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Four Archetypes
“Jung believed that the unconscious is not merely the
hiding place of demons but the province of angels and
ministers of grace, which he called the ‘archetypes’, . . .
symbols of all the inner forces that work toward unity,
health, fullness of life, and purposeful conscious
development.”
Lewis Mumford, The New Yorker

Carl Gustav

Jung
Four Archetypes
Mother, Rebirth, Spirit, Trickster

Translated by R.F.C. Hull

London and New York

English edition first published in the United Kingdom 1972
by Routledge & Kegan Paul
First published in Routledge Classics 2003
by Routledge
11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2004.
© 1953, 1969 Bollingen Foundation
© 2001 Estate of Carl Gustav Jung
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted
or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic,
mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter
invented, including photocopying and recording, or in
any information storage or retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the publishers.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 0-203-42680-0 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN 0-203-43990-2 (Adobe eReader Format)
ISBN 0–415–30441–5 (pbk)

C ONTENTS

Editorial Note
Introduction

viii
1

PART I Psychological Aspects of the Mother
Archetype
1
2
3

4

On the Concept of the Archetype
The Mother Archetype
The Mother-Complex
I The Mother-Complex of the Son
II The Mother-Complex of the Daughter
(a) Hypertrophy of the Maternal Element
(b) Overdevelopment of Eros
(c) Identity with the Mother
(d) Resistance to the Mother
Positive Aspects of the Mother-Complex
I The Mother
II The Overdeveloped Eros

7
14
19
19
22
22
23
24
26
28
28
31

vi

contents

5

III The “Nothing-But” Daughter
IV The Negative Mother-Complex
Conclusion

34
35
38

PART II Concerning Rebirth
1
2

3

Forms of Rebirth
The Psychology of Rebirth
I Experience of the Transcendence of Life
(a) Experiences induced by Ritual
(b) Immediate Experiences
II Subjective Transformation
(a) Diminution of Personality
(b) Enlargement of Personality
(c) Change of Internal Structure
(d) Identification with a Group
(e) Identification with a Cult-Hero
(f ) Magical Procedures
(g) Technical Transformation
(h) Natural Transformation (Individuation)
A Typical Set of Symbols Illustrating the
Process of Transformation

53
57
58
58
60
60
61
62
65
68
72
73
73
75
81

PART III The Phenomenology of the Spirit in
Fairytales
1

The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairytales
I Concerning the Word “Spirit”
II Self-Representation of the Spirit in Dreams
III The Spirit in Fairytales
IV Theriomorphic Spirit Symbolism in Fairytales
V Supplement
VI Conclusion

101
102
110
113
128
143
154

contents

PART IV On the Psychology of the Trickster-Figure
1

On the Psychology of the Trickster-Figure

Bibliography
Index

159
180
187

vii

E DITORIAL N OTE

The concept of archetypes and its correlate, that of the collective
unconscious, are among the better known theories developed by
Professor Jung. Their origins may be traced to his earliest publication, “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-called Occult
Phenomena” (1902), in which he described the fantasies of an
hysterical medium. Intimations of the concepts can be found in
many of his subsequent writings, and gradually tentative statements crystallized and were reformulated until a stable core of
theory was established.
Volume 9 of the Collected Works consists of writings (from
1933 onward) describing and elaborating the two concepts. Part
I, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, is introduced by three
essays establishing the theoretical basis, followed by others
describing specific archetypes, including the four that compose
this paperback selection. The relation of the archetypes to the
process of individuation and in particular to mandala symbolism is defined in essays in the last section. Part II of Volume 9,
entitled Aion and published separately, is devoted to a long

editorial note

monograph on the symbolism of the self as revealed in the
“Christian aeon.”
For this paperback edition, a brief theoretical introduction is
supplied by extracts from “Archetypes of the Collective
Unconscious,” the first essay in Volume 9, Part I. The paragraph
numbers of the Collected Works edition have been retained to
facilitate reference, and a new index has been prepared. The
bibliography includes only works relevant to this selection.

ix

I NTRODUCTION 1

The hypothesis of a collective unconscious belongs to the
class of ideas that people at first find strange but soon come to
possess and use as familiar conceptions. This has been the case
with the concept of the unconscious in general. After the philosophical idea of the unconscious, in the form presented chiefly
by Carus and von Hartmann, had gone down under the overwhelming wave of materialism and empiricism, leaving hardly a
ripple behind it, it gradually reappeared in the scientific domain
of medical psychology.
2
At first the concept of the unconscious was limited to denoting the state of repressed or forgotten contents. Even with Freud,
who makes the unconscious—at least metaphorically—take the
stage as the acting subject, it is really nothing but the gathering
1

[From “Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious,” first published in the
Eranos-Jahrbuch 1934, and later revised and published in Von den Wurzeln des Bewusstseins (Zurich, 1954), from which version the present translation is made. The
translation of the original version, by Stanley Dell, in The Integration of the Personality (New York, 1939; London, 1940), has been freely consulted.—E.]

1

2

introduction

place of forgotten and repressed contents, and has a functional
significance thanks only to these. For Freud, accordingly, the
unconscious is of an exclusively personal nature,2 although he
was aware of its archaic and mythological thought-forms.
3
A more or less superficial layer of the unconscious is
undoubtedly personal. I call it the personal unconscious. But this personal unconscious rests upon a deeper layer, which does not
derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the collective unconscious. I
have chosen the term “collective” because this part of the
unconscious is not individual but universal; in contrast to the
personal psyche, it has contents and modes of behaviour that are
more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals. It is, in
other words, identical in all men and thus constitutes a common
psychic substrate of a suprapersonal nature which is present in
every one of us.
4
Psychic existence can be recognized only by the presence of
contents that are capable of consciousness. We can therefore speak of
an unconscious only in so far as we are able to demonstrate its
contents. The contents of the personal unconscious are chiefly
the feeling-toned complexes, as they are called; they constitute the
personal and private side of psychic life. The contents of the
collective unconscious, on the other hand, are known as
archetypes.
5
The term “archetype” occurs as early as Philo Judaeus,3 with
reference to the Imago Dei (God-image) in man. It can also be
found in Irenaeus, who says: “The creator of the world did not
fashion these things directly from himself but copied them from
2

In his later works Freud differentiated the basic view mentioned here. He
called the instinctual psyche the “id,” and his “super-ego” denotes the collective consciousness, of which the individual is partly conscious and partly
unconscious (because it is repressed).
3
De opificio mundi, I, 69. Cf. Colson/Whitaker trans., I, p. 55.

