No, it’s not you and your friends after a hard night of drinking. The collective unconscious is the supply closet and internet cloud of all archetypes and primordial images. Carl Jung, who invented the term, believed it contains all the knowledge and experiences we share as a species.
It’s what’s inherited in our minds in the form of symbols, scenarios and familiar sounds that resonate like ringtones, and it’s based on constants such as birth, adolescence, and death. It’s no wonder cultures on opposite sides of the world invent creation myths that are so similar or certain symbols in dreams have universal meanings.
This is not the same as the personal unconscious, which is made up of your own memories and associations (the high school gym teacher from hell, the rocker you dated who ended up in rehab). The collective unconscious is grander and more awe-inspiring. I
t tells us about the big picture—the patterns and themes of life, and why all kinds of people respond in the same way to a Rumi poem, sunset, YouTube video, painting of the Madonna and child, or, for that matter, a Madonna song.