The Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS) is a pictorial and written collection of mythological, ritualistic, and symbolic images from all over the world and from all epochs of human history. The collection probes the universality of archetypal themes and provides a testament to the deep and abiding connections that unite the disparate factions of the human family. The archive contains about 17,000 photographic images, each cross-indexed, and accompanied by scholarly commentary. The commentary includes a description of the image with a cultural history that serves to place it in its unique historical and geographical setting. Often it includes an archetypal commentary that brings the image into focus for its modern psychological and symbolic meaning, as well as a bibliography for related reading and a glossary of technical terms. The ARAS commentaries honor both the universal patterns and specific cultural context associated with each image.
“The images are drawn from the entire range of
history focusing on the artifacts pertaining to the religious elements basic to each cultural period.
Of these, the earliest period is the Paleolithic, with its images of animals, human figures, and abstract
designs, which played a magico-religious role in the relationship between the hunter and the hunted.
The next period is the Neolithic, with its wide expansion of vegetation symbolism. Here we discover gods
and goddesses associated with the agricultural cycle and it s seasonal progressions, manifesting the eternal
archetype of death and rebirth. The religious art of ancient India, Asia Minor and Egypt together with
Mycenaean art constitute a large section of the archive. The motifs expressed in the art of these early
civilizations are found reemerging in modified form in the world religions for which they have provided
the foundations for Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism… Additionally, the archive also
includes images drawn from small tribal societies, which provide a horizontal dimension made up of many
archaic traditions that are still vital today.”
Joseph L. Henderson, M.D.
ARAS is supported by a non-profit organization that maintains and furthers the work on the archive by updating and adding images and commentaries. The archive is available on-line through subscriptions and many of the images are published in beautiful books available in our library. The ARAS Archive is designed for and used by a diverse range of people, for example: students and scholars use the archive as a research tool and educational resource; artists and designers can find motifs and iconographic forms for paintings, decorations, films and dramatic productions; individuals can trace mythology, dream images, and visions in seeking deep common linkages which transcend nation and ideology; analysts and psychotherapists who come from the full range of psychological perspectives use the archive to increase their own knowledge of archetypal symbolism. It can be very flexible and it always takes you on an interesting journey.