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What is the Collective Unconscious exactly?

I read about 3/4's of Jungs collective works on this subject. I had to put it down. I was left baffled. While reading the book I got the impression the Collective Unconscious was some sort of reservoir of ancient myths and memories we all carry in our deep subconscious, which historically repeat themselves, in the forms of stories, and people. I understand the bare bones interpretation and applicable theory: that all our psyches are molded from a sort of blueprint, a psychological structure if you will, which everyone is born with. This blueprint being separate from our personal psyches which develop with experience, but just as pervasive in our everyday experience. Am I getting close to the mark here?

I would also like to discuss Jung's beliefs and interpretations, as well as anyone elses.

- Individuation.
- Archetypes.
- Synchronicity.
- The unconscious. Is it something we all have in common or something we all share? As in one collective unconscious, as opposed to many of the same unconsciouses.

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    Jul 14 2013: I his book "Memories, Dreams, Reflections", Jung expresses great difficulty he had in reconciling his scientific work with the vital personal and experiential work necessary in studying the unconscious. This concentrated study of the personal and the collective unconscious subsequently led to him to be:

    "...utterly incapable of reading a scientific book. This went on for three years. I felt I could no longer keep up with the world of the intellect..."

    This is perhaps indicative of the gulf of understanding that exists between what can be obviously and scientifically evidenced, and that which can only be experienced - and that therefore, attempting a scientific understanding of the collective unconscious is impossible.

    Some of Jung's theories are difficult to grasp, and if it what he says doesn't respond to the scientific method, it gets dismissed as rubbish.

    Despite seeming unreal, I think Jung is right about the collective unconscious being inherited, ancestral, and full of archetypes and instinct. How else do we instinctively know how to do things and respond appropriately to external stimuli without being taught by anyone at all?
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      Jul 15 2013: re: "which can only be experienced "

      Might it be just as impossible to experience it?
      If we are to speculate about Jung's ideas let's do so with respect to how it might have benefit of recent revelations in science.

      re: "if it what he says doesn't respond to the scientific method, it gets dismissed as rubbish."

      Not "rubbish" just unsubtantiated conjectures. Who ever said "rubbish?"

      re: "How else do we instinctively know how to do things and respond appropriately to external stimuli without being taught by anyone at all?"

      Example please?
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        Jul 15 2013: "Not "rubbish" just unsubtantiated conjectures. Who ever said "rubbish?"

        Scroll down five or six comments.

        "If we are to speculate about Jung's ideas let's do so with respect to how it might have benefit of recent revelations in science."

        Experience is not science.

        "Example please?"

        We are full of instincts, as are all other animals. An infant instinctively knows how to suckle a breast, and a mother has "built in" maternal instincts. A bird instinctively knows how to fly...

        These things are not taught. They are buried deep inside in the unconscious as collective knowledge, completely removed from the intellect.
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          Jul 15 2013: re: They are buried deep inside in the unconscious as collective knowledge, completely removed from the intellect.

          Metaphorical sounding but nothing is "buried deep inside" It must reside somewhere, perhaps in the brain.
          In Information Behavior: An Evolutionary Instinct (2010, pp. 35–42), Amanda Spink notes that "currently in the behavioral sciences instinct is generally understood as the innate part of behavior that emerges without any training or education in humans." She claims that the viewpoint that information behavior has an instinctive basis is grounded in the latest thinking on human behavior. Furthermore, she notes that "behaviors such as cooperation, sexual behavior, child rearing and aesthetics are [also] seen as 'evolved psychological mechanisms' with an instinctive basis (Buss, 2008; Dickens & Cohen, 2003; Geary, 2004)." Spink adds that Stephen Pinker similarly asserts that language is instinctive in humans in his book, The Language Instinct, How the mind creates language, (1994).
        • Jul 19 2013: Allan,
          you said : " Science is not experience "
          That's maybe true, but science is not standing apart from experience.
          " A particle, we were told, is also a wave "
          It's your comment, remember ? :) And probably 'Jung's ideas might have benefit of recent revelations in science' I am not talking about proofs, have never heard of those, but ' matches' , correspondences in different domains, i think, can be found.

