Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Breaking News

Exploring the Collective Unconscious

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:

After a succession of fear driven trips, I felt like I might never have an easy happy trip again. The bad trips just kept happening, one after another. During one of the most fearful moments, I started to feel a new language appear in my head, and then involuntarily spill out of my mouth. I had no idea what it was at first. The words were unlike anything I had ever heard. Yet when I chanted them, my headspace calmed down and became more centered. Deep within myself, I felt that the words were the divine language that gave birth to all the languages that exist today. It was the basis for all the root words of all the languages. I was immediately at home when I was chanting or singing it. I knew that I had spoken it before in some other incarnation. My trips immediately started to get easier to navigate. I quickly discovered that the chants or songs could shift my consciousness and move my visions in the direction of their heritage. After researching the world’s religions, I discovered that my new language was very similar to the mantras of Hinduism and Buddhism and the speaking in tongues of Christianity.

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:

“Many years of research have demonstrated that in non-ordinary states of consciousness we can not only witness mythic and archetypal realities, we can actually become these archetypes. We can completely identify with Sisyphus rolling his rock up the steep hill in the depths of hades. We can become Theseus slaying the Minotaur in the dark labyrinth. We can radiate in with the beauty of Aphrodite or shine in the glory of Helius and Apollo. We can take on the body image and the inner experiences of such mythic creatures as Cerberus, Cyclopse, or Centaurus… …Occasionally, even the world of fairy tales comes alive, and we meet or identify with mermaids, elves, fairies, gnomes, or trolls.”


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.

Leave a Reply