Monday, June 16, 2008

Jung: Resisting the 'New World Order '

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

It is said of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung [1875 - 1961] that he was 'prophetic of today’s ongoing debate about religion and science' as well as a much older debate about the 'individual' and the 'state'. Today --the GOP has demagogued religion while Bush, the party's flag bearer, has thrown in with 'state absolutists' --Friedrich Hegel, Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler and Pol Pot.
The healthy man does not torture others - generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.

--Carl Jung
Those words put Carl Jung in opposition to a cult of cruelty and torture that has apparently assumed political control in the United States. It is ironic that a nation said to have been founded upon the principles of the enlightenment should find itself, under Bush's rule, categorized with regimes historically associated with 'collectivism' and 'totalitarianism.

Growing up in West Texas, among both radical 'John Birchers' and fundamentalist Christians, it is less surprising to me that the GOP, a party that often says of itself that it opposes 'big government' should, during the regime of George W. Bush, align itself with the forces of state oppression and incipient totalitarianism and that it should do so while brandishing the flag.
In this broad belt of unconsciousness, which is immune to conscious criticism and control, we stand defenseless, open to all kinds of influences and psychic infections. As with all dangers, we can guard against the risk of psychic infection only when we know that is attacking, and how, where and when the attack will come.

Since self-knowledge is a matter of getting to know the individual, facts and theories are of very little help in this respect. For the more a theory lays claims to universal validity, the less capable it is of doing justice to the individual facts.

Any theory based on experience is necessarily statistical; that is to say, it formulates an ideal average which abolishes all exceptions at either end of the scale and replaces them by an abstract mean. This mean is quite valid, though it need not necessarily occur in reality.

--Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self
In "The Undiscovered Self", Jung foresaw a great crisis arising from the forces of 'collectivism' on the one hand and those that celebrate the inherent value of the individual on the other. It is a dialectic that few could have imagined might reach a zenith in a Bush regime, from which nothing special was expected, a regime that held out only the promise of oppressive dullness --not oppresssion itself, a regime characterized by standard GOP conventionality and mediocrity.

Little was expected of Bush who delivered even less in every area but one. Bush marshaled the powerful forces of state propaganda, fear, and 'group think' to forge a totalitarian collective from among his aggressive, authoritarian, intolerant and elitist base! In the wake of 911, even strong 'individualists' found it easier to just go along with the 'mass think' that blamed Islam, Europe [France, in particular] for crimes that we now know were perpetrated by the Bush regime itself. Hitler had been similarly successful in the wake of the Reichstag Fire.

Jung argued the future of civilization was literally dependent upon the ability of the individual to resist the collective forces that are found in every society. Jung's prescription consisted of individuals 'gaining an awareness and understanding' of one's own sub-conscious, in other words, “the undiscovered self'.
Resistance to the organized mass can be affected only by the man who is well organized in his individuality as the mass itself.'

--Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self, [p. 60]
One should not be surprised that Bush benefited most from the 'collectivist instinct' found in the 'religious right', a movement which typifies 'group think' and the suppression of individual reason, creativity, originality, or non-conformity of any type.
He [Jung] distinguishes between religion which expresses a subjective relationship to certain metaphysical factors and a creed which merely gives expression to a collective belief. Religion is understood in the broad sense, including the relationship of the individual to the metaphysical and the world of dreams, feelings and intuitions.

Science, on the other hand, is the rationalistic, statistical and theoretical part of understanding. Self-knowledge, according to Jung, cannot be achieved by abandoning either of these facets.

--Review, Carl Jung's The Undiscovered Self
In America, the 'religious' instinct is that of the 'group'. It has very little in common with the individual's quest for enlightenment or spirituality. Thus, the process by which individuals acquire knowledge of Jung's 'undiscovered self' is antithetical to 'ideological fanaticism' observed to be rampant and intolerant throughout Bush's America.

Only when individuals embrace the dual nature of the human psyche --the existence of good as well as its capacity for evil --that individuals may cope with the dangers and threats posed by those in power or by what Jung has called 'the sum total of individuals' i.e, the modern 'mass society'. It is not only totalitarian regimes but society itself, by way of the 'science' of 'demographics' that reduces the individual to the individual only as he/she is a part of the 'mass'.
Modern propaganda reaches individuals enclosed in the mass, yet it also aims at a crowd, but only as a body composed of individuals. What does this mean? First of all, that the individual is never considered as an individual, but always in terms of what he has in common with others, such as his motivations, his feelings, or his myths. He is reduced to an average; and except for a small percentage, action based on averages will be effectual.'

...

