Linking the Conscious with the Unconscious Mind

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The little girl had a dream that she was having a conversation with her grandmother. In it she told her grandmother, “Grandmama, I can make myself disappear.” Her grandmother replied, “Nonsense, child, no one can do that!” This reply upset the child so she woke up. After thinking about it for a while, she fell asleep again and, as sometimes happens, she re-entered the same dream. Her grandmother stared at her in shock and said. “Lord, child, how did you do that?”

For years, I thought of this as an amusing tale, which it is, but it is actually much more. Long before I ran across it, I had asked Hermes in an active imagination why it is that when one asks for something, one may or may not get it, and if one does, it is frequently in the form of a disaster. He replied in the form which is most common with him; that is, with a metaphor. The answer did have a literal meaning; that was that I should carefully explain to him why I wanted it, if it was necessary for me in my life, and give him any details necessary, because, he said, he can not know my life except through what I describe to him in words,  and also through my dreams.

This now seems to me to be a metaphor of the means by which the flesh communicates with the spirit; or, as one might say, the conscious mind can communicate with the unconscious. Through words and through dreams. Words go to and from the unconscious mind and dreams come from it to the conscious mind. This is why words have often been considered divine — they are almost the sole connection flesh has to the spirit. Only dreams have traditionally been considered in the same category. And according to Jung, the dreams of children are especially meaningful in this regard. This is because when infants first appear they have no conscious material to fill their minds and so are, to all intents and purposes, in an unconscious state which rapidly absorbs conscious material from their environment, eventually displacing from memory all that had existed before. For that reason, children’s dreams are more likely to come from the collective unconscious from which children have only recently arrived. The conscious mind has not yet completely replaced the unconscious. This idea can also be found in a story which was reported in a newspaper as having happened in a pre-school nursery in Seattle. It was recently re-told by David Haight in his book of short stories called “Transformation”

“Angelo seemed a little statue, bent over that crib peering — waiting — his arms behind him, hands clasped. Miss Jenks was quite prepared to make an Olympian leap should Angelo be up to no good, but — no –no — no, that wasn’t it at all. The babe stirred, briefly awoke and wide-eyed stared directly up into Angelo’s eyes. Only then could Angelo eagerly ask the question he had wanted so long to pose after all this waiting. His clear bell-like voice echoed about the room. ‘Tell me about God. I forgot.’”

It is interesting that Angelo knew that only a newborn child would be able to answer his question. Likewise, the little girl in conversation with her grandmother still had an unconscious memory of a  time in her life when she did not yet have a body to appear in, and so it made perfect sense to say that she could disappear. Indeed, all children seem to have that unconscious memory since I assume that everyone here as a child enjoyed playing hide-and-seek. The grandmother was the mature, earthbound woman who had completely lost her connection with the unconscious but at least was able to learn from the child because of her ability to recognize what the child was teaching her. This represents the individuation process in later life — the re-connection of the body with the spirit by re-connecting the conscious mind with the unconscious, a process necessarily lost in earlier life; necessarily because one must learn to live in a physical world. That is the individuation process in earlier life. Why must we disconnect from the spirit when we are young and then re-connect later?  Because we must come to know that both are real. The spirit and the flesh. Reason and Unreason. It has been said that God created the world in order that He might know Himself. Thus the Spirit created the flesh so it could recognize itself. That is why all living creatures require recognition. Each creature is therefore a metaphor of the spirit which created it.
You might ask why Hermes said that he knows my world only from what I tell him, which makes sense, but also from my dreams, which does not. Since my dreams come from his world, how can they tell him about mine? I suspect it is because all the living figures in our dreams are aspects of ourselves and they respond to events as we do in our world. In that way, he comes to understand my world symbolically. This explains why he speaks primarily in metaphor. Such things as telling me that I must drive on the mainland but among the islands it does not matter. Although this had a literal meaning in its context, it was primarily telling me about the way I should conduct my life generally. This could apply to all of us.

Dreams can tell us through symbols what is going on in our unconscious minds, therefore making the unconscious conscious. Words can do the same thing. Words are symbols which have no meaning in themselves. One responds to a word only when one perceives meaning in it, and the meaning is not exactly the same for any two people. Also, try responding to someone who is talking to you in a foreign language you do not understand. Acquiring meaning from a word requires imagination. Try gathering meaning from a word you have never heard before. You deal first with the context, and then imagine what the meaning would be given that context. In this way, imagination has created meaning just as, according to tradition, God created the entire context but left the meaning, the imagining, to us. That is why imagination is one of the five wits, but the scientific mind has dropped them in favor of that which we can perceive, the five senses.  Context is all science is interested in, not the meaning. Meanings are metaphorical. To learn context is our task in youth. The meaning behind context usually comes later in life. Whatever has an outside, a form, has an inside — a within. All growth is from within by impacts from without. That is what Jung meant when he said that no one can acquire a increase of consciousness without striking one’s head on something. LET THERE BE LIGHT!

Indeed, shadow owes its birth to light. The only reason scientists haven’t found intelligence elsewhere in the universe is because they haven’t been able to find it on earth. Imagination, or anything else irrational, is deplored. Very few academicians or scientists accept the value of metaphor. Without metaphor not only would we have no poetry but truth would become inaccessible. As Mary Greer, wrote in “21 Ways to Read a Tarot”: “ A metaphor is simply one thing representing something else; furthermore, it’s not just a comparison but also a shared identity. It serves as a transportation device transferring meaning from one domain to another and, in the process, triggering cultural and personal stories.” And as Alice Howell wrote: “Everything in the natural and visible world is, when rightly perceived, an expression of an invisible reality whose pattern is made perceptible by the stars. The universe is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual force.”

When she says ‘rightly perceived’ she means ‘perceived metaphorically.’ She would have agreed with the Bushman who told van der Post: “There is nothing on earth that can not  be found in the sky, and there is nothing in the sky that can not be found on the earth.”
Those who lived in a pre-scientific age perceived the heavens as full of metaphors representing myths containing truths for mankind. They knew that metaphor is essential when reaching for truth. It is the veil which prevents truth from blinding us. We can say that a person who feels shackled in his/her own life could very well see Andromeda shackled to the rock expecting the approach of an unknown creature when looking at the sky. As Heraclitus complained, “How much has been lost through disbelief.” The heavens can certainly be perceived as metaphorical of what is real in one’s life. Bode’s Law even states: “The mathematical proportion between planets from the sun to Saturn (including the asteroid belt) is that of the notes of a stringed instrument.”

Does this mean that a stringed instrument is a metaphor of the solar system?

This goes back to Pythagoras, an ancient mathematician, who drew his knowledge from the ancient Egyptians.  Jung himself said that ‘zodiacal signs are symbols that have been projected onto the sky from times immemorial, and probably reflect the structure of the unconscious.’ It seems that we have become lost in a world of matter, not realizing that matter is metaphorical of what is real.

The divinity of words is generally accepted in our culture when dealing with prayer. This is a one-way form of communication with Spirit and, as I mentioned earlier, may be answered in ways not always as one had wished.  Jung, however, set forth a method which involves dealing with spirit on a mutual basis as if one were having a conversation. This works better if one can personify the figure one is conversing with. It is not prayer, however, in the sense that one is usually desiring information about oneself and the internal conditions which are affecting one’s life rather than asking for changes in one’s environment, or, on the other hand, performing an act of worship. One does not have to accept the idea that one is dealing with spirit but instead may be dealing with a dream figure. As Jung said, he does not let an unknown figure appear to him in a  dream without asking why it it had come. This question does not have to be made while dreaming, but may be asked later, in an active imagination. As you can see, this is one way of learning more about who you are, since dream figures generally represent aspects of yourself which appear for a purpose — to provide information; metaphorical since they don’t know your world any more than you know theirs. As I said earlier, they know your world only through your dreams and what you tell them in your communication with them. Speaking of words, Jung also said that if you should hear a disembodied voice speaking to you,  you should take what it says very seriously, metaphorical though it likely will be. It is almost certainly a voice from the unconscious mind using the most direct form of communication possible.Words were also of great importance to Jung’s contemporary, Mark Twain, who said that the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. To leap from Jung to Mark Twain to Michelangelo while still speaking of the importance of words in itself shows the essential importance of this method of communication. Michelangelo as you know painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where he painted both the major and the minor prophets. They can be told apart because, though there are cherubim at the ears of all of them, only the major prophets are listening to what they are being told. This is significant because it was accepted doctrine that it was Word that created the universe. An ancient proverb states: “He that sees the Word sees Me.” This has been supported in modern times by the quantum theory which implies that the vibration, also known as the Word, is mass when it becomes visible. So if we could perceive the wave, we could perceive that which creates mass. Does that not look like science as the New Religion?  And we all know that light travels faster than sound. That explains why some people appear bright until you hear them speak. So here we have alluded to the function of Words in psychology, literature,  religion, and physics. And we’ve scarcely begun! Back to psychology. Even the primitive Bushmen  knew a great deal of it, at least according to van der Post, who quotes a Bushman as telling him: “There is nothing in life too terrible or too sad that will not be your friend when you find the right name to call it by.”

We know that if, for example, a close family member dies, one may call it a “terrible loss”, a “blessed release,” or any name whatsoever, but just the ability to name it may be a help. That is why Adam was told to name the animals. Being able to apply a name to anything makes it at least acceptable. Imagine running across a large creature when you didn’t even know what it was! Indeed, no experience could properly enter our consciousness if we could not name it. Like Guy Kerr, a local person whose life was thrown out of gear when he saw a person in his room whom he had never seen before who walked through a chair. This really threw him for a loop. Such a sight  requires recognition. We must have something to associate it with. That is what Plato meant when he said that memory and learning are the same. And that is why memory is one of the five wits. We learn through association with what we already know.  Guy Kerr did not know of anything he could associate with such a sight and so it almost destroyed his sanity.

The Wisdom Tradition states that words derive their power from the original Word. As the Emerald Tablet says, “All things derive from One.” And remember your physics — the Word and matter are One. In poetry, words become metaphors and can therefore contain a multitude of truths while still appearing as mere words.  An example from Dante’s “Paradiso”: “O virgin mother, daughter of thy son.” Figure that one out. And as Kabir wrote: “The formless Absolute is my Father, and God with form is my Mother.” This is the same as saying that waves and particles are the same, except in gender. Words can also appear as self-contradictory but still contain truths:  “Love thy neighbor, but don’t get caught.”  Words can also turn a compliment into what could be interpreted as an insult. Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in a catalogue: — ‘The Eleanor Roosevelt is  no good in a bed, but fine against a wall.’”   “And Socrates once said : By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” 

When Claire Booth Luce was ambassador to Italy she got arsenic poisoning from the plaster ceiling of the palace she was living in and her husband who owned “Time” magazine permitted the report on this misfortune to be headed: ‘Arsenic and old Luce.’  The devil knows how to use words, too. Ambrose Bierce in “The Devil’s Dictionary” said that language is the music by which we charm the serpents guarding another’s treasure. This is  most noticeable with persuasion and frequently may not even require bribes. Ask any lobbyist. That book is full of examples of the devil’s use of words. He even defines mercy as an attribute beloved of detected offenders. Of course, that is true, but isn’t mercy a virtue? This demonstrates that words are truly divine — they are universal in application — both angelic and diabolical, and humor can disguise either of them. When someone brings you news of a disaster, you can turn it into humor by  asking the bearer of the disaster,  “On the other hand, Mrs. Lincoln, was the play any good?”

Words are also the source of almost all conflicts between science and religion. This is because religion, like myth, uses words in a metaphorical sense and science always attempts to avoid metaphor in order to achieve exactitude.  An example: perhaps you have heard the story of the scientist describing in a lecture how the earth is round and goes around the sun by means of the sun’s gravity. The little old lady who always seems to be present at such events broke in and said, “But, sir, that cannot be true. The earth is flat and resting on a turtle.” When he responded that this was unlikely, and what, if it were true, was the turtle resting on, she replied, “The answer is obvious. It’s turtles all the way down.” What the scientist seems not to understand is that before the rise of science, her viewpoint was not invalid, since what she was stating was valid metaphorically. Most people then lived their entire lives within the circle of their viewpoint which, even where mountainous, does not deny the flatness of the earth, and no life can exist without resting on other life. Why turtles? Because all life moves, that is changes, slowly. And what more slowly than turtles?  Also, the tortoise in Oriental symbolism represents the primordial state. This explains why the rise of a scientific attitude is destructive to myth, religion, and thought in general, since it  accepts only experimentation in matter. Religion and myth are based on words and on experience which can only be described by words. And they are the primary means we have to connect our conscious lives with the unconscious, and therefore must always carry metaphorical meanings. And science must, to be believed, deny the validity of metaphor. So one might conclude that science itself is the enemy of metaphor. But it is not. Traditional wisdom would say that science itself is a metaphor. If God created the world as an image of Himself, then the world is certainly a metaphorical image of its Creator. As I said earlier, quantum physics might even tend to support that view. And so does Zen.

“Before a man studies Zen, to him mountains are mountains and waters are waters; after he gets insight into the truth of Zen through the instruction of a good master. to him the mountains are not mountains and waters are not waters; but after this when he really attains to the abode of rest, mountains are once more mountains and waters are waters.”

You see, he now sees they are metaphors! Metaphors of the spirit that created them, but they are still real. Which takes us back to our original purpose. What has been going on here is, I hope, a demonstration that the conscious world is a metaphor of the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind, sometimes called the Spirit, or God, or whatever, set up a mirror for itself called the world, a world of particles, of matter.  This world includes consciousness, at least in our species. What I have just said is, of course, a metaphor. Just don’t believe it – it would only start a war, and religious wars are the worst kind. Call it a myth. If what we have attempted here actually succeeded in uniting spirit and matter, i.e. science and religion, that would bring the Age of the Tension of Opposites known as the Age of Pisces to an end, and that isn’t supposed to happen until the end of 2012. And I don’t want to rush things, so just put that statement aside for a while. It is important that before we go any farther, we define what we are talking about so I can not wander too far from our subject. Jung gave an interesting definition of the personal unconscious  from a lecture called “The Spirit of Psychology.”

“The unconscious is not simply the unknown, it is rather the ‘unknown psychic’; and this we define on the one hand as all those things in us which, if they come to consciousness, would presumably differ in no respect from the known psychic contents, with the addition, on the other hand, of the psychoid system. So defined, the unconscious depicts an extremely fluid state of affairs; everything of which I know, but of which I am not at the moment thinking; everything of which I was once conscious but have now forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind; everything which, involuntarily and without paying attention to it, I feel, think, remember, want, and do; all the future things that are taking shape in me and will sometime come to consciousness: all of this is the content of the unconscious. These contents are all more or less capable, so to speak, of consciousness, or were once conscious and may become conscious again the next moment. Thus far the unconscious is a ‘fringe of consciousness’ as William James puts it. To this marginal phenomenon, which is born of alternating shades of light and darkness, there also belong the Freudian findings.”

The archetypes are dominants in the collective unconscious   and appear in all cultures, although their images are influenced by cultural differences. They emerge into consciousness as universal ideas, thus linking the conscious and unconscious mind. The universality of these images became apparent to Jung when he found that mandala images exist all over the world as Richard Wilhelm demonstrated through his experiences in China. Between the contents of collective consciousness which purport to be generally accepted truths and those of the collective unconscious there is so pronounced a contrast that the latter are rejected as totally irrational, not to say meaningless, and are most unjustifiably excluded from the scientific purview as though they did  not exist. However, psychic phenomena exist with a vengeance, and if they appear nonsensical it is because we do not understand them. Once their existence is recognized they can no longer be banished from our world picture. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that between collective consciousness and the collective unconscious there is an almost unbridgeable gulf over which we find ourselves suspended.”

Words operate as links between the conscious and the unconscious mind in states of full consciousness, but they also can work in states of altered consciousness, although here they are much more likely to be metaphorical. I believe that this is so because, as I mentioned earlier, the unconscious mind is not familiar with our conscious world. This makes it helpful to inform it of our needs and desires, our fears and dislikes, which can be done by the process of active imagination, prayer, or similar methods. When active imagination is successful, one can have a two-way process of communication which informs both sides of the other’s purposes. Our unconscious minds can give us a non-verbal description of their worlds through dream. These other worlds will be different for everyone, in the same way that each one of us perceives our world differently, but since the other worlds have no mass the perceptions of them will differ completely since the other worlds do not actually exist, at least in our normal sense of the word. It is like waves and particles. We perceive mass but not waves, or vibrations. In altered states we perceive vibrations. I even heard a humming sound which increased in intensity until I was in a state where I was conversing with my dead father. Then the vibration stopped until the conversation was over, at which point the humming began again at its maximum intensity and gradually decreased until I found myself back in a normal state again. It was as if the vibration led me into the altered state and then led me back out at the end.  If you have an active imagination with a figure you have seen in a dream,  that figure may well appear again in your imagination, so it depends on how you define the word ‘exist’ as to how much reality you provide that figure. To get a veritable two-way conversation, you should do as Jung said that he did,  ask it why it appeared, and thus you will verify its reality in your consciousness. In other words, you have recognized it. And remember, all ‘living’ creatures require recognition. So now words can take over and your conscious mind can operate linked to the unconscious.

Dreams, however, operate in a one-way manner, except for lucid dreams which are more closely related to active imagination, where the conscious mind is determining the dream. In dreams, the unconscious is telling the conscious mind what it wants the conscious mind to know about the unconscious. But it seems that the unconscious, not knowing the world of the conscious, is limited to metaphor. Added to this, is the fact that the unconscious could be telling us what we don’t really want to know because we may have repressed it, thus creating the need for the unconscious to inform us of something we didn’t want to know in the first place. That is the reason why asking someone else to interpret a dream is frequently better than trying to do it yourself, since the other person most likely does not have to deal with that particular repressed material. By expressing the material metaphorically, the dream permits material to be released that if expressed directly would be simply blocked or rejected.

Dreams change their nature, as mentioned earlier, as a person matures. I already spoke of children’s dreams, but there are of course many stages to be gone through. The unconscious, although not knowing our world as we know it, is certainly influenced by what happens to us, and does have a distorted but still meaningful idea of our environment. I have lived in this house almost 30 years but it has never appeared in my dreams. It is possible that if I had a severe problem with this house, it would appear in a dream, but as long as there are no psychological traumas involving the house, it simply remains in the background. One’s house, symbolically, represents the Self and so at my advanced age, the Self may prefer to appear in another form.
Although our conscious mind can use metaphor through words, the unconscious mind rarely uses anything else, for reason I explained before, that it lacks knowledge of our reality. It speaks through dreams, in which archetypal images appear which in one sense are metaphors of absolute reality, although one could also say that the archetypes themselves, although not in themselves visible, are metaphorical. But we are getting too complicated. Visions which occur in altered states are certainly metaphorical although they appear at least as real as what we call reality itself. If they occur frequently enough, one can lose sense of what is actually reality and what is not. I shall read to you a description of a dream I had last February. It could be what Jung referred to as a death dream, but it could also be metaphorical of our present condition.

“I was standing in line with several others each holding a bunch of silvery metal objects in a kind of bunched up chain. I handed mine to a woman standing behind a counter who was receiving these goods and asked her if I was to get a receipt. She said, no, that I was to give her everything I had since I wouldn’t need it but she would hold it for me in case I ever needed it again. I then went outside onto a high cliff overlooking the sea. At the bottom was a shoreline which was earth and rocks, not sand, not very wide but had a group of people on it, all far below. I assumed that I could fly down to that area for I wanted to see who was down there. I knew I could fly but assumed they could not, or they wouldn’t be clustered on the shore. As I stepped off the cliff, it occurred to me that this might not be the best thing to do (a bit of consciousness leaking in?) but I had no fear as it never occurred to me to ask what would happen if this didn’t work. I jumped off and it felt very good as if this were my first flight. I felt the breeze on my body as if I had one, although it was not visible to me. I soon dropped down to the shoreline in the midst of the people, although I recognized no one. I decided to take off, still assuming that they were all earthbound, but a young man accompanied me and I asked him in a surprised manner, “Oh, you can fly too?” He answered, ‘Everybody can. It’s just that many of us don’t know it yet’.”

I have of late had several dreams in which I can fly, although never very high, usually just enough to get over obstacles, and so I assume that this would indicate that my body is becoming somewhat of an obstacle in my ability to do the things it used to be able to do. So the dream could be considered a kind of wish-fulfillment, which is what Freud would have said. Jung, however, believed that dreams were more than that and that in old age, one is likely to have dreams that describe the condition of the soul, or as he would put it, the unconscious mind. This would make dreams an important link between the conscious and the unconscious mind, and even the collective unconscious, for, as the young man said, “Everybody can. It’s just that many of us don’t know it yet.” You also noticed that consciousness appeared at one point when it occurred to me that jumping off a cliff was not the best thing to do, although I was able to ignore the fears that the conscious body is subject to in order that I might choose the reality of the unconscious in the dream.

ImageSince the Fool in the Tarot is an archetypal image, we can be certain that he is in no danger, even though the dog may think that he is. Since archetypes are spirit, then it seems likely that the danger in falling is only a physical danger, and, as Deepak Chokra wrote, “The very basis of the spiritual worldview is that everything is entangled and interconnected; one process diversifies into thousands of specific processes without losing its wholeness.”

Thus the spirit remains whole even though the body may be destroyed. If this is what the dream was telling me, this is indeed what Jung calls a death dream which provides these messages to us as we age. The only problem is, is the spirit a trickster?  Since my spirit is also entangled and interconnected with matter, my ego is in no position to know. If mankind were in a position to know, we would have destroyed our species long ago in the belief that we were all bound for Paradise as soon as we could get rid of this body!  After all, flying is fun. Ask Amelia Earhart.

You may already know about the existence of these connections through visions and active imagination. But these connections can also exist without altering one’s state of consciousness. Note the frequency of synchronous events in our waking life. Jung pointed out that there is no such thing as a meaningless coincidence, and dreams are certainly not meaningless. Jung introduced the concept of psychic energy, and so looked at dreams as a flow of events, a sequence of images which represent or visualize a certain flow of energy. That is why the end-point is so important, because that shows where the flow of energy is aiming. The opening of the dream shows the present situation in this world of confusion. In the dream I just described, I was ready to hand in my worldly possessions, but I wanted a receipt in case I should need them again. Then came a sequence of events and the end sentence gives the direction the energy is flowing: “Everybody can fly. It’s just that most people don’t know it yet.”  It ends in a metaphor which poses as many questions as it answers, but that is what dreams do — remember, the unconscious mind is cut off from our world of illusions; it  knows mostly the meaning of words. The question still remains: which is the real  reality?  Von Franz states on this issue: “We look at dreams as an energic process, as a visualization of the flow of energy of the unconscious, and the same is true for mythological dreams, for fairy tales and myths — the archetypal forms of this manifestation. One can always look at them from an energic standpoint. Reality is only real insofar as we are conscious of it. It is consciousness, therefore, which casts for  us the image of the reality in which we move all the time, and that is a cage, a prison. The experience of the Self breaks that cage or prison or our conscious reality apart and by that frees us from the grip of its one-sided concepts.”

