THE IDEA OF PLACE & BEING
A Study of Architecture and Archetypes
Prepared for the College of Design and Planning, University of Colorado at Denver, 1983
Prepared in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree: Master of Planning and Community Development
Karin Halvorson Hillhouse
Copyright 1983 by Karin Halvorson Hillhouse
To Bill and Torsten and Ingrid and Steph who came home in time.
"In alarming proportions the following words have disappeared from architectural publications^ Beauty, Inspiration, Magic, Sorcery, Enchantment and also Serenity, Mystery, Silencer Privacy, Astonishment. AIL of these have found a loving home in my soul, and if I am far from having done full justice to them in my work, I have used them as my lighthouse."
Foreword............................... ........................ 1
Chapter One The Setting............................................. 4
Chapter Two Frameworks ............................................... 16
Chapter Three The Idea of the Archetype ................................. 39
Chapter Four Primer on the Character of Archetypes..................... 82
Chapter Five The Archetypal Maze........................................ 113
Chapter Six A Fiction Tour of Archetypal Place ........................ 153
Chapter Seven Architecture and Archetypes:
What Does It Matter? ................................ 210
The people to whom I owe my thanks are legion. Many of them have not the slightest idea of the ways in which they helped me. Others know precisely what their contribution has meant. These individuals are grade school and high school teachers. They are college and graduate school professors. They are family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. They are people who by chance said just what I needed at a particular moment. Some knew intuitively not to say a thing. Others quite literally took me in out of the cold and off the street. They provided nourishment and encouragement. All of them had faith in me when I had lost my own. Reading this, they will be able to identify themselves.
We have all spent more hours, shed more tears, agonized with more frustrations and delighted in more joy than any of us could have dreamed possible. It will take my entire life to match the gifts that I have received.
My parents, Virginia and Newman Halvorson, lavished me with great treasure: the good sense to live in the spirit of adventure; an appreciation of the importance of effort and excellence; the willingness to trust my own thinking and feeling. On these everything rests.
David Hill was my graduate advisor at the University of Colorado. He encouraged me to stretch the study of urban planning into areas where, to my knowledge, it had never gone before. He is certainly not responsible for what Ive done with the loose rein he gave me. But for my part I will be forever grateful to him for letting me be responsible for myself.
With consummate and consistent calm Lorri Collins typed an unimaginable number of drafts of this book. The speed and accuracy with which she brought order out of chaos were a source of continual wonder. Her help was immeasurable.
As for Bill and Tor and Ingrid I could write volumes on the value of their love and support and patience. They lived with me. They know the extent to which The Idea of Place & Being is our joint effort. The book must be dedicated to them. And to Steph who was smart enough to stay away until I was finished and had learned about light and magic. Her timing was inspired.
It took me a long time to figure out what I thought about architecture and archetypes. I don't understand the process of an idea unfolding. I don't know why we can't just hurry it along. But I do trust it. It makes sense to me to let an idea develop its own life and expression in its own time. Any of us involved in that process have only to pay close attention to what comes before us. For being part of such a creation, we all owe thanks.
This book grew out of my conviction that the design professions needed a spirited way of understanding the special places in our lives. In large measure, then, what comes of that conviction is an attempt to study magic in architecture.
No one in the profession seemed to be asking what struck me as the one question that lay at the very heart of every design and planning effort: why does place matter? Why this place and not that? When you take away the factors of jobs, location, aesthetics, what element of one's experience of place accounts for the special feeling that remains? There didn't seem to be a method for talking about the magical role spaces and structures sometimes play in peoples' lives. I wanted to explore these issues. I wanted to know what psychological mechanism gives place the power of shaping human perception, memory and emotion.
My academic training provided methods for forecasting population, taking an environmental inventory, calculating energy use, predicting future patterns of growth and determining appropriate land uses. While none of these methods was a perfect tool, each offered a means of grappling with important issues. Still, there was no coherent or compelling way of focusing on this matter of what happens when an individual responds to certain places and not to others. Why do the same kinds of places keep cropping up in one person's life but not another's? What accounts for these patterns in our actual and imaginary experience?
I found such questions fascinating and confounding. They led me to search within the profession for an awareness of the desirability of looking at these issues. Interestingly enough, this hunch or thesis soon bore fruit. In Chapter Three I detail much of what this search uncovered. Here is evidence to support my thesis that the design professions recognize the importance of understanding the affective, emotional states generated by place.
The second step in tracking the question of magic and place involved me in a study of the work of C. G. Jung. I needed a way to structure, to think about the affective connections between place and being. Jung's theory of archetypes suggested itself as an hypothesis that might be useful in illuminating strongly held design preferences, ideological positions, and the like. Chapters Four and Five provide a look at Jung's ideas. They explore the dynamics between archetypal images and the experience of architecture. The two chapters lay the groundwork of my claim that the special feeling (positive or negative) that we have for certain places stems from or can be associated with powerful archetypal images.
To undertake such a Jungian approach is to take the path of depth psychology of human beings' relations with architecture. The path requires that we "touch and go." As images appear, as emotions turn things around, as experience generates certain feelings, we take note and remember and try to discern patterns amid phenomenal variety. In other words, to follow that analytical path is to have great tolerance over the fact that archetypal data are elusive, almost never conform to expectations and rarely fit prescribed categories.
With the evidence that does emerge from our search, we can press for answers to our questions, but only so hard. It's not as if we've assembled data testing hypotheses regarding mass transit preferences according to age groups. With respect to matters of the human spirit, its imagination and experience, we may have to wait for the crucial element to push its head out-of-order into our path. As a matter of "method," we need to welcome the meaning of such surprises. The unexpected but integral phenomenon simply adds its significance to the rest of the story.
If Ive taken liberties with traditional academic or professional disciplines Ive done so in the spirit of keeping pace with the demands and the richness of my theme. It lies outside the boundaries of narrowly defined enterprises. Consequently, it has both the virtue and handicap of generating
intellectual discomfort. I expect these ideas to be strange to many readers. At the same time, I trust their efficacy so thoroughly that I am emboldened to present them. I believe in their power to get minds and imaginations working on solving problems.
The reader's response is the final test of the merits of the archetypal thesis. My intention throughout has been to identify the ways in which archetypes figure in our architectural experiences. Also I wanted to respect the essential mystery that envelops individuals and their memories, fantasies and experiences of place. With all that in mind, Fve gone slowly in developing the argument, discoursing on Jung's ideas, making analogies, presenting the evidence and drawing conclusions. At times I've shared a personal experience or anecdote because the immediacy of that memory or insight sharpened for me the reality of archetypal dynamics.
As my research progressed, the practical importance of what I was discovering about archetypes and place became clear. Just as master plans, economic forecasts and traffic counts communicate information, so, too, do archetypal images. By giving them our attention and taking them seriously, we learn to ask more questions of ourselves and of others than we would otherwise. We become more conscious of the variables that affect every decision, attitude and behavior. Moreover, I maintain that if we can understand one issue more fully, we have an opportunity to plan more wisely and make genuinely satisfying choices in our lives.
What follows is a story about human beings and the places of their lives. It is a story, too, about architectural images which give shape and significance to human experience, attitudes and emotions. These images of place can be as real in a person's experience as actual place. The story draws its strength and mystery from the profound ties which weve all felt with certain places or particular structures. What I want to explore is the nature of those ties. What accounts for them? Does something in the place attract us? Cr perhaps an element in us that seeks expression? Is architecture imprinted, or does it imprint us, with associations, symbols and the like? Does place have meaning?
The most astonishing part of the story and what this book looks at in detail is that certain images exert special power over us. They crop up in places where we could never have anticipated or imagined them. Or they occur and crystallize our deepest feelings and sharpest perceptions about what is of value to us.
An image of ancient ruins suddenly dominates a visit through all the glass and glitter of mid-town Manhattan. Paradoxically it seems to symbolize new growth and vitality. A labyrinth image comes to mind as I approach an office building and generates the feelings of being caught in an inexorable, overwhelming process. Other times it may be an image of the shrine or the grail, the stone or the dance that becomes part of our experience to enhance it in a profound way.
Portions of this story will sound like psychological analysis, scholarly treatise or theology; others like polemic, metaphysical speculation, myth-making, or simply the stuff of dreams. As it touches and draws on each, the story reveals human beings in their relationships to architecture and architectural images.
In part the story Im telling1 chronicles a portion of my own fascination with space and structure. The first assignment given to me in an undergraduate architecture course was to design a "Monument to Truth." What an invitation! And what a notion that architecture might embody Truth. We were asked in all seriousness to consider Truth, to identify materials and forms which would correspond to that Truth and, finally, to situate the monument in an appropriate location on campus.
It struck me then, and continues to, that the first order of business for architecture, indeed, for the design of any space, is to find that identification between material form and whatever reality or Truth outside matter we are able to apprehend. Moreover, architecture never means a thing if it fails to give rise to some image or symbol, some truth that transcends all the mundane facts before us.
"What is this place?" asks Orlando in Virginia Woolfs novel of the same name. The question preoccupies me as well. It underlies all the other questions which direct this study. Why do certain spaces and structures loom out of the immense and otherwise undifferentiated background? How is it they can affect the very ground of my being? What attracts my attention? Does such an experience reveal elements of me or objective qualities of a magic place? If a visit to Rome alters perceptions, attitudes, indeed, life in substantial ways, how do we account for such transformation by place? Does the experience stem from an emotional state of being? If, on the contrary, the transforming significance seems to derive from particular spaces or structures, how is this possible? What extraordinary power does place have over being?
Focusing on the vastness of Rome, I began a game of essences with myself. Sifting like an archaeologist, could I unearth a shard that might provide a clue to the immense power of this city? At every turn the color of stucco walls -warm tones of green, pink, tan, mauve dominates the game and leads the way. This
stuff of the earth simply vibrates with life. I think, "So this is what shelter is all about these walls." And, then, the central image comes to me. Rome is a kaleidoscope: endlessly fascinating, fragments, often crumbling, but always falling together, holding, in intricate patterns. A single, controlling image provides a way to weave bits and pieces of experience into a coherent whole. Rome, the eternal city, thus becomes an emblem of human settlement, unceasing in its variation, infinite in its fragments, a loosely woven fabric of color.
Finding images able to sum up an experience or express human feeling brings into play what I call the archetypal dynamics of architecture. I say so much about archetypes in subsequent chapters that here I want only to highlight two ways in which architectural images can be archetypal.
The first Fve already mentioned. When the experience of an actual place affects us deeply, an image of that experience may loom before us. It can suddenly jump into our path or simply hide in the shadows, just below consciousness, awaiting discovery. However it comes, an archetypal image illuminates experience. The archetype arrests us. By transforming human beings and place, archetypes create an intimacy between them. Place may tower over us or beckon us inside. Either way space or structure is particularized; the archetypal image removes the place from that otherwise gray, homogenous space that surrounds us. Archetypal place is special.
A second instance of architectural images shaping human life in an archetypal manner occurs when the conscious image has an obvious formal reference, e.g. cave, castle, temple, garden and so on. Experience of these images may or may not relate to actual architectural experience. That is, architectural archetypes might define a state of being, a situation, a relationship. They wonderfully situate and shelter perceptions and emotions, dreams and memories. For example,
Katharine Hepburn describes herself as rather like the Flatiron BuildingJL/ She doesn't add anything to that just the single image of that handsome and odd building. Elsewhere, a character in Henry James' novel The Golden Bowl characterizes his relationship with his daughter as"... some pleasant public square, in the heart of an old city into which a great Palladian church .. something with a grand architectural front had suddenly been dropped ."2/ And so it goes. In precise and subtle ways these images can enshrine our highest moments, weave a nest to hide in, uncover a secret garden where we can grow, or build a wall from which we can view the world.
Archetypal images that enhance architectural experience and distill human essence come into our lives magically and cry for interpretation. If we can understand enough of these epiphanies, there's a chance we could live more gracefully and generously with others and with our selves. Such an understanding promises improvement in professional design and in our overall sense of how human beings interact with the environment.
Having introduced the concept of archetypal dynamics and before presenting C. G. Jung's psychological theories on these matters, I will add a bit more. One writer, Edward Whitmont, points out that archetypes provide orientation^./ Extending Whitmont's idea, I would suggest that if we can identify an archetypal
Rex Reed, "Katharine Hepburn Despises Excuses," Rocky Mountain News. 4 February 1979, p. 28, col. 4.
2 Henry James, The Golden Bowl (1904; rpt. England: Penguin Books, 1966), p. 118.
3 Edward Whitmont, The Symbolic Quest (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p. 124. Whitmont's entire chapter 7 provides a useful discussion of archetypes as patterns of emotion and behavior.
image as we experience place, we are more likely to know exactly where we are: what a particular space is all about and how it affects us.
The orientation which archetypes provide is analogous to the order and focus which structures bring to otherwise amorphous space. Just as buildings define space, so too, archetypes define us in terms of special places and crucial times. Moreover, when they appear, archetypal images generate profound knowledge. The extraordinary incidence of these images and their identification with particular places is neither fancy nor poetic license, hyperbole nor dreaming.
Louise Nevelson testifies as to the kind of knowledge which we possess
through the powerful experience of place:
"Through my own consciousness, I have experienced all the ages," says the Architect of Shadows, as she calls herself.
"How is it that when you go to Egypt you know certain things? There is something inside us that knows." That "something that knows," like one form of the Buddha, knows itself only by contemplating its creations^'
The implications of Miss Nevelson's remark are far-reaching. With this affirmation
she suggests that human beings can know the past of which they have no
experience. By the same token, perhaps through the agency of images, we can
understand places of which we have no experience. "Something inside us" seems to
trigger collective and intuitive levels of knowledge. Furthermore, Miss Nevelson
claims that a direct correspondence exists between personal knowledge of what is
"out there" in the world and self-knowledge. It is my claim in this study that this
correspondence is a function of the workings of archetypal images that reside deep
within the unconscious.
Curiously enough, the thesis Pm developing parallels the contemporary "roots" phenomenon. The questions informing each process are the same: "Who am
^ Eleanor Munro, OriginalsAmerican Women Artists (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), P. 134.
I?n "Where what place did I come from? "In what ways did that place shape me? That general thrust is no stranger to the design profession. A current trend in architecture, so-called Post-Modernism, derives from a strong impulse to take design to its roots. Post-Modernism strives to restore human values and symbolic forms to the built environment. Its proponents argue that the strict geometry and functional purity of the International Style precluded such values. The Post-Modern search often leads to striking if distorted, even bizarre designs based on historical prototypes^./ Seeking architectural roots, Post-Modernism sometimes dresses its structures in formal details borrowed from earlier periods.
Similarly, historic preservation activity represents an environmental complement to the search for ancestral roots. The historic architecture of our cities constitutes our collective roots. And, so the argument goes, if we are to find human scale and meaning in the physical surroundings, we must have an opportunity to identify ourselves in the vast fabric of time, culture and human enterprise. The crucial importance of historic preservation turns on this point: these structures provide us with a mirror. We can see at least a part of ourselves there. We will never lose sight of our origins.
Not forgetting, though, still falls short of the active part of our radical search. If contemporary design produces stage-set design appropriate for only a limited engagement, if historic preservation degenerates into cable-car nostalgia and ice-cream boutiques, can we claim a genuine uncovering of human roots? How do we get behind the stage door? The search for architectural roots requires that we go back not so much to historic or archaic models as that we reach deep within ourselves to discover how we relate to place through archetypal images.
5 Charles Jencks, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 1977). This book is the basic text on Post-Modernism in contemporary architecture as defined by Jencks.
The perceptions and expressions of children provide important clues to deciphering the images which human beings generate. What we saw of Louise Nevelson's understanding of knowledge and place seems to correspond to the delightful facility which children have for characterizing imagining their experience. Nevelson's observation and childrens intuitive sense about structures suggest an a priori catalog of images somewhere in us. In other words, there seems to be an awareness or knowing prior to experience. It is unencumbered by the trappings of scientific investigation or scholarship. Quite simply, as human beings we perceive, understand and know in particular and precise ways.
What does all this mean? Knowledge of places beyond or before experience? A priori structures? Like what? How do they function? Dreams, fairy tales and ancient myths teach us compelling truths about human life. In the same way childrens inherent sense about place can enlighten us. Caves and castles, haunted houses and heaven so dominate children's minds that I am tempted to designate them inherent structures of the human psyche. As such, they color much of our significant experience. These forms seem to appear simultaneously with the beginning of verbal and imaginative life (and one's close experience with children testifies to this). This suggests that a priori forms wait within us as latent shelters for a multitude of experiences, perceptions and the like.
As soon as I advance such an hypothesis about fundamental aspects of human life, I find myself involved with psychology. Here is a tool to unravel and then to reweave the relationships which bind place and being. If the unconscious images which children use to make sense of their experience are the same ones which adults continue to find compelling, useful and descriptive of their experiences, and if a study of the human psyche can shed light on the dynamics of these structures, we owe it to ourselves to weigh the potential insights of psychology.
