Collective Unconscious


The Personal Unconscious


… it was a physician who felt impelled, from his scientific and medical experience, to point to the unconscious as the essential basis of the psyche.  This was C.G. Carus


When we say ‘the unconscious’ we often mean to convey something by the term, but as a matter of fact we simply convey that we do not know what the unconscious is. We have only indirect proofs that there is a mental sphere which is subliminal.

If, for instance, you look at our physical world and if you compare what our consciousness makes of this same world, you find all sorts of mental pictures which do not exist as objective facts. For instance, we see colour and hear sound, but in reality they are oscillations. As a matter of fact, we need a laboratory with very complicated apparatus in order to establish a picture of that world apart from our senses and apart from our psyche; and I suppose it is very much the same with our unconscious … AP 7


The unconscious processes, then, are not directly observable, but those of its products that cross the threshold of consciousness can be divided into two classes. The first class contains recognizable material of a definitely personal origin; these contents are individual acquisitions or products of instinctive processes that make up the personality as a whole.  Furthermore, there are forgotten or repressed contents, and creative contents. There is nothing specially peculiar about them. In other people such things may be conscious. Some people are conscious of things of which other people are not. I call that class of contents the sub-conscious mind or the personal unconscious, because, as far as we can judge, it is entirely made up of personal elements, elements that constitute the human personality as a whole.

Then there is another class of contents of definitely unknown origin, or at all events of an origin which cannot be ascribed to individual acquisition. These contents have one outstanding peculiarity, and that is their mythological character. It is as if they belong to a pattern not peculiar to any particular mind or person, but rather to a pattern peculiar to mankind in general … and therefore they are of a collective nature.

Cont’d … These collective patterns I have called archetypes, using an expression of St. Augustine’s. An archetype means a typos [imprint], a definite grouping of archaic character containing, in form as well as in meaning, mythological motifs. Mythological motifs appear in pure form in fairytales, myths, legends, and folklore.

(They) express the psychological mechanism of introversion of the conscious mind into the deeper layers of the unconscious psyche. From these layers derive the contents of an impersonal, mythological character, in other words, the archetypes, and I call them therefore the impersonal or collective unconscious. AP 41

The contents of the unconscious are indeed of the greatest importance, for the unconscious is after all the matrix of the human mind and its inventions.  TPofT 25

It would be a dangerous prejudice to imagine that analysis of the unconscious is the one and only panacea which should therefore be employed in every case.  It is rather like a surgical operation and we should only resort to the knife when other methods have failed.  So long as it does not obtrude itself the unconscious is best left alone.  TPofT 22

Now when there is a marked change in the individual’s state of consciousness, the unconscious contents which are thereby constellated will also change.  And the further the conscious situation moves away from a certain point of equilibrium, the more forceful and accordingly the more dangerous become the unconscious contents that are struggling to restore the balance.  TPofT  31

(In so far as) unconsciousness is a primary state, the overcoming of which requires great effort – nature or the unconscious can be compared to a mother who holds her children fast in the initial situation or who wants to draw them back into it.  The seduction of sinking back into unconsciousness is a widely-known human experience which has found expression most particularly in folklore and fairy-tales.  So, for instance, the numerous and widespread legends of nymphs and nixies who, with their irresistible song, entice men into their element aptly describe the attraction which comes up from the depths, from the unconscious.  TGL 43

It should be evident from the foregoing that we have to distinguish in the unconscious a layer which we may call the personal unconscious.  The materials contained in this layer are of a personal nature in so far as they have the character partly of acquisitions derived from the individual’s life and partly of psychological factors which could just as well be conscious.  It can readily be understood that incompatible psychological elements are liable to repression and therefore become unconscious.  But on the other hand this implies the possibility of making and keeping the repressed contents conscious once they have been recognized.  We recognize them as personal contents because their effects, or their partial manifestation, or their source can be discovered in our personal past.  2EoAP 136

They are the integral components of the personality, they belong to its inventory, and their loss to consciousness produces an inferiority in one respect or another – an inferiority, moreover, that has the psychological character not so much of an organic lesion or an inborn defect as of a lack which gives rise to a feeling of moral resentment.  The sense of moral inferiority always indicates that the missing element is something which, to judge by this feeling about it, really ought not be missing, or which could be made conscious if only one took sufficient trouble. 

The moral inferiority does not come from a collision with the generally accepted and, in a sense, arbitrary moral law, but from the conflict with one’s own self which, for reasons of psychic equilibrium, demands that the deficit be redressed.  Whenever a sense of moral inferiority appears, it indicates not only a need to assimilate an unconscious component, but also the possibility of such assimilation. 

In the last resort it is a man’s moral qualities which force him, either through direct recognition of the need or indirectly through a painful neurosis, to assimilate his unconscious self and to keep himself fully conscious.  Whoever progresses along this road of self-realization must inevitably bring into consciousness the contents of the personal unconscious, thus enlarging the scope of his personality. 

I should add at once that this enlargement has to do primarily with one’s moral consciousness, one’s knowledge of oneself, for the unconscious contents that are released and brought into consciousness by analysis are usually unpleasant – which is precisely why these wishes, memories, tendencies, plans, etc. were repressed.  2EoAP 137



   C/UC paradox

This paradox becomes immediately intelligible when we realize that there is no conscious content which can with absolute certainty be said to be totally conscious, for that would necessitate an unimaginable totality of consciousness, and that in turn would presuppose an equally unimaginable wholeness and perfection of the human mind.  So we come to the paradoxical conclusion that there is no conscious content which is not in some other respect unconscious.