Face to face with Carl Jung – Part 1 of 4

Carl Jung and the Collective Unconscious

Carl Jung was a student and follower of Freud. He was born in a small town in Switzerland in 1875 and all his life was fascinated by folk tales, myths and religious stories. Although he had a close friendship with Freud early in their relationship, his independent and questioning mind soon caused a break.

Jung did not accept Freud’s contention that the primary motivation behind behavior was sexual urges. Instead of Freud’s instinctual drives of sex and aggression, Jung believed that people are motivated by a more general psychological energy that pushes them to achieve psychological growth, self-realization., psychic wholeness and harmony. Also, unlike Freud, he believed that personality continues to develop throughout the lifespan.

It is for his ideas of the collective unconscious that students of literature and mythology are indebted to Jung. In studying different cultures, he was struck by the universality of many themes, patterns, stories and images. These same images, he found, frequently appeared in the dreams of his patients. From these observations, Jung developed his theory of the collective unconscious and the archetypes.

Like Freud, Jung posited the existence of a conscious and an unconscious mind. A model that psychologists frequently use here is an iceberg. The part of the iceberg that is above the surface of the water is seen as the conscious mind. Consciousness is the part of the mind we know directly. It is where we think, feel, sense and intuit. It is through conscious activity that the person becomes an individual. It’s the part of the mind that we “live in” most of the time, and contains information that is in our immediate awareness Below the level of the conscious mind, and the bulk of the ice berg, is what Freud would call the unconscious, and what Jung would call the “personal unconscious.” Here we will find thoughts, feelings, urges and other information that is difficult to bring to consciousness.

Experiences that do not reach consciousness, experiences that are not congruent with who we think we are, and things that have become “repressed” would make up the material at this level. The contents of the personal unconscious are available through hypnosis, guided imagery, and especially dreams. Although not directly accessible, material in the personal unconscious has gotten there sometime during our lifetime. For example, the reason you are going to school now, why you picked a particular shirt to wear or your choice of a career may be a choice you reached consciously. But it is also possible that education, career, or clothing style has been influenced by a great deal of unconscious material: parents’ preferences, childhood experiences, even movies you have seen but about which you do not think when you make choices or decisions. Thus, the depth psychologist would say that many decisions, indeed some of the most important ones that have to do with choosing a mate or a career, are determined by unconscious factors. But still, material in the personal unconscious has been environmentally determined.

What is the Collective Unconscious
The collective unconscious is different. It’s like eye color. If someone were to ask you, “How did you get your eye color,” you would have to say that there was no choice involved – conscious or unconscious. You inherited it. Material in the collective unconscious is like this: inherited. It never came from our current environment. It is the part of the mind that is determined by heredity. So we inherit, as part of our humanity, a collective unconscious; the mind is pre-figured by evolution just as is the body. The individual is linked to the past of the whole species and the long stretch of evolution of the organism. Jung thus placed the psyche within the evolutionary process.

What’s in the collective unconscious? Psychological archetypes. This idea of psychological archetypes is among Jung’s most important contributions to Western thought. An ancient idea somewhat like Plato’s idea of Forms or “patterns” in the divine mind that determine the form material objects will take, the archetype is in all of us. The word “archetype” comes from the Greek “arche” meaning “first, and “type” meaning “imprint or pattern.” Psychological archetypes are thus first prints, or patterns that form the basic blueprint for major dynamic counterparts of the human personality. For Jung, archetypes pre-exist in the collective unconscious of humanity. They repeat themselves eternally in the psyches of human beings and they determine how we both perceive and behave. These patterns are inborn within us. They are part of our inheritance as human beings. They reside as energy within the collective unconscious and are part the psychological life of all peoples everywhere at all times. They are inside us and they are outside us. We can meet them by going inward to our dreams or fantasies. We can meet them by going outward to our myths, legends, literature and religions. The archetype can be a pattern, such as a kind of story. Or it can be a figure, such as a kind of character.

What are some common archetypes?

In her book Awakening the Heroes Within, Carolyn Pearson identifies twelve archetypes that are fairly easy to understand. These are the Innocent, the Orphan, the Warrior, the Caregiver, the Seeker, the Destroyer, the Lover, the Creator, the Ruler, the Magician, the Sage, and the Fool. If we look at art, literature, mythology and the media, we can easily identify some of these patterns. One of the most familiar to contemporary western culture is the Warrior. We find the warrior myth encoded in all the great heroes who ever took on the dragon, stood up to the tyrant, fought the sorcerer, or did battle with the monster: and in so doing rescued himself and others. The true Warrior is not just macho. The macho man (or woman) fights to feel superior to others, to keep them down. The warrior fights to protect and ennoble others. The warrior protects the perimeters of the castle or the family or the psyche. The warrior myth is active in each of us any time we stand up against unfair authority, be it a boss, teacher or parent. The highest level warrior has at some time confronted his or her own inner dragons. We see the Warrior archetype in the form of pagan deities, for example the Greek god of war, Mars. David, who fights Goliath, or Michael, who casts Satan out of Heaven are familiar Biblical warriors.

Hercules, Xena (warrior princess) and Conan the Barbarian are more contemporary media forms the warrior takes. And it is in this widely historical variety that we can find an important point about the archetype. It really is unconscious. The archetype is like the invisible man in famous story. In the story, a man invents a potion which, when ingested, renders him invisible. He becomes visible only when he puts on clothes. The archetype is like this. It remains invisible until it dawns the clothing of its particular culture: in the Middle Ages this was King Arthur; in modern America, it may be Luke Skywalker. But if the archetype were not a universal pattern imprinted on our collective psyche, we would not be able to continue to recognize it over and over. The love goddess is another familiar archetypal pattern. Aphrodite to the Greeks, Venus to the Romans, she now appears in the form of familiar models in magazines like “Elle” and “Vanity Fair.” And whereas in ancient Greece her place of worship was the temple, today is it the movie theatre and the cosmetics counter at Nordstrom’s. The archetype remains; the garments it dawns are those of its particular time and place.

This brings us to our discussion of the Shadow as archetype. The very clearest and most articulate discussion of this subject is contained in Johnson’s book Owning Your Own Shadow. The Shadow is not a difficult concept. It is merely the “dark side” of the psyche. It’s everything that doesn’t fit into the Persona. The word “persona” comes from the theater. In the Roman theater, characters would put on a mask that represented who the character was in the drama. The word “persona” literally means “mask.” Johnson says that the persona is how we would like to be seen by the world, a kind of psychological clothing that “mediates between our true elves and our environment” in much the same way that clothing gives an image. The Shadow is what doesn’t fit into this Persona. These “refused and unacceptable” characteristics don’t go away; they are stuffed or repressed and can, if unattended to, begin to take on a life of their own.

One Jungian likens the process to that of filling a bag. We learn at a very young age that there are certain ways of thinking, being and relating that are not acceptable in our culture, and so we stuff them into the shadow bag. In our Western culture, particularly in the United States, thoughts about sex are among the most prevalent that are unacceptable and so sex gets stuffed into the bag. The shadow side of sexuality is quite evident in our culture in the form of pornography, prostitution, and topless bars. Psychic energy that is not dealt with in a healthy way takes a dark or shadow form and begins to take on a life of its own. As children our bag is fairly small, but as we get older, it becomes larger and more difficult to drag.