Psychology the study of the human psyche or spirit holds out an awesome promise: that we might know and understand ourselves personally, individually and collectively. This promise staggering in its dimensions is not what this book promises. Nevertheless, I will take certain concepts, particularly Jung's notion of archetypes, and demonstrate ways in which images figure quite literally into our appreciation of place and being.
At its root psychology is the study of the spiritual life of man. Spiritual values stop us in our tracks, bring us to our knees, affect us to the depths and carry
us to the heights. The stuff of spirit is what makes human life larger than personal life. Archetypal dynamics or images are always part of psychological, spiritual experience.
Believing as I do that psychology can help in establishing ground rules for archetypal play between place and being, let me confess at once my bias about such matters. When psychology works, be it therapy, interpretation or archetypal experience, there is magic going on. By that I mean that what happens right before our very eyes, if explained, would be obvious. And good luck getting an explanation!
When I say "magic,n I'm not suggesting that architecture tricks us, although it may from time to time. Only that there is more to an experience of architecture than we can account for. To be sure, certain elements of master plans and architectural design are intended to satisfy functional requirements. We can observe other aspects of design that answer to issues of safety, economics, access and so on. Yet, when I subtract all those programmatic objectives, and I am still riveted in place, I am compelled to recognize a certain magic. This is an infinitely humbling experience. Part of that magic place, either within or without, roots us in our psychological origins. The knot that joins psychology and place, spirit and magic works as if it were the product of some ancient rite of integration: the beginning
and the end and all the turns in between come together effortlessly, neatly and securely.
Nathanial Owings, one of the founders of the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings <5c Merrill, once commented: "Mystery is the great thing that architecture is all about."/ When asked what he meant and how to incorporate mystery, Mr. Owings replied only that mystery in architecture meant giving more attention to human beings, hi the face of the immensity of the word mystery, why did he offer so little? Even admitting how intellectually lame we are when faced with mystery, I still maintain there must be more to say about "the great thing that architecture is all about." (Emphasis added.)
What might Owings have meant? What was he driving at? Other writers, as well, after everything else has been said, stress the mysterious quality of particular spaces and structures. The architectural literature and press abounds with examples. Particularly notable is Emilio Ambasz's monograph on Louis Barragan. Ambasz presents an inspired essay that addresses the issue of magic and mystery in architecture.!/ The language is at once beguiling, rich and profound.
What does he say? He describes Barragan as a "poetic practitioner." He asserts that one of Barragan's wall designs is "the inhabitant of a larger metaphysical landscape." For another design he claims that "the magic play of shadows and reflections achieves lyric perfection." Bewitching us still further by this initiation into Barragans world, Ambasz touches the heart of the master's art:
"Regional ArchitectureConsidered/Reconsidered," A conference held February 6-9, 1980, San Francisco, California. This conference was sponsored by the San Francisco Center for Architecture and for Urban Studies.
7 Emilio Ambasz, The Architecture of Louis Barragan (New York: The Museum of Modem Art, 1976), p. 5, 30, 73, 91, 107. The quoted sections follow the sequence of page numbers given in this note.
Barragan manages, with this one wall, to introduce with lyric effortlessness two aspects of high ritual: The suggestion of a space beyond and, even more magically, transubstantiation. The alchemistic vision of all surrealists is here proven true: solid matter has a liquid core.
In two final examples, Ambasz describes Barragan's architecture as "based on a few constructive elements bound together by a mystical feeling" and as surpassing "the requirements of a program of utilitarian needs to satisfy the necessities of what may be called a program of metaphysical imperatives."
But what is he saying? All this stuff of poetry and metaphysics, magic and paradox, ritual and alchemy. Immediately and fully I respond to the spirit of this language. Furthermore, I know I am not simply stunned by some off-beat
aesthetics. The fact of my response is a given. Beyond that, a number of causal explanations came to mind: perhaps I responded to the resonance of poetic language; perhaps I have a profound desire to visit such a place; maybe an ancient memory of a magic place has been activated?
Leaving those questions aside, I would say that the first piece of business is to acknowledge that this discussion of magic-mystery-metaphysics is not nonsense. The professional literature of planning and architecture, if not replete with such discussion, includes enough to give us pause. If we are to understand each other and our particular biases, we must start by accepting each other's testimony about personal experiences, including those about magic and mystery.
The fact is statements about magic place are common. The astonishing thing is that we have such difficulty determining what they mean. First, they are serious. And, if I may be my own witness, they come from the depths of ones being. Quite simply, the bottom line, the highest praise is: "The place is magic!" In whatever variation such an expression appears, the words positively ring with certainty and truth, undeniable and inviolate.
This book attempts to demonstrate that magic experiences are archetypal. And that archetypal phenomena, if collected and understood, can help us to understand the ways in which experiences of architecture and images of place complement psychological development.
An important question at this point is whether it is genuinely useful to promote the somewhat arcane word "archetypal" in conjunction with an effort to reach a common understanding about the ways we relate to space and structure. The real stake we have in these matters prompts me to respond in two ways. First, traditional methodological approaches to planning and architecture provide a wealth of data useful in decisionmaking and policy implementation. Moreover, social scientists, behavioral psychologists, and others conduct research on countless issues concerning individuals and social groups and their reactions to particular environments. For the most part, these approaches and disciplines represent constructive tools for the planning and design professions.
Yet, finally, the central question of this book persists: What do I know about the place of human emotion and affection, terror and frustration and their role in our experiences of actual and image place? So, in response to any concern over tossing the word archetypal into the professional toolbox, I would say that the theory of archetypes offers a way to validate much of what we can know about ourselves and our relationship to architecture.
My second response relates closely to the first. One of the central objectives of planning and architecture is to create spaces and structures for people that are not only useful but that also enrich the quality of human life. To a great extent, the professions have addressed and satisfied objective requirements for safe, functional, economic designs. But what of enrichment? That other half of the program challenges us with less tangible and, consequently, more elusive goals. If we
are to realize those treasures for the human spirit, we have to understand the ways in which space and structure engage us. And therein lies the mystery, the magic.
A reader might object at this point that we violate the mystery if we analyze too much. I don't believe it. To be sure, we can simply leave the magic alone and hope that through design serendipity we will find it. With all the humility a writer feels before an awesome subject, I think it is possible to understand the archetypal process that brings mystery into our lives. If I'm right, and without any thought of taming it, we may have an opportunity to perform such magic. Knowing the magician's trick never eliminates our fascination with the process. An irreducible element will always persist. It eludes us in spite of our best efforts to analyze. Nevertheless, we go on with our search for that essence.
In this chapter I develop my archetypal theme in a number of ways. First of all, I say more about the thesis that underlies The Idea of Place and Being. I relate it to goals I have in mind for the whole book. In addition, I state certain assumptions so there is no misunderstanding my point of view. Ive also indulged in some discursive definitions which I hope amplify the structure Im trying to construct. Finally, Ive talked a bit about the methods I use for organizing and analyzing archetypal phenomena.
Once upon a time Louis Sullivan wrote to his uncle:
I wonder if Tm going to have as much trouble with my architecture as I have had in trying to make a few verses to a butterfly. For I have a dawning suspicion that making a real building, as you would call it, and making a real poem, are pretty much one in the same thing.!/ (Emphasis added.)
Sullivans suspicion is the theme which shapes this entire book.
Two of Sullivan's ideas are particularly important for my argument. First, he likens making or designing a building to organizing and writing a poem. More than steel and concrete, the power inherent in image, the dynamic potential of imagination, brings space and structure into being. Both the building and the poem are made up; each is a kind of fiction. The notion that architecture or planned space can be understood as something made up or imagined thoroughly refreshes 1
1 Louis H. Sullivan, Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings (1918; Rpt. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1979), P. 87.
one's stale intellect. Furthermore, it suggests a second and related thought. If this building, this imagined structure is indeed like a poem, it must be organized around an image. And, as with poetry, if we understand how the images of that structure work and what they express, we can grasp inherent meaning.
The principal thesis of this study is that the image-making potential of human beings manifests itself at creative, revelatory and transformational moments in human life. It is this quintessential human faculty which generates architectural and poetic structure. Moreover, it colors place as the unconditioned experience or phenomenon of the psyche that it is. Put simply, images place us on a threshold of potential experience. And there we have an opportunity to realize how utterly tied we are to things that, superficially, we regard as wholly outside ourselves.
Image-making is surely as much what distinguishes human beings from other creatures as the power of reason. Just as reason has its particular and useful forms (e.g. logic, mathematics, law), so too, does imagination. Looking through the cultural products of human history, we are likely to be struck by recurring patterns in religion, poetry, ritual, drama, novels, architecture, fashion, myth and so on. Patterns of images tower before us. The extraordinary range cultural and geographical of universal images or symbols provides C. G. Jung the very keystone of his psychological theories, that is, the collective unconscious. More on that later.
More than anything else, this book is an account of an exploration. I have been after two specific kinds of treasure: (1) images which architectural experiences give rise to and (2) architectural images which, come to mind and inform various experiences, which have no necessary relationship to actual place. Underlying the search is my claim that the most important architectural experiences or images are archetypal.
For my argument to succeed, I must be able to distinguish between archetypal and non-archetypal experiences and images of architecture. Non-archetypal relationships forge no links to one's inner being. Nevertheless, they represent issues that dominate consciousness: those of economics, function, specifications, materials. On the whole, these turn on rationality. In other words, they are not inspired by a particular image, vision, or perception of spirit.
A numinous feeling often separates archetypal phenomena from their cool counterparts. What comes to mind just now is Stonehenge. The place possesses a stunning attraction. When the reverberations of historical, anthropological and astronomical theorizing, measuring and analyzing quiet down, the mystery of this archetypal place persists. There is something about places like Stonehenge that calls man to unceasing attempts at explanation and understanding. It is a quality at once evanescent and eternal.
The protean character of archetypes dances before us wearing many masks. First of all, an amorphous quality sometimes appears which can summon up the feeling that "the world is all ocean, and I can't swim any longer." And simultaneously, the sheltering clarity of archetypes may shine before us like a lighthouse. Another irony associated with such fleeting phenomena is that they have the power to transform us utterly. In a flash. And, curiously enough, what they mean to one person may be poles apart from the value they hold for another.
So goes Stonehenge and Delphi, Rome and Ronchamp and all the other places whose magic touches us. The stronghold of archetypal phenomena resists all attempts at intellectual reduction. Efforts to calculate their wealth can never be equal to the task. As Louise Nevelson would have put it, we have an immediate knowledge about these places before and after everything else is said. Whether it be an archetype of ritual, of figure or form, it exacts our total concentration and our guts. In other words, our being.
Simply put, the goal of this inquiry is to give life to a particular way of understanding place. The technique of tying images to experiences of special places connects architectural experience to dimensions of what it is to be a human being that would not otherwise be apparent. Also, interpreting place images that sum up attitudes or emotions may provide just the insight we need for genuine growth.
How do we get there? Which direction should we take? To find an answer I need to probe Orlando's question: "What is this place?" And beyond that, what does this place mean? What kind of significance derives from certain places or place images? In some cases, the signs we perceive are life-affirming; we feel good in these places. Others might trigger something threatening and disquieting. An inquiry which promises to address these dynamics is exciting to me. If I could have read about these matters elsewhere, I wouldn't have undertaken the study myself.
By demonstrating the ways in which archetypal images arise and "fix" one's experience, I hope to suggest a technique by which we might enrich otherwise empty or deadly space and time. I am not after any tortuous explanation of how images shape human life. Indeed, at the center of my argument sits a simple figure or form. It is an archetype which embodies neatly and quickly a range of emotions, meanings, truths all sorts of psychological stuff. If Jung's theory of the collective unconscious holds, as human beings we share archetypal images and experiences -everything from the Great Mother to the Wise Old Man, from celestial cities to the underworld.
Starting with my hunch about the relationship of archetypal images and place, I developed the habit of structuring perceptions with archetypal images that seemed to fit. Each time, an image provided deliverance from a labyrinth of crazy turns and dead ends. With the evocation of a single, simple image, the cloud of undifferentiated feelings was gone. For example, this structure darkens the view and
menaces like a giant; that place dazzles like buried treasure; an historic preservation project reads like a page tom from an ancient text.
The effect of these images is to enhance experience. Graced with an archetypal image of place, I know more about what that place means to me than I ever did before. Furthermore, after identifying or recognizing an archetype that fits, we need only name the image to communicate intuitively what otherwise would require vast amounts of rational discourse.
Over the last several years, a great body of research has grown into the discipline of environmental psychology.V This research assumes we can identify, quantify and qualify discrete elements of the physical environment (color, shape, size, and so on) and their effects. There is at least an implicit assumption that armed with such statistical data we can predict for different "user groups" their attitudes and behavior with respect to specific plans or designs. The motive or hope behind such research is that we can literally figure the greatest good for the greatest number. The practical application to architecture and planning is that we might avoid the sort of design pitfalls represented by Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis or LeCorbusier's Pessac housing project in France.
To the extent that we can anticipate and, thus, control discrepancies between theoretical concepts, design options and human needs, we should. Nevertheless, I am personally skeptical about mans ability to control these conscious variables. Somewhere in that crack of uncertainty, Tm undertaking this study of place and the human unconscious. If Fm right, if even only a small measure of uncertainty characterizes the relationship between place and being, then Tm
There are excellent examples of such work. Representative ones include: Harold M. Proshensky et al. eds., Environmental Psychology: Man and His Physical Setting (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 1970); Oscar Newman, Defensible' Space (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1972); Clifford B. Moller, Architectural Environment and Our Mental Health (New York: Horizon Press, 1968).
convinced we owe it to ourselves to bring unconscious matters to light. By stating that my bias rests for the most part with the unpredictability of human encounters with architectural phenomena, I do not deny the value of environmental design research. Still, I would keep one eye focused on its probable limits.
By electing to jump into a wilderness of unconscious and unpredictable material, I risk being ensnared by sense impressions, emotions, and other bewitching phenomena which tell of man's archetypal relationship to place. Yet if I fail to take that risk, if I fail to bring that material into conscious focus, I lose the chance to weave a tight, clean fabric around place and being.
Always along the way the touchstone is the archetype. Generically, it is the image of "magic effect."^/ Beyond that single image, whether it be the cloister, the jewel, the little house, or heavenly Jerusalem, I know I must proceed with care. I start with an individual and an image. After that, I want simply to understand (1) the ways in which we experience place and the (2) ways in which images of place help us to see ourselves and others. To get there I plan to spend as much time in blind alleys and dark comers as I do along grand avenues and in vaulted mansions. The knowledge I'm seeking reminds me of an immense Mayan city. It is waiting and hidden just behind and beneath the jungle.
What prospects are there for a study that discovers archetypal patterns in architectural experiences? If the very spontaneity of archetypal phenomena makes precise design guidelines impossible, what can the effort promise? I don't pretend to offer the certainty, however qualified, of social science research. Even in conclusion, I will hesitate to claim a formal correspondence between "cave" space and intimacy or "shrine" sites and reverence. So where am I headed?
Ira Progoff, Jung, Svnchronicitv, and Human Destiny (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1973), p. 105-6.
This venture draws its conviction from the notion that the built environment is not so much ill-designed or oppressive as that it is boring. It is not alive for us. It fails to capture our imagination. By searching through various worlds of English fiction for archetypal images associated with place, I hope to stem this indifference. In that way I hope to underscore the fundamental importance of place in human life.
Like other disciplines or professional tools, the archetypal approach to architecture is inherently limited. It cannot address and treat every critical issue. Nevertheless, images and symbols are powerful. If used consciously, they become the very heart of stories of human heroics. If we will but create personal myths of space and structure, place can give us rest, make us dance, generate laughter and bring us to our knees.
By identifying the archetypal figure or form which we feel in special environments, we place a sign there. We give significance to its spirit. At the same time, then, our sense of the place derives from our individual spirit or psyche, the source of the original image. This twist in the traditional notion of spirit of place, genius loci, is not a bit of verbal gymnastics. Without the inspiring action of the many time-honored spirits of religion, patriotism, and other cultural mores, the built environment is often without definition, focus or character. An archetypal approach to architecture creates a place of the spirit, a locus genii. That certain structures are built without express reference to the "gods" does not vitiate our ability to invest them with spiritual significance.
To take a spiritual journey into the unconscious to find an archetypal image of meaning offers no guarantee that we shall like what we find. What it does grant is an opportunity to fix an objective place with the imprint of individual spirit. In the process we restore the freshness and enthusiasm that was lost as we developed our ability to calculate construction costs, energy consumption and income
return on investment. In short, there's more to architecture than meets the eye or than appears on the balance sheet. This study aims to find it.
How to proceed? An architectural analogy may help to illustrate the overall foundation and structure of this archetypal approach to place and being. AsT look at my humble "monument to truth," the theme and objectives constitute the foundation. Assumptions constitute the large structural members on which the images hang. Just as some architects have an aesthetic preference for revealing structural members on the finished surface, I, too, want to show how this edifice holds together. When were able to see the supporting elements, the joints and fastenings, the finished product is not only an object to admire, but also a structure we can trust.
