Archetypes and the Egyptian Creation Story

Psychology meets mysticism; the relationship between Carl Jung, Consciousness and Egyptology.

The word Archetype was coined by Swedish psychologist Carl Jung for that which can become manifest from the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious is a unified field for all manifest and unmanifest potential of the human experience, thought to be inherited from ancestral memory, although it perhaps comes from a source that is beyond comprehension.

Simply put the collective unconscious is like a library where all potential lives, and it could be argued that the collective unconscious is actually a timeline of all existence past, present and future existing beyond the time/space continuum.

Microcosm / Macrocosm (Subjectivity / Objectivity in Archetypes)

The conscious and unconscious bear some resemblance to physics. In physics we have the visible known world — the macrocosm, and the invisible and unpredictable world of the microcosm. The macrocosm can be observed and in some cases you can find some level of objectivity. The microcosm however is unpredictable, and the very presence of observation of this minute world has the ability to change the outcome of how it behaves (See Double-slit experiment).

The same is true for the conscious and unconscious mind. You can observe a thought, a feeling or a behaviour when it arises from the unconscious, but when you bring it to the forefront of your conscious mind it loses its essence and becomes clouded with the conditioning of the observer. A clear example of this happens through religion with many groups worshipping the same archetypal characters, yet once this passes from the collective unconscious into the peripheral of the conscious mind all kinds of biases, arguments and debates spring up. The essence behind the Christian “God”and the Muslim “Allah” is the same in its unconsious form, yet in the hands of the conscious mind it has the ability to cause all kinds of heated debate.


A great example of a stockpile of Archetypes exists in mythology and symbolism, yet there is a difference between Archetypes made conscious and those which remain in their pure form. The pure form of the Archetype can never be explained, as once this happens it becomes an interpretation. This is why we have Jesus in Christianity, Horus in Egyptian mythology or Krishna in Hindu culture. They all represent the divine child, yet they vary largely in depiction. Jesus has Mary as his mother, who symbolises the divine mother, Horus has Isis who is the same archetypal figure as Mary. Both Krishna and Horus have evil uncles (the shadow side of the divine father) that they had to defeat to step into mature kingship and take their rightful place as royalty. Really these stories are all variations of the same Archetypes with their own twists.

A simplified and condensed collection of archetypes can be found in the Tarot and again you can see how each of these figures can take the characters of the Gods and Goddesses of mythological folklore. The Tarot is made up of 78 cards which contain 22 major Archetypes (the major Arcana). You have the Magician that could symbolize Jesus, the Priestess which is in the image of Isis and the Devil which is likened to Satan from Christianity and Set from Egyptian Myth.

Egyptian Creation Story

All Archetypes exist in either potential or manifested form within each of us, and here is an example of how a story of Archetypes can be related to the individual. I decided to use the Egyptian (Kemetic) creation story.

Osiris and Isis (Originally known as Asar and Aset) were the last line of the Ennead of nine Gods who descended from the creator. This line started with the sun god Ra, who alone created two children Shu and Tefnut. Their children were Geb and Nut, who were the parents of children Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys (originally known as Nebthet).

Kemet was a dark place, rife with injustice and demonic forces until Osiris and Isis reformed the land, ruling as king and queen of upper and lower Egypt. Both Nephthys and Isis deeply loved their brother Osiris, but their sibling Set was jealous of Osiris’ creative powers and his position as king caused him to seek a jealous revenge.

Set would fight with Osiris, attempting to kill him so he could gain control over the kingdom, however, Osiris was too intelligent and strong for Set. Set devised a plan and used Nephthys to trick Osiris to join them at a gathering. Here Set showed off a brand new sarcophagus and said anyone who could fit inside would be allowed to keep it. A sarcophagus is an inscribed stone coffin, which is thought to help with the passing through the underworld (known as the duat). Osiris entered the sarcophagus and Set slammed the lid shut and threw Osiris into the Nile river. Isis was devoted to finding her lover and eventually was able to use her magic to find him years later along the Nile inside the trunk of a Cedar tree. She managed to free Osiris, but a furious Set found out while Osiris was still weak and chopped him into pieces, spreading his dismembered body over Egypt. At this time Set became the ruler over Egypt and sent the people back into darkness and slavery. Isis was strong willed and with the help of Nephthys spent the next few years using magic to find her lover and slowly collect the scattered pieces of Osiris. When they had collected all pieces Osiris was still missing his penis, which had been eaten by a piranha fish in the Nile river. Isis created a golden phallus and attached it to Osiris, and the sisters called on the Jackal headed God Anubis (originally known as Anpu) to embalm Osiris and resurrect him from the dead.

