Carl Jung’s ‘big dream’

One of Carl Jung’s ‘big dreams’ provided him with the map of his future thinking on the conscious and depths of the unconscious – the inner world: the dream showed the many layers in the psyche.

‘I was in a house I did not know which had two storeys. It was “my” house. I found myself in the upper storey where there was a kind of salon furnished with fine old pieces in rococo style. On the walls hung a number of precious old paintings. I wondered that this should be my house and thought “not bad”. But then it occurred to me that I did not know what the lower floor looked like. Descending the stairs I reached the ground floor. There everything was much older, and I realized that this part of the house must date from about the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The furnishings were medieval, the floors were of red brick. Everywhere it was rather dark. I went from one room to another thinking “now I really must explore the whole house”. I came upon a heavy door and opened it. Beyond it I discovered a stone stairway that led down into the cellar. Descending again I found myself in a beautiful vaulted room which looked exceedingly ancient. Examining the walls I discovered layers of brick among the ordinary stone blocks and chips of brick in the mortar. As soon as I saw this I knew that the walls dated from Roman times. My interest by now was now intense. I looked more closely at the floor. It was of stone slabs and in one of these I discovered a ring. When I pulled it the stone slab lifted and again I saw a staircase of narrow stone steps leading into the depths. These too I descended and entered a low cave cut into the rock. Thick dust lay on the floor, and in the dust were scattered bones and broken bits of pottery, like the remains of a primitive culture. I discovered two human skulls, obviously very old and half disintegrated. Then I awoke.’

Jung saw that the representation was of the psyche with consciousness represented by the salon. The ground floor was the first level of the unconscious; in the cave was the remains of the primitive culture representing the world of the primitive person within him. This Jung wrote is, ‘a world that can scarcely be reached or illumined by consciousness. The primitive psyche … borders on the life of the animal soul, just as the caves of pre-historic times were usually inhabited by animals before man laid claim to them’. For Jung the distinction was between the personal unconscious and the various levels of the collective unconscious -where there are archetypal forces which are the shared possession of humankind.