The Collective Conscienceness Myth?

“Hey Darakat, what do you think of the ‘Collective unconsciousness’ thing?” – John Dreaming in Northcort

I will be the first to admit my fist thoughts were sceptical. And it pretty much stayed that way.

The issue we have here is one of a diverse set of different beliefs of a theory that wasn’t actually entirely completed and then was subsequently corrupted by others. Jung is credited with the main stay of this idea appears in The Archetypes and the collective unconscious (1990, Routledge). Jung died before he was able to entirely finish it, hence it’s posthumous collective publication. As I said most people thing of what Jung meant is actuality not entirely correct.

Firstly collective unconsciousness is in itself a concept that relies on one psychological idea, which is that we are all connected in some means. This is what Jung actually meant, but as far as I am aware he also said that we have a personal unconsciousness. Both are of equal importance. The unconsciousness is also poorly understood by both Psychology and more solid Scientific fields. We don’t even know exactly where our consciousness ends or begins. We can’t even seem to fully know if we actually have free will or not. This is pretty deep stuff to be messing around with without fully understanding it. Instead, most of the time, we are doing the best we can. This is why Psychologists need to do so much school, and then do some more after that, and more, and so on. Life long learning is of upmost importance to such fields.

Then take this and shove archetypes into it. Jung only describes a small number of archetypes, 5-6 at most. Why then when you look in New Age books on them do we see sets of 12-15 or even more? Why do they look suspiciously like a cross between a Rider Wait Tarot deck and Campbell Newman’s Mono-myth?

I’m sorry but you have just been conned, at least to some extent.

I love some New Age things as much as the next person, I practice modern paganism, I have more than a few useful Llewellyn Press (though they have got better in recent years) books on my shelves, and I own more than my share of what I will politely call “complete and utter crap” texts. Problem with most new things is that when it gets popular, it becomes moneymaking. Commercialism essentially takes over and someone in marketing wants to make as much as possible. Thus they add what Jung wrote, to a bit of stuff that people expect (here enters the Tarot and Newman’s Mono-myth), add a bit of water to wash it down, call it Collective Unconsciousness Applied or some such and wallah. You have a best seller.

These books are not a complete con, though. There worth of course depends on the author and the level of research that goes into them. Most are average, but more not so great stuff is being put into “print” thanks to electronic publishing. Wait a while for that to die down, and when electronic publishers get a bit wiser about the stuff they produce, there should be a some ok stuff their too. Best bet is to use your own judgement, do some self-research on the myths and connections for yourself and decide what is and is not useful for you. This takes time and work, but if you are wanting to use this method effectively your going to need to do that at some stage anyway. The best bet is to do it first up, as then you don’t need to re-do everything again when you work out you went wrong, or find its no longer helping.

We hear all the time about the collective mind, thought and ideas that form from our greater cultural inter-activeness. Our culture and religion and everyone we interact with of course influence our dreams. Dream contents are pretty much influenced by everything, including dreams themselves. One can’t help thinking though from a more scientific approach to it?

Well its not something that is easily gained as I mentioned Jung didn’t quite finish the idea to its fullest. The other issue is that what we are looking for may not be possible with current technology or ability. Dreams are often subjective, and although a Cow may mean something relating to milk and the mother and protection to some, it may also mean love and kindness, or it may be a symbol of destruction and inner turmoil. Jung often taught that context was also very important, it was not just the collective unconscious that was being used but the dreamers own conscious and the context of the dream. For example the dream may have a Cow playing a guitar in a field of poppies while bombs from B57’s are dropping into the fields exploding into large puddles of green milk. The cow is playing KISS and wearing white and black makeup. If the dreamer had just been to a KISS concert and usually works as a milkman who has had to deliver a lime flavoured milk due to a promotion that includes a local sporting team whose colours are green and logo is a B57 bomber featuring a guitar playing Cow, its not to hard to work our where this dream has come from. If however the dreamer is normally a lawyer who has been caught up in a particularly bad divorce case, it’s a bit different. The collective unconscious comes in more when we are looking at the archetype within a dream and how they may influence or be influenced by the dreamer and what this related to.


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