With this in mind, it is not difficult to see that there is a shadow side to the Archetypes discussed earlier The shadow side to the warrior is the tyrant, the villain, the Darth Vader, who uses his or her skills for power and ego enhancement. And whereas the Seeker Archetype quests after truth and purity, the shadow Seeker is controlled by pride, ambition, and addictions. If the Lover follows his/her bliss, commits and bonds, the shadow lover is a seducer a sex addict or interestingly enough, a puritan.

But we can use the term “shadow” in a more general sense. It is not merely the dark side of a particular archetypal pattern or form. Wherever Persona is, Shadow is also. Wherever good is, is evil. We first know the shadow as the personal unconscious in all that we abhor, deny and repress: power, greed, cruel and murderous thoughts, unacceptable impulses, morally and ethically wrong actions. All the demonic things by which human beings betray their inhumanity to other beings is shadow. Shadow is unconscious. This is a very important idea. Since it is unconscious, we know it only indirectly, projection, just as we know the other Archetypes of Warrior, Seeker and Lover. We encounter the shadow in other people, things, and places where we project it. The scape goat is a perfect example of shadow projection. The Nazis projection of shadow onto the Jews gives us some insight into how powerful and horrific the archetype is. Jung says that when you are in the grips of the archetype, you don’t have it, it has you.

This idea of projection raises an interesting point. It means that the shadow stuff isn’t “out there” at all; it is really “in here”; that is inside us. We only know it is inside us because we see it outside. Shadow projections have a fateful attraction to us. It seems that we have discovered where the bad stuff really is: in him, in her, in that place, there! There it is! We have found the beast, the demon, the bad guy. But does Evil really exist, or is what we see as evil all merely projection of our own shadow side? Jung would say that there really is such a thing as evil, but that most of what we see as evil, particularly collectively, is shadow projection. The difficulty is separating the two. And we can only do that when we discover where the projection ends. Hence, Johnson’s book title “Owning Your own Shadow.”

The concept of a collective consciousness is only now being truly appreciated. The World reflects what we as a people contain within us. We often project the evils of the world as being the fault of those we designate as evil amongst us yet we all contain those dark aspects. The role of the enlightened person is to claim responsibility for their own inner aspects and change them into understanding and conscious knowledge. Then the light begins to surface and the world and all within it becomes clear.

A very interesting interview with Carl Jung. I watched this as a child and found it extremely enlightening.

A very good article written by George Boeree  Below   http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/jung.html

1875 – 1961
Dr. C. George Boeree

Anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology.  He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart throught the world.  There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul. — Carl Jung (from “New Paths in Psychology”, in Collected Papers on Analytic Psychology, London, 1916)

Freud said that the goal of therapy was to make the unconscious conscious. He certainly made that the goal of his work as a theorist. And yet he makes the unconscious sound very unpleasant, to say the least: It is a cauldron of seething desires, a bottomless pit of perverse and incestuous cravings, a burial ground for frightening experiences which nevertheless come back to haunt us. Frankly, it doesn’t sound like anything I’d like to make conscious!

A younger colleague of his, Carl Jung, was to make the exploration of this “inner space” his life’s work. He went equipped with a background in Freudian theory, of course, and with an apparently inexhaustible knowledge of mythology, religion, and philosophy. Jung was especially knowledgeable in the symbolism of complex mystical traditions such as Gnosticism, Alchemy, Kabala, and similar traditions in Hinduism and Buddhism. If anyone could make sense of the unconscious and its habit of revealing itself only in symbolic form, it would be Carl Jung.

He had, in addition, a capacity for very lucid dreaming and occasional visions. In the fall of 1913, he had a vision of a “monstrous flood” engulfing most of Europe and lapping at the mountains of his native Switzerland. He saw thousands of people drowning and civilization crumbling. Then, the waters turned into blood. This vision was followed, in the next few weeks, by dreams of eternal winters and rivers of blood. He was afraid that he was becoming psychotic.

But on August 1 of that year, World War I began. Jung felt that there had been a connection, somehow, between himself as an individual and humanity in general that could not be explained away. From then until 1928, he was to go through a rather painful process of self-exploration that formed the basis of all of his later theorizing.

He carefully recorded his dreams, fantasies, and visions, and drew, painted, and sculpted them as well. He found that his experiences tended to form themselves into persons, beginning with a wise old man and his companion, a little girl. The wise old man evolved, over a number of dreams, into a sort of spiritual guru. The little girl became “anima,” the feminine soul, who served as his main medium of communication with the deeper aspects of his unconscious.

A leathery brown dwarf would show up guarding the entrance to the unconscious. He was “the shadow,” a primitive companion for Jung’s ego. Jung dreamt that he and the dwarf killed a beautiful blond youth, whom he called Siegfried. For Jung, this represented a warning about the dangers of the worship of glory and heroism which would soon cause so much sorrow all over Europe — and a warning about the dangers of some of his own tendencies towards hero-worship, of Sigmund Freud!

Jung dreamt a great deal about the dead, the land of the dead, and the rising of the dead. These represented the unconscious itself — not the “little” personal unconscious that Freud made such a big deal out of, but a new collective unconscious of humanity itself, an unconscious that could contain all the dead, not just our personal ghosts. Jung began to see the mentally ill as people who are haunted by these ghosts, in an age where no-one is supposed to even believe in them. If we could only recapture our mythologies, we would understand these ghosts, become comfortable with the dead, and heal our mental illnesses.

Critics have suggested that Jung was, very simply, ill himself when all this happened. But Jung felt that, if you want to understand the jungle, you can’t be content just to sail back and forth near the shore. You’ve got to get into it, no matter how strange and frightening it might seem.


Carl Gustav Jung was born July 26, 1875, in the small Swiss village of Kessewil. His father was Paul Jung, a country parson, and his mother was Emilie Preiswerk Jung. He was surrounded by a fairly well educated extended family, including quite a few clergymen and some eccentrics as well.

The elder Jung started Carl on Latin when he was six years old, beginning a long interest in language and literature — especially ancient literature. Besides most modern western European languages, Jung could read several ancient ones, including Sanskrit, the language of the original Hindu holy books.

Carl was a rather solitary adolescent, who didn’t care much for school, and especially couldn’t take competition. He went to boarding school in Basel, Switzerland, where he found himself the object of a lot of jealous harassment. He began to use sickness as an excuse, developing an embarrassing tendency to faint under pressure.

Although his first career choice was archeology, he went on to study medicine at the University of Basel. While working under the famous neurologist Krafft-Ebing, he settled on psychiatry as his career.

After graduating, he took a position at the Burghoeltzli Mental Hospital in Zurich under Eugene Bleuler, an expert on (and the namer of) schizophrenia. In 1903, he married Emma Rauschenbach. He also taught classes at the University of Zurich, had a private practice, and invented word association at this time!

Long an admirer of Freud, he met him in Vienna in 1907. The story goes that after they met, Freud canceled all his appointments for the day, and they talked for 13 hours straight, such was the impact of the meeting of these two great minds! Freud eventually came to see Jung as the crown prince of psychoanalysis and his heir apparent.

