Jung’s Archetypes and the Quantum Sea

While in university I electively read from Carl Gustav Jung’s works to learn about the collective unconscious and the archetypes which populate it. It seemed a mysterious, hidden world that Jung propounded and I wasn’t sure if this was science or mysticism, or something in between. But I wasn’t a student in psychology, so I let the matter rest.

After university, I continued to read widely and learned about Jung’s concept of synchronicity. I had a good feeling for this concept and became more conscious of “coincidences” that might well fit under or into Jung’s definition. At age 75, I am no longer surprised in experiencing, more and more often, instances of synchronicity.

Many years after university, a consultant to the hospital I was then managing offered to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to my management team. It was a useful exercise and instrument for self-knowledge and team building, among other benefits. I was so impressed with the instrument’s utility I later attended a course to become qualified to administer and interpret the MBTI. Since the “types” in this instrument are personality types as described by Jung, his other work came again to mind, including the concept of archetypes.

Now that I have retired from employment and engaged in creative writing, I see where a greater understanding in the use of archetypes for my characters might advance me in this realm. So, I looked into Carol S. Pearson’s approach, and purchased her book to learn about the mix of archetypes within me. She uses twelve archetypes, as seen here in her “index”, to help a person understand his or her stage of development (click on all images for clearer definition):

stages of archtypal development

 (Source: Pearson, Carol S., Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World)

Finally, after doing a recent Internet search for more sources on archetypes, I came across the article which provides the basis for the remainder of this article: Archetypes, Neurognosis and the Quantum Sea, by C. D. Laughlin, published 1996 by the Society for Scientific Exploration in its Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 375-400.

A Physical Basis for Archetypes

The author, with many references to the relevant literature, hypothesizes that archetypes have a basis in one’s physiology, in the physics of the human structure, one that is shared among all humans. I quote in full his abstract of the article:

C.G. Jung left a great deal of ambiguity surrounding the ontological status of the archetypes and the collective unconscious. He did so because of the inadequacy of the science of his day. Modern developments in the neurosciences and physics — especially the new physics of the vacuum — allow us to develop Jung’s understanding of the archetypes further. This paper analyzes the salient characteristics of Jung’s concept of the archetype and uses modern biogenetic structural theory to integrate archetypal psychology and the neurosciences. The paper reviews some of the evidence in favor of direct neurophysiological-quantum coupling [the author’s term] and suggests how neural processing and quantum events may interpenetrate.

Beginning the Conversation on The Archetypes

Carl Jung reported on universal patterns in the ideation and imagination in his patients, in myth and other literature, and in his own experience with dreams and other ideations. He asserted that humans have instinctive structures which are ancient, transpersonal and transcultural. His earliest definition of these structures was “an independent constellation of primordial material inherited from the distant evolutionary past”, as written by Laughlin. Here is what Jung wrote:

[The] personal unconscious rests upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the collective unconscious. 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 behavior 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 every one of us.

Jung later named these structured “archetypes”. His conception and definition of archetypes evolved over his lifetime, which Laughlin incorporates into the development of his thesis.

[The following is an edited version (mine) of Laughlin’s article. I take responsibility for any errors in transcription.]

Archetypes as Evolutionary Structures

Human archetypes are the result of the evolution of the structure of the human psyche. Jung emphasized that the archetypes are part of human inheritance. They are extraordinarily stable and enduring structures that form the fundamental organization of the psyche, that arise anew in every human incarnation, and that are akin to the instincts.

The archetypes may have changed during our evolutionary past, but in their present form they encode the recurrent experiences of human beings over countless millennia and across all cultural boundaries. In some instances the archetypes encode recurrent experiential material from our pre-hominid animal past.

Archetypal structures underlie all recurrent, panhumanly “typical” ideas, images, categories, situations, and events that arise in experience. They contain no inherent content, but exist “at first only as forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action”.