          Here are some 'matches' that might serve the purpose :

          Mandelbrot set . Fractals.

          QM in D. Bohm interpretation ( it's important, because he built non locality in it )

          The holonomic brain theory ( Karl Primbram )

          Morphic Resonance. ( Rupert Sheldrake )

          On your consideration : )
        • Jul 21 2013: Hi , Allan !
          Yes, i agree with what you say ! The main problem is that Science has become the source of Truth ... eternal Platonic Truth ! And even more so , the only source of Truth. What is not scientific is naive and not true.
          But may i try to describe the picture as i see it in the context of Jung's unconscious ?
          You say "... cognition follows a distinct path, or hierarchy, beginning at the experiential (full of doubt) and ending at what we like to see as 'certain'. "
          Yes, but let's continue ... later in XX th century it came to Uncertainty Principle. The Doctrine of objectivity which was so holy in this enterprise became redundant. And here a new science starts to emerge. What now is called 'pseudoscience' is what science becomes. It needs time to establish itself. I've studied the history of science and my impression is that it fallows the script, sometimes the fingers of the editors are clearly seen. I kid you not ! :) And what is the play ?
          " Prodigal Son " ( Collective unconscious ? I tend to think , yes )

          "It is indeed interesting that QM is accepted as real science"

          It's the script, it leaves no choice.
          QM description of reality is the most accurate description of the world, we can test it against our own experience and it is in congruence with ancient ( intuitive ) science. It spells death to Cartesian mindset, Amen :)
          Wave/particle duality has a lot to do with not less than everything. It's a pattern, which reveals itself on different scales. ( It's the nature of fractals )When i said , that science is not standing apart form experience, i meant experience as a ' non algorithmic state of mind ' A kind of momentarily ' knowing' that is translated later into a lower dimensional ' knowledge '. I meant, scientific breakthroughs.
          I would say, that science is not experience, but what is left after... It's what generally geniuses do , they translate their experience into music, poetry, paintings ...equations, theories.
        • Jul 21 2013: cont.
          This grasping after is never perfect. Because mind is in the business of creating ' a particle', but there is a bright side, a particle never leaves the domain of a wave where it is embedded, they are entangled.
          Just to illustrate my point :
          Beethoven once said : if you can hear what I can hear, you wouldn't bother with what I've written.
          He 'tapped' into the wave, his music what was left. With science it is not so obvious, but it is relevant to scientific revelations too . It's attention to attention that helps a scientist to make a leap. Look at Mandelbrot set ,it's magic !

          Sorry for being too wordy ! :)
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          Jul 23 2013: "We are shaped by the definition and expectations of our surroundings"
          Robert Kegan's theory of adult meaning-making has influenced theory and practice internationally across multiple disciplines. In a special RSA event, he considers: is it really possible to grow beyond the psychological independence of the "self-authoring mind," so often seen as the zenith of adult development?

          http://www.thersa.org/events/video/vision-videos/robert-kegan

          "the both/and perceptive, not an either/or perceptive."
      • Jul 19 2013: Theodore,
        probably, Pribram's theory is what are you searching for, it's a scientific research.
        It suggests, that your brain acts like a self-contained hologram, the reasoning goes, then isn't it possible your consciousness is actually a piece of a much larger hologram of overall human consciousness; that is, of the collective unconscious?

        And maybe you should check out 'Morphic Resonance', Rupert Sheldrake insists that memory is not stored in the brain, inside neural cells, but transduces to some field medium external to the brain.

        You said : "... nothing is "buried deep inside" It must reside somewhere, perhaps in the brain."

