The insistent knock of the unconscious

Aug 14 · 4 min read
Bruce Rolff — Three minds

We are unable to conceive of the ‘unconscious’. If we could, then it would cease to be the ‘unconscious’.

like some anomalous, immense gravity sink in outer space, we can only know of it indirectly, by its effects and influence on the things we can be aware of.

The ‘unconscious’ is to our consciousness, as our waking self is to ‘it’s’ night-time slumbering form.

The unconscious remains an unknown to our consciousness, just as the dreamer is unaware of it’s waking counterpart.

This ‘known’ relationship between our waking and dreaming self can be used as a rudimentary map outlining the more obscure relationship we have with the unconscious. It can be used to speculate on ‘motives’ and the various processes at work.

In more ancient ‘historical’ times man’s waking state was closer to a dream. All was ‘projection’ and man was very much a part of the world.

You see our whole mental life, our consciousness, began with projections. Our mind under primitive conditions was entirely projected, and it is interesting that those internal contents, which made the foundation of real consciousness, were projected the farthest into space — into the stars. So the first science was astrology. This was an attempt of man to establish a line of communication between the remotest objects and himself. Then he slowly fetched back all those projections out of space into himself… Carl Jung — ‘Nietzsche’s Zarathustra’

This is analogous to our nightly dreaming self, we can easily conceive of the dream and dreamer being essentially the same; The ‘environment’ and ‘actors’ are one and the same; spun from the same fabric.

It is with the introduction of separation that an exploratory dialogue can begin. The seed of a ‘higher order’ finds fertile ground in the ‘lower order’.

The injection of our waking consciousness and lucidity into our nighttime dreams, is mirrored on a grander scale by the unconscious’ projections penetrating our waking world. These projections, instead of being ‘consciousness’ as such, are something more akin to ‘will’; A more ‘active’ form of consciousness.

The process of ‘individuation’ then, is the process of assimilation of the unconscious by the conscious centre of ‘self’, reflected on a smaller scale by the integration or injection of lucidity/ consciousness into our nightly dreams.

We can see that the waking self and dreaming self are just different aspects or modes of the same being. One of these ‘facets’, namely ‘waking consciousness’, is the originator of the other and yet the projection happens naturally without volition. It arises spontaneously as an essential compliment and compensating factor.

…This goes to show that the unconscious does not simply act contrary to the conscious mind but modifies it more in the manner of an opponent or partner. C.G.Jung — Symbols of Transformation.

At the risk of teaching ‘grandmother to suck eggs’, I will spell it out: So the unconscious and our consciousness are similarly two aspects of the same overarching being, and consciousness is a natural projection of the unconscious.

We could go even further and speculate that our waking reality is a compensatory and complementary aspect of the unconscious. Our waking life provides a useful balance for the unconscious; It is a natural and spontaneous outpouring.

So what would be the benefit to the unconscious, in bursting through into our waking world?

On a different scale we could ask, what is the benefit of attempting to inject our waking consciousness into our nightly dreams (Lucid dreaming), thereby introducing the risk of destabilising this ‘natural’ compensatory process?

Possible motivations might be that it is a further avenue of exploration and experimentation; It brings new information that is not ordinarily available to it and provides fresh insights into its own condition. It may also accelerate the results of whatever natural processes are in progress.

As to why acceleration is important to an entity that exists ‘outside of time’ is intriguing. Perhaps our ‘time bound’ element is running out of steam or coming to the end of a ‘cycle’ and loose ends need to be tied up.

The idea of attempting to ‘lucid dream’ comes from the waking self, but the dreaming self must do the work. And so, the will to assimilate the unconscious into our waking life, must likewise come from the unconscious. ‘We’ are tasked with accomplishing the work though, all the while imagining it to be our own idea.

To the waking self, the nightly dream is real only when immersed in it. It is an encompassing world with an environment to be travelled and explored. The dream is a mirror to the waking self; A communication with something ineffable, but using the language of symbol, correspondence and juxtaposition. The linguistic fragments are not ‘objects’ but events and images combined with ‘emotion’.

This description of the dream world is how our waking world stands before the unconscious. The flavour of connection is the same, but on a ‘grander’ scale.

To develop ‘will’; The ability to ‘do’, then the dreamer needs to die. It is replaced by a force from the waking world. It is a sacrifice and yet not a sacrifice for it turns out the dreamer was the ‘waking self’ all along, but with an enchantment cast upon him. A spell of binding, blinding and forgetfullness.

The insistent knock of the unconscious can be frightening for the waking self; A rent in the very fabric of our reality, outside of which, unnamable ancient ‘beings’ gibber and chatter insanely, seeking ingress into our bastion of order.


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Head in the clouds, but really quite practical. Fine art trained, but frequently seduced by the promise of science.

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