Archetypes may manifest as “a priori, inborn forms of ‘intuition”‘. And as the instincts impel us to act in a distinctly human way, so do the archetypes impel us to perceive and understand the events we instinctively respond to in a distinctly human way. For Jung instinct and archetype are two sides of the same unconscious functional coin:

(T)he archetype or primordial image might be described as the instinct’s perception of itself or as the self-portrait of the instinct, in exactly the same way as consciousness is an inward perception of the objective life-process. Just as conscious through the archetype determines the form and direction of instinct. –Jung

Thus the archetypes may be characterized as being instinctual “meaning” and the collective unconscious as containing both the instincts and the archetypes; this system represents a panhumanly universal phenomenon.

Most discussions of the archetypes, including Jung’s, tend to emphasize a handful of relatively dramatic forms; e.g., the Wise Old Man, the anima and animus, etc. These few forms are those that arise in dreams and myths, whereas most archetypes mediate the very mundane functioning of cognition and activity in everyday psychological life. The total range of archetypes is the source for human beings everywhere of typicality in experience.

[This reminds me of Plato’s Theory of Forms which attempts to account for abstract notions such as “the good” and “fear”, or recurring patterns such as “leaf”.–RP]

Archetypes and their Transforms

Jung emphasized that we cannot understand the archetypes directly. All we can know are the archetypal images and ideas that arise in the symbolism of our own experience, or that we deduce from the ideas and images found in texts and other traditional symbolic forms. The archetypes are not material that was once conscious and somehow lost either in early childhood, or in some archaic hominid age. Rather, the archetypes have never been conscious during the course of either ontogenesis or phylogenesis.

These perpetually unconscious archetypal structures lie behind and generate the symbolism that is so essential to all mythological and religious systems. The archetypes produce such distinctive and universal motifs as the incest taboo, the unity of opposites, the King, the Goddess, the Hero, and so on.

It is clear in Jung’s treatment that actual engagement with the archetypes is a dynamic and developmental process, involving both the assimilation of archetypal contents into consciousness and, as a consequence, the transformation of the archetypes themselves. “We must bear in mind that what we mean by ‘archetype’ is in itself irrepresentable, but has effects which make visualizations of it possible, namely, the archetypal images and ideas”. (Jung).

Oedipus and the Sphinx (Source: http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk)

Archetypes As Transpersonal Experience

Jung’s whole approach, whether in the consulting room or in his own spiritual work, was essentially phenomenological. The archetypes are not merely theoretical concepts, but are derived from direct empirical observation of patterns in our own experience. We know the archetypes, not by merely thinking about them, but by experiencing their myriad activities in the arena of our own consciousness and then reflecting upon them.

What makes the activity of the archetypes distinctive in human affairs is the sense of profundity and numinosity that commonly accompanies their emergence into consciousness. Their numinosity is derived from the fact that they store up and are conduits for affective and libidinous energies from lower levels of the psyche. So numinous and transpersonal are the symbolic eruptions of archetypal processes that the experience of them may lead to fascination and faith, and even to states of possession and over-identification with the imagery.

Archetypes in Development

The archetypes are not solely an adult phenomenon. They are present from the beginning of life and, indeed, are the only foundation of childhood psychic development.  Another way to say this is that the ego is the result of the archetypes coming to know themselves. Jung was aware that a child’s experience is thoroughly archetypal: The child’s psyche, prior to the stage of ego-consciousness, is very far from being empty and devoid of content. Scarcely has speech developed when, in next to no time, consciousness is present; and this with its momentary contents and its memories, exercises an intensive check upon the previous collective contents.

It is the unfolding collective unconscious and its nascent archetypal structures that produces the highly mythological contents of children’s dreams. Eventually this unfolding landscape of archetypal material engages in a developmental dialogue with the emerging conscious ego that becomes the essential process of individuation.

Birdman the Heirophant

Archetypes As Organs

The archetype is as much an organ to the psyche as the liver is to metabolism. And as organs, archetypes develop during the course of life. The archetypes express themselves in emerging consciousness as images and ideas, and these transformations are actively assimilated into the conscious ego in such a way as to produce feedback which constrains further transformations. The process by which the ego assimilates essentially transpersonal, panhuman material gradually lessens the mysterious and numinous qualities of archetypal eruptions.

