C.G.Jung / History / Religion

C.G. Jung – German romanticism and National-Socialism as a totalitarian religion

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit.

Called or uncalled, God is present. Religious experience plays an important role in Jungian psychology. Jung, a Christian maybe of more Gnostic virtue, believed that this experience is nothing but a product of the psyche, and consequently viewed other world religions as an expression of one psychic function that has its roots deep in the collective unconscious of mankind.   C. G. Jung was definitely not in favor of Nazi Germany nor its ideology. Some of initial observations of the fascist pseudo religion published by him in the early 30’s have been (ab)used, especially in contemporary Germany with factual errors and quotes taken out of context,  for political biased reasons in Senator Joseph McCarthy style. Jung’s relation to Islam, however, is still unclear and can be explored only indirectly through sporadic hints in his writings

The most famous quote, later published in his collective works, made  C. G. Jung during a conversation with Bishop von Southwark, Richard Godfrey Parsons, conducted in the late 1930s (published in 1939). C. G. Jung was asked “…had he any views on what was likely to be the next step in religious development?” Jung replied, in reference to the Nazi fervor that had gripped Germany:

We do not know whether Hitler is going to found a new Islam. He is already on the way; he is like Muhammad. The emotion in Germany is Islamic; warlike and Islamic. They are all drunk with wild god. That can be the historic future”.Collected Works Vol. 18: The Symbolic Life, Princeton UP, S. 281.

During an interview with H. R. Knickerbocker, first published in Hearst’s International Cosmopolitan (January 1939), in which Jung was asked to diagnose Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin, later published in Is Tomorrow Hitler’s? (1941), by H. R. Knickerbocker, C.G. Jung remarked: “There is no question but that Hitler belongs in the category of the truly mystic medicine man. As somebody commented about him at the last Nürnberg party congress, since the time of Mohammed nothing like it has been seen in this world. His body does not suggest strength. The outstanding characteristic of his physiognomy is its dreamy look. I was especially struck by that when I saw pictures taken of him in the Czechoslovakian crisis; there was in his eyes the look of a seer. This markedly mystic characteristic of Hitler’s is what makes him do things which seem to us illogical, inexplicable, and unreasonable. … So you see, Hitler is a medicine man, a spiritual vessel, a demi-deity or, even better, a myth.”

Speaking in 1938, the famous Swiss analytical psychologist said also:

“Hitler’s ‘religion’ is the nearest to Mohammedanism, realistic, earthy, promising the maximum rewards in this life, but with a Moslem-like Valhallah into which worthy Germans may enter and continue to enjoy themselves. Like Mohammedanism, it teaches the virtue of the sword. Hitler’s first idea is to make his people powerful because the spirit of the Aryan German deserves to be supported by might, by muscle and by steel.

Perhaps my reasoning can be seen as biased, but I very much feel what Jung was saying does relate to the 21st century issue of terrorism and religious extremism. The noted Jungian Psychologist J. Marvin Spiegelman’s stated in an article entitled “C. G. Jung’s Answer To Job:A Half Century Later”: “Jung had mentioned, in passing,that he felt the spirit of Islam in the military passion of the Nazis, without casting any aspersion on the religion of Islam itself. Rather, he sensed that passion, armed with divine mission, something missing from the West for some time, was a primitive invasion of soulless Europe.”

One might say, it is quite possible to apply this statement of C.G. Jung (in German it sounds even more prophetic) to the postmodern German romanticism of today’s Left towards the Islam: “Die deutsche Gefühlswelt ist islamisch. Sie sind alle wie besoffen von einem tobenden Gott. Das könnte unsere künftige Geschichte sein.“  Ironically this sentence indeed does describe the German psychological Archetype of this group independent of time.  It is very obvious how the Germans today in never-ending “Kampf gegen …” try to suppress their totalitarian (and anti-semitic) shadow, admiring again, but now on the receiving end and being feminized “old young men” and old babyboomers the power of warriors. It seems, C.G. Jung felt at this time already the spiritual a cultural void of the West, in particular evident in the intergovernmental and supranational politics of the European Union (EU) today.

C. G. Jung has been very often criticized when he was observing, and taking note quite nonjudmental, the unconscious developments in society and nations. Quotes of him today get in articles, blogs and websites without caring to go into deeper investigation. His has been numerous been taken as a witness of their prejudices, or discredited by quotes out of the context from a political biased non-science also the prove their prejudices. Partially this to true for some Wikepedia articles, who reveal often more of the author than of C.G. Jung.

The second thing to consider is Jung’s point of view toward religion in general, and his various attitudes with regards to fanatics and totalitarian ideologies and states: “Of course, it is not a spiritual religion in the sense in which we ordinarily use the term. But remember that in the early days of Christianity it was the church which made the claim to total power, both spiritual and temporal! Today the church no longer makes this claim, but the claim has been taken by the totalitarian states which demand not only temporal but spiritual power”.

If one looks to his quotes closely we find, that he just says there are similar concepts between totalitarian religions and totalitarian systems. Jung is speaking about Islam in a sense that was not only religious but also political. He then compares in the context of political figures. Jung was knowledgeable in Islamic theology and owned and read the Quran. He was familiar with the Hadiths as well. One cannot avoid having the impression that Jung had good knowledge of Sufi Islamic culture as a result of his compassionate study of Arabic alchemy and his apparent reasonable knowledge of the Quran and the Khidr figure, who plays a great role in Sufism Islam. Jung speaks here about religion not only demanding spiritual obedience but temporal as well and the beliefs not only cover the spiritual aspects of the human condition but also the mundane as well.  In Jung’s book “Psychology and the East”( From Vols. 10, 11, 13, 18 Collected Works), Jung recounts his journey to India. One of the essays entitled “The Dreamlike world of India” show Jung expressing his utter positive attitude and amazement at the Indian subcontinent and their religious and ethnic culture. In a second essay entitled “What India can Teach Us” he concludes that the psychological and religious claimant is something that we in the West should take a page from.  There is respect for and admiration to all religions and their text.

Our blight is ideologies — they are the long-expected Antichrist!  C. G. Jung The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (1954)