Photography and the collective unconscious

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The Collective Unconscious

The Collective Unconscious is a concept in psychoanalysis that claims there is a level of consciousness in the human species that operates below the level of individual consciousness. The Collective Unconscious kind of drives the species forward in a massive, silent group-think.

Some believe we can connect to The Collective Unconscious when we are dreaming or through the arts.

I have felt a conscious connection in animals, bugs, plants and rocks. I believe there is a consciousness in the volcano, in Planet Earth. Further to this, I believe that observing consciousness at this level changes our relationship to the thread of life.

When you live in Iceland as I do, naked and free in the wilderness, you learn that all life as far as we understand comes from volcanoes, light and water. There is not an inch of Icelandic rock that is not covered with some form of moss or lichen. They are feeding from the volcanic rocks and the addition of sunlight and water creates the source of nutrition for us all. It is the same the world over except it has been shaped beyond recognition in most places other than these volcanic zones in the same way that the landscape has eroded and taken on human disguises. What makes things grow? “Water” and “Sunlight”, and “Earth” (the stuff of landscapes). It is this “Water-Sunlight-Earth” trilogy which is the basis for life.


Carl Jung was a kind of apprentice to Freud in the field of “Psychoanalysis”. He achieved recognition in his own right in the fields of Dream analysis and his work on the collective unconscious. He believed that we are like islands and at the surface we appear individual, but below the surface we are all part of the same rock. Jung felt that the mythical connections in dreams were evidence for a collective unconsciousness. Consider those coincidences like when you are thinking of a loved one when they call. Or the strange connection that exists between twins. Jung’s psychoanalytic treatment was to study the patient’s relationship to the collective unconscious. Those who are oblivious to it are like sheep, useful, but with no original thought, whereas those who felt the collective unconscious had a manifesto relationship with others – able to create and lead.

Iceland cliff view

It is the surface that gives the illusion that the distant land is separate from us. But actually we are on the same piece of rock.


Following Dreams

I once has a dream which I believe was the dream of the late Icelandic writer “Thorbergur Thordarson” when I was sleeping at his birth place (Hali, South Iceland). In my dream, I was standing in my bedroom and started to loose my teeth. I looked at the furniture in the room and it began to change in front of my eyes. The items on the furniture were moving and changing and sometimes the furniture would change and become new. I realised that I was dead and that I had been stood in my bedroom for 10 – 15 years after my death. Shortly after this dream, I was reading a new translation of one of his books where he was describing the dreams in which he was dead. I believe I had one of his dreams. How is that for collective unconsciousness. I have often have prophetic dreams of people I haven’t met (yet). I also have a recurring dream where I am in a huge city made of huge blocks of stone, but our relationship to the stone is different. I feel that this is an ancestral memory and I would be interested to know if anyone else connects to this.

Speaking Stones

Thorbergur Thordarson is most famous for believing that the Stones could speak. In his book “The Stone Speak” he describes an ancient language used by the stones. He only observed this in the boulders close to his birth home, but you can observe this in many parts of Iceland. Just sit alone, very quietly for some time.


Scenic Photography

I believe that practicing Landscape photography can give you a stronger connection to the collective unconsciousness. In other words, a stronger connection to the human race and a stronger connection to life.

The idea came from Ansel Adam’s famous quote, “there are 2 people in every landscape photo; the photographer and the viewer”.

It took some time before I really understood this quote above the cleverness of the riddle. In it’s deeper sense the quote is referring to the communicative act of taking a photo and the inherent intention of display. Whether the photographer is aware of it or not, they are taking the picture for the collective unconscious. The art of taking (making) the photograph involves several decisions regarding composition, focus and exposure, but these are not decisions to help the photographer see, these are decisions that helps the photographer show. The photographer is there, and doesn’t need help to see it. It is the audience that is deciding the composition, exposure and focus – on a level of consciousness below that of the passionate photographers (who mostly believe they are there for themselves).

Tune In

What about other arts? Mick Jagger claimed that he didn’t actually write any of the songs, but merely “Tuned In”. Tuned In to what? The collective unconscious?

But I am claiming that Landscape photography actually connect you on another level again. Maybe Mick Jagger tuned in to the Human Radio. I believe that landscape photographers tune in to Planet Earth’s radio and even the Radio or the known universe. Why? because it shows that the land is one and the sky is one and the light is one. And it shows this in it’s timeless veil.

Universal Ratios

It is not just the content of landscape photography that touches our unconsciousness. I believe that it is the ratios used in Landscape photography have great mathematical significance to our ancient ancestral psyche. The renaissance artists were fascinated by the repetition of certain ratios observed in Nature and throughout the human body. Leonardo DaVinci was obsessed by the proportion of the human body. He believed the proportions involved in the perfectly formed human body is the key to understanding the architecture of the natural universe. Some of his observations have become common knowledge, such as the span of our arms from finger-tip to finger-tip is the same as your height.

When I mention “Architecture of the Universe”, does anyone think of the great pyramids? Modern technology has shown the pyramids to reflect the stars of Arion’s belt. And also that the architecture of the pyramids conforms to both Pi, Phi and the Fibonacci ratio. These were build long before these mathematical concepts were known and this was not known about the pyramids in Da Vinci’s time.

Nature’s Architecture

On one hand it is the mathematics of Landscape photography: those special proportions that connect your physical design to the architecture of the Natural Universe. Then we find that Landscape photography often uses the elements that connects the “Water-Sunlight-Earth” trilogy. We are traveling to below the surface of our consciousness to glimpse the design… and hence our unity with Nature.

Does photography create a stronger connection with life?

What do you think?




Magical Landscape Photography
Iceland landscape photography

In this Landscape photography article, I attempt to inform the reader of the several steps required to become a Magical Landscape photographer.

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