The Unconscious:

The Idea of The Unconscious

Freud thought there is an area of our minds that is unconscious. We all speak of Consciousness and Unconsciousness, but Freud spoke of an area that he called the Unconscious. The Unconscious is filled with ideas, thoughts, feelings, fears and anxieties, angry emotions, fantasies and so on that we don't know are going on inside us. If we want to experience our own unconscious material, we can stop and try to pay attention to what is going on inside us, but, according to Freud, it is usually not enough to make a conscious effort.

Freud's student, Carl Jung, agreed there is an Unconscious in all of us, but thought it has two parts: There is, what he called, the Personal Unconscious (the one Freud talked about), but, according to Jung, there is also a deeper one that he called the Collective Unconscious. The Personal Unconscious "contains" personal thoughts, feelings, and so on; the Collective Unconscious contains material that many people can have all at once, and so it is collective. The Personal Unconscious lies behind some of our shocking behavior (such as irrational angry outbursts or a man suddenly leaving his family and running off with another woman); The Collective Unconscious lies behind mass movements and the moments when we feel swept up in something bigger than ourselves.

Is the Unconscious real?

Many thinkers do not accept the idea of the Unconscious: If something were truly unconscious, how could we ever know it existed? Also, where is the Unconscious; what is the evidence for its existence? You can't see it or study it under a microscope or measure it, so it's just a theoretical that can never be proven.

Many people who reject the idea of an "Unconscious" mind reject the idea of "mind" altogether. They think of themselves as hard-headed, rational realists who only believe in what they can see or what can be proven to exist via physics or chemistry. (The idea of the Unconscious has fallen out of favor in the United States among most psychological researchers and therapists, though, from what I understand, it is still used in European psychology. Psychologists who accept and use the concept have been called Depth Psychologists.)

I think that Freud and Jung weren't just making up theories. They were giving labels to something they saw in their patients and also in themselves. Maybe they didn't put it just right from an intellectual point of view, but what they were seeing was real.

I also think that, in spite of all the philosophical difficulties that you run into if you try to be consistent about such things, it is very useful to talk about the Unconscious. It is hard to get along without the concept once you see how it is used. It is like the saw in carpentry: You can get yourself into a lot of trouble with one, but it is hard to see how you can build a house without one. On this site we are not doing philosophy but the practical work of psychology as it applies to ourselves and others. In short, for all its flaws, I think it is near impossible to get along with the concept of the Unconscious.

What does the Unconscious look like in other people?

There's an old New Yorker cartoon of a man lying on a psychiatrist's couch with the psychiatrist sitting behind him taking notes. The man is propping himself up on his arms and turning his head around so he can to look at the psychiatrist. The man looks furious. He yells at the psychiatrist, "Open your ears fathead! I said people don't like me for some reason!"

We see he is furious. We understand immediately that he is irrational and argumentative, perhaps even cruel, but he doesn't see it. This is a joke, a cartoon, but it reflects experiences we have all had. The way this is put in Depth Psychology is that men like these are unconscious of their anger: We all can see it; we are all conscious of it; but they can't see it. They don't know they are angry.

Drinkers can be unconscious in a similar way. We all see they have a serious problem, but they can't or won't see it.

Another example would be a wife who flirts with men. The men she flirts with know it, and her husband sees it and knows it and gets jealous, but when he mentions it to her, she denies it. At first we may think she is consciously lying to him, but, it can happen that, if he talks with her for a while, he begins to realize she has no idea she is flirting, and she has no idea she has sexual feelings for anyone besides him.

People who are blind like this can be the butt of jokes, but the Unconscious has a side that isn't funny at all. It may not be an exaggeration to say it is the source of all the evil that comes out of us. Just think of the drunk driver who says he isn't drunk, even though we all see it clearly and keep telling him.

All the examples just given are of the Personal Unconscious.

When we see someone in the grip of the Collective Unconscious it looks different. We see a wild looking man on the street corner raving about Christ. We watch film clips of enthusiastic German men and women in a large auditorium listening to Hitler. We listen to our friend who has joined a cult preaching to us how all our problems will be solved if we join. — To us who remain on the outside, these people seem hypnotized, in their own private worlds.

