Avatar: Journey to the Collective Unconscious Part 3

Collective Unconscious

Read part 2 of this series here. 

Read part 1 of this series here.

In the sense of a “Big Dream” of an individual, marking a turning point in her or his life, we can look on AVATAR as a very big dream of our entire culture, our MYTH really. It indicates just such a turning point.  What does such a dream mean to us in our society now, in our time and place?   As a dream does for an individual and big dreams do for tribes of traditional peoples even today in remote areas such as the Amazon basin or New Guinea, what does it tell us, how does it re-orient us, how may it guide us, what does it ask of us?

To come to a clearer understanding of this we have to take the perspective of a dreamer on waking recalling a dream, only in this case the dream is the film AVATAR.   Looking at it from this viewpoint allows us to interpret it as we might a dream and bring the tools, so to speak, of Jungian dream-work and way of thinking to aid our understanding.

It was the brilliance of our ancestors in this field, especially Jung and Freud, that they looked at their patients’ ills and suffering as part of the larger society and culture, as did earlier Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, taking in a long sweep of history going back 2500 years.  More than that they considered themselves to be doctors of humanity and healers of human evolution, and that their movement, call it psychoanalysis, they considered a treatment of our times.  Along these lines of a cultural diagnosis and treatment plan, between Jung and Freud alone, we can think of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, and  Jung’s collection of essays in his  Civilization in Transition.

In an article on “Yoga and the West”, published in a journal in Calcutta in 1937, Jung wrote that in the West he had found a dissociation bordering on anarchy, a split caused by Western man moving so far away his instinctual [the word is mine ] roots….as to have  fallen into very distant polarities, which he then saw and characterized as “faith” and “knowledge”(quoted in Borderland).

Shortly before his death, he returned again to this theme in powerful, passionate essay entitled, “Healing the Split” (col. wks, vol. 18).  He discusses dreams as a royal road to the “recovery” of our vanished connection to what he called “natural symbols” which have been lost and fallen into the deepest layers of the UCS, that is, have been  repressed (in Borderland)

It is my contention that we are seeing in AVATAR the return of the repressed Jung remarks on, the symbolization of the birth of a new ego actively aided by the maternal matrix of the Collective Unconscious itself.  But as he says in the essay just referred to, the healing of the split requires conscious re-integration of the “natural symbols” of the Collective Unconscious.  He stresses that, “It is the single individual who will undergo it and carry it through.”(it” being process of suffering and carrying these symbols into consciousness, and lived life as I did in working up this presentation).    THIS IS HEALING THE SPLIT, BETWEEN BODY AND PSYCHE/ INSTINCT AND SPIRIT/THINKING AND FEELING.

Just as a new body is being grown for our wounded hero in the “AMNIO” tanks of the highly advanced technology of the old order, so the new embodiment of consciousness is growing in the, as a the direct result of the played-out values, beliefs, and actions of the dying world as a direct result of and reaction to the collective conscious attitudes.  This new embodiment will be found growing directly “under the nose” of the old order so to speak, emerging right from its technologies, institutions, and modes of operation.   To say more here is beyond the time we have for this talk now.

In the movie, Earth, represents the world of consciousness, symbolizing its current state in all its depleted poverty.  It is in need of an element of renewal, “UNOBTAINIUM” from the Unconscious, pictured as “Pandora”.  A very small amount of this element is worth very great deal, $20MILLION A GRAM, worth all the effort of traveling five years “in sleep”(“perchance to dream”, the dream of Pandora) a very great distance and hauling it back. 

In this it is like the many themes of quest for renewal, and the retrieval of the precious substance, the Golden Fleece, the Pearl-Beyond-Price, The Lapis, The Stone, and many more. 

To understand this further we need to turn briefly to some basics of Jung’s psychology.  This psychology considers that consciousness, our very awareness in the present moment, has its real source in the Unconscious.  Our awareness is directed and formed by various structures, ways of seeing and acting.  This Original Mind, the Collective Unconscious of us all, is the primal matrix from which humans have evolved a conscious mind over millions of years to the point at which we are now.  Every structure of the functioning of our consciousness today in the beginning was in the unconscious and was pushed up, so to speak, from the depths of the ucs.,  or wrestled from it, depending on your viewpoint [see Johnson, Inner Work].

