CARL G. JUNG
AND THE POSITIVE APPROACH TO THE UNCONSCIOUS
In the preceding chapters, we have seen psychotherapy developing into a method for dealing with the aberrations of personal behavior which were considered as manifestations of neuroses. The analysis of neurotic phenomena (in behavior, thought, and feeling), revealed to the early investigators the fact that these phenomena were neutralized if — by means of hypnosis, dream-analysis, or other methods — the neurotic person could be made to clearly recollect certain types of painful occurrences in early childhood or adolescence, occurrences which had caused a deep impression or an emotional shock, yet which the person had forgotten.
This fact, and others related to it, led philosophers like Pierre Janet and psychiatrists like Sigmund Freud to realize that man's inner nature — the "psyche" — was not only constituted by an aggregation of conscious ideas, feelings, realizations, etc., but included also a vast amount of unconscious material. Beyond what a person knew himself to be — beyond the thoughts, feelings, moods, aspirations, desires, and memories which he knew as "his own" — there were also within him many unwelcome, strange, ugly, immoral, and perhaps even criminal impulses and yearnings, which his conscious ego could not accept and thus repressed in fear, disgust, or horror. Thus repressed, these unwelcome contents of the psyche were seen to fall back into the shadowy depths of the "subconscious," i.e., below the threshold of consciousness. They were the outcastes and pariahs of the psyche. The psyche, like our modern cities, had "dark slums"; and if these psychic slums became overcrowded or aroused in one way or another, their haggard, uncouth, and criminal denizens spilled over, as it were, into the conscious part of the psyche — comparable to the "best society" — and caused havoc, manifesting as neurotic symptoms.
Various explanations as to the reasons for the existence of these "psychic slums" and their undesirable inhabitants were given early in the 20th century particularly by Pierre Janet, Freud, and Adler. Virtually all these explanations stressed the negative character of the unconscious factors within the psyche. In Freud's view, the unwelcome and repressed desires, feelings, and thoughts originated in the dark instincts of animal life and particularly in the first manifestations of sexuality; indeed, they were seen as the result of a basic conflict between "life" and "social order." For Adler, the unconscious contents of the psyche had hardly any meaning at all, save as the result of a wrong method used by the individual in his effort to gain superiority and assert his will to survival against physiological or social handicaps. The unconscious contents were refuse, toxic materials to be eliminated by the healthy individual self-driven toward his goal and the ultimate goal of human society.
Then came Carl Jung. In his books and his methods of healing, he outlined — with a wealth of detail, analogy, and imaginative understanding — an entirely different picture of the unconscious. We recognize some of the traits mentioned by Freud in this picture; but Jung shows that Freud's interpretation of the nature and origin of the psychic factors responsible for neurosis, hysteria, and the like, is one-sided and incomplete. Above all,
Jung differentiates between a "personal" unconscious (Freud's subconscious) and a "collective" unconscious. And this distinction at once removes Jung's method from the strictly clinical field of the cure of neuroses, and brings it into the sphere of psychological education or religious guidance. Jung's ideas thus become a matter of concern to all individuals eager to live fuller and more balanced, richer and more integrated lives.
Jung's psychology goes to the roots of the problem of human life and heralds a new era of psychological and philosophical understanding. His scientific caution and his desire to keep pace with the development of 20th century thinking have — I believe — limited the scope of his spiritual vision, at least as we find it formulated in his public writings; nevertheless, he has done for psychology what Einstein and his colleagues have accomplished in the realm of physics. He has established a "new" frame of reference for psychological thinking; and, as psychology is destined to assume an ever-increasing function in the evolution of human thought, a new civilization — now struggling toward adequate formulations and concrete manifestations in the fabric of social and personal living — is and will be profoundly indebted to Carl Jung.
It may be possible to trace Jung's interest in myths and religious symbolism to the fact that his father was not only a liberal clergyman, but also a man who had given much time to the study of Oriental thought. At any rate, while in his late thirties and still associated with Freud, he published his book The Psychology of the Unconscious (1912), which was devoted to the interpretation of some basic themes found in ancient mythologies and in the inspirational writings of modern poets and visionaries as well. The publication of this work brought his differences of opinion with Freud to a sharp climax. Freud (at least at that time)
insisted on limiting himself to the Field of personal conflicts having recognizable causes in the objective events of an individual's early life. Jung, on the other hand, began to probe into the common humanity of all human beings, that is, into the psychic heritage the past ages of human evolution have bequeathed to every new born individual.
