The word, "conscious" is derived from the Latin word conscio, meaning, "I know." Logically then "unconscious" means, "I don't know." Hence "the unconscious" equals the totality of our brain's functioning MINUS that bit we know about at any given time. Freud was the first modern clinician to investigate this aspect of psychology, concentrating upon events of early childhood, which he considered were repressed because they were associated with painful memories. Jung called this body of memories, whether repressed or not, the personal unconscious. However he became increasingly aware of a deeper stratum (layer) of material, which had never been conscious.
This perhaps most important innovation Jung brought to psychology was the concept of the collective unconscious, sometimes referred to as the objective psyche. Although some confusion exists about what these expressions mean, it is really rather obvious. We all inherit tendencies to have two arms, two legs, one head, and a brain, which has identical patterns of ridges and valleys. The more we learn about the human brain, the more we realise that fine structures, and ultimately functions, are the same for all humans. (Drugs and anaesthetics wouldn't work in predictable ways if this were not true.) What Jung accentuated was that our brains all work to the same patterns, regardless of our life experiences; but not only that, our life experiences happen to a brain which is intimately pre-programmed before we are born. That programming dictates more than just our general patterns of response to the outside world; it also the ways we experience inner and outer events. Moreover, he observed that people in all places and at all times, have tended to produce spontaneous underlying patterns and visual shapes. One of his favourite examples was the mandala, a circular organisation of visual material with symmetrical divisions, one of the most common examples of which is the compass rose with its four cardinal directions of north, south, east and west. (This specific pattern only became part of the human psyche around the middle of the fourth millennium BCE, a point we will take up in our discussion of the Goddess Inanna.)
Not only do we tend to come up with similar shapes and patterns without necessarily being taught to do so; we also tend to produce explanations for natural events in remarkably similar terms. These major patterns of experiencing the world around us, Jung called archetypes, and he showed that because we project these powerful rules out into the world, we often end up perceiving these major psychological forces as deities. This leads to the consequence that by studying mythology for basic underlying patterns, we derive a useful guide to the way the collective unconscious is programmed. In fact, because the brain is a single integrated organ, such studies tell us how WE are programmed. For the moment we can generally describe the collective unconscious as "genetic memory" into which our personal experiences flow, and are filed in what Jung called complexes.
Complexes need not be pathological. They are merely collections of psychological material that function most efficiently when they are together, and they usually group together because they all relate to a single archetype. Take for instance the mother complex. In any mammalian species it would not matter how strong a mother's maternal instinct was if her offspring were not programmed to respond appropriately. We didn't have to be taught how to suck a nipple when we were born: we already knew. During childhood that same 'file,' labelled mother, became filled with all our experiences of mothering, and grew to include all sorts of data about our mother, mothers in general, and progressively mature ways of responding to such figures. With the appearance of sexuality at puberty, some data about women in general would be added to this, and later in life we include many other images and ideas, such as Gaia, mother earth, mother nature, our country as mother-land, and a host of concepts and experiences, some more adaptive than others; but they all relate to the mother archetype.
In a healthy person attention can move freely from one complex to another, but often in mental illness complexes are blocked off from, or in conflict with each other. If a therapist can help a patient transcend such boundaries or conflicts, often the patient's problems resolve. The patient can greatly assist this process by recording dream images, many of which are sufficiently standard for an observant therapist to find the point of conflict. For example arachnophobia, a morbid fear of spiders, is frequently associated not with any actual nasty spider experiences, but with perceiving "mother" as associated with danger. This is often described as the "terrible mother" and the person acts as if their own unconscious might, as it were, swallow them up. That may be because their biological mother mistreated them, but it may also be that they are still too dependant on mother-figures or are trying to interact with the world in a mother-child manner.
Although we all have numerous complexes, those that form the essential structure of the psyche are the ego, the persona, the shadow, the paired contrasexual opposites (known as the syzygy) of anima and animus, and the self. Please note that these may be referred to as archetypes at times, but that?s fine. Each complex, as mentioned above, has an archetypal core, label, or centre of gravity.
