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.