ARCHETYPAL PATTERN. FUNDAMENTALS OF NON-TRADITIONAL PSYCHOANALYSIS. Textbook.
Chapter 1. From Carl Gustav Jung’s Archetypes Of The Collective Unconscious To Individual Archetypal Patterns.
Andrey Davydov and Olga Skorbatyuk
Translated by Anonymous.
Edited by Kate Bazilevsky.
It’s a well-known fact that neither Sigmund Freud nor his student Carl Gustav Jung were the first scientists to start their quest in the field of the unconscious. Prior to them Carl Gustav Carus and Eduard Von Hartmann had worked on the philosophy of the unconscious, though the very idea, was once ousted by the fashionable empiricism and materialism of the time – the concept being naturally scientific in psychology. However, despite the greatest discoveries in this area, the soul, as the basis for human psyche, was not only failed to be found, but its very existence was denied. The results of this fact might be well observed nowadays in psychology, philosophy and medicine: no soul – no foundation, no foundation – no house, no pivot – nothing to put the rest on. And, possibly not knowing the modern human being is the very cause of massive fragmentation or splitting of the conscience regardless of the diagnosis.
True we could be quite content with what we have already discovered in the fields of psychology, philosophy and religion, but these findings don’t make us fully satisfied. Also, they don’t explain who we are, why we are in this world and what’s our purpose. In other words, they don’t answer the questions of vital importance. In fact, we don’t expect to be truly happy with answers to the most important every day questions. And, the proof to this lies in general disharmony in various spheres of our lives as well as the very fact of continuous search for human soul.
We were quite positive that it was the profound or “deep” psychology that could help us in this search, the reason being the very fact that whatever “lay on the surface” had already been discovered, though unfortunately was not worth discovering. In Jung’s view deep psychology was similar to archeology and prior to him Sigmund Freud many a time compared psychoanalysis with this science as well since according to him Jung dealt with the “excavation of soul”. If “archi” means “origin,” then deep psychology should deal with “archeological excavation” of human psyche rather than rocks, penetrating the former as the basis of consciousness. After all, psychology like all other sciences is meant to study the universal in the particular, trying to find common patterns in something individual. However, it is well-known that common patterns do not lie on the surface therefore scientists try to get to the bottom going deeper and deeper.
So, we’ve decided one more time to try and find the very basis of human psyche, the cornerstone, which gives rise to the rest of the structure. And, until the end of the tangle is found we won’t be able to unwind the latter in order to understand what human psyche (which someone may refer to as soul) is all about.
Since the main scientific source for our psychological research are materials primarily borrowed from Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), we would like to focus our attention on the works of this great Swiss psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and psychologist. It is important for analyzing his conception of archetypes and their effect on human psyche. Examining his theory, our task will be to determine in what part our views on the subconscious are the same as those of Jung’s and where they are cardinally different.
Before we start discussing archetypes both in general and from different angles, it would be only logical to give them proper definition. The noun “archetype” comes from two Greek words: arche – origin and typos – form, pattern. During the later period in ancient philosophy the above concept was used to describe the prototype or idea; this was primarily an original model, a newly created pattern. One of Jung’s works contains the following: “…the term “archetype” occurs as early as Philo Judaeus, with reference to the Imago Dei (God-image) in man.
It can also be found in Irenaeus, who says: «Mundi fabricator non semetipso fecit haec, sed de aliens archetypes transtulit» [(lat.) “The creator of the world did not fashion these things directly from himself but copied them from archetypes outside himself.”] In the Corpus Hermeticum, God is called το άρχέτυπον φώ ς.. (archetypal light). Although the term “archetype” is not found in St. Augustine, the “idea” of it is. According to Jung the word “archetype” is an explanatory paraphrase of the Platonic είδος (eidoV). For our purposes this term is helpful because it tells us that we are dealing with archaic or rather – primordial types, i.e. with universal images, which have existed from time immemorial (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 98). The term “archetype” is similarly used by alchemists and Jung himself refered to Vignerus who states that the world is «ad archetypi sui similitudinem factus» [(lat.) “Made after the likeness of its archetype” Tract. De igne et sale // Theatr. Chem., 1661, VI.3]
According to Carl Gustav Jung the original ancient psyche lay foundation for our intellect in the same way as our body structure goes back to general anatomy of mammals. However, when discussing this foundation he meant unconscious ideas and images, which are part of the collective unconscious. To Jung the same archetype could be equally applied to whole nations and eras.
