian concept of archetypes is of immense value for critically distinguishing what is potentially of universal practical value in religious and other cultural traditions, and separating this from the dogmatic elements. However, Jung encumbered the concept of archetypes with debatable constructions like the ‘collective unconscious’ that are unnecessary for understanding their practical function. This book puts forward a far-reaching new theory of archetypes that is functional without being reductive. At the centre of this is the idea that archetypes are adaptations to help us maintain inspiration over time. Humans are such distractable beings that they need constant reminders to maintain integration with their most sustainable intentions: reminders using the profound power of symbol linked to embodied experience. This multi-disciplinary book weaves together religious studies, ethical philosophy, the psychology of bias, the neuroscience of brain lateralisation, the linguistics of embodied meaning, the feedback loops of systems theory, with a lifetime’s experience of Buddhist practice and appreciation of symbolism in the arts: all with the aim of producing a fresh understanding of the role of archetypes in religion and beyond, that can also be directly applied in practice.

Published: Feb 1, 2022

Section Chapter Authors
Introduction Robert Ellis
Chapter 1
What is an Archetype? Robert Ellis
Chapter 2
The Projection of Archetypes Robert Ellis
Chapter 3
The Integration of Archetypes Robert Ellis
Chapter 4
Categorisation of Archetypes Robert Ellis
Chapter 5
Archetypes in Religious Traditions Robert Ellis
Chapter 6
Archetypal Function in 'Secular' Concepts Robert Ellis
Conclusion Robert Ellis


Robert M. Ellis has put together a magisterial work on the archetype, bringing together empirical, philosophical, comparative religious and Jungian approaches into one carefully worked out theory. A rich, deeply thought provoking and remarkable synthesis.
Erik D Goodwyn MD, Associate Professor and Director of Psychotherapy Training, University of Louisville; author of The Neurobiology of the Gods

Following the rise of the interdisciplinary field of cognitive cultural studies, discussions of the imagination in the academic humanities are becoming less dominated by Freudian and Lacanian theory. Research in fields such as conceptual metaphor theory, neuropsychology, and cognitive anthropology is also increasingly informing debate. Robert M. Ellis’s study, part of his wider Middle Way philosophy, offers a helpful contribution to these emerging conversations. It critically synthesises classic Jungian concepts such as archetype, shadow, and anima with recent cognitive approaches to mindfulness, metaphor, bias, and embodiment. Drawing on both religious and secular examples, Ellis proposes a new, praxis-oriented interpretation of archetypes as ‘schematic functions’ which provide long-term inspiration in the pursuit of inner integration.
Dr Miranda Gill, Former University Lecturer in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, University of Cambridge