The Jung Talk

The Enigmatic Origins of the Jung Cult(?)

By Dr. Jan Garrett

Written: 1999; last revised (in a very minor way): August 1, 2011

The following is a talk presented to the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in Bowling Green KY in April 1999. It is primarily based on Richard Noll's two historical studies of Carl Jung and the origins of the Jungian movement:

The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement (Princeton University Press, 1994), abbreviated TJC;

The Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung (Random House, 1997), abbreviated TAC.

I also make some use of Don McGowan, What's Wrong with Jung, (Prometheus, 1994), referred to as "McGowan."

A Few Biographical Points

Carl G. Jung was born in 1875, that is, one hundred twenty-five years ago. He died in 1961. Relatively little is known about his first sixty years. What many think they know, based on the semiautobiographical work Memories, Dreams and Reflections, is an image carefully cultivated by Jung and his disciples.

We know that in 1895 he matriculated in medical school. From 1900-1909 he worked as a psychiatrist at the Burghözli Mental Hospital. In 1905 he began lecturing at the University of Zürich. From 1907-13 he was active in the Freudian psychoanalytic movement. We have a record of the letters he sent Freud 1907-13.

Around 1914 Jung cuts himself off from all external professional activities, keeping only his private practice and his most devoted followers. But it is in this period, from 1913 through 1936 that Jung laid the foundations for his movement.(1)

1936 is a key year. At this time Hitler attacks German pagans who were not carefully controlled by his Nazi Party. From then on Jung downplays the Germanic pagan elements of his thinking, repackaging his view so as to keep his distance from the pagan followers of Hitler and ensure their attractiveness to English- speaking audiences likely to be hostile to Nazism.

Jung v. History; a Historical Study of Jung

Jung did not think that history is very important. Rather he thought that the past is important as a source for discovery of eternal truths about the self and the divine. Jung ignores the methods of historical reconstruction and holds out the promise that each of us can reach the eternal past by studying the unconscious inner kingdom. Since in Jung's view, everyone, or at least everyone who shares a certain racial background, has access to the same unconscious kingdom, little historical inquiry need be done. What is eternal is essentially unchanging. It is not so much a human past as a superhuman, transcendent kingdom. In Jung's view, our pagan ancestors had a more direct access to this kingdom, and we can now reach it through dreams and visions aided by Jungian analysis.

By contrast, Richard Noll wants to study Jung as a historical figure. He looks at Jung in his own context, a product of historical events and intellectual movements of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German-speaking Europe.


Carl Jung's views emerged from the culture of the German speaking world of the nineteenth century. It is difficult to imagine how people thought at that time because the experience of Nazism and the defeat of Hitler brought about a dramatic change in German thinking.

German Romanticism

Large numbers of educated Germans believed there was something especially deep about the German soul. They were proud of their poets like Goethe, philosophers like Immanuel Kant, composers like Beethoven, theologians like Friedrich Schleiermacher, and hordes of important historical and linguistic scholars. This work in the "sciences of the spirit"--the German name for what we call the humanities--was itself a sort of spiritual calling. Sharp thinkers at the time noted that German Romanticism was partly compensation for the fact that Germany lagged economically and politically behind the British and the French. Before 1871 Germany did not have any colonies , nor was it even a unified nation-state. The German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine exposed the Romantic German sentiment with this poem:
The land is held by the Russians and French,
the sea's by the British invested,
but in the airy realm of dreams
our sway is uncontested.
Dreams included not only literature and idealist philosophy, but also historical and theological scholarship. Looking for the historical Jesus, German scholars found that the Jesus of the gospels is the construction of later Christians who never knew him directly. Many drew the conclusion that Christianity lacked a special claim to truth. They began considering non-Christian spiritualities, including Asian religions and paganism.

The Fin de Siecle Pagan Counter-Culture

You might think that, apart from marginal tribal peoples paganism has been dead for centuries and revived only since the 1970's, say, with the women's spirituality movement. But this is not the first revival of paganism in modern times. Paganism was deliberately revived in the German-speaking world during the late 19th and early twentieth century. It was claimed that Christianity is a repressive religion, that paganism was inherently freer and more joyous. Paganism found its way into literature and art, for example, into Wagner's operas, and there was a significant non-Christian element to the turn of the century counter-cultural movement. There was even an environmental movement whose views in many ways anticipate the today's environmentalism. (2) But there were unique features too.

