The Collective Unconscious' Imperial Problem

On the topic of archetypes and the tarot, I find the conflation of Magician with medicine man or shaman practices as problematic linguistically, ethically, and from an archetype perspective. It assumes total commonality and treats these as interchangeable archetypes, which they cannot be as they are embedded in inherently unique and vastly different worldviews. Noting also that within Jungian tradition, as a natural extension of having arisen in Europe, the uber-term for this archetype is western under which the others are "types" or "variants of". Put differently, why is the Magician not a sub-type of shaman or medicine man? It matters who is under the object gaze and who is engaged in the object gazing.


Culture matters. Context matters. Language Matters. Worldviews matter. For both the understanding of archetypes and the systems within which those archetypes arose and continue to have life.


So, while I love the concept of the collective unconscious, I tend to think of it more like the waters of the earth - depending on a culture's worldview. Sometimes the collective unconscious is sea, sometimes ocean, sometimes a freshwater lake or a tidal river - that these things are all water does not make them the "same". Each has its own unique ecological footprint and life-cycle. And so too, I think, with cultural archetypes.


The other issue that arises is that until indigenous scholarship and research reaches acceptance as a unique, legitimate philosophical tradition - equal to western and eastern philosophers, and until indigenous scholars are trained by their own community in their own philosophy (i.e. not at a 'western' institution where pedagogy is inseparable from worldview, culture and philosophy), it is hard to say what we "know" about archetypes arising within and from these Nations.


I want to acknowledge that even my articulation above is problematic because there is no consensus among indigenous scholars on a pan-indigenous philosophy, that I am aware of. Further, the position that this has not happened - that indigenous peoples are not trained already in the philosophies and worldviews of their Nations is an incomplete position at best, as I am aware that the Anishinaabe Midewiwin continues to pass on traditional knowledge and philosophy to its medicine people. But in the context of deliberate genocidal practices on the part of colonial empires to erase indigenous ways of thinking and being, so as to avoid responsibility under treaties across the world; language, culture, spirituality, ways of being and doing were all deliberately ruptured through churches and through education. After hundreds of years of resistance by colonized peoples, the ongoing struggle to recover from these violent disruptions must be acknowledged and support provided for recovery from this erasure.


This may seem like a really arcane topic but in the context of focus on mental health across the world, from efforts of Heads Together in the UK to high suicide rates among indigenous populations traumatized by inter-generational colonial impacts, to high suicide rates for men we need to be more more culturally nuanced in understanding how culture and philosophy impact both the conscious and the collective unconscious. We are creatures of meaning making and of story-telling. If we are to understand the collective unconscious we need to pay more attention to cross-cultural differences and the impact that these may have on experiences within the mental health care system and more broadly arising out of the impact of non-compatible cultural archetypes being applied generically across vastly differing worldview. (I'm looking at you Emperor archetype).




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