After conducting research on Greek mythology and analyzing the dreams of mentally ill Africans, Jung came to a theory that major mythological motifs are common for all races at all times. He thought of the collective (or “racial”) unconscious as hereditary, interpersonal and resulting from human evolution. The contents of the former are called archetypes. By Jung’s own definition an archetype is “a symbolic formula functioning whenever the concept of the conscious is either yet non-existent or altogether impossible,” it’s a certain “instinctive vector, a pointed trend, the one, which forces birds to build their nests and ants to erect anthills” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 65). We consider the above definition to be quite accurate, although, as opposed to ants and birds, the author of analytical psychology for some reason denies humans their own “individual destination, with no connection to mankind’s general purpose as a species. While agreeing with the existence of Jung’s archetypical matrix as “infinitely ancient in psychic origin,” we still feel that it contains images of an individual archetypal human pattern, rather than those of the collective unconscious, common to everyone.
Jung believed that people are born with most hereditary traits, inherited from their ancestors, these traits being a main factor in controlling people’s behavior and partially in determining their character, psychic structure and possible reactions. We, on the other hand, think that the collective unconscious, though not without its obvious effect, does not control one’s behavior and does not determine one’s reactions and psychophysiology on the subconscious level. In our opinion the main factor in structuring human’s subconscious psyche and determining his identity (behavioral pattern or cognitive strategies) are not the values inherited from our forefathers and therefore not the ones capable of serving as key elements in forming his personality. After all general ideas and images by definition can’t create individuality – that would be contrary to logic. Jung discussed the existence of some racially-preformed collective persona, which selectively penetrates into man’s world, can be modified and further developed. Somewhat supporting Jung’s point of view on this issue, we still must clarify the matter in that the extent of penetration of this so-called “collective persona,” which is based on archetypes of the collective unconscious, in our opinion can be controlled and held in check depending on each individual’s archetypal pattern. Since if we were to suppose that the hereditary unconscious ideas and images happen to be common to everyone, then all people would demonstrate exactly the same “standardized” reactions to those images. However, is this what we see in reality? True, more research is needed here, although from what we have observed, it is quite obvious that people react differently either to the image of Jungian Mother or to that of the Trinity. We feel that, despite the importance of racial (collective) archetypes and their undoubted influence, the degree of this influence on each person would not be the same. It depends on his personality, which is determined by a number of his individual archetypical images, and just like with a black box, information going through an individual on the input will be different on the output. Otherwise, a human and his spiritual life would be totally inseparable from the society. We certainly can’t deny frequent occurrences when a society affects people and their lives, but this happens primarily due to their lack of knowledge of themselves and their personal archetypal patterns, not because of a strong influence of the archetypes of the collective unconscious.
So, where all this information concerning a person’s individuality could be stored? Let’s make an attempt to find it in Jung’s works. Human psyche or, as Jung has put it, his soul consists of three differentiated but interconnected systems. With his conventional approach of presenting human psyche in two spheres – the conscious and the unconscious one, Jung divided the latter into a system of the personal unconscious and the archetypes of the collective unconscious – these two segments being completely different from one another. “Ego” as conscious mind, made of supraliminal perceptions and ideas and responsible for human’s identity is considered the center of the consciousness. We will not analyze the conscious sphere since enough attention has been given to this issue by other psychologists. “What we call “psyche” or “soul” is in no way identical to what is contained in our conscious mind” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 27), where intellect, conscious ideas and attitudes, like many other notions, in no way associated with soul’s irrationality, are located. Jung emphasized that the wholeness of the soul cannot be detected just by intellect. “Life is logical and illogical, rational and irrational… Psychology that caters to intellect alone is not practical…” (Jung C.G. Über die Psychologie des Unbewuβten). So, “ego” seems to us as a fairly clear system analyzed enough and being in no need of any additional study for the time being, while the collective unconscious and its archetypes are universal and stand completely apart from the personal in the life of an individual. So, where is the soul? Now it’s necessary to focus on an issue as to what Jung really meant by the “personal unconscious” as part of the soul structure.
Jung defined this segment of human psyche as a certain region adjacent to the Ego. He feels that the personal unconscious contains ideas and emotions which at one time used to be conscious, but at present are repressed, forgotten or for some reason purposefully ignored or forced out. It’s a certain dark corner of our subconscious “Ego” (which Jung himself called the Shadow) where all forgotten and repressed contents “live the lives of their own,” and which unlike the collective unconscious, consists of one’s personal experience, acquired during one’s life time. Naturally in the light of our research and new findings we beg to differ with this assumption.
