Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), a Swiss psychiatrist is one of my favourite personalities from the 20th century, and that for many good reasons. It is very refreshing and special, if a person is able to break the limits of his/her cultural mindset and, combining the knowledge of the East and the West, create a new understanding of human development. First, some facts about C.G.Jung and then his most precious discovery – Collective Unconsciousness…
– Jung started on Latin when he was six years old, beginning a long interest in language and literature — especially ancient literature. Besides most modern western European languages, Jung could read several ancient ones, including Sanskrit, the language of the original Hindu holy books.
-Long an admirer of Sigmund Freud, he met him in Vienna in 1907. The story goes that after they met, Freud canceled all his appointments for the day, and they talked for 13 hours straight, such was the impact of the meeting. Freud eventually came to see Jung as the crown prince of psychoanalysis and his heir apparent. But luckily Jung had never been entirely sold on Freud’s theory.
-In 1921 he published Psychological Types a major work dealing with the relationship between the conscious and unconscious and proposing the recognition of the personality types extrovert and introvert. So we have ot thank him for this very practical take to a definition of a character!
-Jung’s work on himself and his patients convinced him that life has a spiritual purpose beyond material goals. Our main task, he believed, is to discover and fulfill our deep innate potential, much as the acorn contains the potential to become the oak, or the caterpillar to become the butterfly. Based on his study of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Taoism, and other traditions, Jung perceived that this journey of transformation is at the mystical heart of all religions. It is a journey to meet the self and at the same time to meet the Divine. Unlike Sigmund Freud, Jung thought spiritual experience was essential to our well-being.
-Jung’s theory divides the psyche into three parts. The first is the ego, which Jung identifies with the conscious mind. Closely related is the personal unconscious, which includes anything which is not presently conscious, but can be. But it does not include the instincts that Freud would have it include.
Then Jung adds the part of the psyche that makes his theory stand out from all others: the collective unconscious. We could call it your “psychic inheritance.” It is the reservoir of our experiences as a species, a kind of knowledge we are all born with. And yet we can never be directly conscious of it. It influences all of our experiences and behaviors, most especially the emotional ones, but we only know about it indirectly, by looking at those influences. Interestingly, Jung`s idea of collective unconsciousness is obviously in contradistinction to Freud`s idea of unconscious mind.
There are some experiences that show the effects of the collective unconscious more clearly than others: The experiences of love at first sight, of deja vu (the feeling that you’ve been here before), and the immediate recognition of certain symbols and the meanings of certain myths, could all be understood as the sudden conjunction of our outer reality and the inner reality of the collective unconscious. Grander examples are the creative experiences shared by artists and musicians all over the world and in all times, or the spiritual experiences of mystics of all religions, or the parallels in dreams, fantasies, mythologies, fairy tales, and literature.
The contents of the collective unconscious are called archetypes – a good listing and explanation of them find here.
The Jung`s discovery of the Collective Consciousness, I believe, is on of the most crusial points to understand the humanity as total and every individual human being in particular. I will post on the possibility of the convenient access to the collective consciousness a bit later.