In other words, Jung sought to establish the existence of a collective cultural and biological foundation in the human psyche — a foundation upon which every person builds or may build, in a more or less creative and original way, the structure of his individuality. This foundation is the product of inherited experience, biologically, socially, culturally, or
religiously. It exists within the depths of any person's inner life, but it is normally as unconscious as the organic functions of breathing or food-assimilation. The materials constituting this foundation of consciousness, however, may come to the surface, or the conscious ego may choose to explore their cryptic depths. These materials then appear to the consciousness as images with peculiar vitality and power. They are revealed in such form to the mystic or the great poet, to the creator of artistic, religious, or political symbols having power to influence a vast number of men. They have such power because they actually dwell in a latent state within every person in the collectivity. While every person does not directly experience these symbols in his own consciousness, each is moved
and aroused to feeling or action when presented with such a symbol, for instance in literature or in a painting.
Jung speaks of these images as either "primordial Images" or as "archetypes" of the collective unconscious. Among these images, we can mention the "great Mother," the "soul-image" (the anima or animus of a person), the "wise old man," the "solar Hero," the "shadow," the "great serpent" (the life-power), the "symbol of salvation" or the "redeeming
Savior," etc. These images are more than mere concepts or fanciful myths, products of the imagination of exceptional men. Jung regards them as basic contents of the collective unconscious, or as essential "structures" of the human psyche. The ordinary person discovers these images in the social and religious traditions of his youth; and while as an individual, he is not really conscious of the nature and meaning of these "archetypes," he
becomes familiar with their meaning in his tradition, and is able to tap their power in the same unconscious way in which he breathes.
However, there are persons who, for one reason or another, lose this unconscious touch with their basic tradition and with the collective attitudes of their society. They seek, peacefully or — more often than not — under strain and stress, to develop their own individual approach and their own foundations of meaning. Not satisfied to take for granted what their community or race has built upon for centuries, they rebel. Just as, at one time, they had to rebel against their mother and her enfolding love in order to ascertain and express their own individuality, these individuals also seek to emerge from that "collective womb" which is tradition, religion, culture, and morality. This emergence from the collective Mother is the basic phase of what Jung calls "the process of individuation" — the process which alone leads to psychological and spiritual maturity.
Birth and spiritual rebirth, freedom from the mother and liberation from the past, are eternal themes in human experience. They are manifestations of the eternal struggle between the individual and the collective: a struggle which vivifies the significance of these two polar opposites found in all life, and which must take individualized, conscious form and meaning in the experience of every man and woman who can truly claim the status of mature individual selfhood. This type of experience is brought about by problems of human relationship which reach a certain depth of value, either in joy or in anguish. When that depth is reached — below the level of the "personal unconscious" and its repressions or frustrations traceable to stressful childhood occurrences and emotional shocks — the individual is confronted with unusual situations and unusual dreams.
The problem he faces is no longer that of normalizing his emotional reactions and of erasing memories of shocks or personal failures; it is essentially the problem of establishing a new relationship in depth between his newly won individuality and the fundamental drives, functions, and structural compulsions of his race and his ancestral tradition. He, an individual person, faces humanity — its entire past and, I would add
(though Jung is not very clear on this point), its whole future, including the cosmic or divine purpose of human evolution. Such a confrontation must be squarely met. It can only be resolved into spiritual success or failure. According to Jung, success leads to the "integration of the personality"; failure leads to a regressing crystallization or disintegration
of the psyche, to the overwhelming of the conscious ego by the energies of
the aroused unconscious.
In order to understand the full meaning of such occurrences, we have to study the growth, development, and collapse of human nations and societies — and particularly of the European civilization. The "process of individuation" is a process universal in its scope, working as it does at various levels and in relation to various types of individualized entities. It is universal because it is based on the cyclic interaction and the constant struggle between the two poles of universal life — individual and collective. The meaning of these two polarities were well understood by the ancient Chinese wise men, who named them yang and yin, and who based their entire philosophy of life, their ethics, arts, and social systems upon the periodic rhythm these polarities display in nature.
This periodic rhythm is expressed in astrology, first of all, in the Zodiac and its symbolism, based as it is on the yearly oscillatory motion of the Sun in declination; that is, in the northward and southward displacement of the setting places of the Sun throughout the year. I have discussed this at length in my book The Pulse of Life. But, in relation to the chart of an individual, the contrast between factors dealing with the individual structure of consciousness and factors referring to the collective unconscious is represented by the distinction between, on one hand, the planets of the solar system up to, and including, Saturn, and on the other hand, the newly discovered remote planets beyond Saturn — Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. I have called the former "planets of the conscious," the latter "planets of the collective unconscious;"* and in a subsequent chapter we shall study the meaning of this distinction and its use in the psychological analysis of a birth-chart.
cf. The Astrology of Personality. The author has also dealt with these "planets of the unconscious" in great depth in his book, The Sun is Also a Star: The Galactic Dimension of Astrology (Dutton, N.Y., 1975). — Ed.
