Reading Jung

I’m reading some of Jung’s original texts, which makes for an inspiring read, but also a slow one, because of all the references. Jung was part mystic, part scientist, and part poet, but I’m mostly interested in him as a poet and a scientist, so I’m not a “Jungian believer”, just as I’m not anything else either. I don’t admit to any system of beliefs, but if I think a specific concept might improve a situation in need of improving, I won’t hesitate to use or try that concept (if I don’t use it, it’s not because of its origin) — which might, however, make me a utilitiarian (damn it (; ). The mysticism of so many belief systems is not something I have ever found useful, though — except for fictional purposes or maybe as a way of talking about something else to make it easier to grasp or to evoke an emotional understanding (also known as an allegory /: ), so Jung as a mystic appeals less to me. With all that said, let’s move on and talk about the grasp I currently have of Jung (which might later change as I read on) and some of my personal reflections:

As far as I know — and I’m not the teacher here, just a mere student — Jung studied myths from all over the world, thought up by people with no contact whatsoever with each other, and he noticed many similiarites in these myths (maybe in the same way that new trends can sometimes appear at many places at once, without any definite place of origin, to give a more contemporary example), so he wondered how that could be. He then constructed the concept of the collective unconscious out of the similarities that he had found, and meant that they could be explained by saying that there is something on the most basic, deepest level in us that is shared by each and every human being (which, I gather, functions as a basis for the so called “Jungian archetypes”). So, according to Jung, we have both an individual self and a universal self, with the latter shared by everyone and uniting us as a species (no matter whence we come), from which we could have that by destroying others we also destroy ourselves (a naïve thought, perhaps, but an important one).

Even if Jung might talk about the collective unconscious as a place or a state of mind, that’s just the poet in him speaking; I don’t at all think that he meant it as such. As a base for fiction, on the other hand, it could be considered as something that can be entered or to which we could connect in some way, and that is also where my interests mainly lie, as I think the whole concept lends itself very well to fiction — but, at the same time, there can be no smoke without a fire, and the fire is almost as intriguing as the smoke (or at least it’s slowly getting there the more I think about it).

Jung does also get into the act of dreaming, which I think he meant as a way of tapping into the collective unconscious (which sounds reasonable if we accept the idea of a dream as a state of mind where all locally cultural inhibitions subside, although I cannot say if this state of mind, on this level of selfawareness, would turn us into universal human beings (as suggested by Jung) or just a truer version of ourselves, with individual differences intact — or both), which is why he considered it to be so important when talking about the possible meanings of a dream, but this might be when the mystic in him takes over, and he kind of loses me. The act of dreaming is also something that lends itself very well to fiction — as well as many of the dreams themselves.

Jung didn’t say that dreams are caused by or have their origin in the collective unconscious, but rather that they (can) act as a doorway, or maybe rather a window, into it — at least for human beings, whose psyche is what he studied. For fictional purposes, maybe animals could also be a part of the collective unconscious — maybe everything is, just on different levels perhaps. Again, the whole concept of the collective unconscious lends itself very well to fiction, but, as someone might say, it’s very hard to prove or disprove any of it, so it also lends itself a lot to guessing, making it hard to study as a subject of science — no matter how educated our guesses are.

I personally tend towards dreams being just “subsymbolic” (as I understand the term), i.e. caused by external or internal stimuli (as from our senses or inner physiological processes), but the way that these stimuli are turned into images (why these particular images?), when we dream, might suggest something else being at play, for example selfawareness on some deeper level (be it individual, primitive, or even universal (as the jungians might say)). I do think meaning, on a psychological level (i.e. teaching us something about ourselves), can be drawn from dreams, just like meaning can be drawn from blots of ink, through association; sometimes it’s easy to see a meaning in the ink, while it at other times is not, or even impossible. In the former case: fine, maybe we can use it to better ourselves or our situation in the world around us — or maybe not. In the latter case: okay, we should probably not force upon it a meaning and instead simply forget about it and move on. I don’t think there is a universal language for dreams, just as there is none for inkblots; any meaning to be drawn from it is all on the individual level.

As you may have guessed by now, I’m reading Jung to prepare for some of the elements in my yet unnamed game, and this might be where Jung as a mystic plays a larger role…