A Letter to E. Roenne – Peterson
Carl G. Jung
16 March 1953
Inseminatis artificalis could indeed become a public and legal problem in a society where a merely rationalistic and materialistic point of view has become predominant, and where the cultural values as to the freedom of human thoughts and of human relations have been suppressed. This danger is not so remote that one could disregard it. It is therefore a legimate question when one asks what the possible consequences of the practice of the said procedure might be.
From the standpoint of psychopathology, the immediate effect would be an “illegimate,” i.e., fatherless pregnancy, in spite of the fact that fertilization took place in wedlock and under legalized circumstances. It would be a case of unknown paternity. Since human beings are individuals and not exchangeable, the father could not be artificially substituted. The child would suffer inevitably from the handicap of illegitimacy, or of being an orphan, or of adoption. These conditions leave their traces in the psyche of the infant.
The fact that artificial insemination is a well-known cattle-breeding device lowers the moral status of human mother to the level of a cow, no matter what she thinks about it, or what she is talked into. As any bull having the desired racial characteristics can be a donor, so any man appreciated from the breeded standpoint is good enough for anonymous procreation. Such a procedure amounts to a catastrophic devaluation of the human individual, and its destructive effect upon dignity is obvious. Having no practical experience in this matter, I do not know what psychological effect is of a conception brought about in such a cold-blooded “scientific” way, and what a mother who had to carry the child of a total stranger would feel. I can imagine that the effect would be like that of rape. It seems to me to be in itself an ominous symptom of the mental and moral condition of our world that such problems have to be discussed at all.
Man and His Environment
Hans Carol, a Swiss geographer from Zurich University, sought views on regional planning for the Canton of Zurich from influential persons, among whom was Jung, who gave him a half-hour appointment in February 1950. The subject so engrossed Jung that he kept Carol nearly an hour longer. Carol came across notes of their conversation some years later and wrote them up for the Neue Zurcher Zeitung’s literary supplement, June, 1963; a slightly expanded account appeared in the magazine Landscape in 1965. The following is reprinted from the anthology, Jung Speaking.
Carol: I would be grateful if you, as a leading psychologist, would comment on the subject of man and his environment. Although we planners try not to look at the human being as a mere product of his physical environment, we believe nonetheless that the environment is a crucial factor in human existence. Just as men are influenced by education, they are surely also influenced by the environment society designs for them.
Jung: I am very pleased that you are devoting your attention to this question. The abstract nature of work in a technological age leaves the worker dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction induces people to look for compensation elsewhere. Suggestibility increases geometrically according to the number of persons involved. Mass mental disorder may reach epidemic proportions. Decentralization, on the other hand, allows for small social units. Every man should have his own plot of land so that the instincts can come to life again. To own land is important psychologically, and there is no substitute for it. We keep forgetting that we are primates and that we have to make allowances for these primitive layers in our psyche. The farmer is still closer to these layers. In tilling the earth he moves around within a very narrow radius, but he moves on his own land. The industrial worker is a pathetic, rootless being, and his remuneration in money is not tangible but abstract. In earlier times, when crafts flourished, he derived satisfaction from seeing the fruit of his labor. He found adequate self-expression in such work. But this is no longer the case. First of all, he is responsible for only a small part of the finished product. Secondly, the product is sold, it disappears, and he has no further stake in it. Because the psychological reward is inadequate, the worker rebels against his employer and against “capitalism” as a whole. We all need nourishment for our psyche. It is impossible to find such nourishment in urban tenements without a patch of green or a blossoming tree. We need a relationship with nature. I am just a culture-coolie myself, but I derive a great deal of pleasure from growing of my own potatoes. People tend to look for the Kingdom of God in the outer world rather than in their own souls. This is particularly true of socialism. Individuation is not only an upward but also a downward process. Without any body, there is no mind and therefore no individuation. Our civilizing potential has led us down the wrong path. All too often an American worker who owns only one car considers himself a poor devil, because his boss has two or three cars. This is symptomatic of pointless striving for material possessions.
Yet, we need to project ourselves into the things around us. My self is not confined to my body. It extends into all the things I have made and all the things around me. Without these things, I would merely be a human ape, a primate. Everything surrounding me is part of me, and that is precisely why a rented apartment is disastrous. It offers so few possibilities for self-expression. In a standardized apartment, in a standardized milieu, it is easy to lose the sense of one’s own personality, of one’s individuality.
