Mermaids of the Collective Unconscious
First, you must realize that mermaid really exist. How they exist will be explained to you as we go down into their world, but they
do exist! Or rather, we exist, for every one of us is a mermaid or merman.
Every person who is a real merphile is, deep inside, either a mermaid or merman. Our fantasies were and still are populated with handsome, powerful mermen and lovely, graceful mermaids.
Why do merfolk appeal to us?
This is, of course, the real question, isn’t it? Why are we so intrigued by mermaids and mermen? Merfolk appear in the mythology of every land and throughout history, yet people doubt their existence. Carl Jung believed that merfolk do exist — but not physically in a “normal” everyday sense of existence like rocks and clocks. He believed they live in what he called the “collective unconscious” — a mysterious part of our minds that we inherit, that is inside us when we are born. If he is right, then the merfolk exist inside us — in our minds, our psyches. When we express our fascination with merfolk in stories, in dreams, in films, in fantasies, and even in scientific investigation, we are really expressing our own mer-ness — the part inside each of us that is a merman or mermaid.
If we take this idea — from Jung’s famous book The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious — to its logical conclusion, Jung would be telling us that each man has not a merman but a mermaid deep inside of him, a mermaid who is his soul or psyche; likewise, each woman has within her not a mermaid but a merman who is at the very center of who she is — her essence.
So why do mers hold a very special place inside of us?
Mer-Messengers from our Subconscious
Merfolk exist in the deepest parts of our minds. This is not to say that they are only fantasies. The imagination is truly powerful. It is the key to our creativity, to which there is no limit. Merfolk are messengers from the deepest part of our own internal seas. They are the secret sharers of our thoughts and spirits, a representation of our “Id” (in psychological terms).
Breaking the surface
This is far beyond “The Little Mermaid” syndrome now. Not that the original fairy tale was superficial — it was dark and spiritual in its range and topic. Not that the altered happy-ending Disney version is bad — although it tends to make merfolk imagery trivial and mundane. There are deeper, darker reasons why merfolk fascinate us, appearing in the lore of all nations — and in our dreamers.
Diving into the depths
Mers have a water-sensate appeal which may go back to the emergence of the mammal from the sea. If we came from the sea, the mer may be a missing link between sea and land creatures. Even though we consider mers as myths, the half-mammal, half-fish form does appear in nature, as in seals which combine both sea and land characteristics. Furthermore, human blood is nearly half salt water and the human body is mainly fluid in content. We are, in fact, first cousins of the legendary mers.
We see our connections with these hybrid creatures on those rare occasions when children fall into freezing water and remain submerged for as long as half an hour. Instinctively, the mammalian response is to slow down blood to all parts of the body while still keeping the heart and brain functioning. Body temperature drops from upper 90s to low 80s. As a result, the children emerge from the water unhurt provided that proper medical attention is administered immediately to restore body heat. The instincts involved in these cases are the same responses that allow air-breathing whales, porpoises, and dolphins to live in the sea. Thus, the mermaid and merman could be subconscious symbols or reminders or our mammalian-aquatic ancestry.
From a Freudian perspective, the mer is connected to the fact that the human sperm is a miniature mer having a long tail and living in the dark, warm, salty ocean within the body. Jung’s suggestion of primitive memories and archetypes may support the idea that the human remembers the sperm-mer form.
Note that the words “natal,” “innate,” “native,” and “nativity” — coming from the Latin words for “birth” — are closely related to the words “natation” and “natatorium” — from the Latin word for “to swim.” Birth, after all, involves the act of swimming first into, then out of the warm, watery “sea cove” of the womb. In this connection, Jung referred to the sea as the “Mother of us all.” Infants seem to be natural swimmers, with adult-instilled fear of water being the only real reason that, as the child grows older, the ability to learn to swim becomes more difficult or fearful.
The mer-mystery of life itself
Psychologically, water represents the mystery of life. Water is deep and there are things unseen below its surface. Deep water is commonly a Freudian or Jungian dream symbol of the subconscious. Humans are both fascinated with and afraid of those unseen depths where so many treasures and dangers lurk. The mer apparently calls the subconscious of the child to remember his or her origins in the primeval sea or womb. Thus humans are both intrigued by and fearful of the siren song calling them back to those early sensate stages of life when they were relatively free and overflowing with the lusty joy of primitive life. The “sea-being” deep within our “Id” is capable of power and violence, and it is only by reclaiming this “sea-being” that great power can be achieved.