Indeed, the process of assimilation may become so active that the ego over-identifies with and feels responsible for producing these materials. Those of us who have spent time in spiritual movements may recognize the common phenomenon of individuals who over-identify with and personalize essentially transpersonal experiences.  For Jung, this over-identification of ego with transpersonal experience may also account for certain dynamics of psychosis.

The Ontological Status of the Archetypes

Jung was unable to scientifically reconcile his conviction that the archetypes are at once embodied structures and bear the imprint of the divine; that is, the archetypes are both structures within the human body, and represent the domain of spirit, but the science of his day could not envision a non-dualistic conception of spirit and matter. (My emphasis—RP).

Jung did not intend to produce a dualism between psyche and the material world, for he held that these are but two aspects of the same reality. The archetypes, as structures, are also a system of limitations upon human experience. That is, they not only cause thoughts, images and actions, they are sets of limiting factors on the general range of experiences that may arise within the consciousness of an individual.

Jung was more inclined to think of the archetypes in biological terms in his earlier writings, while being more inclined to speak of the spiritual dimension in his later works. He early-on wrote that the archetypes are “ever-repeated typical experiences” that are somehow impressed upon the materiality of the body that they had been “stamped on the human brain for aeons”.

The Archetypes in Summary

The archetypes produce all of the universal material in myth and ritual drama. Archetypal experiences tend to be numinous and transpersonal in their impact upon personal development, for they are the eruption of archaic and timeless meaning into the personal world of the ego. They are archaic in the sense that they have evolved over long periods of time, and are timeless in that they arise anew in the experience of each passing generation bearing recognizably similar patterns.

Beginning the Engagement with Modern Physics

(This where we cannot avoid using terminology which is new to most readers here—RP)

The Archetypes As Neurognosis

As it stands, Jung’s account of the archetypes does not allow a clear and easy engagement with modern physics. Biogenetic structural theory however introduces the concept that the archetypes are structures within the nervous system. Of course we have used our own (modern) terminology in developing these concepts.

According to biogenetic structural theory, a principal function of the higher processes of the human brain is the development of each individual’s cognized environment. The cognized environment is the total set of neurophysiological models that mediate all of an individual’s experiences. The cognized environment contrasts with an individual’s operational environment which includes both the actual nature of that individual as an organism and the individual’s external world. As discussed here, the concept of the operational environments has been extended to include the quantum sea. The primordial, biological function of the cognized environment is the adaptation of the individual organism to its operational environment by making sure that the world of experience is adaptively isomorphic with the world of reality.


When we are speaking of the functioning of neural structures in producing either experience or some other activity unconscious to the individual, we use the term neurognosis. This usage is similar to Jung’s reference to archetypal imagery, ideas, and activities that emerge into, and that are active in consciousness.

All neurophysiological models develop from nascent models which exist as the initial, genetically determined neural structures already producing the experiences of the fetus and infant. When we wish to emphasize the neurognostic structures themselves, we tend to mention structures or models. The neurognostic structures correspond to Jung’s archetypes. Although much attention was given to relatively dramatic archetypal imagery in his writings, Jung actually believed that there were as many archetypes as there are species-wide, typical perceptions. Jung’s reference to the essential unknowability of the archetypes-in-themselves also applies to neurognostic structures in our formulation.

hyperbolic orthogonal dodecahedral honeycomb (forum.blockland.us/)

Neurognostic Development 

And, as with Jung’s understanding of the archetype, neurognosis also applies to the genetically conditioned processes of development of neurognostic structures. In a certain sense the archetypes are indistinguishable from the instincts. Neurognosis, too, refers to both the initial organization and function of neural models, and to the genetically channelled processes of their growth and development, especially in early life. The entire course of what Jung would call “individuation” is highly influenced by neurognostic processes.

 The Evolution of Neurognosis

Unlike Jung’s uncertainty in the matter, we have concluded that neurognosis (the archetypes) has changed over the millions of years of our species’ phylogenesis. We are forced to this conclusion due to:

  1. the evidence of dramatic encephalization found in the fossil record of our extinct ancestors, and
  2. the fact that social variation in the development of a system of fundamental, evolutionarily derived structures (i.e., culture) appears to be the primary mode of human adaptation.

