Level Four: The Cultural Unconscious

The cultural unconscious contains what we have accumulated through our life experiences in the culture into which we were born, but it also includes information beyond our individual experiences. This area can be a rich source of symbols—like the U.S. flag, or images of well- known persons like actors or heroes, brands of products we are familiar with, as well as the numerous forms of religious expression like the Christian cross. All of this information influences us, frequently without our knowledge because it is so familiar and often accepted without questioning. We make decisions, we understand beauty, we adopt certain moral codes, and we choose friends based on our processing of this information, which forms part of our living context. If we choose to do something, or if we see something that our culture has deemed “wrong” or inappropriate, the information and our experiences are stored in this part of our consciousness. Hate crimes are an example of extreme cases where individuals punish others for going against what has been deemed culturally acceptable, and can sometimes be traced to information distorted by extreme allegiance, attachment, or fear rooted in cultural values. Each culture or subculture creates its own microcosm with explicit and implicit rules that apply to those who belong to the group. Those who violate the rules are seen as outsiders and viewed as threats. These types of cultural rules are often distortions of spiritual values like freedom or the ways in which human life is respected. They are an aberration in a spiritual sense because the cultural aspect of the rule—a prejudice or false assumption—has overcome a greater spiritual value.