According to Jung, the realm of the collective unconscious also includes people’s complexes. We perceive the personal unconscious complex as a combination or constellation of feelings, ideas, perceptions, memories, etc. This complex contains a nucleus, which like a magnet attracts various emotions, as if “constellating” the latter. If we take the “mother complex” whose nucleus is created due to mother connected both racial and child emotions, then all thoughts, feelings and memories related to mother will be attracted to this nucleus, creating a complex. And, the more powerful the force of the nucleus the more emotions it withdraws. According to Jung, a person, dominated by his mother, will possess a strong mother-complex. And, in this case, all his thoughts, feelings, actions, etc. will be led by mother filled conceptions, her image being superior in his personal unconscious. Jung warned that an image-forming complex can not only effect a personality, but can easily capture it by using psyche for its own purpose, as with Leo Tolstoy and his forgiveness-dominating idea or Napoleon, obsessed with his thirst for power. And here, everything seems to make every bit of sense: the more dominating the image, the more it controls a personality, somewhat molding the latter. On the other hand, it turns out that the images of the personal unconscious merge into the collective archetypes (as with the Mother-merging image), and here again Jung put forward racial or collective emotional experience as the main complex-forming factor. Then, what makes the personal and the collective unconscious different from each other if they are both created by images originating from the same source, same archetype. Could this mean that these two spheres are not quite differentiated, which results in their partial merging? If this is true, why then would the author state that the collective unconscious is universal and separated from the personal in the life of an individual? Even Jung himself defined the instances, where the archetypes of the collective unconscious “overlap” the ego and the personal unconscious as pathological right from the start. Can we then consider as normal the fact of the collective unconscious “mother-image” overlapping the area of the personal unconscious or it would be pathological? Taken as true, this assumption should probably mean that pathology is initially embedded in the personal unconscious by the very possibility of merging with the images of the collective unconscious? However, it makes no sense.
The way we see this whole mess is as resulting from misunderstanding the contents of the personal unconscious and questioning the latter’s very existence and what actually constitutes a personality. Could the essence of the latter be based on various thoughts, feelings, memories, a child’s emotions, etc.? And, could in fact such short-term psychological phenomena lay the foundation for a stable system? After all any personality always presents a certain system, something constant, the core, though being somewhat modified due to one’s life situation, but not with a speed of continually changing thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Jung clarified the above statement in that the collective unconscious is universal due to the fact that all races show similar brain structure resulting from evolution’s generality. Fairly logical as it may seem at first blush, this doesn’t explain why, despite the collective archetypes’ effect on an individual on a subconscious level and that of social stereotypes’ on a conscious one, he demonstrates such a great variety of reactions to collective values. Jung maintained that racial memories or representations are not hereditary as such: more likely we inherit the very possibility of reliving the experience of previous generations and they function like inclinations which make an individual react to the world in a manner as if inherited. Then, why some individuals are willing to take advantage of their forefathers’ experience, while others are not? What factor determines if a human should make use of his “heritage” or act in his own original way? Here, we are not considering his instincts or reflexes, which might be quite appropriately added as part of the collective unconscious being common to all types.
Since humans to some extent must carry a burden of racial feelings and collective archetypes as well as the complexes of the personal unconscious, will they still be regarded as personalities or at least sound individuals without the “pathological overlapping.” As Jung stated the collective unconscious is (no more no less) an inborn racial basis for personality’s structure. And, according to Jung it cultivates the personal unconscious and other individual acquisitions. Well, it seems that even what an individual believes to be the result of his empirical experience, is actually determined by the collective unconscious and its chief or
selective influence on the individual’s behavior all through his lifetime.
However, is that really the case? It’s hard to dispute the fact that since all human beings have always had a mother, every infant is born with certain instinctive perceptions of her. However, it’s not just characteristic of human species. A child who is regularly given milk from a bottle with a nipple by an orphanage worker may confuse the latter with his mother just like a famous gosling (classical example from animal psychology) taking every toy or a ball for his mother and following it everywhere. Jung asserted that this acquired awareness of one’s mother, so crucial for an individual, could be the realization of his inherent potential, “built” into human brain by his past racial experience. Possibly it is so. However, how does this make us different from animals, the latter having no sign of the collective unconscious, but simply possessing inborn instincts and reflexes just like humans.
If we were to accept Jung’s theory without reservation, our perception of the world is primarily formed by the collective unconscious, though, according to his own stipulation, only partially; otherwise either no variations for development or the development as such would be possible. Assuming that an individual’s right from his birth is assigned such a modest role in the general order of collective values and influences, where is the room for his personal development? However, this would be somewhat contrary to the logic of nature, which, metaphorically speaking, either “waits for” and sometimes “thirsts for” or even “demands” personal development as the key link in the chain of humanity’s general evolution, and without which our life on planet Earth would lose its meaning. Following this logic, nature should have provided enough opportunities for human development, growth and personal evolution. However, here the individual space is narrowed to its maximum with the contents, introduced by someone from the previous life, i.e. the contents of other people’s past experience. So, we are dealing with a conflict: on the one hand passing on former generation’s experience is important in that it saves strength, time and in some cases even descendants’ lives. Not to mention the role of generation’s continuity in passing on cultural values, culture being indispensable for personal development. On the other hand, it reduces individual space that serves as a foundation for building a personality.
