Archetypes are one of the best ways to explore the inner workings of your Psyche.
If you want to know yourself better, find balance in your life, or become your highest potential, I highly suggest you explore Archetypes.
In this article, I will share five of the best books I have read to learn about Archetypes. Some of these books are great for beginners, and others are perfect for someone who has read many books on Psychology.
With that… let’s look at the five books.
Man and His Symbols by C.G. Jung
I had to start this list with a book written by the founding father of Archetypes, Carl Jung.
The book Man and His Symbols is one of Jung’s most famous works. It shares in great detail what archetypes are and how he discovered them as a psychological method to understand the Psyche.
The book is pretty daunting if you have not read anything on Psychology. The language is rather academic and hard to follow without some background in Jungian theory.
If you have read other books on this list, then at some point, I highly suggest reading the original source material of Carl Jung to get an appreciation for the depth of theory he brought in his work.
Pros: Indepth exploration on where Archetypes come from. It’s also learning from the original source materials.
Cons: This book is DENSE! It is not a good 101 for those that have not read other works on psychology.
King Warrior Magician Lover
By Robert Moore & Douglas Gillette
The book King Warrior Magician Lover is how I first discovered Archetypes. It is a foundational book for those exploring Masculinity.
I have met a lot of people where this is the first, and many times only, a book they have read about archetypes.
The book explores the Masculine Psyche through 4 Archetypes.
You guessed it…
The King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover.
It also explores the basics of Shadows and how we can move from an immature aspect of Masculinity to a more mature and balanced version.
If you are interested in Masculinity, then this would be my first recommendation for you.
My only gripe with the book is that it’s pretty academic. It’s hard to know how to use this information in your daily life.
That is why I created the Masculine Archetype Deck. It’s a physical tool you can use to explore Archetypes. It’s greatly influenced by the book King Warrior Magician Lover and other books on this list.
Pros: Specifically explores Masculine Archetypes
Cons: If you don’t identify as Masculine, it won’t be the book for you. It is also a little “heady” and is a slower read.
Check out the Masculine Archetype Deck to learn more:
The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live
By Carol S. Pearson
I enjoy the writings of Carol S. Pearson because she makes Archetypes so easy to connect with. Her most famous book is The Hero Within.
In the book, she explores six different Archetypes: orphan, innocent, magician, wanderer, warrior, and altruist.
I really enjoy her take on Jungian Archetypes and how she creates her own system of archetypes.
I also really like her other book, Awakening the Hero Within, which is more of a workbook.
Pros: Easy-to-understand book on archetypes and is great for beginners.
Cons: It sometimes oversimplifies Archetypes, making it a little more of a “self-help” book, and has outdated stories.
Archetypes: Who Are You? by Caroline Myss
This book is a fun and easy read.
Caroline Myss is a well-renowned writer that has written a lot of top sellers. The “Archetypes: Who Are You?” book is very engaging.
In the book, Caroline Myss takes the original 12 Jungian archetypes and updates them to be easier to understand. Adding things like “Fashionista.”
A lot of people will find this a great book to begin working with Archetypes.
That being said, I do think it waters down the complexities of archetypes and sometimes makes it to “Pop” culture for me.
The book is missing a lot of fundamental theories.
I still think it’s a great start and is an excellent “self-help” book, but take it with a grain of salt and don’t take her word as Truth with a capital “T.”
Pros: Fun and engaging book about archetypes with lots of practical uses.
Cons: A little “new-agey” at times and misses depth on the theory of the Psyche.
If you want a good introduction to Caroline Myss and this book, check out here a video of a live workshop on Archetypes:
Ego and Archetype
by Edward F. Edinger
Most of the books I shared are about the theory of Archetypes. The book Ego and Archetype takes this further and explores how we use Archetypes to grow to our fullest potential.
The book is centered around the Individuation process.
The idea is that there are two sides to the ego experience; inflation and alienation (thesis and antithesis), which can lead to individuation (synthesis).
Edinger illustrates this process in great depth with notable and numerous examples utilizing a combination of global mythology, literature, and visual arts, as well as patient’s dreams.
However, this book is not for beginners.
If anything, I would say this is the 3rd book you should read. (after a 101 and maybe a book by Jung)
If you know the basics of Jungian Psychology or are interested in going deep, then I highly suggest this book. It is very concise and adds lots of research and knowledge that is grounded in clinical work.
Pros: One of the most indepth and valuable books about using Archetypes
Cons: This is a dense read and very academic. Not for the light-hearted.
My life has been utterly changed by understanding Archytpes. It has allowed me to view different aspects of my psyche and identity, helping me find positive growth.
It’s allowed me the awareness I needed to become a better partner, friend, and community member.
If it were up to me, it would be a part of primary education, alongside Emotional Awareness classes in high schools.
No matter where you are in life, you can gain a lot by exploring Archetypes.