A century ago many people worried about hereditary degeneration. Whereas nowadays we are told to get in touch with old Christian family values that have fallen into disuse, the German movement said we must get in touch with suppressed pagan values to regenerate our souls. Germanic pagan cults were established to try to revive the German spirit, which had supposedly languished since forced conversion of the Germans to Christianity. Friedrich Nietzsche claimed that when Europe became Christian, European humanity became decadent. According to Nietzsche, Christianity so totally suppressed the body's vital impulses that humanity lost its creativity. Nietzsche taught what Jung was later essentially to repeat, that the irrational factor must neither be eliminated nor thoroughly tamed by order-seeking reason, but somehow integrated into our lives. Nietzsche's followers in the German counter-culture rejected conformity to social norms as so much bourgeois-Christian repression.

Nationalist Essentialism

In our discussion of 19th century German culture, we cannot ignore the notion of volkisch or national essences. A national essence is an alleged group of defining characteristics that is supposed to make, say, a British person British, a German person German, or a Jewish person Jewish. The philosopher Hegel talks about the essential Spirits of the Greeks, Romans, and Germans. Prior to modern genetic theories there was no clear distinction between biology and culture. It's easy to forget that the Darwinian revolution occurred before the discovery of the genetic mechanism. Thus even after publication of Darwin's Origin of Species (1861) there was no guarantee that educated people could distinguish learned habits from biologically inherited characteristics.

Biologist Ernst Haeckel was the foremost German Darwinian in the late 19th century. He was also the founder of the only pantheist religious organization prior to 1997. His group, the Monist League, survived his death and lasted until the 1930's. Many of its members later joined Hitler's Nazi Party. This was possible because Haeckel's biology had a place for notions of national or racial essences.

As a biologist, Ernst Haeckel supplied a teaching that would turn out to be important in Jung's thinking. Haeckel coined the slogan: "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." Ontogeny is the development of the individual being. Phylogeny is the development of the species. Haeckel's slogan means that the growth of the individual embryo (ontogeny) essentially duplicates development of the species from earlier life forms (phylogeny). Now, Haeckel himself thought that this principle would yield results in psychology. It should be possible, he thought, to "trace the stages of the development of the soul of man from the soul of the brute" (TJC, 52). Thus Haeckel thoroughly blurs the line between biology and culture. Jung will continue this error and it will play a role in the formation of his idea of a collective unconscious.

Back to Jung

Now let us return to Jung the individual.

Carl G. Jung was born near Basel, son of Rev. Paul Jung. His mother's father was a Old Testament scholar who regularly spoke to spirits; his mother's mother would fall into trances and wake up babbling prophecies. By 19 Jung was convinced that there was an ancient personality in himself, somehow connected with the ancestors, the dead, and spiritual mysteries (TAC, 24). At 20, shortly after starting medical school Jung and a circle of female relatives met secretly to contact the spirit world, and what happened, with Jung's cousin Hellie Preiswerk acting as a medium, confirmed Jung's feeling view that it was possible to contact the spirits of the dead. (TAC, 26-28)(3)

Jung read widely in the literature of spiritualism and psychic research. His reading included protestant theology, historical Jesus research, Christian mysticism, spiritualism, Swedenborg. He absorbed the tradition of German Romantic nature philosophy (Goethe, Schelling) and studied biology (the works of Larmarck, Darwin, and Haeckel). Jung was not a very sophisticated student of philosophy (TAC, 31).(4) He read the great philosophers in search of proofs that survival after death might be possible.(5)

In his professional publications Jung refers to spirits as "unconscious personalities, splinter personalities, and complexes." But Noll is convinced that this is a facade: Jung really does believe that these spirits exist.

In 1905, in a more scientific moment, Jung showed that Nietzsche, in writing Also Sprach Zarathustra, had been inspired by an essay he had read in his youth but forgotten. This is cryptomnesia, in which one remembers the content of something to which one had been exposed without remembering the event of reading or seeing it before, so it seems that one is thinking of it for the first time. Jung soon ignored his own discovery. If he had remembered it, he might not have proposed his own idea of the collective unconscious. Jung began discovering pagan symbolism in the dreams of his patients, but he downplayed the fact that these symbols were widespread in the counter-cultural publications of the time. We can never rule out the possibility that patients whose dreams contained pagan symbols had seen them earlier in their personal lives.

