The Can of Worms – The Collective Unconscious and Jung’s split with Freud

In the last blog entry, I referred to how Jung’s intuitions about a broader unconscious caused tension with Freud that, in the end, could not be reconciled.  Jung’s intuition had to do with a deeper layer of the unconscious that was not just material that was at one time conscious and then repressed.  Instead, Jung believed that there was a deeper layer to the unconscious – one that had never been conscious to individuals, only discoverable by consciousness. 

Jung called this stratum of the unconscious the collective unconscious or, sometimes, the objective psyche – objective because it existed without the subjective realm of personal unconscious, really, without us entirely.  The collective unconscious is universal, and exists across cultures and history.  Jung writes: “The collective unconscious comprises in itself the psychic life of our ancestors right back to the earliest beginnings.  It is the matrix of all conscious psychic occurrences…(CW 8, para. 230). The collective unconscious expresses itself in the form of myth; fairy tale; folk tales; the “big dreams” common in cultures where ritual connection with this realm is encouraged and respected; and often in the delusions of those suffering from severe mental illness.

This is the richness of Jung’s work, and is often the initial catalyst that intrigues us and brings us to workshops and lectures.  It is the connection to the numinous we so often seek, the connection to deeper and wider vistas from which to understand ourselves.

I look forward to seeing you all in a couple of weeks for the lecture and workshop on consciousness and change!

Hallie Durchslag, LISW