Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941
Lecture XVI 1st March, 1935
In answer to a question I must say that by “Bild” (image or picture) I intend to convey a more comprehensive idea than just an optical picture, it could also include that which is heard, thought or felt.
Archetypal pictures play a large role in all art and music, as Schopenhauer has pointed out.
A large number of people are still wondering why it was necessary for me to bring forward so many
mythological associations in order to understand this dream.
I have already explained this, but I will try to do so more clearly.
We will do this by means of a diagram.
(1) is the smallest circle – the conscious;
(2) is the point in the centre – the ego complex;
(3) is the personal unconscious – a dark zone on which consciousness rests like an island in the sea.
The contents of the personal unconscious are mainly attainable, we can with great effort remember the things which it
contains, but there is a trench set round this, beyond which is:
( 4) the collective unconscious. I will only represent this by dots, because it is impossible to set boundaries to it.
It belongs to humanity in general and also to the animal world.
I will also draw the diagram in section in order to show that each circle lies deeper than the last.
I have brought with me the chart which we had last year showing the different structural layers extending from
the individual to our animal ancestors.
(See Summer Semester, Lecture VII, June 9th, 1934.)
Below the individual comes the family, below that the clan, then the nation, then the European man who possesses a special psychology which makes him fundamentally different from the inhabitants of other continents.
We have phantasies as to what we are, but if we could listen to what a Chinese or a primitive has to say about us it would be highly enlightening.
This unpleasant side of the European we do not, as a rule, see.
Then we come to primeval man and t h e m a n y animal layers which lie in his dim past, if man is stripped you come to the “bete humaine”.
The deeper we go the more generally valid everything becomes and the less individual.
In the ego we are so many heads, so many opinions, individuals.
In the family, we are still separate from other families.
In the clan we already have very much more resemblance to each other; if we come from the same Canton we speak the same language, are familiar with the same customs, a great deal can be taken for granted with no effort.
You notice it particularly if you have been living for a long time abroad and suddenly meet someone from your home district.
A dream out of the personal unconscious is comparatively easy to understand, but when it comes from the collective unconscious we have to go down to much deeper layers where archeology, mythology, et cetera, represent the common speech.
The details in such dreams represent things which do not occur in ordinary life, e.g. the cavern in which the snake lives.
These details come from a kind of soil which is almost unknown to us.
We cannot examine the unconscious with a psychological microscope and lay bare its structure, if we could, we should see that
it begins its work from within, like the crystal.
There is nothing to be seen until the dream or fantasy picture is produced; the archetype could be said to be without content and
invisible, a priori it belongs to what the French scientist calls “les categories de “imagination”.
I am sorry to have had to go into the realms of philosophical obscurity but these things are very difficult.
I will do my best to make them as clear as possible.
To return to our dream, we stopped at the curious theme of the wounding of the left hand.
This is an archetypal idea and a very common motif in men’s initiation ceremonies.
On primitive levels the initiant is even tortured in order to test his endurance, his masculinity.
I have already spoken of similar customs among students.
They are still severe among American students, but here they have become as harmless as Christian baptism.
The question in this dream is, can the young man endure the test of facing the snake?
If he could he would get the dagger, the key of Toledo; but we are told he comes to the surface nearly fainting from pain and fear.
So he cannot hold Toledo and the dreamer ends with the statement: “I had to leave him there as a wall decoration”.
This picture brings to my mind a lunatic asylum where many patients stand round the wall as passively as if they were statues,
pictures or decorations.
This young man did lose his reason, so the comparison is not unsuitable.
Up to the present we have been concerned with the context, now we come to the interpretation.
It would lead us too far if we attempted to speak of the entire meaning of this dream.
We will begin with the end for that often shows us the goal of a dream.
The dreamer had this dream at the beginning of his psychosis so we may expect it to inform us about the structure of
There is a disturbance in the conscious and in the contents of the unconscious, which this dream mirrors forth, we can
perhaps find the reasons for this disturbance.
We know there that something is out of order, for such dreams only come when something essential is happening to us.
It is unfortunate that such important periods usually find us too dense to realise their significance and we only know at the time that we suffer
from a headache or from fear.
We have naturally no grasp of the situation if we do not know that something essential is happening to us, so the dream comes to
Sometimes the content brought by such a dream is almost dangerous; some people have such small brains that when they understand,
the box bursts, which is a calamity, I have often told the story of the young clerk who , after an unfortunate love affair, s aw the lights reflected in the Limmat and had a cosmic vision of luminous dancing couples.
He was filled with such a sense of personal happiness that he felt sure there was a gold treasure waiting specially for him and at daybreak he was
arrested for trying to break into the Urania observatory and soon landed in Burgholzli.
This harmless youth had no idea that he was a poet.
Goethe or Schiller would have made a poem and been freed, but he with his sparrow’s brain concretised the vision and it burst his brain.
If he could only have done something with the content, made a picture or a poem, he would at the same time have seen his love story in the
eternal stars, and his picture or poem would have been a monument to remind him that no personal sorrow is too great to be dissolved in an
This is a similar case, for our dreamer also fails.
He could do nothing with the content which was brought to him, so the tragic end was inevitable.
It was the dreamer himself who remained as an ornament on the wall.
The dreamer is represented as three people in this dream.
First of all as B.C., t h e boy of seven years old, who is still a hero and a friend of nature, the nature in us.
We can all go in groups and walk on the Zurichberg, but the question is, are we able to take a walk by ourselves?
The second person is the Ego, spoken of as “I” in the dream.
The third person is the shadow – the friend S. – the inefficient one, and it is to him that the dreamer entrusts the mission.
He gave him, it is true, some good advice – to wound his left hand but the shadow could not stand the pain, and yet it is to this figure that all the
action is left.
This is a very frequent motif in dreams and in real life how often do we say: “Oh, it will do itself” and we slip the thing into the unconscious and hope that someone will do it for us.
In a way this optimism is justified, it very often is done but it is usually done against us instead of in our favour.
This shows a tendency in the dreamer’s conscious to leave things undone, because he does not see the great importance
If we could only realise it when we reach an important turning point in our lives we should say to ourselves Now we must grapple with the situation” but with the dreamer this important moment slips by.
In the dream the moment is represented by his having to face the snake without fear.
The snake equals the inferior psyche , the instinctive man.
This is an image of our original structure, the thing we really are and should be but generally are not.
This tears us in two and we become neurotic.
The dream puts it well.
“Later the snake was forgotten and no one went down to look after him”.
This is expressed in very general language, as if it were a universal problem, and that is exactly what it is.
We have all forgotten the instinctive man, we are cut away from him by our rationalism.
It is very important to have a nice house with central heating, and possibly also a car, but we all have an inner need to express the whole personality of man, for what could we do with a horse that is not a horse, or a tiger that tries to be a good tiger and to eat apples.
God made the horse and the tiger to be what they are, but to us it has become more important to be Mr. So and So than to fulfil
the primitive task of being a human being. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture XVI 1Mar1935, Pages 194-197.