Collective Unconscious

The Psyche[1]      

Anyone who wants to know the human psyche

will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. 

He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar's gown,

bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart throughout the world. 

There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul.

           -- Carl Jung

For Jung the psyche (or soul) encompasses the entire being, both conscious and unconscious. 

1.     The Conscious’ function is to adjust the ego to the environment.

The unconscious processes that compensate the conscious ego contain all those elements that are necessary for the self regulation of the psyche as a whole. 

2.     The Unconscious’ function is to keep balance within the mind[2].  

3.     The Collective Unconscious is the reservoir of all human experience.

    The psyche is the totality of one's personal conscious and unconscious.  In Jungian psychology, the 'Self' includes the collective unconscious

Consciousness is like a surface or a skin upon a vast unconscious area of unknown extent.

Our conscious represents only a small part of the entire psyche.  “He who would fathom the psyche must not confuse it with consciousness; else he veils from his own sight the object he wishes to explore”.[3]  The conscious is that part of the mind that maintains the relation of psychic contents with the ego. 

All the same, every science is a function of the psyche, and all knowledge is rooted in it.

Without consciousness there would, practically speaking, be no world, for the world exists as such only in so far as it is consciously reflected and consciously expressed by a psyche.  Consciousness is a precondition of being.  Thus the psyche is endowed with the dignity of a cosmic principle, which philosophically and in fact gives it a position coequal with the principle of physical being.  The carrier of this consciousness is the individual, who does not produce the psyche on his own volition but is, on the contrary, preformed by it and nourished by the gradual awakening of consciousness during childhood. 

Since the psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing.  The synchronicity phenomena point, it seems to me, in this direction, for they show that the nonpsychic can behave like the psychic, and vice versa, without there being any causal connection between them  Our present knowledge does not allow us to do much more than compare the relation of the psychic to the material world with two cones, whose apices, meeting in a point without extension – a real zero-point – touch and do not touch. 

All psychological phenomena can be considered as manifestations of energy ...

Subjectively and psychologically, this energy is conceived as desire. 

I call it libido, using the word in its original sense, which is by no means only sexual.   

The psyche is far from being a homogeneous unit - on the contrary, it is a boiling cauldron of contradictory impulses, inhibitions, and affects, and for many people the conflict between them is so insupportable that they even wish for the deliverance preached by theologians.  Deliverance from what?  Obviously, from a highly questionable psychic state.  The unity of consciousness or of the so-called personality is not a reality at all but a desideratum.  

Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which I do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life.  

Freud based his model of psychology on the idea that there is a will, a desire, an “I want” that is inherent in the psyche.  The psyche is a little “I want” machine, and the society or environment or the household itself or the incapacity of the child’s body present prohibitions to the psyche’s desires. 

Scrupulous attention to the inner voice of the psyche - which manifests itself in dreams, fantasies and other derivatives of the unconscious - assists the soul on its path.  JViJP 87

... since we are both valley and mountain with respect to the psyche, it might seem a vain illusion to feel oneself beyond what is human.

Atma, Maha-atma, Parm-atma  (Soul (individual), Great Soul (Gandhi), Eternal Soul (God).) 

 “Soul” and “spirit,” or psyche as such, is in itself totally unconscious. If it is assumed to be somewhere “outside,” it cannot be anything except a projection of the unconscious.

I am of the opinion that the psyche is the most tremendous fact of human life.  Indeed, it is the mother of all human facts; of civilization and of its destroyer, war. 

And you know that when the psyche manifests itself in reality, it is usually against us.  For inasmuch as it is not against us, it is simply identical with our consciousness.  Our consciousness is not against us, and we consider everything to be our own conscious doing, but the psychic factor is always something that we assume to be not our doing.  We try to deny it and oppress it.  Say I want to write a letter that is disagreeable to me.  Then immediately I have the psychic factor against me.  I am not able to find that letter – it has been spirited away; I discover that I have mislaid it unconsciously.  I wanted to take particular care of that letter, but because I have resistances against it I put it in the wrong pocket or in a corner where I shall not find it for months.  TPoKY 53

Joseph CampbellThe human psyche everywhere is essentially the same and, responding essentially to the same

Above or below

Why do the alchemist say:

Heaven above,

Heaven below,

Stars above,

Stars below,

All this is above

Also is below.

Grasp this

And Rejoice

If we look at this naively, we see that it must have to do with a double aspect of the collective unconscious which is above and below us, as though it surrounds us in two forms.  Again and again in the interpretation of dreams and mythological material, people make the mistake of identifying what is above with consciousness and what is below with the unconscious, the Unterbewusstsein – that which is below consciousness – implying that consciousness is what is above.  If in a dream one goes downstairs, that is taken as going into the unconscious, and going upstairs is going into consciousness.  That is superficial nonsense.  If you look at the mythological maps of the world, you see that above there is a realm consisting of the mysterious, the unattainable for human beings, where the gods live.  In Greece there is Mount Olympus, with the gods above and below.  In Sumer and Babylon there is a myth about a man who tries to fly up to heaven with the eagles, but he is incapable of transcending a certain barrier above.  He is hit by the gods and falls down, and he encounters the same difficulties and obstacles in going to the gods below.    

