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Carlos Allende

Primal archetypes /the collective unconscious

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Carlos Allende

If there’s one thing that I love, in lieu of going on a rollercoaster, it’s that thing where you’re about to fall asleep and –suddenly—your body has the sensation of doing a crazy somersault. Famously, nerd scientists have traced it back as a genetic memory of when we were all monkeys (Morrissey the Consumer Monkey?) sleeping in trees, and suddenly had to cling on for dear life.

Now, it got me thinking. I believe there’s an uncanny amount of sophistication in the collective unconscious. I believe it could explain this:

My earliest memory is not just of a time and place but of a piece of existential knowledge. It was a thought out of all proportion with what _should_ have been going on in the mind of a two or three year old, more akin to, say, a character in a Jean Paul Sartre novel or mortality-fearing poem by Philip Larkin.

It was the late seventies and I was in my cot in my family’s ancestral farmhouse. I remember the texture of the embossed woollen blanket and the weird turquoise colour of my beaker. I could see through the window onto the drive below where my mum and dad were discussing something with my gran, all of them standing alongside our blue Mini.

And I distinctly remember thinking (though not in so many words), ‘How can they be talking so casually? Don’t they know that death can come at any time, and we’re only seconds away from incomprehensible oblivion?’

Could this have been a genetic memory relating to the inevitability of death, or even of death itself?

I should say, other than that, I had an extremely happy and unsophisticated childhood. Look at these _(holds contented childhood photos up to webcam and points to A-Team and Sesame Street DVDs on bookshelf)_.

There’s also this: the earliest dream I remember is similarly abstract. Y’know the little animation that plays before some movies, for Jerry Bruckheimer productions? It’s a long, winding, desert road with the disembodied viewer zooming along at a speed that’s unnaturally smooth, unnaturally fast. The sky above is stormy and constantly plagued by apocalyptic lightning. You’ll find it on Youtube if you’re curious.

I dreamed that, only lasting a lot longer than the 12 seconds you get before a Hollywood blockbuster.

In my dream, the desert road had gantries overhead, like a modern day motorway. And on each gantry, years were written. 1989, 2012,  2035 and beyond. Each time, I saw one of these dates, I felt acute panic, to the point where I eventually woke in fright.

I should say, these years held no special significance for me, so I don’t think it was prophetic. Rather, I’ve come to believe that this was an archetypal dream hard-wired by evolution to prepare me for a life that (let’s face it) has nasty surprises round every bend.

Those two examples are long in the past, but here’s something I _still_ get:

In my life, I’ve had one or two relationships that have ended _spectacularly badly._ I think of these girls and associate them with nothing except grief, animosity and sorrow. I could no more be in the same room as them now as, say, stick a kitchen knife in my hand or give Tony Blair a hug.

So why do I have dreams where I’m still with one of these girls, and we’re happy, and it’s as though our relationship never ended? How can my subconscious be so diametrically counter to my waking mind? I should explain that, because of my lucid dreaming training, I’m extremely canny and tactile when it comes to dreams. It’s rare that I go through a whole dream without eventually seeing one of my triggers and figure out I’m dreaming. So why do these dreams of domestic bliss slip under the radar in such an eerie fashion?

I think it’s evolutionary programming: you need to be exposed to the opposite sex, even worst-case-scenario girls, simply so you won’t lose interest in procreating.

Of course, feel free to say, ‘Carlos, you ARCH-NUTTER, your subconscious is just stoopid’.

 

 

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eight bits

Hmm, the earliest dream I can remember was the credit roll to a television film, probably the Three Stooges.

Anyway,

2 hours ago, Carlos Allende said:

How can my subconscious be so diametrically counter to my waking mind?

It's not quite diametrically counter, it's gentler than that. If there's a lopsided ego commitment (that is, the waking consciousness says things to itself like " I think of these girls and ... I could no more be in the same room as them now as, say, stick a kitchen knife in my hand ..."), then the unconscious is apt to lean against that extreme commitment.

The evolutionary aspect probably isn't as crude as "the continuation of the species depends on this," but you must have made an investment in those relationships, when you thought differently about the ladies and sought out opportunities to be in the same room with them. Is that investment really, hopelessly and totally lost? Even if you never speak to these specific women again, have you learned everything you might have learned from a more dispassionate reflection on what happened, what went wrong, and what you might do differently in future relationships?

What are the odds of that? The unconscious bets there is still unfinished business, if only more to be learned from the loss.

Somethin' like that, maybe.

ETA: The Bruckheimer logo is the archetypal wasteland (searchable as either one or two words). The lightning strike at the end is the wasteland redeemed. I'd wager a little bit of money that whoever designed the clip consciously intended that, 'cause many folks in Hollywood read Joseph Campbell in the tail end of the last century, and he spoke and wrote about archetypal subject matter.

 

Edited by eight bits
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Carlos Allende

Mmm. Joseph Campbell, eh? I think 'Hero with a Thousand Faces' needs to come my way from eBay.

20 hours ago, eight bits said:

Even if you never speak to these specific women again, have you learned everything you might have learned from a more dispassionate reflection on what happened, what went wrong, and what you might do differently in future relationships?

I guess this would make sense, except ...surely it would make more sense for my dreams to recreate a less _hateful_ ex-girlfriend? In the dream I'm talking about there's nothing except a _subtle eerie_ feeling, which I guess could still count as a psychological learning curve. 

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eight bits
15 hours ago, Carlos Allende said:

Mmm. Joseph Campbell, eh? I think 'Hero with a Thousand Faces' needs to come my way from eBay.

That specific book was very popular in the artsy community, and widely used as a college textbook, too. Campbell was an excellent and prolific writer; pretty much all of his work, including his spoken lectures, is good. Hero... is a fine place to start, but a lot of people also enjoy his interviews with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, in which the mature Campbel covers a lot of ground. (I don't know whether Bill Moyers is as obtuse in real life as he seems in the series. Maybe he was just being a good interviewer, and letting his subject shine :) ).

15 hours ago, Carlos Allende said:

I guess this would make sense, except ...surely it would make more sense for my dreams to recreate a less _hateful_ ex-girlfriend? In the dream I'm talking about there's nothing except a _subtle eerie_ feeling, which I guess could still count as a psychological learning curve.

Another way to restate what you described about your success with lucid dreaming is that you erect hurdles which prevent the source of dreams from having its say without waking-self interference. So, you experience push-back, which is a very common category of dream report from frequent lucid dreamers. Yours is gentle push-back, simply that for these high-affect dreams, the source of dreams avoids your "triggers."

There's something "Darwinian" about dreams "competing" with each other and with all the other mental activity for conscious attention. The dreams that get noticed (and written about on publlic forums) are the ones that push the right buttons (and in your case, also avoid pushing the wrong buttons). So, why "recreate a less hateful ex-girlfriend," when "a subtle eerie feeling" gets you, the waking you, off rusty dusty, online and looking for answers?

Edited by eight bits

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