Unconscious - Romantic Unconscious: Dreams, Souls and Metaphysics

Author: Carl Gustav Carus

Title: Psyche: On the Development of the Soul (1846)


Pages: Introduction |  Extract Ia  |  Extract Ib  |  Extract Ic  |  Extract IIa  |  Extract IIb  |  Extract IIc  |  Extract IIIa  |  Extract IIIb  |  Extract IIIc  |  


A key work of Romantic psychology in Germany, C.G. Carus belongs to a generation after Schelling, and was influenced by the example of Romantic nature philosophy. These three extracts show the extent to which Romanticism reversed the Enlightenment belief in the powers of conscious rationality.

The book begins (Extract I) with a foreboding statement that ‘The key to an understanding of the nature of the conscious life of the soul lies in the sphere of the unconscious’.

The unconscious, for Carus, means all sorts of things, including unconscious memories, but also the unconscious activities of living things – ‘from planets to blood corpuscles’ – the laws of development in organisms, and the activity of artists (Extract II).

In Extract III, Carus puts forward the quasi-metaphysical idea that the unconscious is implicated in the grander totality of nature – there are links between dreams and events on earth, between inner life and changes in the earth’s atmosphere. Psyche in many ways represents a peak in Romantic psychology, before the materialist backlash of the post-1840s.

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Back to Unconscious documents | Introduction |  Extract Ia  |  Extract Ib  |  Extract Ic  |  Extract IIa  |  Extract IIb  |  Extract IIc  |  Extract IIIa  |  Extract IIIb  |  Extract IIIc  |