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Symbolic Life

[Carl Jung on “Crime and the Soul.”] (A Boy stabs his sister in the eye with a knife and a Man murders his family including their dog.)

The dual personality of the criminal is frequently apparent at first glance.

One need not follow the tortuous path of his psychological experiences, disguises, and eventual unmasking as the story of his dual existence is dramatically told in the film.

Generally speaking, every criminal, in his outward show of acting honorably, wears a quite simple disguise which is easily recognizable.

Of course, this does not apply to the lowest dregs of the criminal fraternity—to the men and women who have become outcasts from all ordinary human society.

Generally, however, criminals, men and women alike, betray a certain ambition to be respectable, and repeatedly emphasize their respectability.

The “romance” of a criminal existence is only rarely romantic.

A very large number of criminals lead a thoroughly middle-class existence and commit their crimes, as it were, through their second selves.

Few criminals succeed in attaining a complete severance between their liking for middle-class respectability, on the one hand, and their instinct for crime on the other.

It is a terrible fact that crime seems to creep up on the criminal as something foreign that gradually gains a hold on him so that eventually he has no knowledge from one moment to another of what he is about to do.

Let me illustrate this with a striking example from my own experience.

A nine-year-old boy stabbed his little sister above the eye with a pair of scissors, which penetrated as far as the cerebral membrane.

Had it gone half a millimetre deeper the child would have died instantly.

Two years earlier, when the boy was seven, his mother told me that there was something wrong with him.

The boy was doing some peculiar things.

At school, during lessons, he would suddenly rise from his seat and cling to his teacher with every sign of extreme terror.

At home he would often run away from play and hide in the loft.

When asked to explain the reason he made no reply.

When I spoke to the boy he told me that he had frequent attacks of cramp.

Then the following conversation took place:

“Why are you always afraid?”

The child did not reply. I realized that he was reluctant to speak, so I tried persuasion. Finally he said “I must not tell you.”

“Why not?”

I pressed him further, but all I was able to get out of him was that he must not say why he was afraid. At last he blurted it out.

“I am afraid of the man,” he said.

“What man?”

No reply. Then, after much wheedling, I succeeded in winning his confidence. He told me that at the age of seven a little man appeared to him. The little man had a beard. The boy also gave other details of the little man’s appearance. This little man had winked at him, and that had frightened him. That was why he clung to his teacher at school and ran away from play at home to hide in the loft.

“What did this little man want of you?” I asked.

“He wanted to put the blame on me.”

“What do you mean by ‘blame’?”

The boy could not answer. He merely repeated the word “blame.” He said that each time the little man came nearer and nearer to him, and last time he had come quite close, and that was why he, the boy, stabbed his sister.

The appearance of the little man was none other than the personification of the criminal instinct, and what the boy described as “blame” was a symbol of the second self that was driving him to destruction.

After the crime the boy had epileptic fits. Since then he has \ committed no further crimes.

In this case as in many others, epilepsy represented an evasion of the crime, a repression of the criminal j instinct.

Unconsciously people try to escape the inner urge to crime by taking refuge in illness.

In other cases it happens that people who are apparently normal transmit the evil instincts concealed under this appearance of normality to other people, and frequently lead them, quite unconsciously, to carry out the deeds which they themselves would never commit although they would like to.

Here is an example: Some time ago there was a murder in the Rhineland which created a great sensation.

A man of up-to-then blameless character killed his entire family, and even his dog.

No one knew the reason; no one had ever noticed anything abnormal about the man.

This man told me that he had bought a knife without having any particular object in mind.

One night he fell asleep in the living-room, where there was a clock with a pendulum.

He heard the ticking of the clock, and this tick-tock was like the sound of a battalion of marching soldiers.

The sound of marching gradually died away, as though the battalion had passed.

When it ceased completely he suddenly felt, “Now I must do it.”

Then he committed the murders. He stabbed his wife eleven times.

According to my subsequent investigations it was the woman who was chiefly to blame for what happened.

She belonged to a religious sect, whose members regarded all who do not pray with them as outsiders, children of the devil, and themselves as saints.

This woman transmitted the evil that was in her, unconsciously perhaps, but quite certainly, to her husband.

She persuaded him that he was evil, whereas she herself was good, and instilled the criminal instinct into his subconscious mind.

It was characteristic that the husband recited a saying from the Bible at each stab, which best indicates the origin of his hostility.

Far more crime, cruelty, and horror occur in the human soul than in the external world.

The soul of the criminal, as manifested in his deeds, often affords an insight into the deepest psychological processes of humanity in general.

Sometimes it is quite remarkable what a background such murders have, and how people are driven to perpetrate acts which at any other time and of their own accord they would never commit.

Once a baker went for his Sunday walk.

The next thing he knew was that on waking up he found himself in a police cell, with his hands and feet manacled. He was amazed. He thought he was dreaming.

He had no idea why he was locked up. But in the meantime the man had murdered three people and seriously injured two.

Undoubtedly he committed these crimes in a cataleptic state.

The baker’s Sunday walk turned out quite differently from what he had intended on leaving home.

The wife of this baker was a member of the same sect as the other woman, and therefore a “saint,” so that the motive of this crime is analogous to that described above.

The more evil a person is, the more he tries to force upon others the wickedness he does not want to show to the outside world.

The baker and the Rhinelander were respectable men.

Before they committed their crimes they would have been amazed had anyone thought them capable of such things.

They certainly never intended to commit murder.

This idea was unconsciously instilled into them as a means of abreacting the evil instincts of their wives.

Man is a very complicated being, and though he knows a great deal about all sorts of things, he knows very little about himself. ~Carl Jung, The Symbolic Life, Pages 343-346.]