After finally examining the psychic structure at Jungian school, we still failed to find either the room where individuality should be stored or the material, which the latter is “built” of. We couldn’t answer the question as to the “location” of the Jungian unconscious and the form in which the individual’s personal qualities are recorded, the latter being neither hereditary manifestations or semi-pathological complexes, nor passing thoughts. True, the unconscious possess the centuries-old wisdom and experience of past generations, but we believe that the collective archetypes, nucleus-containing complexes, childhood memories and thoughts interspersed with feelings, can’t serve the determining factor as to the structure of human psyche or the contents of this structure. Not only this would make sculpting” a personality impossible, but create a problem in just singling a unique individual out of the dull crowd of human specimen, i.e. to make a clear distinction between people. Another thing would be to see the correlation between hereditary genetic perceptional and behavioral patterns and the ones inherited due to cultural and historic memory. In their attempt to clarify this problem psychologists might expect to be assisted by experts in such fields as: anthropology, ethnology, linguistics, ethology and history.
Thus the collective unconscious as the focus of Jung’s works is where the archetypes are stored. According to Jung, these archetypes sort of sum up the life of a species, so the collective unconscious being an integral part of any person’s psyche is hereditary and serves as a foundation for growing an individual psyche. We totally agree with Jung’s theory that the basis of psyche is located in its unconscious sphere and don’t dispute the fact that human mind during the evolution accumulated some specific reactions common to everybody and established as instincts. However, we feel that the cornerstone of human psyche is not the collective unconscious, but individual archetypal patterns. To us they are contained in the personal unconscious, if to use the Jungian terminology, and as logic has it, the collective unconscious can contain just instinctive programs along with some cultural experience, which should belong to a human as a species for his personal needs, understanding, etc.
No doubt archetypes form the basis for human psyche, and if we perceive them as some unconsciously reproduced stereotyped patterns presented as myths, fairy tales, hallucinations and works of art (which is contrary to general opinion), there would be nothing unusual or mysterious about it. Though as Jung has put it: “…while interpreting the myths anything but the soul was appealed to…” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 10) With such an approach in mind it is clear that human psyche is not “tabula rasa” (clean board) on which anything can be written down just by anyone…” In trying to identify the psyche and the consciousness one can be easily driven into the false idea that a person enters this world with empty psyche and later in life his psychic will contain nothing but what has been attained with his personal experience” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 98).
Jung maintained that patterns of the collective unconscious are innate elements of the human mind, much the same as instincts; acquired at birth, they begin to manifest themselves in much the same way in all individuals. This is defensible only in light of the author’s assertion that collective patterns are attributes of the human mind. The mind, however, should refer not to the unconscious, but rather to the conscious realm wherein personality is decidedly influenced by collective thought.
So, what does the unconscious have to do with it? In Jung’s opinion “the inner motives arise from some deep source with no connection to the consciousness and not controlled by the latter” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 76). Due to the cultural revolution human mind made quite some progress in getting to know the outside world. However, it didn’t come one iota closer either to acquiring the knowledge of itself as inner substance or the knowledge of the foundation that holds and initiates its own psyche. At one time Jung characterized this situation in the following way: “Our intellect has achieved the most tremendous things, but in the meantime our spiritual dwelling has fallen into disrepair. We are absolutely convinced that even with the aid of the latest and largest reflecting telescope, now being built in America, men will discover behind the farthest nebulae no fiery empyrean; and we know that our eyes will wander despairingly through the dead emptiness of interstellar space” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 107). And, further he added: “While becoming more scientific our world becomes more dehumanized” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 86). These words are the evidence of his clear understanding the problem. However, his main accomplishment was in that he didn’t just see the problem, but being intelligent and well educated he knew the way to solve it: “We are finally turning to the wisdom of all times and all nations only to discover that the most valuable words were actually delivered long ago in the finest language – the language of symbols” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 107).
In our opinion, Jung’s mistake was in that information recorded in the unconscious isn’t just of the universal, but also of individual origin, as with instincts and other cultural traditions. And, it’s probably in this part where lies the main distinction between our perception of the basis for the human psyche and that of the author’s of analytical theory, who was first to bring up the concept of archetypes in psychology. This is what he says: “…I have chosen the term ‘collective’ since this part of the unconscious is not individual but universal. And, unlike the personal soul its contents and modes of behavior are relatively the same everywhere and in all individuals. It is, in other words, identical in all men and thus constitutes a common psychic substrate of a super personal nature, which is present in every one of us. We will make an attempt though to oppose Jung on this issue. He stated that “similar programs and common patterns affect not just some primitive modes of behavior like unconditioned reflexes, but also our perception, thoughts, imagination” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 14). Here is the difference: Jung considered the archetypes of the collective unconscious to be some cognitive patterns the instincts being their correlates. We, on the other hand, define these archetypal patterns as those of the individual nature. They affect human’s behavior and psychophysiology while instincts and reflexes are universal and hereditary. Jung was right in that “grasping the archetype comes before the act, triggering the inner behaviour,” but if the archetypes were universal the same stimulus would make them cause identical reactions in people (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 14). And, that would be contrary to both the common sense and reality.
