An archetype is a resonance figure, a "chord", formed in the long course of human evolution through resonance from repetitive, typical themes of existence, to a degree and intensity, so that it has become "standing waves" in the unconscious depths of the psyche and has almost generated a life of its own.

 As these "chords" in the psyche, the archetypes, are common ground shared by all, they contain the total sum of the collective human experience, all the way from the darkest instinctual drives and up to the most brilliant spiritual qualities.
The well known psychiatrist, C.G.Jung, says that these archetypes represent "absolutes" in the human psyche. "The archetypes are both linked to the instincts and to spirituality; they are charged with intensity and works automatically from the unconscious", he says. "[…]They have existed from the earliest record of human history. […] There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life, the endless repetition has engraved these experiences into our psychic condition […].Archetypes can be the father, the mother, the wise old woman, the magician, the hermit, the fool, the devil, the trickster, the lover, and so on." - And constantly new "archetypes" are being created from typical situations in our modern life and added to the list, such as ", "Santa Claus" "the mother in law", "the aliens", the terrorist", and so on.
The archetypes, in their totality and with their often conflicting characters, are the "bedrocks" in the psyche, they are lying beyond the conscious level and they are therefore not directly accessible - and particularly not accessible from an intellectual approach alone.
Their existence can sometimes be recognized in dreams, where they make their powerful presence be felt, in in guided imagery or in meditation, but the archetypes themselves are practically speaking beyond our reach.
It is important to remember that the archetypes can be modified by the use of different approaches, such as the following guided contemplations. But the archetypes can only be transformed through the fire of kundalini; such a radical process happens only rarely and is far beyond the reach of the ego.
A detailed theory of how archetypes interact is formulated by the scientist Rubert Sheldrake. Talking about how the different fields influence formation,  he says: "similar things influence similar things over time an space. In this understanding, growing organisms are shaped by fields which are both within and around them, fields which contains, as it were, the form of the organism".

The archetypes can be conscious or unconscious. Unconscious archetypes, if they are of the same sex, are called shadow. An archetype, conscious or unconscious, of the opposite sex is called animus if it is a woman’s inner male, anima if it is a man’s inner female.