I think about the public in a concert or a mob in the street. They act as One. People doing things they would never dare doing if they were alone. For a few moments they stop being individuals with an independent conscience and they become one with the group. They abandon themselves. They surrender to the power that unites them together into an undefinable One. One can almost see the collective unconscious at work. Our most primitive version of a species, acting as a collective, acting instinctively on immediacy without a need for understanding. There is only ‘now’, no need to think rationally, to abstract.
This force that sometimes emerges to guide the mob… is it always there? Does it ‘guide’ us constantly, maybe imperceptibly, subtly?
We are herd animals by nature. What is the foundation of what we call ‘society’? A collection of shared core values that came apparently from nowhere. They were not logically produced; they came from the ‘inside’. We value life, justice, beauty, freedom. Even if our individual representation of these ideas might be different, one could argue that most human beings would accept these core values as their own. They didn’t come from ‘nowhere’. They came from somewhere: our collective unconscious. Our core instinctual directives. Or did we think we were not preprogramed like an android? Try to transgress them. For most of us, this will be met by a strong emotion of disgust, shame or guilt, which I guess evolved as a safe mechanism to make sure we abide by our core values.
We are born with a pre-made psychological pattern. A squared page on which we overlay what we learn with our conscious mind. We are linked to it constantly, chained to it one might say. This is where our most basic, prenatal concepts reside, all the archetypes. The idea, the archetype of god and our connection with it is here, regardless of whether we call it God, the Universe or something else that is eternal and larger than ourselves.
Is there no ‘I’, then? Or maybe just an ego with limited relevance? If we are passengers, do we have responsibility for our actions? I don’t mean this as a purely logical question that derives from a premise. I do wonder to what extent the collective unconscious determines our main actions or even the small ones. Like a god.
The pool, the sea does not symbolise my unconscious. It is the collective unconscious. The bottom of the sea that connects and unites all islands. The everything within us. All of us together. The One. God. Our Universe.
Its raw power… and the insignificance of the ego. Yes, the ego rebels. It wants to be free. It wants to exist, to have content as a differentiated individual. A deluded logical mind overlaid over eons of evolution of the collective unconscious. The passenger.
Sometimes I wonder if I am just a helpless boat in the middle of the unconscious ocean, which redistributes me to maintain balance in the cosmic realm of human events. Offender one day, offended the next. Wave one day, battered rock the next. Are we really free or does the collective unconscious rearrange us to balance the spinning top of the species as a whole? Sometimes I feel I am playing a role already played by others before me, that I am a clone, assigned a role by the collective unconscious to provide my small grain of balance. A pawn in the collective swirl. Balance is everything. But not individual balance, collective balance.
I hold on to the handrail as firmly as I can as I get a glimpse of the void underneath me. The vastness, the immensity, the collective of all souls together.
The necessary and needful reaction from the collective unconscious expresses itself in archetypally formed ideas. The meeting with oneself is, at first, the meeting with one’s own shadow. The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well. But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is. For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad. It is the world of water, where all life floats in suspension; where the realm of the sympathetic system, the soul of everything living, begins; where I am indivisibly this and that; where I experience the other in myself and the other-than-myself experiences me.
No, the collective unconscious is anything but an incapsulated personal system; it is sheer objectivity, as wide as the world and open to all the world. There I am the object of every subject, in complete reversal of my ordinary consciousness, where I am always the subject that has an object. There I am utterly one with the world, so much a part of it that I forget all too easily who I really am. “Lost in oneself” is a good way of describing this state. But this self is the world, if only a consciousness could see it. That is why we must know who we are.
Carl G. Jung, Archetypes and the collective unconscious