In fact, it was situations such as these (among others), that led Jung to speak of a "collective" Unconscious and to see us all as having a collective part of ourselves in addition to the personal parts. We all have the potential of getting swept away in a mass emotion or fantasy along with thousands or millions of others and of losing our precious consciousness. In such states we feel we are right and that everyone else can't see the Truth.

And sometimes we are right, even if we are unconscious. Sometimes a person who we think is swept up in some crazy idea is really ahead of the times and on to something real and new and important. For this reason, it is difficult to judge the Collective Unconscious from a moral or rational angle or by applying the judgment of the majority. Often the true value of some upsurge of the Unconscious can only be understood years in the future (maybe centuries in the future).

What is it like to experience the Unconscious in Ourselves?

It is often easy to see the Unconscious in others, but it is almost always hard to see it in ourselves. This is partly because many times things are unconscious in us for a reason, and sometimes the reason is that we don't want to see them. We don't want to see that we are angry or sexually attracted to someone or frightened or jealous or greedy. It may not fit in with our self-image or the expectations others have of us.

But let's say we do want to understand ourselves, even the most remote area and the areas darkest and most foul. How could we recognize them?

Let's start with the Personal Unconscious. What does it look like if catch a glimpse of it in ourselves?

The Personal Unconscious is often experienced as something taking us over. You do something, but you feel it isn't you doing it. Or it is you, but it is not the real you. A word we use now use for this experience is impulse: "I had an impulse to do it! I couldn't control myself!" Or, "Something came over me! It wasn't the real me! I don't know what happened!"

It used to be called possession: "Some spirit or demon must have taken me over! I wasn't responsible! Something made me do it!" We still blame liquor which we still call spirits (remember the words Demon Rum): "It must have been the liquor! I would never do anything like that!"

The psychological approach, as introduced by Freud, looks at these situations in differently. What took me over was not a spirit or a demon or even some abstract impulse; what "possessed" me was something in me, something that lay hidden and unconscious in me but that was really part of me. It was my own, personal sexual feelings or anger or feeling of anxiety or feeling of envy.

You can see that the psychological approach creates more moral difficulties for us. It places responsibility in ourselves: We are the problem! Our own deep feelings and fantasies and needs are what lead to our doing bad things. Even if we're not fully responsible for these parts of ourselves because we're unconscious of them, still it is our responsibility to try to become conscious of them, so we can have more control. The idea here is that it is consciousness and only consciousness that can give us some control over our futures and show us the need to make restitution for our past bad deeds. It is consciousness that gives us whatever Free Will we have. Will and New Year's Resolutions are never enough.

To see the different unpleasant unconscious parts of ourselves can be shocking, disturbing, and troubling, and it can be near impossible to force ourselves to turn towards them and stare at them. Once we get accustomed to staring at these realities and giving them their proper labels, we realize that they were there all along and that we were always dimly aware of them. And, though it is a shock at first, gradually we become accustomed to the sight, and we don't feel the need to turn away. And we realize how much energy we had put into keeping our eyes turned from reality, and we can relax more.

This is the Personal Unconscious.

So what does the Collective Unconscious in ourselves look like?

If I experience the Personal Unconscious as not me as something that comes over me or possesses me, I experience the Collective Unconscious as the real me, the true me, the deep and deeper and deepest me. It often happens that a person feels as if this part has been hidden away for years and that it is now time to explore it and let it out. It often feels like an untapped source of creativity, deep inside. One way people put it is that it is the unused part of the brain, and people are on television offering to show us how to untap this source of our creativity and power.

It often happens that people want to experience the Collective Unconscious but find it hard to access. They feel as if there is a Great Mystery, and they can feel they have been called to search for it.

