The Archetype of Sacrifice and the Regulation of Archetypal Energies: A Neo-Jungian Perspective

Robert L. Moore
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Chicago Society of Jungian Analysts

Introduction: Foundational Metatheoretical Assumptions

This essay is a brief discussion of the trajectory toward creative organization of the system-self that is possible as Jungian analysis aids an individual in the individuation process. I focus especially on the task of regulating archetypal energies. I hold the following theoretical assumptions that I have been elaborating in my recent work in developing a Neo-Jungian paradigm for Structural Psychoanalysis (Moore, 2004, 2003, l993):

  1. We must make a distinction between the Archetypal Self, the system-self, and the ego.
  2. The octahedral crystalline structure of the Archetypal Self provides both the codes and the energy needed for actualization of optimal personality integration.
  3. The human personality must be scientifically conceptualized using systems theory. It is a natural system of potentially elegant, even “beautiful” complexity and radiance. When we refer to the developmental achievement of maturation and individuation, we are referring to an actual increase of system integrity in the system-self that manifests the characteristics of increasing system integrity as it manifests in all natural systems.
  4. This increasing system integrity manifests in an ascending spiral toward optimal complexity that is imaged in mythic images of sacred mountains and most optimally in geometric images of the pyramid and octahedron. The historic human obsession with pyramidal structures is an externalization of the archetypal codes for optimal organization.
  5. The four faces of both pyramid and octahedron reflect the alchemical vision that optimal transformation requires the balancing of the four elements.
  6. The four elements which must be balanced reflect an intuition of four archetypal systems which are in fact the building blocks of the system-self and must be delineated, evoked, accessed, and brought into creative synergy through increasing conscious intervention through ego awareness.
  7. These four structures, first discovered by Toni Wolff and further analyzed in my work, consist of systems for centering and nurturance (King and Queen archetypes), systems for aggression and efficacy (male and female Warrior archetypes), systems for detachment and reflection (male and female Magician archetypes), and systems for affiliation and sexuality (male and female Lover archetypes). Taken together, these four archetypal self-functions and their eight archetypal expressions are the psychological structures denoted by the concepts of quaternio and double-quaternio (see Moore, l993, pp. 233-241).
  8. The ego, therefore, is the actual conscious development of awareness by the individual personality of the powerful archetypal forces of the matrix from which it is emerging. Ego development is synonymous with the improving capacity to be critical of one’s own subjectivity and aware of the need to differentiate from the objective psyche without becoming alienated from it. Finally, ego development refers to the increasing capacity of the individual to intervene consciously in the task of bringing the archetypal systems into balance and optimal regulation. This is required for the development of the capacity for regulation of intense affect and compulsivity and for the achievement of mature attachment and relatedness.
  9. We should conceive of all chaotic personality and relational pathology as resulting from the colonization of the system-self by intrusions of archetypal energy which have not yet come under adequate regulation and therefore are functioning as “psychic aneurisms” which disrupt the integrity of the system-self. Thus the lack of an ability to differentiate ego awareness from the inner Other of the Objective Psyche will result in archetypal transferences and projections that issue in immature selfobject fusions and mergers. This lack of differentiation will result simultaneously in “psychic aneurisms” which interfere with the organization of the system-self. These intrusions will manifest in a symptom picture that reflects archaic manifestations of the archetypal systems that remain inadequately accessed and regulated. The subjectivity of the individual will be dominated by the archetypal systems that are colonizing the system-self. Archetypal functions that are dissociated from subjective awareness will be manifest in the transference and other projections, immature selfobject fusions, and in the forms of compulsive acting out. Thus there are two distinct aspects to the personal shadow: a) the unrecognized archetypal merger present in characteristic subjectivity of the individual; and b) the dissociated archetypal contents needed for adequate system-self integration which have been dissociated because the dominant psychic aneurism has made it impossible for this content to be accessed and integrated consciously.
  10. The progression of organization in the system-self proceeds in an ascending order of levels of system integration in which three different quantum leaps in creative organization occur. Psychotic and borderline levels of organization have not yet reached the fulcrum point of organization required for the formation of a rudimentary system-self. When organization reaches the first threshold, the fulcrum point, the organization of the system self moves to a far less chaotic organization that usually manifests in what we call a personality disorder. A basic nuclear self has been achieved. As the ego gains in awareness, agency, and the capacity for regulative interventions, the improving system integration can proceed until the second threshold of creative integration is reached. This is the point at which all four archetypal systems are brought into a rudimentary balance and synergistic mutual regulation.

