The discoverer of the unconscious
Carl Gustav Jung, founder of the Analytical Psychology, would
have said that Hieronymus Bosch was the
discoverer of the unconscious.
Jung considers that in the unconscious of every man and woman
lies what he calls the shadow: a second
personality which is absolutely not concerned by moral values. But
we cannot possibly know what is in our uncouscious; we cannot
imagine what is this shadow, this second
personality, which has nothing to do with our good education
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How can we uncover a part of the unconscious?
For an artist like a painter, the fast track to uncover a part
of this mysterious unconscious is to work without any intention.
For example, from a literary point of view, the surrealists have
discovered a method they called automatic writing. This
method could unveil a little part of the unconscious shadow.
This absence of intention is a key point in my
paintings. From a surrealistic point of view, there cannot be any
intention when an artist writes or paints something.
Most people who see my pictures ask: What have you wanted
to paint here? What does it mean? My answer is allways the
same: nothing! There is no particular meaning in
my paintings; I havent wanted to illustrate one or another
hidden theory. My only aim in painting is to create beautiful
things with various objects and living beings which have nothing
in common in the ordinary conscious life.
From the same perspective, Bosch has never wanted to paint the
unconscious! He only wanted to paint something beautiful, and he
gave his imagination free rein in painting what he thought to be
Heaven and Hell.
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Personal and collective unconscious
I perfectly know that this way of working uncovers a part of my
unconscious. But not only of my personal unconscious.
Actually, since C.G. Jung, we know that an enormous part
maybe the biggest part of the unconscious of
everybody is the collective unconscious. I am intimately
persuaded that my works are very important because they bring to
light a part of the collective unconscious, which is hidden in the
depth of the individual shadow of every human person on
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Let's talk a bit more of this shadow. In the depths
of the human soul, in the most hidden corners of every womans
and every mans mind, there exists a very primitive beast, the
shadow, heird of her or his darwinian evolution since
the fish. And this very primitive beast is full of basic instincts,
that are repressed by the moral rules of our society. Our conscious
is like a frail ship sailing on a deep sea full of horrible and
ferocious fishes and ugly creatures. But when you look at the
surface, you see nothing of the ocean's depths: this whole living
world remains perfectly unconscious.
One very important thing to know, however, is
that in the ocean, like in our unconscious, there are not only
horrible things, but marvellous marine flowers and extraordinarily
beautiful animals too. But that is not the point. Well-educated and
right-thinking people are generally not afraid of things of beauty,
only of dreadful animals and awful sights. Its a pity that
this somewhat childish anxiety prevents them to see all the wonders
of the depths. They simply dont dare to look into the
unconscious, for fear of not being able to resist to the
Jung considered that the unconscious is something
natural, something absolutely neutral from a moral point of
view. He has written: It only becomes dangerous when our
conscious attitude to it is hopelessly wrong. To the degree that we
repress it, its danger
increases1. Unfortunately, for
numerous centuries our western society has tried to repress our
unconscious, with more or less success. Probably this is one of the
causes of the present increasing violence, particularly among the
young. I am convinced that the discovery and the conscious
acceptance of the erotic side of the unconscious for example
by means of erotic surrealist pictures is a powerful way of
beginning to get a better harmony between our conscious and our
- Jung: Selected Writings, selected and introduced by
Anthony Storr, Fontana Pocket Readers, Fontana Press, London,
second impression, September 1986, p. 181.
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No hidden intention
When I paint, I have no hidden intention. Everyone can project
his or her own unconscious onto my pictures and find an
explanation, but this explanation will always be strictly
personal and only valid for her or him.
The same thing happens with the inkblot test, also known as
Rorschach test. In a given inkblot, everyone sees
something else, projecting onto it a part of his own personality.
But its the same thing with the clouds in the sky or the
drawings of a wallpaper. Lets give an example with a very
According to their state of mind, some persons will see here a
blue crescent or the moon, other ones the open mouth of a toothless
shark, other ones the eye of a strange animal or the entrance of a
cavern, etc. But be sure that all what youll see comes from
your innermost being, from your unconscious, and not from the
The same is true with my paintings. If Ive painted a
cloud, its only a cloud. If you see a dogs head in it,
this cannot be something else than your own problem.
Actually, the core of the unconscious is the
same for the whole humanity. Thats what Jung calls the
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But before coming to the core, shared by everybody, the more
superficial layers of the unconscious (sometimes called
the subconscious) are personal and not the same for
every human being. Thats why the explanations you will find
will be personal. Only after a profound exploration of your
unconscious by the means of a deep psychological or
psychoanalytical method can you hope to reach the depths of the
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Every living being shares two basic instincts: self-conservation
and conservation of the species. The self-conservation is carried
out by the feeding and the conservation of the species by the
Among most animals and particularly in man ,
the reproduction is sexual. Thats the reason why everyone on
earth is concerned by sexuality and erotism. Our western
civilisation has repressed this fundamental instinct. But
repression does not mean mastery. On the contrary! If we want to
reach an harmonious and relaxed full control of whats coming
back up to the surface from the depth of our unconscious, we first
have to know what is in this unconscious.
Its interesting to see that some erotic
techniques everyone thought they were peculiar to human beings are
practiced by some animals too. For example, Ive read in a
book on spiders1 that some species used a
kind of bondage: the male ties the female to the surface where she
is or ties together two legs of the female before copulating.
(There are at least two species known for praticing this
bondage: Xysticus cristatus and Pisaurina
- Les araignées, by Rod Preston-Mafham, Edimages
S.A., Fribourg, Switzerland, 1992, pp. 51 and 55 (Original
Edition: Quarto Publishing plc, 1991).
With my paintings, I hope I have contributed in a pleasant
manner to the knowledge of the human unconscious.
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