The Collective Unconscious in the Theory of C. G. Jung

Introduction

For a long time, the anthropological principle of rationalism dominated in psychology. Such an approach revealed the man, his motives and his very being as a manifestation of a conscious life. This view found its clearest expression in the famous Cartesian thesis “I think, therefore I exist” (Knox, 2003). In this respect, the man acted as a “homo sapiens.” However, the unconscious problems in philosophical anthropology have replaced that principle in the new age. The crises of psychology at the beginning of the 20th century showed the invalidity of the method of introspection. Scientists failed to clarify the specifics of psychic reality. Psychological theory and data of experimental work showed a significant gap. Attempts to overcome the crisis have led to the formation of several influential schools in psychological science. Sigmund Freud had the crucial influence on the development of those problems (Knox, 2003). He opened a whole new trend in philosophical anthropology and approved the unconscious, as the most important factor of human dimension of existence. He claimed that the mind was subject and controlled by unconscious sexual desires and sexual energy (libido) (Knox, 2003). Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung was the first critic of that Freud’s theoretical postulates. He claimed that Freud had wrongfully brought the whole human activity to a biologically inherited sexual instinct, while human instincts were not biological, but had entirely symbolic nature. The paper focuses on explaining the collective unconscious and archetypes in understanding of Carl Gustav Jung. Symbolism is a part of the psyche itself, and the unconscious produces certain forms or ideas, which have schematic nature and are the basis of all general human conceptions.

The Difference between Collective and Individual Unconscious

Unlike Freud, who saw the unconscious as a core element of the psyche of an individual, Jung specified the concept of “collective unconscious” and showed a clear differentiation between “individual” and “collective unconscious” (Colomer, 2014).  “Individual unconscious” reflects personal experience of an individual who was once conscious but lost its conscious character because of neglect or suppression. Being one of the central concepts of Jung’s analytical psychology, collective unconscious hides the memory traces of human past, reflected in racial and national history, and the subhuman animal existence (Colomer, 2014). It represents a common human experience, characteristic of all races and nationalities. The collective unconscious is the tank that concentrates on all the archetypes (Jung, 2012).

According to Carl Jung, archetypes are the formal patterns of behavior or symbolic images, made on the basis of content that corresponds to the real life stereotypes of conscious human activity (Jung, 2012). The scientist wrote that the concept of archetype came from the fact that myths and fairy tales around the world contained certain motifs, characterized by a broad, pervasive repetition. People encounter the same motifs in fantasy, dreams, delusions and hallucinations. Jung had specified those typical images and associations as archetypal ideas. Archetypal ideas had their source in the archetype, which itself was unimaginable, subconscious pre-existent form, apparently, part of the inherited mental structure, and, therefore, capable of spontaneous self-manifestation anywhere and anytime (Colomer, 2014).  

Carl Jung pointed to some features of archetype but said nothing about its content and the difference from the similar phenomena. The scientist objected to the notion that the archetype is determined, according to its content that it was a kind of unconscious thought. “Primary image” was another term, used in Jung’s early works, with the same value as archetype (Colomer, 2014). The archetype was empty and formal. It reshaped the ability.  Heritage was not a specific manifestation of archetype, but only the form, which in this respect was not different from the instincts. The existence of instincts, as well as the existence of archetypes, could not be proven, as long as they did not manifest themselves.

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It is important to specify that primary image, or archetype, was the figure or an event that repeated freely in the process of history. Mythological figures and tales were of primary value. If examined more closely, these images showed some extent of generalized countless typical experiences of many generations (Colomer, 2014).  

Archetypes operate only within the framework of collective unconscious. They represent the collective rods. In comments to “The Secret of the Golden Flower,” Jung wrote that as the anatomy of human body did not depend on any racial differences, the human soul had a single substrate either (Knox, 2003). He called it the collective unconscious. This universal heritage did not depend on ones culture and consciousness. It consisted of the contents, which could become conscious when identical reactions appeared. The collective unconscious is a mental expression of the similarity of brain structures, regardless of racial differences. Therefore, the analogy of various myths and symbols generally allows mutual understanding between people. Different areas of mental development have a common trunk, rooted in the distant past. Psychologically, this means that all people have a common instinct in the formation of ideas and behaviors. Every conscious image and action comes from these unconscious prototypes and stays connected with them (Knox, 2003).

There is no evidence that consciousness grows out of the unconscious, but the second always precedes the first. Under the influence of social environment and its norms, the consciousness displaced part of the mental activity into the Shadow of mind. That was a normal process of specialized human personality. There was a constant interaction between those two spheres of mentality, often very fruitful, and consciousness reminded a puppet in the hands of unconscious (Knox, 2003).  

