The Heart and the Archetypal Unconscious

 Mohammed presented to the monk Abd al Muttalib and the inhabitants of Mecca. 18th century Ottoman copy of a supposedly 8th century original. Now located in the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul. 18th century
Mohammed presented to the monk Abd al Muttalib. 18th century copy of a 8th century original. US public domain via wikimedia

Henry Corbin speaks of the heart as a sacred organ of perception in Sufi thought. The heart is an organ of theophanic perception.” That is, “of the perception through which the encounter between Heaven and Earth” [takes place]; A “mid-zone.”

The heart is the sacred organ of perception which allows us to perceive the middle world between heaven and earth. This mid-zone is the liminal, the borderlands, where the eternal meets the temporal, the finite meets the infinite, freedom meets necessity.

With this view in mind we can understand the sacred nature of the archetypal unconscious: an immanent, liminal space filled with archetypal representation which connect and interweaves the eternal and the temporal.

From this perspective we can be playful with our conceptualizations. Imagining a liminal realm that is also a karmic realm: holding the power to affect, alter, and color our relationship to life. A karmic realm in which our memories, deeds and actions are stored, and worked over until they are worked through in the process of Self-realization. In this realm “life” mixes with the “sacred” creating the karmic dimensions: a dimension that is composed of symbol, affect, representations, and images.

If we barrow from Carl Jung’s concept of the archetypal unconscious we can see these internal representations as part archetypal, part personal. Internal representations can be viewed as as combined internal object representations. Internal objects exist within a liminal space: partly as archetypal materiel, partly as personal representations of reality, and partly as representations of the larger adaptive matrix.

Based on the theories of Carl Jung we might say that our own personal material is mixed and mingled with the archetypal material. Archetypal images contain not only their pure form, but also the remnants of ones own personal representations and narratives. This is the nature of our karma.

In exploring the mid-realm one may confront the gatekeepers of the eternal. The foreboding imagery of psychic life. Some of this imagery is personal in the form; Some of it is collective and archetypal. Whether we are speaking of angels or demons, of growth or dissolution and decay, they are our own personal representations: combined internal objects that represent our particular way of coloring and altering the immanent truths.

One way to imagine it is that all of our life experiences go through a process of spiritual psychic digestion within this karmic (liminal) space. Our life experiences are stored within the liminal realm as traces and fragments, and either integrate into the mental matrix or remain as undigested fragments. The integrated material is stored as unconscious or conscious memory units and images, that we can use for conceptualization. The material that remains undigested is left as fragmented symbols, affect, and images that affect our life course and experience of life.

Fragmented and undigested material is karmic in that it alters both ones relationship to the inner sacred and to the outer “reality”. It colors the sacred “real” by altering the way we perceive the world around us, as well as our relationship with the divine nature of existence.


  1. Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi 2 Prologue from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

3 thoughts on “The Heart and the Archetypal Unconscious

  1. Jennifer, I’m thrilled to find you! Your site is a reminder of my spiritual journey, all the experiences: Assiagoli was first. Then Sufism, then Yogic practices, and eventually leading to Jungian work, study. reading, and now providing as a lic. MH person. This reminder, makes me feel blessed. Your work is so important! And i thank you, bless you, will be following!

    1. Ruth,
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. We do indeed have similar spiritual interests. How wonderful that you made your way to providing services in mental health and helping others find their way.
      Bless you,

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