Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: Collective Unconscious

What Happens When We Read? ~ Part One

We’ve had six posts, so far, in this series.

We looked at words as Metaphysical Entities, explored the Source of Real Words (the Collective Unconscious), and traced the mysterious path of those slippery yet powerful words through the other domains of our minds till they reached our Brain and spilled out on the screen or some good old-fashioned paper.

I always hesitate to ask visitors to go back and read previous posts since I haven’t yet broken myself completely from the belief that blogs are only to be read in the Now—leaving behind the past, not caring too much for the future, just entertaining us for a few brief minutes.

I may not have broken myself completely from that popular belief but I’m sufficiently clear of it to urge you to back-up and click on the link that began this post. If you’ve already read those posts, scan them to refresh your mind; if you haven’t read them, I sincerely encourage you to do that. You’ll thank me later :-)

Now, let’s explore what happens when we turn on the screen or pick up the paper and read a set of words—Correction: our eyes read Word-Symbols, physical entities that are clues, triggering our minds to find the actual words and make sense of them.

The previous posts in this series introduced you to the Collective Unconscious, the Personal Unconscious, and the Shadow. I’ll assume you’re well-acquainted with your Conscious Mind, Brain, and Body :-)

So, there are the word-symbols and the eye is scanning them.

The brain registers this and begins its decoding process—sending the potential words to the conscious mind.

The conscious mind takes some infinitesimally small amount of time to check with the personal unconscious—accessing memory stores and correlating meanings already learned with the translated word-symbols.

During that same ultra-short period of time, the Shadow makes its contribution to the meanings. If the conscious mind is on good terms with the Shadow, the words arising in the mind will have the benefit of wearing uncommon and personalized meanings along with the more “standard” ones stored in the personal unconscious. If the conscious mind is in a state of ignorance about the contents of the Shadow, the word-meanings can become “warped” and we may end up completely misunderstanding the meaning the author is trying to convey (part two of this topic will explore, in a bit more depth, the difference between what the author intends and what the reader gets)

Also during that ultra-short period of time, various word-combinations may trigger the collective unconscious. This can bring up some extremely powerful images and energies. We may have to stop reading to grasp what’s happening, we may slam the book shut or close the computer file, we may be taken into a dream-realm

So, what about all those images in our conscious mind while we’re reading? Well, they sure aren’t created in our small and cramped ego-consciousness.

Let’s say the word-symbols on the screen/page are: “John walked down the dirt road, happy that he had no idea where he was going.”

“John walked down the dirt road…”, will more than likely call up images stored in the personal unconscious, though, if you asked a thousand readers to describe that dirt road, you’d have a thousand different dirt roads, depending on the individual reader’s experience. {imagine for a second a reader who had never seen or read about a dirt road…}

Of course, if a reader had been down some dirt roads, the image would be colored with some blend of those experiences. If they’d had a scare while on a dirt road, that feeling-image may come to mind and they may worry about John.

If they’d been on a dirt road as a child and had an adult molest them, as well as having consigned that memory to their Shadow, they may break out in a sweat and have an anxiety attack

So, no matter what the response the many realms of our mind have handed us about John and his dirt road, we come upon the word-symbols, “…happy that he had no idea where he was going.”

That part of the sentence will heavily depend for its meaning on how we’ve conceived of John and what dirt roads mean to us but

Since most folks seem to, most often, like to know where they’re going, the fact that John was happy about not knowing has the potential for inducing some very strong feeling-images.

I would absolutely *love* to know what you felt and imaged as you read that sentence: “John walked down the dirt road, happy that he had no idea where he was going.”

On to Part Two :-)

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How The Words Get On The Screen/Page ~ Part Two

In our last post, we looked at the two aspects of our mind (where the words come from) that are, for most people, non-existent.

The Collective Unconscious being the vast and hidden pool of ultimate creativity—full of characters and powers and Real Words. The Personal Unconscious being the normally-unappreciated workshop where energy-patterns from the Collective Unconscious and memories/concepts/words from the Conscious Mind commingle–our personal metaphysical workplace.

