Innate tendencies have been described in variety of ways.
The term archetype refers to recurrent patterns of design, story telling,
symbol making and ritual expressions found all over the planet at
different historical times. Knowing that each human is the reincarnation of a
long lineage of ancestors, you would expect to find common themes of
pattern recognition, group behavior, storytelling and symbol making wherever you
found humans. Species memory, perceptual skills, needs, drives, feelings,
desires and behaviors are built in and find common expressions world wide.
Urges, desires, designs, feelings cry out from within.
Carl Jung interpreted archetypes as an expression of a
collective unconscious, his term for the repository of innate tendencies
built into the human brain. You could argue that the term, archetypes,
should point to innate configurations that need not be learned. The distinction
between form and content is useful. The form is the innate configuration that
receives content via feature detectors that recognize patterns in nature. Form
is ancient and universal. Content is local and specific.
The natural world is an immense repository of repeating
events, designs and sequences. The original archetypes are manifestations of our
native receptivity to the patterns of nature.
The term ”archetype” can also describe human expressions,
manifest as common behaviors such as drumming, dancing, singing, painting
and tool making. Archetype sometimes points to expressions that recur as
common elements in religion, art and other storytelling, including literature
and movies. Often common characters, themes and metaphors are described
inappropriately as archetypes, but are often copied, conventional
characters and plots. There are themes that recur in myths and other stories
Campbell identified five universal themes in myths: fire,
theft, deluge, land of the dead, virgin birth, and resurrected hero.
These themes have been repeated with local inflections for thousands of years.
Campbell identified the hero’s journey as a basic plot
found in myths that involves standard characters and a sequence of episodes. For
example, a hero is born into an ordinary world, where he receives an invitation
to adventure; he first refuses the call, but is encouraged by a mentor to go
forth and explore the unknown where he encounters tests, allies and enemies. If
he survives the initial challenges, the hero crosses a second threshold and
enters an inner sanctum or cave where he must survive another ordeal to take
possession of his reward.
The hero’s journey requires a final effort to return to the
ordinary world with a treasure that benefits all humans. The return is a
resurrection that qualifies the hero as a transcendent being. The hero in other
words, is not a winner who indulges himself with his prize money, but a superior
man who transcends his own nature to become an unselfish benefactor.