The Collective Unconscious!

Hello all,

Namaste! Hope all of you had a great weekend where you were able to use your talents,opportunities, and intent to align your duties more closely to your Dharma. Last three weeks we were discussing in some detail the energies the Graha Kuja brings and how we can work with his energy to bring vision, leadership, and strategy into our life. In those posts, we discussed how we can use the energies of Kuja to overcome the visible forces or circumstances that are piled against us to bring out our true purpose and authenticity. But what would be the scenario if these forces or circumstances are invisible or imperceptible? Today let us discuss such a subject called the 'Collective Unconscious'.

Carl Jung, Jung, Psychology, Collective, Unconscious
Carl Jung
By unknown, upload by Adrian Michael
(Ortsmuseum Zollikon) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As we discussed before, the Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung (pronounced Yung), brought out the term 'archetypes', about which we discussed in the 'Goddess' as well as the 'Wounded healer' posts. He also mentioned about a concept called the 'Collective Unconscious'. According to Jung, "There exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individual". He also mentions that this may not have developed individually but could have been inherited. What do we inherit from our ancestors, precisely? Our DNA. According to what Science has found out, we inherit the DNA from our parents. But haven't our parents inherited their DNA from their parents and theirs from the previous generations? Likewise how many times and in how many generations the DNA gets inherited?

Of course, along with nature (our DNA), nurture or the environment also puts its mark on the DNA. So according to the environment, our forefathers lived, definitely the outward expression of the DNA or the genetic material would have changed with successive generations. Even then can't we safely say there may be elements that passed on from generations to generations, which tie each person tightly with their ancestors? This is the case from the ancestors. Now let us elaborate more.

According to the archeological studies conducted, it has been proved that the human race started in Africa and migrated to different parts of the world. In that case, each and every one of us can be traced back to Africa to our ancient roots and ancestors. If that is the case, won't there be some remnant DNA elements that may be very ancient that was passed from generation to generation in all of our DNA? (My Biotechnology background becomes useful here to make sense of what I am writing ;-)). The way the Divine operates is just amazing. It places each one of us in situations where we can learn and acquire the knowledge we need to fully and authentically undertake the exact purpose (Dharma) each one of us is born to undertake. Only most of the times we miss the clues and hints and wander around in our life aimlessly for a long long time.) This point also elaborates on the fact that all of us humans are tied to a very common thread and each and every one of us is a single part that very much makes the whole. Only in our small minds, we think otherwise. ;-)).

Now a little bit of Evolution. In the case of the humans, we evolved as a distinct species called 'sapiens' from the Genus 'Homo' of the 'Hominid' family of Great Apes. When we first evolved as humans we were hunters and gatherers and used to get our food through hunting and accumulating. At that time we would have survived our dangers with the 'Fight or Flight' response. Even today we can see in really tense or chaotic situations, where we think when our or a close one's life is in danger, this primitive response kicks in. 

If this fight or flight response still we act out in some situations, can we safely say that because of the common history of hardship, struggle for survival and fight against the mere elements and animals we shared, some forms, patterns and elements of thoughts that very much influence us would have got etched permanently in our psyche (human soul or spirit)  and we act it out many times unconsciously? Above this the history of the human race has gone through the dark ages, plague epidemics, dictators like Hitler, Polpot and Stalin, two World wars and innumerous other wars. So what if we say all these experiences are saved in human race in our group unconscious (different ftom the subconscious mind) as hidden thought forms, patterns, and motifs. Let us presume these thought patterns and forms affect us unconsciously without our knowledge and it seeps through our behavior and thoughts unconsciously.

This system of the psyche, Jung calls as 'The Collective Unconscious' that he says has very much," collective, universal, and impersonal nature". So this is the Collective Unconscious. If such an impersonal, Universal psychic system indeed exists that is a huge influence which can work for us or against us (mostly against us nowadays) because, as individuals we have no knowledge about that, we act it out unconsciously and that system has helped us to survive many generations in the hard struggle for survival. This particular system has been effective for us as a human race to make us survive through dark ages, diseases, destruction, natural calamities as well as from animals that could have done us harm. This gives this unconscious pattern or behavior enormous strength to keep us tied to whatever is the normal of the society at that particular point in time.

