Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

Consciousness, Unconscious Mind & Neuroscience

January 14th, 2011 · consciousness, neuroscience, unconscious, unconscious mind

This is a brief blog post on a couple of quotations relating to the whole mushrooming area of  the science of consciousness and the unconscious mind, as it is being approached within the rapidly expanding new experimental fields of neuroscience and cognitive science.  These fields are growing in a rapid new ways,  and shedding a great deal of new light on the view of the human psyche which CG Jung wrote about in his works.

One of these quotations I have already used in a comment on a previous blog post.  However, I feel that it is important enough that it should be featured in its own posting.  The other is a very complementary quotation from CG Jung.

“Most of Our Thought is Unconscious”

Here is the interesting neuroscience quotation.  It seems to me to be very challenging in what it suggests that modern neuroscience research is showing about the fundamental nature of the brain and the psyche:

Cognitive science…the scientific discipline that studies conceptual systems…has made startling discoveries.  It has discovered, first of all, that most of our thought is unconscious, not in the Freudian sense of being repressed, but in the sense that it operates beneath the level of cognitive awareness, inaccessible to consciousness, and operating too quickly to be focussed on…. To understand even the simplest utterance, we must perform… incredibly complex forms of thought automatically and without noticeable effort below the level of consciousness.  It is not merely that we occasionally do not notice these processes; rather, they are inaccessible to conscious awareness and control.

Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark,  Philosophy in the Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought, (New York: Basic Books, 1999) pp. 10-11

Jung: “Consciousness is Like a Surface or a Skin…”

There is very strong evidence that Jung anticipated these discoveries of neuroscience in the way that he conceived of the human psyche. In the 1930s, Jung had an intuition of the human psyche that now seems remarkably akin to the insights emerging from the frontiers of neuroscience:

 Consciousness is like a surface or a skin upon a vast unconscious area of unknown extent… we need a laboratory with very complicated apparatus in order to establish a picture of that world apart from our senses and apart from our psyche… very much the same with our unconscious — we ought to have a labouratory in which we could establish by objective methods how things really are when in an unconscious condition.

Jung, C.G.,  Hull, R.F.C., trans., ” Tavistock Lectures: Lecture 1″  in Collected Works, Vol. 18, (London: Routledge Kegan Paul, 1977) par. 11

Surprising as it would seem to observers in the 1930s, the understanding of consciousness and the unconscious mind which has started to emerge in cognitive science and neuroscience has many affinities with the conceptions of C.G. Jung.  As paradigms shift, in many ways, Jung’s understanding of the psyche and of what it is to be human seem to have grown in stature and explanatory power.

Are You Aware of Your Unconscious Mind?

Have you ever had experiences where you have become strongly aware of the existence of your unconscious mind?  Sometimes such experiences can be dreams, or they can be other psychological events in which you’re just very aware that something other than your everyday waking consci0us mind is at work.  I would be very interested to hear about your experiences: please leave a comment below, or if you prefer, send me an email!

Wishing you rich growth in your experience of all that you are, on your personal journey to wholeness,


PHOTO CREDIT:  © Oleg Nesterkin |

© 2011 Brian Collinson