introduction

archetypes outside himself.”4 In the Corpus Hermeticum,5 God is
called τ α ρΧ τυπον (archetypal light). The term occurs
several times in Dionysius the Areopagite, as for instance in De
caelesti hierarchia, II, 4: “immaterial Archetypes,”6 and in De divinis
nominibus, I, 6: “Archetypal stone.”7 The term “représentations
collectives,” used by Lévy-Bruhl to denote the symbolic figures
in the primitive view of the world, could easily be applied to
unconscious contents as well, since it means practically the same
thing. Primitive tribal lore is concerned with archetypes that
have been modified in a special way. They are no longer contents
of the unconscious, but have already been changed into conscious formulae taught according to tradition, generally in the
form of esoteric teaching. This last is a typical means of expression for the transmission of collective contents originally
derived from the unconscious.
6
Another well-known expression of the archetypes is myth and
fairytale. But here too we are dealing with forms that have
received a specific stamp and have been handed down through
long periods of time. The term “archetype” thus applies only
indirectly to the “représentations collectives,” since it designates
only those psychic contents which have not yet been submitted
to conscious elaboration and are therefore an immediate datum
of psychic experience. In this sense there is a considerable difference between the archetype and the historical formula that has
evolved. Especially on the higher levels of esoteric teaching the
archetypes appear in a form that reveals quite unmistakably the
critical and evaluating influence of conscious elaboration. Their
immediate manifestation, as we encounter it in dreams and
visions, is much more individual, less understandable, and more
4

Adversus haereses II, 7, 5: “Mundi fabricator non a semetipso fecit haec, sed de
alienis archetypis transtulit.” (Cf. Roberts/Rambaut trans., I, p. 139.)
5
Scott, Hermetica, I. p. 140.
6
In Migne, P.G., vol. 3, col. 144.
7
Ibid., col. 595. Cf. The Divine Names (trans. by Rolt). pp. 62, 72.

3

4

introduction

naïve than in myths, for example. The archetype is essentially an
unconscious content that is altered by becoming conscious and
by being perceived, and it takes its colour from the individual
consciousness in which it happens to appear.8
85
As the archetypes, like all numinous contents, are relatively
autonomous, they cannot be integrated simply by rational
means, but require a dialectical procedure, a real coming to
terms with them, often conducted by the patient in dialogue
form, so that, without knowing it, he puts into effect the
alchemical definition of the meditatio: “an inner colloquy with
one’s good angel.” Usually the process runs a dramatic course,
with many ups and downs. It expresses itself in, or is accompanied by, dream symbols that are related to the “représentations collectives,” which in the form of mythological motifs
have portrayed psychic processes of transformation since the
earliest times.

8

One must, for the sake of accuracy, distinguish between “archetype” and
“archetypal ideas.” The archetype as such is a hypothetical and irrepresentable
model, something like the “pattern of behaviour” in biology. Cf. “On the
Nature of the Psyche,” sec. 7.

Part I
Psychological Aspects of the
Mother Archetype
[First published as a lecture, “Die psychologischen Aspekte des
Mutterarchetypus,” in Eranos-Jahrbuch 1938. Later revised and published in Von den Wurzeln des Bewusstseins (Zurich: Rascher, 1954).
The present translation is of the latter, but it is also based partially
on a translation of the 1938 version by Cary F. Baynes and Ximena
de Angulo, privately issued in Spring (New York), 1943.—Editors.]

1
ON THE CONCEPT OF
THE ARCHETYPE
The concept of the Great Mother belongs to the field of comparative religion and embraces widely varying types of mothergoddess. The concept itself is of no immediate concern to
psychology, because the image of a Great Mother in this form is
rarely encountered in practice, and then only under very special
conditions. The symbol is obviously a derivative of the mother
archetype. If we venture to investigate the background of the Great
Mother image from the standpoint of psychology, then the
mother archetype, as the more inclusive of the two, must form
the basis of our discussion. Though lengthy discussion of the
concept of an archetype is hardly necessary at this stage, some
preliminary remarks of a general nature may not be out of place.
149
In former times, despite some dissenting opinion and the
influence of Aristotle, it was not too difficult to understand
Plato’s conception of the Idea as supraordinate and pre-existent
to all phenomena. “Archetype,” far from being a modern term,
was already in use before the time of St. Augustine, and was
148

8

aspects of the mother archetype

synonymous with “Idea” in the Platonic usage. When the Corpus
Hermeticum, which probably dates from the third century,
describes God as τ α ρχ τυπον , the “archetypal light,” it
expresses the idea that he is the prototype of all light: that is to
say, pre-existent and supraordinate to the phenomenon “light.”
Were I a philosopher, I should continue in this Platonic strain
and say: somewhere, in “a place beyond the skies,” there is a
prototype or primordial image of the mother that is pre-existent
and supraordinate to all phenomena in which the “maternal,” in
the broadest sense of the term, is manifest. But I am an empiricist, not a philosopher; I cannot let myself presuppose that my
peculiar temperament, my own attitude to intellectual problems,
is universally valid. Apparently this is an assumption in which
only the philosopher may indulge, who always takes it for
granted that his own disposition and attitude are universal, and
will not recognize the fact, if he can avoid it, that his “personal
equation” conditions his philosophy. As an empiricist, I must
point out that there is a temperament which regards ideas as real
entities and not merely as nomina. It so happens—by the merest
accident, one might say—that for the past two hundred years we
have been living in an age in which it has become unpopular or
even unintelligible to suppose that ideas could be anything but
nomina. Anyone who continues to think as Plato did must pay for
his anachronism by seeing the “supracelestial,” i.e., metaphysical, essence of the Idea relegated to the unverifiable realm
of faith and superstition, or charitably left to the poet. Once
again, in the age-old controversy over universals, the nominalistic standpoint has triumphed over the realistic, and the Idea
has evaporated into a mere flatus vocis. This change was
accompanied—and, indeed, to a considerable degree caused—
by the marked rise of empiricism, the advantages of which were
only too obvious to the intellect. Since that time the Idea is no
longer something a priori, but is secondary and derived. Naturally, the new nominalism promptly claimed universal validity

on the concept of the archetype

for itself in spite of the fact that it, too, is based on a definite and
limited thesis coloured by temperament. This thesis runs as follows: we accept as valid anything that comes from outside and
can be verified. The ideal instance is verification by experiment.
The antithesis is: we accept as valid anything that comes from
inside and cannot be verified. The hopelessness of this position
is obvious. Greek natural philosophy with its interest in matter,
together with Aristotelian reasoning, has achieved a belated but
overwhelming victory over Plato.
150
Yet every victory contains the germ of future defeat. In our
own day signs foreshadowing a change of attitude are rapidly
increasing. Significantly enough, it is Kant’s doctrine of categories, more than anything else, that destroys in embryo every
attempt to revive metaphysics in the old sense of the word, but at
the same time paves the way for a rebirth of the Platonic spirit. If
it be true that there can be no metaphysics transcending human
reason, it is no less true that there can be no empirical knowledge that is not already caught and limited by the a priori structure of cognition. During the century and a half that have elapsed
since the appearance of the Critique of Pure Reason, the conviction
has gradually gained ground that thinking, understanding, and
reasoning cannot be regarded as independent processes subject
only to the eternal laws of logic, but that they are psychic functions
co-ordinated with the personality and subordinate to it. We no
longer ask, “Has this or that been seen, heard, handled, weighed,
counted, thought, and found to be logical?” We ask instead,
“Who saw, heard, or thought?” Beginning with “the personal
equation” in the observation and measurement of minimal processes, this critical attitude has gone on to the creation of an
empirical psychology such as no time before ours has known.
Today we are convinced that in all fields of knowledge psychological premises exist which exert a decisive influence upon the
choice of material, the method of investigation, the nature of the
conclusions, and the formulation of hypotheses and theories. We

