A Response to Our Current Situation: A Jungian Perspective on Politics and Current Events

“It is, unfortunately, only too clear that if the individual is not truly regenerated in spirit, society cannot be either, for society is the sum total of individuals in need of redemption…. the salvation of the world consists in the salvation of the individual soul…. The infantile dream-state of the mass man is so unrealistic that he never thinks to ask who is paying for this paradise. The balancing of accounts is left to a higher political or social authority, which welcomes the task, for its power is thereby increased; and the more power it has, the weaker and more helpless the individual becomes.”

Jung (1956)[1]

This essay is a response to a correspondent who wondered why communications from the Jungian Center have not addressed our current situation. The individual referred specifically to the political activities of recent months, and noted how “everyone else” is contributing comments, insights and thoughts–“Why not the Jungian Center?” Herewith, a response, in three parts.

Why not join “everyone else”?

As the above quote from The Undiscovered Self indicates, Jung was not a “joiner.” He felt “mass-mindedness” was dangerous, and following the “herd” a sure-fire way to destroy individuality. Just because “everyone else” is doing something is no argument, in Jung’s book, for doing it too. In fact, just the reverse: If “everyone else” was doing X, Jung would likely take a long, hard look at what was going on and question the value of X, and probably do something quite different.

Jung’s focus was always on the individual. His ideal for interaction with others was one-on-one. If there had to be a group, better keep it small, for the larger the group, the more likely the individual would get lost or forgotten, or succumb to group pressure and “group think.” The goal, in Jung’s psychology, is “individuation”–

“… the process by which individual beings are formed and differentiated; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology. Individuation, therefore, is a process of differentiation, having for its goal the development of the individual personality.”[2]

and this requires a stepping out–a “differentiation”–from the herd or mass population.

So the Jungian Center would be betraying its fundamental principles to go along with the crowd and do something just because everyone else was doing it.

Why not make a political statement?

The second reason why the Jungian Center has not expressed views about our current political situation has two parts. The first relates to its being a 501(c)3 organization. As a non-profit charitable organization, the Center must conform to the rules of the Internal Revenue Service, which stipulates that such organizations cannot engage in political activities.

The second part of our response to this question draws on Jung’s own attitude toward politics, which was negative in the extreme, as the following quotes illustrate:

“In a politically poisoned and overheated atmosphere the sane and dispassionate… discussion of… important problems has become well-night impossible….”[3]

“… the real dangers that threaten our lives… are the present politico-social delusional systems….”[4]

“… ‘monkey tricks’… are naturally to be found in politics.”[5]

“… I am convinced that 99 per cent of politics are mere symptoms and anything but a cure for social evils. About 50 per cent of politics is definitely obnoxious inasmuch as it poisons the utterly incompetent mind of the masses….”[6]

Jung’s attitude in this regard warrants more attention than this handful of quotes, and we will post a blog essay on this in the future.

Why not write something?

The third reason why the Jungian Center has not come out with some sort of statement about what’s going on is that we already have: Nearly a dozen essays over the past eight years have addressed aspects of our current situation. I refer specifically to the following, all archived on this blog site. The site lists them in alphabetical order. I list them here in the chronological order in which they were written.

Jung’s Prophetic Vision and the Alchemy of Our Time

(discusses our collective global future in light of the phases and archetypes of alchemy)

American Exceptionalism

(examines the concept of “exceptionalism,” how it shows up in American history, and the perils it holds for us as a nation)

What is America’s Shadow?

(considers elements of our collective shadow and the dangers of our non-reflective national character)

The Law of Cause and Effect and America’s Future

(defines this law and examines how it relates to our future as a political entity)

Jung’s Challenge to Us

(recounts Jung’s reply to his students when they wondered how to get through the dangers of the nuclear age)

Jung and the Archetype of the Apocalypse

(discusses the nature of this archetype and how it relates to our current reality)

The Apocatastasis of Global Civilization

(offers a detailed image of what comes after an apocalyptic time)

What’s Coming Down?–and When?

(discusses America’s future in light of its astrological chart)

Our Apocalyptic Time

(considers how ours is an “apocalyptic” time, i.e. a time when secrets are revealed)

Jung on Wall Street and the “Occupy” Movement

(examines Jung’s opinions of Wall Street, financiers, and America’s devotion to the “yellow god”)

Life at the End of an Aeon

(discusses Jung’s thoughts on what life is like during the transition from one age to another, which is what we are enduring now)

As I noted above with regard to Jung’s views on politics, we will be posting to this blog site other essays that address more specifically various aspects of our current reality. In the meantime, I refer anyone wanting Jung’s views about our time to read the above essays.

Sue Mehrtens is the author of this and all the other blog essays on this site. The opinions expressed in these essays are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other Jungian Center faculty or Board members. Honesty, as well as professional courtesy, require that you give proper attribution to the author if you post this essay elsewhere.

[1] Collected Works 10 ¶s536 & 538. Hereafter Collected Works will be abbreviated CW.

[2] CW 6 ¶757

[3] CW 18, ¶1302.

[4] CW 9i, ¶49.

[5] Ibid., ¶477.

[6] CW 18, ¶1302.