This is the psychological blockade that we have to break or cross to do something that is very much new and innovative in nature. Think when we are going to undertake a particular project or endeavor that is innovative and one of a kind. The first barrier to pursuing it is the opinions of friends and family and our own negative thinking. Consider we are successful in overcoming that. Now comes our mental or psychological fear that is an enormous barrier. This fear actually (according to what I have read and also what my intuition tells me ), arises from this 'collective unconscious' that is situated deep in each of our psyche. This fear of the unknown elements, animals, and nature had kept us safe during the dark ages as well as the enormous trials the human race had to go through. So even today when we try to do something different from our ordinary behavior and patterns, this fear comes up as something which we can feel, but cannot really place and try to overcome it. This system can creep up as fear of the unknown, fear of the new, fear of change or fear of uncharted waters. Most of the time this psychic energy keeps us stuck exactly at the level our family or ancestors are without trying something new or innovative. The grasp of this unconscious system is huge and powerful.

If such a psychic system indeed exists, wouldn't it have seeped through the Mythological characters and historical figures? These are called as Archetypes by Carl Jung.  Now the archetypes also affect us as we draw strength from these historical/ mythological figures such as Sreerama, Jesus or Moses. So in the Collective Unconscious, the mythological, as well as the historical figures, also play their part which comes out as behavior in us that is unconscious or involuntary. Now into this mix, if according to Vedic/Indian Philosophy if we add the concept of previous lives, won't that also have an influence in our psyche, about which, we have no conscious information, but the knowledge or patterns can be hidden in us which when we decipher can give us an exact picture of who we really are? But then decoding it is a journey unto itself. Look at some quirk or behavior we may have that can be a clue towards unwrapping who we truly are. Like the musical or astrological talents passed down a family; all these put enormous influence on us and we have difficulty in knowing who we truly are. Many times who we think we are can be completely different from who we truly are. That is the gift we receive when we truly know ourselves, our own true Self. Once we become aware of that, we can start take actions for our life from this powerful place.

We discussed how Mythological characters can seep into our group psyche and can come out as archetypal behaviors. This also is an example of 'Collective unconscious'. So the collective unconscious is all the history humans have gone through including ancestral, mytholoical, historical, evolutionary as well as geographical aspects along with the trials and tribulations the humans had to go through. It is the whole package. Here instead of just narrating dry concepts let us look into one example. (As mentioned before I feel comfortable with Hindu Mythology and the stories I use for examples would be mostly from Hindu Mythology. ;-). This blog is definitely not about Hinduism or any other religions. I also believe Gods were made for us and once we truly know the divine within, that divine will guide us properly to our destiny.)

Draupadi- The courageous queen: Let us go to the story of the Pandava queen in Mahabharatha, who is called Panchali (पाञ्चाली ) or Draupadi (द्रौपदी). She was the daughter of King Drupada and later married the five Pandava princes, Yudhishtira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva. As she was a princess she was well versed in Dharma Sastra (Science of Dharma), Yudha tantra (Strategy for war) and in the usage of weapons. She was also well known around the kingdoms for her beauty as well as her brains. Many princes wanted to marry her and it was the Pandavas who became lucky. Among those who wanted to marry her, Dhuryodhana, the Kaurava prince (who was the cousin of Pandavas and had an enormous ego and who was the main person who brought out the Mahabharata war due to his arrogance and ego) was also there. So he always had a slight grudge towards Draupadi for rejecting him. ( a jilted lover?)

Pandava, Yudhishtira, Bhima, Arjuna,Nakula, Sahadeva, Draupadi
Pandavas with Draupadi
Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Indraprastha: Yudhishthira was the oldest among the Pandavas and Kauravas. He was given half the kingdom by the king Dhritarashtra, who was his uncle as well as Duryodhana's father. Duryodhana was not at all happy about this. Anyway Yudhishtira wanted to build a fantastic palace for himself as well as his brothers. Krishna (divine incarnate of the God Vishnu) was a guide and maternal cousin brother of the Pandavas and he called the celestial architect, Maya to build them a palace. Thus a fantastic palace, Indraprastha ( as good to be the abode of Indra, the heavenly king) was built. Yudhishthira invited all family and friends to partake in the palace warming ceremony. Among the Kings who came, Duryodhana was also there. After the ceremony Duryodhana was walking through the palace enjoying the view as well as becoming very jealous that Yudhishthira is having the palace, not him.

