Silent rivers run through the uncharted wilderness of man’s unconscious, self-conscious and super-conscious realms. Their nature remains a universal mystery. Yet, for thousands of years, mankind’s greatest thinkers have looked beyond the barriers of bone, tissue and imagination to perceive and understand the nature of those psychic watercourses. Almost magically the ancients realized that man's psychic rivers were channels along which there traveled certain universal archetypes, recognized by and affecting the nature of all mankind. However, that river is shrouded in darkness and fog.

According to the sage Jolande Jacobi, "...The origins of archetypes remain obscure, its nature unfathomable; for it dwells in that mysterious shadow realm, the collective unconscious, to which we shall never have direct access, and of whose existence and operation we can only have indirect knowledge."
Archetypal symbolism refers to symbols that have appeared in many places, at many times, with an inexplicable similarity of meaning. Such archetypes are found in religion, rituals, folklore, fairy tales, mythologies and dreams. The psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, believed that these symbols stemmed from images already present within all men in the turbulent depths of the unconscious mind. Jung, and numerous other psychological researchers have postulated that man remains essentially a primitive being, they assert that human thought processes differ from the thought patterns of man's early ancestors only at the conscious level of thought.

Jung defined archetypes as universal symbols that sustain a constant meaning and efficiency in their applications. He claimed that archetypes were not genetically inherited, but represented a hereditary predisposition of man to produce parallel images out of very similar common psychic structures. He referred to this ability of man as the collective unconscious. Jung theorized that the conscious mind displays incalculable differences or variation between individuals, cultures, and groups in its day-to-day functions; the unconscious, on the other hand, displays very strong similarities, expressed through the collective unconscious as symbolic archetypes.

Jung further defined archetypes as systems involving both images and emotions inherited with the brain structure. They are, in Jung's theory, the source of the most powerful instinctive prejudices, as well as support for instinctive adaptations. Freud called these archetypes "primitive fantasies."

Archetypes have also been described as "all-embracing parables," with only partially accessible meanings. They are, in every respect, a type of powerful symbol which has a more profound, deeper meaning and significance to human behavior.

Universal symbolism has persisted for centuries. Similar archetypal meanings often appear in primitive cultures known to have had no physical contact with each other. Such archetypes have a profound influence upon human behavior. The right type of advertising can enervate archetypes and thus arouse predictable behavior.

A surprisingly consistent catalogue of mental imagery resides in the collective human mind, waiting to be resurrected by the proper stimuli. The right stimuli would be capable of fastening upon ancient archetypal images, thereby stirring the imagination with an emotional resurrection of forgotten, but powerful ideas.

Man's archetypes have traditionally been designated by mythological and religious names. God, the devil, the shadow, the warrior/hero, the hermit/mystic, the wise old man/sage, woman, nature/universe/cosmos, the self, and the healer, are all ways of referring to symbolic channels for human psychic energy.
Archetypes are not to be taken lightly. According to Carl Jung,"...It is a great mistake in practice to treat an archetype as if it were a mere name, word or concept. It is far more than that: it is a piece of life, an image connected with the living individual by the bridge of emotion."

Archetypes may be used to facilitate influence operations. All that is necessary is the creation of messages which evoke the proper symbolic imagery. Advertising which communicates the appropriate symbolic imagery can rejuvenate long forgotten archetypal memories. "...Advertising artists must apply symbolism likely to have similar meanings throughout their target markets...In attempting, to penetrate meaning parameters in any symbolic media, the first step is to recognize the individual symbols and their meanings in the specific context. The second step is to synthesize the individual meanings into a whole to obtain a thematic meaning..."