Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious

Jung's Theory

Jung suggests in his theory of collective unconscious that there is another type of consciousness apart from the immediate consciousness of personal nature (Jung 1959). This type of psychic system is referred to as collective, impersonal or universal representation of unconscious. This collective unconscious is identical in all individuals and does not develop individually; it is inherited. Collective unconscious is also made up of pre-existent forms called archetypes. An archetype refers to an original form or pattern from which other similar persons or objects are derived, modeled or copied (Jung 1959). It is better defined in the perspective of Jung’s theory of collective unconscious as universal forms of thought or mental images which influence the feelings and action of an individual. Archetypes become conscious only secondarily. They also give definite forms to certain psychic contents. According to Jung, collective unconscious collects and organizes personal unconscious in the same manner for all members of a given species.

Jung linked the collective unconscious to the concept of archetypes to differentiate between personal unconscious and collective unconscious. Jung argued that archetypes reside within the collective unconscious of people across the world. The theory also suggests that archetypes are a representation of human motifs which demonstrate their experience as they evolve. Therefore, Jung proposes that archetypes evoke deep emotions in humans (Jung 1959). For example, a new born baby is a pure state which comes in readiness for the perception of certain archetypes. Jung provided several types of archetypes in his theory of collective unconscious. These archetypes are three types of archetypes according to Jung: anima (soul), self and ego. Ego relates to the conscious mid while self relates to the personal and collective unconscious. Anima or self relates to a soul within a female form; a form that infatuates men – an aspect that man has little control over.

In Demian, different types of Archetypes are notable. One of the archetypes in form of anima is “the lover”. This refers to the archetype which expresses intimacy and experience. This is clear in Demian through the character of Sinclair, one of the main characters in the novel. Sinclair never meets or talks to Beatrice but he sets the pedestal and worships her. This demonstrates the aspect of feminine power to seduce and infatuate men as suggested by Jung in his theory of collective unconscious. Beatrice is Sinclair’s anima (Neuer 1982).

In the second category of Jung’s archetypes, the self, Demian represents Sinclair’s self. Sinclair describes Demian as having both male and female characteristics. In this category of self, the archetype that can be noted in Demian is the sage. This refers to the archetype which argues that the truth will set you free (Jung 1959). Sinclair attempted to find the truth and reform his past ways by rediscovering Demian’s ideas which helps Sinclair to discover his self.

Lastly, the ego archetype in Sinclair is “the orphan”. For example, he rejects the proposition of Kromer to engage in a bad act. Sinclair goes through a process of rediscovering himself and seeks good ways (Neuer 1982). At times he is left alone and feels lonely. With faith and optimism as suggested by Jung, Sinclair reforms his ways and changes himself.


References list

Jung, C G. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. New York: Pantheon Books, 1959. Print.

Neuer, Johanna. Jungian Archetypes in Hermann Hesse’s Demian. The Germanic Review: Literature, culture, Theory, vol. 57, 1982, no. 1, pp. 9-15.

Leave a Reply