The Latin word for "I" is ego. That is precisely what ego means. It is the complex with which we most readily identify, and is intimately involved with our concept of our own body. If you kick me in the shins, I am likely to say, "You hurt me," not "You hurt that lump of flesh and bone down there below my knee." Things happening to our bodies appear to happen to us. That may seem logical, but it is not necessarily always the case, as we will soon see.
This intimate identity with our body means that ego is intimately related to what neurologists call the sensory and motor cortex of the brain; two narrow strips of cortex which extend down each side of the brain along a line which is covered by the headband of a standard pair of earphones. Each point of the sensory or motor cortex can be shown to represent a very precise and predictable place on the opposite side of the body. But that leads to two surprising points. First, there is no way for the brain to represent events happening to the brain itself. In fact neurosurgeons can operate on the brain of a fully conscious patient, so long as they have anaesthetised the scalp, skull, and brain coverings. A person undergoing such an operation will feel no pain, and if a certain part of their brain is stimulated, will not feel it as something happening to their brain, but to something in their body or the outside world.
But the second point is much more important to grasp. The sensory and motor cortex is NOT the highest, most sophisticated part of the brain. The part in front of it is. Events happening in that Frontal lobe of the brain are "above and beyond" the sensory cortex, and that is exactly how such events are experienced, as "above and beyond" the person. In most animals this would be of minor significance, because, with few exceptions, the sensory and motor cortex is so close to the ?ruling? part of the brain that what goes on there is close enough to the dominant event. Not so in humans. 25% of our brain is frontal lobe, so one quarter of our brains' activities are experienced as beyond us. We will thus experience many of our brains' actions as if they occurred in the outside world. This tendency to place internal events outside is called "Projection."
Magnetic resonance imaging has shown that there are two small pieces of frontal cortex that can be used to discriminate between internal and external events. There is a gyrus (ridge) of cortex, which wraps like a girdle over the bridge between the two brain hemispheres. It is called the cingulate gyrus. (Cingula means girdle in Latin.) These two small areas are at the front end, so are called the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus. During adolescence we learn to use these areas of brain to differentiate between inner and outer events, but they can be shown to malfunction in schizophrenia and paranoia, two diseases characterised by false projections.
Ego also contains all our beliefs about ourselves, those strengths and weaknesses that make up our concept of our own personalities. Again, these are not necessarily true. Others may see us as cold and arrogant, but we will say with utter conviction,"I am a warm loving individual."
Not only do we identify ourselves with the body in which we live: we may extend it to include any other vehicle in which we travel. When people describe a car accident, they will often express it like this. "I was sitting at the lights and this guy in a truck ran straight up the back of me." If we took that literally, how come the reporter is there to tell us anything?!
But we have two major practical problems, which can cause our idea of ego to be unrealistic, contamination by persona and shadow.
Persona is a Greek word referring to a mask, and that is what persona is; the masks we put on in our dealings with people in the outside world. It will include our styles of dressing for different situations, but more important, our attitudes, tones of voice, in other words, the sort of person we wish to appear to be in a variety of situations. When stopped by a policeman for a traffic infringement, it is not a good idea to speak to them as we would speak to our lover - calling them darling - or to our children - now listen sonny!
In its true role, persona allows the wheels of social interaction to be well oiled and to run smoothly. It may be blowing a blizzard outside but we still greet workmates by saying "Good Morning." When a stranger says "How do you do?" we don't tell them about our hangover, our bladder infection and our problems with our tax returns. We say," Fine." Persona allows us to get on with our lives behind a mask we put up so other people are kept at a safe but pleasant distance, and not too far off.
Like everything else in biology though, persona can go awry. Some people over-identify ego with persona, so they begin to believe the mask they use. Watch the "Businessman" with a capital B, who sits down on an aircraft and immediately empties his briefcase so that he is surrounded with papers, mobile phones and laptops. He would love us to believe that he is a Busy Businessman, and he probably believes it himself. However we are more likely to consider him a bragging buffoon who is so disorganised that he cannot even relax and enjoy the flight. He looks about as sensible as a Doctor would if he wandered along the beach wearing his stethoscope.
