Archetypes as Hieroglyphs

The unconscious can be equated with the unknown. For that which is conscious is known, and thus, that which is unconscious is unknown. The positing of the unknown comes from the experience of breaks in the known, when we come up against that which ordinary language cannot get at.

Although humans fancy themselves as capable of mapping, ordering and systematizing much of our world, there is so much that is unknown. This unknown includes the mysteries of our existence, the numinous, and even much of our own personal experience (that is unremembered and misunderstood).

One of the unique functions of the human psyche is that it is able to take that which is unknown and make it known through language, or at least to find a way of referencing it through language. Unfortunately, much of our experience cannot be addressed through language.

What is wondrous, is that the unknown appears to expresses itself through a sort of hieroglyphic communication, emanating from the unconscious. This is the language of the archetypes.

Jung understood the enigmatic nature of the archetypes. When speaking of the archetypes he used an enigmatic language, saying things like: “something alien even to the conscious mind”, something “strange beyond all measure,” “an autonomous psychic entity”, “beyond the reach of the subjective,” and “independent in the highest degree.”

The archetypes emerge from within the gaps in the known, speaking a cryptic language of the soul. This leads us to ask who is revealing and who is interpreting this language of the unknown?

One might say that it is through the metaphorical and imaginal realms of the psyche that the personifications of the unknown are revealed. Angels, demons, gods are all archetypal personification of the unknown. These personifications are the becoming known of the unknown, and for that reason they are sacred and holy in the psyche. They are the harbingers of that which is always coming to being in us.