We accept Jung’s assertion that the archetypical matrix, the one that a priori shapes human fantasies accounts for common motives in myths and fairy tales, explains the appearance of made-up characters. The large question is which archetypes and images underlie myths? “Primitive man impresses us so strongly with his subjectivity that we should really have guessed long ago that myths refer to something psychic” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 100). Assuming that mythology actually is of psychic origin, it would be logical to ascribe it to one’s individual psyche, i.e. to the archetypes of an individual nature. The fact of the matter is that “myths are first and foremost psychic phenomena that reveal the nature of the soul” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 99). In Jung’s view, the archetypical images have been throughout the centuries the main material for creating central figures in religion, mythology, works of art, etc. However, the gruesome and disarrayed images of the unconscious, portrayed as the contents of the creative mind, are subject to gradual refinement and transformation into symbols beautiful on the outside and universal on the inside. Jung defined mythology as “the tool for initial shaping the archetypical images” with an archetype at the very core to be first polished beyond recognition. Curiously the finer the image, the farther it’s distanced from one’s personal experience and hence less recognizable to others, overpowered by endless comments of the crowd. This is the mechanism as to how the personal unconscious of an individual nature is transformed to the universal mythological images.
With time passing by the archetype has grown less archaic which was evident through ancient drawings where primitive people portrayed animals not so much like symbols, but rather as careful and detailed pictures. In Jung’s view, when at the dawn of our civilization the human mind was mainly ruled by instincts, man’s consciousness might have grouped them into some models or patterns. Ours is a belief that prehistoric man was very close to nature and of as yet “uncorrupt mind”. What really maters is not the fact that he arranged his instincts in patterns, which supports Jung’s theory, but he was instinctively capable of “reaching” these patterns in his personal unconscious. Creating the drawings not of the symbols, but of actual animals, he viewed them as god-like objects of worship and learning, with full and clear understanding that he is the one most defenseless of the living creatures, sharing psychological ties with all of them. In our view, it is one’s individual psyche that has the closest connection with nature and its components (animals, plants, minerals and natural resources) containing the records of the latter through the archetypes as their original patterns. Hence, the thought: in trying to explain the symbols and their archetypes one should do so from the stand point of nature and only then applying Jungian approach of socializing some concrete images.
Note that the human situation actually weakened due to the growth in technology and its “confusing influence” on archetypes. Jung indicated that the life of modern man being overpowered by the cult of rational thinking isolates the conscious from the unconscious, leading to the natural imbalance between rational and irrational processes. As a result the unconscious “invades” the realm of the conscious mind to compensate for latter’s limitation. As Jung has put it: “The conscious mind ignoring the experience of the archetypes may result in their invasion its territory in the most primitive forms causing wars and social upheaval” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 17). “Modern man fails to see himself as victim of his own ‘rational attitude’ thrown at a mercy of psychic inferno” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 85). By “psychic inferno” Jung probably meant man’s overall confusion and isolation from our mad world with its wars, revolutions and mass psychosis. If Jung attributed the cause for social disasters to the “intrusions” of the collective unconscious, ours on the other hand is a firm belief that the latter in no way could result in the appearance of collective myths of any sort. We feel that mythology was mainly the product of some historical characters’ creative mind with their own individual archetypes, who through their ideas passed them on to congregations causing violence and collective madness amongst them.
This has been happening due to man’s inability to see how symbols affect his conscious mind lacking both the knowledge and the inquisitiveness as to the nature of these symbols. Note that man normally doesn’t regard symbols as an object for analysis: he prefers to rely on their interpretation by social institutes whose sole purpose is to influence his mind to their advantage. Living in terms of symbols man unfortunately neglects to look into their origin. Considering the fact that Christian symbolism and customs having had their impact on the human mind for about two thousand years, it would seem odd to see the majority still refuse to see into their meaning. While describing the religious symbols, Jung stated that people accept them with no doubts or reflections much in the same way as they view the process of decorating a Christmas tree or coloring Easter eggs not having any idea as to its meaning: “It would be futile to ask a modern man about the true meaning of a Christmas tree or Easter egg. The fact is that people do certain things without knowing the reason for their actions” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 7). Though being not quite inquisitive about things could be dangerous for a person since he may get involved into unclear introjections of suggested symbols. However, according to Jung, what’s important is that he who realizes his “spiritual poverty and the loss of symbols,” but is incapable of being satisfied with just the ‘ersatz’, may find himself in rather a complex situation: “frightened he turns away from the nothingness that shines in front of him. To make the matter worse the vacuum is filled with political and social ideas marked by absurd and spiritual emptiness.” People not knowing who they are and therefore lacking their own identity become part of a crowd, easily controlled and following any idea. And, this is exactly what’s been happening: people like a herd follow the “Sheppard” wherever he leads them. And, the question is only in WHO is the “originator” of the idea. That would determine the crowd’s direction: whether it be it the “bright communist future” or the gas chambers of fascism. One way or the other, the human is always controlled by the collective unconscious, myths and symbols created by some one in the past.