Jung was familiar with 19th century spiritualism, which was "on one side a religious sect, on the other a scientific hypothesis" (his own words in 1905; TAC, 52). In launching his own movement he used this strategy himself. This accounts for the maddeningly slippery nature of Jung's writings. Noll states that Jung's "psychological" theories were "constructed deliberately, and somewhat make his own magical, polytheist, pagan world view more palatable to a secularized world conditioned to respect only those ideas that seem to have a scientific flair to them." (TAC, xv).(6)

Otto Gross and Jung's Attraction to Paganism

Our understanding of Jung would be incomplete without insight into his relations with women. His most important early disciples were female, although apparently today the majority of Jungian analysts are male. From recent history of charismatic religious cults we are familiar with the tendency of charismatic male religious leaders to act out personal power in unorthodox sexual behavior with parishioners (or even non-parishioners) other than their wives. Think of the scandals involving Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart about ten years ago...or the film The Apostle starring Robert Duvall as a charismatic preacher whose marriage was on the rocks from his womanizing. Jung may fit this mold.

But in 1907-1908 Jung was a doctor and a respectable bourgeois, already married, and, in spite of his Freudianism, at least a nominal Christian. How was he to accommodate this Dionysian tendency he recognized within himself, to justify transgression of Christian monogamy? The catalyst came in the charismatic person of Otto Gross, a psychoanalyst active in the pagan and free love movements of the period. Gross believed that "the true healthy state for the neurotic was sexual immorality." Gross tried to practice what he preached. Not only did he throw off sexual restraints but he began using morphine, cocaine, and opium. And he got addicted. At his wife's urging, Gross agreed to commit himself for treatment at an institution under Jung's care. Gross eventually escaped from the institution, uncured of his drug habit. But while there he analyzed Jung as much as Jung analyzed him, and Jung was more affected than Gross. Noll writes that

Gross captivated Jung with his theories of sexual liberation, his Nietzscheanism, and his utopian dreams of transforming the world through psychoanalysis...During these long hours he learned of Gross's sexual escapades in Heidelberg. He heard of the seductions of the von Richtofen sisters, of illegitimate children, of vegetarianism and opium and orgies. He learned of the Schwabing to Zurich to Ascona countercultural circuit and listened, amazed, as Gross informed him of neopagans, Theosophists, and sun worshipers who had formed their own colonies in Jung's Switzerland. (TAC, 84)
Gross had become convinced by a theory (defended in Das Mutterrecht by Johann Bachofen) that our ancestors had lived freely, instinctively, and polygamously in small nomadic bands that tended to be matriarchal. According to this theory, the early matriarchal stage was followed by patriarchy. Once patriarchy was established, all signs of the matriarchy were abolished. Gross concluded that polygamy was rooted in human nature. If our ancestors lived polygamously before patriarchy, then our natural tendencies towards polygamy were probably there, just under the surface. Polygamy is an ancestral impulse. Civilization injures humans by creating social conventions that require them to repress their true savage nature. The shackles of family, society, and (patriarchal) Deity must be broken. Live polygamously. This will release the ancient creative energies of the body and the unconscious and bring humans to a new level.

Jung opposed this view in 1908 when Gross arrived for treatment but by the time Gross escaped, Jung was convinced. According to Richard Noll, Jung tried to practice and promote what Bachofen and Gross preached "by founding a spiritualist mystery cult of renewal and rebirth--and by advocating polygamy for the rest of his life"(TAC, 87). Thus by 1912 Jung had rejected Christianity with its repressive orthodoxies. He found another model, pagan antiquity, that held sex sacred (Ibid.). Jung himself practiced his new religion in trysts with his mistress and disciple Toni Wolff in a special tower Jung had built. The walls of this tower were decorated with drawings portraying the mystical figures encountered in Jung's visionary journeys into the unconscious.

Jung's Visions

Jung's official autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections tells of Jung's visionary journeys of December 1913. But, according to Noll (TAC, 122-25) it omits the most important part of Jung's prescription: an experience of god through self-deification. Jung induced an altered state of consciousness and entered what he describes as the Land of the Dead. He met an old man named Elijah and a blind young girl named Salome. The initial descent was followed by a second. This time he saw Elijah on a rocky ridge, a ring of boulders, maybe a "Druidic sacred place." The old man went inside and climbed upon an altar--the wall grew larger while the altar and Elijah began to shrink. Jung noticed a tiny woman, who turned out to be Salome. He also saw a miniature snake and a house.

