Lisa Ricard Claro – Author

Romance is good for your heart!

Collective Consciousness: Is Everything a Reboot?

Posted on Aug 12, 2015 by Lisa Ricard Claro   17 Comments | Posted in The Naked Truth

Wikipedia: Collective conscious or collective conscience (French: conscience collective) is the set of shared beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society. The term was introduced by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim in his Division of Labour in Society in 1893.

Merriam-Webster redirects to the term “group mind” with this definition: 1) the beliefs and desires common to a social group as a whole; 2) a hypothetical psychic unity or collective consciousness of a group of individuals.


The first time I heard the term “collective consciousness” was several years ago during a meeting of my critique group. The conversation bounced subjects, and we came upon the term as it relates to the frustration of hammering out a new and brilliant idea, only to discover midway through the process that a bunch of other people thought of the same thing, and at least one of them already published a book using a nearly identical premise.

Now, I’m not talking about general tropes, like boy-meets-girl. I’m talking about something more specific, like an-algae-skinned-ghost-inhabiting-a-shipwreck-terrifies-fortune-hunters. And all of a sudden, midway through a 50,000 word manuscript—poof!—Random House publishes a story by another author with the exact same premise. And a week later, two similar stories pop up on the radar. A day after that, TNT announces a new show in their season lineup about an-algae-skinned-ghost-inhabiting-a-shipwreck . . .

You get the idea.

It isn’t surprising, given the number of people in the world, that more than one would develop similar ideas. And yes, I realize that an author’s voice and presentation will differ one from the other, survival of the fittest determining who will win and who will lose.  But in terms of how themes emerge, how the heck does it happen all at once? And this is not unique to writers. Other groups run into the same trouble.

For instance, did you know that the reason Alexander Graham Bell received the patent for the telephone is because he filed for his patent earlier in the day than Elisha Gray, who had developed a similar device? Bell was the fifth person to file for a patent on February 14, 1876. Elisha Gray was thirty-ninth, giving new meaning to the phrase, “You snooze, you lose.” Poor Antonio Meucci developed a talking telegraph in 1871, five years ahead of both Bell and Gray, but due to some bad luck his invention was never patented. How many other inventors, whose names we will never know, worked on a similar device? (Note: A lot of legal wrangling ensued over the Bell/Gray issue, with Bell eventually winning the patent.)

The point I’m getting at with all of this is that generating a completely new idea is, while not impossible, pretty darn tough to do—even the world-changing Microsoft borrowed heavily from that trendsetter Apple, which in turn borrowed heavily from Xerox. While Xerox was suing Apple, Apple was suing Microsoft. It seems that at any given time, one or ten or ten thousand of our fellow earthlings might be cogitating ideas similar to our own. This doesn’t make our individuality less, but does offer up a challenge to create our own personal spin on a thing. And what a challenge it is.

Some of the biggest literary hits of recent memory were not new ideas. Stephenie Meyer’s  Twilight series trotted out the old vampire tale, added some sparkles, and created an empire. E.L. James employed the much-used hero-is-a-billionaire trope and took Fifty Shades of Gray to the bank. And though these are the names  we remember, they weren’t the only ones on the playing field with those themes at the time.  They were the ones who climbed over collective conscious, who beat the curve, and came out on top of the dog pile.

So, “collective consciousness” as defined by Merriam-Webster (group mind) is a (hypothetical) psychic phenomenon. Do you believe that? Have you seen it in action in your neighborhood, church, workplace? Have you ever experienced and been frustrated by it? What do you think? And what about the following quote by Mark Twain—true or false?

From Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

See you Friday for Observations From the Tub!


Romance is good for your heart! To purchase your copy of Love Built to Last in eBook or print, go to AmazonBarnes & NobleBlack Opal BooksKobo, or AllRomance.

17 Responses to "Collective Consciousness: Is Everything a Reboot?"

  1. Comment by Rob
    August 12, 2015 at 8:33 am  

    A friend who writes songs told me that all the tunes had been written. I guess that’s true. I agree with Mark Twain. All the words have been written, but not in all the orders they can be. “It was a dark and stormy night.” “That night, the weather was the s**ts.”

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      August 12, 2015 at 10:56 pm  

      Haha…yep. 🙂

  2. Comment by Linda O'Connell
    August 12, 2015 at 10:17 am  

    I tend to agree with THE Mark Twain quote. When I was a child I used to think that somewhere in the world, someone was saying or thinking exactly what I was. That was a freaky thing then, but so truth filled now.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      August 12, 2015 at 10:57 pm  

      The older I get, the more I realize the truth of that, Linda. It still qualifies as freaky, too.

  3. Comment by Sioux
    August 12, 2015 at 10:49 am  

    Rob is right. There are common stories, and we all have the same words to work with. However, how we arrange the words and what kind of rhythm we give to the words… well, that makes some writers more distinctive (and more enjoyed) than others…

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      August 12, 2015 at 10:59 pm  

      Exactly, Sioux. Not just the words alone, either, but the way a story is plotted out also plays a part.

  4. Comment by ButtonsMom2003
    August 12, 2015 at 7:35 pm  

    OK, I have to admit my first thought when I read the title for today’s post was “The Borg.” Yes, I am a rabid Star Trek fan. lol

    I also tend to agree with the Mark Twain quote. I read enough romance books to know that the same themes are repeated often but like Sioux said it’s how the words are arranged. Your book, Love Built to Last, arranged them well. <3

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      August 12, 2015 at 11:03 pm  

      Thanks for that! 🙂

      And, hey! Something else we have in common! The hubster and I are also huge Star Trek fans. We were more into the original than the spin offs. I still wish I could have a Tribble. 🙂

  5. Comment by Cathy C. Hall
    August 12, 2015 at 10:04 pm  

    Oh, yeah, sure, ideas are floating around in the universe all the time. Not hard to believe at all that more than one person would hook up with those ideas. And man, I hate when that happens. 🙂

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      August 12, 2015 at 11:06 pm  

      Awful when it happens. It’s like a pin in a balloon.

  6. Comment by Tammy
    August 13, 2015 at 7:23 pm  

    Thought provoking post as usual! I only recently read about the hundredth monkey effect. Life is amazing.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      August 13, 2015 at 8:35 pm  

      Okay, you got me with the monkey, so I Googled it. Fascinating!

  7. Comment by Theresa Sanders
    August 14, 2015 at 2:29 pm  

    Wonderful post, Lisa. Love Mark Twain’s mental kaleidoscope. We are all part of one humanity, and so of course our thoughts and words are going to connect somewhere out there. It’s what we do with those thoughts and words somewhere in here that makes them unique 🙂

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      August 16, 2015 at 6:27 pm  

      True! The Universe does surprise us sometimes, too, doesn’t it? 🙂

  8. Comment by Claudia
    August 14, 2015 at 4:05 pm  

    This was interesting because I know there are supposed to be no new ideas! But it is amazing how some people can take the old and reuse it with great success!

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      August 16, 2015 at 6:28 pm  

      It is hard to believe that there are no new ideas, but that does seem to be the case. How many combinations of “spin” are there, do you suppose?

  9. Comment by Loyd Sidwell
    October 21, 2015 at 11:37 pm  

    The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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