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

Lecture VI 2nd June, 1934

There is a question asking what individuality is, but to answer it would lead us too far for we are not at present concerned with the individual, but with the ego.

Our present material consists of that which touches the ego, the individual or Self reaches far beyond this, it is only in the evening of life that we can say who we really are .

In this diagram the outer circle is the superior function.

This can, of course, be any of the functions, with the condition that its opposite becomes the inferior, or inmost, function.

In this case, sensation is superior, thinking comes next, feeling follows, and intuition brings up the rear.

The intermediary circle is the ego, next to it, on the inner side, are memories, secrets which have to be guarded, subjective portions, etc.

Affects and emotions come next and lastly the invaders from the unconscious which we did not have time to speak of in the last lecture.

These invaders have the character of being completely foreign to us.

Affects have already something of this character, they possess us, but we are still able to exercise some control over them with the will
and to explain them, to some extent, rationally.

The invaders, however, are completely irrational, they appear from the unconscious with no conscious mitigation and take us entirely by surprise.

If we allow them to appear outwardly they astonish our neighbours as well.

A sudden mood seizes us, or an idea possesses us, it has no connection whatever with our conscious occupation at the time.

You are listening to a lecture, for instance, and if it is boring, to have phantasies is explainable, because naturally it is nicer to play with
something more amusing than the lecture, but if you really want to listen and still cannot attend, the invader shows its autonomous character
more clearly.

These moods or ideas, even among healthy, so-called normal people, can go over into illusions, sometimes phantastic illusions, and even hallucinations.

Goethe’s vision, and St. Paul’s are of this order, as are, also, the contents of neuroses and psychoses.

Beyond this comes the inner circle, the complete dark, the utterly unknown, the unconscious, the meaning of which is “that we do not know”.

This is a no man’s-land out of which the invaders come.

It is not even possible to prove that these things exist when they are in the unconscious, for the essential character of the latter is that it is unknown.

We postulate that things are preserved in it for memories and such things come out after years of conscious forgetfulness in a whole and preserved state.

It looks as if they led an existence in the unconscious from which they walk out at the right opportunities.

We can make hypothetical postulations as to their character, as is done in modern physics about the contents of the atom, though opinions are
sharply divided up on this subject.

We can make certain distinctions in the contents, the personal contents, for instance, differ from the collective ones.

(1) Personal contents are such things as memories; things of every kind which we forget, but which, apparently, remain stored up and break through Whenever there is a favourable opportunity. We assume there is a top layer consisting of these.

(2) Collective contents are essentially different in character, but the difference is difficult to recognise because they frequently clothe themselves in personal material. It is only after a careful study that you can discover them and see that they have merely enriched themselves with things which they have borrowed from the personal layer.

When they do this the patient usually handles them as his own, but this is quite wrong.

The personal unconscious is, to some extent, our own material, but the collective is not so at all.

This is all very abstract and should now be made clearer and nearer by examples.

The very existence of the collective unconscious is still a disputed concept, and is exceedingly foreign to the intellectual.

Only the other day I met a French scientist who said “But surely it is a very mystical idea”.

I replied that I did not see how it could be called mystical for it was really a very practical idea.

How would it be possible for us to understand other people if there were no common, human unconscious?

We can, even, to some extent, understand the most primitive rock paintings from this general human background and our very languages point to common roots.

Some of the Elgonyi natives speak of their parents as Baba and Mama, only Baba is mother, and Mama father.

If you take an apple from a monkey he gets angry exactly as a human being does.

Through the animal consciousness in the collective unconscious we can reach very deep layers indeed, the period of primitive man is very short compared with the animal period.

When people dream of flying they make swimming movements in the air pointing back to amphibious stages, probably the ancestors of man spent the longest time in the amphibian stage.

We are apt to think of ourselves as very modern, but do our modern investigators re ally know what they are saying?

They are always remarking in books on primitives how exceedingly primitive they are, because they do not know what their customs mean.

It is true that they do not.

The natives on Mt. Elgon spat on their hands and threw forth their breath to the rising sun, and they could
not tell me why.

