The historical roots of the psychological theory of the Universal Unconscious (or Collective Unconscious) comes from a variety of religions and beliefs that viewed the existence of the Universe, not as something having a specific beginning and ending, but as a timeless and ethereal world in which the memory and life essence of all living things existed for eternity.
Most modern religions and schools of psychiatry reject the theory of the Collective Unconscious because it acknowledges the reality of an influential existence that cannot be recreated through rational experimentation. The Collective Unconscious is only revealed through anecdotal investigation and intuitive psychological exploration. Carl Jung summarizes the Collective Unconscious by saying that it is our psychic inheritance, the reservoir of our experiences as a species; that while we are never directly aware of it, it influences all of our experiences and behaviors.
The Collective Unconscious
The Universal Unconscious is a common history of experience that human beings are born with, without having had that experience in their personal life. The Collective Unconscious is the root of our empathy in which our ability to feel and identify with another person is not based upon our understanding through our own experience, but our ability to relate to them based upon an understanding what an experience means in the scope of human life. It is also the source of all knowledge and wisdom that exceeds a person’s experiential ability to have learned.
What Carl Jung was attempting to do was to create a framework in which the psychiatric community could understand the Astral Plane. As you read further in this module, when a person exists in ignorance of their Astral Body and the Astral Plane, it can cause mental and emotional disturbances in their life. Jung, based upon his studies and experiences with patients, had come to recognize that this form of “soul sickness” was very real yet could be treated by reconnecting the person with the Universal Unconscious.
Roberto Assagioli created the clearest psychological explanation that describes the duality of our existence as physical and ethereal beings, in his development of the theory of Psychosynthesis. You are most likely familiar with a watered down version of Assagioli’s work as it was used as the basis for the pop psychology theory of Transactional Analysis made famous by Thomas Harris MD in his book, “I’m Ok, You’re OK.”
Stages of Awareness
The most important part of Assagioli’s work was his ability to create a diagram that showed the relationship of the different planes of existence within a person’s physical life and he created an outline of the stages of awareness that a person moves through as they mature psychologically.
In developing his theory, Assagioli thought that healing childhood trauma and developing a healthy ego were necessary aims of therapy, but held that it could not be limited to this alone. A student of philosophical traditions of East and West, Assagioli sought to address human growth in a holistic manner, going beyond the point of a healthy ego to addressing the spiritual or transpersonal dimensions of human experience as well.
Assagioli states the goals and tasks of psychosynthesis as:
- The elimination of the conflicts and obstacles, conscious and unconscious, that block the complete and harmonious development of the human personality.
- The use of active techniques to stimulate the psychic functions still weak and immature.
Assagioli explains planes of existence as
- The Lower Unconscious
- The Middle Unconscious
- The Higher Unconscious
- The Field of Consciousness
- The Conscious Self or “I”
- The Higher Self
- The Collective Unconscious