Comment: The Cultural Unconscious
Irrespective of whether or not archetypes would exist if we re-started the whole of
humanity from scratch… there is always a ‘Cultural Unconscious’. And this ‘Cultural
Unconscious’ is 100% important because it impacts on our health. The Nazi’s
collectively projected cultural shadow onto the Jews and mass-murdered them.
Individuals (who are not at all Nazi’s) may make themselves ill because they cannot
achieve power and control over others. They may not be aware that they want
power and control over others. It’s often unconscious.
If this urge for power and control isn’t inevitable in nature… then it’s culturally
real… and unconscious in people who do not realise that they are that way
inclined. Not many people get up on a morning and say to themselves “I want to
exert power and control over my friend today”. The Unconscious (in this respect)
is much more relevant than the conscious mind. We forget this precisely because
its ‘unconscious psychology’. Similarly ‘love’ is often projection, possession,
identification. But I never hear anyone say “I possess you”… hence it’s
unconscious. Even when one gives the other more freedom it’s surely often so that
they can continue to possess the ‘other’… just not absolutely. ‘Relatively’ is better
than ‘not at all’.
We obviously have a better sense of our culture than we do ancient historical
cultures. (ironically largely because of previous or current projections and
identifications). Hence it makes more sense to speak in-terms of the Cultural
Unconscious (as opposed to Collective Unconscious). It requires a heck-of-a lot
less faith. Indeed it requires no faith at all.
Ego and Culture are inextricably linked. We can correctly put an arrow pointing
both ways between the two.
In human relationships (at least within our culture) there is much projection and
identification. However it’s not just about who is projecting what onto whom. We
forget about the third thing which is often a cultural object or cultural
phenomenon that is also receiving projections and being identified with. This
equates to unconscious psychology that is literalized.
The benefit of unconscious cultural projection and identification is achievement of
ego/cultural health (cultural capital). This means you now possess the ability to
fake your way through life… including deceiving yourself.
Psychology is about the inner world… not the outward fake world. In the Ricky
Gervais movie, ‘The Invention of Lying’, we witness a comedy view of what life would
be like if we all had to speak the truth. Yes, the projections and identifications
result in ego orientation and an ability to navigate through social/cultural life. But
it’s fake and is also to blame for all of your non-physical suffering. (i.e., all of those
repetitive painful psychological dissociations).
So awareness of the Cultural Unconscious is very useful. Jung (being much smarter
than me) had a sense of ancient cultures so it will have felt right for him to refer to
an historical and ancient Collective Unconscious. I am 100% certain that most
people are nowhere near as savvy about ancient cultures as Jung was, and therefore
they don’t understand him very well at all. Many think he’s nuts for going on about
Gnosticism and Alchemy all the time.
What is needed is a great awareness of one’s inner world. Awareness of
inner-power, inner-control, inner-shadow, inner-possession, inner-
projection mechanisms and this can be symbolized because inner-life is
essential. It should enable the individual not only to be aware of oneself but
also to be constructively critical of their own culture without lashing out
I want to finish with a very important point: Most people are only aware of
their ego and not all of these other things. And that is the problem in a nut-
When the additional constructively criticises him or herself (s)he may as
well think in terms of their own individual psychology. (i.e., for clarity’s
sake). And when thinking of ‘others’ psychology (s)he should think of that
as Cultural Unconscious psychology.
Failure to be aware of these inner-world phenomena results in them being
projected unconsciously onto outer-phenomena. And then this results in
repetitive painful dissociations and a fake/artificial life.
In the above article I separate psychological illness that derives from culture
and psychological illness that derives from physical suffering. But of course
the two are sometimes inextricably linked. Psychophysical (or
psychosomatic) illness is well-documented. For example someone who
possesses a worrying personality can give themselves physical colds,
stomach aches, bad facial complexion and eventually heart attack and early