Continuing our series on Jung and Yoga, we explore the common threads between Yoga Philosophy and Jungian Psychology. In this episode, we explore the unconscious mind, both personal and collective, and what both east and west approaches talk about the unconscious aspect of ourselves.
- Understand Jung’s concept of the unconscious both personal and collective
- What the Upanishads say about Karma and how Jung saw this play out psychologically
- Hear about Arjuna’s Vision of Krishna’s Universal Form and how this ties into Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious
- How to make the unconscious conscious and change your life
Debra Maldonado 00:27
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I’m Debra Berndt Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. We’re continuing our series on Jung and yoga, how they merge together, East versus West. But before we begin our topic today, I wanted to remind you to subscribe to our podcast, either through Spotify, iTunes, or anywhere you’re listening to our podcast. If you’re watching us on YouTube, there’s a button in the corner of this video. Please click Subscribe, so you don’t miss a single episode. We’re continuing our series on Jung and yoga. Last week, we talked about the ego.
Rob Maldonado 01:10
That was an interesting concept to compare how Jung saw ego, and how it’s conceived of in yoga philosophy.
Debra Maldonado 01:21
In this episode we’re gonna go deeper, we’re gonna go beyond the ego to the part of us that we can’t see directly, how to realize the power of the collective unconscious. We’re going to talk about the unconscious mind in Jung and yoga, but most specifically the collective unconscious.
Rob Maldonado 01:43
Everyone has heard of the unconscious mind. But often, it’s understood to mean the personal unconscious, what Jung called the personal unconscious. It’s seen as a collection of all your past experiences, the things you’ve repressed into your personal unconscious, the things you’ve forgotten, you’ve learned and forgotten, but are still in there. That’s the personal unconscious.
Debra Maldonado 02:13
When you learn how to tie your shoes, it stores into the template, you don’t have to pull it up, the program pulls it up for you. When you drive a car or ride a bike, all these things are automatic, and everything about our personality basically is on autopilot.
Rob Maldonado 02:28
It’s an important part in psychoanalysis, Freud’s idea, then Jung’s idea of analytical psychology, you have to start with the personal unconscious, because it is replete with all these complexes, hang ups, and stuff we have been dealt with, in the personal unconscious. But Jung had this incredible idea, because he was looking to match what the ancient spiritual practices were doing throughout time, which was taken individual through spiritual transformation. He came up with this idea of the collective unconscious, a much deeper layer to the unconscious mind. He got the idea from a dream we had.
Debra Maldonado 03:25
The dream was, he was in a house, then he realized “This is my house.” I think a lot of people have had this dream, where you’re going, then you’re realizing there’s all these other different rooms. He started exploring, he kept opening doors and seeing what’s inside. The first level was dark and had the same furniture from his era. But then he opened this door and saw a spiral staircase that went down below. He started exploring, he kept going to layer upon layer of these basements of this house. The first layer was a Roman time antiquities, then deeper into more early man times, and kept going deeper and deeper to the origins of man. He said “This is really incredible that there’s this all these layers. Why do I have access to that? Human beings must have access.” That’s what he started seeing in different cultures, they all had the same themes and same rituals, the same way they look at things. Humanity has a collectiveness to it, we’re not isolated and learning everything in this life. There’s more of a universal part of ourselves that’s connected to the history of man.
Rob Maldonado 04:53
He found the key to a lot of what was going on in ancient spiritual traditions and certainly in yoga philosophy, he found the reservoir of creativity, of religious symbols, of spiritual inspiration, of even art because art used to be tied very much to spiritual traditions, in that the artist was inspired by the Divine to create these powerful symbols, amulets, and religious symbolism that inspired and guided people throughout their lives. In essence, we’re talking about the realm of the gods. Jung’s psychology opened up studies like comparative religion, comparative mythologies, understanding of culture and ritual in a deeper way. When talking about the realms of the gods, in all traditions, both Eastern and Western, we see that he’s getting at something very different than just the personal unconscious. He’s getting at this deeper layer of existence that spiritual traditions have always talked about. But his idea was that we’ve lost it in modern societies because we live so much on the surface, the paradigm adopted by Western technological society has been one of materialism. That whole idea of this rich reservoir of inspiration, spirituality, art, and science has been forgotten essentially, it’s been relegated to superstition.
