Here comes a short definition of the collective unconcious, by Roberto Assagioli. (see also unconscious)
“Jung’s most important contribution to the psychology of the unconscious is represented by his extensive studies of the collective unconscious. Before him, psychoanalysis had concerned itself almost exclusively with the study of the personal unconscious. Jung then showed the great extent of collective psychic elements and forces, which exercise a powerful effect on the human personality. In my diagram* of the constitution of the psyche, the collective unconscious is represented as lying outside the individual psyche. The demarcation line is dotted, to suggest the continuous exchanges going on between the collective and the personal unconscious. The unconscious exists at all levels, in both the personality and the collective psyche.
The collective unconscious is a vast world stretching from the biological to the spiritual level, in which therefore distinctions of origin, nature, quality and value must be made. It should be noted that Jung often disregards these distinctions: he speaks of the collective unconscious en bloc and is inclined to confuse what he terms “archaic”, that is, what originates in the ancient collective human experience, with what is higher (we would say superconscious) and in the spiritual sphere. Thus Jung speaks or “archetypes” as “images”; but at times he describes them as archaic, racial images, charged with a strong emotional tone accumulated during the centuries, and on other occasions he treats them as principles, as “ideas”; and he himself suggests their affinity with the Platonic ideas. In reality, there exists not only a difference but an actual antagonism between these two conceptions of “archetypes”, and from this confusion between them arise various debatable consequences, debatable at the theoretical level and liable to be harmful in therapy, as I shall have occasion to mention in speaking of Jungian therapy. In my opinion, it can be said without disrespect that Jung himself has been dominated by the potent fascination of the collective unconscious, against which he puts his patients on guard.” (C. G. Jung and Psychosynthesis)« Back to Glossary Index