From the Life and Work of C.G. Jung: with a new Epilogue by Sir Laurens van der Post

Epilogue: Some Reflections on a Shadow that Refuses to Go Away ~Sir Laurens van der Post

It is time that this nonsense stopped.

There may have been cause in the desperate and confused years of the thirties which led up to the Second World War, in the horror of the war itself and the turmoil of spirits, voices, explanations and counter-explanations that followed it, for people to believe the charge that Jung was anti-Semitic.

But since then, this particular ghost has been exorcised, laid to rest and buried under a mound of freely accessible evidence and testimony.

 It was always preposterous to those of us who knew Jung that he should be thought of as “anti” anything, least of all anti-Semitic.

His was just not an “anti” spirit.

His whole life was one dedicated, not to the passing of judgment and dispensation of justice in life, but to the understanding of human beings, their innermost spirit and motivations, and the shadows they and their communities cast.

He said to me on several occasions that he found understanding perhaps the most exciting element in life, on one occasion referring to the feeling of having understood objectively as “hellishly exciting.”

He regarded the task of seeking the totality, and understanding it objectively, as truly religious; partial and one-sided seeing, thinking and feeling were almost blasphemy to him.

Once understood, he stressed, it was wonderful how generous and rewarding life became.

Nonetheless, those who were closest to him and knew the course of his life best, did realize that there was a period in the early thirties when he voiced certain generalizations about the Jews which, as the horrendous hallucination of the human spirit in the rising Nazi and Fascist fever mounted towards its cataclysmic crisis, might have lent themselves to hasty interpretation of a pro-Nazi trend in his own view of events in Germany.

He was, after all, born into the remarkable extension of Germanic culture which is to be found in the German-speaking parts of Switzerland, a culture,

I hasten to add, which partook more of the classical German Palatinates and principalities of the South than that of the Brandenburg and Prussian North, more of Weimar than Potsdam or Berlin.

With such a background, his imagination was bound to be seized by events in Germany.

Aniela Jafféhas already dealt so well and with such authority with this aspect of the charge laid against Jung and how he came to lay himself open to it by the fact that his profound preoccupations with the archetypal patterns of the collective unconscious and his absorption in mythology, seduced him briefly into a feeling that there could just be a positive aspect to the reawakening of the ancient Teutonic gods at this time.

These gods and their archaic hordes streamed into the vacuum left in the German spirit by the First World War, the aftermath of Versailles, and the years of inflation and deprivation which followed them.

But he was never tempted to give this aspect of National Socialism more than “a chance,” as Aniela Jaffé put it, and very soon regretted even that, recognizing it totally for what it was: another eruption of what the Romans called Furore teutonicus.

He immediately distanced himself from it in every possible way.

I first knew Jung’s views on Hitler and storm troopers from an account a remarkable journalist called Knickerbocker gave me not long before the war, on his way through London after an interview with Jung in Zurich.

He claimed that Jung was the only person who really saw what Nazism in Germany and Fascism in Italy meant, and the peril they constituted for the future of Europe.

I believe I remember parts of what Knickerbocker told me almost word for word, for instance:

“One could say in a sense that Mussolini ruled Italy, but one could not say that Hitler rules Germany.  Hitler is Germany. He is more of a myth than a man. He is the loudspeaker that makes audible all the inaudible murmurings of the German soul.”

I myself, alas, did not meet Jung until after the war, but the war and all the horror of the Holocaust was still as fresh in my mind as if it had happened only the day before.

He told me of his increasing horror as the years advanced into the late thirties, and that he came to head the General Society for Psychotherapy purely in order to protect the imperilled Jewish/German/Austrian members of the Society.

I also heard from Professor C.A. Meier of all the things Jung did, and he himself did on Jung’s behalf, to help the hapless German practitioners and their families.

In those years he could not have been more clearly dissociated by deed from any form of truck with National Socialism and its intensifying vendetta against the Jews.

What remains, however, are those generalizations I mentioned, and I can understand how suspect and hurtful the Jews could have found them, at that precise moment of intense vulnerability and with the shadow the Holocaust cast darkly upon them.

Finally, there has to be added to the general background Jung’s comments on the political manifestations of Fascism and Nazism in the years leading up to the war.

Read today, by generations who did not experience those years and have the benefit of hindsight, they may seem singularly naive and dangerously superficial, yet to people like myself, who lived through a decade which ended with the war, they are not surprising.

Almost without exception, the Western world, including the Americas and the older Dominions, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, though they did not condone these manifestations of Fascism and Nazism, tended to make excuses for them and blinded themselves to their portentous meaning.

Even those best placed in the world of statesmen and politicians, whose business it was to know and to foresee, misread the terrifying signals and desperate warnings coming from Germany, Italy and Japan and somehow thought that all would pass.