But Jung had never been entirely sold on Freud’s theory. Their relationship began to cool in 1909, during a trip to America. They were entertaining themselves by analyzing each others’ dreams (more fun, apparently, than shuffleboard), when Freud seemed to show an excess of resistance to Jung’s efforts at analysis. Freud finally said that they’d have to stop because he was afraid he would lose his authority! Jung felt rather insulted.

World War I was a painful period of self-examination for Jung. It was, however, also the beginning of one of the most interesting theories of personality the world has ever seen.

After the war, Jung traveled widely, visiting, for example, tribal people in Africa, America, and India. He retired in 1946, and began to retreat from public attention after his wife died in 1955. He died on June 6, 1961, in Zurich.


Jung’s theory divides the psyche into three parts. The first is the ego,which Jung identifies with the conscious mind. Closely related is the personal unconscious, which includes anything which is not presently conscious, but can be. The personal unconscious is like most people’s understanding of the unconscious in that it includes both memories that are easily brought to mind and those that have been suppressed for some reason. But it does not include the instincts that Freud would have it include.

But then Jung adds the part of the psyche that makes his theory stand out from all others: the collective unconscious. You could call it your “psychic inheritance.” It is the reservoir of our experiences as a species, a kind of knowledge we are all born with. And yet we can never be directly conscious of it. It influences all of our experiences and behaviors, most especially the emotional ones, but we only know about it indirectly, by looking at those influences.

There are some experiences that show the effects of the collective unconscious more clearly than others: The experiences of love at first sight, of deja vu (the feeling that you’ve been here before), and the immediate recognition of certain symbols and the meanings of certain myths, could all be understood as the sudden conjunction of our outer reality and the inner reality of the collective unconscious. Grander examples are the creative experiences shared by artists and musicians all over the world and in all times, or the spiritual experiences of mystics of all religions, or the parallels in dreams, fantasies, mythologies, fairy tales, and literature.

A nice example that has been greatly discussed recently is the near-death experience. It seems that many people, of many different cultural backgrounds, find that they have very similar recollections when they are brought back from a close encounter with death. They speak of leaving their bodies, seeing their bodies and the events surrounding them clearly, of being pulled through a long tunnel towards a bright light, of seeing deceased relatives or religious figures waiting for them, and of their disappointment at having to leave this happy scene to return to their bodies. Perhaps we are all “built” to experience death in this fashion.


The contents of the collective unconscious are called archetypes. Jung also called them dominants, imagos, mythological or primordial images, and a few other names, but archetypes seems to have won out over these. An archetype is an unlearned tendency to experience things in a certain way.

The archetype has no form of its own, but it acts as an “organizing principle” on the things we see or do. It works the way that instincts work in Freud’s theory: At first, the baby just wants something to eat, without knowing what it wants. It has a rather indefinite yearning which, nevertheless, can be satisfied by some things and not by others. Later, with experience, the child begins to yearn for something more specific when it is hungry — a bottle, a cookie, a broiled lobster, a slice of New York style pizza.

The archetype is like a black hole in space: You only know its there by how it draws matter and light to itself.

The mother archetype

The mother archetype is a particularly good example. All of our ancestors had mothers. We have evolved in an environment that included a mother or mother-substitute. We would never have survived without our connection with a nurturing-one during our times as helpless infants. It stands to reason that we are “built” in a way that reflects that evolutionary environment: We come into this world ready to want mother, to seek her, to recognize her, to deal with her.

So the mother archetype is our built-in ability to recognize a certain relationship, that of “mothering.” Jung says that this is rather abstract, and we are likely to project the archetype out into the world and onto a particular person, usually our own mothers. Even when an archetype doesn’t have a particular real person available, we tend to personify the archetype, that is, turn it into a mythological “story-book” character. This character symbolizes the archetype.

The mother archetype is symbolized by the primordial mother or “earth mother” of mythology, by Eve and Mary in western traditions, and by less personal symbols such as the church, the nation, a forest, or the ocean. According to Jung, someone whose own mother failed to satisfy the demands of the archetype may well be one that spends his or her life seeking comfort in the church, or in identification with “the motherland,” or in meditating upon the figure of Mary, or in a life at sea.


You must understand that these archetypes are not really biological things, like Freud’s instincts. They are more spiritual demands. For example, if you dreamt about long things, Freud might suggest these things represent the phallus and ultimately sex. But Jung might have a very different interpretation. Even dreaming quite specifically about a penis might not have much to do with some unfulfilled need for sex.

It is curious that in primitive societies, phallic symbols do not usually refer to sex at all. They usually symbolize mana, or spiritual power. These symbols would be displayed on occasions when the spirits are being called upon to increase the yield of corn, or fish, or to heal someone. The connection between the penis and strength, between semen and seed, between fertilization and fertility are understood by most cultures.

The shadow

Sex and the life instincts in general are, of course, represented somewhere in Jung’s system. They are a part of an archetype called the shadow. It derives from our prehuman, animal past, when our concerns were limited to survival and reproduction, and when we weren’t self-conscious.

It is the “dark side” of the ego, and the evil that we are capable of is often stored there. Actually, the shadow is amoral — neither good nor bad, just like animals. An animal is capable of tender care for its young and vicious killing for food, but it doesn’t choose to do either. It just does what it does. It is “innocent.” But from our human perspective, the animal world looks rather brutal, inhuman, so the shadow becomes something of a garbage can for the parts of ourselves that we can’t quite admit to.

Symbols of the shadow include the snake (as in the garden of Eden), the dragon, monsters, and demons. It often guards the entrance to a cave or a pool of water, which is the collective unconscious. Next time you dream about wrestling with the devil, it may only be yourself you are wrestling with!

The persona

The persona represents your public image. The word is, obviously, related to the word person and personality, and comes from a Latin word for mask. So the persona is the mask you put on before you show yourself to the outside world. Although it begins as an archetype, by the time we are finished realizing it, it is the part of us most distant from the collective unconscious.

At its best, it is just the “good impression” we all wish to present as we fill the roles society requires of us. But, of course, it can also be the “false impression” we use to manipulate people’s opinions and behaviors. And, at its worst, it can be mistaken, even by ourselves, for our true nature: Sometimes we believe we really are what we pretend to be!

Anima and animus

A part of our persona is the role of male or female we must play. For most people that role is determined by their physical gender. But Jung, like Freud and Adler and others, felt that we are all really bisexual in nature. When we begin our lives as fetuses, we have undifferentiated sex organs that only gradually, under the influence of hormones, become male or female. Likewise, when we begin our social lives as infants, we are neither male nor female in the social sense. Almost immediately — as soon as those pink or blue booties go on — we come under the influence of society, which gradually molds us into men and women.

In all societies, the expectations placed on men and women differ, usually based on our different roles in reproduction, but often involving many details that are purely traditional. In our society today, we still have many remnants of these traditional expectations. Women are still expected to be more nurturant and less aggressive; men are still expected to be strong and to ignore the emotional side of life. But Jung felt these expectations meant that we had developed only half of our potential.