Conversely there are those who for reasons of political correctness or brain damage, eliminate persona altogether. Pity anyone unfortunate enough to ask him or her how he or she is. Instead of a brief polite reply, they are likely to engage us in a long and detailed diatribe of their life problems, their views on the universe, and anything else that interests them but no-one else.
It is a matter of fact that we put on different masks for different people. We are wise to accept it as we accept our wearing of clothes, and value the persona for what it is; a useful way of relating to the outside world, and a valuable protection behind which we can attend to matters, which concern ourselves alone.
Just as the ego represents who we believe we are, the shadow represents who and what we believe we are not. Because shadow is just as important as ego in defining our personalities and boundaries, we adhere to the shadow aspects of ourselves with as much tenacity as that with which we hold to our egos. For most people it is very difficult to experience shadow characteristics as part of ourselves, so we tend to see the characteristics in others close to us, particularly our parent or sibling, relative, acquaintance or workmate, almost always of the same gender. A real giveaway about shadow material is that it nearly always causes irritation when experienced.
Try an experiment on yourself. Think of someone the same sex as you, someone who is really annoying. Write down three or more characteristics of that person, which are particularly obnoxious. Then, absolutely honestly, find times when you have exhibited those same characteristics yourself. Now you are starting to experience your own shadow. You can then take it a step further. Think how those same characteristics, if integrated and civilised, might be useful to you. We may find a person irritating because he or she is too loud and aggressive. Perhaps that is because we ourselves are too mouse-like and retiring, If we accept our own belligerence and transformed it into reasonable assertiveness, life might be easier.
It can be a source of considerable amusement at a party to let someone go on about someone else who irritates him or her. With some patience and detachment, we can then allow our unfortunate raconteur blandly to describe their own shadow, rather like giving us an X-ray of their own personality. This may not be just amusing. It can be an invaluable way of "screening" potential partners. If that wonderful prospective date goes on about someone unpleasant who preoccupies their mind, take care: those characteristics they so abhor will be the cause for much disruption later on.
Jung saw shadow as the face of the unconscious as a whole, mainly because the shadow is the first aspect of the unconscious we ever experience. It can have a child-like aspect to it, mainly because the unconscious characteristics, having never or seldom seen the conscious light of day, have never had the opportunity to be civilised and integrated into personality. But the shadow also contains the potential for strengthening and developing us. We must remember that it contains not only our denied weaknesses, but also our hidden strengths. While these may at first appear dark and forbidding, they may provide us with new ways of living, with a flexibility and resilience that our former virtuous but rigid life patterns failed to provide.
The absolute necessity of integrating as much shadow as possible becomes patently obvious when we consider the alternative. Shadow material, like everything else in the unconscious, sooner or later tends to come up to the surface. If we permit that, we become more three-dimensional people, but if we don?t shadow material will occasionally just take over, and that can lead to embarrassment at least, or maybe disaster. A good fictional example of shadow taking over is Robert Louis Stevenson's story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Here, a clean-living dedicated researcher was suddenly taken over by his evil homicidal shadow with grotesque results. The effects may not need to be so dramatic unless the shadow is savagely suppressed but a true case history may provide an idea. (Identities have been disguised for ethical reasons.)
George was a good hard-working family man, faithful to his wife, and a reliable if stern father to his three kids. He was a non-smoker, seldom drank alcohol, never gambled or got drunk, and was an official at his local church. George was about forty when he turned up one Monday morning with his very worried wife. They said he had gone missing over the weekend, and neither the police nor any of his friends had been able to trace him. George could not remember a single thing since he had been at work the previous Friday. I checked him out and could find nothing wrong with him other than that he seemed very tired. A neurologist tested him comprehensively and could find nothing wrong either. It was totally mystifying. Then, later that month, George's American Express card account arrived. Unfortunately George's wife always opened such accounts, and wow! George had had a weekend the average person could only dream about. He had visited every bar and brothel, every strip club and dive you could possible imagine. No wonder he looked tired. It was difficult to explain to George's wife that he had not lied about his weekend, and that he could not have just "broken out" of his own volition, otherwise he would have taken steps to cover his tracks. No, this was true shadow possession, with every sordid and exciting little escapade accounted for in exact detail. Poor George had spent all his life shoving those shadow bits down until they burst forth with devastating force.
