Collective awareness is the answer

Summary of The archetypes and the collective unconscious

Europe and its sciences in transition

The invention of psychoanalysis through Sigmund Freud The end of the 19th century marked a turning point for the medical world, the sciences, but also for culture and society. Although various of Freud's ideas are still controversial today, his model of the three-part psychic structure (id, ego and superego) and his method of hermeneutic interpretation had a groundbreaking influence on a new image of man.

Already Emile Durkheim had introduced the concept of collective consciousness into sociology a few years earlier and thus denoted the totality of all religious beliefs and feelings of a particular society. As the seat of the collective will, at Durkheim collective consciousness is an authority that manifests itself in collective actions or reactions and punishes deviations. Durkheim's pupil, the French sociologist Maurice half wax, developed the theory of collective memory in the 1920s. He tried to explain the role of the past in the life of groups and societies. In his view, individual memory cannot exist without a social frame of reference: it only arises through the interaction and communication of a collective.

When the National Socialists took power in Germany in 1933, propaganda and ideology fed by nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism and militarism as well as the unconditional leader cult around Hitler gave rise to a mass psychological phenomenon in a completely new dimension. The Nazis took advantage of the need for social community by creating a pseudo-religious mass cult with its own symbols and rituals.


C. G. Jung had been an ardent advocate of the then unpopular teachings of Sigmund Freud for several years. However, scientific differences led to a rift between the two in 1912. With the concept of the collective unconscious, which Freud vehemently rejected, Jung went his own way and explicitly distanced himself from Freudian ideas.

After C. G. Jung had given up teaching at the University of Zurich in 1913, he worked as a therapist in his own practice and went on extensive trips to America, Africa and India. The experiences of his travels flowed into his ideas of the concept of the collective unconscious and the diverse manifestations of archetypes.

In an interview at the end of the 1930s, Jung stated that Hitler was influenced by the content of the collective unconscious. This psychological explanation of National Socialism as well as his easily misunderstood statements on the so-called Jewish problem earned him the accusation that he sympathized with the regime. In The archetypes and the collective unconscious However, there are essays to be found that he obviously wrote under the depressing impression of the totalitarian rule of the Nazis and their legacy. He writes of the “demony of the spirit”, the seduction of man, and is desperate in the face of the “gruesome progression of world events”.

Impact history

C. G. Jung's works have been translated into all the major world languages ​​and have received a lot of feedback worldwide. But Jung's theses of the collective unconscious and the archetypes are often criticized as unscientific in academic psychology, since it is doubted that psychological events can be inherited. Supporters of the Frankfurt School have also criticized the fact that the term prevents a critical-analytical examination of social structures and their ideologies and signifies a relapse from the Enlightenment into myth.

For religious studies, however, Jung's terms open up a non-denominational, psychological access to religious experience. They define the collective unconscious as an area from which all religions draw their images and symbols regardless of location and orientation. From this perspective, God - or the divine in man - is only an archetype.