There is a lot of confusion about this subject. What is an archetype? How do I "work" with one? Why even bother?
O.K. let's review some yogic fundamentals.
1. God (Brahma) is absolute awareness becoming the universe becoming aware of itself as Brahma.
2. On the atomic level, all phenomenon vibrate as standing waves. Standing waves appear with finite boundaries. Our bodies, organs, cells, etc. are standing waves. They emanate from a center point (or bindu) and radiate out harmonically in spirals of the Golden Ratio.
3. The four elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Air are archetypal standing waves, meaning they are types of arcs in the face of the wave. This is important because these make up the template of creation. They help energy become matter.
So, these are the fundamental archetypes of creation. There are multitudes of created forms and there are multitudes of archetypes. Some relate to a particular situation in the human story. For instance, women's life stages are reflected in the maiden, the bride and the crone. Men's are reflected in the lover, the king and the magician. All of them are held in the collective unconscious.
When I taught at the Barbara Brennan School for Healing, I spent years leading hundreds of people through sacred ceremonies. Ceremonial archetypes are much stronger forms than the ones you connect with in a yoga pose. I have seen people connect with this type of energy and become very disoriented and accident prone. I have seen inflated types negatively merging with the archetype only to become distorted and physically sick. Instead, you want to use these energy systems relationally. You need to stay centered and grounded in YOU and meet the archetypal pattern with a balanced mind, body and breath.
Perhaps the best thing I've ever read on archetypes is Ego and Archetype by Edward F. Edinger. This book describes Carl Jung's discovery of the collective or archetypal unconscious. Jung informs us that we are both individual and archetypal. Our awareness is informed by our personal experience and by the conscious and unconscious dreams, drives and experiences of the collective of all humanity (perhaps all life), throughout all time. Somewhere in us, everything is recorded, everything is known, past, present and future.
This treasure trove of knowledge is stored and accessed through geometric patterns, dreams, fairytales and mythological and religious images. Joseph Campbell taught us how these mythological themes recur transculturally.
The treasure trove, as well as every other bit of personal information, like the name of your first grade teacher, is stored in the Self. The ego is the part of the Self that holds your personal information. At first, ego is enclosed in the Self, but as we mature, it begins to separate from the Self. That is what we know as the spiritual journey but it is really a developmental phase of human adulthood. To be continued...