The best way of avoiding such tragic possessions is to be rather more lenient on others and ourselves about aspects of personality and behaviour, which irritate or preoccupy us. Nobody suggests we should all pile into brothels every Friday night - they are probably crowded enough already! However, a less rigid attitude to moral edicts and a closer attention to our needs, whether they be sex, chocolate or any other fallibility would take pressure off those parts of ourselves we keep unconscious.
The Syzygy; Anima and Animus:
In Jung's view, because a person's conscious mind is identified with their own gender, their unconscious will be experienced as being of the opposite sex. Anyone who has ever been in love will probably agree. When the beloved is with us and relating well to us, the world seems perfect. Conversely, absence of the beloved (by geography or emotional withdrawal) gives us a feeling as if we are incomplete. He called this contrasexual aspect of the unconscious anima in men and animus in women. The word used to describe both is syzygy, from a Greek word suzugos, meaning yoked or paired, and is really only included here for Scrabble players.
Anima and animus are the large complexes into which all our experiences of the other gender are filed. This will start with our parent of the opposite sex, and be extended to siblings, relations, friends (and enemies!) and associates throughout our lives. Thus at any time in our life we will have a constantly evolving image of the other sex, and anyone who appears to correlate closely to that image will have a remarkably powerful effect on us. The creep at the party who comes up and says, "Where have you been all my life?" inadvertently puts this situation quite well. Meeting a person who approximates to anima or animus will make us feel as if they are somehow familiar even though we know it is our first encounter with them.
The syzygy is more than this. English is rather a unique language in which the word "the" is not genderised. Most romantic languages have masculine and feminine indefinite articles. For instance most languages have the sea as feminine, the sky as masculine and so on. As a result, anima and animus contain our responses to a wide variety of non-human events and phenomena as well. To further complicate matters, we may associate a certain person with a country or region, perhaps because our emotional relationship to such a place is so strong that we accommodate it by placing it on another human. This is one (though by no means the only) reason for holiday romances being so sudden and passionate, but easily terminated when we return to work.
Jung saw the Self as the central core of the personality, and tried to get his patients and pupils to make anima or animus a function of relationship to it. He stated that the Self is indistinguishable from God, but because many of his writings inadvertently indicated otherwise, we will discuss the Self in more detail in our critique of his theories.
He quite astutely discerned that in all cultures, the Self was symbolised by circular or spherical shapes, precious stones, gold or other objects or unique animals which indicated the end of the quest, the final goal, a home-coming, or a state of enlightenment. In pragmatic terms the Self is seldom or ever fully realised during life, although we all act and experience as if our tendency is to move towards such an event.
Individuation is the natural process of human maturation. It is an innate tendency of the psyche to achieve total integration. We have no choice about whether we individuate, any more than we had a choice about going through puberty. What we can choose to do is cooperate with the underlying inevitable tendency, and thus save ourselves a great deal of pain, anguish, embarrassment, and a variety of psychological disorders, often manifested as physical symptoms.
It is often described as having two phases:
1. Adaptation to the world in first half of life.
2. Reappraisals of relation of ego to unconscious in the second half.
The two components fairly accurately reflect Jung's personal experience, (adapting to life in psychoanalysis until 1912, aet 37, latent period after break with Freud, followed by introspection aet 40-86) but even he showed that they are more contemporaneous, with each external adaptation being accompanied by an internal readjustment. It is perhaps more accurate to say our conscious attention in the first half of life is focussed more on outside adaptation, and in the second half we take more interest in the instrument which did the adapting. Clearly the relative importance attached by any individual to internal or external adaptation will depend on their typology, in particular to which functions are introverted and extraverted.