Mythology was first used to help primitive man to explain natural phenomena, but more so it helped him live through the discrepancy between his “evolutionized” conscious mind and that of the unconscious with its animal-like horrors and fears. Come to think of it this very gap between the conscious and unconscious spheres is presented in the Bible as the Fall and the Expulsion from Paradise, and in his attempts to bring back the lost harmony human turned to mythology, fairy-tales, magic, etc. Ironically, the evolutionary process only increased the chasm between both spheres, demanding more myths not just for dealing with his intense fear and anxiety, but with the continuous sense of insecurity, the issue being—adjustment to his inner world. This gave rise to modern mythology with stories not of heroes, but the cellulite since the latter is more vital to modern man whose inside is filled with gaping emptiness. Science and technology being the product of the conscious mind may be regarded as a tool to keep reality in check and whose function is akin to that of creating mythology: “Efforts that modern man exerts in science and technology were in prehistoric times applied in making up myths” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 17). No technology though is capable of providing him with by far the most comfortable feeling: that of inner stability, harmony and peace – features characteristic of an integrated personality well in tune with both its conscious and unconscious mind.
Disillusioned by all castes of experts on psyche to find his personal soul, modern man turned away from his inner being to fully concentrate his efforts on getting to know the outside world. This resulted in his transformation into a confused, sick and miserable being with anxieties, fears and panic attacks, uncertain about his belief in that the thinking mind should be of unlimited capacity and superior to all. The realization that “all-powerful human mind” has turned out to be another myth, was a frightening thing to take: a human always faces things beyond his control be it the natural phenomena or his own archetypes. Jung confirmed that “whether primitive or not, mankind always stands on the brink of actions it performs itself but does not control” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 113). Intellect put a human up above nature only to throw him down off the pedestal later, making him realize that he was no longer in control of his own soul, his mood and emotions, or capable of detecting any loopholes which his unconscious could leak through and influence his actions and behavior.
Throughout the course of history man along with social institutions concentrated his efforts on perfecting his conscious mind. The same goal was attained by means of religious dogmas and worldly rituals serving as walls to protect human psyche from “direct collision with archetypes’ colossal psychic energy” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 18). The visual effect was that of the struggle with obsession, “release from spell,” exorcism, redemption and purification. Jung stated that “man has never had a shortage of powerful images, which like a magic wall, protected him from the eerie vitality hidden inside his soul” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 104). Jung illustrated it by a story about a Swiss mystic and hermit who experienced the so-called Trinity vision while in his solitary cell at Sachseln. As the story goes brother Nicholas “gazed deep into the dark mirror, which reflected the wondrous and horrifying light of the primordial” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, pp. 101-104). Besieged by his own unconscious, he must have turned to the dogmatic image of divinity “for help in assimilating the fatal invasion of the archetypical image” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, pp. 101-104).
Jung maintained that “dogma substitutes for the collective unconscious by formulating its substance in man’s thinking mind. The life of the collective unconscious has been presented by archetypical dogmatic ideas and continuously flows amongst the Credo symbols and ritual” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 101-104). Ours is a comment that it makes every bit of sense for people to sacrifice their identity along with possible personal growth and perfection for just the illusion of “peace and security” rendered by religion or its like. On the other hand, the fee might be way too high. Thus, the “Faust’s” notorious Mephistopheles, demanding selling the soul in return for certain comforts, is nothing unusual since all gods, be they Christian or not, act in exactly the same way. As a result, the individual archetype is hidden by the collective and man goes on “living in his cave gazing at the shadows on the wall”. [The reference is to the Platonic myth where people were held captive in the dark cave unable to escape the womb of the Earth trying to reach for the Sun. (Republic, VII, 514-517)] However, why do “Gods die” if man is still capable of using the archetypes of the collective unconscious like The Great Mother or Trinity as a shield against the images of his personal unconscious so terrifying, uncontrollable, and unpredictable. In one of his works Jung made a comment that “the gods die from time to time due to man’s sudden realization that they don’t mean anything, they are made by his hand of wood and stone and are totally useless” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 105).
Someone’s ideas may attract man so as to temporarily fill the emptiness inside him. Besides, their introjection is fairly simple and does not require any special creative efforts: no need to get into heavy thinking, take risks, or go through any painful experience. The values of the collective unconscious are like cooked dumplings – they are easy to use. However, they give rise to new patterns pertaining to anything from primitive emotional manifestations to one’s views and outlook. Due to his stereotypical behavior, actions and thoughts modern man can save a lot of time to accomplish a great number of things not necessarily related to him personally. However, irrespective of that there still exist some steady behavioral patterns as to the way he should live, work, feel, etc. not willing and having no time to spare both his mental and physical efforts.