Debra Maldonado 07:03
In a way sometimes it’s captured in movies, the superhero movies and mythologies, like Game of Thrones, or Lord of the Rings. These archetypes, there’s always the hero, the victim, the heroine, the wise one, all very similar characters that keep recurring. Then if you look at our life, even in the waking world, there’s the same characters playing out, it’s almost like we have this template that we live out all the time, unconsciously.
Rob Maldonado 07:40
Jung definitely believed that the individual, through peering inward, through the individuation process he talks about, this self-transformation, was able to access the collective unconscious. It wasn’t something that you could only study academically, it was, or is, a part of our psyche, through dreams, like his own dream of the house, you could experience that deeper part of yourself.
Debra Maldonado 08:20
Everyone can relate to dreams in their life, big dreams. You wonder what it really means, there’s a part of me that’s trying to speak with me in a very metaphorical way, it has this numinous quality, this floating quality, we all have those mystical moments. Then we wake up and think “That was because I watched that show, I’m pulling in those characters.” But it really is this idea that we’re connected to this deeper intelligence, that intelligence is speaking to us in dreams, and in the world if we live a symbolic life.
Rob Maldonado 08:57
The central concept helping us understand the collective unconscious is the idea of the archetype. A lot of people have trouble understanding the archetype precisely because they’re at the personal level and want to understand “What does it mean to for me?” Anything that means something to you particularly is part of the personal unconscious, it has to do with your personal history and interpretation.
Debra Maldonado 09:26
For example, if your play the victim archetype, you’re basically identifying with that role from your personal experience. It’s not really the archetype, it’s more of the ego.
Rob Maldonado 09:41
But the collective nature of the archetype, the universal nature of the archetype is precisely that it’s pointing to the collective layer of the psyche, not the personal. If we ask if this is the realm of the gods, in Western traditions, we know the Greeks had this incredible pantheon of gods on Mount Olympus, Athena, Apollo, and all these incredible gods who represented aspects of the psyche, not the personal unconscious, but the deeper layer, the collective unconscious. You have gods of fertility, gods of thunder, gods of the ocean. These are archetypal images, ideas, patterns. That’s the usefulness of Jung’s work, it allows us to keep the understanding of those traditions in a psychological way.
Debra Maldonado 10:52
On a personal level, we think about our memories of things that happen to us, why we do certain things. Whereas the archetypes on the collective level are really collective patterns of being in humanity. We’re seeing our patterns, basically, on a collective level, which is a lot more profound. I was raised Catholic, we pray to the saints, there was a saint for marriage, there’s a saint for abundance, there’s a saint for when you’re sick. They borrowed that idea right from the gods in the Celtic and those religions that pray to different gods, now they call them saints. But you see these patterns they have, greater responsibilities and greater human needs versus just little personality traits. These are forces of the universe and forces of the psyche.
Rob Maldonado 11:57
That’s as close as we can get to a definition of an archetype. It’s a universal force. What universal means that it applies to all of us, everyone.
Debra Maldonado 12:14
For a person, they could either unconsciously take on the archetype as a role and make it inflated, like they’re the god or they’re the grand hero. Or they can choose the archetype consciously and not have the ego attached to it and actually use the true force of that archetype.
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Rob Maldonado 13:32
You mentioned Catholicism. The concept of the Trinity is a big part of Catholicism, in Christianity in general. In yoga philosophy, or in the Indic older philosophy of the Vedas, there’s a similar idea of a trinity. You have Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, all representing one aspect of one divine force, Brahman, absolute consciousness. Brahma, not to be confused with Brahman, is the Creator God. Vishnu is the sustainer. Shiva is the destroyer. The cycle of life.
Debra Maldonado 14:28
So there’s a sustainer that keeps everything. There needs to be the balance between creating and destruction, that sustainer, or else everything would be destroyed. There has to be some element of holding everything together.
