The Wisdom of Carl Jung (I)

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.

From “The Plight of the Individual in Modern Society“:

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.

2 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Carl Jung (I)

  1. I read “Entering the Unconscious,” “Psychology and Literature,” and a couple biographies of Jung (most interestingly and usefully, one by a mild critic and another by two disciples of him).

    I missed this juicy political stuff. I do not know if there is a sociopath next door, but I am increasingly aware of how commonplace is totalitarian sentiment. So many people that I meet are convinced that the world could be made right if only a sizable percentage of their neighbors were removed from the scene, one way or another.

    40% seems a bit high for the stable figure.

  2. It’s not overtly political–it’s more philosophical in how the individual relates to the State. If you can imagine a leftist opposition to Communism, that would probably better reflect his perspective. He also, in the book, talks about religion as a counterbalance to the state, but that The Church is similar to The State in its collective oppression of the individual.

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