Volume 1, Number 1
MAN'S SYMBOLS IN DREAMS
"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
"The Process of Individuation" describes the process
by which the conscious and the unconscious within the individual LEARN
TO KNOW, RESPECT, AND ACCOMMODATE ONE ANOTHER. The essence of Jung's
philosophy of life is: MAN BECOMES WHOLE, INTEGRATED, CALM, FERTILE,
AND HAPPY WHEN (AND ONLY WHEN) THE PROCESS OF INDIVIDUATION IS COMPLETE,
WHEN THE CONSCIOUS AND THE UNCONSCIOUS HAVE LEARNED TO LIVE AT PEACE AND
TO COMPLEMENT ONE ANOTHER.
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.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DREAMS:
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
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
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.