In the first place, this book assumes that the concept of the human unconscious is a crucial focus to any attempt to understand our relationship to place. Implicit here is the idea that the unconscious is working to some extent in all human activity, including architectural design and experience. For the most part people seem comfortable acknowledging the unconscious and its presence. At the same time, we limit its scope to the psychological dynamics which gives us dreams and whatever else that is inexplicable or bizarre. If we impose such a limit, we will fail to recognize instances when the unconscious has its affect on what appears to us as wholly rational.
To claim that the unconscious appears only in dreaming or fantastic guise or that it functions arbitrarily, and thus, unreasonably and without meaning, is at best a dubious proposition. What strikes me as especially unwarranted in such a claim is the implicit assumption that reason, prized so highly as it is, suddenly and unaccountably goes to lunch while were dreaming or engaged in other activities of
the imagination. What intellectual myopia! Just how are rigorous rationalists going to explain human phenomena that, admittedly, are quirky and elusive. To dismiss difficult matters as immaterial to the serious work of advancing human knowledge is simply to dodge facts. That image-laden, unconscious material doesn't always fit traditional categories of rationality need not discredit it as meaningful or manageable.
Still, what are we to do with this strange stuff? Jung spent his entire professional career engaged in efforts to show the reasonableness of unusual and unpredictable phenomena. And indeed, that guage of "reasonableness' does seem to extend a circle of protection around unconscious, archetypal offspring. If Reality, Truth, Reason and Rationality congregate in one camp, traditionally dreams, fantasy, irrationality, nonsense and mystery rally together in the other. Magic and mystery battle reason and reality, and if we're smart, reason prevails. Right? I wonder. Is the measure of human value determined that easily? By committing myself to a study of what Owings calls "the great thing that architecture is all about," am I irretrievably lost to a game of nonsense?
Under the compelling but blinding light of logic, the Reason mystery dichotomy obscures the continuum of human expression. The continuum is marked by a high incidence of unevenness as well as by an astonishing integrity. The dichotomy suggests that all human expression has a place somewhere along a line. Moving linearly from one pole toward the other, there's no guarantee of ever returning to the pole left behind. Direction along the line is "one-way." We might better consider the sphere as a formal image of expression and response. Movement across a sphere toward one pole inevitably leads toward the other. Then the two poles mystery and reason represent points of emphasis of a single reality. Neither is inherently more serious or reliable than the other; each stands tall and clear. We are not asked to
choose between Dionysus or Apollo. In fact, the value of each grows in the light of the other and, thereby, attests to the complexity of the human psyche.
A final question may be in order here: Where did they ever come from -these two massive grab bags into which we sort each bit of experience, knowledge and emotion? If history teaches us that what we may regard as truth will change as we obtain new information, what good can ever come from characterizing certain phenomena as inherently more credible or valuable than others? To take a more moderate position, we might reasonably assume that all human phenomena collectively (e.g., dreams and myths, logic and mathematics) fall into either one camp or the other. Either all human activity is nonsense, or it all makes sense. For my part, I assume that every manifestation of the human psyche, conscious and unconscious, has meaning and relevance. The bottom line is that I don't know enough not to take them seriously.
This discussion should not be construed as an apology for the unconscious. Instead it is a caution against deciding too quickly what properly falls within or without the scope of one's serious consideration. Moreover, while I applaud the value of a generous intellect, I also know full well that an unmeasured scheme can topple an entire structure. Concepts like the unconscious will often explode from the sheer volatility of their contents: paradox, chaos and creation, primal origins and the like. To mitigate such a possibility I rely throughout on psychological theories which have withstood substantial testing and evaluation.
Indeed, the entire study rests on the assumption that Jung's observations about the nature and structure of the psyche provide a theoretical and pragmatic basis for analyzing personal and cultural phenomena. Jung's idea of the collective unconscious and his theory of archetypes provide for integrating human behavior and cultural phenomena widely separated by time and geography.
In his researches into human experience, Jung seems to have been most impressed by recurring psychological and symbolic patterns in myth, religion, dreams, art and behavior. Traditional explanations for such phenomena either deliberate borrowing from history or cultural diffusion through trade or proximity -proved unsatisfactory. Accordingly, Jung hypothesized that people must share a common psychic structure. It must be comparable to muscle and bone structures and to all the other systems that constitute human beings. As observation and empirical evidence substantiated these ideas, Jung gradually developed his mature theories. He claims that archetypes make up the very structure of the psyche. Going further, he asserts that they are the vital, if unconscious, origin of universal symbols and story motifs prevalent throughout history.
Jung's principal source of empirical data on the unconscious was dream material his patients' and his own. Dreams but also religion, mythology and alchemy revealed remarkable patterns of form, figure, process and situation. Jung claims that the archetypes thus manifest are all that we can ever experience of the unconscious. Significantly, we know and experience these phenomena consciously.
The chapters that follow treat archetypes in great detail. Studying Jung's ideas brings to mind mythic rites of initiation: the promise of revelation is before us; we must move "just so" or risk losing the way. I want to make sure that my test of Jung's theories begins on a sure footing. Accordingly, Chapters Three and Four lay the groundwork while also beginning to build the theme of place and being. Each chapter amplifies the classic works of Jungian psychology. Chapter Four presents a checklist of the rudiments of archetypes and archetypal experience. As I interpret Jung, any image, experience or other phenomenon must meet one or more of these threshold criteria if it is to be deemed archetypal.
Archetypes cannot be all things to all people at all times. There are distinctions to be made. While the archetypal feast tempts one to excess, we will
satisfy ourselves only if we share in it selectively. Throughout this book I am committed to understanding what archetypal experience is. I am also determined to know what it isnt. With that in mind in Chapter Five, I am particularly drawn to the idea of keeping a sharp focus on archetypal images. Even at the risk of underestimating their riches, I want to begin to specify what these images mean and what they don't mean* Jung went great lengths to emphasize the protean character of archetypes. Observing that spirit, still I think it is useful to develop archetypal material as if it had clearly defined, universally recognized boundaries.
According to Jung, there are techniques by which we can undertake and
complete what he calls a "rigorous process of understanding.",!/ For those familiar
with the clinical methods of psychology, survey instruments and laboratory testing,
the approach I take to meet Jung's standard may seem unorthodox. The unorthodoxy
is only apparent; it is chiefly designed to disarm. Above all else, the subject of Place
& Being requires a method that at least in some rudimentary way can measure
meaning. The monumental awesomeness of such a task reminds me of Rilke's words
about the sculptural challenges Rodin once faced:
Here was a task as immense as the world. And he who stood before it and perceived it was an unknown whose hands groped for their bread in darknessJj/
Before that darkness what posture or attitude helps? What method?
First, I need an approach as full of life as my subject. The approach will have to penetrate every corner of the human psyche. At the same time it must be
^ C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffe, trans. by Richard and Clara Winston (tfew York: Vintage Books, 1965), p. 188. All subsequent references to this book will be indicated by initials MDR.
5 Rainer Maria Rilke, Rodin (Peregrine Smith, Inc., 1979), p. 20.
agile enough to take all the unexpected turns of place and being. It should be
comfortable standing on its head, too, because oftentimes things end up upside
down. Finally, I need a method that does not exact certainty from its material.
Were after understanding and explanation, not proofs as to why things are as they
are. After all, archetypal meaning is rarely streamlined and tidy. As Jung notes,
An archetypal content expresses itself, first and foremost, in metaphors. If such a content should speak of the sun and identify it with the lion, the king, the hoard of gold guarded by the dragon, or the power that makes for the life and health of man, it is neither the one thing nor the other, but the unknown third thing that finds more or less adequate expression in all of these similes, yet to the perpetual vexation of intellect remains unknown and not to be fitted into a formula.
In Heaven and Hell Aldous Huxley describes his sense of how to approach the human psyche.
Like the earth of a hundred years ago, our mind still has its darkest Africas, its unmapped Bomeos and Amazonian basins. In relation to the fauna of these regions we are not yet zoologists, we are mere naturalists and collectors of specimens. The fact is unfortunate; but we have to accept it, we have to make the best of it. However lonely, the work of the collector must be done, before we can proceed to the higher scientific task of classification, analysis, experiment and theory making^/
And collection will be one of the principal tasks of this book. As a method, collection requires that we take whatever we find that pertains to architecture and archetypes.
C. G. Jung, Collected Works, Trans. R.F.C. Hull (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), The Archetype and the Collective Unconscious, Vol. 9, Part I, f 267. NOTE: Standard practice for citing Jung's Collected Works is to give the designation CW followed by the applicable volume and paragraph. I will adhere to the standard for all subsequent references to the Collected Works.
7 Aldous Huxley, Heaven and Hell (New York: Perennial Library Harper Sr Rowe, Publishers, 1955, 1956), p. 1-2.
Right on the heels of collection, though, comes the effort to organize the mass of material that we find. In Chapter Five I describe a variety of ways for taking careful note of when archetypes occur, what circumstances surround their appearance and what individual characteristics correspond to particular images. We want to be able to talk about what we find. To that end we want a method for organizing the material.
Moreover, any effort to measure or analyze archetypal meaning must rely on definition, on limits of some sort. In the case of psychological reactions we are on reasonably firm ground if we work with the traditional associations that human beings have for specific images. As we will see later in Chapters Five and Six, the traditional context that embraces each archetypal image grows out of historical events, religious ideology, cultural predilections and a host of human eccentricities. Finally, the test of how close we come to delimiting archetypal meaning is simple enough: does the explanation or amplification hit home? Does it strike the right note?
Where do we begin? Human beings begin to make sense of their experience when they make up stories. In the architectural and planning literature, the typical story is one about design process, construction economics, new materials and so on. In contrast, consider the story I'm tracking. What I'm after is the perception, the experience of place that is defined by images or by symbols that people have within whether they've been expressed or not.
To find and collect archetypal images Fve undertaken a search through works of fiction. In addition to stressing the value of dream material, Jung advocated what he called "active imagination" as a particularly useful tool for amassing unconscious resources. Because of its obvious and close parallels with active imagination, fiction, too, promises a wealth of archetypal images.
This so-called "novel" method seems especially suited for focusing on architecture and archetypes. I assume that novelists are generally free of the psychological or mental constraints posed by economics, design theory, statistics and the like. As a result, novels like dreams are in large measure informed by intuitive material. Consequently, the novel method will illuminate the dynamic relationship between architecture and human expression.
Like architecture, fiction is something made up, built up. Bit by bit, image by image, an author assembles the elements of his story. Brick upon brick, said Henry James of The Portrait of a Lady JL/ Indeed, architecture plays a huge role in fiction structures. Because writers use language, and especially images, to build fiction worlds, they quite literally open doors for us. Through the physical world of fiction in Chapter Six, we can enter the archetypal creation of place and being.
Not surprisingly, this book is committed to the possibility of definition. With that in mind I want to make a disclaimer. Much of my inquiry derives its substance from words which are necessarily (by definition) vague. Magic, mystery, symbol, significance these do not lend themselves to crystalline definition. We dont need definitions of these words as much as we need essays on what they mean. In spite of that, I think it is fair to say that we all have an intuitive understanding of these words. They sing to us.
The four words I discuss in detail represent crucial points of my argument. They are the meeting points around which everything else revolves. With respect to each I have particular ideas, biases and emphases in mind. And for that
8 Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1881; rpt. England: Penguin Books 1966), p. xiii.
reason it seems important that I characterize them according to the particular cast they have for me.
The most comprehensive understanding of the word archetype and the
use I make of it stems from the work of C. G. Jung. He writes:
... I tried to give a general view of the structure of the unconscious. Its contents, the archetypes, are as it were the hidden foundations of the conscious mind, or, to use another comparison, the roots which the psyche has sunk not only in the earth in the narrower sense but in the world in general. Archetypes are systems of readiness for action, and at the same time images and emotions. They are inherited with the brain structure indeed they are its psychic aspect. They represent, on the one hand, a very strong instinctive conservatism, while on the other hand, they are the most effective means conceivable of instinctive adaptation. They are thus, essentially, the chthonic portion of the psyche, if we may use such an expression that portion through which the psyche is attached to nature, or in which its link .with the earth and the world appears at its most tangible.
We experience archetypes only indirectly and always consciously. They
come to us as images or symbols, patterns of behavior or experience. Erich Neumann
explains Jung's idea in this way:
Symbolic images, as archetypal representations must be distinguished from the "archetypes an sich." An archetype an sich is an "irrepresentable factor," a disposition which starts functioning at a given moment in the development of the human mind and arranges the material of consciousness into definite patterns.
For this reason, Jung says that "the archetypes exist preconsciously, and presumably they form the structural dominance of the psyche in general. They may be compared to the invisible presence of the crystal lattice in a saturated solution." Not only does it act as a magnetic field, directing the unconscious behavior of the personality through the pattern of behavior set up by the instincts; it also operates as a pattern of vision in the
9 C. G. Jung, CW, Vol. 10, f 53.
consciousness, ordering the psychic material into symbolic images.'
The etymology of archetype clarifies all this- The Greek archetupos corresponds to its English equivalent and is defined as "an archetype, pattern, model."!!/ In certain respects the notion of archetype as model parallels Jung's sense of archetypes as "systems of readiness for action." The archetype is a model, but of what and how the model works we're still uncertain.
Looking at each part of the word, the roots, helps considerably. The first component arche amplifies the idea of a model. The definition reads; "A beginning, origin, first cause."!!/ These definitions, coupled with Jung's notion of action, suggest a monumental order of existence and event.
There are a number of verb forms employing the arche root. In every case principal meanings turn on the sense of origin; making a beginning, beginning with, leading the way. Other definitions tie this "beginning" to the idea of authority. These definitions (to lead, to govern, to rule over) assist in distinguishing archetype from any other words which suggest formal patterns or models of potential creation!!/
The last part of "archetype," tupos means first a blow, the effect of a blow, the print or impress, of a seal. Subsequent definitions include: anything wrought of metal or stone; a figure, image, statue. And finally, the general form or
10 Erich Neumann, The Great Mother, Trans. Ralph Manheim (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 6-7.
H An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, founded on Liddell and Scott's Seventh Edition (London: Oxford University Press, 1889, 1964), p. 121.
12 Liddell and Scott, p. 121.
13 Liddell and Scott, p. 122.
character, the type or model of a thing.il/ In a curious and redundant way tupos hammers home the idea of arche.
So finally, what does archetype give us? On one level, the model of a model. Redundancy, while emphatic, merely stalls the effort toward definition. What happens if we integrate the various meanings associated with archetype? The definition of archetype then reads like this: a model which, by virtue of its original (prior to all other) authority, formally governs all subsequent creation, that is, determines the shape of all the stuff of this world.
Occasionally, we uncover something baffling, yet rich beyond measure. Such is the case now. Here is a word, a concept, that marches before us an awesome host of meanings. All of them resonate with power and a kind of mystery. Original, first cause, authority, the character of things they all speak of essential being and creative process.
Is the search for Greek roots useful? I believe it is. For example, writers often use archetype when their meaning is plainly limited to what the word prototype provides. A distinction between the two is important and useful. More than anything else, what distinguishes archetype from prototype is that notion of authority and of being present at the creation. The root meanings associated with "proto" include the notion of being first in time, prior, before, sooner, or earlier J-^/ In contrast, archetype suggests the model present at the beginning, before time, the form of things inherent in psychical human nature. To be sure, historical prototypes often generate a profound and celebrated appreciation of earlier cultures. Yet, for all the potential or actual evocativeness of prototypical form, prototype lacks the ancient authority and primal resonance of archetype.
^ Liddell and Scott, p. 824.
15 Liddell and Scott, p. 702.
The word architecture is straightforward enough. It refers to buildings individually and collectively. Beyond that, architecture is the practice of designing structures and shaping space. At its simplest, then, architecture gives rise to structure and space. From there, what constitutes architecture becomes more complicated. Does every gas station and ice cream shop fit the category? What are the criteria for architecture?
Over the centuries writers have attempted to distinguish architecture from mere building. Their essays are invariably fascinating. Nevertheless, to undertake another such definition of architecture is not my intention. Because I must consider any element or image that creates archetypal place, what qualifies as architecture is potentially unlimited: lighthouses, castles, front porches, rear windows, broom closets and music boxes.
While not equivalent enterprises, planning and architecture are nevertheless unalterably related. No doubt many planners would shy away from too broad a characterization of their profession. For me planning is an analytical and disciplined process which anticipates need and chooses among alternatives for defining, shaping and using space. The architectural dimensions of such an activity are clear. For that reason, an acceptable definition of architecture will entail whatever affects human beings in their relationship to space and structure. For our purposes such a class will encompass elements of the built environment, as well as images of place and structure.
Again an etymological search for roots rewards us with fascinating material. Architecture is more complicated than we thought. What we find is a radical or root connection with archetype which establishes architecture's significance whose dimensions we could not have envisioned.
