1909: Jung Descends into the Collective Unconscious

In 1909, when sailing with Freud to the United States, Jung had the following dream:

I was in a house that I did not know,which had two stories. It was “My House”.

I found myself in the upper story, where there was a kind of salon furnished with fine old pieces in rococo style.

On the walls hung a number of precious old paintings. I wondered that this should be my house, and thought , “Not bad”. But then it occurred to me that I did not know what the lower floor looked like.

Descending the stairs, I reached the ground floor. There everything was much older, and I realized that this part of the house must must date from about the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The furnishing were medieval; the floors were of red brick. Everywhere it was rather dark. I went from one room to another, thinking, “now I really must explore the whole house”.

I came upon a heavy door, and opened it. Beyond it, I discovered layers of brick among the ordinary stone blocks, and chips of brick in the mortar. As soon as I saw this I knew that the walls dated from Roman times. My interest was by now intense. I looked more closely at the floor. It was of stone slabs, and in one of these I discovered a ring.

When I pulled it, the stone slab lifted, and I again I saw a stairway of narrow stone steps leading down into the depths. These, too, I descended, and entered a low cave cut into the rock. Thick dust lay on the floor, and in the dust were scattered bones and broken pottery, like remains of a primitive culture. I discovered two broken skulls, obviously very old and half disintegrated.

Then I awoke.

Jung commented about this dream:

What chiefly interested Freud in this dream were the two skulls. He returned to them repeatedly, and urged me to fund a wish in connection with them. What did I think about these skulls? And whose were they? I knew perfectly well, of course, what he was driving at: that secret death wishes were concealed in the dream. [… ] I felt violent resistance to any such interpretation.

I was never able to agree with Freud that the dream is a ‘façade’ behind which its meaning lies hidden—a meaning already known but maliciously, so to speak, withheld from consciousness. To me dreams are part of nature, which harbors no intention to deceive, but expresses something as best as it can, just as a plant grows or an animal seeks its food as best it can. These forms of live, too, have no wish to deceive our eyes, but we may deceive ourselves because our eyes are shortsighted…..

It was plain to me that the house represented a kind of image of the psyche…. The ground floor stood for the first level of the unconscious. The deeper I went, the more alien and the darker the scene became. In the cave, I discovered remains of a primitive culture, that is, the world of the primitive man within myself—a world which can scarcely be reached or illuminated by consciousness. The primitive psyche of man borders on the life of the animal soul, just as the caves of prehistoric times were usually inhabited by animals before men laid claim to them.

4 Responses to 1909: Jung Descends into the Collective Unconscious

  1. You know as I was reading Jung’s dream I interpreted it the same way he did. I don’t know what the hell Freud was on about. He was quite a reductionist in his thinking and I reckon projecting most of the time….but his contribution to psychology must also be respected.

    The ‘house’ in my own dreams is my ‘head’ – consciousness, mind or psyche maybe…..I just had the most amazing dream 2 nights ago, that I was in a house and it started to rock, like an earthquake was shaking it, but I said to someone ‘don’t worry, it will stop in a minute’ Which it did, but when I looked, the entire side of the house had been removed and we were on the shore of the ocean. As I looked out to the horizon a ‘mattress’ with 2 blonde-headed androgyne youths – twins – were lying face down looking towards me in the house as the mattress flew just above and across the surface of the sea. It was quite extraordinary and woke me up. I don’t quite know what it means but I reckon it was a good dream….

  2. Poor old Freud, always taking a beating from interests groups and Jungians. Truth is, Freud was a reductionist on a lot of things and his idea of penis envy is grossly misunderstood by some who find it particularly offensive. Yet many of his theories about the operation of the unconscious and defense mechanisms are gaining scientific validity through advances in neuroscience. In closing, it takes Freud and Jung not to mention a few others, to have a more complete picture of what is going on in our psyches. They are complementary, existing on a continuum of understanding.

  3. I must study Jung!! He makes so much sense!
    My aunt Sr. Janice Brewi is his student as she compares her thoughts to hers in her books!! She has told me to work withe theories incorporating them into understanding…me!!
    Fine Arts, A.S., Education/Psych, B.S., Masters in Learning Disabilities/Art Therapy, M.S.

  4. I’m not a follower of Freud but what interested me most in this dream was also the two broken skulls at the base of the two storey house which Jung calls “his”, but for a completely different reason. I want to know what exactly these two skulls looked like. Were they identical (twins)? What was their placement? Was one male and the other female or were they both male? Where is a detailed description of the original dream? The skulls are omitted in some retellings of the dream. And one publication talks of them being male and female… but where did the author get this information since it does not exist in any published version of the dream? I think the skulls are a key to one understanding of this dream.

    Michelle, just reading your post… and your dream about the “twins” is interesting.

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