The archetypes as structures mediating intuitive and symbolic knowledge are undoubtedly located in the areas of the nervous system that appear to have evolved most dramatically during the course of hominid encephalization and that produce the distinctly human quality of mentation, learning, communication, and social action characteristic of our species today.

Culture and Neurognosis

Neurocognitive development is exquisitely ordered by processes inherent to the growth patterns of the organism -an ontogenetic “package” that reflects the path of evolutionary change characteristic of the horninids. There is no such thing as the development of neural tissues that is not constrained and guided by lawful, genetically linked processes. (Emphasis is mine—RP)

Development is never totally plastic. The organism must be biologically “prepared” to learn something. That is, the neurognostic structures (i.e., archetypes) must be in place, be of the correct structural configuration and developmentally mature enough to begin to model the aspect of experience they mediate. If the neural tissues are not in place, the organism is “contraprepared” for learning, and thus cannot learn structure or function of the processes mediating experience. (Emphasis is mine—RP)

Human Blastocyst Division (carissawords.wordpress.com)

The Transcendental Nature of Neurognosis

The organism (or Self) is part of the individual’s operational environment. And the organism includes the neurognostic structures (or archetypes) themselves. The archetypes then are always transcendental relative to an individual’s consciousness Jung laid special emphasis upon the essential unknowability of the archetypes. He was saying in effect that there exists a zone of uncertainty in our knowledge of our own unconscious processes, of our archetypes and of our own Self.

Jung faced a dilemma that biogenetic structuralists faced until quite recently, a problem Laughlin has called the “quantum barrier.” It refers to our inability to reconcile what we know about how the brain and consciousness work with accounts by modern physics of quantum reality existing as “wave functions” that are only “collapsed” when “measured” that is, that the act of observation somehow has a determinant effect upon how the quantum world materializes in our experience.

Jung and the Copenhagen Interpretation

The so-called Copenhagen account is problematic. It presumes a schism between experience and reality. It establishes a fundamental dualism between consciousness which operates in a mechanical universe and reality which is organized as a quantum universe. By contrast, the experience of a contemplative person (including Jung) is one of a continuum of increasing subtlety from awareness of form (termed rupa mindstates in Buddhist psychology) through the awareness of the energies that make up experience, but without form (the arupa mindstates), to the experience of the Plenum Void (the nirvana awareness). There simply is no disjunction between the experiences typical of everyday and the experience of the Plenum. There is a continuum of experienced subtlety differing in degrees of materialization and level of structure. Experience thus parallels the range of organization of the world from the level of the quantum to the level of gross matter. (Emphasis is mine—RP)

vacuum gluon field of quantum chromodynamics,
Derek B. Leinwber (physics.adelaide.edu.au)

The Physics of the Vacuum

There are, of course, other interpretations of quantum mechanics now available in the literature. Jung had no access to these alternative interpretations, and for most physicists practicing even today, the Copenhagen account  is merely quantum mechanics.

However, there are certain developments in modern quantum physics that are making it possible for us to better model the dimensions of quantum interactions, specifically with regard to consciousness: the current work on the physics of the vacuum. The entire universe is a monad of energy of various densities. There exists a structure of underlying “zero-point” energy that permeates the universe, even pervading the most complete vacuum—a quantum sea as it were.

In the modern view empty space or vacuum is never truly particle or field free, but rather is the seat of continuous virtual particle-pair creation and annihilation processes, as well as so-called zero-point fluctuations of such fields as the electromagnetic field.

Originally thought to be of significance only for such esoteric concerns as small corrections in atomic emission processes, it is now understood that vacuum fluctuation effects play a central role in large-scale phenomena of interest to technologists as well.

The Quantum Brain–an Hypothesis and Discussion

Increasing interest in the relationship between the brain and the “sea” of zero point energy permeating the universe  indicates an increasing concern for the question of how the neurocognitive processes that mediate consciousness may also influence and be influenced by events in the quantum sea. Neurognosis operates not only at the level of the organization of neural cells into neural networks, but also at the quantum level by penetrating to and being penetrated by events in the sea.

