The Structure of the Psyche by C.G. Jung
The only things we experience immediately are the contents of consciousness. In saying this I am not attempting to reduce the “world” to our “idea” of it.
What I am trying to emphasize could be expressed from another point of view by saying: Life is a function of the carbon atom.
This analogy reveals the limitations of the specialist point of view, to which I succumb as soon as I attempt to say anything explanatory about the world, or even a part of it.
My point of view is naturally a psychological one, and moreover that of a practising psychologist whose task it is to find the quickest road through the chaotic muddle of complicated psychic states.
This view must needs be very different from that of the psychologist who can study an isolated psychic process at his leisure, in the quiet of his laboratory.
The difference is roughly that between a surgeon and an histologist.
I also differ from the metaphysician, who feels he has to say how things are “in themselves,” and whether they are absolute or not. My subject lies wholly within the bounds of experience.
My prime need is to grasp complicated conditions and be able to talk about them.
I must be able to differentiate between various groups of psychic facts.
The distinctions so made must not be arbitrary, since I have to reach an understanding with my patient.
I therefore have to rely on simple schemata which on the one hand satisfactorily reflect the empirical facts, and on the other hand link up with what is generally known and so find acceptance.
If we now set out to classify the contents of consciousness, we shall begin, according to tradition, with the proposition: Nihil est in intellectu quod non antea fuerit in sensu.
Consciousness seems to stream into us from outside in the form of sense-perceptions.
We see, hear, taste, and smell the world, and so are conscious of the world. Sense-perceptions tell us that something is. But they do not tell us what it is.
This is told us not by the process of perception but by the process of apperception, and this has a highly complex structure.
Not that sense-perception is anything simple; only, its complex nature is not so much psychic as physiological. The complexity of apperception, on the other hand, is psychic.
We can detect in it the cooperation of a number of psychic processes.
Supposing we hear a noise whose nature seems to us unknown.
After a while it becomes clear to us that the peculiar noise must come from air-bubbles rising in the pipes of the central heating: we have recognized the noise.
This recognition derives from a process which we call thinking. Thinking tells us what a thing is.
I have just called the noise “peculiar.” When I characterize something as “peculiar,” I am referring to the special feeling-tone which that thing has. The feeling-tone implies an evaluation.
The process of recognition can be conceived in essence as comparison and differentiation with the help of memory. When I see a fire, for instance, the light-stimulus conveys to me the idea “fire.” As there are countless memory-images of fire lying ready in my memory, these images enter into combination with the fire-image I have just received, and the process of comparing it with and differentiating it from these memory-images produces the recognition; that is to say, I finally establish in my mind the peculiarity of this particular image. In ordinary speech this process is called thinking.
The process of evaluation is different. The fire I see arouses emotional reactions of a pleasant or unpleasant nature, and the memory-images thus stimulated bring with them concomitant emotional phenomena which are known as feeling-tones. In this way an object appears to us as pleasant, desirable, and beautiful, or as unpleasant, disgusting, ugly, and so on. In ordinary speech this process is called feeling.
The intuitive process is neither one of sense-perception, nor of thinking, nor yet of feeling, although language shows a regrettable lack of discrimination in this respect. One person will exclaim: “1 can see the whole house burning down already!” Another will say: “It is as certain as two and two make four that there will be a disaster if a fire breaks out here.” A third will say: “1 have the feeling that this fire will lead to catastrophe.” According to their respective temperaments, the one speaks of his intuition as a distinct seeing, that is, he makes a sense-perception of it. The other designates it as thinking: “One has only to reflect, and then it is quite clear what the consequences will be.” The third, under the stress of emotion, calls his intuition a process of feeling. But intuition, as I conceive it, is one of the basic functions of the psyche, namely. perception of the possibilities inherent in a situation. It is probably due to the insufficient development of language that “feeling,” “sensation,” and “intuition” are still confused in German, while sentiment and sensation in French, and “feeling” and “sensation” in English, are absolutely distinct, in contrast to sentiment and “feeling,” which are sometimes used as auxiliary words for “intuition.” Recently, however, “intuition” has begun to be commonly used in English speech.
As further contents of consciousness, we can also distinguish volitional processes and instinctual processes. The former are defined as directed impulses, based on apperception, which are at the disposal of so-called free will. The latter are impulses originating in the unconscious or directly in the body and are characterized by lack of freedom and by compulsiveness.