So we find ourselves as the movie unrolls on a QUEST FOR RENEWAL, the stages of which are marked by awakening.  The priceless, precious substance that is to be found in the Unconscious is, in Jungian terms, the Self, as in Alchemy, the Stone, the Lapis.

In terms of human daily life, this Stone refers to  the Self as it is brought to bear on our daily lives, through what we call the ego.  The ego focuses our attention.  New Ego equals new focus.  It is this changing focus that we see dramatically unfold in the movie.  This change of focus is not only portrayed and evoked in the movie, but is itself the current emerging new consciousness that I believe the movie both represents and is helping bring about.

Very importantly, this change is first presented as an alien body, big and powerful, able to function on Pandora, i.e., in direct relation to the world of the Unconscious, without the aid of technology which the old human body, understood as old ego structures, needs.    

This body is at first the alternate body of our hero, Jake, finally becoming his permanent body.  Much of the movie is spent in him learning to use this body and function on Pandora.  That is to say, a new body, a new body consciousness in the waking world and a new “dream body” better able to function in the dream world of the Unconscious. 

At least these are only my conjectures about what the new consciousness might be about.   But that there is new consciousness occurring I have no doubt.

Earlier, I mentioned experiences of the fragmentation of consciousness that many people are increasingly experiencing over the last few months that my close friend helped me become aware of.

I experience that as well and am aware of it in the clients I see.  And I believe it too is a precursor to the incoming consciousness, the reformation of new ego structures in the language of my trade.

We find ourselves today in a liminal space, a kind of gigantic cultural mid-life crisis.  The closer we get to a change over from the old to new, the more “fractal” we shall likely feel as we progress from fragmentation.  Fractal as I’m using the word implies the ability to encompass multiple viewpoints, a primary aspect of  what I believe will be the new ego consciousness.

This  NEW EGO is open, connected, embedded, at one with his/her inner/outer environment (note: the unconscious usually outpictures the ego as male/masculine in relation to itself, as The Feminine Source).  It is characterized by its permeability.  It is not impervious to the outside, or the inside, its chief value is not “I am a rock. I am an island.” but rather a search to see/feel the interconnectedness of all things, as in the movie, through one’s “tail”, the instinctual self.

On Pandora, the Na’vi are made to say, “I see you”, meaning, to see the uniqueness of each person, animal , and thing within the context of wholeness.  This means in practice, looking for the essence in people, situations and things.  While not fearing taking one’s own own position,  because there is not the fear of being overwhelmed by the other nor is there the value of being an island unto oneself.  Opening to the other, be it person, world, or the unconscious becomes the most important. 

Along this line, I expect that the new approach to the Unconscious  by this new ego taking its images for information and will cease or lessen to be one of “mining” it for use in the day world, but rather allow the images live more in and of themselves as James Hillman, et al. have long suggested.

The feeling function as well may shift and come to be more important culture wide.  This is the valuing function par excellence.   It is a function deeply rooted in the felt-sense of the body.  Feeling as Jung uses it tells us what belongs to us and what doesn’t , where we belong,  what people are ours and who is not, what is our way.  But now we go beyond the scope of this talk.


         WHAT THE DREAM OF AVATAR ASKS OF US:  The work for each and all of us now, which moves beyond but deeply powers socio-political change, is to relate to ones own unconscious  in non- exploitative ways, moving into dialogue by all possible means, dreams, active imagination, imaginal work of all sorts, group work with affects (group therapy), especially development of the deep “felt-sense” of the experienced body.

The very phenomenon of the movie Avatar means you’re on the right track.  Keep doing what you’re doing:  your spiritual practices,

prayer, body work, dreamwork, opening to others, and all life, emotionally and with the deep felt-sense of your body.  Do what you’re doing and know that you’re not only doing it for yourself, but for us all, for our very planet. 

And know that the fact that millions of others are now with you means not just a mass movement but a change pursued by Nature herself, just as Eywa, The All-Mother in the movie, though said not to take sides, but only providing balance, finally does take sides presumably because there is such imbalance.  The Mother of All, whether it is great Nature or the Collective Unconscious, which is the mother of consciousness  is taking sides and growing us a new ego to redress the balance, rather than just wiping the slate clean as Jung himself feared 60 years ago. 

Time to “WAKE UP!”

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