Neural networks may be “prepared” (see above) to operate as transducers of patterned activity in the quantum sea. Transformations of neural activity may produce transformations in the structure of the sea, and vice versa. Thus local causation based upon biochemical interaction among neural cells may be transformed into non-local causation based upon biophysical activity between cells and the sea.

There are several avenues of research into possible mechanisms that have led a number of serious scholars to consider processes that mediate brain-quantum interaction. For example, Evan Harris Walker  has suggested that the quantum phenomenon known as “tunnelling” may occur at the synapse. “Tunnelling” occurs when an electron penetrates a barrier that classically is impenetrable.

Quantum Mechanics on the Macro Scale
Sherwin Yu (yalescientific.org)

Others have attempted to demonstrate “coherent” effects in cell membranes related to weak external electromagnetic fields whose effects cannot be attributed to heating the system. “Coherence” is a central concept in quantum physics and refers to events correlated over time or space. Events in the sea may produce coherence, say, in membrane activity across the entire expanse of a neural network, or that the activity across a neural network may produce coherence in the vacuum energies beyond the organism. This picture makes it possible to contemplate a continuum of levels of structural organization from the cognized environment down through and into the structure of the quantum sea.

Recognition of the importance of coherence follows in the wake of research into the paradoxical Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen experiment (EPR). They demonstrated that once two parts of a quantum system are separated, they continue to act as a correlated unity no matter how far they travel from each other. EPR-type systems confound commonsense notions of local causation, for there exists no clear mechanism by which the two parts can “interact”at a distance. It is Laughlin’s presumption that this wholism is somehow mediated by the structure of the quantum sea.

There is now evidence pointing to the importance of electromagnetic oscillations at the cellular level that are not merely caused by changes in the ambient temperature. Herbert Frohlich has hypothesized that coherent oscillations (similar to the so-called “Bose-Einstein condensation“) in certain protein structures may be triggered by a common, low energy electromagnetic field, and thus may provide a mechanism for information storage and retrieval over a wide expanse of organic tissue, an inherently quantum process.

Such electromagnetic fields may function in many types of cells, including neural cells, to control physiological processes. Frohlich has also suggested that highly polarized membrane components may be deformed by external electromagnetic fields. It is now known that natural and man-made electromagnetic fields have effects upon biological processes.

One possible mechanism is the soliton. Solitons were first discovered in the nineteenth century as a property of water waves in canals. Waves propagate down a canal at a constant speed and are the result of equilibrium between the tendency of the wave to peak and its tendency to disperse. The wave reaches a steady state in its trip down the canal.

Electromagnetic solitons are energy waves that are related to quantum field excitation and that propagate in a non-linear, steady-state fashion with very little energy loss from one point to another in a system. Theoretically, solitons may encode a great deal of information in a small space with little energy expenditure. Frohlich and others have suggested that solitons may be integral to the functioning of membranes, or have linked soliton waves with cellular functions.

Microtubule Schematic

Another plausible biophysical mechanism of direct consciousness-quantum sea interpenetration is to be found in the coherent properties of microtubules. Microtubules form a protein latticework of cylindrical pathways in the cell that are known to be involved in regulating and organizing the activity of the cell. The ordered water molecules within the hollow core of these microtubules may manifest a property of “super-radiance” and much like a laser, transform incoherent electromagnetic energy into coherent, non-linear photon pulses within the tubule. Such a pulse would also be a kind of soliton in that it might propagate without energy loss and with little energy requirement. This picture of electromagnetic activity in the structure of the cell is consonant with the suggestion by Fritz Popp and his colleagues that the regulation of cellular organization in biological systems may be accomplished by a coherent pattern of biophoton emission.

Although there has not yet been a definitive demonstration of direct neural-quantum sea interaction, the evidence is sufficiently suggestive to prompt some authorities to hypothesize that brain-quantum sea interpenetration may operate something like a “quantum computer”. That is, information and computations may be organized within the pattern of coherent quantum activities. These computations may be detectable by neural networks and used in higher order processing. It does seem possible on the strength of parapsychological and ethnographic evidence that information exchange of a broader kind may be occurring between the conscious brain and the quantum sea. And it is clear that Jung may well have agreed.