Rob Maldonado 14:46
In Christianity, what’s the Trinity? The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You could say the spirit, the Holy Ghost is the feminine principle. But that’s another topic. This idea of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva is an interesting one, which leads us into the idea of what these archetypes are talking about. Creation, of course, the creator, God, very similar to the way Yahweh is expressed in the Old Testament. He is the Creator but he also intervenes in human culture, in history, which is the sustainer. He’s taken on all these roles. But he is also the destroyer. He relishes brimstone and fire on cities, which is the destructive power of the divine force. You see these archetypal forces, elements, playing throughout history in different ways. The Upanishads say one incredible thing that always holds true. The truth is always the same. The absolute reality is always there, it’s always the same, people will find it in whatever way they seek it out, but they will call it by different names. It says the truth is one but the wise call it by many names.
Debra Maldonado 16:39
The idea of the collective unconscious, the realm of the gods, how does that serve us to understand these things?
Rob Maldonado 16:50
The idea of this collective unconscious, what in yoga philosophy, or the philosophy of the Upanishads would be called the universal form of Brahman, it serves us because it gives us, as human beings, an understanding of what is it that we’re dealing with when we’re dealing with the world, with our mind, with what we call reality and unreality. It defines all those things for us. If we don’t have an understanding of what it is that we’re experiencing, when we’re experiencing our own awareness of things, then we start to believe that the appearance of things, the apparent reality, is real. That’s the mistake the ego makes.
Debra Maldonado 17:52
What you’re saying is what we’re not conscious of is actually more real than what we’re conscious of?
Rob Maldonado 18:02
It becomes for us important and real because if we’re not conscious of it, we project it onto the world. What I experienced in the past, what I started to believe about myself and the world from my past experience, is what I now know is real. We don’t ever question it. The limitations of our life, the way we bump up against obstacles, we started to think they’re coming from the outside, I don’t have anything to do with this, I’m helpless against this because they’re external to me. That’s the illusion we fall into. If we don’t understand the nature of reality, how it’s constructed, maintained, and destroyed, we’re lost, we’re caught up in our personal experience, personal bubble of conditioning.
Debra Maldonado 19:02
What I was going to get to is that Jung had said that our shadow is closer to our true self than our persona. Have you heard that before? What’s true about us is not always apparent in the waking world.
Rob Maldonado 19:21
That’s true. In that sense, the mental, or what we consider mental, is closer to reality than what we consider material out there.
Debra Maldonado 19:34
Our imagination is more real than what we pick up with our senses.
Rob Maldonado 19:40
Yes, but that has to do with other subjects. This is from the Gita, Arjuna asked Krishna to show him this collective unconscious. This is in the Gita, Chapter 11. In essence, he’s asking to see the evidence. A lot of our students want to see it. Creation, representing the higher self here, the divine element, he’s actually considered an avatar of Vishnu. Krishna consents to showing Arjuna, his pupil, his universal form. Once Arjuna sees it, he says “My dear Lord Krishna, I see assembled together in your body, all the demigods, and various other living entities, I see Brahma sitting on the lotus flower as well as Lord Shiva, and many sages, and divine serpents. Lord of the universe, I see in your universal body many forms, bellies, mouths, eyes extended without limit, there is no end, there is no beginning, and there is no middle to all of this.” Of course, it goes on, Arjuna becomes frightened, he starts to tremble, it’s overwhelming because it is a vision of the totality of the universal cell, which is what Jung was referring to as the collective unconscious. It contains all the potentiality of the universe in seed form, the creative power, the sustaining power, and the destructive power.
Debra Maldonado 22:00
When we think about our life, when I first started doing spiritual work, I wanted to get rid of all the negative, mean, people in the world, I wanted to change the evil and fight evil. But we have to understand that what we’re seeing always is a reflection of our own psyche, we’re all one, you can’t separate and say “There’s good people over here, and we’re going to slice up this universal self with good and bad.” It’s more of a melding of all of them together, that’s what that vision showed. How can we look at our lives in a real way, understanding this knowledge? How could someone apply this in their life today, when you’re looking at yourself? For me, working just on the personal unconscious and working on smaller things that we’re trying to heal in our life, to accept the dark and light of ourselves even on a personal level, that prepares us to accept all the greater parts of ourselves.
