by Krystle Cole
Carl Gustav Jung (1981) coined the term collective unconscious. He theorized that:
“In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical psyche (even if we tack on the personal unconscious as an appendix), there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.”
In many ways, entheogens have helped prove that Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious is correct. We have discovered that this shared consciousness is extremely multi-faceted. Experiences of this nature can be specifically ancestral and contain many culturally historic themes pertaining to your heritage. At the same time, they are not limited to this; they often encompass a much larger group of people or contain themes from other cultures that you may never have even heard of before.
Many of these experiences are often deeply spiritual and are filled with many real verifiable facts about the religions they are concerning. Sometimes it feels as if you are there just observing the events take place before you; while at other times, it feels like you are actually there re-living them. This type of experience can help you develop a greater understanding of the spiritual practices of the other cultures, as well as your own. It can also help you empathize with other cultural groups throughout history.
During thousands of sessions of LSD assisted psychotherapy, doctors observed patients assume complex postures (asanas), perform gestures (mudras), and even speak languages that were obviously from ancient cultures. The subjects often had no prior knowledge of these cultures’ spiritual practices. Yet, during their trips they were able to tap into the shared memories and re-live many of the peoples’ collective spiritual experiences.
According to Stanislav Grof (1993):
“with no previous knowledge or training they engaged in movements characteristic of the !King Bushman trance dance, the whirling of the dervishes from the Sufi tradition, ritual dances performed in Java or Bali, and symbolic gestures of the Indian Kathakali that express themes from Hindu mythology, as they are performed along the Malabar coast. On occasion, people experiencing other lives speak in languages-sometimes obscure, archaic ones-of which they have no knowledge in their ordinary lives. In some instances, the authenticity of the languages used has been confirmed through audio recordings made of sessions where this phenomenon occurred. In other cases, the vocal performances had all the elements of a language, but were unable to decipher what was being said.”
Whenever I have experienced this type of headspace, it has been very profound and meaningful to me. There’s no better way to learn about another religion or spiritual tradition than actually re-living it yourself. It is difficult to even begin to describe the beauty and the magnitude of this type of experience; the words do not exist in our language. Yet, I will go ahead and try to explain what it felt like to me for the first time:
These experiences are shaped by the shared concepts of all humanity and, because of this, they are often very diverse. Many times, they involve spiritual practices of cultures throughout history and from around the world, like described above. However, they can encompass many other concepts; they also can be about mythical creatures, aliens, and other cosmic forces that, again, we as humans have all co-conceptualized. Stanislav Grof (1993) explains that:
Grof, S., H.Z. Bennett. 1993. The Holotropic Mind. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Jung, C. G. 1981. The Archetypes And The Collective Unconscious (2nd ed.). Princeton University Press.