Conclusion: Archetypes, Neurognosis and the Quantum Sea

The concept of neurognosis (and Jung’s archetype) refers not only to the initial organization of the brain during pre-and perinatal life, it also refers to the total pattern of coherent quantum activity represented in all of the neural networks in the brain. We may find that there are a number of mechanisms operating at the sub-cellular level by which the structure of the sea is transduced into patterned neural activity, and vice versa. So we may speak of neurognosis as mediator of the structure of the quantum universe and the structure of the individual consciousness.

But caution must be exercised here in order to avoid very common conceptual traps spawned by phenomenological naivete and over-zealous use of technological metaphors for how the human brain works. These are traps with which Jung was all too familiar. One such trap is the view that consciousness is the product of computations. This is a view peppering the cognitive science and artificial intelligence literatures, and is generally the product of reified computer models of how the human brain works. Another trap is the tendency to reduce consciousness to the quantum mechanical level; i.e., consciousness is quantum coherence of a specific kind.

Another of these traps is the notion that the brain operates like a radio receiver, picking up “spiritual” signals that come wafting in from outside the body. This is just one more version of the mind-body dualism that Jung wished to avoid. The brain-as-receiver notion reflects a basic principle in the evolution of technologies. We humans have a long history of building one thing to do another thing. For instance, we will fashion baskets and pots to hold seeds and carry water. In more modern times we build “hardware” to run “software”. But the body and brain do not work that way. The brain is not “hardware” that requires the inputting of “software” in order to operate. Most of the evidence we have on the physiology of the brain suggests that the activity of neural structures (the “hardware”) mediates aspects of mind and consciousness (the “software”). With respect to the brain, the “hardware” is the “software”. We can simulate the behavior of a duck and end up building an airplane that actually flies, but the airplane tells us almost nothing about the duck.

The essential attributes of consciousness described by various contemplatives, and available to anyone trained in techniques of mature contemplation—attributes such as intentionality, conceptual-imaginal knowing, the granular quality of sensation, the structure of internal time consciousness, emotion, etc.—-may be modeled within the phase space defined by

  1. the functional dialogue (i.e., patterns of entrainment) between pre-frontal and sensorial cortex,
  2. the functional dialogue between left and right cortical hemispheres, and
  3. the functional dialogue between the cortex and specific subcortical structures.

Within this functional field arises the shifting, changing network of neural cells that mediate consciousness. Our experience of the world occurs as a selection for “designation” by the neural systems mediating consciousness among the eigenstates available in the local environment. Laughlin’s view is that this “designation” occurs at every level of structure from intracellular structures sensitive to quantum coherence through to the most complex level of neural network integration.

Odysseus in front of Scylla and Charybdis
Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741 – 1825)

Jung’s genius was in steering a course between the Scylla and Charybdis of mind-body dualism—that is, between experiential relativism on the one hand and physical reductionism on the other. It was clear to Jung that an individual’s experience is both structured by processes universal to the human psyche, and the manifestation of individuation

In some ways all humans are alike, in some ways some humans are alike, and in some ways no humans are alike. Jung was able to integrate these various points of view into a single perspective on the activities of the human psyche. And where he had scientific or solid phenomenological data to back up his views, he reported them. But where the data were not forthcoming in the science of his day, he often remained purposely self-critical, ambiguous and incomplete in the formulation of his ideas. He was quite conscious of the pitfalls of over-systematized thought, and fully intended his approach to be a dynamic and open-ended course of inquiry.

So it was with his notion of the archetype. He insisted that the archetype is not merely another word for the physiology of the image or thought. While it included the physiological basis of knowledge, the concept was intended to run deeper -deep into the instincts and beyond, outward into the universal ground of existence. The archetype exists as the intersection of spirit and matter. We are now beginning to understand in a scientific way how this intersection might be possible, if by “spirit” we mean the order of the quantum sea.

Human experience becomes the localized instantiation of the universal—the transcendental— through the medium of neurognosis. And neurognosis is precisely the local embodiment of the structure of the sea, and at the same time the structures mediating consciousness.

