15 June 1932 Visions Seminar Lecture VI
Today we have a rather crowded program.
There are certain questions to deal with, and here is a contribution from Mrs. Sigg, a picture of an old Greek vase with just the constellations we were speaking of, the great monster whale Cetus, and the two Fishes, and Perseus and Andromeda.
Pegasus is not there.
The picture shows that the antique feeling about such constellations was a peculiarly living idea.
To them, Andromeda, the victim, fastened to the rock and being rescued by Perseus from the sea monster, was depicted in the sky, it was happening.
We have not such vivid power of fantasy, to us it seems rather artificial to project such an image.
Of course, one should not say that the antique man was capable of projecting, he was rather the victim of the projection, it just happened to him.
The trees and the mountains were alive, the springs were
filled with living beings, the stars were gods.
It sounds to us like a very faint and worn-out allegory to call that beautiful star Jupiter, but to them it was Jupiter, and in that form it worked in them, it influenced them.
All nature was teeming with life, and with a life which was darkly felt to be their own.
It was as if the nervous system had tentacles in objects, as if
the nerves were not only under the skin but extended far into the outside world.
It was the life of the unconscious, since every Greek in those
days was living in his unconscious all the time; nature was the unconscious, as it is still.
And they tried to interpret that life in nature, to find a suitable formula in their mythological images to express the strange impression they got from certain trees, mountains, rocks, or whatever it was.
So their world was populated with extraordinary beings; what we would call fantasy was experienced by them as reality.
The old Greek mind was very primitive, and it still happens with primitives that the trees have voices and speak to them.
We must now answer these questions.
They were suggested by that seminar two weeks ago where we had to swallow a particularly difficult bit.
The fantasy which contains the vision of the white city and the crucifixion obviously stirred up many problems.
Here is a question from Mrs. Crowley: “You spoke of the dissolution of the symbol when it no longer contained mana.
Did you mean that the symbol undergoes its natural
transformation? Is it not actually the same symbol reversed, or whose convex impression is visible? Libido absorbing it from a new angle? And therefore there is a constant spiral movement or growth that views its (the symbol’s) different aspects?”
A symbol is not its contents, they are not identical; the symbol is a man-made image, an honest attempt of man to express a certain influence or impression, a strange psychical experience; just as all the terrible Greek monsters, like the chimera, were attempts of man to characterize certain specific local impressions.
If one could go to the places where those monsters were supposed to have lived, we would probably see something that explained what the Greeks meant in characterizing them by such creatures.
When I was in Africa I always went to the places which were said by the Negroes to be haunted, in order to find out what made them say so.
There was one place of particularly ill repute, a cave far up in the mountains, almost eight thousand feet, which they said was inhabited by devils (the term they used was explained to me as really meaning ghosts rather than devils); and if anyone entered it, he was instantly killed.
It was necessary to carry a grass torch, and those devils put out the light and strangled the man.
As the mountains were volcanic, we assumed that there might be pockets of carbon dioxide, so we took lanterns and long
ropes with us, in order to explore the ground before we descended.
We were afraid we would be suffocated if torches were put out by the atmosphere.
But when we got there we were rather disappointed; we came to a kraal, very high up, lost in the wilderness, where a Negro lived who said he would show us the cave.
We asked him whether there were not ghosts of the dead inside that would kill us, but he said, “Oh no, there was nothing of the kind,” they always got the salt for the cattle there.
You see, it was a place that only in the distance had that evil reputation; to faraway tribes and kraals it was a terrible place, but for people nearby it was just an ordinary cave.
In the same way, the medicine man is only called in for small things by his own tribe; if there is anything serious, they call the medicine man from over the border of Uganda, they assume that the one who comes from afar is the most powerful, and their own is no good.
So not even the ghosts work at home, they are only devils abroad.
That occurs everywhere, of course, and accounts for warring nations as well; it is assumed that the most dangerous people are on the other side of the mountain.
Anatole France tells about two peasants who were fighting each other to death; somebody inquired of one of them why he hated and persecuted the other one, and the only thing the man could say was: “fl est de l’autre cote de la riviere. ”
That is the psychology of the French and the Germans.
They project all that is evil in themselves to the other side of the Rhine.
It is very nice to be in one’s own country and all the devils on the other side, but it leads eventually to war.
Well, the spell of that cave nevertheless existed, so we went down into it with all necessary precautions, and it was very gruesome.
