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The attitude of the missionary who pronounces the gods of the “poor heathen” to be mere illusion.

999 pictures

The Practice of Psychotherapy CW 16

I have purposely avoided loading my lecture with theory, hence much must remain obscure and unexplained.

But, in order to make the pictures produced by my patients intelligible, certain theoretical points must at least receive mention.

A feature common to all these pictures is a primitive symbolism which is conspicuous both in the drawing and in the colouring.

The colours are as a rule quite barbaric in their intensity.

Often an unmistakable archaic quality is present.

These peculiarities point to the nature of the underlying creative forces.

They are irrational, symbolistic currents that run through the whole history of mankind, and are so archaic in character that it is not difficult to find their parallels in archaeology and comparative religion.

We may therefore take it that our pictures spring chiefly from those regions of the psyche which I have termed the collective unconscious.

By this I understand an unconscious psychic functioning common to all men, the source not only of our modern symbolical pictures but of all similar products in the past.

Such pictures spring from, and satisfy, a natural need.

It is as if a part of the psyche that reaches far back into the primitive past were expressing itself in these pictures and finding it possible to function in harmony with our alien conscious mind.

This collaboration satisfies and thus mitigates the psyche’s disturbing demands upon the latter.

It must, however, be added that the mere execution of the pictures is not enough.

Over and above that, an intellectual and emotional understanding is needed; they require to be not only rationally integrated with the conscious mind, but morally assimilated.

They still have to be subjected to a work of synthetic interpretation.

Although I have travelled this path with individual patients many times, I have never yet succeeded in making all the details of the process clear enough for publication.

So far this has been fragmentary only.

The truth is, we are here moving in absolutely new territory, and a ripening of experience is the first requisite.

For very important reasons I am anxious to avoid hasty conclusions.

We are dealing with a process of psychic life outside consciousness, and our observation of it is indirect.

As yet we do not know to what depths our vision will plumb.

It would seem to be some kind of centring process, for a great many pictures which the patients themselves feel to be decisive point in this direction.

During this centring process what we call the ego appears to take up a peripheral position.

The change is apparently brought about by an emergence of the historical part of the psyche.

Exactly what is the purpose of this process remains at first sight obscure.

We can only remark its important effect on the conscious personality.

From the fact that the change heightens the feeling for life and maintains the flow of life, we must conclude that it is animated by a peculiar purposefulness.

We might perhaps call this a new illusion.

But what is “illusion”?

By what criterion do we judge something to be an illusion?

Does anything exist for the psyche that we are entitled to call illusion?

What we are pleased to call illusion may be for the psyche an extremely important life-factor, something as indispensable as oxygen for the body—a psychic actuality of over-whelming significance.

Presumably the psyche does not trouble itself about our categories of reality; for it, everything that works is real.

The investigator of the psyche must not confuse it with his consciousness, else he veils from his sight the object of his investigation.

On the contrary, to recognize it at all, he must learn to see how different it is from consciousness.

Nothing is more probable than that what we call illusion is very real for the psyche—for which reason we cannot take psychic reality to be commensurable with conscious reality.

To the psychologist there is nothing more fatuous than the attitude of the missionary who pronounces the gods of the “poor heathen” to be mere illusion.

Unfortunately we still go blundering along in the same dogmatic way, as though our so-called reality were not equally full of illusion.

In psychic life, as everywhere in our experience, all things that work are reality, regardless of the names man chooses to bestow on them.

To take these realities for what they are—not foisting other names on them—that is our business.

To the psyche, spirit is no less spirit for being named sexuality. ~Carl Jung, CW 16, Para 111