This page will try to define Archetype for those who aren't satisfied with the dictionary definition.

Looking back at the development of conscious beings, back before cavemen etc, there was some point where the first "concept" existed. Maybe it was a worm that noticed light (probably it was something else, that's just an example).

That first concept had a singular quality for the worm at first. In other words it was aware of nothing else and its worm brain did not contain anything other than that first concept. Then, with time, nature caused it to realize a second concept, the lack of the first concept (or the opposite of it).

Now the worm has two higher things in its little brain, a concept of light and a concept of the lack (or opposite) of light. Those are the first two elements. The third element, whatever it was, initially seemed completely separate from the first two, and eventually the third element had to have an opposite, like the first two.

So now, fast forward to the present. The worm has evolved into the human being (or whatever you learned in school) and the human being has a complex verbal language that is a mixture of many different things. 

Here is another way to approach the definition of an archetype.

Every being lives in many realms simultaneously.

One realm is the purely physical realm. Here, a person is only aware of the coarsest realities. Something makes an impression on the external senses, causes physical pain, pleasure etc, so it is part of the world. What does not directly hit the external senses does not exist.

Another realm values objective 'truths' as they relate to physical realities. It does not deal with strictly physical "realities" because they are less "objectively true" than certain other realities. For example, one "objective truth" might be "Any physical object can be perceived many different ways". Two less objective truths would be "That mountain is tall" and "That mountain is small".

Going further, a person can climb higher and higher away from physical, dualistic worlds to places where awareness is more subtle and words are less useful.

How does this apply to archetypes?

The world we live in consciously is constructed by language. When people want to learn to get away from their book learnt thinking they buy a book to show them how, and that fails.

The elements of a language can be words or something closer to archetypes. But either way the language develops directly by learning from the communicated experiences of others. There is a huge difference in the language quality of a person who learns a foreign language from a video, for example, and one who learns by living in the language. The point being that nobody will ever learn to really understand archetypes from a website or book, except in an academic way. Better to find a spiritual discipline that captures your imagination and then look for academic concepts (archetypes) within that framework. Start with the real and then focus on the academic so you understand which of the two has value and which is an ornament.

Dictionary definition of archetype (from

1. the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.

2. (in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.

A Jungian archetype is *something", a pattern or form, present in each person's mind. It is collective, meaning that unlike words, archetypes are the same in two people no matter where those two people were born, what language they speak, what they have studied, etc.