We descended in spirals about three hundred feet into the bowels of the earth.
There were deep crevasses filled with water, and in one of them we came upon a very ghastly corpse of a Negro.
His torch had evidently been blown out by a draft or was exhausted, and in groping his way back he had fallen into this crevasse.
He suddenly shone out in the light of our lanterns as a white body, his skin looking white on account of a certain
phosphorescent fungus which was growing on it.
That white phosphorescent body rising out of the black water was a sight that gave one the creeps, particularly as in climbing over the boulders and along the crevasses, one became awfully nervous and could well understand why such a place had a bad reputation.
It was really a bit dangerous, and from a distance it might well take on the mythological aspect of a place haunted by devils.
We went to other such places, a bamboo forest, for instance, that was up about nine thousand feet and was supposed to be the abode of the evil spirits of the dead.
We had Negro soldiers with us as well as the usual outfit, but they simply refused to go into that forest.
I must say it was an uncanny place, for you had to go on a rhinoceros path winding through
thick undergrowth, and there was no getting away in case a rhino jumped out at the next turn; we had to walk crouching over, and round the corner the rhino might appear at any moment.
They charge at sight, the only hope is that just before it charges, two yards away, it shuts its eyes, and in that instant you might be able to jump to the side.
But jumping aside in such a jungle is almost impossible because the dead leaves come up to your knees, so you are practically lost.
Moreover there were fresh rhino tracks in the mud, so it was quite comprehensible that the place was rather nerve-racking. Besides that, no real light ever enters
there, it is exactly as if you were under the sea-that green twilight.
It is absolutely still, one hears only the rustling of the bamboo leaves stirring in the breeze, no other sound.
And we had a thunderstorm overhead that day. It was disagreeable.
One of the soldiers of a particularly courageous tribe was trembling all over and quite ashen in the face, and when
I asked him if he was cold, he admitted that he was afraid.
I said, “But it is awfully nice here.
What are you afraid of? Are there perhaps some ghosts?”
And then he whispered into my ear, “Yes, thousands and thousands.”
You see, that is the way in which mythology comes about, it is the expression of the particular spell of a place.
It sounds terribly sentimental to say that places have their spells, you naturally think of moonshine, fairies in the woods, flowers, and so on, but this is the spell of primitive
nature which is quite different from anything you know under civilized conditions.
When you are on virgin soil in absolutely primitive country-which is not man’s country but God’s country, as the old
squatter told me-you realize the spell.
Of course, you say you have a headache, you feel dizzy, you have not slept well, or have a cold, but in reality it is downright nervousness, you get terribly jumpy after a while.
Your nerves are tickled and your hair is a bit on end all the time. The nervousness shows the stirring of the unconscious, of course.
With your rational mind you cannot admit it; you say something might happen and you are responsible for other people, but it is really the peculiar spell of the place.
Now such a spell creates certain images within us which are called symbols; because we try to express through symbols what we cannot designate through rational conceptions, they are the best concepts we can make.
So what we call a symbol is really the expression for a fact which we cannot designate otherwise; we cannot invent a formula, so we use some rather embarrassed improvised expression.
One perhaps says: “Here I get a feeling of a huge invisible serpent”; and then it is called the place of the serpent, and one must not go there, it is taboo.
And in another place one has a queer dim feeling as if the air were thick with ghosts, so one keeps away, it is the place of the ghosts-and so on.
Now these are symbols.
Of course, we use the word symbol in a much more differentiated way.
By the symbol of the cross, for instance, we express no local spell, no experience, nor any real situation, we express then a
This symbolic process within us, or that need to express unknown, unknowable, inexpressible facts, culminates in religion.
Religion is a symbolic system by which we try to express our most important impressions of unknown things, say the concept of God.
Perhaps something overwhelming happens to us; we cannot say that an animal has jumped on us, or that a house has collapsed on us, but something has happened, we don’t know what, and we are overwhelmed and call it God.
So when something overwhelming happens, we exclaim,
As the primitives exclaim mulungu when they hear the gramophone, or when the medicine man appears, or when anything happens that causes a tremendous impression.
If an explorer hears them, he thinks they are calling on God, which is like making such a raisonnement when his wife exclaims, “My God!”
But as a matter of fact that really is the most primitive expression of God, an overwhelming impression that
We say it must be the hand of God, expressing ourselves
a bit more elaborately.