As Maya was the celestial architect, to show his building prowess, he had also created a hall of mirrors and illusions in the palace. Duryodhana was walking through this particular hall. When he reached a place he felt there was a pond with water. So not to wet his dress he took out his vastra (clothes) to par this pond. Then he realized there was no pond and it was just an illusion. Now he bacame embarrassed and put on his clothes. He started walking again. Now in another part, he saw the floor was nice and stepped on it without realizing it was actually a pond hidden under the guise of floor and fell into the pond. He was under the impression that no one was watching.

But from the balcony, Draupadi, as well as her husbands except for Yudhishtira, was watching the quandary of Duryodhana. They could not help it and all started laughing loudly. (There are opinions this laughing episode has not been narrated in Mahabharatha and later it took life as a political satire in drama and television serials in recent times in India. Anyway, this story is useful for this article at present.) Duryodhana was particularly upset at seeing Draupadi laughing at him. First of all, she is a lady and second, he very much wanted to marry her and had a grudge for her. So he was extremely upset that she was laughing at him. This he kept in his mind and waited for a chance to take revenge. Here note that Draupadi, a lady well educated in Sashtas and Dharma laughed at someone elses predicament.

Insult of Draupadi: Now Duryodhana was boiling with jealousy at the success of the Pandavas and burning with grudge against Pandavas for acquiring the kingdom and Draupadi and at Draupadi for not marrying him. He started to plot a scheme with his uncle Shakuni, who was a talented but conniving dice player. Finally they decided to challenge Yudhishtira for a dice game. Dice was a weakness for Yudhishira and he could not resist it.

So one fine day, in the court of Dhritharashtra the king, the dice game started between Yudhishtira and Shakuni for Dhuryodhana and the rule was for each game both of them had to bet something of value. Yudhishtira started with betting his palace (Indraprastha), his cows, his horses, his army and his kingdom itself. Every time he lost due to the fowl play of Shakuni. Next he started betting with his jewellery, weapons, and all the liquid assets.They were also gone in a second. Now Yudhishira had his brothers to bet. He started betting them for each game and finally lost all of them and they became slaves to Duryodhana and Kauravas. Finally he bet himself in the game and lost himself and the king himself became the slave to Duryodhana.The addiction of gambling!

Shakuni and Duryodhana started laughing and poking Yudhishtira and asked," Are you afraid to continue? Being a Kshatriya (warrior) how can you be afraid? May be you should go and hide than being a warrior."etc. So being a warrior he could not resist the challenge, so he decided to continue the game. The only person remaining he could bet in the game was their beloved wife and queen, Draupadi. Against the objection of his brothers, Yudhishtira bet Draupadi in the game and in a second lost her as well. Now she also became a slave to Duryodhana and the Kauravas.

Now Duryodhana got his chance to act on his revenge. First he sent a messenger to bring Draupadi to the court from the ladies quarters. Draupadi rejected this and send back message that Queens don't come to the court without proper invitation. Now Duryodhana became angry and exclaimed, "Such an ego for a slave?" and asked his brother Dussasana, another character who was filled with ego, arrogance and evilness, to bring Draupadi to the court pulling her by the hair.

Draupadi, insult, Dussasana, Court
Draupadi being insulted by Dussasana
By Mahavir Prasad Mishra [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

As Draupadi was considered a ravishing beauty, she also had very long hair and it was the pride of her husbands. Dussasana went to the ladies quarters and against her objections started pulling Draupadi by the hair and dragged her to the court. There she was insulted by undressing her in front of the full quorum of  the court. She first implored to her husbands to do something, then to King Dhritharashtra and later to the elders of the court, Bhishma, Drona, Vidura, Kripa and likewise. No one moved due to the fear of the wrath of Duryodhana. Finally Draupadi prayed to Krishna, the divine incarnation, who appeared in the court and by providing unending lengths of  Vasthra (Cloth) saved her from the insult and embarassment of being naked in the court. Such a terrible thing to happen, to a lady. Here want to reiterate, may the divine feminine get equal and fair status as the divine masculine. Both are two sides of the same coin and equal manifestations of the divine, otherwise Brahman.