The walls kept growing. Jung was descending into the underworld. Salome became interested in him; she assumed he could cure her blindness. "She began to worship me. I said, ‘Why do you worship me?' She replied, ‘You are Christ.' Jung protested but Salome persisted.

Then I saw the snake approach me. She came close and began to encircle me and press me in her coils. These coils reached up to my heart. In the agony and the struggle, I sweated so profusely that the water flowed down on all sides of me. Then Salome rose, and she could see. While the snake was pressing me, I felt that my face had taken on the face of an animal of prey, a lion or a tiger.

Jung explained to his disciples that his experience was similar to the ancient mysteries:

You cannot get conscious of these unconscious facts without giving yourself to them...These images have so much reality that they recommend themselves, and such extraordinary meaning that one is caught. They form part of the ancient mysteries; in fact, it is such figures that made the mysteries.
Noll comments:
Jung's interpretation here is clear: his visions were an initiatory experience into the mysteries of pagan antiquity. These mystery cults provided all the symbols of transformation necessary for a personal renewal or rebirth. Further they were at the deepest level of the unconscious mind, available to one and all...
The climax, however, was "the mystery of deification," which Jung describes in this way:
The important part that led up to the deification was the snake's encoiling of me. Salome's performance was deification. The animal face which I felt mine transformed into was the famous [Deus] Leontocephalus (lion-headed god) of the Mithraic mysteries. It is the figure which is represented with a snake coiled around the man, the snake's head resting on the man's head, and the face of the man that of the lion. This statue has only been found in mystery grottoes (the underground churches, the last remnants of the catacombs).
Jung then identified this figure as Aion, or the eternal being (TAC, 124).

Jungian Paganism, Freud and the Jews

Jung believed that just as the human race all started out pagan and only later, having lost touch with its pagan roots, became rootless, "civilized" and Christian, so Germans start out, in infancy, as spontaneous pagans, but this spontaneous religion is overlaid with the artificial ideas of monotheism. Our loss of wholeness is a loss of contact with these roots. But we can reach these roots, not by the difficult work of historical research but by going inward, digging below the personal unconscious and uncovering the collective unconscious that had only been covered over.

When Jung discovered Freud's method of psychoanalysis, he quickly saw it as a tool to uncover hidden resources buried within. But while Freud welcomed Jung into the psychoanalytic movement, he soon noted that Jung was uncritical of myth. He began to fear Jung would compromise the attempt to assert scientific standing for psychoanalysis. This led eventually to the Freud-Jung split. Jung retained from Freud the cult atmosphere of the analytic movement and the lack of rigorous testing of hypotheses. Unlike Freud, Jung claimed that his analytic methods could investigate a inner realm with essentially religious meaning.

Jung explained the resistance of Freud and his close followers to Jung's version of analysis in an essentially racist way. The Freudians were mostly Jews, as was Freud himself. Freudians are uninterested in pagan myths, Jung decided, because they are mostly Jews. The Jews came from the Middle East, which was urbanized and thus depaganized at an early date. Jews had allegedly lost their pagan roots so long ago that they no longer had access to the collective unconscious. By contrast, Germanic peoples had lost their paganism at a relatively late date, roughly 500 to 1100 AD. Thus the pagan collective unconscious lay close enough to the psychological surface that it could still be dug up if only one were persistent enough. Since for Jung being in touch with the collective unconscious is a precondition for psychological health, Germanic types like himself are potentially healthier than Jews.

This idea is scientifically unsound, as it confuses what can be learned with what can be biologically inherited. It also links psychological health more to one ethnic group than another and could easily provide a rationale for anti- Semitism. Jung tended to think of the collective unconscious in racial terms until late in his life. About 1936, when he was already 60, he realized that a stress on this aspect of his thought would not go over well in the English speaking world where Jung thought he could find the greatest number of disciples. In fact, his views about an essentially Aryan collective unconscious put him close to the kinds of things that Hitler was saying.