These symbols have only a certain duration naturally, because there is nothing on earth that is not worn out at last.
So colloquial expressions, like swearing, or any slogan, wear out; a slogan is also a symbol, and that loses its effect after a while.
And it is the same with many old symbols, the symbol of the serpent, for example, which was to be found everywhere
in antiquity, even if only as a warning.
In Roman times it was used to designate a place at the corner of the imperial palace where everybody was warned not to leave any dirt.
A notice was hewn on the stone wall-like a poster-that the man who dared to do anything unclean in that corner was cursed in the names of the twelve gods.
All their names were carved there, and the snake also, to make it more impressive, which simply meant: “Look out! here are snakes, here is the curse, behave yourself!”
So the snake degenerated to something like an exclamation
Exactly as we use the concept of God as an exclamation mark, or as the French expression sacre has degenerated-sacre coeur!-sacre nom d ‘un chien!
The same thing happens naturally to religious symbols, they
lose their fascination.
We can hardly imagine that holding up the cross would frighten anybody or cast a spell; to say, in hoc signo vinces, makes
no impression upon us at all.
No one would assume nowadays that wild animals would run away, or that a mob could be controlled by holding up the cross; it is no longer expressive of the supreme fact, and therefore it has lost its mana, its original functional value.
So that symbol has vanished, but not its contents.
One must always make that difference between the contents and the symbolic form.
Whatever name you give to the forever incomprehensible, unknowable content is provisional; it lasts for a while and then a new aspect of the same unknowable content is discovered, and a new name is invented; it will even force you to invent a
new word or a new image.
Mrs. Crowley: My question referred to what you were saying three weeks ago about the dissolution of the Christian symbol, and now you have answered it absolutely. I got the other impression from you that day, as if you were discussing it from the angle of the contents.
Dr. Jung: No, that was a mistake.
The contents necessarily remain the same because they are untouchable.
Now here is the next question, also by Mrs. Crowley: “Could you explain a little further the difference between the two forms of archetype? One you spoke of as symbolic. The
other not. Do you mean that one corresponds with the personal or ego self, and the other with the Self, or impersonal reality?”
I spoke of the lived archetype and the symbolic archetype, I made that difference.
Suppose you are in a haunted house or a place that has a spell, and are caught by it; you behave queerly, you get pale and tremble, you are under the spell of the place.
That is the lived archetype.
It is an archetypal situation, and you are simply caught in it and live it, and whatever you say to rationalize it, to explain it away, is perfectly irrelevant.
I had such an experience in a particularly dark jungle in Africa.
It was far from our camp, and we went there to see a most interesting rock.
It was about as high as a house above the trees with vertical sides, and to reach the top, we were forced to make a long detour and climb onto it from another side.
It had a flat surface on top about as big as this room, which was like an island in the midst of the jungle.
One saw those dark blue-green leaves below like the sea, and one’s eyes were naturally attracted to the beautiful colors, the trees in full bloom, those gorgeous red and white flowers with the dark foliage, and bright green patches of bamboos.
And one is fascinated by the cries of the animals, the monkeys
chattering below and the strange birds shrieking, one hears the life of the primeval forest.
As we stood there gazing I suddenly saw the most peculiar owl-like face staring up at me from the jungle, and I instantly
realized that the face in reality would be huge, many times over life-size.
There were no human objects to compare it with, it is very difficult to judge the size of a thing, but from the size of the trees I knew it must be enormous.
First I thought it was a big owl that was staring at me with
round eyes, an almost frightening look, and then I realized that its eyes would be at least one yard in diameter.
So I said to myself, there is no such animal, this must be an illusion.
Under ordinary circumstances one would simply think, how ridiculous, but there one gets frightened; you see, one is pretty far gone when one has hallucinations, and that realization
increased the size of the picture.
Then I saw through my field glasses that it was the peculiar contour of the foliage.
But instead of putting my mind or heart at rest, it had the contrary effect.
I had the feeling, now something is soon going to drive me mad and it has to do with that thing down there; I thought, “This is a very nice example of a primitive spell. ”
These things seem perfectly ridiculous here in Zurich in central Europe, but it is different in that setting, with that feeling of complete isolation; you know you are just nothing in comparison with the tremendous nature around you and its enormous beasts.
What are you against an elephant?
You have a feeling of being just allowed to walk in the garden like a stray cat-I felt like a stray cat, anybody could have a shot
It is true that in walking through the jungle, the primitives always carry their lances upright, instead of down as they ordinarily do, because they are never certain that a leopard will not jump on them.