Apperceptive processes may be either directed or undirected. In the former case we speak of “attention,” in the latter case of “fantasy” or “dreaming.” The directed processes are rational, the undirected irrational. To these last-named processes we must add—as the seventh category of contents of consciousness—dreams. In some respects dreams are like conscious fantasies in that they have an undirected, irrational character. But they differ inasmuch as their came, course, and aim are, at first, very obscure. I accord them the dignity of coming into the category of conscious contents because they are the most important and most obvious results of unconscious psychic processes obtruding themselves upon consciousness. These seven categories probably give a somewhat superficial survey of the contents of consciousness, but they are sufficient for our purpose.
There are, as we know, certain views which would restrict everything psychic to consciousness, as being identical with it. I do not believe this is sufficient. If we assume that there is anything at all beyond our sense-perception, then we are entitled to speak of psychic elements whose existence is only indirectly accessible to us. For anybody acquainted with the psychology of hypnotism and somnambulism, it is a well-known fact that though an artificially or morbidly restricted consciousness of this kind does not contain certain ideas, it nevertheless behaves exactly as if it did. For instance, there was an hysterically deaf patient who was fond of singing. One day the doctor unobtrusively sat down at the piano and accompanied the next verse in another key, whereupon the patient went on singing in the new key. Another patient always fell into “hystero-epileptic” convulsions at the sight of a naked flame. He had a markedly re· stricted field of vision, that is, he suffered from peripheral blindness (having what is known as a “tubular” field of vision). If one now held a lighted match in the blind zone, the attack followed just as if he had seen the flame. In the symptomatology of such states there are innumerable cases of this kind, where with the best will in the world one can only say that these people perceive, think, feel, remember, decide, and act unconsciously, doing unconsciously what others do consciously. These processes occur regardless of whether consciousness registers them or not.
These unconscious psychic processes also include the not inconsiderable labour of composition that goes into a dream. Though sleep is a state in which consciousness is greatly restricted, the psyche by no means ceases to exist and to act. Consciousness has merely withdrawn from it and, lacking any objects to hold its attention, lapsed into a state of comparative unconsciousness. But psychic life obviously goes on, just as there is unconscious psychic activity during the waking state. Evidence for this is not difficult to find; indeed, Freud has described this particular field of experience in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. He shows that our conscious intentions and actions are often frustrated by unconscious processes whose very existence is a continual surprise to us. We make slips of the tongue and slips in writing and unconsciously do things that betray our most closely guarded secrets-which are sometimes unknown even to ourselves. “Lingua lapsa verum dicit,” says an old proverb. These phenomena can also be demonstrated experimentally by the association tests, which are very useful for finding out things that people cannot or will not speak about.
But the classic examples of unconscious psychic activity are to be found in pathological states. Almost the whole symptomatology of hysteria, of the compulsion neuroses, of phobias, and very largely of schizophrenia, the commonest men tal illness, has its roots in unconscious psychic activity. We are therefore fully justified in speaking of an unconscious psyche. It is not directly accessible to observation-otherwise it would not be unconscious -but can only be inferred. Our inferences can never go beyond: “it is as if.”
The unconscious, then, is part of the psyche. Can we now, on the analogy of the different contents of consciousness, also speak of contents of the unconscious? That would be postulating another consciousness, so to speak, in the unconscious. I will not go into this delicate question here, since I have discussed it in another connection, but will confine myself to inquiring whether we can differentiate anything in the unconscious or not. This question can only be answered empirically, that is, by the counter-question whether there are any plausible grounds for such a differentiation.
To my mind there is no doubt that all the activities ordinarily taking place in consciousness can also proceed in the unconscious. There are numerous instances of an intellectual problem, unsolved in the waking state, being solved in a dream. I know, for instance, of an expert accountant who had tried in vain for many days to clear up a fraudulent bankruptcy. One day he had worked on it till midnight, without success, and then went to bed. At three in the morning his wife heard him get up and go into his study. She followed, and saw him industriously making notes at his desk. After about a quarter of an hour he came back. In the morning he remembered nothing. He began working again and discovered, in his own handwriting, a number of notes which straightened out the whole tangle finally and completely.