9

10

aspects of the mother archetype

have even come to believe that Kant’s personality was a decisive
conditioning factor of his Critique of Pure Reason. Not only our
philosophers, but our own predilections in philosophy, and even
what we are fond of calling our “best” truths are affected, if not
dangerously undermined, by this recognition of a personal
premise. All creative freedom, we cry out, is taken away from us!
What? Can it be possible that a man only thinks or says or does
what he himself is?
151
Provided that we do not again exaggerate and so fall a victim
to unrestrained “psychologizing,” it seems to me that the critical
standpoint here defined is inescapable. It constitutes the essence,
origin, and method of modern psychology. There is an a priori
factor in all human activities, namely the inborn, preconscious
and unconscious individual structure of the psyche. The preconscious psyche—for example, that of a new-born infant—is
not an empty vessel into which, under favourable conditions,
practically anything can be poured. On the contrary, it is a tremendously complicated, sharply defined individual entity which
appears indeterminate to us only because we cannot see it directly. But the moment the first visible manifestations of psychic
life begin to appear, one would have to be blind not to recognize
their individual character, that is, the unique personality behind
them. It is hardly possible to suppose that all these details come
into being only at the moment in which they appear. When it is
a case of morbid predispositions already present in the parents,
we infer hereditary transmission through the germ-plasm; it
would not occur to us to regard epilepsy in the child of an
epileptic mother as an unaccountable mutation. Again, we
explain by heredity the gifts and talents which can be traced
back through whole generations. We explain in the same way
the reappearance of complicated instinctive actions in animals
that have never set eyes on their parents and therefore could not
possibly have been “taught” by them.
152
Nowadays we have to start with the hypothesis that, so far as

on the concept of the archetype

predisposition is concerned, there is no essential difference
between man and all other creatures. Like every animal, he possesses a preformed psyche which breeds true to his species and
which, on closer examination, reveals distinct features traceable
to family antecedents. We have not the slightest reason to suppose that there are certain human activities or functions that
could be exempted from this rule. We are unable to form any
idea of what those dispositions or aptitudes are which make
instinctive actions in animals possible. And it is just as impossible for us to know the nature of the preconscious psychic
disposition that enables a child to react in a human manner. We
can only suppose that his behaviour results from patterns of
functioning, which I have described as images. The term “image”
is intended to express not only the form of the activity taking
place, but the typical situation in which the activity is released.1
These images are “primordial” images in so far as they are peculiar to whole species, and if they ever “originated” their origin
must have coincided at least with the beginning of the species.
They are the “human quality” of the human being, the specifically human form his activities take. This specific form is hereditary and is already present in the germ-plasm. The idea that it is
not inherited but comes into being in every child anew would
be just as preposterous as the primitive belief that the sun which
rises in the morning is a different sun from that which set the
evening before.
153
Since everything psychic is preformed, this must also be true
of the individual functions, especially those which derive directly from the unconscious predisposition. The most important
of these is creative fantasy. In the products of fantasy the primordial images are made visible, and it is here that the concept of
the archetype finds its specific application. I do not claim to have
been the first to point out this fact. The honour belongs to Plato.
1

Cf. my “Instinct and the Unconscious,” par. 277.

11

12

aspects of the mother archetype

The first investigator in the field of ethnology to draw attention
to the widespread occurrence of certain “elementary ideas” was
Adolf Bastian. Two later investigators, Hubert and Mauss,2 followers of Dürkheim, speak of “categories” of the imagination.
And it was no less an authority than Hermann Usener3 who first
recognized unconscious preformation under the guise of
“unconscious thinking.” If I have any share in these discoveries,
it consists in my having shown that archetypes are not disseminated only by tradition, language, and migration, but that they can
rearise spontaneously, at any time, at any place, and without any
outside influence.
154
The far-reaching implications of this statement must not be
overlooked. For it means that there are present in every psyche
forms which are unconscious but nonetheless active—living
dispositions, ideas in the Platonic sense, that preform and continually influence our thoughts and feelings and actions.
155
Again and again I encounter the mistaken notion that an
archetype is determined in regard to its content, in other words
that it is a kind of unconscious idea (if such an expression be
admissible). It is necessary to point out once more that archetypes are not determined as regards their content, but only as
regards their form and then only to a very limited degree. A
primordial image is determined as to its content only when it
has become conscious and is therefore filled out with the
material of conscious experience. Its form, however, as I have
explained elsewhere, might perhaps be compared to the axial
system of a crystal, which, as it were, preforms the crystalline
structure in the mother liquid, although it has no material existence of its own. This first appears according to the specific way
in which the ions and molecules aggregate. The archetype in
2

[Cf. the previous paper, “Concerning the Archetypes,” par. 137, n. 25.—
E.]
3
Usener, Das Weihnachtsfest, p. 3.

on the concept of the archetype

itself is empty and purely formal, nothing but a facultas praeformandi, a possibility of representation which is given a priori. The
representations themselves are not inherited, only the forms,
and in that respect they correspond in every way to the instincts,
which are also determined in form only. The existence of the
instincts can no more be proved than the existence of the archetypes, so long as they do not manifest themselves concretely.
With regard to the definiteness of the form, our comparison
with the crystal is illuminating inasmuch as the axial system
determines only the stereometric structure but not the concrete
form of the individual crystal. This may be either large or small,
and it may vary endlessly by reason of the different size of its
planes or by the growing together of two crystals. The only thing
that remains constant is the axial system, or rather, the invariable
geometric proportions underlying it. The same is true of the
archetype. In principle, it can be named and has an invariable
nucleus of meaning—but always only in principle, never as
regards its concrete manifestation. In the same way, the specific
appearance of the mother-image at any given time cannot be
deduced from the mother archetype alone, but depends on
innumerable other factors.

