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St. Augustine thanked God for not making him responsible for his dreams.

Carl Jung Depth Psychology Facebook Group

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Psychology and Alchemy


In my writings and lectures I have always insisted that we must give up all preconceived opinions when it comes to the analysis and interpretation of the objective psyche, in other words the “unconscious.”

We do not yet possess a general theory of dreams that would enable us to use a deductive method with impunity, any more than we possess a general theory of consciousness from which we can draw deductive conclusions.

The manifestations of the subjective psyche, or consciousness, can be predicted to only the smallest degree, and there is no theoretical argument to prove beyond doubt that any causal connection necessarily exists between them.

On the contrary, we have to reckon with a high percentage of arbitrariness and “chance” in the complex actions and reactions of the conscious mind.

Similarly there is no empirical, still less a theoretical, reason to assume that the same does not apply to the manifestations of the unconscious.

The latter are just as manifold, unpredictable, and arbitrary as the former and must therefore be subjected to as many different ways of approach. In the case of conscious utterances we are in the fortunate position of being directly addressed and presented with a content whose purpose we can recognize; but with “unconscious” manifestations there is no directed or adapted language in our sense of the word—there is merely a psychic phenomenon that would appear to have only the loosest connections with conscious contents.

If the expressions of the conscious mind are incomprehensible we can always ask what they mean.

But the objective psyche is something alien even to the conscious mind through which it expresses itself.

We are therefore obliged to adopt the method we would use in deciphering a fragmentary text or one containing unknown words: Ave examine the context.

The meaning of the unknown word may become evident when we compare a series of passages in which it occurs.

The psychological context of dream contents consists in the web of associations in which the dream is naturally embedded.

Theoretically we can never know anything in advance about this web, but in practice it is sometimes possible, granted long enough experience.

Even so, careful analysis will never rely too much on technical rules; the danger of deception and suggestion is too great.

In the analysis of isolated dreams above all, this kind of knowing in advance and making: assumptions on the grounds of practical expectation or general probability is positively wrong.

It should therefore be an absolute rule to assume that every dream, and every part of a dream, is unknown at the outset, and to attempt an interpretation only after carefully taking up the context.

We can then apply the meaning we have thus discovered to the text of the dream itself and see whether this yields a fluent reading, or rather whether a satisfying meaning emerges.

But in no circumstances may we anticipate that this meaning will fit in with any of our subjective expectations; for quite possibly, indeed very frequently, the dream is saying something surprisingly different from what we would expect.

As a matter of fact, if the meaning we find in the dream happens to coincide with our expectations, that is a reason for suspicion; for as a rule the standpoint of the unconscious is complementary or compensatory to consciousness and thus unexpectedly “different.”

I would not deny the possibility of parallel dreams, i.e., dreams whose meaning coincides with or supports the conscious attitude, but, in my experience at least, these are rather rare.

Now, the method I adopt in the present study seems to run directly counter to this basic principle of dream interpretation.

It looks as if the dreams were being interpreted without the least regard for the context.

And in fact I have not taken up the context at all, seeing that the dreams in this series were not dreamed (as mentioned above) under my observation.

I proceed rather as if I had had the dreams myself and were therefore in a position to supply the context.

This procedure, if applied to isolated dreams of someone unknown to me personally, would indeed be a gross technical blunder.

But here we are not dealing with isolated dreams; they form a coherent series in the course of which the meaning gradually unfolds more or less of its own accord.

The series is the context which the dreamer himself supplies.

It is as if not one text but many lay before us, throwing light from all sides on the unknown terms, so that a reading of all the texts is sufficient to elucidate the difficult passages in each individual one.

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Moreover, in the third chapter we are concerned with a definite archetype—the mandala—that has long been known to us from other sources, and this considerably facilitates the interpretation.

Of course the interpretation of each individual passage is bound to be largely conjecture, but the series as a whole gives us all the clues we need to correct any possible errors in the preceding passages.

It goes without saying that while the dreamer was under the observation of my pupil he knew nothing of these interpretations and was therefore quite unprejudiced by anybody else’s opinion.

Moreover I hold the view, based on wide experience, that the possibility and danger of prejudgment are exaggerated.

Experience shows that the objective psyche is independent in the highest degree.

Were it not so, it could not carry out its most characteristic function: the compensation of the conscious mind.

The conscious mind allows itself to be trained like a parrot, but the unconscious does not—which is why St. Augustine thanked God for not making him responsible for his dreams.

The unconscious is an autonomous psychic entity; any efforts to drill it are only apparently successful, and moreover are harmful to consciousness. It is and remains beyond the reach of subjective arbitrary control, in a realm where nature and her secrets can be neither improved upon nor perverted, where we can listen but may not meddle. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Pages 44-46.