In my practical work I have been dealing with dreams for more than twenty years. Over and over again I have seen how thoughts that were not thought and feelings that were not felt by day afterwards appeared in dreams, and in this way reached consciousness indirectly. The dream as such is undoubtedly a content of consciousness, otherwise it could not be an object of immediate experience. But in so far as it brings up material that was unconscious before, we are forced to assume that these contents already had some kind of psychic existence in an unconscious state and appeared to the “remnant” of consciousness only in the dream. The dream belongs to the normal contents of the psyche and may be regarded as a resultant of unconscious processes obtruding on consciousness.
Now if, with these experiences in mind, we are driven to assume that all the categories of conscious contents can on occasion also be unconscious, and can act on the conscious mind as unconscious processes, we find ourselves faced with the somewhat unexpected question whether the unconscious has dreams too. In other words, are there resultants of still deeper and-if that be possible-still more unconscious processes which infiltrate into the dark regions of the psyche? I should have to dismiss this paradoxical question as altogether too adventurous were there not, in fact, grounds which bring such an hypothesis within the realm of possibility.
We must first see what sort of evidence is required to prove that the unconscious has dreams. If we wish to prove that dreams appear as contents of consciousness, we have simply to show that there are certain contents which, in character and meaning, are strange and not to be compared with the other contents which can be rationally explained and understood. If we are to show that the unconscious also has dreams, we must treat its contents in a similar way. It will be simplest if I give a practical example:
The case is that of an officer, twenty-seven years of age. He was suffering from severe attacks of pain in the region of the heart and from a choking sensation in the throat, as though a lump were stuck there. He also had piercing pains in the left heel. There was nothing organically the matter with him. The attacks had begun about two months previously, and the patient had been exempted from military service on account of his occasional inability to walk. Various cures had availed nothing. Close investigation into the previous history of his illness gave no clue, and he himself had no idea what” the cause might be. He gave the impression of having a cheerful, rather light-hearted nature, perhaps a bit on the tough side, as though saying theatrically: “You can’t keep us down.” As the anamnesis revealed nothing, I asked about his dreams. It at once became apparent what the cause was. Just before the beginning of his neurosis the girl with whom he was in love jilted him and got engaged to another man. In talking to me he dismissed this whole story as irrelevant-“a stupid girl, if she doesn’t want me it’s easy enough to get another one. A man like me isn’t upset by a thing like that.” That was the way he treated his disappointment and his real grief. But now the affects came to the surface. The pains in his heart soon disappeared, and the lump in his throat vanished after a few bouts of weeping. “Heartache” is a poeticism, but here it became an actual fact because his pride would not allow him to suffer the pain in his soul. The “lump” in the throat,” the so-called globus hystericus, comes, as everyone knows, from swallowed tears. His consciousness had simply withdrawn from contents that were too painful to him, and these, left to themselves, could reach consciousness only indirectly, as symptoms. All this was a rationally understandable and perfectly intelligible process, which could just as well have passed off consciously, had it not been for his masculine pride.
But now for the third symptom. The pains in the heel did not disappear. They do not belong in the picture we have just sketched, for the heart is in no way connected with the heel, nor does one express sorrow through the heel. From the rational point of view, one cannot see why the other two syndromes should not have sufficed. Theoretically, it would have been entirely satisfactory if the conscious realization of the repressed psychic pain had resulted in normal grief and hence in a cure.
As I could get no clue to the heel symptom from the patient’s conscious mind, I turned once more to the previous method to the dreams. The patient now had a dream in which he was bitten in the heel by a snake and instantly paralysed. This dream plainly offered an interpretation of the heel symptom. His heel hurt him because he had been bitten there by a snake. This is a very strange content, and one can make nothing of it rationally. We could understand at once why his heart ached, but that his heel should ache too is beyond all rational expectation. The patient was completely mystified.
Here, then, we have a content that propels itself into the unconscious zone in a singular manner, and probably derives from some deeper layer that cannot be fathomed rationally. The nearest analogy to this dream is obviously the neurosis itself. When the girl jilted him, she gave him a wound that paralyzed him and made him ill. Further analysis of the dream elicited something from his previous history that now became clear to the patient for the first time: He had been the darling of a somewhat hysterical mother. She had pitied him, admired him, pampered him so much that he never got along properly at school because he was too girlish. Later he suddenly swung over to the masculine side and went into the army, where he was able to hide his inner weakness by a display of “toughness.” Thus, in a sense, his mother too had lamed him.
