Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941
Lecture VII 9th June, 1934
I have a question here about the collective unconscious but I cannot describe it in detail.
I can only say that it appears to be a living organism, containing as much of the future as of the past.
We can understand people better from their future than from their past because they are moving away from the latter and
going towards the former.
The future consists of things that are not yet, but in the unconscious it is as if they had always been.
Future events are all there in seed, already formed, only we have no way of explaining them; the language of the future is,
so to speak, not available.
When we try to explain the future, necessarily we use the language of the past and that is wrong and misleading.
The unconscious is always creatively developing the coming time, forming it out of the old and the past.
Usually it is built up on an archetype.
We have already spoken of archetypes, they are images of typical situations ingrained in the depths of man’s soul;
myth motifs which crop up all over the world with astonishing similarity.
There are, for instance, archetypes of fear, fear of the pass, fear of the ford, for example, where dragons, snakes, etc., lurk.
The legendary king could only kill the dragon when he was in an archetypal situation.
The death of King Albert of the Belgians could be explained in this way; it was as if something had been waiting to murder him,
watching for a suitable opportunity, an archetypal situation, in which to fill him with panic and destroy him.
The fear of the ford is a very real one in tropical countries and is a panic which frequently assails people who live in lands
where there are no such dangers.
“In the Shadow of the Bush” by Amery Talbot, is a book in which the panics of the bush are very well described.
He once came to a stream with his wife and a party of natives.
The natives refuse d to cross which surprised Talbot as the stream was too small for crocodiles.
At last he ascertained from the natives that the stream was haunted by the ghosts of snakes and a cobra actually did rear up between
himself and his wife as they were about to cross it.
Talbot describes the panic and the archetypal fear which this incident aroused in him.
You are simply hit by these things in the bush.
They are not of any objective importance to us here, but there are other crossings in our psychology, psychological difficulties.
Or they may appear projected on to such a situation as crossing a street, and a motor suddenly becomes a crocodile, or if we
are too much absorbed in our inner problems the attention is called off the outer world and we run the risk of such a panic being
constellated and of being run over.
In going to a certain place one day on Mt. Elgon my way led through a wood.
The usually willing natives complained that they were tired and the corporal made every kind of
excuse and complaint.
By using the simple and effective method of walking behind them with a whi , I force d them into the wood.
But they showed such signs of anguish that at last I said to the corporal:
“You are usually so efficient, what is the matter with you?”
He would not say anything, but when
I whispered in his ear the taboo word “Ghosts?” the corporal, greatly relieved, replied: “Yes, ten thousand”.
I saw then how it works on these people and how real it is to them.
It is exceedingly uncanny to walk in a bamboo forest on the trail of a rhinoceros, you are never sure you will
not meet it, and you have to stoop as you walk because the rhinoceros is shorter than man.
These are the only paths and they are unpleasant enough, even for a European, but the green twilight, with its impression
of being under water, where all is still, damp and dead, overcomes the native completely.
He is much closer to the collective unconscious than we are; we have a comparatively thick layer of consciousness on
the top which is only occasionally broken through, but the native spends nearly all his time in the unconscious.
When I first arrived in East Africa, an English farmer, who had been settled there for years, said to me:
“May I give you a piece of advice ?”
I said that I would be only too glad and he replied:
“This is not man’s country, it is God’s country.”
And the longer I was there, the more I saw the truth of his remark.
Nature is overwhelmingly impressive, and man seems to come only after the elephant, the lion, and the giant snake.
The collective unconscious is not only a universal phenomenon, it is possible to some extent to differentiate its contents.
The following diagram will help us to do this:
A. Individual (highest point) Vermillion
B. Family Crimson
C. Can Green
D. Nation Yellow
E. Large Group (e.g. Europe) Ochre
F. Primeval Ancestors Light Brown
G. Animal ancestors in general Dark Brown
H. Central Fire Vermilion
I is an isolated nation
II and III are nations belonging to such a group as Central Europe, or China and its neighbours.
The individual is never alone but always has his whole family, and even clan, behind him.