The reader should have by now a general idea of how far Jung has departed from the type of psychological approach taken by Freud. With Jung we see emerging quite a different conception of the unconscious. In contrast to Freud's picture of the unconscious as a purgatory or hell of repressed and poisonous psychic contents, Jung presents the unconscious as a vast realm of psychic energy from which the conscious ego emerges.
This process of emergence, called by Jung "individuation," may be accomplished more or less successfully and creatively; and the psychic materials which the ego has managed to "differentiate" and individualize during his lifetime normally return to the collective unconscious after death. In a sense, this realm is the primordial ocean of human being — the universal matrix of all that becomes, in the living person, desire, feeling, thought, intuition, and aspiration. In another sense, it is the collective reservoir into which goes all that human beings have contributed and will ever contribute to civilization, whether it be of positive or negative value.
At this point, I should probably stress the fact that Jung does not think of "the" conscious and "the" unconscious as two kinds of entities, Jung essentially bases his doctrine and technique on empirical data, that is, on what he and his clients have actually experienced in their inner lives. He is not primarily a philosopher; he is an investigator and an interpreter who seeks to establish his interpretation on the widest possible foundation
—and not merely on a limited concept of human individuality. He sees man's psyche as something vast, constituted by many factors (or "contents"). Some of these contents are conscious (that is, related to a central point, an ego, or "I"); many are unconscious, yet they press against the circumference or the "threshold" of consciousness and under certain conditions seep or erupt into the field of this consciousness, over which the ego
presides, or autocratically rules.
By definition, we do not know what the unconscious is — or else it would cease to be unconscious! We know that, consciously or semiconsciously, we resist the coming of certain thoughts, feelings, impulses, realizations, and intuitions into the field of our consciousness. But why do we resist these hidden contents of our psyche? It may be because they are destructive in themselves, toxic refuse of "our unlived life"; but it may
also be that they constitute a call toward a greater, fuller, more spiritual life — and that our ego refuses to admit them into its realm out of fear and inertia.
In other words, the unconscious contents of our psyche are those which the ego refuses to recognize, or those which are a challenge of further growth to its power and to the entrenched interests of the conscious, rationalistic (and rationalizing!) portions of our inner nature. Thus the unconscious superficially appears to be antagonistic to the conscious. Yet — and this is the essential point — they are the two halves of the psyche. As Jung writes:
"The psyche consists of two incongruous halves that should properly make a 'whole' together. . . (but) consciousness and the unconscious do not make a whole when either is suppressed or damaged by the other. If they must contend, let it be a fair fight with equal right on both sides. Both are aspects of life. Let consciousness defend its reason and its self-protective ways, and let the chaotic life of the unconscious be given a fair chance to have its own way, as much of it as we can stand. This means at once open conflict and open collaboration. Yet, paradoxically,
this is presumably what human life should be. It is the old play of hammer and anvil: the suffering iron between them will in the end be shaped into an unbreakable whole, the individual. This experience is what is called, in the later sections of this book, the
process of individuation." (The Integration of the Personality pp. 26-27.)
All this adds up to a conception of "personality" as an organized totality of human experience and psychic contents, both conscious and unconscious. The unconscious is never to be considered as a closed realm with determinable boundaries, but rather as a channel through which the entire universe — past, present, and future — is potentially flowing into the human psyche. Thus, personality is open to unceasing expansion and growth. Fundamental growth results from the "reciprocal interpenetration" of conscious and unconscious; the mixing of rational order with the irrational energies of life. These polar opposites must be reconciled in the experience of the individual; they must be integrated in a vibrant, pulsating wholeness of personality in which no function is repressed or underestimated, but in which every function fulfills its proper place in the economy of an ever-expanding whole. Expansion is from fulfillment to ever-greater fulfillment, through crises of growth in which the individualized consciousness assimilates an ever-larger share of universal being. In this process of growth the individual learns to recognize that he has
ultimate meaning only through his participation in the activities of society and, eventually, through his participation in the universal whole. Instead of acting from his merely conscious center — the ego — he moves on, rhythmically and serenely, from the center of the integrated totality of his being, which Jung calls "the Self." As Jacobi writes in her remarkable book, The Psychology of Jung (Yale University Press, 1943), the Self is "that focal point of our psyche in which God's image shows itself most plainly and the experience of which gives us the knowledge, as nothing else does, of the significance and nature of our likeness to God. It is the early Christian ideal of the Kingdom of God that is 'within you.' It is the ultimate experienceable in and of the psyche" (p. 123).
Astrology & the Modern Psyche