So naturally you look up like a stray cat somebody is aiming at, you feel very much the victim.
Under such primitive conditions you get caught in the spell.
I said to myself, “You are just an ass, the place is perfectly safe, you have a rifle and not even a rhino could climb up here.”
And then I immediately made up my mind that if anything came up I would fire recklessly, I would put holes in it.
I was in a state between rage and panic.
I became decidedly dangerous just then, like a cornered animal. It needed all my reasoning powers to make me stay on that rock, and I tell you I was mighty glad when I could leave it, when I could say to myself, “Well, now I have stood it and we can go home.”
I waited for a whole hour until I was sufficiently reassured by my cold reason to overcome the nonsense of that illusion.
The very fact that one knows it is nonsense increases the
Now that is the lived archetype.
If I had been a primitive I would have said: “Ah, here is the devil, a tremendous owl monster is living in that wood, an old witch or a medicine man having taken on the form of a
were-owl, and I shall never go there again; or if I go, I shall make every preparation to protect myself, I shall wear anklets as charms, and something round my arms and head to protect myself against the possible influence of that thing.”
That would be a symbolic archetype, and I would have felt ever so much better, that would have brought it within human
Even against a dead medicine man you can do something, you
can wear certain charms that will propitiate him; you can put yourself more at ease, feeling that you have done everything possible to ward off the effect of the evil eye that was looking at you.
The moment you can designate the lived archetype by its symbol, you feel relieved; that is a good and positive moment even if it is horrible.
It is as if you had seen and known the enemy, and thereby got a certain assurance that you could find the means to combat him or to propitiate him.
Therefore old Egyptian medicine consisted in giving the thing the right name.
A papyrus has been published by a German named Ebers,
in which medical instructions were given to the doctors for dealing with patients.
It is like a practical textbook.
The case of a man is described who suffers from a carbuncle in the neck, rather a dangerous thing in reality.
The doctor reads the text to the man: “Thy neck is red and hot
and swollen,” and then he repeats it.
You see, he gives a sort of description, he names every symptom as if the patient did not know them. If
possible he produces an old text in which a description of an abscess is given, he tells the story of the abscess.
A snake bite was cured, for instance, by reading to the patient the story of Isis wounding Ra by a poisonous snake and then curing him again; they gave the facts a symbolic expression.
That seems ridiculous to us, but I have been paid many hundred dollars in America for uttering a strange word, what they call giving an opinion.
One has to say it is a paranoid form of schizophrenia, or something
of the sort, and they say: “Ah, is that it! Here is five hundred dollars.”
And the same thing happens here, people often come to me for one consultation, just wanting to hear the name of their disease.
I tell them it is a compulsion neurosis, for instance, and they walk away and pay me a fee.
As if they knew what a compulsion neurosis was!
Of course, we think it is ridiculous, but it is not so ridiculous from a primitive point of view, because one has given them a symbol.
The doctor himself doesn’t know what a compulsion neurosis is, but it is a fine name, and having invented that is worth at least fifty francs. And all those marvellous Latin names!
Not long ago someone said to me in a consultation: “I must have something terrible the matter with me, Doctor.
When I go to bed at night, feeling very tired, I suddenly feel a jump through my whole body and I wake up again.
Now what is that?”
Then I said: “Oh, that is just paramyoclonus
multiplex hypnagogfrus,” and away he went perfectly satisfied!
That is why medical books have such long names.
Why is the pharmacopaea still in Latin?
In English-speaking countries they have most unconventional prescriptions, but a real prescription in our country is still in Latin, we do it in the right way and it works.
Like the mass in the Catholic church. Nobody understands it, so it is full of possibilities.
Paramyoclonus multiplex hypnagogicus suggests amazing possibilities, it is not
just jumping nerves but something respectable, it is rich, it heightens the moral value of the patient on the spot-he walks out with the feeling of having a decent disease which he can show.
When primitives do these things we laugh, but we do exactly the same, we fall under the spell.
You see, that is the lived archetype, and it has always been so.
For instance, the old Gnostics must have searched the Orient in order to find the extraordinary names they use in their strange
invocations to the deity If they called GodJaldabaothJao, or Abrasax, or Chnoubis, or Aeeie, or Arioriph, instead of the ordinary Javeh or Theos, they thought he would be more likely to listen.