Even though, seeing the plight of the Pandavas, and later extremely terrified of the effects of insulting a lady (ofcourse there is always a divine justice), Dhritharashtra gave back the full power and kingdom to the Pandavas; Draupadi was not ready to forgive Duryodhana or Dussasana. She turned to her second husband Bhima, who loved Draupadi very dearly and would do anything for her and asked him for a promise, that he should kill Duryodhana as well as Dussasana, his brother in the war. Bhima gave her the promise and above that she asked for one more promise, "Bhima, once you kill Dussasana, bring the blood from his stomach and anoint it on my hair. Only after that I will tie my hair again. Till then my hair will be left untied, the same hair that was pulled and dragged by Dussasana!"  In the Mahabharatha war which took place later, Bhima killed Duryodhana as well as Dussasana and brought the blood of Dussasana, to anoint Draupadi's hair so that she can tie it again.

Analysis: Now what is the point of narrating this story here and how is it tied to 'Collective Unconscious'? Here we have to keep in mind two points, 1,Draupadi laughed loudly at Duryodhana 
2, Draupadi left her hair untied for a very long time.

1, Draupadi laughed loudly: If any lady growing up in South Indian families (not sure of North Indian families, would be great if someone can enlighten) in the 1800-2000 (now things have very much changed), when they laugh loudly, are asked to not laugh loudly and are asked to repress their laughter and just give a kind of watered down smile. Every grandmother used to scold or correct their grand daughters to have modesty and not laugh out loud (nowadays we have emojis) as it was considered not lady like and could also bring in the attention of others. 

It was considered not lady like in that era; the beginnings of this tradition could have started from the 'laughter of Draupadi', which brought unending miseries to her as well as her husbands. This mythical story could have crept into the unconscious psyche of Indian society as they read and retold the story repeatedly so that it got integrated into the rules and traditions of the sociery and people unconsciously. Also people could have started unconsciously thinking that laughing out loud, especially by ladies at others, could bring in chaos in the family and that may not be good for the family unity, structure and peace. Ofcourse, the laughter of Draupadi created grudge in Duryodhana, and due to the grudge, illwill and jealousy Duryodhana carried,which ultimately led to the destruction of the Kuru dynasty. So here we can see from the mythological stories or other unconscious structures how behavior and patterns can seep into the society and become customs and traditions of the society.

2, Draupadi left her hair untied: In the second case Draupadi left her hair untied till Dussasana was killed and Bhima could bring the blood from the stomach of Dussasana. Here again in the 1800-2000, in many families ladies and girls were asked to tie their hair nicely and properly. It was a big No to leave the hair open and show the beauty of their hair to the outside world. This was very much true when ladies had to go outside and they were always forbade to leave their hair open. Have heard grand mothers and uncles being very strict about this, in many of the South Indian families. 

May be the roots of this custom is hidden deeply in how Draupadi's untied hair brought down a whole dynasty and this custom or behavior got integrated into  societal psyche and later it even imbibed as a superstition into the rituals and customs every family practiced. There could also have been the unconscious fear (Collective unconscious) that untied hair of ladies can bring down the whole family from its status and prosperity. Is there any truth in such a custom? No idea. But in the Mythology it was true that due to the oath Draupadi took for the misery she had to go through, the Pandavas became energized to fight the Kauravas and annihilate the entire Kuru dynasty.

These are just two small examples to show how the patterns, behaviors and bearings  of long lost yester years could seep into the collective unconscious and stay there as motifs, thought forms and processes that affect the human race as a whole and which many times a single person cannot realize consciously, but very much influence our behavior and thoughts unconsciously.

The first step to overcome this huge psychic obstruction towards finding our very own true destiny is to become aware or conscious of it. It can take the form of fear of change, fear of new, fear of unknown or fear of consequences. This psychological  barrier is one of the toughest to overcome and many times infront of this enormous energy blockade called the 'Collective Unconscious' we single human beings falter as a butterfly without wings.Once we become conscious of it we can start taking actions to overcome it. 

Becoming conscious of it allows us to take one step at a time, and have the will power and mental grit to take proper actions to overcome it, so that we can bring in our true purpose and destiny that awaits us when we find our personal power. Wishing every one the will power and mettle to overcome this massive psychic obstruction and capture the true spirit of the divine spark that is embodied in every single human being.

I wish you a good weekend and I'll see you next Friday! 😉

Next week: Draupadi -The bold Queen!
 
Note:
Images from Wikimedia Commons.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance ; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried".  


 
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