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Carl Jung on “Myth,” “Archetype,” and “Complex.”

000 myth

Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941

Lecture XV 22nd February, 1935

I gave you so much material in the last lecture and from so many different countries and epochs, that I am sure you felt that a mythological salad had been produced.

It is very difficult to find the right material just when you need it, and you Lose the thread in the labyrinth.

I am not in the least repentant about this and am only sorry not to have bewildered you still more, with yet more material because then you could get an idea of how things look in the unconscious.

Everything seems to come with bewildering in consequence from all its various layers.

But it would be a mistake to think that it is all confusion, for if this were the case the ordinary functioning of the psyche would be impossible.

If it were really so chaotic, we should receive no support from it, whereas in reality it is possible to keep the thread.

It is no easy task, for instance, to name a string of heterogeneous things; Take the word lamp as an experiment and try to say quickly a string of words which are not connected with lamps.

Very few people can achieve this, and when we find this rare faculty it is usually combined with a certain dry humour, people who are very sick sometimes have this ability as a compensation.

Schopenhauer goes so far as to say that humour is the only divine quality of man.

A man who was to be hanged that day remarked to his jailer: “This week is beginning well”.

That i s this faculty in a nutshell.

The foundation of the unconscious is not chaotic, but has a distinct organisation.

The outer world does not support us in continuity, the street is full of heterogeneous things, but we are help ed in continuity by the unconscious, and so protected from many of the accidents of life.

In the East the Yoga practices show a wonderful inner continuity.

This inner order is the foundation of our psyche.

The primeval pictures or archetypes are magnetic points in this foundation and attract the miscellaneous things which fall into the unconscious.

I will give you a diagram to make this clearer: (See diagram page 191.)

When we are able to see through the dark confusion of our memories we come to the archetypes.

We go into the crypt of a cathedral, for instance, and are greatly impressed: after a time we forget the impression in consciousness but it falls into the unconscious and makes another line round the archetype, through this we become aware of the archetype for the first time.

We easily make the mistake of thinking that it was seeing the crypt which started the archetype in our unconscious, but this is not the case, it was there all the time, only we were not aware of it.

Another example is the flood motif which occurs all over the world, the swamping of consciousness by the unconscious; this is caused by the primitive’s panic that he might lose his weak consciousness, that it might disappear into the great darkness.

The field of the archetype tends to get larger, as more and more impressions collect round it, it rises higher and higher, and when it touches the surface it appears as a complex.

This is how complexes form.

1 . The wavy line is the surface of our consciousness.
2 . This straight line is the bottom of the “sea”.
3 . The broken lines are the course which things take when they fall into the unconscious.
4 . These x’s and half-circles are the archetypes and their fields of attraction which often pull contents right out of their course.

To give a practical example.

One is in a house and the light fails to go on in a certain room; someone gets into a panic, the archetype of the cave has come up.

You can attribute it to every kind of outer cause, if you are with a charming girl, for instance, you can think that you did it on purpose, but this possibility disappears if your companion is a dull old man.

Or you can say that there might be a burglar, or that you might fall over the furniture, and every kind of nonsense, but the real reason for the panic is mythological.

We recognise that it is the archetype which has been forming for two thousand years, but this recognition demands a special training.

There is often a dark chamber in the personal life by which the archetype can be constellated.

Many families have a skeleton in the cupboard; Papa has epileptic fits, or grandfather was once in prison.

Children nose out these things and are promptly s quashed, the thick-skinned child, the enfant terrible, persists in his questions but the sensitive child gets a shock from his elder’s reactions and this makes a painful hole in his unconscious which he protects throughout his life.

He is always under the impression that other people have a similar skeleton which must on no account be touched.

This disturbs the feeling relationship terribly, for you cannot be human if you have to be constantly on the lookout for fear of touching upon a skeleton.

When things fall into the unconscious, it is only the power of reproduction which is lost; to event is lost, nothing has ever not happened, it is all stored up, and even after ten thousand years can come up in its pristine freshness.

Two years ago I dreamt of a man’s face very vividly.

At first, though he was very familiar, I could not place him.

Then I remembered he was a neighbour of mine forty-five years ago, at that time I saw him daily but he is long since dead.