Osiris was weak and didn’t have much life in him, but before he died Isis was able to conceive a child from him, after this Osiris died and his soul was able to rest. He became the God of the afterlife and king of the underworld. Isis then birthed Horus (originally known as Heru), who would become the 10th in the line preceding the Ennead. Horus was the reincarnation of Osiris, and contained his strength and nobility, but he also contained the love and compassion of Isis.

Horus was a powerful young child in potential, but was not yet a match for Set, so knowing Set would kill him at the first chance possible, he was sent into hiding by Isis. Osiris would train Horus through a series of visions and dreams, and Horus vowed to avenge his father and regain control of the Egyptian kingdom. When Horus came of age, him and Set had a series of battles, matching each other in strength, will and cunning. In one of their battles Set tore out the left eye of Horus, who returned to Isis for healing. Isis summoned Thoth (originally known as Tehuti) to restore his eye, and he was given the power of the moon in his left eye and the power of the sun in his right. Horus was now stronger than ever and they continued to battle with the forces of good and evil being evenly matched. Eventually they sat in front of Ra the sun God and father of creation to judge who should rule. Ra was concerned about Horus being too young to rule, but when Set impulsively attacked him during the judgement, Ra was left with no choice. After this Ra cast Set out to the deserts and crowned Horus the first pharaoh of Egypt.

Interpretation Of The Story

There is a lot to unpack with this story, and it could be interpreted in many ways. But looking simply at Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys and Horus, Archetypically you could interpret as follows — Isis and Osiris, represent the divine union. A perfect balance of the masculine and feminine yet still divided into their pure forms. Set and Nephthys are symbolic of the shadow side of this divine union. Set due to his evil ways and Nephthys due to her sitting by and letting evil take place. Nephthys also has a side that is pure love without conditions, due to her loving Set regardless of his ill intentions. This viewed as the makeup of a personal psyche is the divine masculine and feminine, and the shadow masculine and feminine. All which need to exist to create divine order.

Osiris is the wise King, who rules a perfect kingdom, but his ideas are a little outdated and perfect balance needs to know its opposite to truly exist. This invites the shadow (Set) in to create a crisis for the King. Remember that without resistance there can be no growth, so we actually need a dark night of the soul to move forward in our evolution. Set then kills Osiris, and this is the idea of our shadow taking control of our lives. When we give in to unconscious behavior and it starts to destroy us. Yet the flicker of light remains when Isis becomes pregnant and births Horus.

Horus is a young Pharaoh, less wise than Osiris, but more in touch with the current times. He is symbolic of the divine child, the absolute union of masculinity and femininity. In the early stages, when he is fighting with Set, he has the potential, when he defeats him, he is actualized or liberated. Set is the untamed ego and animalistic side of our existence, and this cannot be eradicated. This is why Set is sent to lower Egypt and not killed. It is the idea of taming the ego, and giving a voice and gaining control of our animal nature, instead of repressing it.

When dealing with Archetypes, we are talking about segments of the whole. So each part of the Archetypical makeup is a potential part of us in the collective unconscious. The more we make these parts of us conscious, the more whole we become. Jung called this process individuation, others call it liberation, enlightenment or becoming sovereign.

About the author

Luke Miller has been working ceremonially with plants since 2014. After a 13 month soul initiation working with Ayahuasca in the Amazonian jungle, he travelled to India to integrate the experience and learn Yoga and Pranayama techniques - eventually landing in the UK and being initiated into a form of Kemetic (Egyptian) yoga called Smai Tawi (which means union of the lands). Luke has recently completed a 30 day diet with the Yawanawa tribe, learning traditional songs and working with Uni (Ayahuasca) and Hape. Luke now combines this life experience alongside intuitive sound healing to create ceremonial events of cross cultural healing modalities. A unique transcendental experience merging plants, movement and sound healing.

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