C. G. Jung had profound insight into the deeper, underlying archetypal processes originating in the unconscious psyche of humanity that give shape and form to collective human events. To quote Jung, “…the first World War released the hidden power of evil, just as the war itself was released by the accumulation of unconscious masses…. The second World War was a repetition of the same psychic process but on an infinitely greater scale.” The current global war on terror is the latest iteration of the same underlying psychic process, the latest variation of a very old theme. Our species is endlessly re-creating the same mythic, archetypal process, as if we are having a recurring dream. War itself is an expression of an unconscious process in the collective psyche of humanity that literally is being re-enacted on the global stage. Speaking about the Second World War, though he could’ve been describing our current times, Jung said that it “…was recognized as an unmitigated psychic disaster only by the few. Rather than do this, people prefer the most preposterous political and economic theories.” [Emphasis added] Jung was pointing at the little recognized fact that the root factor underlying collective events such as war originate in the unconscious psyche of humanity. Most people overlay political or economic explanations onto collective events, not realizing that the origin of the collective events is to be found in the human psyche.
The seeds of world events lie in the unconscious, waiting to sprout under the proper conditions and at the right moment. Jung elaborated by saying, “…what the unconscious really contains are the great collective events of the time. In the collective unconscious of the individual, history prepares itself; and when the archetypes are activated in a number of individuals and come to the surface, we are in the midst of history, as we are at present. The archetypal image which the moment requires gets into life, and everybody is seized by it. That is what we see today.” Any given moment of time requires and is simultaneously expressing the deeper, mythic archetypal process which in-forms it. When we get into proximity to the archetype, we become collectively drafted into its overpowering field of force. We then become a tool in the archetype’s hand, enabling it to give shape to itself in our world. By being seized and thereby compelled to act out this more powerful archetypal force unconsciously as collective events, we become the instrument through which this suprapersonal force is making itself known to us.
Collective events have their own unique type of psychology. Collective events are the manifestation of a mass psychology that becomes operative when large groups of people fall into their unconscious together, feeding into and off of each other’s unconsciousness. The determining power underlying mass psychology, the archetypes of the collective unconscious, are the formative templates that give breath (inspire) and depth (materiality) to events in the outer world. These inner primordial images are pregnant with a living energy that wants to embody, actualize, and incarnate itself in the shapes and forms of our 3-D universe.
The archetypes are the invisible, form-less “ground plan” which in-form and give shape to both individual and collective human behavior. They are the psychic skeleton upon which the individual and collective body politic is formed. Archetypes are the structural forms that underlie consciousness, just as the crystal lattice underlies the crystallization process. Archetypes, like the crystal lattice, are empty of concrete, material existence, yet they shape consciousness and events in the world just like the crystal lattice patterns the form of the individual crystal. The archetypes themselves are non-perceptible and irrepresentable, since they precede all representation, while simultaneously re-presenting themselves through in-forming and giving shape to the perceptible universe.
Being atemporal, archetypes exist outside of time. They bleed through, irrupt, and unfold into and through time so as to incarnate and reveal themselves. Archetypes become visible by arranging and magnetically attracting events into themselves like atemporal, self-organizing fields. Archetypes synchronistically configure events in the outer world so as to express and actualize themselves on the stage of history. When the archetypal dimension is emerging, the boundary between the inner and the outer begins to dissolve, as the inner experience of the archetype becomes synchronistically enacted in the outer world.
Jung said, “...people had simply no idea that our personal psychology is just a thin skin, a ripple upon the ocean of collective psychology. The powerful factor, the factor which changes our whole life, which changes the surface of our known world, which makes history, is collective psychology, and collective psychology moves according to laws entirely different from those of our [individual] consciousness. The archetypes are the great decisive forces, they bring about the real events, and not our personal reasoning and practical intellect…the archetypal images decide the fate of man. Man’s unconscious psychology decides, and not what we think and talk in the brain-chamber up in the attic.” If we want to get to the source of collective events in our world so that we can transform them, we need to recognize the archetypal, mythic dimension of existence that is revealing itself to us as it acts itself out through us. We have all been drafted into the service of a divine drama, and we play a key role in how this deeper, divine process of incarnation manifests.
Speaking about getting close to an overpowering archetype, Jung said, “One cannot resist it. It gets you below the belt and not in your mind, your brain just counts for nothing, your sympathetic system is gripped. It is a power that fascinates people from within, it is the collective unconscious which is activated, it is an archetype which is common to them all that has come to life. And because it is an archetype, it has historical aspects and we cannot understand the events without knowing history.” The destructive world events throughout time immemorial are the effects of an archetype getting constellated and being unconsciously acted out as human history. The archetype is continually creating novel iterations of the exact same underlying invariant process, which is to say “itself,” like an endlessly self-generating fractal unfolding over linear, historical time. Until the archetype is consciously recognized, however, instead of unconsciously acted out, we are doomed to endlessly re-create its negative, destructive aspect as if we were somnambulists under an insidious spell.
