Saturday, November 15, 2008

Journeying with Jung 31

Other Insights from Chapter 27:  Hitler is a Medicine Man

In search of a Weltanschauung:

Even a casual historian of culture or a neophyte in the history of ideas would find it difficult to disagree with Isaiah Berlin's claim that the opposition to the French Enlightenment, which heralded the primacy of reason above all the other qualities of humanity, is as old as the movement itself.  For example, while Voltaire believed that progress in the arts and sciences was counteracting 'ignorance, superstition, fanaticism, oppression and barbarism,' another philosopher of a romantic turn of mind, Rousseau, contended that civilisation itself had destroyed the simplicity and spontaneity that so naturally belonged to the human species. (See Hayman, 308)

Jung followed in the Romantic tradition of Rousseau who had contended that humankind's natural impulses could only lead to good behaviour - a very naive Romanticism indeed.  Rousseau believed in the primacy of conscience which spoke naturally with the voice of Reason. It's probably over-stating the case and misrepresenting Rousseau not a little to say that he heralded the cause of the noble savage, yet he did believe that humankind was instinctively good in its ability to learn naturally and spontaneously from the physical environment.  Here is what Hayman succinctly says

Thinking more simplistically in terms of a polarity between the civilised and the primitive, and lamenting the disappearance of a Weltanschauung in which all strata of experience were interconnected Jung believed that by demanding rational explanations for everything that happened, we erected an artificial barrier between the psychic and the objective.  (Ibid., 308)

Let me here quote the rather apt saying of our very own poet Patrick Kavanagh which is exceedingly ad rem:  "Let us not ask for reason's payment."  In fact the whole third stanza of this wonderful poem Advent is worth quoting here:

O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning
We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we'll hear it among simple decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens and under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won't we be rich, my love and I, and please
God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour
And Christ comes with a January flower.

Kavanagh is here at one with Jung in refusing to demand rational explanations for all that happens in life and in refusing to erect a barrier between the psychic and the objective.

The Shangri-La Escapism

This above is my title.  I quite fancy that Jung loved his theories and great "weltanschauung" so much that this led to a form of escapism from the horror of Nazism and Hitlerism that pervaded Germany and Austria at the time.  Switzerland became a snowy refuge, a sort of Shangri-La in the snowy mountains, untouched by the evil that stalked the lands below.  In writing these thoughts I'm trying to come to grips with Jung's thoughts and attitudes to the rise of Fascism under the form of Nazism or National Socialism

Now, Freud of course was a Jew by race but not by religion - in fact he was a self-proclaimed atheist. However, the narrow-minded and fundamentalist Nazis could only make one simple equation and that was the psychoanalysis was the ultimate Jewish science.  Let me return once again to Hayman here:

The Nazis were going to stigmatise psychoanalysis as a Jewish science.  This would be Jung's second chance to benefit from not being Jewish.  Freud had thought he needed a Christian president for the international association, and now, after setting up a rival orthodoxy, Jung suddenly had powerful and unscrupulous allies.  In Germany it seemed likely that analytical psychology could displace psychoanalysis.  Putting all Jewish lawyers and Doctors out of work at the same time as banning work by Jewish writers, composers and artists, the Nazis needed to rally as much support as they could from intellectuals and educated people, not only inside Germany but in other German-speaking countries.  (Hayman, 313)


It is important to state a few dates here for clarity.  The General Society for Psychotherapy had been founded in 1926 for Doctors using different psychiatric techniques.  In 1928, when Jung joined, over 80 % of the 399 members were German.  Among the ex-Freudians were Alfred Adler and Wilhelm Reich.  The others included Georg Groddeck, Karen Horney and Matthias Goring - the first cousin of the infamous Field Martial Hermann Goering.  Let's leave Hayman continue the story from here:

On 21 June 1933, Jung took over as president, and in the autumn it was arranged that he would control the international edition of the Zentralblatt [ that is the Zentralblatt fur Psychotherapie, the prestigious journal of The General Society for Psychotherapy], while Matthias Goring would be in charge of the aligned German edition.  (Ibid., 312)

It's also important to point out that Dr Ernst Kretschmer had resigned as president of this organisation and indeed as editor of this journal when he had come under pressure to align the society with Nazi ideology.  Jung had taken over as president after his resignation.  What does this tell us about Jung.  I suppose it tells us at least that he had not a very finely tuned or honed ethical stance.  Remember, as I have said he preferred a rather Shangri-La existence - a sort of naive political blindness, I would call it.

Jung was even interviewed on pro-Nazi radio during this time where the interviewer had condemned both Freud and Adler as being 'hostile to life.'  Jung was now the "fair-haired darling" (my own phrase) of psychology.  Hayman points out that Jung chose to use a word favoured by Nazi propaganda namely "corroded" during his interview:

Here Jung chose a word that often featured in propaganda against the Jews, and he used it again in one of his Berlin seminars, saying that a dream is a message that should not be 'corroded'.  For both the radio audience and the seminar, the word 'corroded' would have signalled agreement with the Nazis.  (Ibid., 312)

Later in this seminal chapter Hayman continues:

Though not admirable, Jung's behaviour is understandable.  he disliked what he saw of the Nazis - especially Goebbels - but he did not know how long they were going to be in power.  Now that Freud was handicapped by age (he was 77) and by Jewishness, analytical psychology could overtake psychoanalysis. at least in the German-speaking world, and Jung, who was 58, could become the leading depth-psychologist if he managed not to antagonise Germany's new rulers.  (Ibid., 313)

However, Jung did feel the need to defend himself.  he said he had wanted to keep an open mind about the Nazis:

Every archetype contains the lowest and the highest, evil and good, and is therefore capable of producing diametrically opposite results... With my medical attitude towards such things, I was in favour of waiting, for it is an attitude that allows no hasty judgements, does not always know from the outset what is better, and is willing to give things a "fair trial" '  (Quoted ibid., 313)

On pages 313 and 314 Hayman mentions some evidence - hearsay and the reports of some clients - which shows some disappointing traces of anti-Semitic views in Jung during the early thirties.  And then , this rather horrible generalisation which he wrote in a letter in 1951:  "if pride is a specific Greek vice then cupidity falls to the lot of the Jews." (Quoted ibid., 314)

Indeed Hayman's biography is wonderfully balanced an objective.  Truly, Carl Gustave Jung was a complex individual - full of many contradictions.  He is neither saint nor sinner, guru nor charlatan, but rather like most of us a conflicted and rather whole character (probably more whole than we are) who somehow managed to integrate the positive and negative, the good and the bad within him.

Once again I have uploaded a picture I took of the Giant's Causeway, Antrim, this August past.

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