Optimal Integration of the System Self: The Role of the Archetype of Sacrifice in the Formation and Nurture of the Ego-Self Axis

A person whose system-self has achieved this second threshold is capable of creativity and high levels of effectiveness on a wide variety of fronts. She knows clearly what she wants and has spent a great deal of time reflecting in-depth on her values and her vision for her life. She has a basic ability to focus on effectiveness, self- understanding, and emotional intelligence.

Radiating vitality and a sense of possibility, her charisma is fueled by the power of the archetypal energies that she is accessing and utilizing without experiencing severe self-fragmentation.

This second quantum leap in personality integration is an enormous achievement. By bringing the archetypal systems into a synergistic balance she has crossed the second threshold required for realizing the optimization of human personality. This balancing has allowed her system-self to regulate and channel more archetypal energy than at any previous level of organization. The system-self in previous levels always began to fragment and dissociate before achieving the “full cup” of psychic energy.

If this person simply stays at this level of organization and does not grasp the remaining challenge of system integration, she will commonly experience a repeated cycling – first of the rush of creativity, ecstatic flow, and high self esteem, and then a sense of disappointment, depletion, and depression and the sense that something is missing. Thus, no matter what creative achievements are achieved – even with a high degree of excellence – a sense of deep and sustained fulfillment will elude her.

In summary, this person cannot sustain her experience of “flow” except for brief periods. The cycling she undergoes will be repeated over and over again and will be interpreted by her as indicating that something more is required of her in order to experience lasting satisfaction. In spite of her charisma, power, and impressive achievement, this high performance person has a haunting sense of a fundamental “lack” in her life and that “something more” is needed in order to feel wholeness, fullness, or joy.

There is one continuing regulatory problem: the Archetypal Self does not stop pouring its energies into the system-self simply because the latter has reached its maximum regulation capacity through the balancing of the “four elements” of archetypal self-functions. Archetypal energies continue to pour from the Self, with the result of the inflation of the system-self – a flooding and over-stimulation by grandiose energies that inevitably generate unmanageable anxiety and set off psychic defenses against the onslaught of archetypal energies. These defenses usually take the form of depression and related unconscious trickster phenomena that have the purpose of “cooling” the overheated, over-stimulated “manic” energies now overwhelming the regulatory capacities of the system-self.

It is easy to see why so few who reach the level of this high performance personality are able to make the transition to the level of optimal personality integration. In the achievement of such high performance, the ego almost inevitably experiences an illusory sense of its own radiant “glory,” called hubris by ancient philosophers. Jung sometimes referred to this phenomenon as the “mana personality.” The illusion lies in the tendency of the ego to assume – consciously or unconsciously – that this state is the product of its own capacities, its own creativity and inspiration (cf. Kierkegaard’s “defiant self”). The very achievements of this personality make it even more difficult to attain the final, and most important, psychological “gnosis.”

Here we approach the level of personality functioning which most other theories do not even envision, much less facilitate – and here the Jungian approach to personality and psychotherapy most clearly demonstrates its superiority to other approaches to psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. This is the threshold at which the analytical process moves from the behavioral and cognitive process of the “educative” stage of analysis to the higher levels of transformation in the creative organization of the system-self.

This individual now stands on the threshold of the third and last quantum advance in the creative organization of the system-self. The remaining challenge is to move to the level of optimal personality functioning by developing and nurturing what Erich Neumann and Edward Edinger have called an “ego-Self axis.” This somewhat impersonal term in fact refers to the achievement of a conscious, respectful, ongoing, and carefully tended relationship between the ego and the Archetypal Self.

