Jung on the Enantiodromia: Part III: A Prediction

The coming of the Antichrist is not just a prophetic prediction—it is an invariable psychological law whose existence… brought him [John, author of the Book of Revelation] a sure knowledge of the impending enantiodromia…

                                                                                    C.G. Jung (1950)[1]


            In Part I of this essay we defined Jung’s concept of the enantiodromia and offered some examples. In Part II we examined the pairing of spirituality and sensuality/sexuality that so many of our students have found surprising. Another pairing—around which Jung made the stark prediction above—has provoked sober reflection.

            Not many of my students care to contemplate this final example of the enantiodromia. It’s not pleasant. We prefer to turn away. But Jung refused to sugar-coat reality and repeatedly in his works he notes the pair of opposites that were likely—perhaps inevitably—to turn up in our collective future. This pair is Christ/Antichrist.

            Given the low level of religious training in our contemporary culture, some explanation of this antimony is necessary (those well versed in Christianity must forgive this digression). By “Christ” Jung refers to the central figure in the Christian religion who, according to Christian dogma, was the son of God, conceived without sin, and regarded by orthodox Christian theologians to be guilt-free and perfect, all good, just as Christianity considers God to be all good. Evil, in this way of thinking, is nothing more than a privatio boni, an absence of good.[2]

            What’s this got to do with the concept of enantiodromia? Jung recognized that orthodox Christianity has a truncated image of the Divine—all good, perfection, better than we can imagine. But Jung also understood that the root of “better” is “badder,”[3] i.e. what is worse than bad! In other words, we cannot think “good” without having something not-good. We must interpret the world in dichotomies.[4] This is as true of a concept of God as it is for any other concept.

            Jung’s concept of the Divine is unitive, i.e All That Is—good and also bad, positive and negative, perfect and also evil.[5] So, Jung claimed, if we have a good son of God, Christ, we must also have his negative counterpart, Antichrist. The Antichrist is everything that Christ is not, the deus absconditus, the hidden god that lies in the darkness of our Western unconscious.[6]

            Christ and Antichrist are a pair of opposites. As such they are subject to Heraclitus’ principle of the enantiodromia: If there is any one-sidedness to a pair, a conversion, or shift over to the other is likely. This principle led Jung to make some stark predictions:

“The enantiodromia of Heraclitus ensures that the time will come when this deus absconditus [an archaic god whose nature is sensual and brutal] shall rise to the surface and press the God of our ideals to the wall.”[7]

“Christ is followed by the Antichrist, at the end of time.”[8]

“… An enantiodromia in the grand style is to be expected. This may well be the meaning of the belief in the coming of the Antichrist, …”[9]

because “the dogmatic figure of Christ is so sublime and spotless… it demands a psychic complement to restore the balance. This inevitable opposition led very early to the doctrine of the two sons of God, of whom the elder was called Satanaël. The coming of the Antichrist is not just a prophetic prediction—it is an invariable psychological law whose existence… brought him [John, author of the Book of Revelation] a sure knowledge of the impending enantiodromia…”[10]

            So what are we looking at, according to Jung? Some sort of impending change that doesn’t sound very attractive, made all the more unappealing given our social, political and religious leaders’ focus on “the mass man:”[11]

            … the more highly charged the collective consciousness, the more the ego forfeits its practical importance. It is, as it were, absorbed by the opinions and tendencies of collective consciousness, and the result of that is the mass man, the ever-ready victim of some wretched ‘ism’. The ego keeps its integrity only if it does not identify with one of the opposites, and if it understands how to hold the balance between them. This is possible only if it remains conscious of both at once. However, the necessary insight is made exceedingly difficult not by one’s social and political leaders alone, but also by one’s religious mentors. They all want decision in favor of one thing, and therefore the utter identification of the individual with a necessarily one-sided ‘truth’. Even if it were a question of some great truth, identification with it would still be a catastrophe, as it arrests all further spiritual development.[12]

Jung was not very optimistic about our prospects for future spiritual development, what with the “epidemics” of materialism and atheism, the destruction of historical tradition, the “splitting of our world,”[13] and the “destruction of the God-image”[14] which, Jung felt, “is followed by the annulment of the human personality.”[15]

            Jung was sure that, at some perhaps deep, inarticulate level, modern people sense intuitively the ineffectiveness of the social and political forces now trying to run things. In his essay “Civilization in Transition,” he drew a vivid portrait of our current situation:

            An intimation of the terrible law that governs blind contingency, which Heraclitus called the rule of enantiodromia (a running towards the opposite), now steals upon modern man through the by-ways of his mind, chilling him with fear and paralyzing his faith in the lasting effectiveness of social and political measures in the face of these monstrous forces. If he turns away from the terrifying prospect of a blind world in which building and destroying successively tip the scales, and then gazes into the recesses of his own mind, he will discover a chaos and darkness there which everyone would gladly ignore. … And yet it is almost a relief to come upon so much evil in the depths of our own psyche. Here at least, we think, is the root of all the evil in mankind…. we still feel, just because these things are part of our psyche, that we have them more or less in hand and can correct them or at any rate effectively suppress them… to what absurdities we are led by the illusion that because something is psychic it is under our control.[16]

            That’s a warning. Jung is warning us not to believe that the psyche is under our control. Since we are mostly unconscious, unaware of our inner life, unfamiliar with the characters of our inner city, and unable to control even our ego desires, much less the demands of our soul, we cannot hope to correct the evils within.