The lexicon definition builds an architecture we've never seen before. At
first techne and its derivatives are defined as we might expect, namely, as art, skill, and craftsmanship. Then the astonishment! Just as the word begins to come into focus, the craft turns upside down and around. The techne root embodies another central idea, namely, that of cunning and artifice, all the tools of the tricksterJjL/
If we take these root meanings seriously, where do they lead? Where do we fit the idea that architecture is an activity designed to trick us? Ironically, this search has led back to the point of origin. For all its straightforward "form follows function" character, architecture does, at times, trick and bequile. Its magic, then, is an intrinsic part of the entire enterprise. Indeed, architectures prefix arche underscores the fundamental and original nature of this bewitching business of space and structure.
Certainly hundreds, and probably thousands, of volumes have been written on the subject of being. Philosophers and other writers have developed complex arguments distinguishing being from doing, being from becoming, being from believing. They would persuade us that beyond, beneath, beside all our other human qualities, there is still Being which has no other possible name and which is our essence. The presumption goes like this: if you eliminate all our human qualities including "existence," there would still be "being." I'm not convinced. Occasionally, my academic training in philosophy inclines me to regard these arguments with the kind of interest I often have for an exhibition of medieval artifacts. But finally, ontological gymnastics are more maddening than meaningful.
16 Liddell and Scott, p. 804.
How can we understand being as some irreducible, last bit remaining after all other attributes have been identified and discarded. Being would seem to be more accurately defined as an immense, expansive potential for perception, feeling, activity and reflection. In short, being seems better served if we regard it as the aggregate of all that we are and can be in relation to ourselves and all that surrounds us.
One final point. The unconscious origin and workings of archetypes commands tremendous attention. And yet, the spontaneous dynamics of archetypes tells only part of the story. It is crucial that we not misconstrue this prevailing emphasis on unconscious forces. Claiming the unconscious, its archetypes and all the rest as a central element of human nature, Jung never underestimates the value of consciousness. His words ring true: "Mans capacity for consciousness alone makes him man.!!/ And elsewhere: "The reason why consciousness exists, and why there is an urge to widen and deepen it, is very simple: without consciousness things go less welLlS/
Avowed empiricist that he was, Jung repeatedly underscores the crucial role of consciousness. During a visit to Africa, Jung experienced what he described as the "stillness of the eternal beginning, the world as it had always been in the state of non-being."i2/ In that moment Jung understood that consciousness launches man into the role of creator. Through the agency of man's consciousness, the world springs into being.
Without consciousness there would, practically speaking, be no world, for the world exists for us only in so far as it
17 C. G. Jung, CW, Vol. 8, U 412.
18 C. G. Jung, CW, Vol. 8, f 695.
19 Jung, MDR, p. 255.
is consciously reflected by a psyche. Consciousness is a precondition of being.'
And therein lies the rub. No place can exist for us without our being conscious of its spirit, of letting it come into our very being. The tie that finally binds place and being is consciousness. Getting to consciousness looms as one of the hardest and most essential of human adventures: "The hero's main feat is to overcome the monster of darkness," said Jung.21/ To the extent that we fail to understand things, we remain trapped in the dark. Potential being is unrealized: our own and that of all that surrounds us.
The "place" of Place & Being is the locus or image of largely unconscious events, emotions and memories. It is also the special, actual site where we sometimes experience the world in its and our fullness. In other words, place can correspond to actual places we visit, admire or remember. Or, place may be an image for locating fears, hopes, a time of revelation and so on.
Nowhere does place suggest a casual "any old place." In this book, place exists for and because of being, that is, human beings and all the ways they are connected to place either in the environment or in the psyche.
When I began this book, place stamped itself on my consciousness as more than a local or limited complex of space and structure. In fact, place takes us on a journey that reveals significance, meaning, essence all the truths which affect us directly and deeply. The very way we talk about place reveals the extent to which it is set apart from any vague, undifferentiated background: "I know a certain place ." "There's a special place ..." "If you get a chance, one place ..." "One place I
20 C. G. Jung, CW, VoL 10, 1 528.
21 C. G. Jung, CW, Vol. 9 Part 1, 1 284.
especially remember "More than any other place, the one I want to visit .. ." "When I die, the place .." "As a child there was one place that meant more to me Place writes the story of human life. Place is witness to human sacrifice and transformation, comedy and tragedy..
The Idea of the Archetype
This chapter intends to amplify the idea of the archetype by a somewhat oblique path. The rationale for what might appear to be a digression is this: it seems necessary^ or at least desirable, to tailor the method of presentation to the subject itself. For all their crystalline purity and immediacy, archetypes are best apprehended when we have a "feel" for them. Archetypes are a matter of ambience. Definition is only part of their story. To appreciate the idea of archetype is to have a certain intellectual style.
If we are to develop a genuine ability to make up archetypal stories of architectural essence, having a sense of myth and alchemy is crucial. To that end in this chapter I will present myth and alchemy in almost essay-like fashion. These two
play continually around the edges of our principal subject, images and architecture. They warrant our attention even as they diffuse our focus.
Before that, though, I will take a look at selected excerpts from architectural publications. Trying to ascertain the extent of professional interest in the affective dynamics of architecture, I discovered some fascinating material. Accordingly, Ive presented a number of examples from different sources that demonstrate an interest in exploring or developing critical approaches sensitive to psychology, symbolism, archetypes. Following that, I describe Jungs analytical, empirical style and emphasize its importance to the themes we're developing. Also I spend time discussing traits that are distinctively human. Notable among these is imagination. Let it be worthy of the challenges before it.
A Certain Style
There has lately grown into use in the arts a silly pedantic term under the name of Aesthetics ... It is however one of the metaphysical and useless additions to nomenclature in the arts in which the German writers abound*!'
So comments an author named Gwilt in the Encyclopedia of Architecture of 1842. And what historic treasure that comment is. The study of archetypal dynamics might well meet similar commentary and dismissal today. What accounts for intellectual fashion? Aesthetics today enjoys widespread acceptance. In fact, it represents a familiar, useful and invaluable focus for analysis and appreciation of art and architecture.
In contrast, archetypal studies and observations maintain a position vacillating somewhere between the aerie of metaphysical speculation and the costume jewelry counter at a suburban shopping mall. Between pretentious solemnity and foolish exhibitionism. In light of the tremendous attention given to archetypes in scholarly circles and among Jungian analysts, it is not surprising to find the word archetype filtering into popular fields. After all, it represents a certain style.
What is perhaps most remarkable about the diffusion of the idea of
archetype is the extent to which it has permeated architecture. Among the more
dramatic examples of this trend was the appearance in 1979 of an ambitious
architectural journal called simply "Archetype." The editors began the premier issue
with a candid and revealing comment:
Could we have one meeting without arguing endlessly about the name ARCHETYPE and talk about the substance of the magazine.!/
1 Oxford English Dictionary, p. 147.
2 Archetype, Volume 1, No. 1, Spring 1979, p. 4.
Above all, the word is not simple; nor need it provoke endless argument. Nonetheless, any substantive discussion that takes place under the archetypal rubric stands to benefit from a good faith inquiry into all its dimensions.
All too often the search into unknown lands is not made; the block of stone remains uncarved. No relief. No definition. The quandary of uncarved words is genuine. For one thing, we rely on their sheer evocative power without knowing or examining what is called into play. The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard is especially clear about all this. He cautions against any casual use or reading of powerful, magic words. For him the word "ancestral" demonstrates the point J/ Our feeling about things ancestral is acute as incisive as the word itself. Considered as a value of the imagination, ancestral charms us. By itself the word and its atmosphere explains nothing. So it is with archetype. Without theoretical underpinning the word conveys little more than a generalized sense of mystery and ancient patterning.
Before going on to theory, we have to address a preliminary task: we must free archetype from the popular maze without sacrificing its vitality. First a look at the maze. The architectural literature on archetypes is like a trip through a house of mirrors: wrong turns, banged heads, and ever hopeful angles. The visit is compelling and confounding. Consider the following examples.
At one point in this writings, architectural historian Vincent Scully flatly rejects any suggestion that he might believe Jung's concept of the collective unconscious (and presumably the archetypes) accounts for unconscious design
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964), p. 187-18^
parallels.!/ The upshot of Scully's protest is to draw attention to Jung. What is the potential applicability of his ideas to architecture? Scully gives no reasons either for or against the substance of Jung's theories. One can only wonder why he raised the subject in the first place.
Elsewhere Scully responds to architecture in ways which only Jung's analytical style would seem to be able to fathom. For example, in a chapter entitled "Order and Archetype, 1885," he describes ". the archetypal intensity toward which one feels the deepest yearnings of its period .. Jj/ Throughout the chapter Scully seems mesmerized by that intensity of form. He mentions: the "intensification of the consciousness of space;"!/ the fact that "casual scale of cottage architecture has been intensified;!/ that intensity generates a "powerful subjective reality;"!/ to the end that a building "... not merely receives the individual but forms him."!/ Finally Scully comments that one architect achieved "the plastic revelation of those architectural archetypes toward which his age had been tending: the massive platform, the precise posts, the solemn gable."!!/ The fullness of an age pressing toward formal expression this language would seem to raise more questions than it answers. This is the tone we met in conjunction with Barragan's landscape
4 Vincent Scully, Jr., Modem Architecture (New York: George Braziller, 1965), p. 114.
Vincent Scully, Jr., The Shingle Style and the Stick Style, revised edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971), p. 120.
6 Scully, Shingle Style, p. 122.
7 Scully, Shingle Style, p. 124.
8 Scully, Shingle Style, p. 124.
9 Scully, Shingle Style, p. 124.
10 Scully, Shingle Style, p. 127.
designs. It is grand and mysterious. To use the pop psychology vernacular, where is the man coming from? What does it all mean?
On one level Scully's suggestion is clear: archetypal form corresponds to intensity and coherence which he finds "vibrating with archaic directness.".!!/ This has the ring of our definition of archetype in Chapter Two: the sound of origins and order and creative authority.
Interestingly enough, and more recently, Scully has experienced architecture in accordance with a decidedly figural perception.
... the Low House, rediscovered, was like the chthonic apparition of a tremendous and hitherto unsuspected local force: a giant out of this earth. It was one enormous gesture, one fundamental act. The continuous diagonal planes of its great gable seemed stronger, clearer, and, as I liked to say then, more "archetypal" than any of the more recently modem forms I had seen up to that time
Elsewhere his remarks point toward an archetypal interpretation or appreciation such as Jung himself might have given. Discussing Michael Graves' work, Scully is struck by its "densely packed, menacing space ." with volumes "hollowed out by a curious, tentative exploring which operates like a mole, or sometimes like a spade and so shapes caverns, grottoes, mysteriously encrusted subterrannean halls."!^/
I don't suppose Scully would disagree with the contention that these words are emotion-laden, as is the architecture under scrutiny. More importantly, I don't want to be understood as reproaching him for failing to take up the banner for Jungian interpretation of architecture and architectural imagery. After all, my
11 Scully, Shingle Style, p. 127.
12 Vincent Scully, The Shingle Style Today or the Historian's Revenge (New York: George Braziller, 1974), p. 4.
*** Vincent Scully, "Vincent Scully on Michael Graves Monograph," Architectural Design, Vol. 49, No. 10-11 (1979), p. 278.
preoccupation with Scully is simple enough: I find his words curious and compelling. There seems to be something inherently desirable in sorting through their implications.
On the one hand, Scully explicitly disavows reliance on a Jungian explanation of design parallels. And yet, he repeatedly presents architectural responses in a way that "feels" like the rudiments of Jungian commentary. The tip-off is the use of images and the psychological tone of the whole thing. His words lead into a chamber of nuance and color and feeling. We end up caught, going around in circles, still in the house of mirrors. And the problem remains: how to get out of this archetypal maze of words?
Another article directs the architectural search for clarity closer to Jung. Charles Jencks, author and classifier of contemporary architectural phenomena, latches onto the ordering function of archetypes rather than their vibrating intensity.ii/ For him an archetype is "the" formal matrix out of which develop design variations. The archetype is primal and primitive. Archetypal expression is the product of a "purification ritual." It represents a reduction to fundamentals. The group of archetypes which attract his attention includes: the semicircle, rectangle, pyramidal roof and square window.
Jencks is rather exacting in his emphasis on the formal character of archetypes, their geometry and their impersonality. He understands and responds to this brand of aesthetic fundamentalism. But finally, he wonders if that is the whole story. His conclusion bears a remarkable resemblance to the sort of truths which psychology offers. As I interpret what he says, design archetypes like their
Charles Jencks, 'Introduction Archetypes and Order," Architectural Design, Vol. 5/6 (1980), p. 14.
psychological counterparts owe their magical power to their origins in the essential fabric of what it is to be human.
Having identified the expressive power of archetypal constants
(universals), Jencks speculates on metaphysical issues inherent in architecture:
.. what are the truths to which this order refers? Unlike their classical predecessors, the fundamentalists do not have a single cosmic order, a Christian or Pythagorean faith, on which to base their archetypes, and thus they indicate a psychological desire for order, a social, not transcendent, truth.'
The talk about metaphysics immediately takes Jencks to the realm of the psyche, and, I might add, the collective unconscious. That is the place of the spirit the metaphysical place where social, that is, human connections are made, identified and experienced.
Archetypes seem always to be understood as references. They represent our sense of something other than what appears before us. Metaphysicians are called to investigate universal entities, as well as the relationships these have to human experience. Psychologists involve themselves in a similar exploration. They travel from observable phenomena into a metaphysical, speculative realm. They try to get behind or above what is obvious and conscious. Like metaphysicians, they attempt to build a systematic and coherent universe. It must be one that contains every conceivable phenomenon and also the hypothetical essences or ideas to which everything refers.
Jung was no exception to this pattern. What is remarkable in all this is the extent to which architectural criticism looks to Jung for perspective. That fundamentally material enterprise architecture assumes finally a non-material
Jencks, "Introduction," p. 14.
prominence. There is something about Jung's style of mind that attracts those searching for the essence which stands behind the common material threshold of architecture.
Sometimes the call to archetypal analysis of architecture misses the mark that Jung established. For example, in attempting to place one of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo's buildings in historical context, one writer urged a Jungian archetypal analysis of the forms. 16/ But in suggesting a frame of reference for the analysis, she offered prototypes, not archetypes: all the examples proposed were historical models. And as we've seen, Jung's archetypal model is fundamental; it is not limited or otherwise defined by time. It pervades the human psyche and only exists in the world like the proverbial tip of an iceberg. Actual form what we experience out there is the material of prototypes. Through the creative process (of art, personal development, etc) archetypal form comes into being and receives some characteristic essential image.
A recent article on the Swedish architect Erik Gunner Asplund provides
another example of a movement toward Jungian analysis of architecture. There the
author analyzes symbolic motifs prevalent in Asplund's work. The critical thrust is
psychology, that is, the study of the unconscious reservoir of images and emotion.
While no specific mention is made of Jung, the affinity with his concerns is genuine.
Asplunds symbolism appears to be intuitive, based on deeply felt and freely mixed associations. If he uses traditional mythic figures, he places (displaces) them in a new context and gives their meaning a new vitality. Thus we can see Asplunds work as sharing certain concerns with modern literature and the Surrealist movement in art
Suzanne Stephens, The Colossus of Roche, Architectural Forum, Vol. 140, No. 2 (March, 1974), p. 26.
through their conscious interest in archetypes, dreams, and the unconscious.
In another example we find a similar interest in psychology. Moreover, the architectural criticism of Frank Gehry's California house explicitly argues on behalf of Jungian themes:
It can be approached in several ways: as architecture, as a curiosity, as art, or as psychological revelation. The first three paths are well worn .. What remains is for someone adept in psychology and fluent in English to examine Gehry's house as a manifestation of nonlinear logic, .visual symbolism and the Jungian collective unconscious J-2/
The plea for taking a close look at the relations between the unconscious and architecture has reached monumental proportions. The unconscious elements of design and of architectural experience, as well as the architectural images of dreams, fantasy and other human experiences, await scrutiny. And, the first step in clarifying these dynamics is to examine C. G. Jung and his ideas.
In the first place, for all his searches through the passages of the human unconscious and its often strange contents, Jung's approach is one we can understand. As I mentioned earlier, Jung is determinedly an empiricistJj?/ That is to say, he starts with material he actually observes or experiences. From these natural phenomena he proceeds to construct his theories as to the psychical composition of human beings. Jung states his professional calling simply enough in Memories, Dreams, Reflections: "I must get to know nature, the world in which we live, and the things around us."'1
1 Stuart Wrede, "Asplund: form and metaphor," Progressive Architecture, February, 1980, p. 90.
John Pastier, "Of Art, Self-Revelation and Iconoclasm," AIA Journal, Mid-May, 1980, p. 169.
19 Jung, CW, Vol. 9, 1,1 149.
20 Jung, MDR, p. 85.
The ingenuousness of these words cannot gloss over the fact that Jung gave much of his attention to admittedly bizarre and arcane material. Even so, he approached every subject with a genuine curiosity which, finally, gives credence to his methods and discoveries. When treating strange manifestations of human behavior, fantasies or imagination, Jung approached the phenomena analytically but without preconceptions, earnestly and with apparent good humor.
More than anything, reasonableness informs Jung's methods ,217 Dogmatism and strict unvarying techniques had no place in Jung's work. On this issue Jung was confident:
I am often asked about my psychotherapeutic or analytic method. I cannot reply unequivocally to the question. Therapy is different in every case.... Psychotherapy and analysis are as varied as are human individuals. I treat every patient as individually as possible, because the solution of the problem is always an individual one. Universal rules can be postulated only with a grain of salt. A psychological truth is valid only if it can be reversed. A solution which would be out of the question for me may be just the right one for someone else.
Naturally, a doctor must be familiar with his so-called "methods.' But he must guard against falling into any specific, routine approach. In general, one must guard against theoretical assumptions.... In my analyses they play no part. I am unsystematic very much by intention.
To my mind, in dealing with individuals, only individual understanding will do .22/
We shouldn't mistake Jung's insistence on unsystematic approaches toward patients and human understanding for an inability or reluctance on his part to formulate general principles about human nature. The issue here is a matter of style. Jung's receptiveness and consideration of every sort of human phenomenon
Marie-Louise von Franz, C. G, Jung, p. 9. 22 Jung, MDR, p. 131.
and his synthesizing intellect necessitated that he conduct massive research in diverse fields. Mythology, alchemy, religion, philosophy, art and literature all paraded their wonders before his inquiring and penetrating mind.
Looking over Jung's Collected Works one has to be impressed by the monumental extent of his study of man. Moreover, if we think about all the present-day "hype" about solutions, methods, techniques, expert opinion and problemsolving, we can't help but find ourselves engaged by a man who promises so little and delivers so much.
Up to this point Ive emphasized Jung's a-methodological style, but I want to be careful not to overstate the issue. In fact, the heart of his method brings to mind a kind of comparative anthropology of images. His subject is human nature and the creative expression emotional and cultural of which human beings are capable.
To explain things which seemed misfit for traditional classifications or categories, Jung was always on the lookout and prepared for surprise correspondences between the phenomenon under scrutiny and phenomena from other cultures, periods of history or forms of expression. For example, a typical Jungian analysis might draw together a woman's dream, Greek myth, a treatise on alchemy, sculptural relief from a temple in India, motifs from Yeats' poetry and images from contemporary film. Identifying common patterns in each of these, the Jungian interpreter can develop a central or key idea for penetrating to the core of a problem or question.
This cross-cultural, inter-disciplinary focus is the hallmark of Jung's sensibility. Such a focus can encompass the individual on a personal level and, at the same time, in accordance with a broad, collective human dimension. One advantage of this dual approach is that theoretically at least neither the analyst nor the subject
of a particular study (patient or cultural artifact) is subverted by a reductive line of inquiry that leads only deeper and deeper into the individual story.
The contrast between Jung's appreciation of human nature and his interpretive techniques and the reductive ones of Freud's is instructive on this point. For the most part, Freud limited his search to the individuals personal background for material to explain that persons attitudes, behavior, emotions. Furthermore, he viewed all dreams and creative work as manifestations solely of repressed sexuality. But then these ideas are commonplace; the 20th century came of age with them. And in fairness, much of what we are and express as human beings undoubtedly does derive from repressed or unacknowledged feeling.
But what happens when Jung looks at this same material? First, he is impressed by the striking patterns of images that shape personal stories and that are shared by stories (myths, rites, institutions, behaviors) from different cultures and widely separated periods of history. Had that image aspect been easily disposed of, Jung would have been without his lifes work. As it was, he dedicated his entire career to developing theories to account for the myriad connections and parallels he observed. Because of his wide-ranging inquiry and the data it produced, he was never reduced to attributing human phenomena to one source.
Another way to distinguish the work of Freud and Jung, admittedly oversimplified, is to say that Freud stopped his analysis of given phenomena when he had thoroughly constructed the individuals personal story. Jung, on the other hand, in some sense really began his analysis at the point where Freud stopped. As much the cultural analyst as personal therapist, Jung ranged freely between a personal story
and its parallels with cultural phenomena. He sought meaning through a process of filling out the data he started with through amplification^/
Amplification might be considered the twin sister to the analytic techniques of free association and active imagination. It is a discipline by which consciousness plays with meaning. Amplification is a method of bringing new material to bear on whatever dream, fantasy, or creative work initiates a search for
23 Jung, MDR, p. 310.
Marie-Louise von Franz, one of Jung's colleagues, has written on amplification. I think it is useful to quote her at some length from C. G. JungHis Myth in Our Time (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1975), p. 131. She talks about the necessity of interpreting myths psychologically if they are to have meaning for us today.
The method which Jung developed for doing this is in principle the same as that used in the interpretation of dreams. It consists chiefly in so-called 'amplification.'' This means that one gathers together motifs as analogous as possible, first from the cultural environment of the mythic symbol, then from other areas, until it becomes apparent that these different motifs are like different facets of the same basic theme. The amplifications are then placed in sequence in the narrative, which itself provides a certain selection of the amplifying images. When the collection of images has thus been enriched, then interpretation follows that is, the translation into modern psychological language, which means the connection or association of the images to psychic experience which is livable in the present. An interpretation, therefore, is never absolutely ''right,'1 but will have, to a greater or lesser degree, a "clarifying" or "illuminating" and enlivening effect. Indeed, the interpretation has no goal beyond that of reconnecting consciousness with the source of energy, which is the archetype. This source of power is the primordial spirit from which our individual consciousness has, so to speak, "differentiated itself away" and in the process lost a part of the primitive energy which is contained in the myth. It appears to be the purpose of the myth, as is the case with the dream, to keep alive in our memory our psychological prehistory, right down to the most primitive instincts, and the assimilation of the meaning of myths has the effect of broadening and modifying consciousness in such a way as to bring about a heightened aliveness.
understanding. Jung believes that the images and associations expressed through amplification come from the unconscious.
Searching for the meaning of archetypes depends ultimately on one's willingness to regard elusive issues seriously and with tremendous patience. The success of the venture thus turns on intellectual style. If we're serious about understanding the ties between architecture, place images and the unconscious, we have to grapple with archetypal phenomena as we find them. With no preconceptions or conclusions in mind; rather the way a scientist approaches empirical data as he tests hypotheses and develops his theories.
Such a style entails embracing a lot of ambiguousness. That is, perhaps, the most difficult task of all. Let me give an illustration. The path that winds to a mountain shrine in my dream may mean'' something altogether different from the path in yours. Even more confounding, the mountain path of one night's dream may the following night correspond to labyrinthine passages of a subterranean world. But even this sort of paradox is no different from that faced by scientists. One day's certainty is inevitably shaken or discarded when new information successfully lays siege to the bastions of scientific truth. In light of that it is astonishing that there is such intellectual consternation over the fact that symbols at times mean one thing and, then, turn topsy to mean just the opposite.
The question of meaning is one of interpretation. What constitutes valid interpretation. With archetypal images and experience unpredictable and multifaceted, what is the test of whether a particular interpretation is meaningful? How do we know if an interpretation is right?
The answer is almost too simple. Jung looks for what he calls lumen naturae, the light of nature, to ascertain the validity of a particular interpretation. This is how it works:
. historically viewed, the light of nature would mean what we would now call a kind of consciousness within the unconscious, or, to vary the expression, the intelligence of a dream. ... If one understands a dream, one has generally this kind of exuberant "aha reaction.!!/
At times the measure of validity is even more subtle than "aha." The
revelatory lumen naturae does not inevitably arise from an interpretation. Oblique
reflections of moonbeams may provide the only available light. Accordingly,
In the Jungian interpretation of a myth it is never a question of an "unambiguous" interpretation, but rather one of finding a new expression of the myth in modern language, an expression which can never be quite independent of the nature of the interpreter. It is a question of an "as if" which can never lay claim to absolute validity. This has irritated many scholars and researchers, but nothing can be done about it. It is always a question of whether the interpretation "sheds light" or not.!!/
How does one enter this archetypal shed of light? The interpreter relies on a selective reasoning process. Drawing upon a variety of symbolic associations, the analyst will invariably exclude certain meanings and emphasize others to interpret complex phenomena. The entire process involves a generous mix of intuition and erudition. When the pieces of an explanation fit and things make sense, the light dawns.
Often the interpretive process is a forced march of trial and error. It reminds me a lot of the way I learned long division in grade school: "Let's see, uhm, 4,297 divided by 73, now, is 73 x 6 larger than 429? Oh, well, it must be 5." And so on and so on. There may be a simpler way in mathematics, but as often as not archetypal interpretation seems to exact this tortuous, hit-or-miss approach. Still, it does work and rewards one's efforts magnificently.
Marie-Louise von Franz, Alchemical Active Imagination (Dallas: Spring Publications, 1979), p. 111.
von Franz, JungHis Myth, p. 132.
Origins and Manifestations
In the last chapter I explored the Greek roots of archetype. The central
idea there was that the word archetype suggests an image endowed with formative,
creative and original power. The idea of archetypes as present at the creation, as
there at "the Beginning," inherent in the psychical order and multitude of things
takes us right to what Jung had in mind.
There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. Endless repetition has engraved these experiences into our psychic constitution, not in the form of images filled with content, but at first only as forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action. When a situation occurs which corresponds to a given archetype, that archetype becomes activated and a compulsiveness appears, which, like an instinctual drive, gains it way against all reason and will. ...
What happens with archetypal attraction and response, then, is something far more complicated than aesthetic appreciation. Archetypes reach beyond superficial, formal arrangements of image, color and idea. While something "out there" may activate an archetype bring it into consciousness the archetype itself has its source "in here," in our very humanness. And just where do we locate the archetypes? No one says for sure. Jung refers to them variously as structures, organs of the psyche^!/ But what does that mean?
To answer that question takes us to what more than anything distinguishes Jung's thoughts from Freud's. The unconscious level that exists below or beyond what is strictly personal is, according to Jung, the original source of the universal symbols which man has expressed and to which he has responded during every stage of his development. For example, Jung says:
26 Jung, CW, Vol. 9, Part 1, f 99.
27 Jung, CW, Vol. 11, 1 845.
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 everyone of us.
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 rniconscious, on the other hand, are known as archetypes.
In another place, Jung comments,
I have often been asked where the archetypes or primordial images come from. It seems to me that their origin can only be explained by assuming them to be deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity. The archetype is a kind of readiness to produce over and over again the same or similar mythical ideas...
Repeatedly, Jung describes archetypes as psychic elements waiting to crystallize, to take form in consciousness as images and symbols. The core of this idea derives from the thought that the human psyche is a reservoir of metaphorical potential. In other words, the human psyche will express itself in images whose formal patterns we can recognize, if not anticipate, over and over again.
Always constrained by the inaccessibility of the psyche itself, Jung is painstaking in his efforts to find specific images illustrative of the workings of archetypes. Here's one:
Archetypes are like riverbeds which dry up when the water deserts them, but which it can find again at any time. An archetype is like an old watercourse along which the water of life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for
28 Jung, CW, VoL 9, part 1,13
29 Jung, CW, Vol. 7, % 109.
itself. The longer it has flowed in this channel the more likely it is that sooner or later the water will return to its old bedJ*Â£/
Any such watery renewal typically heralds challenging or mysterious events.
Archetypes are a vital spring; they sustain and inform human life when every other
source of nourishment and meaning fails. Our attitude, or consciousness, is the
measure of how well the archetypal spring serves us.
In so far as an attitude is not merely an intuitive (i.e., unconscious and spontaneous) phenomenon but also a conscious function, it is, in the main, a view of life. Our conception of all problematical things is enormously influenced, sometimes consciously but more often unconsciously, by certain collective ideas that condition our mentality. These collective ideas are intimately bound up with the view of life and the world of the past centuries or epochs. Whether or not we are conscious of this dependence has nothing to do with it.... Collective ideas always have a religious character, and a philosophical idea becomes collective only when it expresses a primordial image. The great problems of life ... are always related to the primordial images of the collective unconscious. These images are balancing or compensating factors that correspond to the problems which life confronts us with in realityJL1/
Theres a simple-minded way to bring all this home. Imagine how you would react if you opened the front door and discovered a twelve-foot wall of water bearing down on your house. Pd get inside fast and slam the door. Make no mistake. I do not classify this an archetypal situation (although it might be under some circumstances). Instead, I would call such a reaction one of fear and instinct. And undeniably, these are essential elements of human nature. When they reach into our conscious lives, archetypes work the same way: certain images and patterns appear, time after time, involuntarily and instinctively.
30 Jung, CW, Vol. 10,1 395.
31 Jung, CW, Vol. 6, If 373.
In A Circle of Quiet Madeleine L'Engle talks at some length about
icons. Her understanding of their metaphorical life sharpens my appreciation of
what archetypes do and how they do it. It happens that a kind of glow, an aura
surrounds the word icon. That aura connotes a special class of image. One worthy of
critical and concentrated attention. According to L'Engle,
An image is something that helps us catch a glimpse of reality. A poet, a storyteller, could not work without images. Nevertheless, an image is only an image, a reflection not unlike the reflections of the shadows of reality in Plato's cave.
If an image is not easy to define, an icon is even more difficult. We usually think of icons as corrupt images which ought to be broken. But it is only the icon misused .
. which needs breaking. A true icon is not a reflection; it is like a metaphor, a different, unlike look at something, and carries within it something of that at which it looks.
In Russia or Greece, when a painter begins to learn about icons, he is taught that the icon must never look like the person it portrays, it must never be an attempt at a photographic likeness, otherwise it becomes only an image. An icon, if it "works," is more than itself; it bears a fragment of reality^"/
Archetypes draw their strength and integrity from their "iconic" participation in reality. The archetypal image or icon is a bit of pure, unvitiated nature, straight from the unconscious. We owe it the sort of reverence we might expect of the religious man as he comes before the most sublime or the most terrifying icon. This means that when a man says that he is the Eiffel Tower (not "like" it, "is" it), we are bound to regard him seriously. Not because his mind is off-the-wall, but because it has an archetype playing center stage. And that archetype merits examination.
Throughout his career Jung stressed that whatever generalizations we make about the human psyche, we make cautiously. Images and patterns of images
^ Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981), p. 17-18.
will often convey universal meaning. In spite of such indisputable truths, Jung would issue this warning: just as you come to understand a particular image or idea, you are likely to encounter it turned upside down, utterly changed. In other words, if we are to fix an image or archetype with particular meaning, we must be prepared to embrace a broad and often contradictory range of meanings. We cannot finally explain human beings, their behavior or unconscious manifestations with any precision. Moreover, as Jung says, "Nor can psychological theory be formulated mathematically, because we have no measuring rod with which to measure psychic quantities."!!/
For the most part, people celebrate the non-mathematical sensibility inherent in human beings. Somehow it rivets much of human essence to an order beyond man's intellectual control. It's not that we are left unaccountable for things, but simply that there are genuine surprises in life. When we finish defining the core of what we agree constitutes the ordinary, everyday aspects of human nature, we still want the dance in our lives that transports us to the periphery of our extraordinary selves. According to Jung, that is our chance to meet the archetypes "activated by a deviation from the middle way.!!/ That turning from the center affords the perspective necessary to see things afresh. There is the possibility of experiencing things unforeseen, startling and, oftentimes, improbable. Spontaneity and risk lurk at the archetypal edge. Even so, the edge exposes one to the uncertainty wherein lies the purest human potential for creativity and growth.
33 Jung, CW, Vol. 8,1? 417.
34 Jung, CW, Vol. 15, 1T 160.
Jung says, "If fate is benevolent, one will soon get into a tight hole."35/
That is, if we're lucky, well find ourselves on the edge, off-balance, dancing with
demons and angels. That's the place where archetypes practice their magic.
These archetypal images belong to humanity at large and can crop up autochthonously in anybody's head at any time and place, only needing favourable circumstances for their reappearance. The suitable moment for this is always when a particular view of the world is collapsing, sweeping away all the formulas that purported to offer final answers to the great problems of lifeJ^/
From the ruins emerges an order, a structure, a form-giving image. To use Yeats' image of the turning gyre, when the center cannot hold, archetypes appear in our world. They have a demonstrable existence. They strike us with the wonder we have for a newly discovered constellation. The archetype rises from the unconscious to orbit in one's consciousness. Out of the great dark void a new constellation begins to shine. We have only to watch for these archetypal lights to have them guide us.
The non-mathematical character of human beings and their experience requires no more demonstration than what we give it every day. All the same, one final point merits attention. The 'methods" or mathematical part of man will always desire a basic training manual for living on the archetypal edge. He wants a formula for realizing his essence. I am reminded of the protagonist in Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground. The formula that the underground man found to express life's great truth was 2 + 2 = 5.37/ On one level, this math is nonsense. And yet, the equation serves to draw attention to central elements of his view of man and life:
Jung, The Visions Seminars (Zurich: Spring Publications, 1976), p. 1.
36 Jung, CW, VoL 15, If 11.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground, trans. Ralph E. Matlaw, (New York: E. P. Dutton
(1) life cannot be programmed; (2) destruction, caprice and suffering are sometimes thoroughly pleasant; (3) man enjoys the creative building process more than he enjoys reaching the goal; (4) sometimes he will perversely frustrate the very goal he's been seeking; and (5) human beings are a constant source of wonder. They simply don't add up in routine ways.