The relationship between the two psychic centers – the ego and the Archetypal Self – must now move into an intensely personal communion in which the ego seeks to relinquish its pretensions of being “alone” in its inner world and to acknowledge that it is never alone in its psychic matrix no matter how much the ego may desire to suppress awareness of the ubiquitous presence of its inner companion. This developing intuition of the presence of a powerful and significant “inner Other” is interpreted by non-Jungian psychologies as a manifestation of “ideas of reference” – hallucinatory experiences reflecting regressive, paranoid, and near-psychotic mental states. This is because these psychological theories lack an understanding of the existence, structure, and function of the Archetypal Self. An intuition of this great “inner Other” can issue, not just from ego failure, but also – and normatively – from the achievement of the highest level of ego development possible for human personality. The achievement of this new humility on the part of the conscious ego may result in a transformation of the quality of cooperation possible between the ego and the forces of its instinctual and archetypal ground.

Whereas before the ego related to the unconscious in an impersonal, though increasingly respectful manner, now it grants to its inner companion at least as much consciousness and volition as it envisions for itself. The ego begins to realize, in a manner markedly different from previous stages, that it has never really “owned” its creative products and achievements. The realization now dawns that these achievements have always been, in fact, a product of an inner partnership – however unconscious she has been of this fact.

At this point, the individual usually experiences a recognition that she has been arrogant in ascribing her achievements to her own creativity and personal prowess. This recognition is accompanied by a sense of remorse and a desire to do something to communicate to the inner companion her gratitude for the inspiration and energy being provided by the inner Other. The ego has now achieved what Edward Edinger called a “sacrificial attitude” toward the Archetypal Self – a fundamental requirement if there is to be any continuing progress in deepening the creative partnership between the two inner centers of sovereignty and agency in the personality. This fundamental requirement is the reason for the prominence in the human psyche, mythology, and ritual of phenomena issuing from the archetype of sacrifice. This archetype aids the ego in realizing four fundamental psychological facts: a.) there is a great Other; b) it expects something from me; c) there will be negative consequences if I do not respond to it with respect and an authentic offering; d) if I do treat it with respect and give it what it requires then the quality of my life and the life of my community will be enhanced.

All human sacrificial practice in myth, ritual, and psychopathology are grounded in a primordial intuitive realization of the necessary requirement of an ego-Self axis for the avoidance of the chaos in personality and human community that results from continuing unconscious fusion with the inner Other. This is especially true when the fusion continues at otherwise high levels of personality function. This is the psychological insight which underlies the rise of the prophetic traditions of the Abrahamic religions and which is so neglected in their historical malignant tribal behaviors. (Moore, 2003)

The emergence of gratitude and the sacrificial attitude enables the individual to move decisively toward the formation and nurturance of the ego-Self axis. Through enhanced communication and cooperation, the flooding of the ego by archetypal forces is drastically reduced, and significant movement is made toward an optimal and ongoing creative cooperation between the conscious ego and the Self – thereby enabling optimal system-self integration.

Both the sovereignty of the ego and the sovereignty of the Self must be respected and actively protected. For this optimal state to be realized and sustained, the ego must cultivate the awareness necessary for “practicing the presence” of the inner Other. This, of course, involves careful attention to dreams and the ongoing practice of active imagination and other ritual practices that enhance the capacity to sustain ego awareness of the presence and activity of its powerful partner. This is the essence of what some have called seeking to “live the synchronistic life” – a life in which the ego strives, as far as possible, not to fall back into the illusion of being alone and unaided in its individuation task. This is the psychological basis for the creative use of spiritual practices and disciplines which enable the ego to “practice the presence” in a sustained and dependable manner. It is this interface that makes the positive collaboration between psychological and spiritual disciplines so promising and potentially fruitful.


  • Moore, R. and Gillette, D. (2004). The King Within: Accessing the King in the Male Psyche, Revised and Expanded Text Edition, Chicago: Exploration Press. (In Press)
  • Moore, R. (2003). Facing the Dragon: Confronting Personal and Spiritual Grandiosity. Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publications.
  • ______(l993). “Decoding the diamond body: The Structure of the Self and the Tran scendent Function.” In The Transcendent Function: Individual and Collective Aspects. In M. Mattoon (Ed.). Einsiedeln, Switzerland: Daimon Verlag.
  • ______Structural Psychoanalysis and Integrative Psychotherapy: A Neo-Jungian Paradigm. (Unpublished manuscript)
  • For diagrams relating to the content of this essay, other resources on Neo-Jungian Structural Psychoanalysis, and a schedule of advanced seminars for analysts and other clinicians see the website: