Collecting My Unconsciousness
February 3, 2019
Countryside Church, Unitarian Universalist
The Rev. Dr. C. Scot Giles
Often when speaking here I’ve referred to the work of the great psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, who died in 1961. I find him to be a strong influence on my own thinking.
Originally a disciple of Sigmund Freud and designated as his heir apparent, Jung would break from his former mentor and create a theory of human personality that has been influential in philosophy, psychology, art, literature, religion and anthropology.
He was also sort of a strange guy. And coming from me, that says something.
He was deeply interested in alchemy and had a psychological understanding of it. He was also interested in the occult, astrology, religious symbols and many other esoteric things. In fact one biographer commented that it’s not clear if Jung was a psychoanalyst who was interested in the occult, or if he was an occultist who simply convinced everyone that he was actually writing about psychology. He even reduced parts of the Bible to psychological symbols and explored various religious heresies, explaining them as manifestations of the human drive to be whole.
It is clear from recent publications of Jung’s personal journal that he really did think he was founding something that, if not in fact a new religion, would have the same function as religious belief.
The disagreement between Freud and Jung concerned the role of the Unconscious Mind. Freud believed that we all have base and savage impulses inside of our minds. Things like the urge for sexual conquest or a willingness to murder or dominate others.
However, Freud believed we learn to suppress these urges—making them Unconscious—in order to get along with others and get our needs met. Those impulses show up in dreams and in behavior. In fact, he believed that mental illness was the result of the improper suppression of these impulses, and their energy leaked out and manifested in odd behaviors. The unconscious mind, according to Freud, was a cesspit of dark desires and needs.
Dr. Jung on the other hand came to the opposite belief. He came to believe that everyone was born with a blueprint inside of their minds that influences the flow of a person’s life.
Controversial at the time, this theory is given support by the study of animals—most of whom are born with a set of behaviors that uniquely adapt them to their environment. Jung thought this applied to people as well. As we are much more complicated than most animals, what we inherit is also far more complicated and useful.
I am all in on this idea of an internal, unconscious blueprint, and the theory is at the basis of a lot of my work. I am a medical hypnotist and a life coach. I work with people who are living with cancer every working day. I have seen over the years how assisting someone get in touch with that inner blueprint, and find a way to make it manifest, can turn things around.
As many of you know, as part of my professional development I studied and trained with Dr. Bernie Siegel, a cancer surgeon who wrote the first well-received book on mind-body medicine in 1978. The idea of figuring out your internal blueprint, and finding a way to implement it, is central to his thinking. He taught me to use dreams, drawing interpretation and conversation to get a sense of someone’s internal blueprint, and then to use instruction in self hypnosis to get them to make it real.
People who are unhappy in their relationships or jobs heal by finding a way to tweak things so that they align with their blueprint and everything pulls together.
Sometimes the transformations are dramatic. A stockbroker becomes a poet. I had a client who became a dancer at a club called Heavenly Bodies out by O’Hare airport (not what I would have hoped for her, but she tells me she is happy). Sometimes the transformations are modest. A new hobby is taken up, a relationship issue is addressed or some other lifestyle change is made.
People who struggle with a life-changing diagnosis can find a way to do the same thing, and all of a sudden they begin to respond to medical treatment much better than they had been. This is, in fact, the insight that lies behind not just my work with individual clients, but my four free clinics for cancer patients (one of which is located here) and my hospital-based research program.
The Collective Unconscious
Jung’s theory holds that the Unconscious Mind has two parts. the Individual Unconsciousness that is a unique creation of a person’s experience, and a Collective Unconsciousness that all people share.
Jung mostly believed that access to the Collective Unconsciousness was something we inherit—it contains things that are encoded in our genetic material and passed from parents to child. However, he left open the idea that perhaps it was something more. Maybe it was an awareness streamed from some sort of energetic world with our mind functioning like a radio receiver.
The idea was developed when Jung had a dream that he was in a house with the first floor nicely decorated and organized. This he decided represented the Conscious Mind. The second floor in the dream was dark and full of rough things. This he decided represented the Individual Unconsciousness. Finally he dreamt of a basement containing the trappings of ancient cultures and old bones. This he felt was the Collective Unconscious.
He would write:
“My thesis then, is as follows: in addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature….there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. (C. G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, 1996, p. 43)
The thing to get is that his theory is that everyone is united at a basic level by a collective wisdom that we all share in virtue of being human. We have a Conscious Mind consisting of those things we identify as ourselves, and an Unconscious Mind that has two layers, one personal and the other collective.
The collective mind is wise and contains information our species has amassed over ages of time. While not perfect, the information that comes to us from our Collective Unconscious is often helpful.
Understand that the Unconscious Mind isn’t passive.
Both our Conscious and our Unconscious Minds are thinking all the time. It is as if there was another being sharing our lives. As fantastical as this sounds, there is scientific evidence that it is so, and historical testimony going back to ancient times. In the Greek Iliad and Odyssey the characters could actually hear a second voice in their minds which they attributed to a supernatural source.
But it wasn’t, believed Jung, a supernatural source. It was the voice of their Unconscious Mind and that at that point in human history they could actually hear it. As time went on our brain evolved and we lost that ability.
Dr. Ernest Hilgard (who died in 2001) was one of the most famous researchers in modern psychology. His 1953 textbook, Introduction to Psychology, was for a long time the most widely used textbook in psychology according to the American Psychological Association. It is currently in its 15th edition.
Dr. Hilgard was a hypnotist. In the 1970, he published a fascinating piece of research describing this “dual consciousness.” There were many subjects for this experiment (there is in fact a whole book about them) but a fascinating one was of a blind student. In the lab Hilgard hypnotized this student and suggested that he was also deaf. Sure enough, the student ceased responding to verbal questions and showed no physical reaction to extremely loud noises. He was to all intents and purposes both deaf and blind.
Then Hilgard said to the student, “perhaps there is some part of your mind that does still hear me. If so, raise you index finger.” The student’s index finger rose. There was a part of his mind, different from his consciousness, that was still listening.Then the student came out of hypnosis spontaneously.
He would later say he had no memory of hearing the suggestion about the index finger, but when he felt his finger go up for no reason he wanted to know what was going on and emerged from hypnosis to find out.
Several subjects reported that this “hidden observer” inside their mind was like a Higher Self. It is cognizant of everything that is happening. is aware of more than what the conscious mind is aware of, but doesn’t contact the conscious mind directly. It is believed that this “hidden observer” is the part of the mind that prevents a person from doing anything in hypnosis that the person would not do when out of hypnosis. It is watching what the hypnotist is doing and forming opinions about it.
Authors point out that the notion that we all have a mind that has two parts is not a new idea. In Traditional Chinese Medicine these two parts of the personality are called the hun and po. In ancient Egypt they were called the ka and ba. The ancient Greeks distinguish between the conscious mind, which they called the Eidolon and this hidden part which they called the Daemon. These two parts of the mind share perceptions about the world and events, but independently think about them and draw their own conclusions.
In fact the Greeks were clear that the Daemon was more important. They considered it a Higher Self acting like a Guardian Angel over the Lower Self—what we think of as our personality.
The great Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote in the second century of the Common Era:
“God has placed at every man's side a guardian, the Daemon of each man, who is charged to watch over him; a Daemon that cannot sleep, nor be deceived. To what greater and more watchful guardian could He have entrusted each of us? So, when you have shut the doors, and made darkness in the house, remember, never to say that you are alone; for you are not alone. But God is there, and your Daemon is there. (Discourses of Epictetus,14:11)
Where Does The Wisdom Come From?
At this point in my life I have had enough experiences, including repeating Hilgard’s experiment at my own office, to have no doubt that what the Greeks called the Inner Daemon does exist. It seems to be the part of the mind that we call the Unconscious Mind. And because it has access to a collective mind, it is wise.
When a person gets in touch with the Inner Blueprint and transforms themselves into a better and healthier version of themselves, the knowledge of what that blueprint is bubbles up from the deeper places.
Dr. Jung believed, as do I, that this deeper awareness is something more. It arises from the Collective Unconscious. It is part of our minds that transcends our individuality and unites all of us together into a collective awareness. As it is collective, it is therefore immortal, and we each have a piece of it inside of our cranium.
Within our minds is a collective wisdom that we can access through exploring the part of our personal unconscious process that we are able to access. The pathway to the Collective Unconsciousness lies through the individual one.
When You Feel Bad
Your deeper mind knows you better than you will every know yourself. It is benevolent and wants to help you. The problem is that the Unconscious Mind does not have words. So to communicate it has to use the only language that it does have—your feelings.
Simply put, if your Unconscious Mind and Conscious Mind are in alignment, you feel good. If they are not, you feel bad.
Let me illustrate this with a personal example.
Introversion and Extroversion
Jung spoke about two types of person, Introverts and Extroverts. These two personality styles are opposite ends of a continuum and people have traits of one or the other in different degrees. I am a strong Introvert. That means I process my thinking in my interior world and when I say something I typically have thought it through.
Introverts also tend to have acquaintances but only a few friendships—although those tend to be deep and long term. Introverts need time alone and find that being with others can be tiring.
Only an introvert would say something like “I have a fantastic weekend. I stayed home the entire time and didn’t talk to anyone. It was awesome!”
Both Lindsay and I are Introverts and that is one of the strengths in our relationship. We understand the need we each have for time alone and do not interpret it as rejection.
Extroverts are basically the opposite. They process ideas in their favorite world, which is the external world. They “think out loud,” make friends easily and find being together with others to be fun and stimulating.
They love to be with others, while people like me say “Go outside. I can’t go outside. There are people out there!”
Our society is heavily structured to give Extroverts a benefit. Being a “team player” is an important job skill. Networking easily with others can be the key to advancement. When the teacher says “And class participation counts for a third of your grade,” Introverts and Extroverts are no longer on a level playing field. The Introverts will not speak until they’ve thought things through and the Extroverts roll right over them and get the extra points.
Personality testing data indicate that two-thirds of the population in the United States are Extroverts. However, the same data shows that Introverts bring a lot to the table. We tend to be creative, empathetic, often excel at deep thought and are highly focused. It’s been suggested the most successful entrepreneurs are introverted.
Introverts do face discrimination, as they can baffle Extroverts who mistakenly consider them shy, cold, possessed of a social phobia or even an avoidant personality.
When I was in theological school it was assumed that Introverts should not go into the ministry and the credentialing committee gave Introverts a real hard time. When I had my meeting with that committee I got through, but one member commented that he thought I was a “recovering Introvert.”
So I tried to act like an Extrovert. I forced myself into relationships that really didn’t appeal. I spoke more rapidly and tried to be more outgoing
I was miserable. The reason I was miserable was that my Conscious Mind thought I should be doing something that my Unconscious Mind did not want. The two halves of my mind were not aligned and I experienced that as emotional upset.
With some help I was able to recognize that mistake and knocked the fake behavior off, deciding to let the chips fall where they may. The two parts of my mind came back into alignment, I felt whole again and become even more effective at my work, not less.
Perhaps you feel unhappy in your job or relationship. Consciously, you can’t put your finger of what is amiss and logically you think things are fine, but your feeling of unhappiness tells you that your Unconscious Mind does not agree. There is in fact something wrong, and doing something intentional to repair or change the relationship or occupation is wise.
Imagine you are someone who feels worthless and a failure. You feel awful. But the feeling of worthlessness is a conclusion reached by your Conscious Mind. That fact that you feel awful means your Unconscious Mind does not agree. The discomfort is there to motivate you to bring these two parts of your mind into alignment by getting help so the erroneous conclusion of your Conscious Mind can be corrected.
Like all members of the clergy I spend time with people close to the end of their life. I have seen some people who are at peace and content. Their unconscious mind knows it is time for the end to come, and their conscious mind has reached the same conclusion.
But there have been others where there is a lack of alignment. The unconscious process is ready to let go but the conscious process clings to life. They feel horrible and the end is seldom crossed with grace.
When your Unconscious Mind and your Conscious Mind are aligned, you feel good. When they are out of alignment, you feel bad. In the opinion of Dr. Jung (and Dr. Giles for that matter), as the Unconscious Mind is connected to a deeper collective wisdom, its opinion is the one most likely correct and what you consciously believe to be the case is most likely mistaken.
Listen to your Unconscious Mind. If you feel bad know that the conclusions drawn by your Conscious Mind are mistaken.
And that’s my sermon.