The anima is the female aspect present in the collective unconscious of men, and the animus is the male aspect present in the collective unconscious of women. Together, they are refered to as syzygy. The anima may be personified as a young girl, very spontaneous and intuitive, or as a witch, or as the earth mother. It is likely to be associated with deep emotionality and the force of life itself. The animus may be personified as a wise old man, a sorcerer, or often a number of males, and tends to be logical, often rationalistic, even argumentative.

The anima or animus is the archetype through which you communicate with the collective unconscious generally, and it is important to get into touch with it. It is also the archetype that is responsible for much of our love life: We are, as an ancient Greek myth suggests, always looking for our other half, the half that the Gods took from us, in members of the opposite sex. When we fall in love at first sight, then we have found someone that “fills” our anima or animus archetype particularly well!

Other archetypes

Jung said that there is no fixed number of archetypes which we could simply list and memorize. They overlap and easily melt into each other as needed, and their logic is not the usual kind. But here are some he mentions:

Besides mother, their are other family archetypes. Obviously, there is father, who is often symbolized by a guide or an authority figure. There is also the archetype family, which represents the idea of blood relationship and ties that run deeper than those based on conscious reasons.

There is also the child, represented in mythology and art by children, infants most especially, as well as other small creatures. The Christ child celebrated at Christmas is a manifestation of the child archetype, and represents the future, becoming, rebirth, and salvation. Curiously, Christmas falls during the winter solstice, which in northern primitive cultures also represents the future and rebirth. People used to light bonfires and perform ceremonies to encourage the sun’s return to them. The child archetype often blends with other archetypes to form the child-god, or the child-hero.

Many archetypes are story characters. The hero is one of the main ones. He is the mana personality and the defeater of evil dragons. Basically, he represents the ego — we do tend to identify with the hero of the story — and is often engaged in fighting the shadow, in the form of dragons and other monsters. The hero is, however, often dumb as a post. He is, after all, ignorant of the ways of the collective unconscious. Luke Skywalker, in the Star Wars films, is the perfect example of a hero.

The hero is often out to rescue the maiden. She represents purity, innocence, and, in all likelihood, naivete. In the beginning of the Star Wars story, Princess Leia is the maiden. But, as the story progresses, she becomes the anima, discovering the powers of the force — the collective unconscious — and becoming an equal partner with Luke, who turns out to be her brother.

The hero is guided by the wise old man. He is a form of the animus, and reveals to the hero the nature of the collective unconscious. In Star Wars, he is played by Obi Wan Kenobi and, later, Yoda. Notice that they teach Luke about the force and, as Luke matures, they die and become a part of him.

You might be curious as to the archetype represented by Darth Vader, the “dark father.” He is the shadow and the master of the dark side of the force. He also turns out to be Luke and Leia’s father. When he dies, he becomes one of the wise old men.

There is also an animal archetype, representing humanity’s relationships with the animal world. The hero’s faithful horse would be an example. Snakes are often symbolic of the animal archetype, and are thought to be particularly wise. Animals, after all, are more in touch with their natures than we are. Perhaps loyal little robots and reliable old spaceships — the Falcon– are also symbols of animal.

And there is the trickster, often represented by a clown or a magician. The trickster’s role is to hamper the hero’s progress and to generally make trouble. In Norse mythology, many of the gods’ adventures originate in some trick or another played on their majesties by the half-god Loki.

There are other archetypes that are a little more difficult to talk about. One is the original man, represented in western religion by Adam. Another is theGod archetype, representing our need to comprehend the universe, to give a meaning to all that happens, to see it all as having some purpose and direction.

The hermaphrodite, both male and female, represents the union of opposites, an important idea in Jung’s theory. In some religious art, Jesus is presented as a rather feminine man. Likewise, in China, the character Kuan Yin began as a male saint (the bodhisattva Avalokiteshwara), but was portrayed in such a feminine manner that he is more often thought of as the female goddess of compassion!

The most important archetype of all is the self. The self is the ultimate unity of the personality and issymbolized by the circle, the cross, and the mandala figures that Jung was fond of painting. A mandala is a drawing that is used in meditation because it tends to draw your focus back to the center, and it can be as simple as a geometric figure or as complicated as a stained glass window. The personifications that best represent self are Christ and Buddha, two people who many believe achieved perfection. But Jung felt that perfection of the personality is only truly achieved in death.

The dynamics of the psyche

So much for the content of the psyche. Now let’s turn to the principles of its operation. Jung gives us three principles, beginning with the principle of opposites. Every wish immediately suggests its opposite. If I have a good thought, for example, I cannot help but have in me somewhere the opposite bad thought. In fact, it is a very basic point: In order to have a concept of good, you must have a concept of bad, just like you can’t have up without down or black without white.

This idea came home to me when I was about eleven. I occasionally tried to help poor innocent woodland creatures who had been hurt in some way — often, I’m afraid, killing them in the process. Once I tried to nurse a baby robin back to health. But when I picked it up, I was so struck by how light it was that the thought came to me that I could easily crush it in my hand. Mind you, I didn’t like the idea, but it was undeniably there.

According to Jung, it is the opposition that creates the power (or libido) of the psyche. It is like the two poles of a battery, or the splitting of an atom. It is the contrast that gives energy, so that a strong contrast gives strong energy, and a weak contrast gives weak energy.

The second principle is the principle of equivalence. The energy created from the opposition is “given” to both sides equally. So, when I held that baby bird in my hand, there was energy to go ahead and try to help it. But there is an equal amount of energy to go ahead and crush it. I tried to help the bird, so that energy went into the various behaviors involved in helping it. But what happens to the other energy?

Well, that depends on your attitude towards the wish that you didn’t fulfill. If you acknowledge it, face it, keep it available to the conscious mind, then the energy goes towards a general improvement of your psyche. You grow, in other words.

But if you pretend that you never had that evil wish, if you deny and suppress it, the energy will go towards the development of a complex. A complex is a pattern of suppressed thoughts and feelings that cluster — constellate — around a theme provided by some archetype. If you deny ever having thought about crushing the little bird, you might put that idea into the form offered by the shadow (your “dark side”). Or if a man denies his emotional side, his emotionality might find its way into the anima archetype. And so on.

Here’s where the problem comes: If you pretend all your life that you are only good, that you don’t even have the capacity to lie and cheat and steal and kill, then all the times when you do good, that other side of you goes into a complex around the shadow. That complex will begin to develop a life of its own, and it will haunt you. You might find yourself having nightmares in which you go around stomping on little baby birds!

If it goes on long enough, the complex may take over, may “possess” you, and you might wind up with a multiple personality. In the movie The Three Faces of Eve, Joanne Woodward portrayed a meek, mild woman who eventually discovered that she went out and partied like crazy on Saturday nights. She didn’t smoke, but found cigarettes in her purse, didn’t drink, but woke up with hangovers, didn’t fool around, but found herself in sexy outfits. Although multiple personality is rare, it does tend to involve these kinds of black-and-white extremes.

The final principle is the principle of entropy. This is the tendency for oppositions to come together, and so for energy to decrease, over a person’s lifetime. Jung borrowed the idea from physics, where entropy refers to the tendency of all physical systems to “run down,” that is, for all energy to become evenly distributed. If you have, for example, a heat source in one corner of the room, the whole room will eventually be heated.

