Archetypes: The Contribution of Individual Psychology to Cross-cultural Symbolism


  • Erik D. Goodwyn University of Louisville



anthropology, archetype, cross-cultural symbolism, emergence, genetics, Jung, phenomenology, self-organization


When a patient reports a dream or undirected fantasy in psychotherapy, classical Jungian technique includes, among other things, comparing this material to that of cross-cultural symbolism (CCS). The validity of this aspect of the method hinges on what we think the origin of CCS is. If we believe that the lion’s share of such content comes from specific universal tendencies of the individual psyche, then it is reasonable to look to CCS as a source of clinical interpretive information. If not, however, the method loses credibility. An examination of this comparison reveals that some discussions about archetypes have been plagued by a false dichotomy of biology vs. emergence. Addressing this problem helps to organize various theories about archetypes that compare CCS into a more productive dialogue.

Author Biography

Erik D. Goodwyn, University of Louisville

Dr. Goodwyn graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine to serve in the United States Air Force for seven years. He is now assistant professor of psychiatry and director of psychotherapy training at the University of Louisville. There he teaches medical students and residents psychotherapy, dream interpretation, and the intersection between psychiatry and anthropology, ritual scholarship, and neuroscience