We are evidently dealing here with that same old serpent who had been the special friend of Eve. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” runs the saying in Genesis, an echo of the much more ancient Egyptian hymn that used to be recited or chanted for the cure of snake-bite:
The mouth of the god trembled with age, His spittle fell to the earth,
And what he spat forth fell upon the ground. Then Isis kneaded it with her hands
Together with the earth which was there; And she made it like a spear.
She wound not the living snake about her face, But threw it in a coil upon the path
Where the great god was wont to wander
At his pleasure through his two kingdoms.
The noble god stepped forth in splendour,
The gods serving Pharaoh bore him company,
And he went forth as was each day his wont.
Then the noble worm stung him …
His jawbones chattered,
He tremhled in all his limbs, And the poison invaded his flesh
As the Nile invades his territory.
The patient’s conscious knowledge of the Bible was at a lamentable minimum. Probably he had once heard of the serpent biting the heel and then quickly forgotten it. But something deep in his unconscious heard it and did not forget; it remembered this story at a suitable opportunity. This part of the unconscious evidently likes to express itself mythologically, because this way of expression is in keeping with its nature.
But to what kind of mentality does the symbolical or metaphorical way ,bf expression correspond? It corresponds to the mentality of the primitive, whose language possesses no abstractions but only natural and “unnatural” analogies. This primeval mentality is as foreign to the psyche that produced the heartache and the lump in the throat as a brontosaurus is to a racehorse. The/dream of the snake reveals a fragment of psychic activity that has nothing whatever to do with the dreamer as a modern individual. It functions at a deeper level, so to speak, and only the results of this activity rise up into the upper layer where the repressed affects lie, as foreign to them as a dream is to waking consciousness. Just as some kind of analytical technique is needed to understand a dream, so a knowledge of mythology is needed in order to grasp the meaning of a content deriving from the deeper levels of the psyche.
The snake-motif was certainly not an individual acquisition of the dreamer, for snake-dreams are very common even among city-dwellers who have probably never seen a real snake.
It might be objected that the snake in the dream is nothing but a concretized figure of speech. We say of certain women that they are treacherous as snakes, wily as serpents; we speak of the snake of temptation, etc. This objection does not seem to me to hold good in the present instance, though it would be difficult to prove this because the snake is in fact a common figure of speech. A more certain proof would be possible only if we succeeded in finding a case where the mythological symbolism is neither a common figure of speech nor an instance of cryptomnesia—that is to say, where the dreamer had not read, seen, or heard the motif somewhere, and then forgotten it and remembered it unconsciously. This proof seems to me of great importance, since it would show that the rationally explicable unconscious, which consists of material that has been made unconscious artificially, as it were, is only a top layer, and that underneath is an absolute unconscious which has nothing to do with our personal experience. This absolute unconscious would then be a psychic activity which goes on independently of the conscious mind and is not dependent even on the upper layers of the unconscious, untouched—and perhaps untouchable—by personal experience. It would be a kind of supra-individual psychic activity, a collective unconscious, as I have called it, as distinct from a superficial, relative, or personal unconscious.
But before we go in search of this proof, I would like, for the sake of completeness, to make a few more remarks about the snake-dream. It seems as if this hypothetical deeper layer of the unconscious—the collective unconscious, as I shall now speak of it—had translated the patient’s experiences with women into the snake-bite dream and thus turned them into a regular mythological motif. The reason—or rather, the purpose—of this is at first somewhat obscure. But if we remember the fundamental principle that the symptomatology of an illness is at the same time a natural attempt at healing—the heartaches, for example, being an attempt to produce an emotional outburst—then we must regard the heel symptom as an attempt at healing too. As the dream shows, not only the recent disappointment in love, but all other disappointments, in school and elsewhere, are raised by this symptom to the level of a mythological event, as though this would in some way help the patient.
This may strike us as flatly incredible. But the ancient Egyptian priest-physicians, who intoned the hymn to the Isis-serpent over the snake-bite, did not find this theory at all incredible; and not only they, but the whole world believed, as the primitive today still believes, in magic by analogy or “sympathetic magic.”