Speaking in spatial terms, if we are objective we have to admit that there is a field of the unconscious both above and below us.  This same duality applies to the symbolism of the house.  The cellar often represents the unconscious in some form, the area of the drives, the instincts; there are innumerable dreams in which coal is in the cellar and there is a fire, or awful animals are in the cellar or burglars have broken in.  But exactly the same things happen in the attic.  For instance, a crazy person, overwhelmed by the unconscious, has “bats in the belfry” or “mice in the attic.”  Ghosts usually rattle their chains in the attic and walk about over our heads.  So up in the attic, where it is dark and full of cobwebs and we are a bit crazy, there is just as much a realm of unconsciousness as in the cellar.  People frequently dream of thieves getting in from the roof or of demons sitting up there and taking off the tiles, and so on.  TPoPA 142

We must therefore look at the above and the below from a different standpoint and see if there is any kind of qualitative difference between representations of the unconscious powers above and the unconscious powers below.  There are exceptions, but it can be said that in general the above is associated with what is masculine – ordered, light and sometimes spiritual – and the below with the feminine – fertile, dark (not evil; there are no moral designations in the original mythological counterpositions), chaotic, and the realm of the animals.  The sphere above is connected with birds and angels – with winged beings which have to do with the spiritual world.  For instance, if in a dream something comes from below, you might expect it to come up in the form of an emotion or a physical symptom such as sleeplessness, or some affective disturbance of the sympathetic nervous system.  Or it comes in the form of synchronistic occurrences in the outer world.  If an invasion from the unconscious comes from above, it can take the form of an enthusiasm for Communism or Nazism; such an “above” unconscious erupts into the system in the form of a collective idea.  If it is characterized as positive, then it can be said to be the Holy Ghost; if it is considered negative, then there are the winged demons, bats in the belfry, and other pernicious winged creatures – that is, destructive ideas.  Whether constructive or destructive, such ideas have a strong collective energy of their own.  Dynamic representations belong to the “above” aspect of the unconscious and the emotional, instinctive representations to its “below” aspect.   TAoPA 143

   A new realization first becomes alive and effective when it succeeds in reaching beyond the limits of consciousness into the depths of the soul and there unites with a corresponding archetype.  TGL 145

The psyche itself, in relation to consciousness, is pre-existent and transcendent.  We could therefore describe it, with du Prel, as the transcendental subject.   TDoP 91






[1] See Soul/Atma pages 225

[2] “It is now the unconscious that takes care of the relation to the object, and it does so in a way that is calculated to bring the illusion of power and the fantasy of superiority to utter ruin”.  BW par 627 - page 224

[3] Modern Man in Search of a Soul – page 73

[4] The ego is surrounded by the conscious part of the brain, which is surrounded by the personal unconsciousness, which is surrounded by the collective unconsciousness, which can never be made conscious. 

[5] “Jung identified five prominent groups of instinctive factors: creativity, reflection, activity, sexuality and hunger”  (Jung Lexicon – Instinct page 73.)  Hunger is a primary instinct of self-preservation, perhaps the most fundamental of all drives.  Sexuality is a close second, particularly prone to psychization (JUNG LEXICON FOR DEF/GLOSS), which makes it possible to divert its purely biological energy into other channels.  The urge to activity manifest in travel, love of change, restlessness and play.  Under reflection, Jung included the religious urge and the search for meaning.  Creativity was for Jung in a class by itself.  His descriptions of it refer specifically to the impulse to create art.  (Jung Lexicon – Instinct page 73.)

[6] The ego is ‘the subject of consciousness’ and consciousness is defined as ‘the function or activity which maintains the relation of psychic contents with the ego’.

[7] Which is why the unconscious produces compensatory symbols -for wholeness

[8] “Sleep, too, is an abaissement du niveau which leads to more or less complete oblivion of the ego”   (BW page 403 – par 522)  - On THE Psychogenesis of Schizophrenia”. 

[9] On the Nature of Dreams – BW pg. 388 – par 577

[10] Definition:  Motivation deriving logically from ethical or moral principles that govern a person’s thoughts and actions.  (Webster’s online)

[11] The conscience part decides which course of action one should take.

[12] God can’t replace my father.  People without a father – opportunity to surrogate the father with God.  Difficult to internalize (too big) but highest conscience.

[13] The Transcendent Function – The Portable Jung – edited by Joseph Campbell – page 4