13

2
THE MOTHER ARCHETYPE
156

Like any other archetype, the mother archetype appears under
an almost infinite variety of aspects. I mention here only some of
the more characteristic. First in importance are the personal
mother and grandmother, stepmother and mother-in-law; then
any woman with whom a relationship exists—for example, a
nurse or governess or perhaps a remote ancestress. Then there
are what might be termed mothers in a figurative sense. To this
category belongs the goddess, and especially the Mother of God,
the Virgin, and Sophia. Mythology offers many variations of the
mother archetype, as for instance the mother who reappears as
the maiden in the myth of Demeter and Kore; or the mother
who is also the beloved, as in the Cybele-Attis myth. Other symbols of the mother in a figurative sense appear in things representing the goal of our longing for redemption, such as Paradise,
the Kingdom of God, the Heavenly Jerusalem. Many things
arousing devotion or feelings of awe, as for instance the Church,
university, city or country, heaven, earth, the woods, the sea or
any still waters, matter even, the underworld and the moon, can

the mother archetype

be mother-symbols. The archetype is often associated with
things and places standing for fertility and fruitfulness: the cornucopia, a ploughed field, a garden. It can be attached to a rock,
a cave, a tree, a spring, a deep well, or to various vessels such as
the baptismal font, or to vessel-shaped flowers like the rose or
the lotus. Because of the protection it implies, the magic circle or
mandala can be a form of mother archetype. Hollow objects
such as ovens and cooking vessels are associated with the mother
archetype, and, of course, the uterus, yoni, and anything of a like
shape. Added to this list there are many animals, such as the cow,
hare, and helpful animals in general.
157
All these symbols can have a positive, favourable meaning or a
negative, evil meaning. An ambivalent aspect is seen in the goddesses of fate (Moira, Graeae, Norns). Evil symbols are the witch,
the dragon (or any devouring and entwining animal, such as a
large fish or a serpent), the grave, the sarcophagus, deep water,
death, nightmares and bogies (Empusa, Lilith, etc.). This list is
not, of course, complete; it presents only the most important
features of the mother archetype.
158
The qualities associated with it are maternal solicitude and
sympathy; the magic authority of the female; the wisdom and
spiritual exaltation that transcend reason; any helpful instinct or
impulse; all that is benign, all that cherishes and sustains, that
fosters growth and fertility. The place of magic transformation
and rebirth, together with the underworld and its inhabitants,
are presided over by the mother. On the negative side the mother
archetype may connote anything secret, hidden, dark; the abyss,
the world of the dead, anything that devours, seduces, and poisons, that is terrifying and inescapable like fate. All these attributes of the mother archetype have been fully described and
documented in my book Symbols of Transformation. There I formulated the ambivalence of these attributes as “the loving and the
terrible mother.” Perhaps the historical example of the dual
nature of the mother most familiar to us is the Virgin Mary, who

15

16

aspects of the mother archetype

is not only the Lord’s mother, but also, according to the medieval
allegories, his cross. In India, “the loving and terrible mother” is
the paradoxical Kali. Sankhya philosophy has elaborated the
mother archetype into the concept of prakrti (matter) and
˙
assigned to it the three gunas or fundamental attributes:
sattva, rajas,
1
tamas: goodness, passion, and darkness. These are three essential
aspects of the mother: her cherishing and nourishing goodness,
her orgiastic emotionality, and her Stygian depths. The special
feature of the philosophical myth, which shows Prakrti dancing
˙
before Purusha in order to remind him of “discriminating
knowledge,” does not belong to the mother archetype but to the
archetype of the anima, which in a man’s psychology invariably
appears, at first, mingled with the mother-image.
159
Although the figure of the mother as it appears in folklore is
more or less universal, this image changes markedly when it
appears in the individual psyche. In treating patients one is at
first impressed, and indeed arrested, by the apparent significance
of the personal mother. This figure of the personal mother looms
so large in all personalistic psychologies that, as we know, they
never got beyond it, even in theory, to other important
aetiological factors. My own view differs from that of other
medico-psychological theories principally in that I attribute to
the personal mother only a limited aetiological significance. That
is to say, all those influences which the literature describes as
being exerted on the children do not come from the mother
herself, but rather from the archetype projected upon her, which
gives her a mythological background and invests her with
authority and numinosity.2 The aetiological and traumatic
effects produced by the mother must be divided into two
1

This is the etymological meaning of the three gunas. See Weckerling,
Anandaraya-makhi: Das Glück des Lebens, pp. 21ff., and Garbe, Die Samkhya Philosophie,
pp. 272ff. [Cf. also Zimmer, Philosophies of India, index, ..—E.]
2
American psychology can supply us with any amount of examples. A blistering but instructive lampoon on this subject is Philip Wylie’s Generation of Vipers.

the mother archetype

groups: (1) those corresponding to traits of character or attitudes actually present in the mother, and (2) those referring to
traits which the mother only seems to possess, the reality being
composed of more or less fantastic (i.e., archetypal) projections
on the part of the child. Freud himself had already seen that the
real aetiology of neuroses does not lie in traumatic effects, as he
at first suspected, but in a peculiar development of infantile fantasy. This is not to deny that such a development can be traced
back to disturbing influences emanating from the mother. I
myself make it a rule to look first for the cause of infantile
neuroses in the mother, as I know from experience that a child is
much more likely to develop normally than neurotically, and
that in the great majority of cases definite causes of disturbances
can be found in the parents, especially in the mother. The contents of the child’s abnormal fantasies can be referred to the
personal mother only in part, since they often contain clear and
unmistakable allusions which could not possibly have reference
to human beings. This is especially true where definitely mythological products are concerned, as is frequently the case in
infantile phobias where the mother may appear as a wild beast, a
witch, a spectre, an ogre, a hermaphrodite, and so on. It must be
borne in mind, however, that such fantasies are not always of
unmistakably mythological origin, and even if they are, they may
not always be rooted in the unconscious archetype but may have
been occasioned by fairytales or accidental remarks. A thorough
investigation is therefore indicated in each case. For practical
reasons, such an investigation cannot be made so readily with
children as with adults, who almost invariably transfer their fantasies to the physician during treatment—or, to be more precise,
the fantasies are projected upon him automatically.
160
When that happens, nothing is gained by brushing them aside
as ridiculous, for archetypes are among the inalienable assets of
every psyche. They form the “treasure in the realm of shadowy
thoughts” of which Kant spoke, and of which we have ample

17

18

aspects of the mother archetype

evidence in the countless treasure motifs of mythology. An
archetype is in no sense just an annoying prejudice; it becomes
so only when it is in the wrong place. In themselves, archetypal
images are among the highest values of the human psyche; they
have peopled the heavens of all races from time immemorial. To
discard them as valueless would be a distinct loss. Our task is not,
therefore, to deny the archetype, but to dissolve the projections,
in order to restore their contents to the individual who has
involuntarily lost them by projecting them outside himself.

3
THE MOTHER-COMPLEX
161

The mother archetype forms the foundation of the so-called
mother-complex. It is an open question whether a mothercomplex can develop without the mother having taken part in its
formation as a demonstrable causal factor. My own experience
leads me to believe that the mother always plays an active part in
the origin of the disturbance, especially in infantile neuroses or
in neuroses whose aetiology undoubtedly dates back to early
childhood. In any event, the child’s instincts are disturbed, and
this constellates archetypes which, in their turn, produce fantasies that come between the child and its mother as alien and
often frightening elements. Thus, if the children of an overanxious mother regularly dream that she is a terrifying animal or
a witch, these experiences point to a split in the child’s psyche
that predisposes it to a neurosis.

