Jung’s alleged anti-Semitism

I began by declaring Jung to be a man of paradox in that he followed a quiquely individual path towards discovery of the universal human being within himself. So true was he to his own “little light” that many dismissed him as a crank and made little effort to penetrate his prose or make sense of his ideas. A number of those who did try to understand him got hold on the wrong end of the stick, and, often unfairly, used it to beat him with. We can understand this in terms of Jung’s psychological type. As an introverted thinking-intuitive type he had an extraverted feeling-sensation shadow. This means that he was capable of brilliant intellectual formulations and profound psychological insights, but it follows that both his feeling-based judgments and his relation to outer conditions could be defective. It is not uncommon for such types to feel impelled to state their vision of the truth boldly and uncompromisingly in circumstances where it would be more tactful and more politic to keep silent. Inevitably this earns them enemies as well as friends. Jung was aware of this drawback.

“I have offended many people, for as soon as I saw that they did not understand me, that was the end of the matter so far as I was concerned: I had to move on. I had no patience with people – apart from my patients.

I had to obey an inner law which was imposed on me and left me no freedom of choice. Of course, I did not always obey it. How can anyone live without inconsistency?” (MDR 328)

This can construed as both a strength and a weakness. It enabled him to make discoveries and frame hypotheses that no one else would have dared to discover or propose at the time, thus enabling him to compensate for the anti-psychic, pro-environmentalist biases of behaviorism, for the reductive biases of Freudian psychology, and for the materialistic biases of our culture. On the other hand, it meant that some of his ideas provoked hostile opposition, while others were greeted with incomprehension or indifference. It also meant that he laid himself open to seriously damaging charges, such as the accusation that he was a racist.

By the standards of the first four decades of the twentieth century Jung was no racist. On the contrary, he was humane, broad-minded, and liberal. Far from being typical of the Swiss bourgeois his enemies have described, his ideas were highly innovative and far ahead of his time. For example, he advocated the decriminalization of homosexuality soon after the turn of the century, seeing It as both morally acceptable and a useful form of birth control; he risked his professional reputation by joining Freud when the latter was widely execrated for his views on infantile sexuality and he advanced the deeply subversive idea that inside every man was an intact female personality, and male personality inside every woman, which ought to be made conscious, integrated, and lived. As he wrote to Freud towards the end of their friendship: “I should never have joined you in the first place had not heresy run in my blood”. (The Freud/Jung Letters, 491, March, 1912)

The Jews who knew him best have all come staunchly to his defence, describing the generous assistance he gave to Jewish colleagues and their families who were fleeing from Nazi persecution.

Like everyone else at the time, he had been impressed by Hitler’s meteoric rise to power and recognized that the dictator must have tapped some extraordinary energy in the Teutonic unconscious. However, by the end of 1934, he was as aware as any shrewd observer that this energy was being channeled in evil and pathological directions. The truth is that the National Socialism interested him, it was as a psychological rather than a political phenomenon: it was an example of archetypes functioning at a suprapersonal level; it accorded with his observation that repressed archetypal components tend to erupt from the unconscious in primitive and destructive ways.

One must sympathize with him when he wrote: “It must be clear to anyone who has read any of my books that I never have been a Nazi sympathizer and I never have been anti-semitic, and no amount of misquotation, mistranslation, or rearrangement of what I have written can alter the record of my true point of view”. (C.G. Jung, Speaking 193)

Jung was temperamentally incapable of being a Nazi. He was hostile to all mass movements because they negated the primary value of the individual psyche. He loathed “isms” and dogma in whatever form it took. Like everyone else had a shadow and, growing up in the culture that he did, it would be surprising if there were no Fascist or anti-Semitic attidudes in it. But unlike many of his detractors, one suspects, Jung worked on his shadow: “It is indeed no small matter to know one’s own guilt and one’s own evil, and there is certainly nothing to be gained by losing sight of one’s shadow. When we are conscious of our guilt we are in a move favourable posision – we can at least hope to change and improve ourselves”. (CW X, para.440)

Anthony Stevens / Jung: A Very Short Introduction

Anthony Stevens (born 1933 or 1934) is a well-known Jungian analyst and psychiatrist who has written extensively on psychotherapy and psychology.

Stevens has two degrees in psychology and a Doctorate in Medicine from Oxford, and studied for a time under John Bowlby. He is a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. He lectures regularly in the UK, the USA, Switzerland and elsewhere.

He is author or co-author of many books and articles on psychology, evolutionary psychiatry, Jungian psychoanalysis, and the significance of archetypal imagery.


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