Volume 1, Number 1                                                                                                                                                           June 1998

"Man and His Symbols"
Jung's overwhelming contribution to psychological understanding is his concept of the unconscious - not (like the unconscious of Freud) merely a sort of glory-hole of repressed desires, but a world that is just as much a vital and real part of the life of an individual as the conscious, "cogitating" world of the ego, and infinitely wider and richer.  The language and the "people" of the unconscious are symbols, and the means of communication, dreams.
Thus an examination of Man and his Symbols is in effect an examination of man's relation of his own unconscious.  Jung's view of the unconscious is that of the great guide, friend, and adviser of the conscious, and the book a study of human beings and THEIR SPIRITUAL PROBLEMS.  We know the unconscious and communicate with it (a two-way service) principally by dreams and Jung places a quite remarkable emphasis on the importance of dreaming in the life of the individual.
To Jung, the dream is not a kind of standardized cryptogram that can be decoded by a glossary of symbol meanings.  It is an integral, important, and PERSONAL expression of the individual unconscious.  IT IS JUST AS REAL AS ANY OTHER PHENOMENON ATTACHING TO THE INDIVIDUAL.  The dreamer's individual unconscious is communication with the dreamer ALONE and is selecting symbols for its purpose that have meaning to the dreamer and to nobody else.  Thus the interpretation of dreams, whether by an analyst or by the dreamer himself, is for the Jungian psychologist an entirely personal and individual business that can by no means be undertaken by rule of thumb. [This means that the characters in the dreams are personally known to the dreamer and, therefore, are different from others dreams in that fashion.  A woman in one person's dreams would be different from a woman in another person's dreams.  Each individual has to identify independently the woman in their personal dream, who she is, her personality, her character, her "personal" historical data in order to find meaning through her appearing in the dream].
The converse of this is that the communications of the unconscious are of the highest importance to the dreamer - naturally so, SINCE THE UNCONSCIOUS IS AT LEAST HALF OF HIS BEING - and FREQUENTLY OFFER HIM ADVICE OR GUIDANCE THAT COULD BE OBTAINED FROM NO OTHER SOURCE.  Jung told how he was "advised" by his own unconscious to reconsider an inadequate judgment he had made with the conscious part of his mind.
To Jung, a man can achieve wholeness only through a knowledge and acceptance of the unconsciousness - a knowledge acquired through dreams and their symbols.  Every dream is a direct, personal, and meaningful communication to the dreamer - a communication that uses the symbols common to all mankind but uses them always in an entirely individual way, which can be interpreted only by an entirely individual "key".
Those who have limited themselves to living entirely in the world of the conscious and who reject communication with the unconscious bind themselves by the laws of the conscious, formal life.  With the infallible (but often meaningless) logic of the algebraic equation, they argue from assumed premises to incontestably deduced conclusions.  Jung and his colleagues seem to reject the limitations of this method of argument.  It is not that they ignore logic, but they appear all the time to be arguing to the unconscious as well as to the conscious.  They convince not by means of the narrowly focused spotlight of the syllogism, but by skirting, by repetition, by presenting a recurring view of the same subject seen each time from a slightly different angle - UNTIL SUDDENLY THE ONE WHO HAS NEVER BEEN AWARE OF A SINGLE, CONCLUSIVE MOMENT OF PROOF FINDS THAT HE HAS UNKNOWINGLY EMBRACED AND TAKEN INTO HIMSELF SOME WIDER TRUTH.
There is no such thing as a typical Jungian analysis.  There can't be because every dream is a private and individual communication and no two dreams use the symbols of the unconscious in the same way.  Every Jungian analysis is unique.
A symbol is a term, a name, or even a picture that may be familiar in daily life yet that possesses specific connotation (meaning) in addition to its conventional and obvious meaning.  It implies something vague, unknown, or hidden from us.
A word or an image is symbolic when it implies something more than its obvious and immediate meaning.  It has a wider "unconscious" aspect that is never precisely defined or fully explained.  Nor can one hope to define or explain it.  As the mind explores the symbol, it is led to ideas that lie beyond the grasp of reason.
We constantly use symbolic terms to represent concepts that we cannot define or fully comprehend.  This is one reason why all religions employ symbolic language or images.  But this conscious use of symbols is only one aspect of a psychological fact of great importance:  Man also produces symbols unconsciously and spontaneously, in the form of dreams.
Man, as we realize if we reflect for a moment, never perceives anything fully or comprehends anything completely.  He can see, hear, touch and taste; but how FAR he sees, how WELL he hears, what his touch TELLS him, and WHAT he tastes depend upon the number and quality of his senses.  THESE LIMIT HIS PERCEPTION OF THE WORLD AROUND HIM.  No matter what instruments he uses (such as binoculars to help him see), at some point he reaches the edge of certainty beyond which conscious knowledge cannot pass.