When we are young, the opposites will tend to be extreme, and so we tend to have lots of energy. For example, adolescents tend to exaggerate male-female differences, with boys trying hard to be macho and girls trying equally hard to be feminine. And so their sexual activity is invested with great amounts of energy! Plus, adolescents often swing from one extreme to another, being wild and crazy one minute and finding religion the next.

As we get older, most of us come to be more comfortable with our different facets. We are a bit less naively idealistic and recognize that we are all mixtures of good and bad. We are less threatened by the opposite sex within us and become more androgynous. Even physically, in old age, men and women become more alike. This process of rising above our opposites, of seeing both sides of who we are, is called transcendence.

The self

The goal of life is to realize the self. The self is an archetype that represents the transcendence of all opposites, so that every aspect of your personality is expressed equally. You are then neither and both male and female, neither and both ego and shadow, neither and both good and bad, neither and both conscious and unconscious, neither and both an individual and the whole of creation. And yet, with no oppositions, there is no energy, and you cease to act. Of course, you no longer need to act.

To keep it from getting too mystical, think of it as a new center, a more balanced position, for your psyche. When you are young, you focus on the ego and worry about the trivialities of the persona. When you are older (assuming you have been developing as you should), you focus a little deeper, on the self, and become closer to all people, all life, even the universe itself. The self-realized person is actually less selfish.


Personality theorists have argued for many years about whether psychological processes function in terms of mechanism or teleology. Mechanism is the idea that things work in through cause and effect: One thing leads to another which leads to another, and so on, so that the past determines the present. Teleology is the idea that we are lead on by our ideas about a future state, by things like purposes, meanings, values, and so on. Mechanism is linked with determinism and with the natural sciences. Teleology is linked with free will and has become rather rare. It is still common among moral, legal, and religious philosophers, and, of course, among personality theorists.

Among the people discussed in this book, Freudians and behaviorists tend to be mechanists, while the neo-Freudians, humanists, and existentialists tend to be teleologists. Jung believes that both play a part. But he adds a third alternative called synchronicity.

Synchronicity is the occurrence of two events that are not linked causally, nor linked teleologically, yet are meaningfully related. Once, a client was describing a dream involving a scarab beetle when, at that very instant, a very similar beetle flew into the window. Often, people dream about something, like the death of a loved one, and find the next morning that their loved one did, in fact, die at about that time. Sometimes people pick up he phone to call a friend, only to find that their friend is already on the line. Most psychologists would call these things coincidences, or try to show how they are more likely to occur than we think. Jung believed the were indications of how we are connected, with our fellow humans and with nature in general, through the collective unconscious.

Jung was never clear about his own religious beliefs. But this unusual idea of synchronicity is easily explained by the Hindu view of reality. In the Hindu view, our individual egos are like islands in a sea: We look out at the world and each other and think we are separate entities. What we don’t see is that we are connected to each other by means of the ocean floor beneath the waters.

The outer world is called maya, meaning illusion, and is thought of as God’s dream or God’s dance. That is, God creates it, but it has no reality of its own. Our individual egos they call jivatman, which means individual souls. But they, too, are something of an illusion. We are all actually extensions of the one and only Atman, or God, who allows bits of himself to forget his identity, to become apparently separate and independent, to become us. But we never truly are separate. When we die, we wake up and realize who we were from the beginning: God.

When we dream or meditate, we sink into our personal unconscious, coming closer and closer to our true selves, the collective unconscious. It is in states like this that we are especially open to “communications” from other egos. Synchronicity makes Jung’s theory one of the rare ones that is not only compatible with parapsychological phenomena, but actually tries to explain them!

Introversion and extroversion

Jung developed a personality typology that has become so popular that some people don’t realize he did anything else! It begins with the distinction between introversion and extroversion. Introverts are people who prefer their internal world of thoughts, feelings, fantasies, dreams, and so on, while extroverts prefer the external world of things and people and activities.

The words have become confused with ideas like shyness and sociability, partially because introverts tend to be shy and extroverts tend to be sociable. But Jung intended for them to refer more to whether you (“ego”) more often faced toward the persona and outer reality, or toward the collective unconscious and its archetypes. In that sense, the introvert is somewhat more mature than the extrovert. Our culture, of course, values the extrovert much more. And Jung warned that we all tend to value our own type most!

We now find the introvert-extravert dimension in several theories, notably Hans Eysenck’s, although often hidden under alternative names such as “sociability” and “surgency.”

The functions

Whether we are introverts or extroverts, we need to deal with the world, inner and outer. And each of us has our preferred ways of dealing with it, ways we are comfortable with and good at. Jung suggests there are four basic ways, or functions:

The first is sensing. Sensing means what it says: getting information by means of the senses. A sensing person is good at looking and listening and generally getting to know the world. Jung called this one of the irrational functions, meaning that it involved perception rather than judging of information.

The second is thinking. Thinking means evaluating information or ideas rationally, logically. Jung called this a rational function, meaning that it involves decision making or judging, rather than simple intake of information.

The third is intuiting. Intuiting is a kind of perception that works outside of the usual conscious processes. It is irrational or perceptual, like sensing, but comes from the complex integration of large amounts of information, rather than simple seeing or hearing. Jung said it was like seeing around corners.

The fourth is feeling. Feeling, like thinking, is a matter of evaluating information, this time by weighing one’s overall, emotional response. Jung calls it rational, obviously not in the usual sense of the word.

We all have these functions. We just have them in different proportions, you might say. Each of us has a superior function, which we prefer and which is best developed in us, a secondary function, which we are aware of and use in support of our superior function, a tertiary function, which is only slightly less developed but not terribly conscious, and an inferior function, which is poorly developed and so unconscious that we might deny its existence in ourselves.

Most of us develop only one or two of the functions, but our goal should be to develop all four. Once again, Jung sees the transcendence of opposites as the ideal.


Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers found Jung’s types and functions so revealing of people’s personalities that they decided to develop a paper-and-pencil test. It came to be called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and is one of the most popular, and most studied, tests around.

On the basis of your answers on about 125 questions, you are placed in one of sixteen types, with the understanding that some people might find themselves somewhere between two or three types. What type you are says quite a bit about you — your likes and dislikes, your likely career choices, your compatibility with others, and so on. People tend to like it quite a bit. It has the unusual quality among personality tests of not being too judgmental: None of the types is terribly negative, nor are any overly positive. Rather than assessing how “crazy” you are, the “Myers-Briggs” simply opens up your personality for exploration.

The test has four scales. Extroversion – Introversion (E-I) is the most important. Test researchers have found that about 75 % of the population is extroverted.

The next one is Sensing – Intuiting (S-N), with about 75 % of the population sensing.

The next is Thinking – Feeling (T-F). Although these are distributed evenly through the population, researchers have found that two-thirds of men are thinkers, while two-thirds of women are feelers. This might seem like stereotyping, but keep in mind that feeling and thinking are both valued equally by Jungians, and that one-third of men are feelers and one-third of women are thinkers. Note, though, that society does value thinking and feeling differently, and that feeling men and thinking women often have difficulties dealing with people’s stereotyped expectations.