Those who had misgivings, like Baldwin in Britain, hid them from their people.

In my own small way, as a foreign correspondent in London who, from the time of the invasion of Manchuria felt the growing menace, I did what I could to break through the almost supercilious imperviousness of the Western world.

In my private life, friends ceased to ask me for dinner because, as I gathered, I had made myself tiresome with the obsession I had with the shadow of coming events.

I was told that one country house which I loved to visit for weekends, often making up a “big house cricket eleven” to play against the village cricket team led by a blacksmith who might have been the original in Goldsmith’s poem, would no longer invite me because my writing and conversation were thought so deplorable.

“If only you newspaper people,” I was told again and again, “would shut up and stop making trouble for us, we could sort it out.”

Even at the heart of the British Foreign Office, an outstanding Civil Servant like van Sittart, who saw the Nazi and Fascist phenomena for what they were, was excluded from the Prime Minister’s counsel, while an arch Civil Service conformist called Henderson drawn from some Ministry of Works became the British Prime Minister’s ultimate adviser on Foreign Affairs.

Indeed, the world did not want to know the full truth and was so selective in the little it knew, that great newspapers charged with keeping the democracies properly informed, like the Times of Geoffrey Dawson in London, betrayed their function and were willfully culpable of distorting the meaning of events.

It was one of the most astonishing betrayals of awareness the civilized West had ever experienced.

A British Prime Minister like Chamberlain could go to Rome and say to Mussolini and his son-in-law Ciano that if Anthony Eden made serious problems for their relationship with Britain he was prepared to let him go.

No wonder that when Chamberlain left, Mussolini turned to Ciano, who had warned him not to underestimate the British, and commented: “You still tell me that the British are not decadent?”

The French were at even greater fault than the British and quite cynical as the agreement initiated by Laval and endorsed by Samuel Hoare proved.

In the kind of atmosphere of which I have given here only a few of the many equally telling illustrations, and considering that politics was, after all, not Jung’s field, his political infelicity is not at all surprising.

Moreover, his mistakes should be viewed in the light of the fact that he soon saw through Nazism and in his private and professional life strove to correct the evil consequences of Fascism in the lives of his colleagues and other victims.

These brief observations, however, must be judged in the context of the totality of Jung’s life.

His experience of the Fascist and Nazi phenomena deepened and widened his own intuitive perception of the implications of his work for the proper understanding even of political and sociological trends and the disastrous consequences for the life of his time of inadequately perceived and, often and most dangerously, ignorance of, patterns of the collective unconscious, of autonomous powers of an overwhelming kind, “the principalities” of which St. Paul spoke, on the behavior of men and their societies.

He wrote with increasing authority and illumination in this field and exposed how the ideologies and ‘isms’ which increasingly dominate the social and intellectual scene, through plausible and partial rationalizations, invaded the contemporary mind in their irresistible search for enlargement of human awareness and life of increasing meaning.

All, in a sense, came to be included towards his end in that great little book, The Undiscovered Self.

This is obviously not an occasion for the immense detail, examples and specifics that support this statement.

They loom large as silhouettes of giants on the contemporary horizon, about to use their power as giants.

Our own concept of our time, of history and the future, can no longer be valid without taking them into our conscious account.

Already intimations of change appear in political vocabularies.

In Britain, for instance, the official opposition in Parliament appoint what they call ‘shadow cabinets’ and have ‘shadow foreign secretaries.’

I myself have felt this fallout of Jung’s achievement to be of such importance for our ‘now’ and future.

When I gave my address after his death at the memorial gathering in New York, I had to say, “The debt to Jung of the hurt, the loss of soul, deprived of meaning and the alienated tends to be properly acknowledged but I would also like to include the debt, even when not acknowledged, of the statesman, the soldier, the writer, the philosopher, historian and explorer.”

In talking to Jung about the misunderstandings, he said something to me which is not mentioned in the defense he so eloquently makes in his own letters of what he intended with these statements.

He confessed that he fully accepted how little he had known then about the Jews and their story outside the pages of his beloved Bible.

He said that he had hardly ever met any Jews until the thirties when they came to him in increasing numbers, as patients and refugees.

They taught him how great his ignorance had been. He realized that the only Jew he had really known well was Freud. He had assumed that Freud was typical of the Jewish people.

Without intending to, Freud, by what he was, had grossly misled him, being so utterly assimilated into the Austrian/Germanic complex of European culture, that he himself was singularly ignorant about the Jews, his roots and his origin.

Jung said this neither with blame nor as excuse, but as explanation of how in his uniquely Swiss enclosed situation he came to generalize on inadequate evidence and knowledge.