They made a long list of amazing names in order to arouse the curiosity of the gods, and they would never have done so if it did not arouse their curiosity.
A new name always produces an extraordinary effect; we cannot rationalize these things, they cast a spell, they are symbols, they really do influence the unconscious as the unconscious influences us.
Just as you may do quite an absurd and useless drawing looked at from the rational point of view, but it has a spell; it influences your unconscious, and it may even counterbalance an influence from the unconscious.
As the unconscious can make a fool of you in no time, so you can charm your unconscious by an absurd picture, if it is the true expression of the thing that jumped at you from the unconscious.
We now have a very difficult question to deal with from Miss Hannah.
Two seminars ago, we were speaking of the Self and the non-ego, and there seems to be a great darkness about that subject; sure enough there is a great darkness for there we are moving entirely in the field of symbols.
The Self is a symbol, the non-ego is a symbol, and we cannot think clearly, for we are trying to formulate an expression for a thing that is unknown.
People often reproach me for creating such vague, even illogical, concepts.
Naturally, when starting from a thing that is known, one is
bound to create a clear concept of it.
If the nature of the thing one wants to express is definite, one’s concept will be definite; one would not make a blurred image of a definite thing, a definite thing must be reproduced by a definite image.
But here we are dealing with entirely unknown entities, and our concepts are by no means definite.
I am utterly unable to tell you what the Self is; if I could do so I would be God myself.
How can I tell you about a thing which is not, about which I have no immediate experience, which I can only try to grasp by blurred images?
I can express it only in a very indirect way.
Yet there is something of the sort there, otherwise we would not be forced to seek an expression of it.
Miss Hannah says: “I had always thought of the ego and the non-ego, the personal and the impersonal, as opposites, and the higher consciousness to be reached by individuation as a point above them both and aware of each equally. But you used the term ‘non-ego’ in the last seminar in connection with the Self rising from the sea, the patient’s first idea of her totality. So would it be nearer the truth to think of the
ego as before the opposites, the thing in which the opposites appear and are split, and the non-ego as beyond them?
“The same idea seems to be expressed in the crucifixion of the ego.
Only somehow it gives me a queer lopsided feeling that the human being should have to take up and accept every thread of his personal fate in order to lose it in a wholly impersonal, universally valid fate, as if one opposite had triumphed after all.”
Dr. Jung: Do you still understand what you have asked?
Miss Hannah: What I want to know is, is the non-ego one opposite, or is it something which is made of both?
Dr. Jung: I am glad you filed it down to that abbreviation! The answer depends entirely upon the standpoint from which you envisage the problem.
As long as you are identical with consciousness and think that
is the totality, it is the totality.
Then you suddenly make a discovery, perhaps by the aid of a neurosis, that there is something against you, something hindering you.
It might take a very concrete form; perhaps you want to write an exceedingly friendly letter and it turns out to be a rude letter, you know such things happen.
Or you know exactly what you
want to say to a person, yet you say something quite different. Then you must recognize that something has interfered; there was a straight line ahead of you, you thought you could walk straight ahead, but something made you divert from your path.
For instance, a patient often talks to me for a whole hour, and in the end says: “But that is not at all what I wanted to tell you!”
Then I say: “Who the devil was talking then?”
Yet she will not admit that something was against her, something which definitely did not belong to her ego in the sense that she understood the ego.
After a while under the influence of analysis, she will see that her ego is not only what she knows of it, but that it is also something else.
It becomes quite obvious that what she formerly called a strange uncanny influence, probably due to someone
else-or, as she says, “God knows what made me say so”-was simply a certain repressed emotion.
She had a resentment against someone which forced her to write a very unfriendly letter, which apparently was quite against her intentions.
Then the apparent non-ego turns out to be a part of her ego which she could not admit before.
After a while she will see that she has a resentment against the person, she dislikes her.
Formerly she would only admit the best of intentions, that she was always trying to do her best-that stuff-but when she is truthful enough to give up that illusion, she will see that her ego has very many more sides than she originally expected.
You see, that is a case where an apparent non-ego joins the ego, it is no longer in opposition to the ego.
But that non-ego was never the real non-ego, it was only a factor artificially split off from the ego.
I am quite certain that the very same person was quite aware as a child that she hated and wished evil upon people, she was probably a very naughty girl, but later on, under the influence of education and most cherished illusions, she created a marvellous idea of her character, which did not allow her to have feelings of hatred and so on.