The last is Judging – Perceiving (J-P), not one of Jung’s original dimensions. Myers and Briggs included this one in order to help determine which of a person’s functions is superior. Generally, judging people are more careful, perhaps inhibited, in their lives. Perceiving people tend to be more spontaneous, sometimes careless. If you are an extrovert and a “J,” you are a thinker or feeler, whichever is stronger. Extroverted and “P” means you are a senser or intuiter. On the other hand, an introvert with a high “J” score will be a senser or intuiter, while an introvert with a high “P” score will be a thinker or feeler. J and P are equally distributed in the population.

Each type is identified by four letters, such as ENFJ. These have proven so popular, you can even find them on people’s license plates!

ENFJ (Extroverted feeling with intuiting): These people are easy speakers. They tend to idealize their friends. They make good parents, but have a tendency to allow themselves to be used. They make good therapists, teachers, executives, and salespeople.

ENFP (Extroverted intuiting with feeling): These people love novelty and surprises. They are big on emotions and expression. They are susceptible to muscle tension and tend to be hyperalert. they tend to feel self-conscious. They are good at sales, advertising, politics, and acting.

ENTJ (Extroverted thinking with intuiting): In charge at home, they expect a lot from spouses and kids. They like organization and structure and tend to make good executives and administrators.

ENTP (Extroverted intuiting with thinking): These are lively people, not humdrum or orderly. As mates, they are a little dangerous, especially economically. They are good at analysis and make good entrepreneurs. They do tend to play at oneupmanship.

ESFJ (Extroverted feeling with sensing): These people like harmony. They tend to have strong shoulds and should-nots. They may be dependent, first on parents and later on spouses. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and excel in service occupations involving personal contact.

ESFP (Extroverted sensing with feeling): Very generous and impulsive, they have a low tolerance for anxiety. They make good performers, they like public relations, and they love the phone. They should avoid scholarly pursuits, especially science.

ESTJ (Extroverted thinking with sensing): These are responsible mates and parents and are loyal to the workplace. They are realistic, down-to-earth, orderly, and love tradition. They often find themselves joining civic clubs!

ESTP (Extroverted sensing with thinking): These are action-oriented people, often sophisticated, sometimes ruthless — our “James Bonds.” As mates, they are exciting and charming, but they have trouble with commitment. They make good promoters, entrepreneurs, and con artists.

INFJ (Introverted intuiting with feeling): These are serious students and workers who really want to contribute. They are private and easily hurt. They make good spouses, but tend to be physically reserved. People often think they are psychic. They make good therapists, general practitioners, ministers, and so on.

INFP (Introverted feeling with intuiting): These people are idealistic, self-sacrificing, and somewhat cool or reserved. They are very family and home oriented, but don’t relax well. You find them in psychology, architecture, and religion, but never in business.

INTJ (Introverted intuiting with thinking): These are the most independent of all types. They love logic and ideas and are drawn to scientific research. They can be rather single-minded, though.

INTP (Introverted thinking with intuiting): Faithful, preoccupied, and forgetful, these are the bookworms. They tend to be very precise in their use of language. They are good at logic and math and make good philosophers and theoretical scientists, but not writers or salespeople.

ISFJ (Introverted sensing with feeling): These people are service and work oriented. They may suffer from fatigue and tend to be attracted to troublemakers. They are good nurses, teachers, secretaries, general practitioners, librarians, middle managers, and housekeepers.

ISFP (Introverted feeling with sensing): They are shy and retiring, are not talkative, but like sensuous action. They like painting, drawing, sculpting, composing, dancing — the arts generally — and they like nature. They are not big on commitment.

ISTJ (Introverted sensing with thinking): These are dependable pillars of strength. They often try to reform their mates and other people. They make good bank examiners, auditors, accountants, tax examiners, supervisors in libraries and hospitals, business, home ec., and phys. ed. teachers, and boy or girl scouts!

ISTP (Introverted thinking with sensing): These people are action-oriented and fearless, and crave excitement. They are impulsive and dangerous to stop. They often like tools, instruments, and weapons, and often become technical experts. They are not interested in communications and are often incorrectly diagnosed as dyslexic or hyperactive. They tend to do badly in school.

Even without taking the test, you may very well recognize yourself in one or two of these types. Or ask others — they may be more accurate!   But, if you like, you can take my Jungian personality test on the internet:  Just click here!


Quite a few people find that Jung has a great deal to say to them. They include writers, artists, musicians, film makers, theologians, clergy of all denominations, students of mythology, and, of course, some psychologists. Examples that come to mind are the mythologist Joseph Campbell, the film maker George Lucas, and the science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin. Anyone interested in creativity, spirituality, psychic phenomena, the universal, and so on will find in Jung a kindred spirit.

But scientists, including most psychologists, have a lot of trouble with Jung. Not only does he fully support the teleological view (as do most personality theorists), but he goes a step further and talks about the mystical interconnectedness of synchronicity. Not only does he postulate an unconscious, where things are not easily available to the empirical eye, but he postulates a collective unconscious that never has been and never will be conscious.

In fact, Jung takes an approach that is essentially the reverse of the mainstream’s reductionism: Jung begins with the highest levels — even spiritualism — and derives the lower levels of psychology and physiology from them.

Even psychologists who applaud his teleology and antireductionist position may not be comfortable with him. Like Freud, Jung tries to bring everything into his system. He has little room for chance, accident, or circumstances. Personality — and life in general — seems “over-explained” in Jung’s theory.

I have found that his theory sometimes attracts students who have difficulty dealing with reality. When the world, especially the social world, becomes too difficult, some people retreat into fantasy. Some, for example, become couch potatoes. But others turn to complex ideologies that pretend to explain everything. Some get involved in Gnostic or Tantric religions, the kind that present intricate rosters of angels and demons and heavens and hells, and endlessly discuss symbols. Some go to Jung. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this; but for someone who is out of touch with reality, this is hardly going to help.

These criticisms do not cut the foundation out from under Jung’s theory. But they do suggest that some careful consideration is in order.

The positive things

On the plus side, there is the Myers-Briggs and other tests based on Jung’s types and functions. Because they do not place people on dimensions that run from “good” to “bad,” they are much less threatening. They encourage people to become more aware of themselves.

The archetypes, at first glance, might seem to be Jung’s strangest idea. And yet they have proven to be very useful in the analysis of myths, fairy tales, literature in general, artistic symbolism, and religious exposition. They apparently capture some of the basic “units” of our self-expression. Many people have suggested that there are only so many stories and characters in the world, and we just keep on rearranging the details.

This suggests that the archetypes actually do refer to some deep structures of the human mind. After all, from the physiological perspective, we come into his world with a certain structure: We see in a certain way, hear in a certain way, “process information” in a certain way, behave in a certain way, because our neurons and glands and muscles are structured in a certain way. At least one cognitive psychologist has suggested looking for the structures that correspond to Jung’s archetypes!

Finally, Jung has opened our eyes to the differences between child development and adult development. Children clearly emphasize differentiation — separating one thing from another — in their learning. “What’s this?” ” Why is it this way and not that?” “What kinds are there?” They actively seek diversity. And many people, psychologists included, have been so impressed by this that they have assumed that all learning is a matter of differentiation, of learning more and more “things.”