We are concerned here, then, with the psychological phenomenon that lies at the root of magic by analogy. We should not think that this is an ancient superstition which we have long since outgrown. If you read the Latin text of the Mass carefully, you will constantly come upon the famous “sicut”; this always introduces an analogy by means of which a change is to be produced. Another striking example of analogy is the making of fire on Holy Saturday. In former times, the new fire was struck from the stone, and still earlier it was obtained by boring into a piece of wood, which was the prerogative of the Church. Therefore in the prayer of the priest it is said: “Deus, qui per Filium tuum, angularem scilicet lapidem, claritatis tuae fidelibus ignem contulisti productum ex silice, nostris profuturum usibus, novum hunc ignem sanctifica.”—”O God, who through thy Son, who is called the cornerstone, hast brought the fire of thy light to the faithful, make holy for our future use this new fire struck from the firestone.” By the analogy of Christ with the cornerstone, the firestone is raised to the level of Christ himself, who again kindles a new fire.
The rationalist may laugh at this. But something deep in us is stirred, and not in us alone but in millions of Christian men and women, though we may call it only a feeling for beauty. What is stirred in us is that faraway background, those immemorial patterns of the human mind, which we have not acquired but have inherited from the dim ages of the past.
If this supra-individual psyche exists, everything that is translated into its picture-language would be depersonalized, and if this became conscious would appear to us sub specie aeternitatis. Not as my sorrow, but as the sorrow of the world; not a personal isolating pain, but a pain without bitterness that unites all humanity. The healing effect of this needs no proof.
But as to whether this supra-individual psychic activity actually exists, I have so far given no proof that satisfies all the requirements. I should now like to do this once more in the form of an example. The case is that of a man in his thirties, who was suffering from a paranoid form of schizophrenia. He became ill in his early twenties. He had always presented a strange mixture of intelligence, wrong-headedness, and fantastic ideas. He was an ordinary clerk, employed in a consulate. Evidently as a compensation for his very modest existence he was seized with megalomania and believed himself to be the Saviour. He suffered from frequent hallucinations and was at times very much disturbed. In his quiet periods he was allowed to go unattended ip the corridor. One day I came across him there, blinking through the window up at the sun, and moving his head from side to side in a curious manner. He took me by the arm and said he wanted to show me something. He said I must look at the sun with eyes half shut, and then I could see the sun’s phallus. If I moved my head from side to side the sunphallus would move too, and that was the origin of the wind.
I made this observation about 1906. In the course of the year 1910, when I was engrossed in mythological studies, a book of Dieterich’s came into my hands. It was part of the so-called Paris magic papyrus and was thought by Dieterich to be a liturgy of the Mithraic cult.3 It consisted of a series of instructions, invocations, and visions. One of these visions is described in the following words: “And likewise the so-called tube, the origin of the ministering wind. For you will see hanging down from the disc of the sun something that looks like a tube. And towards the regions westward it is as though there were an infinite east wind. But if the other wind should prevail towards the regions of the east, you will in like manner see the vision veering in that direction.” The Greek word for ‘tube,’ means a wind-instrument, and the combination au’\o, 7raxv, in Homer means ‘a thick jet of blood.’ So evidently a stream of wind is blowing through the tube out of the sun.
The vision of my patient in 1906, and the Greek text first edited in 1910, should be sufficiently far apart to rule out the possibility of cryptomnesia on his side and of thought-transference on mine. The obvious parallelism of the two visions cannot be disputed, though one might object that the similarity is purely fortuitous. In that case we should expect the vision to have no connections with analogous ideas, nor any inner meaning. But this expectation is not fulfilled, for in certain medieval paintings this tube is actually depicted as a sort of hose-pipe reaching down from heaven under the robe of Mary. In it the Holy Ghost flies down in the form of a dove to impregnate the Virgin. As we know from the miracle of Pentecost, the Holy Ghost was originally conceived as a mighty rushing wind, the 7rVfv}la, “the wind that bloweth where it listeth.” In a Latin text we read: “Animo descensus per orbem sol is tribuitur” (They say that the spirit descends through the disc of the sun). This conception is common to the whole of late classical and medieval philosophy.
I cannot, therefore, discover anything fortuitous in these visions, but simply the revival of possibilities of ideas that have always existed, that can be found again in the most diverse minds and in all epochs, and are therefore not to be mistaken for inherited ideas.