I THE MOTHER-COMPLEX OF THE SON
162

The effects of the mother-complex differ according to whether
it appears in a son or a daughter. Typical effects on the son are

20 aspects of the mother archetype
homosexuality and Don Juanism, and sometimes also impotence.1 In homosexuality, the son’s entire heterosexuality is tied
to the mother in an unconscious form; in Don Juanism, he
unconsciously seeks his mother in every woman he meets. The
effects of a mother-complex on the son may be seen in the
ideology of the Cybele and Attis type: self-castration, madness,
and early death. Because of the difference in sex, a son’s mothercomplex does not appear in pure form. This is the reason why in
every masculine mother-complex, side by side with the mother
archetype, a significant role is played by the image of the man’s
sexual counterpart, the anima. The mother is the first feminine
being with whom the man-to-be comes in contact, and
she cannot help playing, overtly or covertly, consciously or
unconsciously, upon the son’s masculinity, just as the son in his
turn grows increasingly aware of his mother’s femininity, or
unconsciously responds to it by instinct. In the case of the son,
therefore, the simple relationships of identity or of resistance
and differentiation are continually cut across by erotic attraction
or repulsion, which complicates matters very considerably. I do
not mean to say that for this reason the mother-complex of a son
ought to be regarded as more serious than that of a daughter.
The investigation of these complex psychic phenomena is still in
the pioneer stage. Comparisons will not become feasible until
we have some statistics at our disposal, and of these, so far, there
is no sign.
163
Only in the daughter is the mother-complex clear and
uncomplicated. Here we have to do either with an overdevelopment of feminine instincts indirectly caused by the mother, or
with a weakening of them to the point of complete extinction. In
the first case, the preponderance of instinct makes the daughter
unconscious of her own personality; in the latter, the instincts
are projected upon the mother. For the present we must content
1

But the father-complex also plays a considerable part here.

the mother-complex

ourselves with the statement that in the daughter a mothercomplex either unduly stimulates or else inhibits the feminine
instinct, and that in the son it injures the masculine instinct
through an unnatural sexualization.
164
Since a “mother-complex” is a concept borrowed from psychopathology, it is always associated with the idea of injury and
illness. But if we take the concept out of its narrow psychopathological setting and give it a wider connotation, we can see that it
has positive effects as well. Thus a man with a mother-complex
may have a finely differentiated Eros2 instead of, or in addition
to, homosexuality. (Something of this sort is suggested by Plato
in his Symposium.) This gives him a great capacity for friendship,
which often creates ties of astonishing tenderness between men
and may even rescue friendship between the sexes from the
limbo of the impossible. He may have good taste and an aesthetic
sense which are fostered by the presence of a feminine streak.
Then he may be supremely gifted as a teacher because of his
almost feminine insight and tact. He is likely to have a feeling for
history, and to be conservative in the best sense and cherish the
values of the past. Often he is endowed with a wealth of religious
feelings, which help to bring the ecclesia spiritualis into reality; and
a spiritual receptivity which makes him responsive to revelation.
165
In the same way, what in its negative aspect is Don Juanism
can appear positively as bold and resolute manliness; ambitious
striving after the highest goals; opposition to all stupidity,
narrow-mindedness, injustice, and laziness; willingness to make
sacrifices for what is regarded as right, sometimes bordering on
heroism; perseverance, inflexibility and toughness of will; a
curiosity that does not shrink even from the riddles of the universe; and finally, a revolutionary spirit which strives to put a
new face upon the world.
166
All these possibilities are reflected in the mythological motifs
2

[Cf. Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, pars. 16ff.—E.]

21

22

aspects of the mother archetype

enumerated earlier as different aspects of the mother archetype.
As I have already dealt with the mother-complex of the son,
including the anima complication, elsewhere, and my present
theme is the archetype of the mother, in the following discussion I shall relegate masculine psychology to the background.

II THE MOTHER-COMPLEX OF THE DAUGHTER3
(a) Hypertrophy of the maternal element
167

We have noted that in the daughter the mother-complex leads
either to a hypertrophy of the feminine side or to its atrophy.
The exaggeration of the feminine side means an intensification
of all female instincts, above all the maternal instinct. The negative aspect is seen in the woman whose only goal is childbirth.
To her the husband is obviously of secondary importance; he is
first and foremost the instrument of procreation, and she regards
him merely as an object to be looked after, along with children,
poor relations, cats, dogs, and household furniture. Even her
own personality is of secondary importance; she often remains
entirely unconscious of it, for her life is lived in and through
others, in more or less complete identification with all the
objects of her care. First she gives birth to the children, and from
then on she clings to them, for without them she has no existence whatsoever. Like Demeter, she compels the gods by her
stubborn persistence to grant her the right of possession over
3

In the present section I propose to present a series of different “types” of
mother-complex; in formulating them, I am drawing on my own therapeutic
experiences. “Types” are not individual cases, neither are they freely invented
schemata into which all individual cases have to be fitted. “Types” are ideal
instances, or pictures of the average run of experience, with which no single
individual can be identified. People whose experience is confined to books or
psychological laboratories can form no proper idea of the cumulative experience of a practising psychologist.

the mother-complex

her daughter. Her Eros develops exclusively as a maternal relationship while remaining unconscious as a personal one. An
unconscious Eros always expresses itself as will to power.4
Women of this type, though continually “living for others,” are,
as a matter of fact, unable to make any real sacrifice. Driven by
ruthless will to power and a fanatical insistence on their own
maternal rights, they often succeed in annihilating not only their
own personality but also the personal lives of their children. The
less conscious such a mother is of her own personality, the
greater and the more violent is her unconscious will to power.
For many such women Baubo rather than Demeter would be the
appropriate symbol. The mind is not cultivated for its own sake
but usually remains in its original condition, altogether primitive, unrelated, and ruthless, but also as true, and sometimes as
profound, as Nature herself.5 She herself does not know this and
is therefore unable to appreciate the wittiness of her mind or to
marvel philosophically at its profundity; like as not she will
immediately forget what she has said.
(b) Overdevelopment of Eros
168

It by no means follows that the complex induced in a daughter by such a mother must necessarily result in hypertrophy of
the maternal instinct. Quite the contrary, this instinct may be
wiped out altogether. As a substitute, an overdeveloped Eros
results, and this almost invariably leads to an unconscious
incestuous relationship with the father.6 The intensified Eros
4

This statement is based on the repeated experience that, where love is lacking,
power fills the vacuum.
5
In my English seminars [privately distributed] I have called this the “natural
mind.”
6
Here the initiative comes from the daughter. In other cases the father’s psychology is responsible; his projection of the anima arouses an incestuous fixation
in the daughter.

