Saturday, January 2, 2021

Carl Jung and the mytho-poetic layer of the psyche

From episode 75 of the podcast series SPEAKING OF JUNG:

Jung had a unique record of self-investigation, self-inquiry, and self-scrutiny—in which he is attempting to explore his fantasies through the visionary method of active imagination, visual images in a waking state, and then writing them down. He determined that these fantasies came from the mytho-poetic layer of the psyche, which he later came to call the collective unconscious.

This transcription came from Professor Sonu Shamdasani and host Laura London in dialogue on The Black Books. These were the personal journals of Jung from 1913 to 1932, and much of the ideas and introspection later became The Red Book.

The reason I am posting it is because I absolutely love the phrase: mytho-poetic layer of the psyche. This is beautiful, and I resonate so strongly with how it frames my own experiences and research.

The opening text is a quote of sorts, it was actually spoken by both Sonu and Laura, and they read nicely as one flowing paragraph. The term “fantasy” is used because this was how Jung framed his internal narratives. 

Below is the Amazon description for the boxed set of 


In 1913, C.G. Jung started a unique self- experiment that he called his “confrontation with the unconscious”: an engagement with his fantasies in a waking state, which he charted in a series of notebooks referred to as The Black Books. These intimate writings shed light on the further elaboration of Jung’s personal cosmology and his attempts to embody insights from his self- investigation into his life and personal relationships. The Red Book drew on material recorded from 1913 to 1916, but Jung actively kept the notebooks for many more decades.

Presented in a magnificent, seven-volume boxed collection featuring a revelatory essay by noted Jung scholar Sonu Shamdasani―illuminated by a selection of Jung’s vibrant visual works―and both translated and facsimile versions of each notebook, The Black Books offer a unique portal into Jung’s mind and the origins of analytical psychology.

The Black Books 1913-1932: Notebooks of Transformation by C.G. Jung, Edited and introduced by Sonu Shamdasani



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Karen Guerin said...

This is an important time historically. In his psychology practice in Austria, he predicted based on from his Austrian patients' descriptions of their dreams that a dark force was rising culturally. They were in a state of collective rage and dis-empowerment post WWI, which many say gave credence to the political stance of Hitler and the Reich and the atrocities to follow. Jung warned of it and it is described very well in a book by noted Jungian scholar Murray Stein entitled Jung on Evil. This is important for obvious reasons because of Jung's concept of the Shadow and our very recent events, which did not come about overnight. The collective emotions of fear and consequent rage brewing in the collective unconscious somehow seem to reach a critical mass and when they do, a gollum type creature emerges (my own theory perhaps) that embodies that.

Bright Garlick said...

Yes Karen, that collective shadow is rising because individuals are unaware of what they disown and because the bullies of the world have not been kept in check because bullies speak populism or work in the hidden recesses of the world. Jung has much to teach us about patterns in human history. If we were to look at dreams from all cultures right now, we would learn much about ourselves and all that we disown.

Good post Mike!

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