Here again is the straight-line, word-symbol formula (from where the Real Words are born to our practical use of them):

Collective Unconscious–>Personal Unconscious–>Shadow–>Conscious Mind–>Brain–>Body–>Screen/Paper

The next player in this wordly drama is the Shadow—often described in ways that can scare some folks but, for most writers, a very fertile field for fashioning the darker characters and themes.

The Personal Unconscious stores (and massages) the memories, concepts, and words that we sometimes call “Good”. The Shadow stores what we sometimes call “Bad”.

Most people’s anxiety (and, sometimes, mental illness) comes from the battle between their Conscious Mind and the Shadow–the Ego Mind valiantly ignoring the repressed darkness, while it cheerfully projects all its unregenerate and primitive aspects on other people–thinking that this frees the Conscious Mind from having to worry about “the other half of a Full Life”

The Night holds its terrors and the Shadow is each person’s personal Night. We can deal with it—accept that we aren’t perfectly right and sweetly angelic—and inculcate the total darkness with the Light of Self-Reflection, a strenuous effort but work that can set us free of so many nagging or even vicious tests and trials

Writers can definitely benefit (increase mental hygiene) from the work of rendering “bad characters”; yet, if the bad folk have no redeeming qualities (even if only potentially), the writer is only transferring to the screen or page the same dangerous Projection of the Unregenerated–not dealing deeply with the Forces of Darkness, not giving the Night a chance to taste the Day, leaving the critical tasks of life to other, more honest writers

Please understand, the actual day-to-day labor of keeping the contents of the Shadow above-ground and in control is very hard work. Rendering fully-fleshed-out “dark” characters is just as hard. Then, there’s the complementary sin—“good” characters who have no flaws………

So, even though the full treatment of all these aspects of our minds may be compelling, it’s impossible in a blog’s format. I recommend, for readers unafraid of arduous mental effort, The Jung Page.

It’s time for a recap that focuses on the transmission of words:

Real Words are born in the Collective Unconscious. They present themselves as Useable Words in the Personal Unconscious. They pass through the Shadow (often given unique connotations) and arrive in the Conscious Mind.

Many folks think that all their word-fashioning happens in the Conscious Mind–unaware of the nearly magical and usually uncredited contributions from the Shadow, Personal Unconscious, and Collective Unconscious.

Having an active and entitized Muse is the best way to maintain an awareness that the Conscious Mind is the least powerful agent in any attempt at creative writing

OK, we have the words in the Conscious Mind and they spill out, through the Brain and Body, to the Screen or Paper.


I envy people who never consider committing words to screen or paper. All they have to do is merrily let the words spring from their mouths, while the people they speak to do the editing :-)

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How The Words Get On The Screen/Page ~ Part One

Even though my theories of word creation and transmission are my own conceptions, they are based on years of study–with Carl Jung, my Muse, other psychologists, various spiritual mentors, arguments with myself, and conversations with other writers.

I find Jung’s ideas of the Mind the most useful because they’ve proven their practical value.

Let’s start with a word-symbol formula of the full process, from word-creation to word use, by showing the various areas of mind/body involved, in the order they’re activated:

Collective Unconscious–>Personal Unconscious–>Shadow–>Conscious Mind–>Brain–>Body–>Screen/Paper

Collective Unconscious: This is where all the Archetypes hang out and have sex with each other. The CU is full of Psychological Energy Patterns like Mother, Father, Child, Lover, Murder, Transmutation, Hero, Wise Old Person, and tons more. For more background knowledge check out this entry in Wikipedia.

These metaphysical entities are called Psychological Energy Patterns because they have no specific conscious form. For instance, the Mother Archetype is no ones’ particular mother and has no particular traits or personality–She belongs to all of us since this is the Collective Unconscious. In a way, she contains all the possible traits and powers of all possible mothers. She’s also the source of the word, “mother”.

All these Energy Patterns are always blending and interacting–having “Sex”. This constant creative activity, deep within us, is the ultimate source of all our thoughts since it’s believed the Collective Unconscious gives birth to the Conscious Mind.

The qualities of the main, person-like Archetypes are what give birth to the characters of a story; their interactions are what produces the plot.

But, we don’t just peer into the CU with our ego-mind and snatch plot, character, and word.