I have purposely gone into the details of this case in order to give you a concrete picture of that deeper psychic activity which I call the collective unconscious. Summing up, I would like to emphasize that we must distinguish three psychic levels: (1) consciousness, (2) the personal unconscious, and (3) the collective unconscious. The personal unconscious consists firstly of all those contents that -became unconscious either because they lost their intensity and were forgotten or because consciousness was withdrawn from them (repression), and secondly of contents, some of thein sense-impressions, which never had sufficient intensity to reach consciousness but have somehow entered the psyche. The collective unconscious, however, as the ancestral heritage of possibilities of representation, is not individual but common to all men, and perhaps even to all animals, and is the true basis of the individual psyche.
This whole psychic organism corresponds exactly to the body, which, though individually varied, is in all’ essential features the specifically human body which all men have. In its development and structure, it still preserves elements that connect it with the invertebrates and ultimately with the protozoa. Theoretically it should be possible to “peel” the collective unconscious, layer by layer, until we came to the psychology of the worm, and even of the amoeba.
We are all agreed that it would be quite impossible to understand the living organism apart from its relation to the environment. There are countless biological facts that can only be explained as reactions to environmental conditions, e.g., the blindness of Proteus anguinus) the peculiarities of intestinal parasites, the anatomy of vertebrates that have reverted to aquatic life.
The same is true of the psyche. Its peculiar organization must be intimately connected with environmental conditions. We should expect consciousness to react and adapt itself to the present, because it is that part of the psyche which is concerned chiefly with events of the moment. But from the collective unconscious, as a timeless and universal psyche, we should expect reactions to universal and constant conditions, whether psychological, physiological, or physical.
The collective unconscious-so far as we can say anything about it at all-appears to consist of mythological motifs or primordial images, for which reason the myths of all nations are its real exponents. In fact, the whole of mythology could be taken as a sort of projection of the collective unconscious. We can see this most dearly if we look at the heavenly constellations, whose originally chaotic forms were organized through the projection of images. This explains the influence of the stars as asserted by astrologers. These influences are nothing but unconscious, introspective perceptions of the activity of the collective unconscious. Just as the constellations were projected into the heavens, similar figures were projected into legends and fairytales or upon historical persons. We can therefore study the collective unconscious in two ways. either in mythology or in the analysis of the individual. As I cannot make the latter material available here, I must confine myself to mythology. This is such a wide field that we can select from it only a few types. Similarly, environmental conditions are endlessly varied, so here too only a few of the more typical can be discussed.
Just as the living body with its special characteristics is a system of functions for adapting to environmental conditions, so the psyche must exhibit organs or functional systems that correspond to regular physical events. By this I do not mean sense-functions dependent on organs, but rather a sort of psychic parallel to regular physical occurrences. To take an example, the daily course of the sun and the regular alternation of day and night must have imprinted themselves on the psyche in the form of an image from primordial times. We cannot demonstrate the existence of this image, but we find instead more or less fantastic analogies of the physical process. Every morning a divine hero is born from the sea and mounts the chariot of the sun. In the West a Great Mother awaits him, and he is devoured by her in the evening. In the belly of a dragon he traverses the depths of the midnight sea. After a frightful combat with the serpent of night he is born again in the morning.
This conglomerate myth undoubtedly contains a reflection of the physical process. Indeed this is so obvious that many investigators assume that primitives invent such myths merely to explain physical processes. There can be no doubt that science and philosophy have grown from this matrix, but that primitives think up such things merely from a need for explanation, as a sort of physical or astronomical theory, seems to me highly improbable.
What we can safely say about mythical images is that the physical process imprinted itself on the psyche in this fantastic, distorted form and was preserved there, so that the unconscious still reproduces similar images ,today. Naturally the question ~ow arises: why does the psyche not register the actual process, 1l1stead of mere fantasies about the physical process?