Interestingly enough, the underground man associates mathematical man with "the crystal palace." For him the crystal palace is an emblem of rational, reductive life in which everything can be and is calculated. The actual and much celebrated Crystal Palace (1853) was for Dostoevsky's hero an object of contempt and horror. So what of the space he selects for himself? A plain comer underground shelters him in the incompleteness he demands. The underground man can't live as if everything is accounted for because he doesn't believe it.
Jung's approach to the unconscious and its manifestations parallels much of what the underground man believes. At times we simply can't figure things. Events happen without any apparent causal relationships. At just that moment, misplaced, uprooted and baffled, man may spontaneously conjure up an image that explains everything.
An image presents itself. Suddenly the conjuring is no mean trick. But what is the source of these images? Even if an object out there seems to give rise to sleeping giants or monsters, the images themselves strike us as wholly our own. This phenomenon is perhaps most clearly illustrated by dreams. At any rate, it seems clear that this image-making facility forges the network of human perception and experience. This ability is not something we learn in school. We do not share it with other creatures. Everywhere he looked, Jung found images (symbols, motifs, patterns of experience, typical situations) which led him to the hypothesis that these images or archetypes constitute man's basic perceiving and communicating apparatus.
An idea here that I touched on earlier is that image-making is a form of cognition. On account of it we know certain things. Just how this happens, we're not so sure. Yet, if I mention "rebirth" and tell you that I have experienced a revelation, that it led me to new awareness or knowledge about life, no scientific investigation can refute the facts. The fact of what I experience is not open to dispute.
Traditionally, science would assert that an experience that cannot be verified has no claim to validity or truth. That is, if we can't replicate certain reactions under controlled laboratory conditions, any theory about the veracity of such an experience must push us beyond the limits of credibility. But, for those who derive knowledge from the language of images, from what those images tell them, testimony about image experiences is pure truth.
The Archetypes of Myth, Alchemy and Architecture
This section explores the archetypal dimensions of myth, alchemy and architecture. It is as if these three were preeminent among all the archetypes. I hasten to add that such a notion is not the standard fare within the Jungian community. None of them is typically presented in the way we see the classic, virtually ubiquitous archetypes, e.g., the Great Mother, the Wise Old Man, the Shadow and so on. In fact, we regard myth, alchemy and architecture as relatively straightforward, if complex, phenomena and activities. Myth tells a special kind of story; alchemy looks forward to the brilliant transformation of common materials; architecture encompasses structures in the built environment as well as the practice of designing them.
At the same time, the extraordinary reach and recurring presence of myth, alchemy and architecture in Jungian thought provides evidence of their archetypal nature. Moreover, the three organize and entail so much of what is archetypal and of universal significance that each deserves individual attention.
What follows now may appear to digress from Place & Being. The discussion of myth and alchemy, especially, strikes a note that may seem peripheral to the central themes of the book. Nevertheless, I am convinced that an appreciation of how Jung and others use these concepts places us on firmer ground as we proceed to the fiction analysis of architectural images. Each functions like the castle keep. The extent of their collective riches is staggering. Only imagination can envision such treasure.
It is hardly too much to say that the bulk of what is distinctive in twentieth-century thought, in the
nonmathematical division, has been constructed around the word myth.'
For all its sweeping certainty, Northrop Frye's comment must be baffling to most readers. Without an acquaintance with the rather specialized
disciplines of literary criticism, philosophy of language, and certain areas of psychology and anthropology, it is unlikely that someone would understand myth as
anything more or other than a story of ancient times, heroes, gods and goddesses.
Carl Jung was one of those who in the twentieth century began to look at myth as something more than a story of how or why things were as they were. They perceived that myth was a primary form of expression one not limited to remote or primitive cultures^,/ In other words, he asks us to regard myth as a
natural and more or less spontaneous activity of imagination. This is an important
Northrop Frye, On Culture and Literature, ed. Robert D. Denham (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), p. 67.
39 In addition, German philosopher Ernst Cassirer is particularly notable in this respect. His books Essay on Man, Philosophy of Symbolic Forms and Language and Myth present a comprehensive analysis of the prevalence of myth and mythic phenomena in human experience and expression.
point. The common view classifies mythic tales as rather unsophisticated attempts at explaining natural phenomena, e.g.r the sun, the heavens, creation, lightning.
Advanced techniques of observation, measurement and other wonders of scientific investigation have all but done away with the myths of old. So goes the self-congratulatory gloss of modem science. Contrast with this the contemporary view that saves myth from the ragbag of worn out, discarded scientific explanations. Many anthropologists and analysts of comparative religion and literature claim that myth
is the embryo of literature and the arts, not of science, and no form of art has anything to do with making direct statements about nature, mistaken or correct. Similarly, as science does not grow out of mythology, so it can never replace mythology./
Like all the arts, in some sense, myth confronts us with our selves. Considering a story of gods caught up in eternal quests or arguing among themselves, Jung would have us regard the characters as parts of ourselves. Like fiction, myth collects images, emotions and characters and weaves them around great themes. Right away the archetypal nature of mythic elements shines through. According to Jolande Jacobi,
A symbol is never entirely abstract, but always in some way "incarnated. For this reason even the most abstract relationships, situations, or ideas of archetypal nature are visualized by the psyche as specific forms, figures, images, objects, etc. (which may be concrete, as in the case of human, animal, or plant forms, or abstract, as in the case of the circle, the cube, the cross, the sphere, etc.), or at least translated into events susceptible of being represented in images or pictorial sequences. It was this imagemaking power of the human psyche which cast the archetype of the "conflict between light and darkness, or good and evil" into the form of the hero's fight with the dragon .., or translated the archetype of the "idea of death and rebirth" into representable episodes in the life of
Northrop Frye, Creation and Recreation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980), p. 7.
a hero, or into the symbol of the labyrinth, and in general created the boundless realm of myths, fairy tales, fables, epics, ballads, dramas, etc.".!!/
We can think of fully developed myth as a cultural aggregation of archetypes brought to consciousness. But first and at its simplest, Jung says: "myth is essentially a product of the unconscious archetype."!?/ In this respect it parallels the imaginary stuff of dreams and other expressions of the creative process, including the world of architecture.
In that light we begin to grasp the significance and fascination of myths,
fairy tales and every variety of built-up phenomena. For example, Jung is emphatic
about how to regard dream contents: "One should never forget that one dreams in
the first place, and almost to the exclusion of all else, of oneself."!!/ Marie-Louise
von Franz presents this idea in a way that ultimately provides the link between the
archetypal contents of dreams and myth:
... a dream is an inner drama in which the dreamer is at the same time the spectator, the poet or playwright, the director and every character on the dream stage. All the actors embody projected elements of the dreamer's psyche, among whom the dream plays itself out!!/
As we've said, Jung considers archetypes the universal structures of the human psyche. That is, they are potential images which from time to time assume sensible form. It follows then that myth that product of the unconscious is a story built around manifest archetypes. Just as archetypes structure the unconscious, myth structures literature. Matters of human life all the stories -
Jolande Jacobi Princeton University
ii, Complex/Archetype/Symbol, trans. Ralph Manheim (Princeton: ity Press, 1959), p. 76. * 7
42 Jung, CW, Vol. 10, U 625.
43 Jung, CW, Vol. 10, 5 321.
von Franz, Jung, p. 92.
revolve on that mighty structure of encounter, conflict and resolution. And such
truths of human experience are the origins of a culture's mythic consciousness. They
represent what is or can be a story of social essence. But still we must never forget
the origin of that social phenomenon myth and its roots in the unconscious.
If ... we bear in mind that the unconscious contains everything that is lacking to consciousness, that the unconscious has a compensatory tendency, then we can begin to draw conclusions ... it will as a rule contain mythological motifs, combinations of ideas or images which can be found in the myths of one's own folk or in those of other races. The dream will then have a collective meaning, a meaning which is the common property of mankind.!!/
And so it is with myth, a decidedly social phenomenon. It is a story of intense drama and great human interest which has or acquires widespread cultural importance. The chain of being that runs to mythic forms begins with the individual spirit or psyche. It would not be far-fetched to say that myth begins with a single idea or image. Some societies place tremendous value on what is called a "big dream." These are shared, communicated in sacred gatherings and acknowledged in special and lasting ways. Indeed, big dreams assume mythic proportions. From individual archetypal origin in the unconscious, such a dream is split off and dedicated as "the commons," the traditional meeting place where people share in a collective life.
Turning the idea around a bit longer, look at what happens. A big dream
flourishes into a central and pervasive myth within a culture. Similarly, a powerful
image that we remember from childhood may acquire the character of myth. What
are we to do with that? According to Jung, if we are to get close to myth,
One would do well ... to treat every dream as though it were a totally unknown object. Look at it from all sides, take it in your hand, carry it about with you, let your
45 Jung, CW, Vol. 10, f 322.
imagination play round it, and talk about it with other people.
The same goes for all of one's imaginative life to the end that you are able to construct a cohesive and meaningful place in the world and of the world. Ive no doubt that everyone has a personal mythology, a collection of stories that tell of one's creation and transformation, of revelation and betrayal, of ancient rites, heroic exploit and foolish encounter, of place and being. There is no doubt a potential collection of architectural myths to which individuals and society might pay allegiance.
Big dreams and myths are neither erroneous nor specious. On the contrary, they provide a record of those things we value most or that we hide from most assiduously. Such "truths' may be hidden to be sure. Yet, for our search we are rewarded with striking and indisputable facts of character and experience.
A large part of the affective strength of archetypes, myths and other image-dominated fictions (including architecture) derives from their ability to reach into the tight spaces where we hide. Frye illuminates this point in explaining how it is that certain works of literature (and, presumably, art or music) become classics. What happens is that particular words or passages "haunt us with a sense of how little we know of the real dimensions of our own experience." They "refuse to go away, and remain staring at us silently until we confront them."!!/ In such a situation archetypal analysis offers great promise.
Isaac Stem has said that we don't use music to play the violin, but, rather, that we use the violin to play music. The same holds for life and myth. We don't draw on life to tell remarkable stories. But rather, we use archetypes, myths
46 Jung, CW, VoL 10, 1 320.
47 Frye, Creation, p. 13.
and other fictions as instruments to write, sing and play the human drama. We use these violins, French horns and tympani to sound the different tones of human perception. Apply this thinking to the idea of place and being. We do not use human beings to fill up or otherwise define architecture. We use architecture to shelter human beings. We experience architecture as a place that takes us in, that tells us about ourselves. We can use architecture to read the mythic stories of our lives.
Human beings have always made up stories to communicate truth, to get and share insight. The most unlikely character or place can reveal our surest sense of what things mean. The ironies that thus take shape often derive their authority from their unorthodoxy. For example, the ruins of a car wreck might provide the framework of a person's perception about the spiritual dimensions of human life. Similarly, a cramped comer may take on the dimensions of an expansive cosmos.
Northrop Frye has a special appreciation of the archetypal workings of
such paradox. Additionally, his thought offers insight into the attraction that many
people feel for the monumental extravagance of myth:
... We all find that it is not only, perhaps not even primarily, the balanced and judicious people that we turn to for insight. It is also such people as Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Holderlin, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche ... They were people whose lives got smashed up in various ways, but rescued fragments from the smash of an intensity that the steady-state people seldom get to hear about. Their vision is penetrating because it impartial and distorted: it is truthful because it is falsified^?/
Only a distorted imagination that breaks away from all this and sees reality as a strange, wonderful, terrible, fantastic world is creative in the human sense of the term.il/
The creative energy that springs from the smash-up can heal as well as disturb. Story, myth and dream quiet a central nerve in the human animal. Medical
48 Frye, Creation, p. 9. Frye, Creation, p. 10.
doctors cannot explain how aspirin cures headaches and relieves cold symptoms. Yet
it works. We seem to face just this sort of inexplicable efficacy when we look at the
way images heal. Consider this testimony from Jung:
To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images that is to say, to find the images which were concealed in the emotions I was inwardly calmed and reassured. Had I left those images hidden in the emotions,
I might have been tom to pieces by them- There is a chance that I might have succeeded in splitting them off; but in that case I would inexorably have fallen into a neurosis and so been ultimately destroyed by them anyhow. As a result of my experiment I learned how helpful it can be, from the therapeutic point of view- to find the particular images which lie behind emotions J^-7
Finding images that correspond to particular emotions is a conscious, healing activity. Unconsciously, dreams serve another therapeutic role. If the dream pattern of a sleeping person is disturbed, especially over an extended period of time, the person will become illJLL/ One inescapable conclusion is that dream activity (including the active and mythic play of conscious images) constitutes a part of what human beings must engage in to remain whole and healthy.
A final note: "it is only when a myth is accepted as an imaginative story that it is really believed in.n12/ The myth of the underworld, the quest for the holy grail, the odyssey none of these depends for its power, efficacy or truth on historical facts or figures. In fact, each derives its magic from having its primary connection with an individual it reaches. Indeed, how could we resist what talks to us of ourselves? All those questions that continually perplex human beings (Who am I? What does this mean? How did everything get started?) begin to find answers,
50 Jung, MDR, p. 177.
von Franz, Jung, p. 93. 52 Frye, Creation, p. 29.
sometimes only partial answers, through the expressive medium of myths, the archetypes in full dress.
Jung's extensive studies of alchemy over several decades raise issues particularly troublesome to those who read him. I want to discuss them here for two reasons. First, I think his study of alchemy is generally misunderstood. Second, I think it bears importantly on the role archetypes play in architecture. Jung studied alchemical processes and imagery from the original texts. Without our own firsthand knowledge we must assume that these studies were far-reaching and thorough. The
treatment he gives alchemy marshalls a wealth of references, cross-references and
textual analyses and warrants such an assumption.
Nevertheless, at least one writer, Ernest Becker, looked at this material and concluded that these journeys into alchemy did not add a thing to Jung's otherwise considerable insights into the nature of the human psychej>4/ I disagree. I think Becker fails to appreciate the nature of Jung's interest in alchemy. Jung delved into the alchemical traditions for their imaginative riches, for the way, like dreams and myths, they substantiated his hypotheses about human nature.
Jung concentrated his research apart from any consideration of whether or not the ancient alchemists were really after gold in their laboratories. Instead, he addressed the psychological elements of which alchemy seemed largely to consist. In this activity Jung discovered a gold mine. Repeatedly and persuasively, Jung argues that the chief work of alchemy was the discovery or development of essential
53 Volumes 12, 13 and 14 of Jung's Collected Works (Princeton University Press) are devoted almost exclusively to studies of alchemy.
^ Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: The Free Press, 1973), p. xiv.
being. In fact, Jung was astonished to note in various alchemical treatises the
correspondence between physical process and psychological states. For example,
One can only conclude that the unconscious tends to regard spirit and matter not merely as equivalent but as actually identical, and this in flagrant contrast to the intellectual one-sidedness of consciousness, which would sometimes like to spiritualize matter and at other times to materialize spirit.'
Children grow up fascinated by tales of alchemy, the myth that tells of a wondrous process by which scrap metal turns to gold. Later, of course, science corrects such childish notions. Assuming the same posture it had with respect to myth, science casts barely a backward glance at alchemy regarding it as its unsophisticated half-brother. Yet patronizing always misses the point; it fails to see exactly what it is that others are excited about.
Jung understood the physical experiments of alchemy as an historical
analogue to the search for self, one that informed his own analytical workJi^/
Initially, his thoughts about alchemy ran to dismissal.
"Good Lord, what nonsense! This stuff is impossible to understand." But it persistently intrigued me, and I made up my mind to go into it more thoroughly. the texts still seemed to me blatant nonsense, but here and there would be passages that seemed significant to me, and occasionally I even found a few sentences which I thought I could understand. Finally I realized that the alchemists were talking in symbols... JlZ/
I had very soon seen that analytical psychology coincided in a most curious way with alchemy. The experiences of the alchemists were, in a sense, my experiences, and their world was my world. This was, of course, a momentous discovery: I had stumbled upon the historical counterpart of my psychology of the unconscious. When I poured over these old texts everything fell into place: the
55 Jung, CW, VoL 9, Part 1, f 555.
56 Jung, CW, Vol. 12, ill 342, 345, 346.
57 Jung, MDR, p. 204.
fantasy-images, the empirical material I had gathered in my practice, and the conclusions I had drawn from it.'
Later on I will say more about the images that Jung identified as central to alchemy. For now I want simply to draw attention to those that are analogous to architectural processes. I want to caution, though, that there be no mistake about what these parallels might mean. I do not claim any equivalency between alchemy and architecture. By the same token, when Jung identified the psychological elements inherent in alchemy, he was careful not to reduce alchemy solely to psychology. Later when certain parallels between alchemy and organized religion occurred to him, he did not label alchemy a surrogate religion.
As it evolved, Jung's interest in alchemy was largely directed to the manifestation of archetypal images in yet another area of human expression. And while his studies of alchemy may not have added new structural components to his understanding of the human psyche, they nevertheless illustrated and amplified his original hypotheses and confirmed his perception about the way archetypes give shape to human experience.