23

24

aspects of the mother archetype

places an abnormal emphasis on the personality of others. Jealousy of the mother and the desire to outdo her become the
leitmotifs of subsequent undertakings, which are often disastrous. A woman of this type loves romantic and sensational episodes for their own sake, and is interested in married men, less
for themselves than for the fact that they are married and so give
her an opportunity to wreck a marriage, that being the whole
point of her manoeuvre. Once the goal is attained, her interest
evaporates for lack of any maternal instinct, and then it will be
someone else’s turn.7 This type is noted for its remarkable
unconsciousness. Such women really seem to be utterly blind to
what they are doing,8 which is anything but advantageous either
for themselves or for their victims. I need hardly point out that
for men with a passive Eros this type offers an excellent hook for
anima projections.
(c) Identity with the mother
169

If a mother-complex in a woman does not produce an overdeveloped Eros, it leads to identification with the mother and to
paralysis of the daughter’s feminine initiative. A complete projection of her personality on to the mother then takes place,
owing to the fact that she is unconscious both of her maternal
instinct and of her Eros. Everything which reminds her of
motherhood, responsibility, personal relationships, and erotic
demands arouses feelings of inferiority and compels her to run
away—to her mother, naturally, who lives to perfection everything that seems unattainable to her daughter. As a sort of
superwoman (admired involuntarily by the daughter), the
7

Herein lies the difference between this type of complex and the feminine
father-complex related to it, where the “father” is mothered and coddled.
8
This does not mean that they are unconscious of the facts. It is only their
meaning that escapes them.

the mother-complex

mother lives out for her beforehand all that the girl might have
lived for herself. She is content to cling to her mother in selfless
devotion, while at the same time unconsciously striving, almost
against her will, to tyrannize over her, naturally under the mask
of complete loyalty and devotion. The daughter leads a shadowexistence, often visibly sucked dry by her mother, and she
prolongs her mother’s life by a sort of continuous blood transfusion. These bloodless maidens are by no means immune to marriage. On the contrary, despite their shadowiness and passivity,
they command a high price on the marriage market. First, they
are so empty that a man is free to impute to them anything
he fancies. In addition, they are so unconscious that the
unconscious puts out countless invisible feelers, veritable
octopus-tentacles, that suck up all masculine projections; and
this pleases men enormously. All that feminine indefiniteness is
the longed-for counterpart of male decisiveness and singlemindedness, which can be satisfactorily achieved only if a man
can get rid of everything doubtful, ambiguous, vague, and muddled by projecting it upon some charming example of feminine
innocence.9 Because of the woman’s characteristic passivity, and
the feelings of inferiority which make her continually play the
injured innocent, the man finds himself cast in an attractive role:
he has the privilege of putting up with the familiar feminine
foibles with real superiority, and yet with forbearance, like a
true knight. (Fortunately, he remains ignorant of the fact that
these deficiencies consist largely of his own projections.) The
girl’s notorious helplessness is a special attraction. She is so
much an appendage of her mother that she can only flutter
confusedly when a man approaches. She just doesn’t know a
thing. She is so inexperienced, so terribly in need of help, that
9

This type of woman has an oddly disarming effect on her husband, but only
until he discovers that the person he has married and who shares his nuptial
bed is his mother-in-law.

25

26 aspects of the mother archetype
even the gentlest swain becomes a daring abductor who brutally
robs a loving mother of her daughter. Such a marvellous
opportunity to pass himself off as a gay Lothario does not occur
every day and therefore acts as a strong incentive. This was how
Pluto abducted Persephone from the inconsolable Demeter. But,
by a decree of the gods, he had to surrender his wife every year
to his mother-in-law for the summer season. (The attentive
reader will note that such legends do not come about by
chance!)
(d) Resistance to the mother
170

These three extreme types are linked together by many intermediate stages, of which I shall mention only one important
example. In the particular intermediate type I have in mind, the
problem is less an over-development or an inhibition of the
feminine instincts than an overwhelming resistance to maternal
supremacy, often to the exclusion of all else. It is the supreme
example of the negative mother-complex. The motto of this type
is: anything, so long as it is not like Mother! On one hand we
have a fascination which never reaches the point of identification; on the other, an intensification of Eros which exhausts itself
in jealous resistance. This kind of daughter knows what she does
not want, but is usually completely at sea as to what she would
choose as her own fate. All her instincts are concentrated on the
mother in the negative form of resistance and are therefore of no
use to her in building her own life. Should she get as far as
marrying, either the marriage will be used for the sole purpose
of escaping from her mother, or else a diabolical fate will present
her with a husband who shares all the essential traits of her
mother’s character. All instinctive processes meet with
unexpected difficulties; either sexuality does not function properly, or the children are unwanted, or maternal duties seem
unbearable, or the demands of marital life are responded to with

the mother-complex

impatience and irritation. This is quite natural, since none of it
has anything to do with the realities of life when stubborn resistance to the power of the mother in every form has come to be
life’s dominating aim. In such cases one can often see the attributes of the mother archetype demonstrated in every detail. For
example, the mother as representative of the family (or clan)
causes either violent resistances or complete indifference to anything that comes under the head of family, community, society,
convention, and the like. Resistance to the mother as uterus often
manifests itself in menstrual disturbances, failure of conception,
abhorrence of pregnancy, hemorrhages and excessive vomiting
during pregnancy, miscarriages, and so on. The mother as materia, ‘matter,’ may be at the back of these women’s impatience
with objects, their clumsy handling of tools and crockery and
bad taste in clothes.
171
Again, resistance to the mother can sometimes result in a
spontaneous development of intellect for the purpose of creating
a sphere of interest in which the mother has no place. This
development springs from the daughter’s own needs and not at
all for the sake of a man whom she would like to impress or
dazzle by a semblance of intellectual comradeship. Its real purpose is to break the mother’s power by intellectual criticism and
superior knowledge, so as to enumerate to her all her stupidities,
mistakes in logic, and educational shortcomings. Intellectual
development is often accompanied by the emergence of
masculine traits in general.

27

4
POSITIVE ASPECTS OF THE
MOTHER-COMPLEX
I THE MOTHER
172

The positive aspect of the first type of complex, namely the
overdevelopment of the maternal instinct, is identical with that
well-known image of the mother which has been glorified in all
ages and all tongues. This is the mother-love which is one of the
most moving and unforgettable memories of our lives, the mysterious root of all growth and change; the love that means
homecoming, shelter, and the long silence from which everything begins and in which everything ends. Intimately known
and yet strange like Nature, lovingly tender and yet cruel like
fate, joyous and untiring giver of life—mater dolorosa and mute
implacable portal that closes upon the dead. Mother is motherlove, my experience and my secret. Why risk saying too much, too
much that is false and inadequate and beside the point, about
that human being who was our mother, the accidental carrier of
that great experience which includes herself and myself and all

positive aspects of the mother-complex

mankind, and indeed the whole of created nature, the experience of life whose children we are? The attempt to say these
things has always been made, and probably always will be; but
a sensitive person cannot in all fairness load that enormous
burden of meaning, responsibility, duty, heaven and hell, on to
the shoulders of one frail and fallible human being—so deserving of love, indulgence, understanding, and forgiveness—who
was our mother. He knows that the mother carries for us that
inborn image of the mater natura and mater spiritualis, of the totality of life of which we are a small and helpless part. Nor
should we hesitate for one moment to relieve the human
mother of this appalling burden, for our own sakes as well as
hers. It is just this massive weight of meaning that ties us to the
mother and chains her to her child, to the physical and mental
detriment of both. A mother-complex is not got rid of by
blindly reducing the mother to human proportions. Besides
that we run the risk of dissolving the experience “Mother” into
atoms, thus destroying something supremely valuable and
throwing away the golden key which a good fairy laid in our
cradle. That is why mankind has always instinctively added the
pre-existent divine pair to the personal parents—the “god”father and “god”-mother of the newborn child—so that, from
sheer unconsciousness or shortsighted rationalism, he should
never forget himself so far as to invest his own parents with
divinity.
173
The archetype is really far less a scientific problem than an
urgent question of psychic hygiene. Even if all proofs of the
existence of archetypes were lacking, and all the clever people in
the world succeeded in convincing us that such a thing could not
possibly exist, we would have to invent them forthwith in order
to keep our highest and most important values from disappearing into the unconscious. For when these fall into the
unconscious the whole elemental force of the original experience is lost. What then appears in its place is fixation on the