Psychological Effects when Encountering Symbols

C. G. Jung distinguished natural symbols, as opposed to those brought by culture. The first arose from the unconscious contents of the psyche and were countless variations of the basic archetypal images. On the one hand, it was possible to trace their development up to ancient times or sources that had come down from primitive societies. On the other hand, the cultural symbols were usually used to express the eternal truths and, in this way, in many religions. After going through many transformations and a long stage of more or less conscious modeling, they became collective images, taken by civilization (Knox, 2003).

For some people, those symbols became part of the universal culture and awoke a strong emotional response, being similar in the manner of exposure to prejudice. Being an important part of human mental apparatus, they were vital to the development of society. When they inhibited, the specific energy disappeared into the subconscious mind, which led to unpredictable consequences. The lost psychic energy fed and revived subconscious tendencies that were forbidden to appear in minds spontaneously.

Modern man does not realize the way rationalism destroys the ability to perceive divine symbols and ideas and put people under the power of mental “hell.” Science claims to have freed them from prejudices, thus losing their spiritual values. The moral and spiritual traditions are interrupted, and the payback for that is a general disorientation and disintegration, representing a real threat to the world.

Anthropologists have repeatedly described what happened to the community of savages in a collision of their spiritual values ​​to the impact of civilization (Knox, 2003). They lost interest in life, got disrupted and fell moral. Jung believed that we are in a similar situation. Unfortunately, spiritual leaders, leading conquest in the name of God, were more concerned with the protection of institutions of power than the penetration into the secret depths of religious symbols (Knox, 2003).

Nowadays, people talk about objects, describing their physical properties or conducting laboratory experiments to demonstrate some of their qualities. However, the word “object” remains dry, inhuman, purely intellectual concept, having no psychological significance. In the past, people somehow managed to fill objects with deep emotional feeling. For example, the image of the Great Mother embodied the Mother Earth. Similarly, the Spirit, the former Father of all things, and now called the intellect, reduced to a limited extent of human selfishness. Thus, huge emotional charges contained in the formula, “Our Father,” disappeared in the “sands of the intellectual desert” (Knox, 2003).

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Modern man feels isolated in space, because of the broken sacred connection to nature and the loss of emotional union with the unconscious phenomena. People try to find the logical explanation, and they are skeptical about their intuition. Thunder is no longer the voice of God’s anger, and lightning is not the instrument of His vengeance. Snakes are no longer the embodiment of wisdom, and mountain caves do not serve the great refuge of demons. Stones, plants and animals cannot talk with people, and they do not refer to them as before, with the intention to be heard. No more communication with nature with sharing profound and emotional energy or the feeling of belonging to space. According to C. G. Jung, those connections broke with the process of industrialization and science development (Knox, 2003). The images that come to people in dreams compensate this enormous loss. They recreate the original nature, instincts and a particular way of thinking. Unfortunately, they speak the language of nature, strange and incomprehensible; it bears the need to translate the language in rational words and concepts inherent in modern speech, free from such savage “burden” as a mystical connection.

Complex Extension of Archetypes

Jung had realized the existence of archetypes, when he noticed that the original characters from ancient myths and religions appeared in the dreams of modern people (Jung, 2012). He discovered that very ancient symbols, belonging to a totally different civilization, appeared in the dreams of contemporaries. People who saw those dreams could not know those symbols from their reality. Pushed by this discovery, Jung began to realize that human dreams turned to universal, original sources, hidden deep in collective unconscious of all mankind. Understanding collective unconscious streams of energy worldwide came through the encounter with the same characters in the myths, religious traditions and other ancient sources. Jung tried to apply to the myth, representing the archetype and look for collective associations that the archetype contained in symbols associated with it (Colomer, 2014). The psychiatrist showed that myths and fairy tales, the same as dreams, were symbolic manifestations of the unconscious. They were the collective dreams of human race, reflecting the collective unconscious of tribes, nations, and races, rather than the personal unconscious of a particular individual. So, myths were a rich source of information on the archetypes. They were born in pre-conscious era when mankind was close to archetypal roots. People can also derive the information about the archetypes from esoteric philosophical traditions, such as medieval alchemy and ancient astrology (Colomer, 2014).

The archetype that appears in dreams is a universal quality, the flow of energy that can penetrate every human being. For example, there is an image of the old Sage in all civilizations and races. It wanders from myth to myth, from civilization to civilization. It can take the form of Saint Peter, holding the keys of heaven, as it was in one of Jung’s dreams. He can impersonate God the Father, as in Michelangelo’s vision, imprinted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; Buddhist, he can dream as a Roshi (teacher) or bodhisattva (demigod); Hindu as a guru or holy ascetic). All Sage characters have one common perception of wisdom that is eternal beyond any timeframe (Colomer, 2014).

Here is an image of modern myth created D. R. Tolkien:

“His hair was the color of the night, but gray hair has entrusted to them the silver tiara, his gray eyes resembled a cloudless evening, and the light in them was like the light of the stars. He looked venerable as a king, reigned for many winters, and strong as a seasoned warrior at the peak of his form” (Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 57).

