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Archetypes and memes: their structure, relationships and behaviour

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This paper starts with an overview of C.G. Jung’s notion of archetypes. His ideas imply that Jungian archetypes can be viewed as the most general examples of the shared awarenesses that occur in groups of people of all sizes, ranging from families to humanity as a whole. The term ‘archetype’ is used in connection with such shared awarenesses in the subsequent discussion. The distinction that Jung made between archetypal representations and archetypes themselves is retained and emphasized. It is then pointed out that archetypal representations are sets of Dawkins’ memes appearing in awareness. Pursuing the line of thought suggested by this, it is further proposed that the meme set can be regarded as analogous to the genotype in biology, while the representation itself resembles the phenotype in heuristically useful respects. Archetypes, as opposed to their representations, are the factors which predispose particular sets of memes to spread within a group of people and enter their awarenesses. It follows from the biological analogy that archetypes can be thought of as regularities that occur in an ‘ecology’ of representations. Because memes are subject to pseudo-Darwinian influences, parallels between the behaviour of representations and the phenomena of parasitology and epidemiology will sometimes be observed. The view of archetypes arrived at opens up a possibility that they might be responsible for some mass behaviours; e.g. those involved in the production of social movements such as Nazism or certain medical conditions of obscure aetiology. Archetypal representations possess in some circumstances the power to fill the consciousnesses of individuals ‘infected’ by them for long periods of time. These points are illustrated in a brief account of fatigue syndromes. Finally, should consciousness have a quantum theoretical basis, details of the epidemiology of archetypal representations will differ from those to be expected if it has no such basis. The phenomenon of alien abduction, presumed to be of archetypal origin, is discussed as an example.
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Keywords: Archetypes; epidemiology; fatigue syndromes; memes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Barfad Beag, Ardfern, Argyll PA31 8QN.

Publication date: March 1, 1998

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