A community is based on personal relationships. No community can evolve where people can easily move household from one place to another. The one-family house, the house owned by its inhabitants, is much better because it necessarily engenders a sense of permanence.
If man has a hand in shaping his environment, it will reflect his personality. A Soviet collective farm lacks soul, and the people who live in it are a dull, unhappy lot because they have been deprived of any opportunity for self expression…
A captive animal cannot return to freedom. But our workers can return. We see them doing it in the allotment gardens in and around our cities; these gardens are an expression of love for nature and for one’s own plot of land. As our working hours become shorter, the question of leisure time becomes increasingly essential to us, time in which we are free of commands and restrains and in which we can achieve self-realization. I am fully committed to the idea that human existence should be rooted in the earth. (JS. PP. 201- 3)
A Letter to the Zurcher Student
At the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich
The question you ask me, concerning the effect of technology on the human psyche, is not at all easy to answer, as you may well imagine. The problem is a very complicated one.
Since technology consists of certain procedures invented by man, it is not something that somehow lies outside the human sphere. One may therefore confecture that certain modes of human adaptation also exist which would meet the requirements of technology. Technological activities mostly consist in the identical repetition of rhythmical procedures. This corresponds to the basic pattern of primitive labour, which is never performed without rhythm and an accompanying chant. The primitive, that is, the man who is relatively instinctive, can put up with an extraordinary amount of monotony. There is even something fascinating about it for him. When the work is accompanied by drumming, he is able to heat himself up into an ecstasy, or else the monotony of the action makes him fall into a semi-unconscious condition, which is not unpleasant either. The question naturally is: What is the effect of these primitive techniques on modern man, who no longer has the capacity to transport himself into semi-unconscious or ecstatic states for any length of time?
In general it can be said that for modern man technology is an imbalance that begets dissatisfaction with work or with life. It estranges man from his natural versatility of action and thus allows many of his instints to lie fallow. The result is an increased resistance to work in general. The remedy would presumably be to move industry our of the towns, a four-hour day, and the rest of the time spent in agricultural work on one’s own property – if such a thing could be realized. In Switzerland it might be, given time. Naturally it is different with the slum mentality of huge worker-populations, but that is a problem in itself.
Considered on its own merits, as a legitimate human activity, technology is neither good nor bad, neither harmful nor harmless. Whether it be used for good or ill depends entirely on man’s own attidude, which in turn depends on technology. The technologist has something of the same problem as the factory worker. Since he has to do mainly with mechanical factors, there is a danger of his other mental capacities atrophying. Just as an unbalanced diet is injurious to the body, any psychic imbalances have injurious effects in the long run and need compensating. In my practice I have observed how engineers, in particular, very often developed philosophical interests, and this is an uncommonly sound reaction and mode of compensation. For this reason I have always recommended the Institution of Humanistic Faculties at Federal Polytechnic, to remind students that at least such thing exist, so that they can come back to them if ever they should feel a need for them in later life.
Technology harbors no more dangers than any other trend in the development of human consciousness. The danger lies in technology but in the possibilities awating discovery. Undouptedly a new discovery will never be used only for good, but certainly will be used for ill as well. Man, therefore, always runs the risk of discovering something that will destroy him if evilly used. We have come very close to this with the atom bomb. Faced with such menacing developments, one must ask oneself whether man is sufficiently equipped with reason to be able to resist the temptation to use them for destructive purposes, or whether his constitution will allow him to be swept into catastrophe. This is a question which experience alone can answer.