There are moreover, unconscious aspects of our perception of reality.  The first is the fact that even when our senses react to real phenomena, sights, and sounds, they are somehow translated from the realm of reality into that of the mind.  Within the mind they become psychic events, whose ultimate nature is unknowable (for the psyche cannot know its own psychical substance).  Thus every experience contains an indefinite number of unknown facts, not to speak of the fact that every concrete object is always unknown in certain respects because we cannot know the ultimate nature of matter itself.
Then there are certain events of which we have not consciously taken note; they have remained, so to speak, below the threshold of consciousness.  They have happened, but they have been absorbed subliminally, without our conscious knowledge.  We can become aware of such happenings only in a moment of intuition or by a process of profound thought that leads to a later realization that they must have happened; and though we may have originally ignored their emotional and vital importance, it later wells up from the unconscious as a sort of afterthought.
It may appear, for instance, in the form of a dream.  As a general rule, the unconscious aspect of any event is revealed to us in dreams, where it appears not as a rational thought but as a symbolic image.  As a matter of history, it was the study of dreams that first enabled psychologists to investigate the unconscious aspect of conscious psychic events.
It is on such evidence that psychologists assume the existence of an unconscious psyche - though many scientists and philosophers deny its existence.  They argue naively that such an assumption implies the existence of two "subjects", or (to put it in a common phrase) two personalities within the same individual.  But this is exactly what it does imply - quite correctly.  And it is one of the curses of modern man that many people suffer from this divided personality.  It is by no means a pathological [diseased] symptom; it is a normal fact that can be observed at any time and everywhere.  It is not merely neurotic whose right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.  This predicament is a symptom of a general unconsciousness that is the undeniable common inheritance of all mankind.
Whoever denies the existence of the unconscious is in fact assuming that our present knowledge of the psyche is total.  And this belief is clearly just as false as the assumption that we know all there is to be known about the NATURAL universe.  Our psyche is part of nature, and its enigma is as limitless.  Thus we cannot define either the psyche or nature.  We can merely state what we believe them to be and describe, as best we can, how they function.  Quite apart, therefore, from the evidence that medical research has accumulated, there are strong grounds of logic for rejecting statements like "There is no unconscious".  Those who say such things merely express an age-old "misoneism" - A FEAR OF THE NEW AND THE UNKNOWN.
There are historical reasons for this resistance to the idea of an unknown part of the human psyche.  Consciousness is a very recent acquisition of nature, and it is still in an "experimental" state.  It is frail, menaced by specific dangers, and easily injured.  As anthropologists have noted, one of the most common mental derangements that occur among primitive people is what they call "the loss of a soul" - which means, as the name indicates, a noticeable disruption (or, more technically, a dissociation) of consciousness.
Among such people, whose consciousness is at a different level of development from ours, the "soul" (or psyche) is not felt to be a unit.
The individual's psyche is far from being safely synthesized; on the contrary, it threatens to fragment only too easily under the onslaught of unchecked emotions.
It is easy to understand why dreamers tend to ignore and even deny the message of their dreams.  Consciousness naturally resists anything unconscious and unknown.  "Civilized" man reacts to new ideas in much the same way, erecting psychological barriers to protect himself from the shock of facing something new.
First, the dream should be treated as a fact.
Second, the dream is a specific expression of the unconscious....When something slips out of our consciousness it does not cease to exist, any more than a car that has disappeared round a corner out of sight.  Just as we may later see the car again, so we come across thoughts that were temporarily lost to us.  Thus, part of the unconscious consists of a multitude of temporarily obscured thoughts, impressions, and images that, in spite of being lost, continue to influence our conscious minds.
This subliminal material can consist of all urges, impulses, and intentions: all perceptions and intuitions; all rational or irrational thoughts, conclusions, inductions, deductions, and premises; and all varieties of feeling.  Any or all of these can take the form of partial, temporary, or constant unconsciousness.  Such material has mostly become unconscious because - in a manner of speaking - there is no room for it in the conscious mind.
It is, in fact, normal and necessary for us to "forget" in this fashion, in order to make room in our conscious minds for new impressions and ideas.  If this did not happen, everything we experienced would remain above the threshold of consciousness and our minds would become impossibly cluttered.
But just as conscious contents can vanish into the unconscious, new contents, which have never yet been conscious, can arise from it.
The images and ideas that dreams contain cannot possibly be explained solely in terms of memory.  They express new thoughts that have never yet reached the threshold of consciousness.
Carl Gustav Jung was one of the great doctors of time and one of the great thinkers of the century.  His object always was to help men and women TO KNOW THEMSELVES, so that by self-knowledge and thoughtful self-use they could lead full, rich and happy lives.