The Letter to Constance Long

I am not making this up. Here is a letter he wrote December 17, 1921 to Constance Long, an important American disciple then living in England. (TAC, 258-59). Long had begun to come under the influence of exiled Russian mystic Ouspensky, and Jung correctly feared that he would lose her allegiance to Ouspensky at a time when she was important to his desire to expand his influence in the English speaking world. Jung wrote:
Gnosis should be an experience of your own life, a plant grown on your own tree. Foreign gods are a sweet poison, but the vegetable gods you have raised in your own garden are nourishing. They are perhaps less beautiful but they have [illegible].

You shall not make totems of foreign trees [ ]. No one shall keep you else you trespass your limits; but blessed be the place where we meet the beginning of our limitations. Beyond one's frontiers there is not but illusion and misery, because there you arrive in a country of the wrong ancestor spirits and the wrong charms . . .

Why do you look for foreign teachings [i.e., the Russian's]? They are poisons, they did not come out of your blood. You should be on your own feet, and you have your own rich earth below them. Why should you listen to the word of a man who is off his own soil [Ouspensky was in exile]? Truth is tree with roots. It is not words. Truth only grows in your own garden, nowhere else.

Only feeble men eat the food of a stranger. But your people need a strong man, one who gets his truth in his own roots and out of his own blood. . . . "

After Hitler, who also spoke incessantly of soil and blood and portrayed himself as a strong man, this document is an embarrassment for the most devout English-speaking Jungians. But there's no mistaking how Jung is thinking here. When he appeals to Long to be true to her own roots, he means the Aryan (or Indo-Germanic) roots. His point is not that Long should be loyal to her American or English roots, as distinct from Germanic roots. In fact Long was until then among Jung's most loyal disciples; and he is an ethnic German who happens to be a citizen of Switzerland.

Jung thought that Germans, English, and Anglo-Americans were all part of the Germanic family tree. The Jews, in his view, had been civilized too long--uprooted from the soil. The Russians were polluted by too much Asian/Mongolian blood. Jung thought his kind of analysis will get (Aryan) people in touch with their roots, still latent inside them, and restore their wholeness.

Jung shared these ideas with a number of individuals who became Nazis. This is not to say that Jung was a Nazi. But he made one of the same basic errors that Nazism made: he failed to distinguish acquired cultural characteristics from inherited biological ones. It is understandable that Jung, like many intelligent Germans, could be confused on this question early in the 20th century when the science of genetics was barely getting started. But he continued to believe in it into the 1950's, according to Noll; and this is strong evidence of the fundamentally problematic nature of his key concepts.

Jung's Sexism

Jung's thought is not only pervaded with notions hard to separate from racism but it has a marked sexist component. Although, according to Jung, the unconscious of the male contains the anima archetype and the unconscious of the female the animus archetype, far from providing a basis for overcoming traditional constricting gender roles, these archetypes are a threat: Jung thought it important to keep these opposite-gender principles in check.

McGowan cites the following statements from Jung's "Woman in Europe" (1928; 170-71: "a man should live as a man, and a woman as a woman." According to Jung, a woman who pursues "a masculine calling" introduces into any discussion "a whole host of argumentative biases which always go a little beside the point in the most irritating way, and which, furthermore, always inject a little something into the problem that is not really there ... which can even grow into downright daemonic passion that irritates and disgusts men...[and] smother[s] the charm and meaning of femininity...Such a development naturally ends in a deep, psychological division, in short, a neurosis." (McGowan, p. 100)

The Collective Unconscious

At the heart of Jungian religion is the notion of the collective unconscious. Whatever else one can say of it, this collective unconscious is supposed to be non- personal and therefore prior to the acquisition of culture. Now, as a Unitarian-Universalist, I support freedom to pursue religious inquiry in any direction whatsoever. If you want to believe in the existence of the collective unconscious, you have just as much right to believe in it as a traditional Christian does to believe in Heaven and Hell, or a Moslem in paradise, or a Catholic in purgatory, or Heaven's Gate in salvific Space Ships that ride comets' tails, or a traditional pagan in gods in the woods. But a reasonable person has just as much right to find these things unbelievable. The Jungian collective unconscious that you can access through dreams or visions seems to me on the same level as the land behind the Looking Glass in Lewis Carroll's Alice through the Looking Glass or the land behind the wardrobe in C. S. Lewis' stories The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Fun, as one of Unitarian-Universalist suggested in the humorous verse devoted to Jung that he composed to the "Old UU Religion" (sung to the tune of "Gimme that old time religion") . You can spend hours there as long as you are willing to suspend disbelief and you will never really be in any danger . . . unless you start taking it too seriously.

