Episodes of collective unconscious yearning usually precede periods of actualization, moments in history when the rubber meets the road—the times when fantastical ideas begin to bear fruit. For example, discoveries in the field of bacteriology by men like Ferdinand Cohn (1828–1898), Louis Pasteur (1822–1895), and Robert Koch (1843–1910) occurred about the same time in history and were preceded by social and technological changes that helped cultivate an awareness of the underlying issues. When the leading figures appeared on the scene, there preexisted a climate of acceptance. Not absolute acceptance, of course. No, innovators usually have to beat back skepticism. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine this particular breakthrough (micro-bacteriological discoveries) taking place at the time of, say, the Egyptian pharaohs.
All movements need fertile soil to grow in. And that soil is the collective unconscious yearning of a culture, a particular conjunction of circumstances and timing. This phenomenon is related to Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness, a condition cited in William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience.
In its more striking instances [Cosmic Consciousness] is not simply an extension or an expansion of the self-conscious mind with which we are all familiar, but the super-addition of a function as distinct from any possessed by the average man as self-consciousness is distinct from any function possessed by the higher animals.