By application of archetypal psychology, and by the current rendition of the biogenetic structural notion of neurognosis, we can see that by implicating neural structures in the mediation of various aspects of consciousness, we do not necessarily imply a reduction of the phenomenon to its neurophysiological foundations. For instance, certain experiences of unity with the Godhead may be mediated by structures in the temporal lobes, such an analysis need not imply a reduction of transpersonal experiences to neurophysiology. Among other things, to reduce these experiences to their neurophysiological foundations begs such questions as the profundity of insight, or the causation-at-a-distance that may accompany such experiences.

On our present account, this kind of analysis may further clarify our picture of how neurognostic, or archetypal structures in the human brain may transduce insights pertaining to the universal structure of the quantum sea. Each human brain may indeed prove to be a microcosm that contains like the proverbial mustard seed, or the more modem hologram -all the wisdom of the ages, requiring only the optimal conditions of development for each person to individuate into a sage.

(This is the end of my excerpted and edited version of Dr. Laughlin’s article)

Final Note:

In high school science we went through the history of failed theories: phlogiston, for one.

As I read here about the “quantum sea” I was reminded of the failed theory of the “Aether”. The aether was supposed to be a medium necessary to transmit light through the emptiness of space, much as air transmits sound. It needed to be both rigid and fluid. It needed to be rigid to transmit transverse light waves, but it needed to be fluid so that the planets could pass through it.

So now we have the hypothesis of a much more refined and defined “quantum sea”, but still a hypothesis.

Will it stand up to the test of time?

In any case, we see now that Carl G. Jung was a savant, as well as a scientist. He foresaw a scientific rationale for the archetypes which were, early on and to some degree still, dismissed by many scientists as unmeasurable “mysticism”.

And, meanwhile, Jung’s archetypes continue to fascinate and continue to be useful in understanding man.

About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate American living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
This entry was posted in Archetypes, Consciousness, The Mind, The Self and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Jung’s Archetypes and the Quantum Sea

  1. Pingback: Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part I of II « The Pavellas Perspective

  2. Pingback: Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part I of II | Cultivating the Corpus Callosum

  3. I found the cross referencing and extrapolation of ideas in your article illuminating.


  4. That is a detailed piece. I agree with your basic assessment, such as your writing that, “Jung’s genius was in steering a course between the Scylla and Charybdis of mind-body dualism—that is, between experiential relativism on the one hand and physical reductionism on the other. It was clear to Jung that an individual’s experience is both structured by processes universal to the human psyche, and the manifestation of individuation.”

    I find repugnant and implausible such views as biological essentialism and genetic determinism, race realism and the fascist strains of ethno-nationalism. And sadly, Jungian thought can too easily be co-opted to those ends. This is why I side with the linguistic relativists against the Chomskyan advocates of a language module in the brain. Yet I can’t doubt that patterns are found across cultural expressions and experience. There needs to be a balance. I partly seek middle ground by combining aspects of the Jungian and the Jaynesian, along with thrown in the theories of Edward Sapir, Benjamin Lee Whorf, Daniel Everett, Caleb Everett, Richard Dawkins, Susan Blackmore, William S. Burroughs, etc.


    I’m still unsure about archetypes in a broader sense. Linguistic relativity demonstrate how much more influenced the human mind is by culture. Combined with epigenetics and neuroplasticity, a lot more can be explained without recourse to something like archetypes. But much evidence remains that can’t be made sense of through culture alone.

    Consider numbers, as discussed by Caleb Everett in his book on the topic. Like many animals, humans have an inborn ability to distinguish between three relative amounts, not exactly numbers but more along the lines of small, medium, and big. There are some tribes (e.g., Piraha) that lack numerical terms and they get by perfectly fine only using these instinctual concepts of relative amounts. So, there is no archetype for numbers, even as there is something akin to an archetype for numerical-like comparisons.