There’s a standard list of social recreational activities in which one gets involved during one’s personal free time, and the choice extends from embroidery to parachute jumping and from attending theatre to training seminars on Tantric sex. Modern consumers readily consume both material and spiritual values generously offered by concerned parties – the fact well described by psychoanalysts and philosophers in their works. This is how our social life is organized and understood and in this sense either highly developed capitalism or pluralistic democracy with its variety of “existence” (not life) opportunities are not much different from totalitarian egalitarianism. By far not everyone is willing to spend his time and efforts on self-improvement and people for the most part are quite content with whatever values the society has to offer. However, as the old saying goes: “a sacred place can not stay unoccupied for long” and if a person doesn’t feel like improving his inner world to know himself better, someone else will gladly do it for him. After all, human material can always be used for any purpose.
However, this is by far not the only danger. Besides someone else’s will, there’s another very important factor affecting us, and which we know nothing about–our own unconscious. As Jung has put it: “In our mind we are our own gods, the ‘factors'” [here the author refers to his statement as to gods being called “factors” from facere – to make.] (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 113). “But once we have walked through the door of the Shadow, we discover with terror that we are the objects of unseen ‘factors’. It is really unpleasant to know this since there’s nothing more disillusioning than finding out the truth of our own inadequacy” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 113). Jung further maintained: “Ignorance is no guarantee of security, and in fact only makes our insecurity still worse, it is probably better despite our fear to know where the danger lies. The greatest danger threatening us comes from the unpredictability of the psyche’s reactions” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 113). Every adolescent clearly sees the way out of this “spiritual deadlock”: a person can’t know the world without knowing himself first, which means that he has to admit his “poverty” and take the situation under control. No matter how hard this admission might be, man nevertheless keeps striving for self-knowledge making useless attempts to “find” himself through arts, religion, psychology and mystics. Everywhere he faces common patterns so different and yet so similar.
Besides, in search of himself man confronts another big danger. Jung stated that “whoever looks into the mirror of the water will first of all see his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks meeting with himself (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 113). True there’s always a doubt as to whether fear is the only obstacle for man on his way of researching deep into the “dark waters of his unconscious”. Perhaps, not fear but pride is one of the worst sins! “…The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely, the face we never show to the world because we cover it with the Persona, the mask of the actor. However, the mirror lies behind the mask and shows the true face. This is the first test of courage on the inner way, a test sufficient to frighten off most people, for the meeting with ourselves belongs to the more unpleasant things that can be avoided so long as we can project everything negative into the environment” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 113). It would seem like strong-minded natures are capable of almost anything, but with respect to “meeting” with their own unconscious their strength may work against them: “The Shadow reminds man of his helplessness and ineffectuality. Strong natures – or should one rather call them weak? – do not like to be reminded of this, but prefer to think of themselves as heroes who are beyond good and evil, and to cut the Gordian knot instead of untying it. Nevertheless, the account has to be settled sooner or later. In the end one has to admit that there are problems, which he simply cannot solve on his own resources. Such an admission has the advantage of being honest and truthful” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 111). What Jung meant was that even a strong person fails to grasp the contents of his unconscious sphere due to a peculiar mechanism of its functioning.
However, what’s the use of knowing the archetypes of one’s personal unconscious?
Jung’s answered this as follows: “It’s a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well. However, 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 yours, no good and no bad. It is the world of water, where all life floats above all” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 111).
The author of analytical psychology accurately describes “the way to himself”: “One must descend to the water to cause the miracle of waters’ survival.” (Water is most common symbol of the unconscious. Jung defined water not as a metaphor, but as a life symbol existing in the dark of the soul.) “The breath of a spirit sliding over the dark water is terrifying like everything whose cause we do not know, since it is not ourselves. It hints at an unseen presence, the numen” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 108). [Jung borrowed the term “numinous” (lat. numen – the active power of the divine) from Rudolf Otto the author of “The Holy” (Otto, Das Heilige, Munchen, 1917), which describes the phenomenon of the divine experience as something both awesome and appealing, both fearful and attractive (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 289).] This passage clearly shows the traditional approach of psychoanalysis, i.e. submerging into the depth of one’s unconscious in search of one’s soul.
When touching upon the subject of the numinous, many seek after a spirit in religion and mystics. In his work “Archetypes of the collective unconscious,” Jung emphasized that the spirit comes to whomever he chooses and man is powerless to either find or take possession of him. “Neither human expectations nor the machinations of the will have given him life. It lives of itself, and a shudder runs through the man who thought that “spirit” was merely what he believes, what he makes himself, what is said in books, or what people talk about. However, when it happens spontaneously it is a spooky thing, and primitive fear seizes the naive mind” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 108). Jung stated that the elders of the Elgony tribe in Kenya gave him exactly the same description of the nocturnal god: “He comes to you,” they said, “like a cold gust of wind, and you shudder, or he goes whistling round in the tall grass…We must surely go the way of the waters, which always tend downward, if we would raise up the treasure. When our natural inheritance has been dissipated, then the spirit too, as Heraclitus says, has descended from its fiery heights” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 108).