As we go on, we will find the traditional alchemical images of the vessel, the stone, primal chaos and so on, associated with experiences of actual and imaginary places. None of this is to suggest that architecture somehow derives from alchemy. Only that each draws nourishment from the same psychical pool of images.
Transformation moves inexorably through alchemical thought. It is the crucial image. To that I must add quickly the raw material, the massa confusa, that is transformed into material precious and imperishable. What a goal! In fact, what alchemy pursued can hardly be considered "matter" at all. The alchemists sought a
58 Jung, MDR, p. 205.
dematerialized substance, one stripped of non-essential qualities, expansive and infinite in aspect.
The more serious alchemists realized that the purpose of their work was not the transmutation of base metals into gold, but the production of an aurum non yulgi ("not the common gold") or aurum philosophfcum ("philosophical gold"). In other words, they were concerned withjmiritual values and the problem of psychic transformation^'
In whatever material the alchemists worked, they sought that intangible,
vital essence which they believed had a home in all things:
The green gold is the living quality which the alchemists saw not only in man but also in inorganic nature. It is an expression of the life-spirit, the anima mundi or filius macrocosmi, the Anthropos who animates the whole cosmos. This spirit has poured himself out into everything. Even into inorganic matter; he is present in metal and stoneJl2/
So far the idea of transformation of raw material or prima materia into spiritual essence and order has dominated this discussion. There are other significant images in alchemy that underscore its archetypal roots. For example, the monumental effort required for transformation pervades alchemical thought. That effort is the alchemists' opus, their work. The opus parallels what Jung called the process of individuation, an innate archetypal striving toward psychological fullness.
In addition, the opus serves as a microcosmic analogue of Creation
itself; a tiny piece mirrors the whole picture.
For the alchemists the process of individuation represented by the opus was an analogy of the creation of the world, and the opus itself an analogy of Gods work of creation.
Man was seen as a microcosm, a complete equivalent of the world in miniatureJLL/
59 Jung, MDR, p. 210.
60 Jung, MDR, p. 211.
61 Jung, CW, VoL 9, Part 1,1 550.
Jung- considered the alchemists' work toward transformation an
archetypal process. Predisposed to creative work, man moves mountains in order to
refine his experience, to transform the smallest particle into eternal, critical mass.
If there were no imperfections, no primordial defect in the ground of creation, why should there be anxiirge to create, any longing for what must yet be fulfilled?'
Moreover, it is worth saying once again: man does this transformative work in his consciousness. And all the while, unconscious dynamics presides. Human beings project the archetype of the great work, the magnum opus, onto whatever raw material blocks the way.
"What nature leaves imperfect, the art perfects, say the alchemists. Man, I, in an invisible act of creation put the stamp of perfection on the world by giving it objective existence. This act we usually ascribe to the Creator alone, without considering that in so doing we view life as a machine calculated down to the last detail... In such a cheerless clockwork fantasy there is no drama of man, world, and God ... man is indispensable for the completion of creation? ... he himself is the second creator of the world, who alone has given to the world its objective existence without which, unheard, unseen, silently eating, giving birth, dying, heads nodding through hundreds of millions of years, it would have gone on in the profoundest night of non-being down to its unknown end. Human consciousness created objective existence and meaning.!!/
The lapis or stone typically symbolizes the ultimate objective of the alchemical opus or creative work. Fashioned in an extraordinary vessel the stone embodies the spiritual essence that the alchemist sought. Jung calls that paradoxical union the mysterium coniunctionis, a marriage of opposites. The stone archetype grows in complexity when we learn that the lapis is variously associated with the
62 Jung, MDR, p. 321.
63 Jung, MDR, p. 255-256.
"water of lifenM/ created out of fireJll/ Additionally, and perhaps not surprisingly,
a link is often made that joins the lapis to the self
Another point deserves emphasis. In alchemy material ripe for
transformation often goes unnoticed. With sights focused on some fabled, perfect
substance, it is no surprise that "cast-off" pieces of litter seem unsuitable for
transformation to the sublime. As Jung says,
... it is so hard to find the lapis: it is exilis, uncomely, it is thrown out into the street or on the dunghill, it is the commonest thing to be picked up anywhere the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner .. JH!
The image of the fragment utterly insignificant and awaiting transformation symbolizes the imperfect creation. Jung claims that imperfection is the source that motivates human beings to creative work. Pressing the idea a bit further, I think it's helpful to note that in some respects utopian planning stems from this archetypal process of creative transformation. It expresses, manifests the innate idea of achieving perfect order from a fragment or ex nihilo. At its simplest, the archetype of utopia is a projection of a compelling human passion for creating order out of chaos. And, that chaos may actually exist in the physical environment or it may be the condition of a persons life and mind.
In conjunction with the alchemical idea of transformation the myth of Prometheus comes to mind. Having stolen fire from the gods, Prometheus gave it to the human race. He wanted mortals to be able to transform matter into tools and other useful products. For such an affront to the gods' supremacy, Zeus punished
64 Jung, CW, VoL 12, 1 160.
65 Jung, CW, Vol. 12, Note 32, p. 120.
66 Jung, CW, VoL 12,11 157.
67 Jung, CW, VoL 12,1 103.
Prometheus by chaining him to a mountain rock. What perfect irony. Here is that generous, life-enhancing Titan fixed to original, unhewn material and left exposed to the fierce combat of the elements. The scene perfectly captures the horror of untransformed rock. Bound to such chaos, one has no hope of shaping that raw material into any kind of refuge.
The capture of Prometheus underscores the necessity for human responsibility and action. Man must create shelter out of chaos. Some niche. In this way the rock can be transformed into the lapis or place of protective shelter. Curiously enough, in one alchemical text Jung finds this image of the lapis as protector. In the example the lapis is a good friend, a helper: "Protect me and I will protect you.,T^
What Ive presented here is only a simple sketch of alchemy and certain of its key images. Yet, even in this rudimentary form, we sense the mythic quality of alchemy. In saying that, it must be clear by now that Tm not sneering at alchemy as some kind of nonsense chemistry. The reference to myth serves to emphasize the encompassing and versatile nature of alchemical images. These alchemical archetypes multiply, divide, stand on their head, wear different masks and do a host of tricks.
Gaston Bachelard has a wonderful line that goes to the heart of what I want to say about architecture as an archetype. He says, "Words I often imagine this are little houses, each with its cellar and garret.His intention is no doubt different from mine. Nevertheless, the image of "word houses" seems to fit
68 Jung, CW, VoL 12, f 155.
Bachelard, Poetics of Space, p. 147.
precisely my conviction that there are place archetypes that house our unconscious material.
More than anything- else, archetypes of architecture are impressive for the ways they amplify our appreciation of architecture as shelter. On the one hand, architecture shelters our physical needs and activities. In addition, as an archetype, architecture provides a nurturing shelter, a structure of meaning, feelings, ideas, revelations of every sort. And so, either genuine architecture or architectural images may serve as the site of archetypal drama.
It seems reasonable to assume that Bachelard would regard any word as a vehicle of actual or potential "little house" value. Those of particular interest just now are images that have clear associations to place, e.g., dungeon, island, chapel, nest and so on. Until now, for the most part Ive discussed actual places or structures to illustrate archetypal experience. Even so, Ive emphasized two general types of experience: (1) those of actual place, and (2) those of images of place that may or may not have any bearing on actual place.
Look at it this way. An overall impression of Versailles might give rise to the image of a crown of jewels. Or, unconsciously compensating for all that gilt and ostentation, you might find yourself experiencing images of log cabins and village life. Regardless of which image comes to mind, the architectural experience fits the first category of archetypal phenomena.
Here I want to drive home the importance of the second category. There is an architecture of the mind, of the human spirit or psyche. For our quiet moments, our frustration and our exaltation, there are architectural images that come into consciousness and provide us quite literally with the proper setting. At other times a monument of one sort or another might loom into view to satisfy a feeling of awe. Perhaps it complements some momentary but overwhelmingly trivial experience. Whatever the psychological situation, we should not be surprised when
we find architectural archetypes, places of the unconscious, appropriate to the range of emotions within us.
A "formal" theory of architecture (i.e., one based on forms) looks to specific design elements with its interpretive focus. Knowledge of historical styles, influence and cultural variations amplify the basic formal analysis. Contrast with this an archetypal theory of place. It maintains that architectural meaning exists apart from the formal elements. In other words, by simply looking at a particular structure, an observer in all likelihood would be unable to specify the sources of its archetypal significance for someone else. That significance rests in a mental image that attaches itself to an experience of the place.
With all that in mind, consider the scope of an image of the secret garden as it might work its way into one's life. First the mystery and adventure of it, then its hidden essence, followed by its fertility, its cyclical pattern of dying and renewal, and so on. The associations of a powerful image multiply geometrically and spill over into every corner of life: dreams, relations, memories, behavior, goals and fears. Place, too, will not escape the impact of such an archetype once it begins to inform a person's experience.
A personal tells me more about the pervasive quality of archetypes than any textbook ever could. Several years ago with only a single day left of a long visit to Nantucket, I hoped to capture the spirit of that island place with a photographic image. I realized that my consciousness was dominated by the image, the archetype of an island. Not Nantucket Island, but simply the idea of island. This is the archetypal place where human existence is experienced and understood as something fragile, exposed and isolated. The island place is bounded, but still at sea, a fragment of a whole ocean immeasurably vast and unexplored.
Only coincidentally did the image fit the actual place. I want to emphasize that point. In essence what I experienced was an archetype of place, not
an actual place. Nantucket was involved in the archetypal dynamics simply because it was there. I might just as well have found myself experiencing the island archetype in a Manhattan art gallery or at the foot of Mount Rushmore.
What came of my meditation was a photograph of a shingle. The island archetype crystallized around the isolation that characterizes part of what we experience as human beings. On my picture-walk into the dawn of that last day, one lone shingle stood out from the hundreds of thousands covering the houses around me. It filled the camera view finder.
All the elements of that archetypal experience were embodied in that square of cedar shingle: the elemental character of existence, its separateness, its vulnerability. And something else the presence of a hopeful gesture: an infinitesimal fragment bravely facing the day. The island archetype was far richer than Id understood. Experiencing the warmth of the wood and also the morning light enlivening its grain, I could easily recognize the hope that goes with erecting any shelter against the elements. That perfectly ordinary shingle acquired extraordinary dimensions. As a result, I began to understand it as a container of human life rather than a barricade against the inexorable odds of nature.
These reflections bring to mind the previous discussion of alchemy. The parallels between architecture and alchemy are significant. The two cannot be construed as identical, nor is architecture best understood as a kind of psychological adventure in personal growth. None of that. The affinity between alchemy, architecture and archetypes derives its character and strength from the transformative work that each does. And in this regard it is useful to describe a number of examples in which architecture has been or can be linked to alchemy.
In Expressionist Architecture Wolfgang Pehnt reports that Max Berg, one-time architectural advisor to the city of Breslau, was said to have regarded the
German Bauhaus as an "alchemists' kitchen."!!!/ Elsewhere, a recent issue of the AIA Journal notes briefly Le Corbusier's interest in alchemy.11/ To be sure, two examples do not constitute a great body of evidence. And yet, there is something provocative in the relationship they suggest. What are we to make of this correspondence between architecture and alchemy? Without more exhaustive information and analysis, it is difficult to answer. Nevertheless, if we compare the central concerns of alchemy with those of architecture, their common archetypal foundations come into view.
As I see the overriding goal of the design professions, it is the same as the one in alchemy. It is to transform the prima materia, the massa confusa, into some enduring, essential structure. Like the alchemist, the designer attempts to bring order out of chaos, to strip away the dross and to fashion out of what remains a structure useful and congenial to human beings. The physical structure or place created by the architect has a powerful symbolic affinity with the lapis aetemus of the alchemist. That is, the enduring solid presence of the architectural structure defines space and orders it. Often a structure can infuse space with a timelessness and a quiet that transcends the physical environment. By the same token, the lapis in miniature can fix and embody the spiritual essence of the cosmos, the largest place there is.
The alchemist has a goal of chemical transformation; the psychologist seeks psychological transformation; the planner and architect practice environmental transformation. Each pursues the creation of spiritual essence incarnate in matter; the lapis or stone, the Self, the place. For each one the process involves tremendous
Wolfgang Pehnt, Expressionist Architecture, trans. J. A. Underwood and Edith Kustner (London: Thames and Hudson, 1973), p. 43.
71 AIA Journal, March 1980, p. 86.
work, a magnum opus indeed. Throughout that effort there must be no overlooking the potential significance of what appears to be simply nothing. For, on the way to transformation everything may depend and turn on nothing. In fact, archetypal dynamics can fashion a block of stone into the center of the universe, disoriented individuals into confident selves, and urban renewal sites into sacred space.
Before I leave this discussion of architecture as an archetype, a final
issue remains. It is the matter of Jung's use of architectural images to express ideas
about the psyche.7!/ gey elements of his theories about the nature of the human
psyche are understood in terms of architecture. Not animal imagery or pastoral
landscapes. Here's an example:
it is as though we had to describe and explain a building whose upper storey was erected in the nineteenth century, the ground floor dates back to the sixteenth century, and careful examination of the masonry reveals that it was reconstructed from a tower built in the eleventh century.
In the cellar we come upon Roman foundations, and under the cellar a choked-up cave with neolithic tools in the upper layer and remnants of fauna from the same period in the lower layers. That would be the picture of our psychic structure. We live on the upper storey and are only aware that the lower storey is slightly old-fashioned JU
Reading Jung in this passage and elsewhere, it is hard to escape the twin notions that
place provides a home for fundamental ideas and emotions and that shelter is as
much a product of mind (or unconsciousness) as it is a physical construct.
I hope there wont be any confusion on this point. On the one hand, Jung was clear about the effect of actual place on a person's character. At one point he credits "the unknown topographical law that rules a man's disposition" with shaping human beings into their characteristically Swiss, or Italian or other national
I have an article in preparation on the subject of Jung's experience of architecture and the relationship of that experience to his theoretical work. The subject is vast and I can present only a few ideas here.
73 Jung, CW, VoL 10,1 54.
postures.!!/ Jung seems, unconsciously perhaps, to have laid the essential groundwork for the thesis that places coming from the unconscious shape our perceptions as surely as do the places we meet in the world.
Even more important to my argument is Jung's awareness of the way in which the physical environment acquires spiritual (psychological) significance. For that to happen Jung suggests that a man must have had an experience in which elements from "the topography of his unconscious were unconsciously projected onto an otherwise ordinary house or place.75/ His point seems clear. He is describing certain archetypal contents in terms of this unconscious topography, these archetypal places of one's psyche. What they are, what they look like and feel like, where we find them and under what circumstances are all questions to which a lifetime of study might yield some answers.
74 Jung. CW, VoL 15,1 3.
75 Jung, CW, Vol. 10,11 44.
Primer on the Character of Archetypes
This chapter purports to be just what its title suggests a primer. I want to detail in checklist fashion qualities which give us unmistakable evidence of archetypal tracks. When were in their presence, we can know we're getting close to the object of our search.
Some time ago I attended a slide-illustrated lecture on sacred space. Everything went just fine for awhile. Example followed example of splendid sacred space. In her enthusiasm the speaker seemed to be advocating the creation of sacred space throughout the built environment. It was hard to avoid getting caught up in the argument. The slides of sacred place, coupled with memories of my own experiences, conspired momentarily to throw blinders on me. And why not. In the first place, the idea of sacred space sounds good. It carries with it either the presence or the promise of life, eternity, order, reverence, fertility, awe and so forth.
So far so good. Yet why the disquiet ringing in my head? Then I remembered, hi college one of my philosophy professors used to say that we could never know what a word meant without thoroughly understanding its opposite. Moreover, she claimed that a word or concept had no meaning unless its opposite were equally meaningful. Accordingly, theres no beauty without ugliness, no honesty without falsity, no delight in the absence of despair. And no sacred space apart from profane space.
In spite of the obvious desirability of sacred space, if carried to its ideological limits (sacred space everywhere), we would exist in a homogeneous undifferentiated world. We would have an environment stripped of distinguishing
qualities. Look at it this way. The central issue concerning sacred space is its special character: the one that sets the place apart from what is profane. Consequently, I can recognize sacred place only if I have the opportunity to distinguish it from that which is not sacred. Contrast provides the chance to experience distinctions. We can be aware of what something is and what it is not.
The point of this detour into sacred space is to comment on archetypal experience. Is there archetypal space all around? No. If every phenomenon, emotion or place were archetypal, we would have no way of knowing it. If I am bent on understanding archetypal phenomena, I also have to be able to identify what is not archetypaL Once again its useful to say that the word archetype suggests a collage of feelings and associations. The word has as much an aura about it as specific meanings.
Two aspects of archetypes and archetypal experiences stand out as necessary. Pm referring to metaphor and to feeling. "An archetypal content expresses itself, first and foremost, in metaphors."!/ Jung's words are emphatic. There is no access to an archetype without the presence of a metaphor in one's consciousness. The figure of a clown might appear or an arch of triumph. We might find the crystallization of feeling in the image of a mountain, an island, a dragon or a butterfly. The idea that archetypes embody feeling must fix itself in our minds.