Many of the loveliest angels have been the naughtiest, many exceedingly tender, delicate females have been just rowdies, the wildest tomboys, in their teens.
As a girl of fourteen she was running wild with the boys, climbing trees, etc., and later on she became like moonshine and flowers, nothing but the most exquisite femininity; and quite hysterical naturally, because underneath she is coarse and brutal and cruel and egotistical.
But she learned to make a most marvellous picture of herself and to herself.
Other people are not so easily blinded.
Now if you can accept that shadow, which apparently was the non-ego, you will encounter more of the real non-ego in your later development.
Of course, having undergone a Freudian analysis and some additions from Adler concerning the power complex, you might assume that you had a full knowledge of yourself, but then the next thing is that you fall over an archetype.
And there you realize: “But this is not at all what I am!
Where did I get that?”
Perhaps you are still neurotic despite the fact of an apparently full knowledge of yourself.
Perhaps something absolutely strange comes in which has not been acquired in your individual existence, which must date from former times; and then you need another explanation. You may read in theosophical books about people being
inspired by the Mahatmas who live in the mountains of Tibet, and who have their particular wisdom which they whisper into the ears of Western people.
For instance, a theosophist said of me, that anything good that I
said was inspired by the Mahatmas, but what I said out of yself was no good at all.
You see, one needs a hypothesis in order to explain how it
comes about that one seems to know certain things, and that certain things happen, or that one has fantasies which cannot be explained by one’s personal psychology, not even by one’s personal acquisitions and conclusions.
A dream of a little child, for instance, may contain something
which the child does not know, and will recognize only very much later; it may forecast his whole future life.
Now that material comes from the collective unconscious, and most definitely not from the personal unconscious.
It has nothing to do with the ego.
Here questions arise as to whether an ego is an historical extension.
We can make such assumptions sure enough, we are quite naturally inclined to believe that we are historically extended. Therefore we need an hypothesis, perhaps the belief in reincarnation, the belief that in a former life one was a Caesar or a Napoleon or a Shakespeare-certainly no one mean.
The East needed the idea of the reincarnation of souls to
explain why we have contents in ourselves which are surely not our personal acquisitions.
There are very good reasons for these hypotheses, they are by no means absurd phenomena.
Millions of people all over the world, not only in the East, believe in the migration of souls.
Again and again one hears people say: I must have been so-and-so, and done such and such a thing in a former incarnation and therefore have such and such a karma.
They would not talk in that way if they did not feel the
presence of a factor in themselves for which they cannot make themselves responsible.
It was obviously not acquired in their personal lives and not even in the lives of their parents, so one can discuss the possibility, perhaps the necessity, of assimilating these historical contents, or contents remote in space, even Chinese contents.
You see, the question is whether they should not be assimilated into a new consciousness of the ego, historically extended and also extended in space.
Suppose you have some telepathic experience, or prophetic
Then you must assume that your ego is exceedingly extended in
time, and that means in space also, so you reach a conception of the ego which is absolutely inconceivable; it reaches out to such an extent that you are everything, you are the creator himself, you are time and space.
But the result is that you get an enormous inflation; it is a neurotic condition.
You become entirely unreal, no longer a human being, you
are lifted into the air, you are a Purusha that covers the earth two handbreadths high, as the Upanishads say.
This is a most unsound condition, besides being perfectly ridiculous.
For I cannot allow you to cover the earth everywhere-I am going to cover the earth everywhere, I am as good as you; and I cannot permit anyone to extend over the whole of history and exclude myself, I want to extend over history, I am the subject
that extends everywhere.
So it is all bunk.
There is no such extension because the ego is this thing here, unique and for once only, it is right here, limited in space and time, and if anything comes in that indicates that enormous extension, then I say it is like a radio; it started somewhere and I perceive it, but it is not my own property, it is not a part of myself. In a way, it may become a part of myself; if someone writes me a letter from Australia, that becomes part of myself, I have it in my pocket and can do with it what I like; yet I have
not written that letter.
So we must form a concept of the ego that allows for definite limitations, and the limitations are quite obvious, they are
space and time, there the ego comes to an end; those are the borderlines of ego extension and everything that is beyond is impersonal.
It has always been so, and it always will be so. And the thing beyond is the collective unconscious.
Now by calling it the collective unconscious, we must not think we know what it is; of course we do not know, because that is the unknown quantity in the world.