'In this broad belt of unconsciousness, which is immune to conscious criticism and control, we stand defenseless, open to all kinds of influences and psychic infections. As with al dangers, we can guard against the risk of psychic infection only when we know that is attacking, and how, where and when the attack will come. Since self-knowledge is a matter of getting to known the individual facts, theories help very little in this respect. For the more a theory lays claims to universal validity, the less capable it is of doing justice to the individual facts. Any theory based on experience is necessarily statistical; that is to say, it formulates an ideal average which abolishes all exceptions at either end of the scale and replaces them by an abstract mean. This mean is quite valid, though it need not necessarily occur in reality.

--Propaganda: On the Formation of Man’s Attitudes[p.6]
Jung defies summary. It is better that you read him for yourself. However, some general conclusions are possible. Jung writes that 'Separation from his instinctual nature' impels the 'conflict between conscious and unconscious', between 'knowledge and faith' [Jung, op cit., p. 81] It is easy enough to find this 'symptom' in Bush's America bombarded as it is by unprecedented 'mass media' and equally unprecedented pressures to conform.

These 'pressures' to conform have always been identifiable, opposed as they were by Henry David Thoreau who chose --at Walden pond --to "live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Others known for their creative resistances to 'mass think' include Mark Twain and later Lenny Bruce, the 'beatniks', hippies, and Viet Nam war resisters. 'Howl' by Allen Ginsberg is a latter day movement's very anthem of 'resistance' as was the earlier 'Song of Myself' by Walt Whitman in which it is written:
'I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

--Walt Whitman
“Here we must ask: Have I any religious experience and immediate relation to God, and hence that certainty which will keep me, as an individual, from dissolving in the crowd?'

--Jung, op cit, p.88
Given the oppressive nature of Bush's evil regime, the 'mass think' inherent in 'mass media', the mind-numbing sameness of American suburbs, it is difficult to find the paths sought so heroically by Whitman, Ginsberg, et al.
We can recognize our prejudices and illusions only when, from a broader psychological knowledge of ourselves and others, we are prepared to doubt the absolute rightness of our assumptions and compare them carefully and conscientiously with the objective facts.

--Jung, op cit,p. 102

The same thing was said much earlier by Oliver Cromwell to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1650
I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
The GOP, tragically, will never admit of being wrong. Therefore, as long as the GOP is allowed power of any sort, the state is made dysfunctional and the 'debate' made meaningless.

The future of mankind is in doubt. As long as the state presumes to exercise 'absolute power', individuals are robbed of the freedom required to lead meaningful lives.

In this challenging and provocative work, Dr. Carl Jung—one of history’s greatest minds—argues that civilization’s future depends on our ability as individuals to resist the collective forces of society. Only by gaining an awareness and understanding of one’s unconscious mind and true, inner nature—“the undiscovered self”—can we as individuals acquire the self-knowledge that is antithetical to ideological fanaticism. But this requires that we face our fear of the duality of the human psyche—the existence of good and the capacity for evil in every individual. In this seminal book, Jung compellingly argues that only then can we begin to cope with the dangers posed by mass society—“the sum total of individuals”—and resist the potential threats posed by those in power.

--Penquin Review of Jung's 'The Undiscovered Self'

At last, in response to uninformed 'labelers', practitioners of stupid ad hominem fallacies: Jung was NOT a Nazi. Jung, in fact, wound up on the Nazi 'blacklist' probably because he denounced precisely whatever it is that defines a 'Nazi'.
As early as 1918, Jung knew something unfavorable was arising within Germany. His words of the "blond beast stirring in its subterranean prison...threatening us with an outbreak that will have devastating consequences" (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1947) serve as an early warning of what was to come. Just ten years later, he wrote on how each person is unconsciously worse when acting within a crowd rather than individually. Jung warned the world that the larger an organization becomes, the more the people are prone to immorality and blind ignorance (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1947).

In 1933, in a lecture given in Cologne, Germany (at the same period in history when others accused him of Nazi-sympathy), Jung leveled a full blown warning about people as a collective suffocating the individual, leaving those in the crowd anonymous, irresponsible, and dangerous. Jung implied that Hitler (and Nazism) was the inevitable cause of such collectivenes. Four years later, in 1937, Jung spoke at Yale University in the United States, relaying his belief that the movement seen in Germany was explained by a fear of neighboring countries supposedly possessed by devilish leaders. In stating that no one can recognize their own unconscious underpinnings, the possibility that Germany was projecting their own condition upon their International neighbors was evident (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1947). This fear leads to the nationalistic duty to have the biggest guns and the strongest army.

In 1940, most of these words were published in German but were quickly suppressed. As a result of Jung's views about Germany and particularly Adolf Hitler, he ended up on the Nazi "blacklist" (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1947). When France was later invaded, the Gestapo destroyed Jung's French translations as well. In no uncertain terms, Jung's writings and lectures served as a warning for the conflict to come. As well, Jung's own words opposed the accusations of Nazi sympathy and anti-Semitism. It would seem then, in light of the above, that the answer to the question of Nazi sympathy and anti-Semitism is fairly clear.

--Jung's Own Words
Additional resources

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