29

30 aspects of the mother archetype
mother-imago; and when this has been sufficiently rationalized
and “corrected,” we are tied fast to human reason and condemned from then on to believe exclusively in what is rational.
That is a virtue and an advantage on the one hand, but on the
other a limitation and impoverishment, for it brings us nearer to
the bleakness of doctrinairism and “enlightenment.” This
Déesse Raison emits a deceptive light which illuminates only
what we know already, but spreads a darkness over all those
things which it would be most needful for us to know and
become conscious of. The more independent “reason” pretends
to be, the more it turns into sheer intellectuality which puts
doctrine in the place of reality and shows us man not as he is but
how it wants him to be.
174
Whether he understands them or not, man must remain conscious of the world of the archetypes, because in it he is still a
part of Nature and is connected with his own roots. A view of
the world or a social order that cuts him off from the primordial
images of life not only is no culture at all but, in increasing
degree, is a prison or a stable. If the primordial images remain
conscious in some form or other, the energy that belongs to
them can flow freely into man. But when it is no longer possible
to maintain contact with them, then the tremendous sum of
energy stored up in these images, which is also the source of the
fascination underlying the infantile parental complex, falls back
into the unconscious. The unconscious then becomes charged
with a force that acts as an irresistible vis a tergo to whatever view
or idea or tendency our intellect may choose to dangle
enticingly before our desiring eyes. In this way man is delivered
over to his conscious side, and reason becomes the arbiter of
right and wrong, of good and evil. I am far from wishing to
belittle the divine gift of reason, man’s highest faculty. But in the
role of absolute tyrant it has no meaning—no more than light
would have in a world where its counterpart, darkness, was
absent. Man would do well to heed the wise counsel of the

positive aspects of the mother-complex

mother and obey the inexorable law of nature which sets limits
to every being. He ought never to forget that the world exists
only because opposing forces are held in equilibrium. So, too,
the rational is counterbalanced by the irrational, and what is
planned and purposed by what is.
175
This excursion into the realm of generalities was unavoidable,
because the mother is the first world of the child and the last
world of the adult. We are all wrapped as her children in the
mantle of this great Isis. But let us now return to the different
types of feminine mother-complex. It may seem strange that I
am devoting so much more time to the mother-complex in
woman than to its counterpart in man. The reason for this has
already been mentioned: in a man, the mother-complex is never
“pure,” it is always mixed with the anima archetype, and the
consequence is that a man’s statements about the mother are
always emotionally prejudiced in the sense of showing “animosity.” Only in women is it possible to examine the effects of the
mother archetype without admixture of animosity, and even this
has prospects of success only when no compensating animus has
developed.

II THE OVERDEVELOPED EROS
176

I drew a very unfavourable picture of this type as we
encounter it in the field of psychopathology. But this type,
uninviting as it appears, also has positive aspects which society
could ill afford to do without. Indeed, behind what is possibly
the worst effect of this attitude, the unscrupulous wrecking of
marriages, we can see an extremely significant and purposeful
arrangement of nature. This type often develops in reaction to a
mother who is wholly a thrall of nature, purely instinctive and
therefore all-devouring. Such a mother is an anachronism, a
throw-back to a primitive state of matriarchy where the man
leads an insipid existence as a mere procreator and serf of the

31

32 aspects of the mother archetype
soil. The reactive intensification of the daughter’s Eros is aimed
at some man who ought to be rescued from the preponderance
of the female-maternal element in his life. A woman of this type
instinctively intervenes when provoked by the unconsciousness
of the marriage partner. She will disturb that comfortable ease so
dangerous to the personality of a man but frequently regarded
by him as marital faithfulness. This complacency leads to blank
unconsciousness of his own personality and to those supposedly
ideal marriages where he is nothing but Dad and she is nothing
but Mom, and they even call each other that. This is a slippery
path that can easily degrade marriage to the level of a mere
breeding pen.
177
A woman of this type directs the burning ray of her Eros
upon a man whose life is stifled by maternal solicitude, and by
doing so she arouses a moral conflict. Yet without this there
can be no consciousness of personality. “But why on earth,”
you may ask, “should it be necessary for man to achieve, by
hook or by crook, a higher level of consciousness?” This is
truly the crucial question, and I do not find the answer easy.
Instead of a real answer I can only make a confession of faith: I
believe that, after thousands and millions of years, someone
had to realize that this wonderful world of mountains and
oceans, suns and moons, galaxies and nebulae, plants and animals, exists. From a low hill in the Athi plains of East Africa I
once watched the vast herds of wild animals grazing in soundless stillness, as they had done from time immemorial, touched
only by the breath of a primeval world. I felt then as if I were
the first man, the first creature, to know that all this is. The
entire world round me was still in its primeval state; it did not
know that it was. And then, in that one moment in which I
came to know, the world sprang into being; without that
moment it would never have been. All Nature seeks this goal
and finds it fulfilled in man, but only in the most highly
developed and most fully conscious man. Every advance, even

positive aspects of the mother-complex

the smallest, along this path of conscious realization adds that
much to the world.
178
There is no consciousness without discrimination of opposites. This is the paternal principle, the Logos, which eternally
struggles to extricate itself from the primal warmth and primal
darkness of the maternal womb; in a word, from unconsciousness. Divine curiosity yearns to be born and does not shrink
from conflict, suffering, or sin. Unconsciousness is the primal
sin, evil itself, for the Logos. Therefore its first creative act of
liberation is matricide, and the spirit that dared all heights and
all depths must, as Synesius says, suffer the divine punishment,
enchainment on the rocks of the Caucasus. Nothing can exist
without its opposite; the two were one in the beginning and will
be one again in the end. Consciousness can only exist through
continual recognition of the unconscious, just as everything that
lives must pass through many deaths.
179
The stirring up of conflict is a Luciferian virtue in the true
sense of the word. Conflict engenders fire, the fire of affects and
emotions, and like every other fire it has two aspects, that of
combustion and that of creating light. On the one hand, emotion
is the alchemical fire whose warmth brings everything into
existence and whose heat burns all superfluities to ashes (omnes
superfluitates comburit). But on the other hand, emotion is the
moment when steel meets flint and a spark is struck forth, for
emotion is the chief source of consciousness. There is no change
from darkness to light or from inertia to movement without
emotion.
180
The woman whose fate it is to be a disturbing element is not
solely destructive, except in pathological cases. Normally the
disturber is herself caught in the disturbance; the worker of
change is herself changed, and the glare of the fire she ignites
both illuminates and enlightens all the victims of the entanglement. What seemed a senseless upheaval becomes a process of
purification:

33

34 aspects of the mother archetype
So that all that is vain
Might dwindle and wane.1
181

If a woman of this type remains unconscious of the meaning
of her function, if she does not know that she is
Part of that power which would
Ever work evil but engenders good,2

she will herself perish by the sword she brings. But consciousness transforms her into a deliverer and redeemer.