For as it happens, we can not overlook the fact that we are able to recognize archetypes only because of the effects they produce. We are moved by archetypes. One may demand a great sacrifice. Another may heal an exposed nerve. Still others can bury us in a cellar, deliver us from an enchanted forest or simply amaze us. When interpreted, archetypal phenomena and the ways in which they combine and shift and merge can generate a kind of topographic map of human
1 Jung, CW, VoL 9, Part 1, U 267.
emotional experience. To construct such a map we would have to penetrate a cloud of charged and generally disorderd sensation.
Marie-Louise von Franz describes feeling as both a necessary characteristic of archetypal experiences and as a critical focus for the study of archetypal images.
Archetypal representations, in other words, elude any attempt to grasp them academically, that is, purely intellectually or intuitively. They are only delimited and genuinely graspable in the actual culture of a people or in the work and experience of an individual. Without this "kind-of" basis in psychological reality, one can simply describe every archetypal representation as "everything in everything and in everything else," and go ahead and interpret them at will. Many investigators have drowned in this sea. Because they overlook the feeling-tone which is peculiar to each archetypal manifestation, such a manifestation becomes a mere word or image for them. "Those who did not realize the special feeling-tone of the archetype," says Jung, "end with nothing more than a jumble of mythological concepts, which can be strung together to show that everything means anything or nothing at all." In other words it is impossible to apply the Jungian theory or to carry on effective research in this field if it is separated from its basis in practical psychological experienced
Going on, she says,
A merely intellectual interpretation is never satisfactory, because the feeling-value of the archetypal content is just as important as its understanding. That is why Jung says, "Psychology is the only science that has to take the factor of value (i.e., feeling) into account, because it is the link between psychical events and life. Psychology is often accused of not being scientific on this account; but its critics fail to understand the scientific and practical necessity of giving due consideration to feeling J*/
2 von Franz, Jung, pp. 129-130.
3 von Franz, Jung, pp. 131-132.
A crucial ingredient of the feeling-tone character of archetypes is its
decidedly feminine quality- Erich Neumann explains how it happens that archetypes, coming as they do from the unconscious, bear the feminine imprint:
Accordingly, Neumann characterizes the development of ego consciousness as a process in which the so-called masculine and analytical features become increasingly dominant. With that in mind, we must expect a feminine cast to the appearance of archetypes: unconscious, spontaneous, charged with feeling.
At the Threshold of Archetypal Experience
tics typically associated with archetypal phenomena. Whenever we are facing archetypal material, one or more of these will surely be found. The list of characteristics that follows touches every significant effect and affect of archetypes. The order in which I discuss them has no significance. Approaching archetypes always lands one smack in the middle of things. No monumental gateway serves as the proper or even traditional entrance. Each quality by itself is weighty. Each one is immense. Accordingly, any hierarchical ranking of such qualities (as to value, significance, impact) would be artificial.
... one thing, paradoxical though it may seem, can be established at once as a basic law: even in woman, consciousness has a masculine character. The correlation "consciousness-light-day" and "unconsciousness-darkness-night" holds true regardless of sex, and is not altered by the fact that the spirit-instinct polarity is organized on a different basis in men and women. Consciousness, as such, is masculine even in women, just as the unconscious is feminine in menJ-'
feminine in men
Beyond these two necessary conditions, Ive identified seven characteris-
Erich Neumann, The Origins and His" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1
of Consciousness, trans. R.F.C. Hull
The numinous, that sense of spiritual presence, is a key element of archetypal experience. Numinosity generates a quality of mystery. It carries an aura of cosmic workings. It is charged and intense. A Jungian analyst I know once said: "Its what makes your hair stand on end. While we may not know precisely where to point or exactly what we're seeing, there's an overwhelming sense that "something's HAPPENING here." Some agent is active.
Erich Neumann clarifies how images acquire such presence.
The function of the image symbol in the psyche is always to produce a compelling effect on consciousness. Thus, for example, a psychic image whose purpose it is to attract the attention of consciousness, in order, let us say, to provoke flight, must be so striking that it cannot possibly fail to make an impression. The archetypal image symbol corresponds, then, in its impressiveness, significance, energetic charge, and numinosity, to the original importance of instinct for man's existence. The term "numinous" applies to the action of beings and forces that the consciousness of primitive man experienced as fascinating, terrible, overpowering, and that it therefore attributed to an indefinite transpersonal and divine sourcejj/
Jung was moved repeatedly to define the numinous. The net effect of such efforts was the observance of a certain "feel" for the numinosity in his personal life and in his work. At one point he refers to the "thrilling power" of an archetype at workJL/ Jung stressed the broad power of the archetype to fascinate or impel to action.!/ Listen to him:
I must stress one aspect of the archetypes which will be obvious to anybody who has practical experience of these matters. That is, the archetypes have, when they appear,
5 Erich Neumann, The Great Mother, trans. Ralph Manheim, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 5.
8 Jung, CW, Vol. 13, 1 396.
7 Jung, CW, Vol. 7, 1 109.
a distinctly numinous character which can only be described as "spiritual," if "magical" is too strong a word.... In its effects it is anything but unambiguous. It can be healing or destructive, but never indifferent... It not infrequently happens that the archetype appears in the form of a spirit in dreams or fantasy-products, or even comports itself like a ghost. There is a mystical aura about its numinosity, and it has a corresponding effect upon the emotions. It mobilizes philosophical and religious convictions in the very people who deem themselves miles above any such fits of weakness. Often it drives with unexampled passion and remorseless logic towards its goal and draws the subject under its spell, from which despite the most desperate resistance he is unable, and finally no longer even willing, to break free, because the experience brings with it a depth and fulness of meaning that was unthinkable beforeJL'
Put simply, archetypes embody awesome power. In effect they are remarkable.
They come into consciousness and demand attention.
2. Spontaneity Synehronicity
Archetypes come to light unexpectedly. There's no planning or designing their appearance. No cause-and-effect formula exists for bringing archetypes into play.
As soon as we emphasize the spontaneous nature of archetypes, we have to recant a bit. In acknowledging the unbridled quality of the collective unconscious, there is some danger that we may forget the meaningful and reasonable nature of archetypal experience. We have to be careful. That we cannot cite a causal relationship to explain the appearance of an archetype is inconclusive grounds for the claim that archetypes surface chaotically, randomly, without reason or meaning.
But if archetypes do not become manifest in response to particular stimuli, how can they be regarded as useful or meaningful? The question is important. To answer it Jung relied on a principle he called synehronicity. Some
8 Jung, CW, Vol. 8, 1 405.
might consider the concept a difficult one to trust. A belief in synchronicity depends on accepting either the idea or the experience of meaningful coincidence.
Allegiance to synchronicity rests on the recognition that psychological events and physical phenomena coincide in ways that stagger probability. Elements fit perfectly without any causal connection linking them.!/
The spontaneous quality of archetypal experience demonstrates that we dont just "think up" the things that touch us. Indeed, archetypal situations are generated by a psychological dynamic unrelated to causally-oriented mental activity.10/ Synchronicity filters out irrelevancy. In a synchronistic moment disparate parts of our lives come together. Connections are felt between internal states and events or material elements outside the psyche.
Everything that fails to connect to one's synchronistic scheme slides into
a gray void that does not impress consciousness. Jung explains it this way:
Causality is the way we explain the link between two successive events. Synchronicity designates the parallelism of time and meaning between psychic and psychophysical events, which scientific knowledge so far has been unable to reduce to a common principle. The term explains nothing, it simply formulates the occurrence of meaningful coincidences which, in themselves, are chance happenings, but are so improbable that we must assume them to be based on some kind of principle, or on some property of the empirical world. No reciprocal causal connection can be shown to obtain between parallel events, which is just what gives them their chance character. The only recognizable and demonstrable link between them is a common meaning, or equivalence.^-' 11
Ira Progoff, Jung, Synchronicity & Human Destiny, p. 56.
10 Jolande Jacobi, Complex/Archetype/Symbol, p. 105.
11 Jung, CW, Vol. 8.1 995.
The idea here is that a special correspondence will sometimes exist between inner states of being and outer events, places, people. When we glimpse that correspondence, that seemingly incredible coincidence, we are in the throes of archetypal experience.
Synchronicity acts as a filter. It screens out irrelevancy. Things begin to matter. They mean something. Some sort of design comes into focus. There is an ordered quality to what happens. In short, everything that fixes our attention has a "message. We sense an intrinsic value that alludes to a chain of being and meaning larger than our selves. Synchronicity is the nexus of phenomena spiritual and material. This nexus crystallizes when seemingly coincidental parallels begin to occur. When a person is moved to think that miracles happen, synchronicity is operating.
A personal story will illustrate what I mean. One afternoon leafing through an art book, I lost myself in M. C. Escher's colossal and confounding architectural drawings. I wandered through, around and over massive pillars, stairs, towers and fountains. The place dwarfed me. I was engulfed in a convoluted landscape of stone and shadow. My experience of the Escher place as archetypal. Some magic held me fast. But note: the magnitude of such an experience does not by itself constitute synchronicity.
Yet look what happens. Within a few days a friend knowing of my interest in architecture greeted me with the comment: "I was thinking of you the other day. I wondered what you would think if you were to view Escher's work as actual architectural design. Could you live with his brand of complexity? How would such a place affect a person's spirit?" We talked a while, and I recalled for her my recent reverie on Escher-space. The conversation turned to the issues of loneliness and disorientation in architecture. We remarked on potential feelings about inhabiting a place which offered no nesting corner. My friend's comments "out
of the blue represent synchronicity. Were all familiar with such meaningful coincidences. Jung looked at them and saw that they were too perfectly connected not to be related according to some fundamental dynamic principle of the cosmos.
Once started, synchronicity tends to come in twos and threes. My Escher synchronicity didnt stop there. Shortly after the conversation I had a dream that my husband, children and I were being transferred to a new city. When we arrived, of course, the house was an Escher. The structure was a maze of discontinuities in three dimensions thoroughly baffling. And most surprising of all, Vermeer paintings hung on each wall. At every bizarre turn a Vermeer scene of domestic tranquility was situated. The paintings acted as windows out of the maze. They provided a glimpse into an ordered, interior world. Synchronicity informs us in just this way. The thread of synchronistic connections is so rich and colorful, it astonishes us. Inevitably we are led to acknowledge relationships, feelings, memories that otherwise would have remained dorment in the unconscious.
Two other aspects of synchronicity are important. Each tempers the notion that causality has no bearing on archetypal, synchronistic events. First, it is generally held that "meaningful coincidences occur when an archetype is activated in the unconscious of the individual concerned, and synchronistic events almost always accompany crucial phases of growth."!!,/ (Emphasis added.) The idea of an archetype being "activated raises a host of questions. The key one is this. How can spontaneous, acausal phenomena be understood as entities that can be acted upon? We dont stretch the meaning of "activate" by suggesting that it connotes causality: some element activates; another is activated.
12 Mike Samuels and Nancy Samuels, Seeing With the Minds Eye (New York: Random House, 1975), p. 270.
The second issue enlarges the scope of what we understand as effective energy. The bond between synchronistic events, transformative phases of human life and activated archetypes brings before us a powerful notion: the dynamic energy of archetypes propels them from passive regions of the unconscious into the transforming land of consciousness. There they affect the places of our imagination and those in the built environment.
Adding causal properties and transforming power to the original notion of synchroncity would seem to change the ground rules a lot. Actually what happens is that synchronicity, that miraculous connecting tissue between phenomena, simply will not be kept in bounds. Once activated, archetypes tend to take their place in the external world. There they shape our perceptions and creations. Recognition of parallels between archetypal phenomena thus constitutes synchronicity.
The very pervasiveness of synchronicity suggests that causality must be operating. We can't help but feel caught by the tension between the two great dynamic principles: phenomena are either causal or random. With the idea of synchronicity Jung tried to account for the network of connections so various and widespread that it couldn't be reduced to or explained by relatively simple notions like causality or chance.
Here again Jung borrowed from alchemy for his theoretical base: unus mundus, one world, is the heart of the idea of synchronicity. According to the unus mundus premise, there is but one world. Physical and spiritual phenomena are simply different facts about a single reality. And we are constrained to seeing it under one or the other of its two guisesJl/ Synchronicity affords a glimpse of the undivided, unmasked essence of things.
13 Jung. CW, Vol. 8,11 417 and 418.
3. Compensation Identification
One of the ways that we become ensnared by fantasy, ideological
obsession, hysteria and passion of all kinds is by identification. We cast ourselves (or
the missing or undeveloped parts of ourselves) onto objects, ideas, individuals. This
attraction and mirroring represents what psychologists call "projection."!!/ Here is
what happens. The human psyche will often project its contents onto phenomena
that the individual meets going here and there in his conscious activity. Implicit
then in the idea of projection is unus mundus, the one world link between matter and
spirit that inheres in all fascination. Jung says,
On account of their affinity with physical phenomena, the archetypes usually appear in projection; and, because projections are unconscious, they appear on persons in the immediate environment, mostly in the form of abnormal over- or under-valuations which provoke misunderstandings, quarrels, fanaticisms, and follies of every description.!!/
It is important to emphasize that projection often involves not only persons, but also places, buildings, books, and films virtually anything we might meet in the world.
At the risk of overstepping into territory the exclusive preserve of psychologists, I will amplify this discussion of projection. The myriad ways in which we project unconscious states of being will escape any attempt to catalog or finally
Jung, CW, Vol. 9, Part 1, f 7. Additional references to projection, compensation and identification in the Collected Works: Vol. 7, If 277; Vol. 8, 1 254; Vol. 13, 11 396-397.
* Another useful source for these issues is Marie-Louise von Franz's book
Projection and Re-Collection in Jungian Psychology (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Co., 1980). It provides a thorough treatment of the entire subject of projection and how individuals might integrate their projections in order to achieve better understanding of attitude and behavior. Also The Symbolic Quest (Princeton:
I Princeton University Press, 1969) by Edward C. Whitmont provides an enlightening
discussion of the positive and negative aspects of projection. (See especially pages 60-63).
15 Jung, CW, Vol. 7,1 152.
circumscribe them. Nevertheless, we can grapple with the general process. Whenever we become fixed on an idea, an opinion, a person, or a particular place or structure, we can be sure that some bit of our own unconscious has been projected onto an objective element that then seems to embody such magic or horror.
Going further, if we can identify the attractive or loathsome qualities that drive us, we may be able to bring those qualities back to ourselves. In this way we can quiet them. By withdrawing the projected element, we can thus perceive particular qualities that we need to develop. In other words, we can understand these affective bonds with the external world as compensations for qualities, problems and the like that we have failed to acknowledge.
To begin to believe in the psychological dynamics of projection and the ways in which external things get hold of us is to take the first few steps of a walk through place and being. At this stage one of our central questions takes on a sharper focus: to what extent does the relationship between place and being its positive and negative aspects stem from formal and material elements? Alternatively, how much is that attraction a function of archetypal projection? In other words, do people experience architecture (through archetypal images) in ways that are not warranted by the formal elements of the structure? Are we justified in thinking that haunting experiences of architecture add new rooms and storeys to an individual's unfinished personality? Let's look at a few examples.
When an image of utopia dominates a person's outlook and experience, is it accurate to say that the image balances an otherwise lopsided or amorphous emotional state of being? Correspondingly, might the compelling quality of an image of ruins compensate for the utopian perfection of one's life? As such doesn't it suggest an unconscious need for more disorder, for the vitality that goes with incompletion. The possibilities for such archetypal inquiry promise a fascinating ride across the terrain of individual belief, behavior and potential.
Consider the fact that Philip Johnson postulates the image of "the Cave" as the single element of architecture that overrides all other questions of design,!^/ How do we reconcile this article of faith with the express brilliancy of Johnson's Crystal Cathedral? How does it fit with the fierce angularity of Pennzoil Place? Or with the playful apotheosis of the AT&T "high-boy?" We must see Johnson's claims on behalf of "the Cave" against the stunning light of this work. Regardless of whatever interior, cave-like complexity his buildings might possess, the final products guarantee their own preeminence by virtue of their spectacular displays of exteriority. That external vitality projects the perfect counterpoint to a passionate essay on cave-like interiority.
Take another example. We can analyze Daniel Burnham's advocacy of "big" urban plans during the first decades of the twentieth century as a personal or cultural need for large-scale projects to compensate for earlier concentration on small stuff. The flip-side of such a question is whether our contemporary fascination with pluralism, complexity and "collage" in architecture and city planning is the inevitable turning of the tide after decades of master-planning perfection, clarity and order. Today we want the dynamic energy of possibilities not the quiet of final completion.
One final point on this issue of compensation. What ties archetypal compensation to design (planning and architecture) is something more central than the psychological particularities of individual situations. According to Jung, the unconscious tends to wholeness. That is, it will always tend to fill out personality, to expand into whatever comer has remained unoccupied or been ignored. In their compensating way archetypes act as architectural building blocks in the construction
Philip Johnson, Writings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 262.