Perspectives on the Grateful Dead: Critical Writings

By Robert G. Weiner | Go to book overview

Grateful Dead: Manifestations from the Collective Unconscious

Mary Goodenough

According to C. G. Jung, the unconscious processes serve to balance conscious aspects of the psyche. He writes: ‘‘The unconscious processes that compensate the conscious ego contain all those elements that are necessary for the self-regulation of the psyche as a whole’’ (1971 127). This is so not only on the individual level but also on the collective level. It therefore follows that a society driven by unchecked material consumption would also manifest an intense but unconscious thirst for spiritual fulfillment.

The Grateful Dead emerged to satiate that need. The devotion of the Deadheads can be understood on the collective level as religious mania. Mircea Eliade, renowned scholar of world religions, writes: ‘‘Religious man thirsts for the real. By every means at his disposal, he seeks to reside at the very source of primordial reality’’ (1987 80). Countless Deadheads, over three decades, used every means at their disposal to follow the Dead, for Grateful Dead concerts were a manifestation of such a primordial reality. Jung also writes: ‘‘Groups, communities, and even whole nations can be seized … by psychic epidemics’’ (1990 278). The Grateful Dead phenomenon can also be understood as a ‘‘psychic epidemic,’’ that is, an autonomous movement from the realms of the collective unconscious.

This spiritual need coupled with the psychedelic experimentation of the sixties opened a channel directly from the collective unconscious to produce the Grateful Dead. Stanislav Grof, pioneer of LSD research and explorer of non-ordinary states of consciousness, writes:

Psychedelic substances are extremely powerful tools for opening the depths of the unconscious and the heights of the superconscious. They have great positive potential and can also present grave dangers, depending on the circum-

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