Trees, the Circle or the Core of the Cosmos: A Writing on Archetypal Symbols and the Psyche


This painting is entitled “Trees” but its true title should be called the “Circle: the Core of the Cosmos.”  As of late, all of my works have the symbol of the circle or the archetype of the center within them.  The moodiness of the painting is meant to lead you to the great light of the unknown behind the trees.  That great light is meant for you to reflect on the symbol of the circle, or the core of the cosmos also known as the Great Beyond, the profound, the divine, the whole of Nature, the great All, Heaven, Nirvana, etc.  When you view the painting the moody trees create a forefront so that there seems to be a sense of great space beyond. The bright light in that full of depth space then flushes all the outlying spaces away drawing your eye and thoughts to the center.  Don’t get it or think I’m blowing smoke? Then please read below about archetypal symbols and the meaning of the circle to see what I spent many, many hours on in graduate school.


The field of Archetypal Psychology offers an in depth explanation of the concepts of archetypal symbols.   The underlying thought behind Archetypal Psychology is in the name; it is the realization of the archetype or the “primordial structural elements that govern the human psyche” (Sharp*). These primal images start “neither in the physiology of the brain, the structure of language, the organization of society, nor the analysis of behavior, but in the process of imagination” (Hillman*).  To look at imagination in this form of psychology is to think of it as a pre-given element that is independent of humans and their construction of the imagination altogether.  The archetypal image operates like the original meaning of an idea.  It is irreducible and immediately valued as “universal, trans-historical, basically profound, generative, highly intentional, and necessary” (Hillman*).


Archetypal symbols can be vehicles of vital expression.   Within my works they are posited as formal manifestations that can harness primordial intuition, where the wisdom and knowledge of all humanity reside. Through the use of inherent images people can share psychological experiences in such places by an intrinsic, common language that can stimulate all aspects of the psyche and engender thoughts of the paramount.


The psyche or “the totality of all psychological processes, both conscious and unconscious, and the starting point of all human experience” can be understood as involving essentially two layers of perception (Sharp*).  The conscious level pertains to an individual’s waking condition where one is aware of what is happening around ones egocentric self.    The unconscious stratum is not of concern to the ego, and what is unknown or unaware.  It involves the instinctual forces that engage the psyche and are important to stimulating meaningful human life and perceptions of the profound.  Archetypes are methods in which the layered psyche can attache to the whole of Nature and when fundamental connection occurs then the interpretation of symbols becomes the “open door to the great All” (Guenon*).


When one links to the whole of Nature or the profound, they link to what Archetypal Psychology terms the collective unconscious.  This is the layer of the human psyche comprehending inherited elements that exist in the psychic substance of all individuals.  Most people are not connected to the collective unconscious and live in egocentric confines where they experience the ego as the center of the psyche. The ego, the subject of consciousness, only knows its individual contents, not the larger, shared unconscious and its collective content.  By living in egocentric confines, one resists embracing both the conscious and unconscious and the personality never enlarges and deters experiences of the profound.  Contacting the “psyche echelon” of the collective unconscious supersedes the conscious ego and links people to an understanding of archetypal images to enable contemplation of the supreme. 


Connecting to archetypal images induces attachment to elevated, communal, ideational levels in the unconscious that contact the Self.  The Self is the “archetype of wholeness and regulating center of the psyche” that transcends the ego and embraces both the conscious and unconscious (Sharp 111).  Archetypal Psychology hopes to expose universal values to help people to connect to the Self, to see beyond conscious consequence, and reach the collective unconscious.


Through the use of archetypal symbols, certain art and artistic works can connect participants to heightened psyche states that facilitate a relation to the profound and denote expressive and suggestive affects. Through my studies I discovered the archetypal symbols of the circle, the mountain, the cave, and water. 


Circles are the archetypal symbols that represent the center.  Centers are equidistant from all points of their circumference and are positions where contrary tendencies neutralize and remain at perfect equilibrium.  When there is equilibrium, there is absolute immutability and fixity of the center.  Thus, the indestructible center is an image of eternity and can represent the core of the great All.  The core of the center is “the origin the point of departure of all things” or the quintessential heart of the world and cosmos.


Circles can represent the center and are projections of archetypal images that stem from “human unconscious onto the outer world” (Carl Jung).  Because these symbols connect one to elevated psyche levels in the conscious and unconscious they are expressions of the Self, the archetype that stimulates linkage to the collective unconscious. Whether the circle is whole or divided, it always can reference the great beyond. The symbol of the circle is an archetypal symbol in that it represents inexpressible cross-experiential image concepts that humankind cannot fully define or comprehend.


Does the painting now have more depth?  I REALLY hope so or I just wasted a whole lot of money.  Next time you look at my paintings from the past eight years please search for archetypal symbol of the center and take a moment and reflect on the core of the cosmos.


* I have the quoted works in bibliography format. If you  are interested in the citations them please contact me.




Comments Are Closed