As a child, I had not been content with the results promised by the modern professors of natural science. With a confusion of ideas only to be accounted for by my extreme youth, and my want of a guide on such matters, I had retrod the steps of knowledge along the paths of time, and exchanged the discoveries of recent enquirers for the dreams of forgotten alchemists. Besides, I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy. It was very different when the masters of the science sought immortality and power; such views, although futile, were grand: but now the scene was changed. The ambition of the enquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth.
As I read The Undiscovered Self, I’m posting seemingly relevant quotations as I go along because some of them shed some light on the world today.
The first paragraphs of “Religion as the Counterbalance to Mass-Mindedness” states:
In order to free the fiction of the Sovereign State–in other words, the whims of those who manipulate it–from every wholesome restriction, all socio-political movements tending in this direction invariably try to cut the ground from under religions. For, in order to turn the individual into a function of the State, his dependence upon anything beside the State must be taken from him. But religion means dependence on and submission to irrational facts of experience. These do not refer directly to social and physical conditions; they concern far more the individual’s psychic attitude.
But it is possible to have an attitude to the external conditions of life only when there is a point of reference outside them. The religions give, or claim to give, such a standpoint, thereby enabling the individual to exercise his judgment and his power of decision. They build up a reserve, as it were, against the obvious and inevitable force of circumstances to which everyone is exposed who lives only in the outer world and has no other ground under his feet except the pavement. If statistical reality is the only reality, then it is the sole authority. There is then only one condition, and since no contrary condition exists, judgment and decision are not only superfluous but impossible. Then the individual is bound to be a function of statistics and hence a function of the State or whatever the abstract principle of order may be called. [Emphasis in original.]
Unfortunately, I’m only intermittently reading this book. I should switch a primary focus to it presently.
Whether or not you buy into the Jungian psychology and collective unconscious (and I don’t, but I do delve into individual unconscious sometimes when reading Jung), the fellow had some interesting ideas and thoughts that remain relevant in the modern world.
What will become of our civilization, and of man himself, if the hydrogen bombs begin to go off, or if the spiritual and moral darkness of the State absolutism should spread over Europe?
We have no reason to take this threat lightly. Everywhere in the West there are subversive minorities who, sheltered by our humanitarianism and our sense of justice, hold the incendiary torches ready, with nothing to stop the spread of their ideas except the critical reason of a single, fairly inelligent, mentally stable stratum of the population. One should not, however, overestimate the thickness of this stratum. It varies from country to country in accordance with national temperament. Also, it is regionally dependent on public education and is subject to the influence of acutely disturbing factors of a political and economic nature. Taking plebiscites as a criterion, one could on an optimistic estimate put its upper limit at about 40 per cent of the electorate. A rather more pessimistic view would not be unjustified either, since the gift of reason and critical reflection is not one of man’s outstanding peculiarities, and even where it exists it proves to be wavering and inconstant, the more so, as a rule, the bigger the political groups are. The mass crushes out the insight and reflection that are still possible with the individual, and this necessarily leads to doctrinarie and authoritarian tyranny if ever the constitutional State should succumb to a fit of weakness.
He wrote this circa 1957; in the 21st century, one is forgiven if one were to think the much thinner stratum of reasonable people exists in spite of public education and not because of it.