The dream, being an experience of the Self, unites the collective unconscious, which is the eternal order, with the personal unconscious and personal conscious which is of the time-bound order, through this flow of energy from one realm to the other, thus freeing us for a time from the  limitations of our conscious life. It is not pulling the blinds on reality, but on the contrary, it opens us to the reality of our true Self. Very frequently, conscious contents drop into the unconscious for lack of energy necessary to sustain them in consciousness. They are ‘forgotten.’ Conversely, unconscious contents may acquire energy enough to achieve consciousness — it reaches its ‘bursting point’. It may not have enough energy to enter the realm of consciousness directly, but may enter through the process of a dream. Perhaps the ego cannot understand it and so it remains subliminal although from the energy point of view it is quite capable of becoming conscious. This occurred to me quite notably in a vision in which I ran across a witch, a leopard, dwarves, an anima figure, and many more while at the end I was informed that they were all me. It took a few years more for my conscious mind to understand the meaning of this but Jung pointed out this process in a book I read later on which clarified it. It was in the lecture he gave at Eranos called “The Spirit of Psychology.”  He stated that these aspects of the Self  had not necessarily been repressed, but owed their existence to subliminal processes that were never themselves conscious. Yet because they had sufficient energy to become potentially conscious, they could still have an effect on ego consciousness, and they are also capable of producing symptoms. In my case, they may have produced symptoms at first, but later produced a series of visions which I was able to experience while undergoing psychotherapy. This at least kept me sane. Later in this same lecture, Jung stated that the psyche is the greatest of all cosmic wonders and is the ‘sine qua non’ of the world as an object. We do, of course, view the world from the standpoint of the psyche and he therefore believed that science is a function of the soul and all knowledge is rooted in it. He stated: “It is in the highest degree odd that Western man with but very few — and ever fewer — exceptions apparently pays so little regard to this fact. Swamped by the knowledge of external objects, the subject of all knowledge has been temporarily eclipsed to the point of seeming nonexistence.”

He then states that psychology has never been able to emancipate itself from the bonds placed upon the human soul by philosophy. Science has not had that problem.

Toward the end of Jung’s career, he developed the concept of synchronicity. This is an involuntary connection between the unconscious and the conscious world. It sometimes appears as magic, although as I said, it is quite involuntary. Unlike the dream, it appears Out There, and appears completely without reason. Rationalists may call it coincidence, and therefore meaningless, but Jung claimed that there is no such thing as meaningless coincidence. He writes: “Synchronistic phenomena prove that a content perceived by an observer can, at the same time, be represented by an outside event without any causal connection. From this it follows either that the psyche can not be localized in space, or that space is relative to the psyche. The same applies to the temporal determination of the psyche and the psychic relativity of time. I do not need to emphasize that the verification of these findings must have far-reaching consequences.”

This seems to show that the unconscious mind may have some control over the conscious world. We know it has some control over us, but here it is exerting it over the world around us. A Jungian determinist (if there is such a thing) might say that the conscious mind has no control at all and that the unconscious is determining everything we do and experience. That life is just a series of synchronicities. So perhaps consciousness is an illusion. But perhaps we’re getting off the track here. Mixing psychology and philosophy can be confusing. The experience which Guy Kerr had of seeing a strange unknown person in his room who walked through a chair could be called a synchronicity by a psychologist. A spiritualist would say he had seen a ghost, and a materialist might suggest that he hire a ghost-layer to get rid of it. But it turned out that Guy needed a psychologist because it was only when he came to realize that this was a synchronous event, a message from the unconscious, that he was able to find a solution. My approach is that he had witnessed a visitation from his daimon whose purpose was to awaken him to its existence. It is important that one learn who one is in all one’s aspects. There are many approaches to such a problem, but the medical approach, to get rid of it, would only cause further, perhaps more serious, difficulties like taking a pain-killer to get rid of an illness. Jung spoke of this in the lecture I mentioned earlier. I can certainly agree with him through my own experiences. He said:
“I must stress one aspect of the archetypes which will be obvious to anybody who has practical experience of these matters. That is, the archetypes have, when they appear, a distinctly numinous character which can only be described as spiritual, if magical is too strong a word. Consequently this phenomenon is of the utmost significance for the psychology of religion. In its effects it is anything but unambiguous. It can be healing or destructive, but never indifferent, provided of course that it has attained a degree of clarity. This aspect deserves the epithet ‘spiritual’ above all else. it not infrequently appears that the archetype appears in the form of a spirit in dreams or fantasy products, or even comports itself like a ghost. There is mystical aura about its numinosity, and it has a corresponding effect upon the emotions. It mobilizes philosophical and religious convictions in the very people who deemed themselves miles above any such fits of weakness. Often it drives with unexampled passion and remorseless logic towards its goal and draws the subject under its spell, from which despite the most desperate resistance he is unable, and finally no longer even willing, to break free, because the experience brings with it a depth and fullness of meaning that was unthinkable before. I fully appreciate the resistance that all rooted convictions are bound to put up against psychological discoveries of this kind. With more foreboding than real knowledge most people feel afraid of the menacing power that lies fettered in each of us, only waiting for the magic word to release it rom the spell.”

