Collective unconscious
Collective unconscious is a term of analytical psychology
Analytical psychology
Analytical psychology is the school of psychology originating from the ideas of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. His theoretical orientation has been advanced by his students and other thinkers who followed in his tradition. Though they share similarities, analytical psychology is distinct from...

, coined by Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

. It is proposed to be a part of the unconscious mind
Unconscious mind
The unconscious mind is a term coined by the 18th century German romantic philosopher Friedrich Schelling and later introduced into English by the poet and essayist Samuel Taylor Coleridge...

, expressed in humanity and all life forms with nervous systems, and describes how the structure of the psyche autonomously organizes experience. Jung distinguished the collective unconscious from the personal unconscious
Personal unconscious
In analytical psychology, the personal unconscious is Carl Jung's term for the Freudian unconscious, as contrasted with the collective unconscious. Often referred to by him as "No man’s land," the personal unconscious is located at the fringe of consciousness, between two worlds: "the exterior or...

, in that the personal unconscious is a personal reservoir of experience unique to each individual, while the collective unconscious collects and organizes those personal experiences in a similar way with each member of a particular species.

Jung's definitions

For Jung, “My thesis then, is as follows: in addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical psyche (even if we tack on the personal unconscious as an appendix), there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes
Jungian archetypes
Carl Jung created the archetypes which “are ancient or archaic images that derive from the collective unconscious” Also known as innate universal psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic symbols or representations of unconscious experience emerge...

, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.”.

Jung linked the collective unconscious to 'what Freud called "archaic remnants" - mental forms whose presence cannot be explained by anything in the individual's own life and which seem to be aboriginal, innate, and inherited shapes of the human mind'.

Archetypes and collective representations

Jung considered that 'the shadow
Shadow (psychology)
In Jungian psychology, the shadow or "shadow aspect" is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts. It is one of the three most recognizable archetypes, the others being the anima and animus and the persona...

' and the anima/animus differ from the other archetypes in the fact that their content is more directly related to the individual's personal situation', and less to the collective unconscious: by contrast, 'the collective unconscious is personified as a Wise Old Man
Wise old man
The wise old man is an archetype as described by Carl Jung, as well as a classic literary figure, and may be seen as a stock character...


Jung also made reference to contents of this category of the unconscious psyche as being similar to Levy-Bruhl's use of collective representations or "représentations collectives," Mythological "motifs," Hubert and Mauss's "categories of the imagination," and Adolf Bastian
Adolf Bastian
Adolf Bastian was a 19th century polymath best remembered for his contributions to the development of ethnography and the development of anthropology as a discipline...

's "primordial thoughts."

Minimal/maximal interpretations

In a minimalist interpretation of what would then appear as 'Jung's much misunderstood idea of the collective unconscious', his idea was 'simply that certain structures and predispositions of the unconscious are common to all of us...[on] an inherited, species-specific, genetic basis'. Thus 'one could as easily speak of the "collective arm" - meaning the basic pattern of bones and muscles which all human arms share in common'.

Others point out however that 'there does seem to be a basic ambiguity in Jung's various descriptions of the Collective Unconscious. Sometimes he seems to regard the predisposition to experience certain images as understandable in terms of some genetic model' - as with the collective arm. However, Jung was 'also at pains to stress the numinous
Numinous is an English adjective describing the power or presence of a divinity. The word was popularised in the early twentieth century by the German theologian Rudolf Otto in his influential book Das Heilige...

 quality of these experiences, and there can be no doubt that he was attracted to the idea that the archetypes afford evidence of some communion with some divine or world mind', and perhaps 'his popularity as a thinker derives precisely from this' - the maximal interpretation.

Marie-Louise von Franz
Marie-Louise von Franz
Marie-Louise von Franz was a Swiss Jungian psychologist and scholar.-Early life and education:Von Franz was born in Munich, Germany, the daughter of an Austrian baron. In Switzerland, she was known by a pet form of her Christian name, Marlus.-Career:Von Franz worked with Carl Jung, whom she met in...

 accepted that 'it is naturally very tempting to identify the hypothesis of the collective unconscious historically and regressively with the ancient idea of an all-extensive world-soul'. New Age
New Age
The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational...

 writers go unhesitantly further, claiming that Jung himself 'dared to suggest that the human mind could link to ideas and motivations called the collective unconscious...a body of unconscious energy that lives forever'.

See also

Further reading

  • Michael Vannoy Adams, The Mythological Unconscious (2001)
  • Gallo, Ernest. "Synchronicity and the Archetypes," Skeptical Inquirer, 18 (4). Summer 1994.
  • Jung, Carl. (1959). Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious.
  • Jung, Carl. The Development of Personality.
  • Jung, Carl. (1970). "Psychic conflicts in a child.", Collected Works of C. G. Jung, 17. Princeton University Press. 235 p. (p. 1-35).
  • Whitmont, Edward C. (1969). The Symbolic Quest. Princeton University Press.

External links

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