Or it can burst out spontaneously, as if out of nowhere and unwanted, like a lightening bolt from heaven or an earthquake or volcano or tidal wave. Depending on its content, it can feel like a blessing or a curse. It can feel blissful, like a taste of Heaven or excruciatingly painful and terrifying, as if one has entered into Hell. It can change a life in one instant, in a flash — for better or worse.

Even though an experience of the Collective Unconscious can feel like the true me coming out, what Jung noticed was that, from an outside and more objective point of view, it is just the opposite. What feels to us to be "my ingenious insight" or "my most profound feeling" is what every other person of our generation or race or religion or country is going through. At the very least these are thoughts and feelings that people have had in all time and places. What feels like our own touch of genius is a thought that people all over the world have had throughout the ages and that lie in all of us. There is nothing new under the sun, just different expressions of the same old things.

The collective is captivating, enchanting, exhilarating, and it feels deep, because it is an expression of deep instincts in us all. It is often activated in many people at once. It feels as if I have found myself as an individual, but I have really lost my individuality and become part of a mass mind or movement. I feel I am now special and unique and the greatest in history, but I have sunk into a common state of mind.

If drugs such as LSD open up the Collective Unconscious in someone and make them feel they are having all sorts of miraculous insights and discoveries, those around are witnessing a person playing with his or her own feces or babbling like a baby or scribbling meaningless doodles or some such thing.

This doesn't mean there is no value to a person or to society to touch into the Collective Unconscious; it just means it is a precarious and ambiguous enterprise.

Another common way that we can see that the Collective Unconscious is awake in us is if we begin to feel we are in touch with super-powers in ourselves, physical or mental. It is what is now called, being in the zone. In previous times it was thought of, among other things, as finding our genius (that is a guiding spirit).

This genius can appear as an actual personality, perhaps in a "Big" Dreams, and people make pacts with these "spirits." Fictional examples can be found in Goethe's Faust in which Faust trades his soul to the Devil in exchange for super-powers and super-knowledge and in the popular musical, Phantom of the Opera, in which Christiana is asked to give herself to the Spirit of Music.

Some people feel they have become capable of magic and that they can use it for good or evil, or they feel they are witches or warlocks, or they become sure that other people are witches or warlocks. We can argue all day long about whether there are such things in reality, but they do exist in our imaginations, and people who are fascinated by such things are, by Jung's understanding, caught up in the Collective Unconscious.

Another sign you are caught up in the Collective Unconscious is if you begin to feel you are different from others and superior to them (or, alternatively, you can feel worse than others and lower than and inferior to them). Generally, any very strong emotion — positive ones such as elation and negative ones such as depression and melancholy — are signs that the collective has been awakened.

On a deeper level still, a person can feel he or she has seen angels or even god-like figures. It is even possible for a person to feel he or she is in the presence of God and communicating with Him. It is possible for people to feel they have been given a special mission from God. It is even possible for some people to feel they are the Messiah or Christ or even God, Himself. — Without debating about what is true and false here, the thing we can say, as psychologists, is that the Collective Unconscious has been awakened. Such situations are ambivalent: There is potential for great good and for great harm.

These experiences, even if they don't make a person insane and lead to hospitalization, often alienate the person from others and make him or her feel like a loner. A man can feel he is like Caine in the Bible. Or, like Nietzsche, he can feel he has transcended ordinary human values and is now Beyond Good and Evil, an Over-man. Nietzsche's fictional character, Zarathustra, is an example of a man who feels he is an Over-man, but who we, looking from the outside, feel is a madman. It is useful to mention in this context that, in the Hebrew Bible, the invention of science and art is attributed to Caine: It is alone, apart from friends, family, and society, that discoveries and inventions are made.

Even if a person doesn't get completely caught up and lost in the Collective Unconscious, the idea of God may come to mind. People who feel an inspiration or a moment of mystical oneness are having an experience of the collective. If a man takes a walk in the country and feels he has stumbled into a sacred, magical spot, that is an experience from the Collective Unconscious. If a man sees a woman walking towards him, and she looks like a glowing goddess, this an experience from the collective. If it feels as if the world stops and time stands still, and if a feeling of heavenly bliss comes over one, this is a touch of the collective.

