[From Phaedrus by Plato, 360 BC]
Archetypes are the "original language" of the mind.
Archetypes. Humans and other animals each have languages unique to their species. A language they are born with, and which connects them to others of their species across distance and time.
Learned Language. Humans (and some other species) also have socially learned languages (English, etc) which allow an individual to communicate with others locally. Social languages are a "step away" from nature. In other words the accuracy of the symbols (e.g. words) in a social (i.e., learned) language is subject to a sort of decay.
Why should a person recognize archetypes?
Many people are "captured" by learned language (e.g. words) to the extent that the boundaries of their life are entirely defined by the past experiences of others. Learned language does not just describe the universe, it limits what a person can perceive.
Archetypes provide a more natural set of "boundaries", outside learned language. Actually not so much boundaries, as possibilities.
What is an archetype?
Archetypes are not actually "things" like words, rather they have a dynamism or life and are not dualistic.
If you have "something" non-dualistic, and you make a word for it, the word is dualistic (all words are). So at best a word can point to a dualistic concept that helps a person understand something non dualistic. [See note about dualism below]
Plato's Allegory of the Cave was an excellent way of pointing to archetypes.
Dualism can be understood several ways. The Wikipedia pages http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dualism_%28philosophy_of_mind%29 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dualism give detailed descriptions of several uses of the word.
Here is a simplified definition for "dualism".
In the physical world everything has an opposite. Everything is paired in some way with something else. Nothing is paired "perfectly", rather the world is a network of complex paired relationships.
This dual nature of things applies to anything physical, including the mind. If something can be perceived, described, grasped, it has an opposite.
Also, there is a realm that is not dualistic.
This realm cannot be described, grasped or perceived using dualistic things like "words", "the mind", etc. Mystical sciences try to use dualistic tools (e.g. words) to essentially "capture" some part of the non dualistic realm, but it is a losing game.
One allegory used by mystics in some traditions is of a realm that is impossible to know or describe. Going a level lower than that realm, then another level lower, then another and another, thousands and thousands of times, then further lower etc, at some point there will be *something* between that realm and "our" dualistic realm. (In other words at some point a person will be aware of both dualism and non dualism, of worldly and spiritual).
In this way you do not capture non dualism, rather you get an indicator of its direction. Ethics and similar higher senses point in the direction of non dualism, like a compass. They do not "capture" non dualism, but they are evidence of it.
So, the difficulty in clearly understanding true archetypes. The words used to describe archetypes are dualistic. The ideas we try to call archetypes are dualistic. If you hold firmly on to the words you have an anchor that prevents moving in either a right or a wrong direction.
It's a paradox that each person solves in their own way.