What is an Archetype?

Archetypes in Religion and Beyond - A Practical Theory of Human Integration and Inspiration - Robert M. Ellis

Robert M. Ellis [+-]
Middle Way Society
Robert M Ellis has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a Cambridge BA in Oriental Studies and Theology. Originally from a Christian background, he spent about 20 years practising Buddhism, including as a member of the Triratna Order. However, he now describes himself as a Middle Way practitioner without exclusive loyalty to any one religious tradition. Over the last 20 years he has developed Middle Way Philosophy, initially in his Ph.D. thesis. This is best described as a practical and integrative philosophical approach, incorporating many elements not only from Buddhism but also from psychology, neuroscience, and other aspects of Western thought. In 2013 he founded the Middle Way Society (www.middlewaysociety.org) to develop and apply Middle Way Philosophy beyond the limitations of the Buddhist tradition, both in theory and practice. Robert has earned a living for more than 20 years as a teacher and tutor of philosophy and related subjects. He has previously published both academic and introductory books about Middle Way Philosophy, and recently a parallel book on Christianity, ‘The Christian Middle Way’.


The Jungian concept of archetypes is of immense value for critically distinguishing what is potentially of universal practical value in religious and other cultural traditions, and separating this from the dogmatic elements. However, Jung encumbered the concept of archetypes with debatable constructions like the ‘collective unconscious’ that are unnecessary for understanding their practical function. This book puts forward a far-reaching new theory of archetypes that is functional without being reductive. At the centre of this is the idea that archetypes are adaptations to help us maintain inspiration over time. Humans are such distractable beings that they need constant reminders to maintain integration with their most sustainable intentions: reminders using the profound power of symbol linked to embodied experience. This multi-disciplinary book weaves together religious studies, ethical philosophy, the psychology of bias, the neuroscience of brain lateralisation, the linguistics of embodied meaning, the feedback loops of systems theory, with a lifetime’s experience of Buddhist practice and appreciation of symbolism in the arts: all with the aim of producing a fresh understanding of the role of archetypes in religion and beyond, that can also be directly applied in practice.

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Ellis, Robert. What is an Archetype?. Archetypes in Religion and Beyond - A Practical Theory of Human Integration and Inspiration. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Feb 2022. ISBN 9780000000000. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=40871. Date accessed: 13 Jul 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.40871. Feb 2022

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