Sounding eerily prophetic almost a century ago, Jung appears as a voice from outside of time when he said, “And at the present time, too, we are once more experiencing this uprising of the unconscious destructive forces of the collective psyche. The result has been mass-murder on an unparalleled scale.” Jung was articulating in his time the same eternal, archetypal pattern that is expressing itself in our current times. He was pointing to the deadly danger that results when collective psychology presides, and the archetypes become unconsciously acted out en masse as a destructive psychic epidemic. Jung said, “…collective psychoses are based on a constellated archetype, though of course this fact is not taken into account at all. In this respect our attitude is still characterized by a prodigious unconsciousness.”
We are so unaware that archetypes are the determinants of world events, that this fact is not even part of our planetary dialogue. Psychologically speaking, we, as a species are still in an un-evolved, unconscious and adolescent state, as we are too absorbed in a personalistic, reductive, and literal view of the world. Unaware of the archetypal dimension of reality, we don’t realize that this dream-like universe is a living oracle, an unfolding revelation which is speaking symbolically. Recognizing the archetypal dimension of existence is to realize that we are mutually playing roles in a mythic, divine drama of salvation, redemption, and incarnation. We are tied together by a deeper archetypal process, which is like an embryonic fluid in which we are contained. This deeper, archetypal unified field pervades, penetrates and expresses itself everywhere. The archetypal dimension is not bound by the traditional rules of space and time, and is hence, non-local. Being non-local, the archetypes of the collective unconscious exist in a realm outside of space and time, and configure events in the field so as to become manifest and actualize themselves. The archetypal dimension is incarnating itself in, as and through our seemingly time-bound world so as to transform itself. We are the medium through which this deeper process of incarnation and transformation becomes accomplished. It all depends if we recognize what is being revealed.
To be unconscious of the archetypal dimension is to be caught in a local, limited universe where we think we exist separate from each other, a fiction generated by our own divine, creative imagination with which we have become entranced. We have then become bound and limited by the power of our own divine, creative imagination, instead of consciously harnessing its creative power in a way that serves us.
In the archetypal dimension, we don’t exist in isolation, but only in relation to each other. By being interdependent, we are not separate from each other. We are all interconnected and contained in, as well as being an expression of a deeper, archetypal process. We reciprocally condition each other in an interactive relational web in which we are co-related and correlated to each other. This realization of our interrelatedness is the very teleology, or purpose, of the deeper, archetypal process unfolding in and through time. In other words, recognizing the deeper, archetypal dimension is itself to snap out of the illusion that we are alien to each other.
Jung commented, “In these collective events, we merely see, as through a magnifying glass, what can also happen within the individual.” What is happening on the planetary scale, the macrocosm, gives us insight into what is occurring inside the individual, the microcosm. What is occurring on the world stage is a reflection of a process happening deep within each and every one of us. And vise-versa, as what is occurring deep within ourselves is being played out on the world stage. In collective events, we are seeing through a looking-glass into the world-soul of humanity being played out on the global stage.
How our situation unfolds depends on whether or not we recognize what is being revealed to us by the deeper, archetypal process as it acts itself out through us. Jung pointed out that “Whenever an archetype appears things become critical, and it is impossible to foresee what turn they will take. As a rule this depends on the way consciousness reacts to the situation.” This is analogous to the dilemma in physics about the nature of light: Is it a wave or a particle? And just like our current world situation, it all depends on how we observe, or dream it.
Speaking of the dangers of unconsciously being forced to act out the archetype destructively, Jung said, “It seems as if the psyche were endowed with consciousness for the very purpose of preventing such destructive possibilities from happening.” The psyche is the organ through which the archetype realizes and transforms itself. Everything depends on enough people waking up to what is being revealed by this deeper process and consciously mediating and overcoming the spellbinding effect of the archetype. Instead of unconsciously participating in creating an endless, recurring nightmare in which we are all victimized, we are then able to connect with each other so as to incarnate the archetype consciously, compassionately, constructively, and creatively.
The underlying archetypal process that is giving shape and form to events in our world originates in the unconscious psyche of humanity. Because it is not honored and recognized, the unconscious psyche of humanity is asserting its power in a destructive way so as to reveal itself. This deeper, archetypal process is literally demanding to be recognized and integrated. We are participants in the divine drama of incarnation, as we are the vessels through which the archetypes of the collective unconscious are incarnating and transforming themselves. This is to say that we are the conduit, and events in our world the medium, through which consciousness is birthing itself into, through, and as our universe. Because we have been unconsciously acting out this deeper process, it has been getting dreamed up destructively. But our unconsciously acting out this deeper process is itself the very means through which we become conscious of the deeper archetypal process, which is to say that what is playing out in our world is initiatory. We have collaboratively dreamed up a living nightmare for ourselves on a planetary scale so as to wake ourselves up. To see it any other way is simply insane.
A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. Paul is also a visionary artist and a spiritually-informed political activist. He is the author of The Madness of George Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis,which is available on his website www.awakeninthedream.com. (See the first chapter, The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis). Please feel free to pass this article along to a friend if you feel so inspired. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections. © Copyright 2010