As said, these experiences can feel especially attractive to people who are enmeshed in a million everyday responsibilities. Life can become stale and meaningless, and a person can feel dead. A person in this state can set out on a journey in search of these otherworldly experiences which have been called by a thousand different names. They can travel to foreign countries, pay thousands of dollars to gurus, take up meditation, take drugs, or enter psychotherapy — all in search of collective experiences.

It has to be said that there is a need for the collective as real as the need for food or water or sex. I see this need as instinctual.

Evaluating the Unconscious

If we look at the need for the collective experience as instinctual, it is easier to understand the ambivalent, ambiguous nature of the Collective Unconscious. It is no different from the moral ambiguity of any instinct. All instincts have two sides: They create needs that must be fulfilled so life does not shrivel and die, so, from the point of view of life, it is good to satisfy them. However, it is possible to overindulge to the point of satiation or to indulge them in inappropriate ways that are dangerous to oneself and others.

It is no different, it seems to me, with the instinct to have collective experiences. Without collective experiences, life becomes stale and meaningless, so it is necessary to maintain some contact with the Otherworld. On the other hand, it is possible to overindulge and to get lost in it or to enter it through means that lead to our destruction.

In our sober, work state, we can look down on all the instincts as weakness. We can be proud to be able to resist our hunger, to resist our desire for water, to resist and control our sexual impulses, to refuse to give into our desire for possessions. And we can also be proud that we are sober and strong minded and aren't scurrying around taking drugs, meditating, going to psychotherapy, paying gurus in an attempt to run from reality and escape our responsibilities. But we are flirting with disaster if we take this attitude for too long, because the instincts assert themselves, and, if they are not allowed to have any expression, they can come out indirectly or burst out suddenly and destructively.

As said, these unconscious aspects of our personality are easier to see in others than in ourselves. The Unconscious, Personal and Collective, is a problem for us. It is us and lies behind most, if not all, of what we do. On the other hand, we are at odds with it and have to struggle with it in order to be who we are and what we want to become. It is as if our human existence is a Paradox, a contradiction. The Ego has to evaluate and stand up to the Unconscious, but it grows out of the Unconscious and is its "baby."

It seems that some sort of balance needs to exist between the two poles. With respect to the collective, if we have a problem and try to solve it with our rational, conscious thinking, we can soon begin to feel we are going around and around in a circle. To get out of this rut we have to get away from the problem, and then some spontaneous thought or dream may come that points to a resolution. But if we "marry" ourselves to this resolution, we can forget our thinking, and we can sink into an irrational and dangerous quicksand. Some sort of balance seems necessary, a balance that is half way between the conscious and the unconscious minds. Because this balance involves more of us than our rational sides, we can never arrive at it through an A, B, C approach, because the step by careful step approach is a rational approach.

How can we get Self-Knowledge about the Unconscious in Ourselves?

When we are involved in our daily lives, we can not help but forget that the Unconscious exists. We have to forget it in order to get done what needs to get done. However, the Unconscious is still there. It is real and always present. Our whole conscious lives stand on it like our bodies stand, ultimately, on the earth. We can go up an elevator to the 19th Floor of a building, but the building we are in is on the ground.

It is inevitable that we forget the existence of the Unconscious. It is also inevitable that we forget its power. The earth we live on is a wonderful and gentle and ever-present support, even if we forget it. But it is also the source of massive earthquakes and tidal waves and volcanoes, and we forget this. We think we can drink or take drugs or meditate or enter psychotherapy and that we will become happier. We naively assume our guides will guide us into greener pastures. We can be crazily naive as to the dangers just like those who build houses on the San Andreas Fault in California.

Entering psychotherapy is no guarantee we will be helped. Pushing around in the Unconscious can awaken all processes that may be difficult or even impossible to control, even with psychiatric medications. The search for Self-Knowledge is not for everyone and should not be undertaken lightly. It is important to have sober, stable people around who have covered some of the territory themselves and who are willing to act as support. And even this is no guarantee. The dragon in the fairy tales kills most of those who try to find the other kingdom. It is only a rare person who makes it through and then only with special helpers.