            So what to do? Should we give up, crawl in a hole and await annihilation? While our situation is grave, Jung would not want to see us give up. Rather, he wants us to first, notice the positive signs of the enantiodromia now underway, and then, to take up the task of assisting this process. What are some of these signs? Jung offers six:

            First, the growing interest in psychology in its various forms: analysis, dream work, psychotherapy, spiritual questing, all of which show

            …unmistakably that modern man is turning his attention from outward material things to his own inner processes. Expressionism in art prophetically anticipated this subjective development, for all art intuitively apprehends coming changes in the collective unconsciousness. The psychological interest of the present time is an indication that modern man expects something from the psyche which the outer world has not given him: doubtless something which our religion ought to contain, but no longer does contain, at least for modern man….[17]

            Second, the popularity of all things psychic—spiritualism, astrology, the mantic arts (e.g. Tarot, I Ching, runes etc.), Theosophy, parapsychology. Jung found this remarkable:

            The world has seen nothing like it since the end of the seventeenth century. We can compare it only to the flowering of Gnostic thought in the first and second centuries after Christ. The spiritual currents of our time have, in fact, a deep affinity with Gnosticism. …[18]

This affinity might explain why it is that one of the most popular courses at The Jungian Center has been “Introduction to Gnosticism.” For several years I have been amazed by this, since Gnosticism traditionally has been taught in a limited number of divinity schools and theological seminaries, and even there, in classes with few students.

            Third, Jung notes the upwelling of “psychic energy which can no longer be invested in obsolete religious forms.”[19] The old orthodoxies no longer satisfy most people, and to replace them, many of the psychic activities Jung identified have taken on a religious flavor, e.g. Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy, and Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science.[20]

            “Science” raises a fourth point that Jung finds positive: the stress on personal experience:

            I do not believe that I am going too far when I say that modern man, in contrast to his nineteenth-century brother, turns to the psyche with very great expectations, and does so without reference to any traditional creed but rather with a view of Gnostic experience. The fact that all the movements I have mentioned give themselves a scientific veneer is … a positive sign that they are actually pursuing “science,” i.e. knowledge, instead of faith, which is the essence of the Western forms of religion. Modern man abhors faith and the religions based upon it. He holds them valid only so far as their knowledge-content seems to accord with his own experience of the psychic background. He wants to know—to experience for himself.[21]

As we noted in the biographical essays about Jung, Jung insisted on experiencing the Divine for himself, and this led him, when he was asked late in life if he believed in God, to reply to John Freeman that he did not believe, because he had come to know God.[22]

            Jung also took up himself the challenge he sets before us, as a fifth positive response we can make to the challenge of our time: Hold the balance between the opposites. Stay conscious of both. Don’t be swayed by the stupidities of political leaders, the rants of social reformers (whose calls will change nothing unless personal change comes first), or the demands of religious figures (whose words and actions serve more to divide than unify). Jung calls on us not to identify with one-sided truths, as doing so would “arrest all further spiritual development.”[23] It’s not easy to hold the tension of opposites, as was noted in an earlier essay posted to this blog site. But by doing so we can mitigate, if not avoid, the worst consequences of the enantiodromia.

            Finally, Jung asks us to remember the value of wisdom, and the fact that wisdom never resides with the powerful, but rather with the individual person who goes quietly along the spiritual path, tending his/her own soul:

            Wisdom never forgets that all things have two sides, and it would also know how to avoid such  calamities [i.e. those that arise from political or religious fanaticism, which leads to catastrophic enantiodromia] if ever it had any power. But power is never found in the seat of wisdom; it is always the focus of mass interests and is therefore inevitably associated with the illimitable folly of the mass man.[24]

            Jung reminds us that we cannot look to our leaders to save the world, not even to reform the world. Our President, the Congress, the justices of our courts, our Governors—none of them have either the wisdom to know what’s coming, how to respond to what’s coming, or even what questions to ask, much less do they have answers for us. If we want to see responsible responses to the challenge of the coming enantiodromia, if we want to create a positive future, there is only one place we can look for solutions: in the mirror.




Bair, Deirdre (2003), Jung: A Biography. New York: Little, Brown & Co.

Jung, C.G. (1956) “Symbols of Transformation,” Collected Works, 5, 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1971), “Psychological Types,” Collected Works, 6. Princeton: Princeton University Press

________ (1960), ”The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche,” CW 8. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1959), “Aion,” Collected Works, 9ii. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1970), “Civilization in Transition,” CW 10. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1969), “Psychology and Religion: West and East,” CW 11. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1963), “Mysterium Coniunctionis,” CW 14. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ & John Freeman (1977), “Interview for the BBC,” Jung Speaking. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

May, Gerald (1982), Will and Spirit:A Contemplative Psychology. San Francisco: Harper & Row.












[1] Collected Works 9ii, ¶77. As has been the convention in these blog essays, references to Collected Works will hereafter be abbreviated CW.

[2] The concept of privatio boni bedeviled Jung and became the focus of much of his correspondence with various Christian clergymen, most notably Father Victor White. The subject became so contentious between Jung and White that it eventually caused a break in their relationship. See Jung (1975), I, 450,539, 540, 555; II, 52-3,58-61,71-73,74,79,93,147,155,213,236,238,268,277,281,484,579,611. On the Jung-White relationship, see Bair (2003), 535,534,544-48,552-54,588.

[3] CW 5, ¶581.

[4] May (1982), 249.

[5] CW 11, ¶694.

[6] CW 6, ¶150.


[8] CW 9ii, ¶149.

[9] CW 11, ¶694.

[10] CW 9ii, ¶77.

[11] CW 14, ¶470.

[12] CW 8, ¶425.

[13] CW 9ii, ¶170.


[15] Ibid.

[16]CW 10, ¶164-166.

[17] Ibid., ¶167-168.

[18] Ibid., ¶169.

[19] Ibid., ¶170.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., ¶171.

[22] Jung & Freeman (1977), 428.

[23] CW 8, ¶425.

[24] CW 14, ¶470.

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