Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Journeying with Jung 35



Jung left New York on the 3rd of October 1936, and on the boat back to Europe he began work on a lecture he was to give at the Tavistock Clinic in London later in that same month.  This lecture in interesting for its insights into group/social psychology and into the growth of Nazism and Hitlerism.

As regards the malaise experienced in Russia, Germany, Austria and Italy, this is what he had to say:

...he diagnosed 'infantile and archaic psychology' in people's behaviour - 'infantile inasmuch as they always look for the father and archaic inasmuch as the father-figure always appears in a mythological setting.'  They therefore regressed to 'primitive tribal associations that are held together on the one hand by a chief or medicine man, and on the other by a sort of mystical doctrine, the tribal teaching.'  (Quoted Hayman, 343)

The following sentiments are insightful as they show a deep understanding of the nature of the rise of fascism and extremism of the right:

Man in a group...'is always unreasonable, irresponsible, emotional, erratic and unreliable.  Crimes the individual could never stand are freely committed by thy group being... The larger the organisation, the lower its morality' (Ibid., 343)

This gives us insights not alone in fascist and extreme right wing behaviour, but also into such crimes at home here in Ireland such as the kicking to death of the young man Brian Murphy by a large group of drunken youths at Annabel's Nightclub in the Burlington Hotel  here in Dublin some years back - around the year 2000 I think. 

If one can get one's head around such a heinous crime in a small group setting, then what Jung says in this lecture is very true indeed.  He continues:

Nations are inaccessible to reasonable argument, they are suggestible like hysterical patients, they are childish and moody, helpless victims of their emotions...they are stupid to an amazing degree, they are greedy, reckless and blindly violent, like a rhino suddenly roused from sleep...In Germany, as in Russia and Italy, men had come out of nowhere ... and each of them said like Louis XIV, "L'État c'est moi!" They were the new leaders... inconspicuous nobodies previously, but equipped with the great spirit voice that cowed the people into soundless obedience... (Quoted ibid.,343-344)

One can only marvel at Jung's analysis of the national psyche of Germany and Austria - it is brilliant, shrewd and ever so true.  Think of the hordes of Nazi party henchmen roaming the streets of Germany in the thirties of the twentieth century, breaking the plate glass windows of Jewish shops, burning Jewish places of worship and daubing obscene and racist slogans against Jews on walls for all to see.  These were bullies to the core, 'hysterical men', 'helpless victims of their emotions', 'stupid', and were 'greedy, reckless and blindly violent.'  A brilliant and apt description.  I love his image quoted above - they went on the rampage 'like a rhino suddenly roused from sleep.'  Suddenly these ' inconspicuous nobodies' were elevated into being 'somebodies' (my term).  Somehow a  'great spirit voice that cowed the people into soundless obedience' was enervating and inspiring them in their ghastly and demonic actions. Jung then continues on to describe Hitler.  (Remember that this was in mid-October 1936.  One wonders how much press his views got in England at the time.  Perhaps that is something I shall research a little more some day.)

As a mere man [Hitler] is inoffensive and modest and has nice eyes.  But when the State spirit speaks through him, he sends forth a voice of thunder and his word is so powerful that it sweeps together crowds of millions like autumn leaves... 

Involving three million people, the neo-pagan movement in Germany can only be compared with the archetypal material exhibited by a case of paranoid schizophrenia... It does not go as far as collective hallucinations, though the waves of enthusiasm and even ecstasy are running high... The Swastika is a form of a mandala that can be interpreted as a projection of an unconscious collective attempt of the formation of a compensatory unified personality...  (Quoted ibid., 344)

Jung's Honesty:

Early in 1937 Jung went to Germany to speak at a conference at Konigsfeld in the Black Forest.  the conference was on Spirituality and Spiritual Leadership.  Jung showed exceptional honesty when asked who his patients really were:

I am Herr Jung and nobody else, and here is Miss So-and-so.  It would not be pleasant if one could not treat such sick persons...If some kind of idiot arrives at my door, it arouses the explorer in me, the curiosity, my spirit of adventure, my compassion.  It touches my heart, which is too soft...and I enjoy seeing what I can achieve for these crazy people. (Quoted ibid., 346)

Jung on Religion:

