“Psychological collective guilt is a tragic fate.” - C.G. Jung, After the Catastrophe
Within the psyche, transgressions are often converted and expressed as unconscious guilt accompanied by self-injurious behavior. Often the ravages of these behaviors create an unconscious symmetry between the patient and the victims who carry the wounds of these moral indiscretions so that now each lives a compromised life.
Jung and Freud clearly understood the unconscious dynamics that accompany such moral challenges. Freud wrote that we repeat what we do not want to remember, and Jung added that what we do not face consciously comes back to us as fate. These past transgressions live on as motive forces within the psyche, and their effects are never far from consciousness, providing evidence for what Freud understood as the “return of the repressed.”
Psyche’s voices will not be muted by personal, cultural, or religious attitudes, nor by the machinations of conscious intent. This point is especially evident in Jung’s Red Book, wherein the Self calls him to be accountable for his actions while simultaneously mandating his travel in this dark, and unknown region of psyche where obedience to moral codes and avoidance of transgression is no longer a possibility. Perhaps no genuine experience of the Self may occur without entering this region of forbidden desire and transgression. Here we are asked to cross the lines of moral privilege to experience a reality that may turn us away from the prevailing winds of reason. Shaken by the loss of the familiar, the Self takes us into the domain of the transgressive.
Recognizing this Janus-faced reality, we can better understand the reasons for the many prohibitions against engagement with the banned and disallowed, while also seeing how, as sirens’ song, they have fascinated and intoxicated humanity since the beginning of time. For Jung it was not the world of consensual religious and collective values to which one need be held accountable, but to the daimon of morality existing within the Self. Perhaps in engaging with these dynamics we come face to face with the reality of the psyche and the mandates inherent in the individuation process.
Dr. Michael Conforti is a Jungian analyst and the Founder and Director of the Assisi Institute. He is a faculty member at the C.G. Jung Institute - Boston, the C.G Jung Foundation of New York, and for many years served as a Senior Associate faculty member in the Doctoral and Master's Programs in Clinical Psychology at Antioch New England. A pioneer in the field of matter-psyche studies, Dr. Conforti is actively investigating the workings of archetypal fields and the relationship between Jungian psychology and the New Sciences. He has presented his work to a wide range of national and international audiences, including the C.G. Jung Institute - Zurich and Jungian organizations in Australia, Canada, Colombia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, and Venezuela. He is the author of Threshold Experiences: The Archetype of Beginnings (2007) and Field, Form and Fate: Patterns in Mind, Nature and Psyche (2002). His articles have appeared in Psychological Perspectives, San Francisco Jung Library Journal, Roundtable Press, World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution, and Spring Journal, and his books has been translated into Italian, Russian and a soon to be released Spanish edition of his work.