But Jung has pointed out that adults search more for integration, for the transcending of opposites. Adults search for the connections between things, how things fit together, how they interact, how they contribute to the whole. We want to make sense of it, find the meaning of it, the purpose of it all. Children unravel the world; adults try to knit it back together.


On the one hand, Jung is still attached to his Freudian roots. He emphasizes the unconscious even more than Freudians do. In fact, he might be seen as the logical extension of Freud’s tendency to put the causes of things into the past. Freud, too, talked about myths –Oedipus, for example — and how they impact on the modern psyche.

On the other hand, Jung has a lot in common with the neo-Freudians, humanists, and existentialists. He believes that we are meant to progress, to move in a positive direction, and not just to adapt, as the Freudians and behaviorists would have it. His idea of self-realization is clearly similar to self-actualization.

The balancing or transcending of opposites also has counterparts in other theories. Alfred Adler, Otto Rank, Andreas Angyal, David Bakan, Gardner Murphy, and Rollo May all make reference to balancing two opposing tendencies, one towards individual development and the other towards the development of compassion or social interest. Rollo May talks about the psyche being composed of many “daimons” (little gods) such as the desire for sex, or love, or power. All are positive in their place, but should any one take over the whole personality, we would have “daimonic possession,” or mental illness!

Finally, we owe to Jung the broadening of interpretation, whether of symptoms or dreams or free-associations. While Freud developed more-or-less rigid (specifically, sexual) interpretations, Jung allowed for a rather free-wheeling “mythological” interpretation, wherein anything could mean, well, anything. Existential analysis, in particular, has benefited from Jung’s ideas.


Most of Jung’s writings are contained in The Collected Works of Carl G. Jung. I have to warn you that most of his works are not easy going, but they are full of interesting things that make them worth the trouble.

If you are looking for something a little easier, you might try Analytic Psychology: Its Theory and Practice, which is a collection of lectures and is available in paperback. Or read Man and His Symbols, which is available in several editions ranging from large ones with many color pictures to an inexpensive paperback. If you want a smattering of Jung, try a collection of his writings, such as Modern Library’s The Basic Writings of C. C. Jung.

The best book I’ve ever read about Jung, however, is the autobiographical Memories, Dreams, Reflections, written with his student Aniela Jaffé. It makes a good introduction, assuming you’ve read something like the preceding chapter first. Read it here on PDF


Carl Jung defined synchronicity as “The coincidence in time of two or more causally unrelated events which have the same meaning.” His implication is clear–certain events in the universe cluster together into meaningful patterns without recourse to the normal pushes and pulls of causality. These synchronicities therefore must transcend the normal laws of science, for they are the expressions of much deeper movements that originate in the ground of the universe and involve, in an inseparable way, both matter and meaning.The true story of synchronicity begins with the collaboration of two remarkable thinkers, the psychologist Carl Jung and the physicist Wolfgang Pauli. Their concept of synchronicity originated in a marriage between the approaches of physics and psychology. Jung writes, “In writing this paper I have, so to speak, made good a promise which for many years I lacked the courage to fulfill. The difficulties of the problem and its representation seemed to me too great…If I have now conquered my hesitation and at last come to grips with the theme it is chiefly because my experiences of the phenomenon of synchronicity have multiplied themselves over the decades”. “Meaningful coincidences are unthinkable as pure chance–the more they multiply and the greater and more exact the correspondence is…they can no longer be regarded as pure chance, but, for the lack of a causal explanation, have to be thought of as meaningful arrangements.
W. Pauli writes, “There must be something else. I think I know what is coming. I know it exactly. But I don’t tell it to others. They may think I am mad. So I am doing five dimensional theory of relativity although I don’t really believe in it. But I know what is coming. Perhaps I will tell you some time.”

Despite our appeal to a “scientific view of nature,” such events do occur, and while it is true that anyone of them can be dismissed as “coincidence” such an explanation makes little sense to the person who has experienced such a synchronicity.Indeed the whole point of such happenings is that they are meaningful and play a significant role in a person’s life. Synchronicities are the jokers in nature’s pack of cards for they refuse to play by the rules and offer a hint that, in our quest for certainty about the universe, we may have ignored some vital clues. Synchronicities challenge us to build a bridge with one foundation derived into the objectivity of hard science and the other into the subjectivity of personal values.

Synchronicities take the form of patterns that emerge by chance out of a general background of chance and contingency and hold a deep meaning for the person who experiences them. Often these coincidences occur at critical points in a person’s life and can be interpreted as containing the seeds of future growth. Synchronicities could, therefore, be said to involve the meaningful unfoldment of potential. Synchronicities are therefore often associated with periods of transformation; for example, births, deaths, falling in love, psychotherapy, intense creative work, and even a change of profession. It is as if this internal restructuring produces external resonance’s or as if a burst of “mental energy” is propagated outward into the physical world.

Such synchronicities begin within the outer world and then move inward as their meaning is revealed. Such synchronicities depend on detecting a deeper meaning to the patterns and clusterings of the phenomena around us. They may involve our becoming linked with the environment in a special way, anticipating events or sensing some underlying pattern to the world.While the conventional laws of physics do not heed human desires or the need for meaning–apples fall whether we will them to or not–synchronicities act as mirrors to the inner processes of mind and take the form of outer manifestations of interior transformations.

The many examples of coincidental movements of thought, feeling, and ideas between unconnected groups and across disciplines suggests that a deeper meaning lies beyond these coincidents and synchronicities.
Such curious events may not be so much the result of a “psychic link” or mental communication but rather indicate that a mutual process is unfolding out of the same ground and that this ground must therefore lie beyond the individual consciousness that is located in space and time. It is as if the formation of patterns within the unconscious mind is accompanied by physical patterns in the outer world. Synchronicity is therefore the expression of the potential or meaning contained within a certain point of existence. It acts as an intimation of the meaning that lies hidden within a particular life, relationship, or historical moment.

The special flavor of a synchronicity lies in its being, at one and the same time, a unique, individual event and the manifestation of universal order. Wrapped within the temporal moment, a synchronicity exhibits its transcendental nature. It is this relationship between the transcendent and the coincidental arrangement of mental and physical happenings that the synchronicity acquires its numinous meaning.
Synchronicities represent a bridge between matter and mind and the concept of causality is clearly not appropriate to the world of mental events. By probing causality to its limit, it has been discovered that “everything causes everything else” and that each event emerges out of an infinite web or network of causal relationships. Causality therefore remains an idealization that can never be put into absolute practice.

Neils Bohr, for example, stressed that quantum theory had revealed the essential indivisibility of nature while Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle indicated the extent to which an observer intervenes in the system he
observes. A contemporary physicist, John Wheeler, has expressed this new approach in particularly graphic terms: “We had this old idea, that there was a universe out there, and here is man, the observer, safely protected from the universe by a six-inch slab of plate glass. Now we learn from the quantum world that even to observe so minuscule an object as an electron we have to shatter the plate glass; we have to reach in there… So the old word observersimply has to be crossed off the books, and we must put in the new word participator. In this way we’ve come to realize that the universe is a participatory universe.

