The unconscious is commonly regarded as a sort of incapsulated fragment of our most personal and intimate life—something like what the Bible calls the “heart” and considers the source of all evil thoughts. In the chambers of the heart dwell the wicked blood-spirits, swift anger and sensual weakness. This is how the unconscious looks when seen from the conscious side. But consciousness appears to be essentially an affair of the cerebrum, which sees everything separately and in isolation, and therefore sees the unconscious in this way too, regarding it outright as my unconscious. Hence it is generally believed that anyone who descends into the unconscious gets into a suffocating atmosphere of egocentric subjectivity, and in this blind alley is exposed to the attack of all the ferocious beasts which the caverns of the psychic underworld are supposed to harbour.
True, whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation with himself. The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely, the face we never show to the world because we cover it with persona, the mask of the actor. But the mirror lies behind the mask and shows the true face.
—The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by C. G. Jung.
I’m about 70 pages into this volume. Reading Jung’s work often feels like looking into a mirror, and then you reach a passage like this where it folds back in on you, and you stumble for a moment finding your place while your eyes glaze across the page until you regain some sense of objectivity.
Still, I can’t help but marvel at Jung’s ideas and the way he presents them. It is dense, for sure, but not incomprehensible (and every image is a marvel). Instead his words dance between empiricism and intuition using his own brand of poetic wit and imagination (not to mention his astounding amount of casework with patients and cited quotations). If reading is food for thought, then Jung’s books are a Thanksgiving feast for my mind: overabundant and too much to finish in one sitting, but totally worth it for the mashed potatoes drenched in gravy.