mixed feelings

The inner elements eri and emi are softer than the outer ones, which suggests that they would mix more easily.

The idea is now that what appears outside as individual and separate beings is unconsciously connected and that these connections result in feelings that change for often not obvious reasons (emi), while naming inner concepts allows to impose some abstract calm (eri).


Two cultural associations come to mind. The astrological association of feelings and the unconscious with the element water and of language, logic and communication with the element air. The idea of a collective unconscious itself is Jungian, while it may in the end still be so that such collective connections are just illusions created by a more Freudian individual unconscious.

Let me use the Jungian picture, since phenomenologically it would be very hard to distinguish from the Freudian one and things are simpler to explain in the Jungian picture.

How one feels at any moment would be a mixture of individual and collective influences. Not that what other people think would be directly accessible, just indirectly with regard to how one feels in a particular situation, or how one feels regarding individual possible next steps.

Individuals that are emotionally and physically close would likely have the strongest influence on a person, but also large groups of people, say same village, country, religion, etc., could together have a strong influence.

Influences from a collective unconscious could go well beyond the sum of what is in individual conscious minds. Since the collective unconscious would effectively be a very large brain, consisting of many more brain cells than any individual being, it might have a much more complex and sophisticated mind than any conscious individual and it would know all kinds of details about everybody.

Such a picture of a collective unconscious would resemble the concept of god or gods in many religions, and it would likely be fragmented into smaller units at several scales, like families, countries, religions, etc., each with its own collective feelings, plans, and so on.

Jung noticed that in dreams and in cultural creations some archetypal patterns repeat. These archetypes might simply be part of the thoughts, experiences and knowledge of the collective unconscious.

Precognition in dreams or art might simply be picking up collective intentions that are only later realized and can be felt and dreamed about already while the collective unconscious is only planning or considering them.

How would the collective unconscious effectively direct the individuals it consists of ? Telling each and every one what to do at each moment would likely not be possible, just like the conscious individual mind would not be able to tell each of its nerve cells when to fire.

But maybe with a general concept like astrology, which creates a balanced and relatively complete set of individuals, each with its own approach to new problems: Faced with a particular problem, a Leo would feel more like solving it the Leo way (by collective feedback), so that in any situation typically different approaches would be tried and the most suitable one would succeed. That way typically the best approach would relatively quickly be found without focused intervention by the collective unconscious.

Moreover, what star signs like to do is often adapted to typical actions during the respective part of the year, like harvesting and sorting it in for Virgo, for example.

Assuming the collective unconscious extends to any living beings (and maybe even matter considered inanimate), oracles like the I Ching or Tarot could really reveal some intentions of the collective unconscious, maybe paired with emotional feedback about which parts of the response to focus on or how to interpret it.

© 2002-now Alain Stalder