    Another example is pi or what is commonly discussed in terms of golden mean/ratio. We know from research that humans are naturally attracted to what conforms to this mathematical principle. Doors, windows, books, cards, etc tend to match this ratio. It is pleasing. And this makes sense as it is found throughout nature. It’s unsurprising that our perceptual system evolved to find comfort and familiarity with the conditions in which we evolved. There isn’t exactly any content to this attraction, although it seems to deeply elicit a general sense of perfection and idealism, even the divine (e.g., what is variously called vesica pisces, ichthys, Jesus fish, and Mandorla with its origins in Greek thought, probably introduced into Christianity by way of the Alexandrian Jews).

    There are still stranger examples. Certain plant psychedelics cause similar experiences (e.g., machine or fractal elves). for many people who imbibe them. It appears to be inherent to the evolutionary relationship between plants and humans, such as DMT being produced both by some plants and by the human brain. Jacques Vallee, in a different area of study, found that UFO abduction experiences matched the basic pattern of the stories of fairy abductions and the anthropological record of shamanic initiations.

    Other claims of archetypal influence are harder to argue. So much of our thought is cultural biased. What the Western mind perceives as universal has since proven not to be as universal as once thought. That is because almost all scientific research, including in social science, has been done on American college students who are mostly middle class white and English-speaking. More recent research has shown this research population is the WEIRDest of the WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic). That is what linguistic relativism, in particular, has demonstrated such as undermining the belief that numbers, color terms, linguistic recursion, etc are universal to the human mind.

    It will take a long while to disentangle it all and get a better perspective on the Jungian theory of archetypes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Pavellas says:

      Wow, again. There is so much in here I relate to. I am fascinated with patterns, including Pi, Golden Mean/Fibonacci, etc. As for archetypes, I recently finished a biography of Joseph Campbell wherein I learned (if I remember correctly) that, although he revered Jung, he disagrees with him on universal archetypes, believing that the archetypes of a people arise from their geography and biosphere. I tend to agree with this. A poem:


      Man has created invisible lines on Mother Earth
      To distinguish between those places
      Deemed “ours” and “theirs.”

      Such conceits pale when one considers that
      Earth’s creatures behave according to their arrangement:
      Easterly, westerly, across the longitudes

      For instance, the trees and plants in Lappland
      Are the same trees and plants as in Alaska;
      Similar clothing, buildings and customs among the people.

      So, let us have countries defined by Nature:
      The north and south latitudes, arctic, temperate and tropical,
      With enclaves of mountain and desert people.

      Such arrangements will dissolve
      The angry invisible lines between peoples,
      As we unify by our response to Nature and Earth.

      and another:


      Man’s linear patterns traverse the earth and air and sea,
      Dominating, we feel, with both pride and regret,
      The teeming chaos of Nature’s other messengers.

      Quiet reflection reveals that in a sometime Earth moment,
      The creeks, the mud, the grasses,
      The spider and deer and coyote,
      Will overtake our man-patterns,
      As we relentlessly focus on the ever smaller and more numerous things
      We think we can control for our seeming advantage.

      As reason first graced then afflicted man,
      He began to shape the vortex he will be sucked into:
      A whirlwind of expanding data and diminishing knowledge
      Of The Whole
      That grows ever larger and more detailed in man’s eyes.

      Hark to the wise of past and present:
      Simplify, accept, flow gently or tumultuously,
      And rejoin Chaos with Nature’s other lives
      To find The Pattern that underlies all,
      And which cannot be named.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jung did have his view of universal archetypes. But he also spoke of a people having a collective unconscious. Both views potentially pose problems and even dangers. In the latter case, some have criticized his thinking for how easily it fed into ethno-nationalism in emphasizing the differences over the commonalities.

        That poem makes me think of Ursula K. Le Guin. She wrote both fiction and non-fiction and some poetry as well. One of her main themes was that of borders/boundaries, both in the world and society and in the mind and imagination. Have you read anything by her? She was good friends with Philip K. Dick. Her Lathe of Heaven was an homage to him and, in taking criticism from her, he developed a strong female character in The Man in the High Castle.


      • Ron Pavellas says:

        I’ve read Guin and Dick, but long ago and can’t bring anything to mind. I may have to go back… Thanks. I prolly haven’t read Lathe of Heaven. I’ll order it.


      • Lathe of Heaven was made into a movie. I forget when it was made. But I think it might have been a decent adaptation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.