The term ‘collective unconscious’ appeared in 1916 when Carl Jung theorized that besides humans having an immediate or personal consciousness, that there is a shared consciousness inherent to all individuals of the same species. He argues that this is a shared psychic system that is the same for all human beings and in his own words, ‘It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.’ This collective realm is where many mystics tread and learn to use for personal empowerment. To elaborate on this concept we can look again to both scientific findings and spiritual teachings, as both may provide insight into this phenomena.
In 1952 while a research team was conducting behavioral studies on Japanese monkeys, Macaca fuscata, they stumbled onto a very interesting find. The researchers wanted to see, among other things, how the monkeys would respond to introduced potatoes that were covered in beach sand. Monkeys traditionally learn what they may and may not eat, and how to eat it correctly from their parents and elders through observation. Potatoes were a new addition to the typical food available on the island, and being covered in sand made it even more alien to the monkeys as a food source. The monkeys generally ignored the potatoes or lost interest in it when they took a bite and got a mouth full of sand. One female monkey that was named Imo cleverly realized after a while that she was to take the potatoes down to the beach and wash them in the ocean. Soon enough, she thought the other monkeys what she was doing and all the younger monkeys started to do the same thing on the island, except many of the elders still had no interest. After a while, something very difficult to explain for the researchers occurred when a certain amount of monkeys learned the trick. When a threshold was reached all of the monkeys on the island knew to wash the food in the ocean, also the monkeys on the surrounding islands spontaneously started doing the same without having any contact with the first troop. The monkeys were not taught in any way but seemed to have the capability and understanding of what to do with the potatoes. This gave rise to the term ‘hundredth monkey phenomenon’ which postulates that when a threshold is reached and a certain amount of-of individuals in a species learns something new, that the knowledge will be spread through a collective unconscious grid to other individuals of the same species.
Inspired by this discovery another research team tried to test this phenomenon on human beings with a basic little experiment. They designed an abstract picture of photographed faces. The faces were of varying size and scattered all over the image, some easy to see and others more difficult. In Australia, the picture was shown to many people who were able to identify an average of between six and ten faces on the picture. The same picture was then taken to England and shown on closed circuit television where all the hidden faces were revealed to many viewers. Having then many people know where the faces were, the crew went back to Australia to do the experiment on a new group of viewers that was not familiar with the picture. The new group of viewers was able to identify most of the faces on the picture, far beyond the count of the first group of Australian viewers. To the researchers, this convinced them that the hundredth monkey phenomenon is real. I do understand that this study will not hold up to academic standards, but curiosity about the unexplained phenomenon is a step in the right direction and has opened up many doors for further research and questions.
What this discovery means for us is best expressed by Dr. Lyall Watson in stating ‘The relevance of this anecdote is that it suggests there may be mechanisms in evolution other than those governed by ordinary natural selection. I feel that there is such a thing as the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon and that it might account for the way in which memes, ideas and fashions spread through our culture. It may be that when enough of us hold something to be true, it becomes true for everyone.’ This brings many questions to light on what this collective grid is capable of, how it functions and how it influences us. It also opens up a new perspective on many psychic phenomena, such as telepathy and interaction of auric fields. The implication of this theory on evolutionary science is fascinating in itself, but the psychological and spiritual implication is where I am most curious.
Jung’s idea that certain archetypes existing in the collective psyche of man is rather similar to the philosophies of many Hermetic teachings. Many mystics believe that the beings contacted and channeled in ritual magic and the trance state are in fact psychological archetypes. There are mystics who practice the old magical methods and rituals of ancient doctrines, such as the magic of King Solomon. Some of these mystics state that the invocations and evocations of higher and lower spirits are in fact subconscious shared archetypes brought forth from within the deepest reaches of the shared psyche of the human mind. They believe that these entities, old gods, and spirits that were sealed in ‘Solomon’s Brass Vessels’ are beings who have power due to the collective belief by humanity in their existence and that these archetypes are able to influence us psychologically. Many mystics do reserve the thought that these entities are real manifestations from other planes and should not simply be regarded as imaginary, but truly powerful archetypes capable of changing parts of your psyche for better or worse. These magicians place a high value in these beings and strictly stress the fact that any contact with these beings or psychological archetypes should not be taken lightly and should be respected. They state that any person wanting to manifest these beings should take great precautions and follow the rituals to every minute detail.
Many people around the world have experienced a phenomenon called sleep paralysis. A state where one wakes from typical sleep, unable to move and feeling an energetic sensation on their bodies as if being held down. The majority of these experiences are accompanied by the sight of a ‘demonic’ figure, whether animal or humanoid. The scientific explanation for this phenomenon states that when the body is not awake, but the mind is, that it creates a sense of fear where the mind would psychologically form a terrifying image from the subconscious. This phenomenon is shared throughout humanity and in many cultures it is believed to be a demon, djinn or dark presence by any other name. At this point, it seems that there is very little value in the distinction between psychological manifestation or entity from another plane as it clearly affects people spiritually and psychologically. What most mystics understand is that these entities are part of the collective experience and when one starts to practice forms of astral projection and channeling, that at times such dark figures will be encountered. This turns many people away from practicing these phenomena due to fear, but the mystic realizes that fear is the greatest deterrent to oneself. With love and objective reasoning, there is nothing to fear from these encounters.
What the above examples illustrate is that perhaps each species does have a collective unconscious mind from where many psychological factors manifest. In the collective unconscious mind, the shared beliefs in archetypes are solidified and may become more powerful psychological drivers of our own conscious experience and evolution. Whether what we think of is a new discovery, philosophy or an anthropomorphized spirit, mystics state that these concepts or entities can be tapped into through various methods such as trance or ritual. The true power lies in the concept that the shared beliefs of human beings can alter the global experience of all of us if a threshold is reached in belief and understanding. If what we think is shared and can be manifested, then with such a great power comes responsibility.