“We need more understanding of human nature because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is a great danger, and we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man, far too little. His psyche should be studied because we are the origin of all coming evil.” Carl Gustav Jung
We know so little about ourselves and how susceptible the mind is to external manipulation and deception. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung was passionately concerned with the survival of the human race warning with growing concern in the 1920s of the destructive collective forces in neighboring Germany.
Prophetically he observed that fascism flourished in an environment where it was becoming harder and harder for the average person to discern truth from fiction. People lose their ability to perceive reality. A collective psychosis had taken hold of Germany where ordinary people were showing signs of battle eagerness. Moral judgment became clouded as people stood by when the Nazis burned synagogues, looted Jewish shops, and took away neighbors to concentration camps.
Evil and the capturing of the collective mind
When there is no longer a clear distinction between truth and the lie, evil starts capturing the collective consciousness. Jung described what was happening in Nazi Germany as a “collective totalitarian psychosis.”
Recently the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk described our current situation as something akin to “the late Middle Ages where there is a refusal to join the path to modernity and science-based civil society…There is a flourishing of sectarian opinion groups that have a euphoric experience together assuming a shared privileged access to truth.”
The individual separated from soul purpose and integrity
When a collective totalitarian psychosis starts taking root the individual is being coerced by the professional deceiver and demagogue into lying to himself. There is inevitably a separation between soul purpose, integrity and authenticity. The individual is swept away by a type of totalitarian mass hypnosis.
When evil is unleashed on a mass scale such as in Nazi Germany ordinary citizens start serving “Satan” by being obedient citizens in following the group consensus and adopting behavior that would normally be suppressed in the shadow consciousness.
Bearing in mind the Nazi’s ability to distort the truth, Jung warned: “Nothing has such a convincing effect as a lie one invents and believes oneself.”
Jung’s recipe against becoming trapped by the totalitarian psychosis was training one’s own mind to become conscious of its own forces of darkness.
“Unfortunately, there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants himself to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”
The twofold nature of man
It is what the great Mystics and spiritual teachers have taught over the centuries. The 13th-century monk Meister Eckhart wrote of the twofold nature of man. “Whoever knows himself knows all creatures, for all creatures are either body or spirit.”
St Jerome describes the moment of incarnation into flesh as the individual being possessed by the good spirit, an angel, and an evil spirit, a devil.”
The evil spirit converses at all times with the outward man and lies in wait for the inward man like a serpent. Therefore the Greek philosophers Cicero and Seneca recommended a constant awareness and training of the mind in cultivating the good and the wise or the divine spirit.
Disaster is inevitable where a character who has not transmuted the shadow is entrusted with too much wealth and power. Personal inferiority is projected onto an illusory threat. Fuel is poured onto the fires of inflection points along with race, gender, class, nationality, and religious issues.
Transmuting the shadow is cultivating self-love, compassion, and gratitude. It is the acceptance that we remain incomplete beings on a path of becoming who we are meant to be.
Johannes Tauler, another 13-century Mystic, had a deep understanding of what it means to be human and how our very human mistakes can be transmuted into purpose and meaning:
“The horse drops dung in the stable. Although the dung is unclean and evil-smelling, the same horse laboriously pulls the same dung to the fields where fine wheat and good sweet wine grow from it, which would never grow so well if the dung were not there. Now your dung is your own fault that you cannot rid yourself of or overcome. These you should carry with much effort and labor to the field of God’s will in true detachment from yourself. Scatter your dung on this noble field and without any doubt, there shall spring up noble and delightful fruit.”