Jung was smart enough to know that he could not scientifically prove the existence of the collective unconscious. That is why he said occasionally that what he was doing was not science but art (McGowan, 99). This may seem like a moment of candor, an admission that his work on the archetypes and the unconscious was not science, but--if Noll is right--it is at the same time a failure to be completely candid: Jung is still describing his work not as what it was, an indirect attempt to found a new pagan religion, but rather as art, something considerably more respectable in middle-class circles than paganism, especially in the early 20th century.

It will be said that Jung amassed evidence for his claims. But you cannot make a theory scientific simply by trying to find facts that might be explained by the theory. You have to try to find facts that could only be explained by the theory, and this means that you should try to show that no rival theory could explain those same events. A theory is meaningfully proposed as a scientific theory only if the proposer is willing to look seriously at rival theories that have some claim to explain the same events, in order to determine whether those theories do not do a better job.

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

If the collective unconscious is a religious doctrine and not truly a theory of psychology as a science linked to biological science, then other tests are applicable. By their fruits ye shall know them. This is a good test of the validity of a faith position. How well does Jungianism stand up to this test? Well, we all know that some denominations are engaged in social service and social action of various kinds. There are progressive Catholics active in serving the poor in poverty-stricken areas. The Quakers and Unitarian Universalists have their service committees and are involved in numerous social causes. I have never, ever heard of a Jungian Service Committee or Jungians active as Jungians in support of gay rights. This is not surprising, since Jung believed that the divine kingdom was literally in your dreams and visions, not in the world of external relations with your fellow human beings. (7)

Jung and Plato, Jung and Jesus

Finally, I'd like to close with two comparisons, between Jung and Plato, and between Jung and Jesus. Plato is the first philosopher to theorize about archetypes. For him, these are the intelligible Forms or Ideas, such as Justice and Beauty, which only the philosopher kings will fully grasp and be able to define. But Plato is fairly clear about the method that one must use in order to understand these Forms or Ideas. In fact, his method was so sophisticated that it provided later philosophers with a way of criticizing and even overturning Plato's theory of archetypes in favor of better ideas that eventually gave rise to the modern notion of scientific law. But while Plato's archetypes are intelligible objects, subject to increasingly precise definition, Jung's archetypes are elusive divinities, personalities, whose nature and meaning is shifting and unclear. (For some people, Jungians in the "Catholic" model, the way to know them is through your Jungian analyst in whose Jungian spiritual connections you must believe. For others, Jungians in the "Protestant" model, the way to the inner kingdom is to study the Jungian texts and apply them oneself as one sees fit.)

Now, a few words on Jesus and Jung. The nature of the Kingdom of God appears to have been hard for Jesus' disciples to describe or keep clearly before their minds. What this suggests is that the Kingdom of God was meaningful during Jesus' ministry precisely because it was the expression of his powerful personality. He gave those around him the sense that they were able to tap into something infinitely powerful that they could not easily put into words. When his charismatic personality was removed from the scene after only a short ministry, the early Christians had as much difficulty transmitting his original message unaltered as the Jungians would have had if Jung had died in, say, 1920, and most of his disciples had been illiterate. Instead, Jung was able to connect up with some American wealth from a branch of the Rockefeller family and control the publication of many of his texts in English translation, and instead of dying young as Jesus did, he kept control of his own movement until relatively late in his long life. But as Jesus is supposed to be the way to the Kingdom of God for Christians, so for spiritual Jungians Jung is the way to the gods in the collective unconscious. As Jung's visions allegedly demonstrated, he even became a god. Jungianism is a religion. Let it sink or swim as a religion and not pretend to be something it is not, merely a slightly eccentric branch of psychological science.


1. Very little was known of this particular period until the appearance of the two books by Richard Noll. The Jung family refuses to release to scholars Jung's private diaries, a large number of letters, and his "Red Book" of paintings of his visions and discussions with the Dead. The family also refuses to release the personal papers and diaries of Jung's wife Emma, an important analyst in her own right but about whom very little is known. The family is also preventing release of the diaries and papers of Toni Wolff, Jung's collaborator and lover (TAC, xii).

