There is a story, perhaps untrue, about a public building that had all its fire extinguishers removed because it was esteemed that few people knew how to use them properly. It’s obviously better for the building to burn down and a lot of people to die than take the risk of the fire extinguishers being improperly used! Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien. What is even more alarming is that this principle is also applied in philosophy and besmirching by association.
I was truly shocked today on reading The Aryan Christ – Jung, Hitler And Today’s Postmodernist Insanity. This article, in my opinion, resumes a stereotype by which German Romanticism and Jung’s psychoanalytic theories had much in common with Hitler’s occultism and cranky ideology. Traced back far enough, all these currents of philosophy were little more than “proto-Nazism” and therefore to be dismissed as post-modernism. That’s quite a mouthful. On reading this article, I searched for signs of where all this was coming from through the author Aeneas Georg. Searching for the name reveals his tendencies as an American conservative, perhaps alt-right complete with conspiracy theories about the Rockefeller family and the Illuminati among others. One thing Georg does not mention is that Jung expressed himself about Hitler.
Jung saw Hitler as the “mouthpiece of the collective Shadow of the German people”. He was often criticised for not damning the Nazi movement, but there was a reason. He made distinctions between the cultures of western Europeans, eastern Europeans and Jewish people. The most “anti-Semitic” of Jung’s ideas was that Jewish people were more differentiated in their culture than other Europeans. He considered Hitler as a psychopath without any personality of his own. The 2003 film Hitler: The Rise of Evil shows the young Adolph as having no ideas of his own but copying those of others. Jung saw things like nationalism as discredited by World War II and the Nazi genocides, but not in themselves Nazi. Jung tended to make stereotypes of various categories of humans and national characteristics. We still do to this day when portraying English city workers in London, the Frenchman wearing a marinière and a beret, and sporting a moustache and Italians as gesticulating and stuffing their mouths with pasta. We are more careful what we say about Jewish people these days, though I remember other boys at school saying dreadful things about them – in the early 1970’s! Much of Jung’s moderate stereotyping is still to be found.
From questions of race, German Romanticism is blamed for everything. That is a travesty, for I see nothing in common between men like Kant, Göthe or Novalis and the Nazis! The Romantics were profoundly humanist and concerned for man’s good, not domination. Linking completely different movements like Romanticism, Jung, Post-modernism and Nazism is not serious. Maybe some ideas were analogies of each other, but they were not from the same species. A human being and a tree are both biological organisms, are both living, but they are not “responsible” for each others’ characteristics.
Perhaps the two different “species” are associated by the soil that nurtured them – the Germanic world of the late nineteenth century. As I write this posting, I am listening to Wagner’s Parsifal. I am a confirmed Germanophile and feel very close to that country’s Romantic and Idealist movements – but that does not make me anything like the black curse that fell upon that country from 1933 until its defeat in 1945. I am convinced that without Romanticism, the black curse would have come in the form of ultra-rationalism and materialism to the exclusion of anything else. As I have mentioned elsewhere, there is much confusion between Nietzsche’s notion of the Übermensch and the caricature given by the club-footed Untermensch Göbbels and his dark-haired master claiming to be Aryans. That said, Nietzsche is not mentioned in this article.
Germany in the 1890’s and 1900’s was said to be wanting to replace Christianity with folk paganism. Is there anything unique about Germany, when France was viciously anti-clerical at the time, as was Italy? I see nothing about Germany that is more anti-Christian than England, for example, with the growth of a new tendency of hard atheism. Darwin was English, not German. I would say that Germany did not make Hitler, but Hitler distorted the mythology to bring his people to subjection according to his own terms disguised as the old folk traditions.
German Romanticism may have referred to folk traditions, but most of the contemporaries of Göthe and Novalis were Christians, even if they had a critical attitude towards their faith. Novalis was one of the very few to promote cosmopolitanism over nationalism. Nationalism at the time was springing up all over Europe, especially in the Latin countries!
For Jung, I have not read enough about his life to affirm or deny the accusations of his moral turpitude, especially sleeping with his patients. Perhaps it did some of them some good when their problem was related to sexual repression! The idea is represented in a number of sources available on the internet. It does not represent an ideal of professional integrity according to our standards or those of any medical professional body. Jung’s moral turpitude does not necessarily discredit his work, research and writings. Jung’s gnosis and exposure to unorthodox practices would seem to have been detrimental to his mind, reminding me a little of Nietzsche’s downward plunge into the abyss.