I am not trying to be negative but only to express sober truths. And it is with these warnings in mind that we approach our new question of "How can we get Self-Knowledge about the Unconscious in Ourselves?"

As stated above, it seems to me that most people are too busy even to entertain questions about what they are like underneath. If they do find themselves asking the question, they don't have the energy to expend that is necessary to answer it. In addition, there is a natural inclination to feel that pursuing such questions is dangerous. We correctly sense we can become unbalanced, fall into some irrational abyss or get lost in an intellectual maze, and lose our ability and desire to function in the world of our adult responsibilities.

But some people — and it is often people who have few responsibilities and a lot of free time — do go on a search to find out more about themselves, to find out who they really are. So the question now is, if a person is trying to gain self-knowledge, how can he or she learn about the unconscious part of themselves?

We have already discussed this in some detail. In this section we focus on a few practical ideas.

Basically there are two ways to learn about yourself: 1) through observing yourself and 2) through learning how others see you.

1) Generally speaking, there are two ways to observe yourself:

a) You can use introspecting to "look inward" and observe and examine your inner states such as your thoughts, images, feelings, and bodily sensations. This is the internal approach, but it only gives you access to conscious material or material that flits in and out of consciousness. In addition, though much material can be gathered in this way, it is easy to get caught in a way of looking at it that makes oneself look good.

Realizing the limits of introspection, Freud proposed two ways to access the Unconscious. The first was Free Association. This is where a patient reported to the psychoanalyst whatever came into his or her mind. Eventually unconscious material would come out. The patient might not recognize it as such, and this is where the analyst comes in. The analyst explains the true meaning of the material that emerges. I must add again, that this method has dangers, and, like all the methods discussed here, should only be done under the guidance of a sober and experienced person.

Freud's second idea, gotten through his own personal experiences, is that, as he put it, "Dreams are the Royal Road to the Unconscious." But an important caveat, emphasized by Jung, is that dreams should not be taken at face value. An example he gave is that, if a man dreams that he kills his beloved father, it does not mean, necessarily, that he has murderous impulses towards his father. It may be that the dream is a compensation for the love. The son may be too bound up with the father, and the dream balances this out, so the son may move on with his life. It is impossible for most of us to figure these things out for ourselves. If we have such a dream, we can jump to the conclusion that we want to murder someone, and we can feel terribly guilty. On the other hand, sometimes we should be scared of the impulses that lie in the dream. So, again, it is important to have an experienced and sober person who can help sort through the material as it arises.

Also dreams can take you very quickly into very dangerous places. It really can happen that a charismatic figure can appear in a dream and demand some action. One patient dreamed he heard a voice to go to Las Vegas and go to a roulette wheel and place all the money he had on red. And the demands can be worse. It is very important to understand the great danger to self and others of such dream experiences, and it is another reason why it is critically important not to undergo such self-analyses on ones own.

b) It is important to combine the introspective approach with an objective examination of ones own body and behavior. For example, a man in marriage counseling is asked by his counselor to watch a video of himself interacting with his spouse. Even though he resists this disquieting experience, he sits and watches and begins to see how he raised his voice, had a threatening expression on his face, and so on. Or he may allow himself to be hooked up to a biofeedback machine, and he can not deny to himself how the needle jumps when certain words are mentioned to him or when certain subjects are raised. — In ways such as these, if a person is motivated and interested, he or she can learn a lot about themselves, things that they didn't know and that were unconscious.

2) There are also two ways to get feedback from other people:

a) It is possible to make an effort to listen to what others say about you. Even if we ask, in all sincerity, people often will not say what they really feel or think. For example, if we are someone's boss, our employee would probably not risk angering us by telling us the truth about how they see us? Still, people often do let their true thoughts and feelings slip out, maybe in a moment of anger. And we can, if we are open, learn a lot from these outbursts. (It is important to remember that we can jump to incorrect conclusions it here also: Just because a person tells us honestly what he or she sees, it doesn't mean they are right.)