By the way, it’s the intense, creative interactions of all the Archetypes that produce what I’ve been calling Real Words. The Words that hold the complete Meanings. For example, not the mere word-symbol, “tree”, or the various forms of the personal word, “Tree”, that each of us has packed with slightly different Meanings, but the Real Word, “TREE”, that contains all of whatever can be considered Tree-ness

Personal Unconscious:

This is where the broad, ultra-creative, endlessly active Words produced by the Interactions of the Archetypes become more like what most people call “words”.

The PU is where we can get a first glimpse of an image of a mother or a tree or a murderer.

The PU also has a lively interaction with the Conscious Mind and stores memories and concepts and words that the Conscious Mind has labored over. But it uses the infusion of creativity from the Collective Unconscious to massage the memories/concepts/words so that, even though the word “tree” is there in the Personal Unconscious all the time, it’s being “worked-on” by both the Collective and Conscious Mind–it’s evolving

Also, the words in the Personal Unconscious are the ones that have the normal “word-histories” that an etymology dictionary contains.

This mutual interaction of Collective Unconscious with Personal Unconscious and Personal Unconscious with Conscious Mind aren’t the only instances of creative “loops” in that schematic, straight-line formula I proposed earlier:

Collective Unconscious–>Personal Unconscious–>Shadow–>Conscious Mind–>Brain–>Body–>Screen/Paper

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Prelude To An Explanation of The Origin of Words…

I promised one of our regular readers that I’d explain how I think Real Words are produced in our minds and then begin the journey to other minds through what most people think are real words << those symbols that exist on screens and pages but aren’t Real Words

As fate would have it, my plan got altered–I needed to do some research and the tabs at the top of this blog needed reorganization.

So, as a beginning to tomorrow’s post about the journeys Real Words make, I should point out that I’m not going to be talking about the origins of English words in other and older languages–that’s something you can explore with this cool Online Etymology Dictionary.

A related site that includes a forum to discuss words and their histories is Wordwizard.

Also, for true word-lovers, there’s the links page on The Sciolist.

What I’ll be starting tomorrow is a description of the origin of words before they end up being in languages–the rock-bottom, primal dwelling place of Real Words

Since this exploration will touch on concepts like Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, you might want to read this short article about The Archetypal Patterns.

Now, I need to get prone and dream a bit

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I’ve Never Really Seen A Word . . .

Our last post began to explore where words come from.

I postulated that words are metaphysical entities–that the things we see on the screen or paper aren’t Real Words but just the symbols we use to get a set of Real Words from one mind to another.

If the word “metaphysical” isn’t something you’re real comfortable with, you may want to look at that last post for a possible excuse to give it a reprieve :-)

Minds are metaphysical.

If you doubt that bald statement you may want to check out the Wikipedia entry that includes this statement: “The nature of the mind and its relation to the body has been seen as more of a problem as science has progressed in its mechanistic understanding of the brain and body”

I can only continue on the assumption that our minds and the words which come from them are metaphysical because I’ve spent most of my 65 years studying the whole messy business of how we think and why we write.

If you can’t believe that the mind and words are something other than physical entities then I suppose you can only leave me behind in your cloud of dust

OK, now where are the Real Words and how did they get there?

Some folks are happy saying God created words and that’s that.

Some folks could agree with that last statement but would need a bit more explanation about where they hang out and how we know about them.

Some folks believe that humans evolved a capacity to formulate words, even though they couldn’t see them.

Some folks don’t really give a damn :-)

So, as they say, for the sake of the argument, let’s temporarily agree that words are not physical and hang out somewhere in our minds.

I’ll propose they have their residence in what’s called the Collective Unconscious. For now just think of the collective unconscious as a realm so deep in the mind that there are no “my thoughts” or “your thoughts” but only the energy patterns that make conscious thought possible.

These energy patterns are ultra-creative and we all share them–the same basic primal patterns of all words, concepts, and thoughts are in every one of our minds–this is why you can understand what I’m typing right now, even if you don’t believe what I’m typing :-)

In our next post I’ll attempt a detailed description of how a set of Real Words gets from one mind to another. And, in case you’d like to explore a range of other opinions on the creativity of the unconscious, check out these archived articles on Demon Muse

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