If you can put yourself in the mind of the primitive, you will at once understand why this is so. He lives in such “participation mystique” with his world, as Levy-Bruhl calls it, that there is nothing like that absolute distinction between subject and object which exists in our minds. What happens outside also happens in him, and what happens in him also happens outside. I witnessed a very fine example of this when I was with the Elgonyi, a primitive tribe living on Mount Elgon, in East Africa. At sunrise they spit on their hands and then hold the palms towards the sun as it comes over the horizon. “We are happy that the night is past,” they say. Since the word for sun, adhista, also means God, I asked: “Is the sun God?” They said “No” to this and laughed, as if I had said something especially stupid. As the sun was just then high in the heavens, I pointed to it and asked: “When the sun is there you say it is not God, but when it is in the east you say it is God. How is that?” There was an embarrassed silence till an old chief began to explain. “It is so,” he said. “‘When the sun is up there it is not God, but when it rises, that is God [or: then it is God].” To the primitive mind it is immaterial which of these two versions is correct. Sunrise and his own feeling of deliverance are for him the same divine experience, just as night and his fear are the same thing. Naturally his emotions are more important to him than physics; therefore what he registers is his emotional fantasies. For him night means snakes and the cold breath of spirits, whereas morning means the birth of a beautiful god.
There are mythological theories that explain everything as coming from the sun and lunar theories that do the same for the moon. This is due to the simple fact that there are countless myths about the moon, among them a whole host in which the moon is the wife of the sun. The moon is the changing experience of the night, and thus coincides with the primitive’s sexual experience of woman, who for him is also the experience of the night. But the moon can equally well be the injured brother of the sun, for at night affect-laden and evil thoughts of power and revenge may disturb sleep. The moon, too, is a disturber of sleep, and is also the abode of departed souls, for at night the dead return in dreams and the phantoms of the past terrify the sleepless. Thus the moon also signifies madness (“lunacy”). It is such experiences as these that have impressed themselves on the mind, rather than the changing image of the moon.
It is not storms, not thunder and lightning, not rain and cloud that remain as images in the psyche, but the fantasies caused by the affects they arouse. I once experienced a violent earthquake, and my first, immediate feeling was that I no longer stood on the solid and familiar earth, but on the skin of a gigantic animal that was heaving under my feet. It was this image that impressed itself on me, not the physical fact. Man’s curses against devastating thunderstorms, his terror of the unchained elements-these affects anthropomorphize the passion of nature, and the purely physical element becomes an angry god.
Like the physical conditions of his environment, the physiological conditions, glandular secretions, etc., also can arouse fantasies charged with affect. Sexuality appears as a god of fertility, as a fiercely sensual, feminine daemon, as the devil himself with Dionysian goat’s legs and obscene gestures, or as a terrifying serpent that squeezes its victims to death.
Hunger makes food into gods. Certain Mexican tribes even give their food-gods an annual holiday to allow them to recuperate, and during this time the staple food is not eaten. The ancient Pharaohs were worshipped as eaters of gods. Osiris is the wheat, the son of the earth, and to this day the Host must be made of wheat-meal, i.e., a god to be eaten, as also was Iacchos, the mysterious god of the Eleusinian mysteries. The bull of Mithras is the edible fruitfulness of the earth.
The psychological conditions of the environment naturally leave similar mythical traces behind them. Dangerous situations, be they dangers to the body or to the soul, arouse affect-laden fantasies, and, in so far as such situations typically repeat themselves, they give rise to archetypes, as I have termed myth-motifs in general.
Dragons make their lairs by watercourses, preferably near a ford or some such dangerous crossing; jinn and other devils are to be found in waterless deserts or in dangerous gorges; spirits of the dead haunt the eerie thickets of the bamboo forest; treacherous nixies and sea-serpents live in the depths of the ocean and its whirlpools. Mighty ancestor-spirits or gods dwell in the man of importance; deadly fetish-power resides in anyone strange or extraordinary. Sickness and death are never due to natural causes, but are invariably caused by spirits, witches, or wizards. Even the weapon that has killed a man is mana, endowed with extraordinary power.
How is it then, you may ask, with the most ordinary everyday events, with immediate realities like husband, wife, father, mother, child? These ordinary everyday facts, which are eternally repeated, create the mightiest archetypes of all, whose ceaseless activity is everywhere apparent even in a rationalistic age like ours. Let us take as an example the Christian dogma. The Trinity consists of Fat~ler, Son, and Holy Ghost, who is represented by the bird of Astarte, the dove, and who in early Christian times· was called Sophia and thought of as feminine. The worship of Mary in the later Church is an obvious substitute for this. Here we have the archetype of the family “in a supracelestial place,” as Plato expresses it, enthroned as a formulation of the ultimate mystery. Christ is the bridegroom, the Church is the bride, the baptismal font is the womb of the Church, as it is still called in the text of the Benedictio fontis. The holy water has salt put into it, with the idea of making it like the amniotic fluid, or like sea-water. A hieros gamos or sacred wedding is performed on Holy Saturday before Easter, which I have just mentioned, and a burning candle as a phallic symbol is plunged three times into the font, in order to fertilize it and lend it the power to bear the baptized child anew (quasimodo genitus). The mana personality, the medicine-man, is the pontifex maximus, the Papa; the Church is mater ecclesia, the magna mater of magical power, and mankind are children in need of help and grace.