It is also possible to hire a professional therapist to reflect ourselves back to us. This is a delicate and difficult process for both parties, but it seems to be growing in popularity.

b) A related, though more indirect approach to gaining knowledge of the unconscious part of ourselves, is to try to notice how our behavior differs from the majority of those around us. Do others see us as weird or scary? Do we take drugs in a community where this is not normal behavior, do we dress differently, or do we stand out in some other more or less dramatic way? The more we differ, the more there is a chance we have an unconscious problem. This isn't the automatic conclusion we should make, but it is a piece of data in our search for the truth about ourselves. And even if we do begin to see that we have a problem, it doesn't mean we are all wrong or all bad. We don't want to throw out the diamonds in us just because they are tarnished or because they lie next to some poison. And people on both sides must realize and try to remember that sober, rational people are often wrong and that even people in mental hospitals often have a valid perspective on things. This makes it confusing working with such people, as they often come out with brilliant, even astounding, truths.

Navajo hunters went into a sweat bath before the hunt and, we are told, "became" wolves. As wolves they hunted and killed deer. After the hunt, the wives would not let these wolves come directly home. On returning from the hunt the first thing the hunters had to do was to go back to the sweat lodge and "become" humans again. Apparently it was necessary for the wives to remind their husbands that they were, unconsciously, still animals. If we find ourselves spending more and more time alone, or if we find ourselves embedded in some extreme group that frightens others, it is likely we have slipped into an unconscious state and that we may really have become a threat to others. Again, this doesn't mean we should just do anything to fit in and be social; the hope is that we can learn more about ourselves, so we can act a little more consciously.

Strong evidence that we are under the influence of an unconscious component of our personality is if we are told by others that we should "get some therapy." This means others are seeing us in a way that differs from how we are seeing ourselves, and this is often a sign that we have some sober self-reflection ahead of us.

If others think we are mentally ill it often indicates we have unconscious parts of ourselves to deal with, and another sign is if we find ourselves in trouble with the Law. Trouble with Psychiatry and trouble with the Law are two objective signs that something is going on in us that is escaping us. We may not want to look at it, but, for ourselves and others, we should try. In situations such as these, it is my experience that others are usually right or at least partially right. This isn't always the case, but, I have found, it usually is. So it is useful to monitor any feelings that develop in us that we are being backed into a corner by others. Again, even if we are acting out some unconscious instinct, it doesn't mean we are wrong or all wrong, but it is worth examining ourselves so as not to hurt ourselves or others we care about or would care about if we got to know them.

Relating to the Unconscious

We have already spoken of the dangers of falling into the unconscious, and we have spoken of the dangers of trying to avoid and deny the Unconscious altogether. It is as if there are two quicksands into which we can fall, and by trying to back away from one, we are in danger of stepping into the other.

This is a modern way of stating what our ancestors saw as a religious problem: If God was not in their lives they felt dead and soulless, but if they got too close to God, they could die or become insane. This isn't to say that God = the Unconscious but only that these are two different ways people have used for describing similar experiences.

As we said, since the problem is not solely a problem involving the rational side of ourselves, the solution can not be found by immersing oneself in the rational side (or in either side). It is not an intellectual problem, and its solution involves struggling with dangerous and irrational instincts. The model, put in religious terms, is of Jacob wrestling with the Angel for the whole night. He doesn't destroy it or dominate it, but he does learn its name. And he is injured in the process. Jung saw the proper approach to the Unconscious as a dialogue but not an intellectual dialogue. The word he used was the German word, auseinandersetzung, which implies a struggle between two sides in which both are changed.

It is important to point out, once again, that there is no guarantee in such a struggle. Jacob could have lost the battle. How and why he won was undoubtedly due to his skills and persistence, but there must have been a certain about of luck involved. And perhaps the Angel let him win. The point is that the outcome of such struggles is not known in advance. In the last moment, no matter how well we have been prepared, we are on our own, and this is, or should be, at least somewhat terrifying.

