“The psyche is not of today; its ancestry goes back many millions of years. Individual consciousness is only a flower and fruit of a season, sprung from the perennial rhizome beneath the earth.”
Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875-1961) considered the psyche to be millions of years old, and compared it to a rhizome. The subterranean rhizome has extensive underground networks. Jung’s relation with India were similarly formed, from a maze of underlying links and histories.
The image of a root structure embedded in soil, first appeared to me in a dream. In the dream, a root body with extended rootlets lay buried in an expanse of soil. The root looked healthy, but it had no manifestation on the ground above. Instead, it radiated a luminosity in the soil in which it was formed, and revealed a hidden matrix. What was striking was that while the two layers were aligned, they were also contrasted. The surface area was bare and visible, while the ground below was hidden and enclosed, and held an emergent form.
Jung’s description of the psyche as a perennial rhizome from which all consciousness springs, resonates with the image of a hidden root structure, whose contents are buried under a visible surface. Contemporary artist Michel Alexis’ impression of the rhizome as a living entity with fluid and interwoven lines conveys something similar. Rhizomatic structures are enduring because once embedded in soil, they form deep and intricate networks that are difficult to dislodge.
The rhizome symbolizes hidden and repressed elements of the unconscious psyche, as well as its emergent potential. Jung-India project takes critical view of Jung’s concepts and uses transdisciplinary approaches in understanding the unconscious, in individual and collective contexts.