        Information is not physical until it is made such by mind, and it does not reside in the brain. Brain is a biological hardware and by itself is a condensed information ; to seek " It " in the brain is like to seek a little man in the radio :)
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          Jul 20 2013: Hi Natasha,

          "science is not standing apart from experience"

          I think it does stand apart, at least in the initial stages of human cognition of phenomena that have hitherto been inconceivable. I think cognition follows a distinct path, or hierarchy, beginning at the experiential (full of doubt) and ending at what we like to see as 'certain'. This is a reductionist process which seems always to end in the type of science that becomes increasingly blind to related phenomena and context. The scientists occupying the latter end of that spectrum therefore see the former as 'pseudoscience'. The progression of reductionism being a form of blindness to all except that which their own specialism already knows, or that which can be evidenced using similar 'reduced knowledge' from other science disciplines.

          That hierarchy, I surmise, is reflected in similar progression from the unconscious to consciousness. It seems that all we have been able to conceive and all we are ever likely to conceive, has its birthplace in the unconscious, yet modern science dismisses the manifestations of the unconscious as bogus pseudoscience - which is the area occupied by the likes of Rupert Sheldrake and Karl H Pribram.

          It is indeed interesting that QM is accepted as real science, yet something like morphic resonance is not. Both were probably conceived in the light of similar levels of doubt.
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          Jul 23 2013: In this TEDTalk Antonio Damasio discusses a part of the brain that he proposes contribute to the emergence of consciousness.

          He say, "There is the brain stem in between the cerebral cortex and the spinal cord. And it is within that region that I'm going to highlight now that we have this housing of all the life-regulation devices of the body. This is so specific that, for example, if you look at the part that is covered in red in the upper part of the brain stem, if you damage that as a result of a stroke, for example, what you get is coma or vegetative state, which is a state, of course, in which your mind disappears, your consciousness disappears. What happens then actually is that you lose the grounding of the self, you have no longer access to any feeling of your own existence, and, in fact, there can be images going on, being formed in the cerebral cortex, except you don't know they're there. You have, in effect, lost consciousness when you have damage to that red section of the brain stem.

          But if you consider the green part of the brain stem, nothing like that happens. It is that specific. So in that green component of the brain stem, if you damage it, and often it happens, what you get is complete paralysis, but your conscious mind is maintained. You feel, you know, you have a fully conscious mind that you can report very indirectly. This is a horrific condition. You don't want to see it. And people are, in fact, imprisoned within their own bodies, but they do have a mind. "

          The red brain part that he is referring to is the "Tectum."

          see the illustration here @ 11:46 http://www.ted.com/talks/antonio_damasio_the_quest_to_understand_consciousness.html

          Now the reason for bringing this up is that any other alternative explanation for consciousness would be to include an explanation of this brain component since without in we lose our consciousness.
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          Jul 23 2013: re: "check out 'Morphic Resonance', Rupert Sheldrake insists that memory is not stored in the brain"

          Memory is not "stored" in the brain, it is deconstructed and reconstructed in the brain. Information about an experience is broken down into it essential bits, this is how a memory can be retrieved in many different ways.
          There are several types of memory; short-term memory, long term memory, and others. Research demonstrates that even when the brain is unable to make new memory due to disease or damage, the brain can still form procedural memory, meaning we can still learn new tasks.

          Alternative explanation would still need to provide a framework that informs us how the physical components of the brain plays a role in memory, what parts retrieves the from the field. We are physical beings and there needs to be a physical explanation. Obviously humans brains are different in some ways from those of other animals. These brain difference allow us the experience we have and they do not have.

          There currently is no such framework that I am aware of.
      • Jul 24 2013: Theodore,
        you say : alternative explanation for consciousness would be to include an explanation of this brain component since without in we lose our consciousness.

        We loose the sense of self, what consciousness does in this situation nobody can tell, because nobody's home to watch . Consciousness and Self are not disconnected , but they are not identical either.

        May i invite you to the thought experiment ?