Individuation is usually described in terms of objectifying the persona, integrating the shadow, coming to terms with the syzygy and finally relating to the Self. Typologists see it as integrating the two functions, which are not our preferred ways of dealing with life, and mythologists perceive it as the underlying impulse in the hero cycles such as the Labours of Heracles. These approaches are all different ways of describing the brain?s tendency to work as an integrated hierarchical organ with more advanced parts organising and coordinating the others.
Jung invited people to develop on his findings, so that is precisely what we are going to do. He attracted considerable criticism for his attitude to the feminine, particularly:
1. That he confused objective feminine behaviour with his own perceptions of anima.
2. That, being a man of his times, he expressed the chauvinistic views then extant.
3. That he equated feminine with feeling and masculine with thinking.
4. That several of his female patients and associates were dimly aware of something else in their mentalities that Jung failed to see.
A few other observations are relevant.
1. Only late in his life did he understand that anima is ingrained in the Self.
2. He assumed that masculinity and femininity were due to a preponderance of female or male genes. We now know that sex is an either/or phenomenon, depending on whether we have XY or YY genes.
3. Being essentially European and Christian in outlook, he equated the Self with the Judeo-Christian deity, which cannot be all-inclusive if it is considered essentially masculine.
4. It is an obvious matter of experience that men are just as capable of animus thinking as women, who are in turn just as capable of anima moodiness as men.
To the degree that the Self is truly all-inclusive, it must include as much feminine as masculine. Moreover, empirical observation shows that people of either sex can act and experience in parental or non-parental ways. Erich Neumann called parental responses static, and non-parental, dynamic. We thus have a mandala, with feminine and masculine on the vertical axis, and static/dynamic on the horizontal.
In his 1992 book, "Masculine and Feminine," Californian Sociologist Gareth Hill developed Neumann's theme to show how people's behaviour reflects a tendency to move from one position to another in this quaternio. We can take that one step further, and show the individuation process to be a clockwise movement around this circle. Following Neumann, we can equate each quarter in turn with moving from Mum's girl or boy, to Dad's, then someone else's, ending by being our own person. Females will perceive the masculine quarters as other, just as males will perceive the female quadrants. But each will perceive the same-sex quadrants as part of their own Self, i.e., what men see as anima, women will see as Self, and what women see as animus, men feel to be their Self. Hence anima and animus are NOT archetypes, but PERCEPTIONS OF ARCHETYPES, dependant on the gender of the observer. The true archetypes are the four quarters of the Self-mandala.
Thus we come to terms with four archetypes in sequence, taking on characteristics of each in varying proportions; and those characteristics include the worldview associated with each.
Phase one: During childhood we relate to the world and the unconscious as if it owed us a living; the realm of the Great Mother.
Phase two: Later in childhood we recognise boundaries, restrictions and social values that are imposed as rules, but introjected as our own. This is the Great Father realm.
Phase three: During adolescence and early adulthood, we learn ways around the rules of the father world, and become interested in relating to someone of the opposite sex. This person will be a dynamic masculine figure for women, but men will emulate the dynamic masculine in order to attract a partner. This is the realm of the Trickster.
Phase four: Later in life we learn to become self-sufficient. Our relationships are based more on choice than compulsion. The unconscious becomes our partner, not our parent; nor is it projected onto others as it was in our love-lorn adolescence. We learn to transcend conflicts. Women become aware of their feminine Self. Men become aware of anima. The closest Jung could come to a description of this phase probably would have involved Sophia, Goddess of Wisdom.
We can do better; if we turn to an unexpected source - ancient Sumeria, five thousand years ago.
The Sumerians lived in Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is modern day southern Iraq. They had no authoritarian religious leaders dictating what they should or should not believe. Therefore, each person could undergo and follow their own experiences, thus allowing completely honest and spontaneous expression of emerging material from the archetypal world, with no fear of burning, bombing, shooting or any other form of perversion or persecution. And because the Sumerians invented writing, we can read their accounts of these gods and goddesses.