I think it is useful to think of the Jewish descriptions of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. The Hebrew Bible states that Solomon's Temple was the home of YHWH, the Hebrew god. This god commanded Moses to have the Temple built, so that He could have a home on earth. (This was a common idea throughout the ancient Near East — temples as the home of a deity). The Bible states that all Israelites had to recognize the God who lived in the Temple and His importance and attend to Him, though not everyone had the same responsibilities. Some only had to visit the Temple a few times a year and give gifts to the Lord inside the Temple. Others had to live near or in the Temple and repair it and take care of it. Only one person, the High Priest was allowed (or, better, required) to enter into the innermost part of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, the room in which the Lord lived. And he could only do this once a year, on the holiest day of the year, and in a highly prescribed manner and for the purpose of pleading the cause of the whole people of Israel. No one else could go inside the room or they would die. There is a story about how the two sons of Aaron, the first High Priest, went into the Holy of Holies with the highest motives, but, in spite of their pure motives, they were immediately killed by the fire of the Lord.

Some people still take the Bible as literally true, and, for them, psychology has little meaning, but for those of us who have found psychology useful and who no longer believe in the literal truth of these ancient holy writings, we can still recognize the presence of something completely different from the ordinary, the Collective Unconscious, to use our more modern terms. And since, in those days, people didn't seem to doubt and analyze as we do, we can see their customs as a direct expression of the unadorned religious instinct, or, to use our terms, of the instinct to find a proper relation with the Collective Unconscious.

And it is my view that, with a slight turning of the biblical stories, we can find truths that apply to modern people who are looking to establish an healthy relation with the Collective Unconscious. The fact that everyone had to recognize and respect the Lord in the Temple parallels our idea that we all have to find some way to acknowledge the importance of the Unconscious. We deny its importance at our own peril. However, not all of us are "called" to get too close to the experience. Some must just make an occasional sacrifice to acknowledge its importance to them. If they went any closer to the Unconscious, they would be "burned" by its fire, as it were. On the other extreme, there are some (maybe a twelfth of us — parallel to the one of twelve Hebrew tribes who tended the Temple — the Levites) who are required to live close and tend to the "source" and its power. If no one would tend the Temple of the Collective Unconscious, as it were, the whole world could get stuck in tradition and could shrivel up and stop adapting to Reality. The Levites who attended the Lord in the Holy of Holies, are paralleled by the psychologists, and the pioneers, Freud and Jung, would be parallel to Moses and the High Priests (to use Freud's own analogy).

It is interesting to remember the concept of Sabbath in Judaism and in Christianity. The idea is that six days a week we can get involved in the world and get further and further away from the divine presence. However, one day out of seven, we must go to Church or Temple to get closer to the Lord and to re-establish our mutual relation. To me this implies that, according to our instinctual nature, roughly one seventh of our time should be spend in exploring the Unconscious. This is instinctually based. If true, this implies that, for most of us, roughly one seventh of our time should be spent in self-examination, reflection, meditation or what ever we call that which takes us closer to the deeper and unconscious parts of ourselves.

It is, I think, part of the genius of Freud and Jung to see that it is only by becoming more conscious that we can become less driven. Relating to the Unconscious gives us more of what we call Freedom, it frees our Will, at least to some extent. And, further, it allows us to adapt better to our environments, to keep up better with the ever-changing world around us.

Unanswered Questions

Every discussion leaves things out and leads to new questions. Three questions I still have are the following.

1) What is the place of chemistry and biology in what we have been calling "conscious" and "unconscious" processes? What brain mechanisms underlie the different psychological states? Where do our genes fit in? Etc.

2) A philosophical question that still remains for me is, "How is it possible for something like a pain to be unconscious?"

3) Finally, I wonder if, in the end, there isn't a closer connection between the Personal and Collective Unconscious than Jung thought. Both seem to contain instinctually based material, so maybe it is a matter of degree. Or maybe they are two different ways of looking at the same thing.