Jung further states that the archetype  represents spirit, but not intellect, since the spirit is superior to intellect. The essential content of all myths and all religions and all isms is archetypal. He points out that archetype and instinct are polar opposites as one can see when one compares someone who is ruled by instinctual drives with someone who is seized by the spirit. But they both derive from the unconscious and can, if one is overwhelmed by one or the other create serious complications. This one-sidedness can be removed only by a realization of the shadow. This requires an assimilation of the unconscious with the conscious personality  and a thorough realization that one has a problem. This is a common and a serious problem in our times but we cannot go into it here. I brought it up mainly to point out that here we have an example of the effects of the unconscious on the conscious mind which can create problems for us at this time.
Actually the unconscious speaks to us through inner events such as dreams and also outer events such as through psychic phenomena as I mentioned with Guy Kerr. This most frequently occurs during periods of anxiety, which is usually a combination of fear and desire. Freud in his meeting with Jung in Jung’s home was fearful of losing his dominant position in his chosen area and was also desirous of bringing Jung into his circle as an associate. This was perceived by Jung and so he expected a loud cracking noise in a nearby cabinet and it occurred and disturbed Freud mightily although Jung said another would occur shortly and it did. Freud would not believe that it was a psychic phenomenon since that would be irrational. But fear and anxiety can bring about irrational occurrences.  In much the same way,  the collective unconscious  also speaks to collective consciousness when large groups of people such as nations experience anxiety about their perceived position in the world, and this causes their perceptions of their neighbors to become twisted and unreal. We actually began a war against No. Vietnam because we believed that they had attacked one of our ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. This attack had not occurred in reality. Anxiety can cause a person or a people to believe anything, which thereby achieves a kind of reality like a cracking sound or a poltergeist, or even war.

To know what lies in our unconscious is to know oneself.  One method of acquiring knowledge of our unconscious mind is to acquaint ourselves with animals, a method used even by the ancients, who wrote about bestiaries. These were traditionally works of observation and natural history. Ancient and widespread, their way of observing allowed room for elements of theology, symbolism, and moralizing that strike our modern ear as wildly unscientific. The animals in these old works were not seen in isolation, but in relation to the  human sphere. They carried messages and lessons, and had a rightful place in a greater order. Can the animals still teach us? I have in the past had many experiences with animals, especially of the feline variety, in visions and dreams and learned much about myself from them. But since animals still exist in our waking lives as well, experiences with them can be quite educational.

Truly to unite our conscious self with Nature, one must read David Abram’s books, one called “The Spell of the Sensuous”  and even more directly his later book called “Becoming Animal.” And because the process of individuation consists of uniting the conscious with the unconscious mind, thus making the unconscious conscious, this can be considered a process of reaching wholeness. And animals, being our closest relatives in the natural world, can help us in this process. Wholeness is what we all strive for, and, even if not reached in one lifetime, there is no way we can stop trying to achieve it.

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4 Comments on “Linking the Conscious with the Unconscious Mind”


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