Rob Maldonado 23:07
The process Jungian psychology talks about is a process of transcending our persona. He’s not saying to push it away or deny it, he’s saying to understand that there is nothing wrong with what you created as your personality but it’s a stage of development you’re meant to transcend through higher learning. How does that compare to the process yoga takes one through? In Patanjali’s yoga, the idea is also transcendence of the ego because the ego is conditioned by its karmic imprints. It’s bound to its previous actions and learning. It’s caught in a bubble of delusion, it believes this is who I am, this is what reality is based on its past karmic imprints. The reality is very different. There is a deeper collective unconscious, a deeper cosmic consciousness, from the yogic, Vedantic perspective, that is the ultimate reality. That reality can’t be perceived and experienced unless we transcend our ego. Not push it away, not deny it, but work through it to expand our awareness or consciousness to where we’re able to perceive a deeper truth of what awareness is, what consciousness is.
Debra Maldonado 25:03
In simple terms, the ego self sees everything as separate, it’s a me and a you, my home is separate from me, there’s no connection, everything’s material and looking externally, let’s change what we can see, move the furniture around, so we can have a better life. That’s what the ego is. Whatever it needs always feels like it’s outside of itself. When we start to transcend the ego and can really access these universal powers we’ve been promised that we have, a really good exercise for me is to meditate and think about your life. Just sit in the room and start to connect. This room is me, all the trees outside, the sun is me. Everywhere you go, you start to see that everything is you, it starts to change your perception of yourself. It will awaken those dreams and take you deeper on that path of individuation. But you’ll notice when your mind projects an ego, it feels caught up in the world, if you’re connected to everything, there’s nothing in the way of you getting what you want. There’s nothing stopping you, you don’t need anyone’s permission to create a life that you want. There’s nothing to fear, nothing to lose because you’re everything. There’s nothing to lose and nothing to gain. That’s really what the Eastern philosophy is preparing us for with non-attachment, with meditation and all these techniques. They teach us in the Eastern philosophy, as well as the shadow work in Jungian psychology, you’re starting that path of seeing “I’m not the ego”. It’s the core teaching of East and West, I am not the ego.
Rob Maldonado 27:02
All traditions throughout the past and including current psychological understanding has always emphasized that it is a process. It’s a transformative process that begins with insight but can’t stop inside. The insight is necessary, you have to understand what you have been doing, what the nature of reality and the mind is, but then you have to actually let go of your ego, which is the transformative aspect. The actual letting go is what’s difficult for us as human beings because we’re so caught up by our need to survive and to fit in socially, but it’s doable. It requires steady practice and good guide, a good teacher, but it’s definitely doable. And it’s necessary because if you look at the world, its current state, the reason it’s in such a state is because it’s being run by ego minds, or ego-possessed minds.
Debra Maldonado 28:13
Ignorance of the universal self because we wouldn’t go to war if we realized we’re fighting ourselves. What I learned just working with the shadow, most of the conflicts I had in the world with other people have been complex within myself. When you start to integrate these, the outer and inner, it’s one, it’s not a separation, it gives you all your power back, you could start to really make change in the world. We always say people should do shadow work before trying to make big social changes because otherwise you’re just projecting your own personal ego’s agenda, seeing the separateness, seeing there’s something to fight for, making war against something versus understanding it on a deeper level, and then really knowing the solution.
Rob Maldonado 29:04
Next time, we’re going to talk about the true self, the way Jung saw the self and the way it’s conceived of in the Upanishads, in yoga philosophy.
Debra Maldonado 29:17
In the meantime, do that meditation or even in life, just start noticing how your mind sees everything as separate, see if you could say “This is me. That’s a part of me.” Not you the ego but part of your greater self, I’m one with everything. Notice how your mind resists. Of course, we want to be one with the lights and the glory but we don’t want to be one with the parts we find unappealing. The challenge is to have the vision of the dark and the light and accept all of that as part of creation. Have a great rest of your day. Hope you enjoyed this Soul Session. Don’t forget to subscribe, click on the Subscribe button on your podcast on either Spotify or iTunes or any other podcast service you’re listening to. If you’re watching us here on YouTube, click the button here and get to subscribe to our channel.
Rob Maldonado 30:13
See you next time.
Debra Maldonado 30:14