2. I call your attention to a historical study by Janet Biehl and Peter Staudemeier which chronicles the overlap between environmental mysticism and the movements that gave rise to Nazism. What the article makes clear is that the ecological motif was continued right into the Hitler regime itself and it was combined with and in fact reinforced the most vigorous anti-Semitism.
Biehl-Staudemeier article on German ecofascism

It may not be easy at first for environmentalists among us to absorb the message of this study. As someone who would be sure to be gassed by Nazis should they take power in the United States, I consider that there is a line of blood between myself and Hitlerism. On the other hand, I have since 1970 identified myself with environmentalism and have been receptive to the ecological critique of industrialism and technoscience (though without ever abandoning a solid respect for genuine scientific method). I am probably not alone in this, so I anticipate that the message of this article will be as hard for some of my readers to take as it was initially for me. I saved the web address, however, and recently went back and read it, fairly carefully, all the way through.

One temptation should probably be avoided. The authors must have their own perspective to promote, right? Well, of course they do. They are social ecologists, not "deep ecologists," which is to say, at a minimum, that they believe that the environmental crisis is not merely a matter of technology v. nature, or humankind v. nature, or science v. nature. It is also, and perhaps most importantly, certain socioeconomic forms of organization of society, science, and technology v. nature. And by socioeconomic forms they mean something like "contemporary capitalism." This suggests that the authors are socialists of a sort, and of course socialists do not have all the answers to our problems. (True enough, but it does not make the history they are telling us false.)

Apolitical ecomysticism, on the one hand, and ecofascism, on the other, share with Jungianism an inattention to socioeconomic structures and the real beneficiaries of privilege in these structures. Thus ecomysticism, ecofascism, and Jungianism are natural allies, even if they do not recognize this connection. This makes it tempting to look for scapegoats for the problem, e.g., the Jews, supposedly rootless cosmpolitans who are allegedly incapable of love for the Earth and whose presence in powerful institutions supposedly corrupts everything we might try to do for the earth.

Two movements with which I am or have been recently associated, the Unitarian-Universalist movement and the Pantheists of the Pantheism-L list, naturally attract ecomystics. The more I learn about German culture in the pre-Nazi period, the more I am astounded by the uncanny (unheimlich) resemblances between the counterculture of that period and the non-Christian spirituality of our own time. So far the big difference is that the non-Christian spirituality of our own time is not in any clear way racist.

I would like to think that our culture has been irreversibly transformed by the experience of the Holocaust and the fight for equality by peoples of color so that it is not possible this time around to corrupt concern for ecology with racist assumptions. Perhaps one reason it is implausible to single out the Jews today is that in the industrialized countries nowadays relatively few people even among the non-Jews have farm experience in their immediate background. And yet . . . . and yet . . . history teaches us that no bad idea is ever permanently lost, that, to borrow from and transform a famous line from that old libertarian slaveowner Tom Jefferson whose life is a parable of ambiguity in itself, "the price of decency is eternal vigilance."

3. Noll writes (TAC, 23) "His experiences with spiritualism are far more important to his later world view and psychotherapeutic techniques than he would have wished those outside his inner circle to know."

4. Of philosophers he read Heraclitus, Plato, Plotinus (the founder of Neo-Platonism), Kant, Schopenhauer, and by 1898 Nietzsche.

5. Immanuel Kant, for most people, is a philosopher identified with the Enlightenment and Reason. Jung was interested in Kant's (1766) essay Dreams of a Spirit Seer (about Swedenborg). As for Schopenhauer, Jung was interested in his minor work, Essay on Spirit Seeking (1851).

6. To which we might add that in his popular articles Jung has a habit of uttering unchallengeable psychological generalizations he could have culled from psychologists whose methods are more scientific than his own. He then inserts vague statements about the need for spirituality, the interest of other religions than Christianity, and finally a few untestable controversial claims about the inner realm and the collective unconscious.

7.This introverted feature of Jungian religion actually saved Jung from a closer association with Nazism. Had Jung's outlook been more extraverted, it would have been hard for Jung not to overtly welcome the Hitler triumph (associated as it was with many pagan elements). If he had done so, his chances of maintaining and increasing his number of followers in the English-speaking world would have suffered.