We have arrived at a conclusion that the way to get to know yourself, hard and long as it is, clearly leads to a spirit through learning one’s soul and one’s unconscious, i.e. through one’s individual archetypes. It leads to the “dark mirror that reposes at its bottom” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 108).
However, there’s an alternative way, and to use an allegory, it’s “walking along the sunlit path laughing and cheering”. Here, applying centuries long stock of the collective unconscious one might not need to worry about going deep into one’s own “dark waters,” trusting the power of one’s intellect, the stability of one’s collective values and society’s support. And, as was mentioned before, the fee for that seems like not too high – it’s either one’s personality or one’s lost soul. However, what is a human without his personal soul? By comparing with a plant rooted out of the soil and its subsequent dying, we can see the humanity’s slow death in case the connection with his individual nature is lost. True modern man, especially a big city dweller surely can’t have as much contact with nature as he had before. But this is beside the point since no matter where he lives he should still be in touch with nature through his psyche. Since a human is a product of nature, we feel his psyche should contain similar natural elements and phenomena that support his vital functions whether he is on a top floor of a skyscraper or orbiting the Earth in a space shuttle. His psyche, or his soul is what connects him to nature and only due to this connection not to some god or devil the human can live and function.
The interpretation of symbols is most important in getting to know the unconscious sphere since they express the very contents of the unconscious, the ones we, feel but can’t define. Why? The symbol can be interpreted from different angles. Even though man appeared before all religions still a most intelligent person may be so naive as to believe that he was created by God, forgetting though that the only god before him and the one that could really create him was first and foremost nature itself. Therefore, his connection with nature could only be presented in the language of nature’s analogs. All the rest including the origin of the world or man was later either created by human intellect or might have been the artifacts of culture.
One may wonder why all these religious ideas as to the creation of man, his purpose and his psyche have been so popular? Probably because real values have either been forgotten or profaned and replaced by artificial ones like soy protein substituted for meat in modern frankfurters. What happens then? This is how Jung elaborated on the problem: “According to anthropologists, in primitive societies with their spiritual values damaged by civilization, people often lost purpose in life, getting disorganized socially and corrupt morally. We are now facing the same situation. However, it never occurs to us what we really have lost. Our spiritual leaders are more concerned with protecting their social institutions than understanding the mystery of symbols” (Archetype And Symbol, 1991, p. 85). The situation seems to be quite trivial when religious and social institutions, caring so much about their influence on people’s mind, hide from people most vital information as to who they really are. The fact of the matter is that all these institutions are mostly preoccupied not with the welfare of a concrete individual, but with that of a society as a whole. If a person in his attempt to learn of himself can cause problems for society, any such attempt will be blocked up by ideas coming out of culture, science or religion. And, this is exactly what’s been happening. “Overly cultured” modern man slowly but surely withers like a plant rooted out of the soil, regularly watered by artificial bioactive growth stimulants in the form of various ideas and symbols of the collective unconscious, which society is trying to substitute for those of its personal unconscious. True, after feeling the ground slipping away from under his feet, modern man can still last for some time on artificial formulas of the collective ideas. However, what can really save him from imminent death is his return back to nature, not relocating to some suburban area “close to nature” as they were, but to his own inner nature, through getting to know himself and his own psyche.
All speculations presented in this article have been moving us to better understanding the contents of the unconscious stratum of human psyche, the ones which happen to be completely independent either from each other or racial or social factors. Even if we were to accept Jung’s theory of “dividing man’s psyche” we believe it would be his personal unconscious, which contains some very definite individual structure or system meant to define his personal psychological and physiological characteristics because the unconscious sphere of one’s psyche directly controls many physiological reactions. The personal unconscious should be able to tell everything of one’s personality not by examining it through its collective values, but in the light of its individual archetypes. It should be able to explain everything about a person with respect to his individual perception of the world and of himself, his purpose, his behavior both in the social and natural environment, his strategies and tactics, his way of thinking, his unconscious motivations, his needs, emotions, inclinations, preferences, meaning of his existence, etc.
After reviewing our both practical and theoretical research, and focusing on Jung’s theory as to the influence of the collective unconscious on individual human psyche, it would be essential to examine this issue from the standpoint of the psychology of individual distinctions. It’s obvious that without finding individual archetypal patterns as the basis for human personality, solving any individual or social-collective problems wouldn’t be possible since any society consists of individuals constantly affecting one another.
© 2005 Andrey Davydov, Olga Skorbatyuk. All rights reserved.
Jung, C. G. (1991). A. M. Rutkevich (Ed.). Arkhetip i simvol [Archetype And Symbol]. Moscow: Renessans.