It was very clear, like meeting him in the street, and he brought back all my surroundings at that time very vividly, I saw him with his background.

After ab out a fortnight, the face disappeared and I could not, with the best will in the world, Remember what he looked like.

I could remember his name, however, for a considerable time.

A year later I thought I still knew it, then I found I did not, but when exactly it disappeared I do not know.

In early childhood we become acquainted with fairy tales and we learn mythology in school and in our later reading, we forget most of it in consciousness, but in the depths it is all carefully treasured.

One of our great dangers is that on the surface we do not recognise the important moments of our life and it is in such moments that these mythological themes rise from the depths and present themselves.

The unconscious has recognised the crisis and has warned us in a dream.

If we get the meaning of the dream all goes well, but if we do not, things may go wrong, even to the point of suicide, as happened in the case of our present dreamer.

I felt it necessary to give you this general orientation.

Try to keep an impression of it, it is not necessary to remember all these exact details, but it is essential to realise that the dream we are discussing rises from these depths.

Our discussion of the dream ended with B.C., the dreamer’s ideal friend.

This friendship with the snake appears in the Eleusinian mysteries.

The initiate is represented with the snake, as making friends with the most feared animal, the typical chthonic god.

The kissing of the snake or the dragon is a frequent motif in German myths; when someone achieves this (and this is also often the case intellectual life) the dragon turns into a beautiful woman or a fairy prince.

An excellent example of this motif is to be found in the fairy tale of the Frog Prince.

B.C.. was on such good terms with the snake because he was a child without guile, that is he was a child who trusted in life and things.

A mother who lived in East Africa told me the following story about her child of two.

That country breeds a peculiarly deadly and lazy snake called the puff adder.

The East African sun is very dangerous and all children must stay in the shade until four o’clock; mothers take every pre caution to keep their children in the house till that hour.

My acquaintance heard her child playing on the verandah and using very tender language as if to a puppy or a kitten.

She went out to investigate and found the child stroking a puff adder which was looking like a great salami sausage and was lazily accepting the caresses.

She had the presence of mind to draw the child gently away so as not to annoy the reptile.

The guilelessness and credulousness of the child is its protection, children sometimes fall from a fourth story window and are unharmed, so we say they have guardian angels.

This is the attitude that it is necessary to have towards this monster in order to get the key of Toledo.

After B.C.. dis appeared the text goes on to tell us that the snake was forgotten.

When the dreamer descends the snake asks to have the child B.C. again.

If we take this literally it is asking for an impossibility but the snake really asks the dreamer himself to come as this child, to come with his guileless attitude, but the dreamer decides to delegate the disagreeable mission to his friend.

He considered this friend especially suitable for this mission because he was younger, more stupid and less important than himself.

She was very dark and there was even a tradition that he was descended from the Moors.

The dreamer deceives the snake into thinking he will come himself, but really he means to send this friend who is the dark, misty, typical inferior figure which occurs in dreams.

The dreamer distrusts his courage and tells him he must find the earlier bravery of his race.

For this he sends him to fetch his sword from the weapon factory on the other side of the Tagus.

Toledo is famous for its weapon factories.

Again we encounter the symbol of the sword, the man-made sharp weapon, the will that we can direct.

This special sword was said to be very old and to have come originally from Greece.

That means that it is a primeval inheritance of humanity, which is largely in the hands of the white man.

It is with this sword that he has founded his colonies where the natives were without it.

It is what man has had for centuries; intention, insight, understanding and will.

Weak-willed people faced with the Gordian knot, and also people in unsuitable relationships, which should be severed, often dream of such weapons.

He should take the sword and turn it against himself and bore through his left hand. This is a very strange idea.

The left always stands for the unconscious and the right for the conscious : so it means boring through his unconscious.

Left is the side of the great emotions, the Greeks held their shields on the left, it is the inside of the heart is always supposed to be
in t h e unconscious.

The dreamer has to pierce his unconscious, when the analyst wants to make an impression on the patient he gives him a piercing look but this dreamer must give the pain to himself.

He must understand his own left side, his darkness, if he could achieve this h e would be able to relate to the snake and to obtain the key of Toledo. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture 22Feb1935, Pages 190-193.