        We both look at the same object, let it be the chair. We don't have any doubts that we see the same object, but to be sure we can test our certainty through detailed description, measurement, touch...and so on. We can invite a couple of thousands more people and have the same results. Right ?
        But how to reconcile it with a scientific fact, that our chair is 9.999999....% empty space ??? ( Nobody knows how particles get their masses hence what matter is). Literally the chair does not exist !
        So...how do we do that ???
        The only plausible answer , to my mind, is that we share collective image, illusion. Wouldn't be reasonable to suggest that ' image' goes through your mind and your brain delivers... make it physical to you, my brain to me ?
        Who/what is you/me , in this fine situation ?
        It's more or less clear for me, that it's not me who have consciousness, it's consciousness, whatever it is, has me, goes through me.
        Age-old question arises " Who am I ?" If we can answer this question, no questions would be left, i guess :)

        Re : There currently is no such framework that I am aware of.

        Neither am i .
        Could it be that matter emerges from mind, and not the other way around?
        Can Cartesian dualism be solved?
        Double slit experiment shows that mind of the observer is the major player.
        Could it be that Consciousness is the Game ?

        Thanks for responding !
        I do appreciate it !
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          Jul 24 2013: I appreciate your analogy here and can provide another one to consider.

          " The number of bacteria living within the body of the average healthy adult human are estimated to outnumber human cells 10 to 1.

          To use the chair comparison, are you really "you?"
      • Jul 24 2013: Probably, " Coincidentia Oppositorum" is the only safe ground.

        There is no 'me' and i do really exist . Simultaneously.
        So do the bacterias which i host or vice versa :)
        Edited

        Quanta M.... fluctuates between the state of existence and non existence 3 billions times per second. So, it exists and does not exist simultaneously.
        So do " I "
        I'll try to find the link, if you are interested. The quanta in question has the name started with M
    • Jul 15 2013: ".... I felt I could no longer keep up with the world of the intellect..."

      Apparently, not only geniuses face this problem :)
    • Comment deleted

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        Jul 24 2013: You added an "a" to my statement. Just a small semantic change altered its meaning completely.

        What I said was: "Experience is not science" - meaning many feelings and perceptions cannot be directly ascribed to scientific process.

        Jung had a scientific grounding upon which he built his own experiences, feelings and perceptions. This is the way of psychology and psychoanalysis - a study of what we are as well as who we are. So yes it had occurred to me for quite some time that many of Jung's writings were not scientific at all. And furthermore, they didn't have to be.

        What is your interpretation of Jung's works?
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        Jul 25 2013: Yes thank you XYZ, I'm aware of the differences between psychology and psychoanalysis. Perhaps more than you think.

        XYZ sounds very formal. May I call you abc?

        You ask for my interpretation of Jung's works, yet refuse to give yours? This is shaping up to be a non-argument. Not very scientific, and certainly not balanced.

        You seem to want to want to turn the disciplines of psychology and psychoanalysis into science-only certainties, full of metarules, functions and laws. That's a bit like turning a human brain into a computer; it can't be done.

        The thing about psychoanalysis, is that it is interpretive - you are correct. What makes it so interesting is that it will always be so. It will always be apart from science, yet will always act as a 'feeder' for the scientific study of human behaviour. That's a good representation of the hierarchy of understanding things generally - interpretation first, followed by science.
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        Jul 25 2013: You're not hearing what I'm saying Mr XYZ. Not only are you abc, you also appear to be def.

        You seem to be fixed on the idea that scientific and interpretive disciplines should be kept apart from each other in the study of human behaviour. It is in fact crucial that the two work together.

        As you are studiously unwilling to discuss Jungian methodology (which is the main thrust of the original question), here's a few simpler thoughts about human behaviour you might be interested in:

        http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/06/no-wonder-people-use-pseudonyms-when-talking-trash/

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)

        (Looking in the mirror might help)
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      Jul 26 2013: "How else do we instinctively know how to do things and respond appropriately to external stimuli without being taught by anyone at all?"

      Because we lived before? Reincarnated?

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