Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Journeying with Jung 34

Chapter 30:  The Incompetent Mind of the Masses:

Yet again another good and interesting chapter title.  We are launched immediately into 'media res' as it were.  We certainly owe Carl Gustave Jung thanks for the many words and terms he coined.  Let's start with this one which immediately follows here. 


Used in astronomy, biology and Gnostic theology the word means the conjunction of opposites and Jung popularised its use with respect to the anima and the animus archetypes. Throughout the history of humanity syzygys crop up again and again in the pairing of male and female deities and indeed in that wonderful Taoist symbol of Yin and Yang.  I will quote here an important passage from Jung's works which Hayman underscores:

We can safely assert that the syzygys are as universal as the existence of man and woman.  From this fact we may reasonably conclude that man's imagination is bound by this motif, so that he was largely compelled to project it again and again, at all times and in all places... It is indeed easy to show that the divine pair is simply an idealisation of the parents or of some other human couple, which for some reason appeared in heaven.  (Hayman, 339)

Insight into Schizophrenia:

One woman who consulted him about her schizophrenic son was given this wonderful, if painful, insight into the illness:

In this case it is unmistakable, nothing could have saved him.... He couldn't meet the world, he was turned in... too busy with God and things eternal, with intuition... (Quoted ibid., 340)

The Nazis were Possessed:

Jung is interesting on his insights into Nazism.  As early as 1936 he had written an article in which he stated that the Germans were in a state of possession - Ergriffenheit.  It was obvious, he stated, in this article that Hitler was especially possessed.  These contentions were made in an interesting article about the god Wotan.  Once again I will return to Hayman for the sake of clarity:

The character of the god [Wotan], he suggested, explains more about Nazism than any analysis in terms of storm and frenzy, the magician who released passion and belligerence, the master of occult knowledge.  He was taking possession of the whole nation and reducing it to a state of fury....but Germany was a land of spiritual catastrophes, vulnerable to the god of rage and frenzy... (Ibid., 340)

Hayman goes on to quote Jolande Jacobi's contention that in pointing out these ideas quoted above that Jung was remembering Nietzsche's dictum that chaos gives birth to a dancing star, that is, that he had felt that the chaos stirred up by the Nazis would give birth to something good eventually.  How wrong he was!


I suppose we are all full of of contradictions and to expect Jung to be without them would be to paint him as superhuman which obviously he was not. On pages 340-341 we read of instances of anti-Semitic bias and on the following page this rather trenchant criticism of him which I feel for the sake of balance I must quote here:

Embarking on a study of Jung's work in 1937, the critic Walter Benjamin accused him of 'leaping to the rescue of the Aryan soul with a therapy reserved exclusively for it.'  This 'auxiliary service to National Socialism' had 'been in the works for some time.'  (Quoted ibid., 342)

However, to be fair to Jung he did criticise openly the Nazi movement in New York, albeit couched in psychological terms:

As a psychologist I am deeply interested in mental disturbances, particularly when they affect whole nations.  I want to emphasise that I despise politics wholeheartedly... About 50 percent of politics is definitely obnoxious inasmuch as it poisons the utterly incompetent mind of the masses... the even more dangerous collective diseases of the mind.  (Quoted ibid., 342)

Again this is certainly an open criticism of Nazism and indeed of the German people whose 'utterly incompetent mind' he castigates.

On the person of Hitler:

Once again here Jung is insightful indeed:

' Hitler is...a medium.  German policy is not made; it is revealed through Hitler.  He is the mouthpiece of the gods as of old.  he says the word which expresses everybody's resentment.'  That was why the Germans were so sensitive to criticism from outside.  'It is blasphemy to them, for Hitler is the Sybil, the Delphic oracle.'  (Quoted ibid., 342-343)

To be continued.

Above I have uploaded a picture of Wotan, the German equivalent of the Norse god Odin. Wotan or Woden was considered to be the leader of the Wild Hunt. The familial relationships are the same between Woden and the other Anglo-Saxon gods as they are for the Norse. For the Anglo-Saxons, Woden was the psychopomp or carrier-off of the dead, but not necessarily with the exact same attributes of the Norse Odin.

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