He felt this to be an error within himself, and made immediate and continuous amends for it, as in the moving account rendered by Aniela Jaffé of how he sought out the heroic Leo Baeck after the war and they made their peace with each other.

If Leo Baeck could make his peace with Jung, so should the people who continue this spurious vendetta without experience of the war and from the comfort of their armchairs, at ease in our welfare societies with their permissiveness and license.

It is sickening.

Were there any single person who could have understood and absolved Jung utterly on behalf of all the cruelly persecuted Jewry of the world, Leo Baeck was the one.

The time is upon us when people who are not qualified to judge for themselves either follow the example of Scholem cited by Aniela Jaffé, or recognize that the fault was not in Jung but in some projection of elements of the same old shadow which in its unfettered Teutonic sum caused the horrors of the last war.

In this regard, as the character of the man so falsely accused is concerned, there are other lesser examples of how unwarranted the behavior of these accusers remains.

One example concerns Freud.

When Freud’s friends were desperately trying to get him out of Vienna, they turned for help to the Jungians in London, particularly Eddie (E.A.) Bennet. Bennet, who was not just a colleague but a lifelong friend of Jung’s and his family, told me of the vital role he and his friends played in getting Freud to London.

The news that they had succeeded and that Freud had arrived safely in London, reached Bennet just as he and Jung arrived at the conference hall in Oxford, which was the last pre-war Jungian conference held in Britain. Bennet immediately told Jung, and Jung was overjoyed.

He there and then dictated a long telegram of welcome and congratulations to the secretary of the conference, with the instruction that it should be sent to Freud immediately.

When the conference adjourned for lunch, the first thing Jung did was to ask if the telegram had been sent.

To his astonishment, the secretary said he had not done so. Asked why not, he answered, “I thought that it was just an impulse that you might regret.”

Bennet has said that he was quite frightened, because he had never seen Jung in such a rage as the one that followed, and the scared secretary rushed away to send the telegram.

Then there was the famous, and Jung’s last, conference in Berlin.

Jung told me how, as they were in conference, the air itself seemed to have darkened no matter how bright the day without, how they were disturbed by the reverberations of goose-stepping soldiers and storm troopers, one after the other, marching by, and how he had been compelled to sadly exclaim something to the effect: “Listen, gentlemen, history is marching by.”

He told me that he was sent for by Goebbels, and felt he had to go.

He found himself confronting Goebbels across his desk, and Goebbels saying to him, “Dr. Jung, I believe there is something that you want to say to me.”

Jung replied, “No, I believe you sent for me because you had something to say to me.”

Whereupon Goebbels repeated, “No, it is the other way round.”

This farce of denial and counter-denial went on until Goebbels exploded with fury and started banging his desk and screaming at Jung.

Whereupon Jung got up and left, and, upon rejoining his group, began to feel so uneasy that he soon packed his bags and hastened back to Switzerland.

He felt all the more uneasy because he had already been told that, if ever there were a German invasion of Switzerland, he would be among the first on the hit list.

There are also, of course, the letters which he wrote during the war to his American friends and to people in England like Godwyn “Peter” Baynes, all of which show his deep concern for what the British in particular were suffering, and his anxiety and prayers that they should prevail.

Even at the point when it seemed to all appearances that nothing could prevent Hitler from winning, he never wavered in his own intuition that the evil which Hitler personified would be defeated.

This intuition was confirmed for him by the nature of the mythology which had the whole of Germany by the throat.

The myth, he knew from his own work, was a revelation of the divine and, however horrendous, an instrument of regeneration and increase.

Even in the darkest hour of the myth, there is always an imperishable redeeming element obedient to a law of creation that, always, meaning shall be greater than anti-meaning, truth greater than error.

In spite of appearances, this myth is a plenipotentiary of the potential of transcendence of the opposites, which is at the heart of life. Somewhere in this twilight-of-the-gods pattern in which Germany was caught, this element would compel Hitler, who, in his own words, “went the way Fate had pointed him like a man walking in his sleep,” to lose the war.

Fate, which is the instrument of the law of the myth, would lead him to conduct the war in such a manner that Germany would be defeated and destroyed totally in this negation of itself.

For many of us, this profound concealed element in Teutonic mythology was perhaps the greatest of allies we had in the war against Nazism.

Jung’s own spiritual involvement with the war, and his total opposition to all that Germany had come to represent, was borne out by the way he repeatedly dreamed of Churchill.

He told me that he often dreamed about Churchill, and then discovered from the newspaper days later that Churchill, on his way to Cairo, Tehran and other parts of the far-flung war front, had flown over Switzerland on the very night in which he had dreamed.

But most impressive for me personally was a dream he had the night before the German capitulation in May 1945.