What the collective unconscious is, we cannot know. Collectively, we do not know, none of us knows; it is there in all of us but it is just collective ignorance.
Yet something comes from it; we don’t know whether it starts from the depths of space or time, we are simply confronted with certain effects, and we ascribe these effects to the collective unconscious.
Such manifestations may come from anywhere, we don’t know where, we only know that we have such effects.
We don’t even know exactly what the effects are, we can only symbolize them, we create some sort of imagery about them. One gets a shock from the unconscious of unknown nature, one makes some imagery round it, and that is the symbol.
But what it was, we don’t know and we shall never know, there will always be the great unknown.
Otherwise we would arrive sometime at establishing the absolute truth.
Naturally whole nations think that the absolute truth will finally be established by our minds.
That is the terrible primitiveness of the human intellect, we are in many respects still primitive.
On the one side we believe in the omnipotence of the intellect, and on the other side we are not even able to come down to a reasonable arrangement of our everyday lives.
Look at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva.
It is ridiculous to assume that we have an omnipotent intellect when it serves for nothing in a situation when not even animals would contend.
If you offer a bone to two dogs, one dog gives it up if it is a bit nearer the other dog, and they don’t fight over it.
But in human beings there is not even that much instinct.
So the idea that our intellect has any God-Almighty likeness
is quite excluded.
The collective unconscious is the real non-ego, and this first appears as an opposite, as our shadow qualities appear first as an opposite.
I may consider myself a perfectly decent, kind human being, I may think of the welfare of suffering humanity and of nothing else, I may exhaust myself in the service of mankind.
Then along comes a dark shadow, an egotistical shadow that is only interested in himself and devours everything for himself. Then I think what a strange thing it is that Mr. So-and-So should
be such a tremendous egotist, and it never enters my head that it might be myself.
That kind of projection is the usual thing in marriages; the
devil appears somewhere and naturally it is my wife, she is a devil-or my husband.
It is the same with nations or families or groups of people-of
course in our family it never happens, but it happens in Mr. So-and-So’s family.
And the collective unconscious, the non-ego, appears in exactly
the same way; it is a strange thing that is suddenly against us.
It is all the more strange because very few people really encounter or experience it.
For most people are still wrestling with their shadows; they have not experienced the fact that their shadows are real, they have the greatest trouble to see this.
But only when they are able to see this can they encounter the wider non-ego.
Therefore “know thyself” is the condition in the mysteries.
If you know yourself, you can know something else.
Otherwise you have no measure.
You are an unknown quantity, and how can an unknown quantity recognize another unknown quantity?
You must know your own measure, and from that standpoint you can measure a thing that is contrary, different from yourself.
So for the encounter with the non-ego, the condition is that you first know yourself; and where there is still darkness, blind spots where you don’t see yourself, the encounter with the collective unconscious will be twisted, it will not be the pure experience.
The true encounter with the collective unconscious can happen only after you have integrated the shadow, thereby making the complete ego.
Then the complete ego as a unit can find itself vis-a-vis the non-ego, and feel that this non-ego has a psychical character, as the complete ego has a psychical character.
The non-ego is felt as an opposite only as long as the intentions of the nonego are opposed to one’s own.
You may have an ego will, for instance: you want to stay on your own path, and you are attracted by something outside, projected of course from yourself.
If it is an evil will, it will be contradicted by the archetypal
law of the collective unconscious that life must evolve in a certain way.
Our ego idea would be: There is the good thing on that mountain top and I will make a straight line for it; but the archetypal way is not like that, the archetypal way is the serpent way that wriggles up, or goes round in spirals, until it reaches the top.
The archetypal law often seems to us like defeat, a standstill. Most people get terribly impatient and even despair because nothing happens, they get nowhere, they are all the time hindered; they don’t understand that this is just as it must be and actually their only chance to get there.
For they can only grow up to it, and what they grasp at is their own illusion, and not the fruit of growth and development. Therefore Buddhism holds that you can never attain to redemption, whatever you do, you must first grow up to it; even Buddha himself had to go through more than five hundred incarnations in order to attain to nirvana.
As long as the non-ego seems to be in opposition to the ego, you feel it naturally as an opposite, but you will understand after a while that the collective unconscious is like a wide sea, and the ego is like a little boat drifting upon it.
Then we can discuss the possibility of whether we are not contained in that sea.