In October 1937 Jung gave the Terry Lectures at Yale on 'Psychology and Religion.'  Jung had read the very famous classic  The Idea of the Holy (1923) by the Protestant theologian Rudolf Otto who in that book describes religious experience as nonrational but objective sense of the numinous.  I remember reading this very classic when I studied theology for the first time in the late 1970s.  Otto had spoken of God as the 'mysterium tremens et fascinans' before whom we feel dread and inward shuddering that no other created object can instil or inspire in us. In experiencing this dread and shuddering before this tremendous and fascinating mystery we are essentially encountering what he termed the numinous.  The 'numenon' is the opposite to what we call the 'phenomenon' which we can see and feel and measure.  We cannot see, hear or measure the 'numenon' or the numinous but we can feel it at a deep level at the centre of our very being. (The Latin word 'numen' means the divine power and Jung used the word numinous in the same sense as Otto had).  Indeed, Jung sometimes stressed, as he did at Yale, that what mattered in therapy was that patients should be introduced to the numinous.  Here there are some definite overlaps with the work of the modern psychotherapist Brian Thorne in his use of the sense of the spiritual within therapy.  This is a link I shall explore in a later post.

It is also interesting to note that Jung, while discussing the psyche at Yale in 1937, that though its connection with the brain was undeniable, it was 'a fatal mistake to regard the human psyche as a purely personal affair.' (Quoted ibid., 347)  He also made interesting comments on Catholicism and Protestantism with respect to encountering God.  This I find interesting having been an erstwhile theologian.  He stated that the modern Protestant has 'a unique spiritual opportunity for immediate religious experience.  It is not so easy for the Catholic to 'make himself conscious of sin, because confession and absolution are always available to ease excess of tension.' (Quoted ibid., 347)  In other words for the Catholic the grace of God is somehow always mediated by the Church and its sacraments.  Another way of putting this is that the structures of the Church take over as it were from the individual - and it becomes a sort of power broker.  On the other hand the Protestant soul can go directly to God within the intermediaries as it were - Church as official power-broker is sidelined.  I remember reading years ago about what Catholic theologians call 'privileged access to the truth' with respect to mystics, prophets, saints and visionaries and such like and how the official orthodox institutional Church has always been doubtful and suspicious of their motivations.  In other words if people say they can experience God directly, then there is not too much of a role for the priestly caste and for sacraments and such like.

Jung on Archetypes:

Talking about archetypes, Jung equated them with motifs in mythology and folklore that 'repeat themselves in almost identical form.' (Quoted ibid., 347)  The term 'archetype' had been used since the time of Cicero and Pliny and Nietzsche himself had advanced in germ the theory of the collective unconscious which he himself was to propose formally to the modern world.  After all, had not Nietzsche declared that 'in sleep and in dreams we pass through the whole thought of earlier humanity...' (Ibid., 347)  In an impromptu speech at a dinner party held for him at the end of this conference, Jung was to declare, and indeed, once again, there is much truth in what he says:

Today archetypal contents, formerly taken care of satisfactorily by the explanations of the Church, have come loose from their projections and are troubling modern people... Life has gone out of the churches and it will never go back.'  (Quoted, op.cit., 348)

In this sense analytical psychology  was a new type of religion.  The same could be said, of course, for psychoanalysis or psychotherapy today.  He finished his impromptu speech with these words - the words of a pastor and indeed father of a new religion:

I have no message, no mission... Be human, seek understanding, seek insight, and make your hypothesis, your philosophy of life.  Then we may recognize the Spirit alive in the unconscious of every individual.  Then we become brothers of Christ [sic].' (op.cit., 348)

Journey to India:

In December 1937 Jung journeyed to India with his young friend Fowler McCormick - Jung's ideal travelling companion -  (now 39) who had accompanied him many years previously to New Mexico.  Hayman points out that the old man went to India with a lot of preconceptions about the Indian mentality, not the least of which was his belief that there was no split between thinking and feeling in the Eastern consciousness, that spirituality pervaded the world of the senses there.  'The Indian can forget neither the body nor the mind,' he wrote, 'while the European is always forgetting the one or the other.'  (Quoted ibid., 349)

Trying to generalise about 'eastern religious practice' and to define what it had in common with 'western mysticism', Jung suggested that the goal of both was 'the shifting of the centre of gravity from the ego to self, from man to God.' (Quoted ibid., 350)  Ignatius Loyola's spiritual exercises - Jung had lectured on them at The Polytechnic - had been aimed to subordinate the possession of an ego to possession by Christ.  Hayman goes on to point out:

Of the Indian religions, Buddhism attracted Jung most. 'For Buddha the self stands above all gods, a unus mundus which represents the essence of human existence and the world as a whole... Buddha saw and grasped the cosmogenic dignity of human consciousness; for that reason he saw clearly that if a man extinguished that light, the world would sink into nothingness.'  (Ibid., 351)



Above a picture of a pre-war Hitler, the then "terrible incarnation" of the god Wotan, to sustain a metaphor and image used by Jung in my previous post, with one of his favoured pets - his inseparable German Shepherd - one of whose breed he always kept as a pet.

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