The deposit of mankind’s whole ancestral experience—so rich in emotional imagery—of father, mother, child, husband and wife, of the magic personality, of dangers to body and soul, has exalted this group of archetypes into the supreme regulating principles of religious and even of political life, in unconscious recognition of their tremendous psychic power.
I have found that a rational understanding of these things in no way detracts from their value; on the contrary, it helps us not only to feel but to gain insight into their immense significance. These mighty projections enable the Catholic to experience large tracts of his collective unconscious in tangible reality. He has no need to go in search of authority, superior power, revelation, or something that would link him with the eternal and the timeless. These are always present and available for him: there, in the Holy of Holies on every altar, dwells the presence of God.- It is the Protestant and the Jew who have to seek, the one because he has, in a manner of speaking, destroyed the earthly body of the Deity, the other because he can never find it. For both of them the archetypes, which to the Catholic world have become a visible and living reality, lie in the unconscious. Unfortunately I cannot enter here into the remarkable differences of attitude towards the unconscious in our culture, but would only point out that this question is one of the greatest problems confronting humanity.
That this is so is immediately understandable when we consider that the unconscious, as the totality of all archetypes, is the deposit of all human experience right back to its remotest beginnings. Not, indeed, a dead deposit, a sort of abandoned rubbish-heap, but a living system of reactions and aptitudes that determine the individual’s life in invisible ways—all the more effective because invisible. It is not just a gigantic historical prejudice, so to speak, an a priori historical condition; it is also the source of the instincts, for the archetypes are simply the forms which the instincts assume. From the living fountain of instinct flows everything that is creative; hence the unconscious is not merely conditioned by history, but is the very source of the creative impulse. It is like Nature herself—prodigiously conservative, and yet transcending her own historical conditions in her acts of creation. No wonder, then, that it has always been a burning question for humanity how best to adapt to these invisible determinants. If consciousness had never split off from the unconscious—an eternally repeated event symbolized as the fall of the angels and the disobedience of the first parents—this problem would never have arisen, any more than would the question of environmental adaptation.
The existence of an individual consciousness makes man aware of the difficulties of his inner as well as his outer life. Just as the world about him takes on a friendly or a hostile aspect to the eyes of primitive man, so the influences of his unconscious seem to him like an opposing power, with which he has to come to terms just as with the visible world. His countless magical practices serve this end. On higher levels of civilization, religion and philosophy fulfill the same purpose. Whenever such a system of adaptation breaks down a general unrest begins to appear, and attempts are made to find a suitable new form of relationship to the unconscious.
These things seem very remote to our modern, “enlightened” eyes. When I speak of this hinterland of the mind, the unconscious, and compare its reality with that of the visible world, I often meet with an incredulous smile. But then I must ask how many people there are in our civilized world who still believe in mana and spirits and suchlike theories-in other words, how many millions of Christian Scientists and spiritualists are there? I will not add to this list of questions. They are,merely intended to illustrate the fact that the problem of invisible psychic determinants is as alive today as ever it was.
The collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind’s evolution, born anew in the brain structure of every individual. His conscious mind is an ephemeral phenomenon that accomplishes all provisional adaptations and orientations, for which reason one can best compare its function to orientation in space. The unconscious, on the other hand, is the source of the instinctual forces of the psyche and of the forms. or categories that regulate them, namely the archetypes. All the, most powerful ideas in history go back to archetypes. This is particularly ,true of religious ideas, but the central concepts of science, philosophy, and ethics are no exception to this rule. In their present form they are variants of archetypal ideas, created by consciously applying and adapting these ideas to reality. For it is the function of consciousness not only to recognize and assimilate the external world through the gateway of the senses, but to translate into visible reality the world within us.