You see, ships are contained in the sea, so they form part of it. And fishes are living units in the sea; they are not at all
like it but they are contained in it.
Their bodies, their functions, are marvellously adapted to the nature of the water, water and fish form a living unit.
This is a very modern point of view in biology in explaining
the instincts, for the most remarkable facts have been discovered about the adaptation of one form of life to another.
One of the best examples is the leaf-cutting ant.
There is an ant in South America that cuts round pieces from the leaves of certain trees and carries them into their underground cities, where they have sort of cellars for the cultivation of a certain fungus; there they heap up the
leaves, making a kind of humus; it is like a cabbage plantation or a kitchen garden.
Naturally the trees do not enjoy that leaf-cutting process,
they dislike being deprived of their vital organs, the leaves are their lungs; so they make a contract, a sort of trust with the enemies of the leaf-cutting ants-I think it is a little red ant that is their mortal enemy.
The trees have developed certain hollow places in their trunks, in which a sweet sticky substance is secreted that tempts the red ants to inhabit those tree trunks, where they enjoy the sugary secretion, and at the same time they protect the trees against the leaf-cutting ants.
There are plenty of such examples, amazing things, which cannot be explained.
Is it that the tree thinks: “How can I combat these leaf-cutting ants? Cannot I hire their enemies as soldiers to protect me against them?”
If that is not so, we must assume that life is a kind of unit, that it is really a continuum and meant to be as it is, namely, all one tissue in which things live through or by means of each other. Therefore trees cannot be without animals, nor animals without plants, and perhaps animals cannot be without man, and man cannot be without animals and plants-and so on.
The whole thing is one tissue and so no wonder that all the parts function together, as the cells in our bodies function together, because they are of the same living continuum.
Now if one creates such a point of view, it is almost as if the non-ego were the connection, a medium which in a peculiar way is oneself again.
As the fish can say, “I am the sea,” then the sea can say, “I am the fish.”
So one can define the individual as being that monad, that unit, or concretion, which is apparently cut out of the tissue of the collective unconscious.
And perhaps it is merely the manner of the cutting, perhaps it is
only the size or the form cut which indicates the particular individual one having more of this and less of another substance, this form or another form.
But it is always made of the stuff of the collective unconscious,
and therefore the extraordinary relationship or similarity between the collective unconscious and the Self.
So the Self is part of the collective unconscious, but it is not the collective unconscious; it is that unit which apparently comes from the union of the ego and the shadow.
We designate that totality as the Self, where everything conscious is united with everything unconscious, with the
exception of those things that reach beyond our limitation in time and space.
The Self is in its structure like the collective unconscious, and it is also a non-ego because it is beyond our grasp; it reaches over our heads.
We can never say: “I know this Self of mine.” We don’t know it, we can never know it because it is the bigger circle that ncludes the smaller circle of our consciousness.
Just as the Self is a unit in the collective
unconscious, so we are units in the Self.
And how can we know the whole of which we are only a part?
One may ask: “How can any difference be made between the Self and the collective unconscious if one doesn’t recognize the Self?”
There I am basing my conclusion merely upon my observation of cases.
There are certain dreams which one can explain by the hypothesis that the collective unconscious is not merely a big void like the Indian concept of Atman, for instance, which, as one all-pervading principle, unique and alone, has no qualities whatever.
In contradistinction to that idea, the unconscious seems to me to consist of an indescribable abundance of forms or images, and one of those images is the Self.
Perhaps they are all Selves.
Now, I conclude from the phenomenology of the human mind
that whenever we receive an impression from the collective unconscious, it is through a specific form-like dragons and monsters and all the other mythological forms and symbols. Hence I conclude that whatever we can make out of the collective unconscious must be something like such images.
Yet it is just as possible that it does not consist of such
images, that it is an all-pervading principle that has no quality whatever.
But to think of it at all, one must give it a definite form-one needs the form.
So inasmuch as we try to explain our dreams, we come to the
conclusion that the unconscious consists of separate images, archetypes, and one category of these archetypes are called Selves; others are called dragons, or gods, or spirits, or motifs; and they all have a certain autonomy.
The Self is such an image, indefinite in its real nature, but it appears in dreams, so we get a certain idea of how it looks to us.
It is surely an archetypal idea, as in antiquity the Greeks had the idea of the individual genius.
That would be the Self. And the Christian conception of the
immortal soul is the Self. ~Carl Jung, Visions Seminar, Page 739-755