But what about our own customs of Easter and Christmas?

Suppose that instead of camping on Mt. Elgon we had pitched our camp on the Zurichberg and studied the habits of the inhabitants in their “kraals”.

One morning Herr and Frau Meyer would come out into their garden and do mysterious things in the bushes.

We should ask ” what are you doing?

Have you hare idols there, and do the eggs represent some fertility or magic ritual?”

They do not know.

How very primitive these people are!

I assure you, however, that it is exceedingly difficult to know what the Christmas tree means.

It reaches back far into the past and has many ramifications.

We always assume that there was a heroic age when our forefathers knew the reason, but we deceive ourselves, they never knew, we know more than they did. It did it, and at last someone said “What does it mean?”

We are very slowly waking up from a deep sleep in participation mystique; men did not think, they “were thought”.

To say “Why do we do this ” ; or, “What does it mean? ” is the beginning of thought, before this the unconscious forces us to do these things.

When the sun rises in the tropics it is a moment that hits people in the heart, it forces the Mt. Elgon natives to do something.

In the mountains of Switzerland you hear people shouting with joy and they shriek at the bathing-places as they go into the water.

Why? Because plunging into another element, the cold water, or greeting the sun from a height, are impressive moments, and we must do ·something to celebrate them.

In bathing you have exposed yourself in a somewhat risqué costume and you want an outlet for your feelings.

We always put everything on to our parents or forefathers.

We make them responsible for everything and we think we have explained something by this, but as a matter of fact we have not.

When we hide Easter eggs, it means that we are expressing an unconscious thought, that thought is – “Now it is the time for the beginning of new lives, “Everywhere there are young things” and we are moved by this thought as the primitives are by the rising sun.

The primitive word “Roho” means spirit, in many languages the word for spirit is almost identical, we do not know how to translate it in the Bible.

The Holy Ghost, the breath which goes between the Father and the Son.

The primitive breathing into his hands as the sun rises is saying: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit”.

Sunrise is an unbelievably impressive moment on the equator, in four minutes the uncanny night has given way to the glory of the rising sun.

There is no twilight, day changes immediately into night, and vice versa.

We laugh at the people who rush up the Uetliberg to see the sun rise but, when we experience it, we are caught in it too and are touched to the core for we too are human.

The unconscious contains not only memories but also the germs of the new, creative seeds.

Everything springs from the collective unconscious.

Much of Christ’s te aching is also to be found in the teaching of his cousin Mithras.

The collective unconscious is a source in which all the past and all the future lie, it does not belong to the individual, but to mankind.

I am nearly responsible for my personal unconscious, but not at all for the collective unconscious.

When the sun rises it is not a personal matter, but a completely impersonal one, there is no one who is not concerned by it and everyone is impressed.

When the new moon rises, or the full moon, it is a generally human matter and we are inevitably affected by the emotion it causes.

If we are in a crowd and do not understand a joke, we are still forced to laugh, for we are caught by the emotion of a crowd if we are in it.

This is illogical, but a fact.

People are not impressed by unrealities and it is useless to say “nothing but”.

Perhaps if I had not been a psychologist I might lie about it and pretend it all meant nothing to me, but as it is I am willing to stand for it and to admit that such things move me also.

If we are not moved by them, we are out of touch with general humanity, with the quality of being human.

This is just the quality which we are repressing so determinedly in this age.

But this is all wrong.

It is not that all these things are good, or desirable, but that if we suppress the generally human we become too intellectual and live by “isms”.

It is far safer to admit that we feel just as all other human beings do about these experiences, and to accept our general bond of feeling.

The unconscious cannot be thought of as the old Swiss said of the brain: “It is like a saucer of macaroni”.

The unconscious is a living being with its use, object, and goal, and is eternally looking for a way to reach that goal – a way which is
not our personal one, but the human way, mankind’s way.

This realisation is the beginning of the effort of western man to get out of his narrow, intellectual way. ~ Carl Jung, Lecture VI 2June1934, Pages 110-113.