He told me that he found himself in the dream in an immense prison with walls rising high around him.

Suddenly he heard from far beyond the prison a sound, that swelled almost into the reverberations of thunder, of a great army marching towards the gates of the prison.

When the sound was at its peak, it abruptly ceased and there was a moment of awesome silence.

Then the gates were flung wide and a great voice cried out, “The army of liberation has arrived.”

And right in front, leading the army he saw a tall officer in British uniform waving and waving his hat to him.

As the officer came closer, he saw that it was Godwyn Baynes, who had accompanied him to Africa, pioneered his psychology in Great Britain and, on the day the Second World War was declared, published a book, the first of its kind in the English-speaking world, Mythology of the Soul.

Nothing for me could have showed more clearly how Jung’s own work for the liberation of the soul of modern man and the reuniting of it with the forces of metamorphosis and increase was identified with the military forces, ranged against that horror and twilight-of-the-gods scene which had just been enacted in the world without.

I know this has no direct bearing on the specific accusation of anti-Semitism, but nonetheless, as circumstantial evidence, it is of supreme importance in support of a spirit incapable of prejudice, and least of all so mean a prejudice as anti-Semitism.

Finally, there is the evidence implicit in the choice of editors for the two volumes of his letters, which for many of us are the most important link left with the man himself.

They are filled with the breath which served the voice whose sound has been stilled forever, so much so that they still make all else he wrote and recorded of his work and life breathe and live again.

Of the three editors, two were Jews: Aniela Jaffé and Gerhard Adler.

One of the three, Aniela Jaffé, was chosen by Jung to accompany him on his last journey of the spirit, and to collaborate with him on that record of quintessential life which the world knows under the typically unpretentious title, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

So great was his trust in his biographer that he gave her permission to publish any or all of the material at her own discretion.

There were a number of notes from conversations with Jung that were not used by the author in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, for she was planning to publish them in a second volume.

However, for reasons that must be respected, Aniela Jaffé so far has not published a significant sequel to the work we know.

Where the example of Leo Baeck, Aniela Jaffé’s magisterial examination of the charge of anti-Semitism, and labor of others better qualified than I am, have failed, I am under no illusion that I can succeed totally.

But perhaps this personal testimony of mine could induce those among the many who continue to indulge their curious fascination and flirtation with this matter to look more closely into themselves and ask what it is in their own natures that allows them to be so hypnotized.

For one thing must now be clear: their interest is no objective interest aroused by a search for objective truth.

It is something profoundly irrational seeking rationalization in the world without, and something which all those conscious of the urgent burden to know themelves imposed on men who want to become totally human, should hasten to examine.

They could not fail then to look into the strange role envy and jealousy have come to play in keeping this bankrupt petition against Jung in court.

Envy and jealousy are awesome and subtle forces in human nature, and favorite allies of our individual and collective shadows.

It is not an accident that Shakespeare in his Othello, perhaps the finest orchestration of the theme of jealousy in the human spirit to which we have access, chose a black man, a person in the uniform of the shadow, as its victim.

His story is a revelation, as if by lightning in the dark, of the destructive powers jealousy can mobilize in the hearts of men.

It is in a sense conclusive because it deals with both the collective and the individual, the greater and the lesser kinds of jealousy which impede the task of what Jung called “individuation.”

In this play, the lesser jealousy is chosen to act as a mirror of the greater.

The greater jealousy is used to arouse the lesser in a noble spirit and make it the instrument of its destruction.

The image of this greater jealousy is of course Iago: the jealousy which the ignoble always has of the noble, and it thrives in the atmosphere of our aboriginal nostalgia, which the French call nostalgie de la boue. Iago, who serves this jealousy of the ignoble, does it so well because he himself has experienced the extent of its imperial power, and is therefore a natural expert in its use for destroying those who have not experienced it and are unaware of its existence.

Othello is the spirit naive because of a noble one-sidedness which makes him unaware of the existence, let alone the power, of the jealousy whose object he is, and incapable in the end of defeating it, losing his own soul, his innermost self, of which Desdemona, in all her innocence, bears the image.

Somewhere in this sort of area I suspect, and not at all in Jung’s all-too-human misjudgment, is the cause of this continued denigration of the man to be sought.

Old-fashioned Freudians, other schools of psychology and others who do not acknowledge yet the reality, the power and, even in its Miltonic aspects, the glory of the shadow, may perhaps have some feeble excuse for persisting in this amply discredited way; but those who profess their love of Jung have no such excuse whatsoever.

They above all should know that where they try to gather and form intellectual gangs under the respectable label of “conferences,” some form of this collective shadow is already edging its way inwards to join up with a darkness uniquely their own.  Laurens van der Post – From the Life and Work of C.G. Jung, Page 67-73