Expansion of the man’s archetype begins with the person’s awareness of its presence in a dream. Scenes reminiscent of ancient times or fairy tales displace everyday life scenes. The mythical dream reveals itself by the fact that things presented in it are either, more or less, than their actual size. Archetypes can appear in the form of extraterrestrial animals, talking lions, griffins, dragons, winged horses and others (Colomer, 2014).

Such quality of human nature as the Great Mother, is manifested in the form of goddess of sensual love Aphrodite, the goddess of home and hearth Hera or goddess of agriculture Demeter. Turning to India, the Great Mother comes in the form of Kali, the terrible goddess, destroying or giving and taking life, in accordance with the eternal cycle of nature (Jung, 2012). These manifestations of the great archetypes appear in the dreams of ordinary mortals. Each of human beings is a channel through which archetypal forces can get into the concrete existence. Physical life becomes ​the ​embodiment of archetypes. The life of a particular individual is a receptacle in which the archetypes materialized themselves, the battlefield on which they conduct their eternal cosmic battle, the stage on which they put the worldwide play (Colomer, 2014).

Once a person understands that he/she faces an archetype, it is important to turn to myths and other sources, where it appears. The figure or event of the dream can highlight in one’s memory a passage from the Bible or the legend of the time of King Arthur. Referral to the source says about the archetype, which appeared in the dream and revealed its characteristics and the role in human life. For example, if someone sees the Great Mother, it may be helpful to turn to the Greek myths, dedicated to the goddess personifying it, Hindu tales of Kali or different narratives of the Immaculate Virgin (Jung, 2012).

Accumulating information about the figure of sleep, one should record associations, connected with the reference to sources. If these associations help to release energy and sound reasonable, they may be useful in finding out what they have to say about whom the person is and what forces act within him/her.

Symbols of Dreams

Carl Gustav Jung did not support the concept of Sigmund Freud, described in his treatise “The Interpretation of Dreams”, showing them as “cipher” encoding forbidden impulses of sexual desire, considering this view as simplistic and naive (Colomer, 2014). In fact, Jung wrote about the dream that it was “a direct manifestation of the unconscious” and only “ignorance prevents the tongue to understand the message” (Jung, 2012, p.55).  

For the purposes of interpretation of dreams, Jung did not propose the dreamer to “run away to free association”, but to focus on a particular image and give it as many analogies as possible (Jung, 2012, p.57). Jung believed that the free association method allowed revealing only personal associations of a dreamer, grouped around the complexes. The meaning of the dream was a much broader field of individual frames and reflected the richness and complexity of the both individual and collective nature of consciousness.

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Jung believed that dream established the connection between the conscious and unconscious, and saw compensation function of ego position in it. He also singled out the “big” dreams; for example. dreams associated with numinous sense of delight and horror. In these dreams, Jung saw the highest spiritual guidance that came from the center of human essential being or the Self (Jung, 2012).

With regard to techniques for working with dreams, Jung recommended to disassemble each piece of sleep separately, and to identify the essence of a dream for the dreamer. Although Jung insisted on the universality of archetypal characters, his view opposed the understanding of the sign, as an image that has a uniquely defined value. His approach was to recognize the dynamism and fluidity that existed between the symbol and its meaning. Symbols had to be explored as sources of individual values ​​for the patients, and not be limited to pre-defined concepts. This saved the dream interpreter from rolling to the theoretical and dogmatic exercise that originated from psychological condition of the patient. In support of this idea, he emphasized that it was important to “stick to the dream” and reveal the depth of its meaning through the client’s association to a single image (Colomer, 2014).

Jung emphasized on the importance of context in understanding dreams. He believed that the dream should be understood not simply as a complex puzzle, invented by the unconscious, but contained important messages, philosophical ideas, illusions, wild fantasies, memories, plans, irrational experiences and even telepathic insight.

Conclusion

C. G. Jung represented the collective unconscious through universal archetypes, such as the image of the Great Mother, Father, Sage, Hero and others. Archetypes reflected the experience of previous generations, inherited by ancestors. They became the basis of myths, dreams and symbols of art. The essential core of the person, its Self was the unity of the individual and collective unconscious, but the last prevailed. Therefore, the essence of any human being is primarily archetypal.

Manifested in the individual psychology of people, including in the sphere of the unconscious, stimulating the desires, behavior, attitude and participating in the creation of the Self, archetypes exist outside of people. They breed them, help to re-bear, recreate, changing throughout history. Inanimate and animate nature is also involved in creation of archetypes, but only through the human psyche and psychology and social relations.

Jungian analytical theory became the trend in psychoanalytic psychology and philosophy. C. G. Jung made significant contributions to the science at the end of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. It came as a rational doctrine of the features of the human psyche, explaining the depths of unconscious, influence of emotions, feelings and experiences on human behavior and features of human culture. The theory gave hope to the mankind that human nature is not merely instinctive but subject to collective unconscious symbols and archetypes.

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