Quantum theory and relativity had a revolutionary effect upon this Newtonian approach, not only in transforming the formalism of physics but also changing the worldview that was associated with it. The worldview that we have all inherited from an outmoded physics still has a profound effect on our whole lives; it permeates our attitudes to society, government., and human relations and suggests that every adverse situation can be analyzed into an isolated “problem” with a corresponding solution or means of control. It is for such reasons that synchronicity can have such a profound effect on us, for it reaches beyond our intellectual defenses and shatters our faith in the tangibility of surfaces and the linear orders of time and nature.
While quantum theory has successfully challenged the exclusive nature of this (Newtonian) worldview, the loophole it offers is simply not enough to admit synchronicity. It is only when causality is pushed to the limit that it is discovered that the actual context in which everything that happens in our universe is in fact caused by everything else. Indeed the whole universe could be thought of as unfolding or expressing itself in its individual occurrences. It is within this global view that it becomes possible to accommodate synchronicities as meaningful events that emerge out of the heart of nature.

In building the bridge between mind and matter, the notion of causality must be bypassed in favor of transformations and unfoldings. Causality and synchronicity are not contradictory but are dual perceptions of the same underlying reality. In other words, synchronicities are manifestations, in mind and matter, of the unknown ground that underlies them both. In this way similar orders are found in both consciousness and in the structuring of matter. The parallelism between the objective and the subjective aspects of the universe do not so much arise through causal connections, or linear patterns in time, but out of underlying dynamics that are common to both. Synchronicities therefore introduce meaning and value, in an essential way, into nature. The meaningful patterns of the world, which transcend all our attempts to limit and encompass them, arise not so much through the mechanisms of external orders but through the unfolding of their own internal significance.

While science has an awesome power to predict and control, it is also clear that its essential fragmentation of nature is no longer able to address all the major problems that face the world today. Synchronicity, however, with its sensitivity to harmony and the indivisibility of consciousness, humanity, and nature at least opens up the possibility of a new approach. But again this does not mean making a choice to “adopt” synchronicity or to “replace” some of the approaches of science with those of synchronicity. Rather, by being perceptive to these issues it may be possible to move, in a creative way, in an entirely new direction…One step toward becoming more sensitive to the duality between these different worldviews is to begin to question the whole current order of science and to develop new ideas and theories that have a more holistic approach.

In the present century the ultimate level of nature appears to be that of space-time and the infinite energy of the quantum field. But there is no reason to suppose that the ground of reality lies there and that there may not be an uncountable number of yet more subtle levels to be discovered. Indeed both consciousness and matter may be discovered to evolve out of a common order where the processes of matter and the activity of information are two sides of one reality.

The real message of synchronicity, for the Western scientific viewpoint, is not to throw away all that is of value within the last five hundred years, but to be sensitive to new perspectives and to allow the mind its full creative potential. In this way it becomes possible to retain a subjective experience of nature and a sense of the meaning and interconnectedness of things without needing to reject the scientific approach. Synchronicity will appear very naturally to a mind that is constantly sensitive to change, for it reveals the overall patterns of nature of mind and provides a context in which events have their meaning.

Synchronicity has gradually been enfolded into an entirely new dimension; in place of a causal deterministic world, in which mind and matter are two separate substances, appears a universe of infinite subtlety that is much closer to a creative living organism than to a machine. Reality, in this way, is pictured as a limitless series of levels which extend to deeper and deeper subtleties and out of which the particular, explicate order of nature and the order of consciousness and life emerge. Synchronicities can therefore be thought of as an expression of this underlying movement, for they unfold as patterns of thoughts and arrangements of material processes which have a meaningful conjunction when taken together. Paradoxically,the nothingness of the ground state, out of which the universe is sustained, is both a vacuum and a plenum. It is a vacuum because, as in the everyday idea of empty space, matter is able to move through it without interruption. But it is also a plenum because it is infinitely full of energy. Indeed, the observable material universe is nothing more that the minor fluctuations upon this vast sea of energy. And, it should not be forgotten, just as this infinite energy is used in the generation of matter, so it is also available to mind, through the deeper ground of its source.

Why should synchronicity be considered as some isolated coincidence of mind and matter when the one underlying source is constantly giving birth to the universe at every eternal moment? An answer to these questions is given in the final chapter, where it is suggested that a fragmentation in the way the mind has come to perceive the orders of time, and the growth of the self with all its attachments, has blinded our perceptions to the basic creativity in the universe. While the source of all reality is an unconditional creativityit does appear thathuman society, and the individual within it, often operate in a fairly mechanical way so that they respond to new situations from relatively fixed positions and in uncreative ways. In other words, they appear to be trapped in structures and forms of their own making, such as the beliefs, goals, and values that have become so rigid that they are unable to move in the flexible and subtle ways that characterize the general order of the universe. Is it possible therefore for the creative source to permeate the life of the individual? By no longer sustaining the mechanical order of time and attachment can the division between mind and body, individual and society, and society and nature be healed and the whole order of consciousness transformed in a creative way? Is it possible that the balance of life on this planet may be restored and a deeper sense of meaning function within the individual and society?

Within each part is enfolded the whole, so that each element becomes a microcosm of the macrocosm. In this sense, the individual truly stands as an image of a wider reality, with all its complex orders… However, as this self becomes more rigidly identified with set structures and its the sequential order of becoming, it believes itself to be the only and true source of all progress and creativity…In operating from its fixed forms and relatively limited order, the self assumes itself to be the origin and sustainer of all things… In this way the self has fragmented itself from the general field of consciousness and has become blocked from creativity so that a synchronicity now appears to be a rare and isolated incident, rather than one aspect of the general order of time and unfoldment.

Synchronicities, epiphanies,peak, and mystical experiences are all cases in which creativity breaks through the barriers of the self and allows awareness to flood through the whole domain of consciousness. It is the human mind operating, for a moment, in its true order and extending throughout society and nature, moving through orders of increasing subtlety, reaching past the source of mind and matter into creativity itself.
Synchronicity gives us an image of what such a transformation may be like, for within the operation of its meaningful coincidences, time has its end and creativity dissolves and transcends all structures and distinction. Synchronicity is therefore an intimation of a much greater transformation. An intimation of a more creative life in which the self takes its proper place within consciousness.

Synchronicities have opened a window onto a creative source of infinite potential, the well-spring of the universe itself. They have shown how mind and matter are not distinct, separate aspects of nature but arise in a deeper order of reality.Synchronicities suggest that we can renew our contact with that creative and unconditioned source which is the origin not only of ourselves but all of reality. By dying to the self and its mechanical, reactive responses to nature, it becomes possible to engage in an active transformation and gain access to unlimited ranges of energy. In this way, body and consciousness, individual and society, mind and matter may come to achieve their unlimited potential.

An activity of the Primer Group


Copyright 1997, 2006  C. George Boeree


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2 Responses to “Face to face with Carl Jung – Part 1 of 4”

  1. Laura Says:

    Reblogged this on Here and Now.

  2. Laura Says:

    love his work on the collective unconscious !! ❤

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