Two members of the same clan, who are not related, may look like brother and sister.
Just as physical traits, such as the Hapsburg lip, appear again and again, so do the traits of a certain psychological structure.
You think you have married an individual, but you find you have married a family.
This becomes very clear in the children. Physical and psychological resemblances to the whole clan appear.
Everyone is accompanied by a kind of spiritual familiar, invisible indeed to himself, but often exceedingly obvious to
This is made, not just of the immediate family, but of the entire clan to which the individual belongs.
National types are also very distinct.
This is especially the case with somewhat isolated nations, islands, or peninsulas.
An Englishman has a totally different psychological experience to that of a Central European.
Still more pronounced are the different racial characteristics of the inhabitants of different continents.
There is such a deep psychological difference between the European and the Asiatic that some people maintain
that the Chinese psychology must always remain a riddle to us.
You know that there is a technique with which one can undertake the analysis of the unconscious.
It begins with the conscious, goes on with the personal unconscious, and goes spirally towards the collective
This process is usually a very long one, and sometimes it appears to follow a circle instead of a spiral.
The roads in the personal unconscious are broader, and those which lead to the collective unconscious are
narrower and more difficult to find.
The complexes of the personal unconscious are built up over the archetypes.
When, at last, the collective unconscious is reached, there is a spiral which eventually leads to a centre,
but here again it is very easy to circle , instead of following the spiral.
We get away from the personal circles and find ourselves in the historical.
There are certain methods by which we can constellate these inner actualities, but the vast majority of mankind is not
concerned with them.
They do what they have to do naively and piously, do not worry about their motives, and are convinced
that introspection is morbid.
It is true that it can be exceedingly morbid, but if you look into yourself in a legitimate way it can be a most
We will now examine some methods of ascertaining contents of the unconscious..
Word Association Method.
In this experiment a series of test words is given, the patient must then say only one word, the next word which
occurs to him.
He is told to react as quickly as possible, and the pause is measured in fifths of seconds.
This measure is quite accurate enough.
To use still more exact methods would be shooting sparrows with cannons.
The experiment is repeated to test the patient’s memory.
Word, is the test word.
Time, is the amount of time which elapses before the answer, measured in fifths of seconds.
Complex symptom, is a disturbance, the patient pauses, says “Oh”, repeats the test word, or uses two words in reaction.
Repetition, indicates whether the patient is able to remember the word with which he reacted when the test words
are repeated to him.
X means Yes, and – No.
Word Time Complex Symptom Repetition
Water 4 0 x
Round 4 0 x
Cbk 5 0 x
Swim 6 0 x
Grass 5 0 x
Blue 7 0 x
Knife 20 3 –
Help 15 3 –
Weight 10 1 –
Finish 8 0 x
Mountain 6 1 –
Fly 5 0 x
These are twelve out of the hundred experimental words which were used.
There is a period of disturbance from 7 to 11.
There were also periods of disturbance in the words which I have not given, starting from the words “pointed”
This patient was unknown to me, I knew nothing whatever about him.
When I asked him if he had noticed that sometimes he had paused before answering, he replied “No”.
I then asked: “Did any of these words stir up memories in you?”
He said “No, I just answered. “But when I told him what the words were which had appeared to disturb him, he
wanted to leave the room, and evidently felt exceedingly uncomfortable.
When I said that there must be some memory connected, he refused to speak.
At last, however, I got the story out of him.
When he was quite young he had lived abroad and had been put in prison for six months for wounding a
man with a knife.
It was years ago, he had left the place, no one knew of it, he himself had quite forgotten it, but there it always
was – his skeleton in the cupboard, the hidden complex which was revealed by this method which unveils
If I had asked him directly if anything disturbed him he would have answered “No”.
For the complex was too deeply buried, he really believed that nothing did disturb him, but there it was,
always lurking, ready to spring forward at the slightest opportunity.
To anyone who observed him closely there was a faint flicker of the eyelids visible whenever the word “knife”
was mentioned. ~Carl Jung, Lecture VII, 9June1934, Pages 114-117