As one might expect, this religious freedom led to the flowering of a bewildering variety of deities, but some patterns are discernable. Chief among these was the idea that everyone had four personal deities, two female and two male, "... individualized and mythologized carriers of certain specific psychological aspects of one basic phenomenon, the realization of the self, the personality, as it relates the ego to the outside world and, at the same time, separates one from the other." [A. Leo Oppenheim: Ancient Mesopotamia.]
These four entities correspond exactly with the four in our modern psychological model. Lamassu was the giver of form, corresponding to our static (maternal) feminine. Her masculine counterpart was shedu, sexual potency and genius, (cf. static masculine.) The next god was ilu, spiritual component, bringer of luck, whose female counterpart was ishtaru, protector and bearer of fate, the external manifestation of what later was called "soul" but again, for both sexes equally. Ilu and Ishtaru correspond to the dynamic masculine and feminine.
We thus clarify some of the confusion caused by Jung's equation of spirit with masculine and soul with feminine, because each is equally present in both sexes. We can even identify some of the reasons for his incomplete grasp of the actual nature of the Self. Given his Christian background, he was, as it were, stuck at the static masculine stage. This would cause him to experience the Mother goddess quite accurately, because She was a stage earlier. To the degree that he saw the Judeo-Christian "God" as an ultimate being, he would see very little beyond that worldview of form and permanence. However, Jung quite courageously investigated the dynamic masculine as the Spirit Mercurius, which both he and the alchemists saw as diabolical, being as it was, an agent of constant evolution. The Greeks called this phenomenon Hermes: the Christians called it the Devil. But what of the dynamic feminine? To be fair, Jung really lacked the epistemology to describe Her in any terms other than some vague sort of Mother-Goddess. True, he referred to Ishtar (the Akkadian name for Inanna) quite often, but usually in passing and never with any sense of definitive conception. Equations with the Hebrew Shekhina or the Orthodox Sophia, or even of the Catholic Holy Ghost are hardly adequate. Sadly, like most of his contemporaries, he left this final stage of the individuation process in the "too hard basket" but at least he left us with the raw material to investigate this extraordinary entity further.
Subsequent writers have sought to elucidate aspects of the dynamic feminine, but we will now try to find out exactly what it is. To do that, we must go back nearly three thousand years before the Homeric Greeks, because their Goddesses had already been as politicised as are our own deities.
"Thus, before Greek mythology in Mycenaean times separated Aphrodite from Athena, both aspects were seen as one goddess. The most enduring form of both in synthesis is to be found in the Sumerian Dingir ("Deity," here "Goddess") Inanna, later addressed by the Babylonians as Ishtar. Presiding over the sacred marriage at the beginning of the New Year, she rode the Lioness of Time through the whole cycle of the year, finally regaining the next sacred marriage and resurrection of Tammuz. Inanna was worshipped from Anatolia to India from the fifth to the third millennium, with Mesopotamia providing the central temple nexus of her cult." [Campbell and Musès: In All Her Names.]
Back, way back in the fourth millennium BCE, a new Goddess appeared to humanity. She represented a new way of reacting to the world, the new dawn of human endeavour, which led within a very short time to a revolution no less dramatic than the Industrial Revolution in Europe. As an archetype she represents the non-maternal dynamic feminine more completely than any other deity before or since; so if archetypes can be seen as gods, study of this Goddess will lead us to a fuller understanding of what this archetype constitutes.
She is the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Her name is Inanna, Lady of Heaven, and in Akkadian, Ishtar, Star Goddess of the Evening and of the Morning.
Meet this site's creator! It may shock you!
Discover how alchemical images illustrate the individuation process.
An introduction to Jung's perspectives on some common psychiatric disorders.
Discover the Great Goddess of ancient Babylon and Sumer. See how She is still relevant today.
She was the world's first known writer. Her poetry is still very advanced psychology.