Editor's Note to Volume I of the Encyclopedia of Archetypal Images

Editor's Note
Volume I of the Encyclopedia of Archetypal Images

by Beverly Moon

These images drawn from sacred traditions from all over the world derive from a collection of images that were gathered together initially by a group of art historians and analytical psychologists under the direction of Marilyn Hirsh. Working together, the two groups compiled a collection of five hundred records–images together with their commentaries–in different stages of development. Using the one hundred records that had received the most attention in terms of commentary, we began to sort them according to mythical themes, and from the images themselves emerged the thematic structure of this volume. Traditional motifs (such as the creation of the cosmos, the center of the world, and death and transformation) together with mythological protagonists (such as gods and goddesses, monsters, and heroic figures) were easily distinguishable. In this way was born the idea of organizing the themes themselves to tell the story of how life arises, takes on meaning, and undergoes never-ending change.
In the commentaries, the historical dimension of the symbolism has been emphasized, since each image derives from a specific historical situation and can best be understood only within its cultural context. The Chinese dragon, for example, is connected with the ruler, whereas in the West the dragon often appears in battle with the hero. This kind of historical information is presented in the sections entitled "Cultural Context." These brief essays are intended as general introductions for the layperson, who it is hoped will turn then to the bibliography for suggestions of works providing further, more in-depth study.
The Archetypal Commentary is the section of the record in which we have examined the relationship between the symbolism in each particular image and patterns of related symbols found in other cultures. These commentaries are not meant to be definitive. We hope that the discovery of cultural patterns found in more than one tradition will serve to illuminate the individual forms. Sacred kingship, initiatory rites, myths about culture heroes, and ritual sacrifice are but a few of the numerous themes discussed here.
It is also in the Archetypal commentary that the symbol may receive a psychological interpretation, for the symbols found in the great mythological and religious traditions of the world continue to appear also in the dreams of individual men and women. However, connecting historical images with inner images is a tricky and delicate procedure at best. At all times our goal has been to allow the outer, or historical, meaning to reflect back on and illuminate the more obscure personal symbolism. This is what Carl Jung called "amplification." When one of Jung's patients reported the appearance in a dream of an unusual (especially a numinous, that is, awe-inspiring) symbol, Jung would first ask for personal associations. Next, he would turn to the writings of the historians of religions to find the meaning of the image within a specific cultural context. Historical amplification of subjective material served to deepen the patient's understanding of the inner experience. Very often such amplification facilitated the healing of some subjective wound, because seeing one's own dilemma in terms of a universal drama can connect the person to the roots of his or her humanity and to the inner resources that have the power to resolve conflict while engendering new attitudes and new life.
Many people have been involved in the preparation of this volume. Individual scholars responsible for researching the cultural commentaries of specific images are listed on the credits page. I am grateful to those art historians who participated in the earlier stages of his project for their willingness to allow their work to be assimilated into the final product, and I am pleased to have been able to include the work of numerous historians of religions. The completed records were then reviewed by Joseph L. Henderson, who contributed his insights to the discussion of intrapsychic symbolism.
In consultation with Paul Bernabeo and Thornton Ladd, Annmari Ronnberg has crated a unique index, which is designed to lead the reader to separate discussions of related symbolism. Before being sent to Shambhala for publication the entire manuscript was patiently copyedited by Marcia H. Golub, and throughout the editorial process I was aided by the cheerful and efficient work of assistants Michael Scott Cooper, Jennifer Jung, Helena Bongartz, Jeanette Leardi, Jennifer R. Ash, and Joseph M. Dunlap. To Michael A. F. Malcolm fell the arduous task of tracking down the photographs themselves and obtaining permission to reproduce them here. Finally, the search for poetry to introduce the themes of the book was furthered by the efforts of Gayle Homer and Patricia Finley.
Throughout the year during which I worked steadily on this book, I relied heavily on the excellent collection of books on religion and psychology in the Kristine Mann Library, founded and operated by the Analytical Psychology Club of New York. Librarian Doris B. Albrecht and her staff were always friendly and ready to help me search for books and articles dealing with the myths and symbols found in these images. During this time I also found encouragement in the enthusiasm of Shambhala's publisher, Samuel Bercholz, and his assistant, Jonathan Green. Their joint capacity to grasp our vision during the early stages of this project allowed us to share our excitement as the volume took shape.
Finally, I would like to thank the two people without whom this volume simply would not exist. It was Jessie E. Fraser who dedicated herself to the creation of what is now the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism. Any further development of the archive rests on the foundation that she lovingly established. More recently, the future of ARAS has been the concern of Charles H. Taylor, who, recognizing the deep and lasting value of this collection, has committed much of his own talents and energy to bringing these images and their symbolic significance before the general public.