#68 Accessing the collective subconscious through oneirogens
I’m perplexed by an idea pertaining to the individual vs. the many, the one as opposed to the collective. It’s obvious we don’t live singular, unitary lives unless one is a hermit inhabiting his cave or cabin deep in the mountains; I must admit, even I am attracted to an oblate-lite life whilst living in modern society. Humans are social creatures. We need each other in many ways that we often take for granted: romantically, friendship, familial relations, and merely seeing other people in public. I guess you could say we are individuated or fleshified, splintered units of consciousness interacting with other units in a collective. We are one and the many simultaneously. We live within ourselves, that is, in each of our bodies, but also live in collectives from villages to nations.
This brings me to my next point: how much of the collective is represented in the individual, or put another way, to what degree do we accept the proposition that each individual is a fully contained and representative node of the collective consciousness? (See Émile Durkheim for more information on collective consciousness.) I’m reminded of holograms wherein each part fully represents the whole. Upon looking at a hologram you’ll notice a 3D image pop out of the 2D surface. If you were to cut a small piece from the whole, you would see the same image of the whole in the part. Are people like holograms in that if you plucked one person from society X, would they represent their society irrespective of differing politics and religious leanings? Would that person represent the core values of his society? What is drilled into us during early the early years of education? What a potentially frightful word: education. On the one hand, education needn’t have a negative connotation. The smallest of us must learn the basics of being a human being and how to operate as a member of that particular society. Learning colors, numbers, mathematics, reading skills, for example, are all great things to know. On the other hand, however, the child is being educated to know specifics at the expense of other topics. In this sense, education is what the state wants you to learn and not the totality of what is available to learn. In the state’s defense, it’s not possible to teach youngsters everything about everything. I get that. As long as people are aware of the educational system’s choices and have a say in what is considered foundational for all people in society X, then, that’s fine. I also think curious and/or intelligent children should be given opportunities to take on additional or extracurricular courses that cultivates one of their gifts or interests that lie outside of the basics-for-everyone and the average population’s interests.
Now we turn to Carl Jung’s concept of collective unconscious. Jung collaborated with Sigmund Freud, the Austrian psychoanalyst who popularized the term unconscious mind. According to Freud, the unconscious mind is where one’s repressions, usually from childhood, remain. They are unconscious to the person yet have a direct impact on the way that person thinks and behaves throughout their life. Think of the unconscious mind as an unseen puppeteer partially directing some of one’s choices and interests throughout one’s life. The collective unconscious then represents the unrecognized choices, interests, and narratives that all humans share. “Archetypes,” or say, central characters and events in a story, repeatedly rear their heads in all humans’ lives. For example, archetypal characters are mother, father, child, trickster, hero, etc., and archetypal events are pivotal events that happen in nearly everyone’s lives such as birth, death, initiation, marriage, etc. There seems to be a shared story of what it is and what it means to be a human being.
Humans also have a subconscious. We can think of this concept in terms of the dream state (although not exclusively). Considering we are body and mind, in fact, an “embodied mind,” sleep serves a number of regenerative purposes. As for the body, sleep restores it for the next day by repairing broken cells over a 7-to-8-hour period of inactivity. The body gets tired, so it must re-energize through rest. The mind arguably also needs time to repair. In this state, dreams could be a means for the conscious mind to process the events of the recently lived day, to make sense of them, to address a thought or experience the conscious mind failed to do during its waking state. If humans have a collective consciousness, a collective unconscious, and each person has a subconscious mind to process information through dreams, might humans share a collective subconscious? I don’t know. What would such a collective subconscious mind look like or operate like? The collective unconscious makes sense because we can see from just looking around that humans do in fact share many life events and similar characters/events/archetypes that show up or that which one becomes. But how to think about the collective subconscious?
What I want to know is do we share dreams? I’ve met friends in my dreams. I even probed them upon waking, asking them whether they remember sharing the same dream space. They almost always say no. This could be for a number of reasons: (1) most people don’t remember their dreams, so of course they would say no even if we did in fact share a dream, however the likely explanation is that (2) I simply dreamed up this person because my subconsciousness is my own and mine alone. On one freaky instance not long ago, I came to work and told my colleagues about a very strange and futuristic dream I had the night before. After telling my story, I got blank stares and one jaw dropped because I told more or less the exact same story that someone told the group but thirty minutes before I arrived. Did we actually share a dream, or did we individually have the same dream, perhaps because we experienced something similar during our waking state, some event or some bit of information we consumed that day?
Finally, some psychedelics are called oneirogens, drugs that produce dream-like states of consciousness, a waking dream, so to speak. If two people took the same oneirogen, would they share a trip, the same experience, have the same thoughts and visions or co-shape each other’s experience? Might psychedelics propel one to some astral plane wherein others taking the same substance at the same time, perhaps anywhere in the world, would be able to access this plane and interface with other intoxicated humans on that plane in addition to “the locals” of that realm? As far-fetched as this sounds, psychedelics could act like a computer browser to some astral internet, each psychedelic representing a different browser with different features and capabilities. The psychedelic might give us access to the collective unconscious and/or to some kind of collective subconscious. I’m reminded of the scene when Professor X from the first of the X-Men film series put on a helmet that amplified his telepathic ability to be able to access anyone’s mind on planet Earth. Do psychedelics afford a heightened awareness of or access to some kind of nonphysical or ethereal plane, another dimension, or that potential plane from which we come and whereto we go upon death? Your guess is as good as mine, but that’s what it sometimes feels like to me.