Carl G. Jung
Dear Professor Oftinger,
Unfortunately I am so old and tired that I am no longer able comply with your wish. You maybe assured, however, that I have every sympathy with your project and understand it only too well. I personally detest noise and flee it whenever and wherever possible, because it only disturbs the concentration needed for my work but forces me to make the additional physic effort of shutting it out. You may get habituated to it as to over indulgence to alcohol, but just as you pay for this with cirrhosis of the liver, so in the end you pay for nervous stress with a premature depletion of your vital substance. Noise is certainly only one of evils our time, though perhaps most obtrusive. The others are gramophone, the radio, and now the blight of television. I was once asked by an organization of teachers why, in spite of the better food in elementary schools, the curriculum could no longer be completed nowadays. The answer is: lack of concentration, too many distractions. Many children do their work to the accompaniment of the radio. So much is fed into them from outside that they no longer have to think of something they could do something from inside themselves, which requires concentration. Their infantile dependence on the outside is thereby increased and prolonged into later life, when it becomes fixed in the well-known attitude that every inconvenience should be abolished by order of the state. Panem et circenses-this is the degenerative symptom of urban civilization, to which we must now add the nerve-shattering din of our technological gadgetry. The alarming pollution of our water supplies, the steady increase of radioactivity, and the somber threat of overpopulation with its genocidal tendencies have already led to a widespread though not generally conscious fear which loves noise because it stops the fear from being heard. Noise is welcome because it drowns the inner instinctive warning. Fear seeks noisy company and pandemonium to scare away the demons. (The primitive equivalents are yells, bull-roars, drums, fire-crackers, bells, etc.) Noise like crowds, gives a feeling of security; therefore people love it and avoid doing anything about it as they instinctively feel the apotropaic magic it sends out. Noise protects us from painful reflection, it scatters anxious dreams, it assures us that we are all in the same boat and creating such a racket that nobody will dare to attack us. Noise is so insistent, so overwhelmingly real, that everything else becomes a pale phantom. It relieves us of the effort to say or do anything, for the very air reverberates with invincible power of our modernity.
The dark side of picture is that we wouldn’t have noise if we didn’t secretly want it. Noise is not merely inconvenient or harmful, it is an unadmitted and uncomprehended means to an end: compensation of the fear which is only too well founded. If there were silence, their fear would make people reflect, and there’s no knowing what might than come to consciousness. Most people are afraid of silence; hence, whenever the everlasting chit-chat at a party suddenly stops, they are impelled to say something, and start fidgeting, whistling, humming, coughing, whispering. The need for noise is almost insatiable, even though it becomes unbearable at times. Still, it is better than nothing. “Deathly silence” – telling phrase! – strikes us as uncanny. Why? Ghosts walking about? Well, hardly. The real fear is what might come up from one’s own depths – all the things that have been held at bay by noise.
You have taken on a difficult task with much needed noise abatement, for the more you attack noise the closer you come to territory of silence, which is so much dreaded. You will be depriving all those nobodies whom nobody ever listens to of their sole joy in life and of incomparable satisfaction they feel when they shatter the stillness of the night with their clattering motorbikes, disturbing everyone’s sleep with their hellish din. At that moment they amount to something. Noise is their raison d’etre and a confirmation of their existence. There are far more people than one supposes who are not disturbed by noise, for they have nothing in them that could be disturbed; on the contrary, noise gives them something to live for…
Modern noise is an integral component of modern “civilization,” which is predominantly extroverted and abhors all inwardness. It is an evil with deep roots. The existing regulations could do much to improve things but they are not enforced. Why not? It’s a question of morality. But this is shaken to its foundations and all goes together with the spiritual disorientation of our time. Real improvement can be hoped for only if there is radical change of consciousness. I fear all other measures will remain unreliable palliatives since they do not penetrate to the depths where the evil is rooted and constantly renewed.
Zola once aptly remarked that the big cities are “holocausts de I’humanite,” but the general trend is set in that direction because destruction is an unconscious goal of the collective unconscious at the present time: it is terrified by the snowballing population figures and uses every means to contrive an attenuated and inconspicuous form of genocide. Another, easily overlooked weapon is the destruction of the ability to concentrate-the prime requisite for operating our highly differentiated machines and equipment. The life of the masses is inconceivable without them and yet it is constantly threatened by superficiality, inattention and slovenliness. The nervous exhaustion caused by the tempo leads to addiction (alcohol, tranquilizers, and other poisons) and thus to an even poorer performance and the premature wastage of the vital substance-another effective weapon for inconspicuous depopulation.
Excuse this somewhat pessimistic contribution to one of the less delectable questions of our time. As a doctor I naturally see more than others of the dark side of human existence and am therefore more inclined to make the menacing aspects the object of my reflections than to advance grounds for optimistic forecasts. In my view there are more than enough people catering this already.
Yours sincerely, C.G. Jung