I have become quite sceptical of psychiatry after my own journey of enquiry into Aspergers autism. My own observation was that it too clinical and appeases the materialistic notion of the human soul. We need to see spiritual and mental conditions in a more philosophical light, especially considering man’s spiritual mind over his material brain and nervous system. Jung represented a stage in my own life and decision to part company with the rigid matrix of traditionalist Roman Catholicism. I never went along entirely with all his theories, but some themes like individuation, the reconciliation of light and what Böhme would call the Ungrund, among many others, appealed to me. That did not lead me to anything like neo-Nazism! I do think that psychoanalysis can be dangerous, because a person can only confront his own truth to a given extent.
Having elevated himself to the level of God after his self-acclaimed initiation into the ‘mysteries’ in 1913, sanctity became for Jung a repressive Christian value that stifled the archaic and creative energies of the universe. In adopting Gross’ belief system, Jung was able to absolve himself of any responsibility for the hurt and misery that he caused to those around him.
What is this supposed to mean? What is sanctity? Some will answer that it is conformity to the matrix of rigid religious ideology. For me, it begins with self-knowledge and acceptance leading to a greater empathy for other human beings and love, and in turn for God. As for Jung’s “German spirituality”, does not the Church work with the culture of indigenous populations like in China and South America? Some make much ado about the recent use of a figure of a pregnant woman called Pacamama in Rome. Where did Christmas come from? From the pagan Roman cult of Sol Invictus. I have no issue with Pacamama, because this pagan fertility goddess of the Incas in this new context becomes an archetype of the Blessed Virgin Mary as pagans become Christians. Jung was very strong on archetypes – as were the Fathers of the Church. The Church has always used pagan symbols to convey the Gospel message of Christ.
Saying that Jung attracted many members of the medical profession and patients is akin to Hitler drawing in the crowds would be as logical to say that football matches in England are Nazi rallies. Maybe some of the yobbos and hooligans are despicable people, but the idea is absurd.
Certainly had Hitler never been born, or had he become a successful artist, history since the early twentieth century would not have been the same. In his case, I often wonder what would have happened in Europe since 1919. The League of Nations was never very strong as a peacemaking endeavour. Perhaps, eventually, Germany would have been allowed its autonomy after having paid the crippling reparations demanded by Clemenceau in particular. Would someone else have been able to galvanise the mass of bad feeling, bitterness and suffering in Germany after the 1929 Wall Street crash? I am no expert in alternative history.
Jung seems not to have been a perfect man, not by any means, but his work has endured, where Hitler’s has been reprimanded and banished from our world. Jung sought to heal the sick of mind. Hitler wanted to dominate and conquer, letting no moral consideration get in his way. I cannot think of two more different men.
If we look at them from a distance, the movements started by Jung and Hitler close to a hundred years ago were, at the outset, completely opposite to each other, yet both sought to destroy the existing order to bring about their version of a utopian paradise, essentially material in nature.
Nonsense! At least for Jung. He was no materialist or utopian. Then, as smoothly as snake oil:
Today, that same ideology is seen in the vocal offspring’s of Jungian thought and the ideology of postmodernists and ‘social justice warriors’ everywhere.
He now starts to mix everything together in his big pot. There may be some philosophical roots in today’s fanatical left-wing ideologies that had their roots in the past, but the comparison is crude. I see no comparison between the Nazis of the 1930’s and the mobs of young anti-Trump people on American university campuses.
How would I conclude? A little knowledge without profound interpretation is a dangerous thing. This article is underpinned with fallacy after fallacy. I especially discern an attempt to exonerate the alt-right tendency in America from association with the Nazism of the past by linking the latter with Romanticism, Jung and 1960’s anarchism.
Abusus non tollit usum. Even if something is not entirely pure and exuding the odour of sanctity, it is not necessarily all wrong. Perhaps some might say the same of Hitler, an idea which brings revulsion to the civilised person. To have some esteem for Jung does not cause disgust, even if there are better theories today with the progress of science. Some of the Romantics were atheists, but they tended to be English, not German.
Clearly, we all have more work to do to come up with something credible.
I’ve heard of Jung being too soft on Hitler, and am glad to have this more nuanced view. I’ve never studied his work in depth, but preferred him to Freud.