III THE “NOTHING-BUT” DAUGHTER
182

The woman of the third type, who is so identified with the
mother that her own instincts are paralysed through projection,
need not on that account remain a hopeless nonentity forever.
On the contrary, if she is at all normal, there is a good chance of
the empty vessel being filled by a potent anima projection.
Indeed, the fate of such a woman depends on this eventuality;
she can never find herself at all, not even approximately, without
a man’s help; she has to be literally abducted or stolen from her
mother. Moreover, she must play the role mapped out for her for
a long time and with great effort, until she actually comes to
loathe it. In this way she may perhaps discover who she really is.
Such women may become devoted and self-sacrificing wives of
husbands whose whole existence turns on their identification
with a profession or a great talent, but who, for the rest, are
unconscious and remain so. Since they are nothing but masks
themselves, the wife, too, must be able to play the accompanying
part with a semblance of naturalness. But these women
1
2

Faust, Part II, Act 5.
Ibid., Part I. Act 1.

positive aspects of the mother-complex

sometimes have valuable gifts which remained undeveloped
only because they were entirely unconscious of their own personality. They may project the gift or talent upon a husband who
lacks it himself, and then we have the spectacle of a totally
insignificant man who seemed to have no chance whatsoever
suddenly soaring as if on a magic carpet to the highest summits
of achievement. Cherchez la femme, and you have the secret of his
success. These women remind me—if I may be forgiven the
impolite comparison—of hefty great bitches who turn tail
before the smallest cur simply because he is a terrible male and it
never occurs to them to bite him.
183
Finally, it should be remarked that emptiness is a great feminine
secret. It is something absolutely alien to man; the chasm, the
unplumbed depths, the yin. The pitifulness of this vacuous nonentity goes to his heart (I speak here as a man), and one is
tempted to say that this constitutes the whole “mystery” of
woman. Such a female is fate itself. A man may say what he likes
about it; be for it or against it, or both at once; in the end he falls,
absurdly happy, into this pit, or, if he doesn’t, he has missed and
bungled his only chance of making a man of himself. In the first
case one cannot disprove his foolish good luck to him, and in the
second one cannot make his misfortune seem plausible. “The
Mothers, the Mothers, how eerily it sounds!”3 With this sigh,
which seals the capitulation of the male as he approaches the
realm of the Mothers, we will turn to the fourth type.

IV THE NEGATIVE MOTHER-COMPLEX
184

As a pathological phenomenon this type is an unpleasant,
exacting, and anything but satisfactory partner for her husband,
since she rebels in every fibre of her being against everything
that springs from natural soil. However, there is no reason why
3

Ibid., Part II, Act 1.

35

36 aspects of the mother archetype
increasing experience of life should not teach her a thing or two,
so that for a start she gives up fighting the mother in the personal
and restricted sense. But even at her best she will remain hostile
to all that is dark, unclear, and ambiguous, and will cultivate and
emphasize everything certain and clear and reasonable. Excelling
her more feminine sister in her objectivity and coolness of
judgment, she may become the friend, sister, and competent
adviser of her husband. Her own masculine aspirations make it
possible for her to have a human understanding of the individuality of her husband quite transcending the realm of the erotic.
The woman with this type of mother-complex probably has the
best chance of all to make her marriage an outstanding success
during the second half of life. But this is true only if she succeeds
in overcoming the hell of “nothing but femininity,” the chaos of
the maternal womb, which is her greatest danger because of her
negative complex. As we know, a complex can be really overcome only if it is lived out to the full. In other words, if we are to
develop further we have to draw to us and drink down to the
very dregs what, because of our complexes, we have held at a
distance.
185
This type started out in the world with averted face, like Lot’s
wife looking back on Sodom and Gomorrha. And all the while
the world and life pass by her like a dream—an annoying
source of illusions, disappointments, and irritations, all of
which are due solely to the fact that she cannot bring herself to
look straight ahead for once. Because of her merely
unconscious, reactive attitude toward reality, her life actually
becomes dominated by what she fought hardest against—the
exclusively maternal feminine aspect. But if she should later
turn her face, she will see the world for the first time, so to
speak, in the light of maturity, and see it embellished with all the
colours and enchanting wonders of youth, and sometimes even
of childhood. It is a vision that brings knowledge and discovery
of truth, the indispensable prerequisite for consciousness. A

positive aspects of the mother-complex

part of life was lost, but the meaning of life has been salvaged for
her.
186
The woman who fights against her father still has the possibility of leading an instinctive, feminine existence, because she
rejects only what is alien to her. But when she fights against the
mother she may, at the risk of injury to her instincts, attain to
greater consciousness, because in repudiating the mother she
repudiates all that is obscure, instinctive, ambiguous, and
unconscious in her own nature. Thanks to her lucidity, objectivity, and masculinity, a woman of this type is frequently found in
important positions in which her tardily discovered maternal
quality, guided by a cool intelligence, exerts a most beneficial
influence. This rare combination of womanliness and masculine
understanding proves valuable in the realm of intimate relationships as well as in practical matters. As the spiritual guide and
adviser of a man, such a woman, unknown to the world, may
play a highly influential part. Owing to her qualities, the masculine mind finds this type easier to understand than women with
other forms of mother-complex, and for this reason men often
favour her with the projection of positive mother-complexes.
The excessively feminine woman terrifies men who have a
mother-complex characterized by great sensitivity. But this
woman is not frightening to a man, because she builds bridges
for the masculine mind over which he can safely guide his feelings to the opposite shore. Her clarity of understanding inspires
him with confidence, a factor not to be underrated and one that
is absent from the relationship between a man and a woman
much more often than one might think. The man’s Eros does not
lead upward only but downward into that uncanny dark world
of Hecate and Kali, which is a horror to any intellectual man. The
understanding possessed by this type of woman will be a guiding star to him in the darkness and seemingly unending mazes
of life.

37

5
CONCLUSION
187

From what has been said it should be clear that in the last
analysis all the statements of mythology on this subject as well as
the observed effects of the mother-complex, when stripped of
their confusing detail, point to the unconscious as their place of
origin. How else could it have occurred to man to divide the
cosmos, on the analogy of day and night, summer and winter,
into a bright day-world and a dark night-world peopled with
fabulous monsters, unless he had the prototype of such a division in himself, in the polarity between the conscious and the
invisible and unknowable unconscious? Primitive man’s perception of objects is conditioned only partly by the objective
behaviour of the things themselves, whereas a much greater part
is often played by intrapsychic facts which are not related to the
external objects except by way of projection.1 This is due to the
simple fact that the primitive has not yet experienced that ascetic
discipline of mind known to us as the critique of knowledge. To
1

[Cf. above, “Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious,” par. 7.—E.]


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