'Transformation Symbolism in the Mass' by Carl Jung (1940)

A selection from Transformation Symbolism in the Mass by Carl Jung, 1940-54 (first published in 1940/41, and revised and expanded in 1954).


[The development of modern consciousness] has made it emancipated enough to forget its dependence on the unconscious psyche [Ger. Seele]. It is not a little proud of this emancipation, but it overlooks the fact that although it has apparently got rid of the unconscious it has become the victim of its own verbal concepts. [...] Our dependence on words is so strong that a philosophical brand of "existentialism" had to restore the balance by pointing to a reality that exists in spite of words... . One can be- and is- just as dependent on words as on the unconscious. Man's advance toward the Logos was a great achievement, but he must pay for it with a loss of instinct and loss of reality to the degree that he remains in primitive dependence on mere words. Because words are substitutes for things, which of course they cannot be in reality, they take on intensified forms, become eccentric, outlandish, stupendous... . 

This rupture of the link with the unconscious and our submission to the tyranny of words have one great disadvantage: the conscious mind becomes more and more the victim of its own discriminating activity, the picture we have of the world gets broken down into countless particulars, and the original feeling of unity, which we integrally connected with the unity of the unconscious psyche, is lost. This feeling of unity, in the form of the correspondence theory and the sympathy of all things, dominated philosophy until well into the seventeenth century and is now, after a long period of oblivion, looming up again on the scientific horizon, thanks to the discoveries made by the psychology of the unconscious... . The manner in which the unconscious forcibly obtrudes upon the conscious by means of neurotic disturbances is not only reminiscent of contemporary political and social conditions but even appears as an accompanying phenomenon. In both cases there is an analogous dissociation: in the one case a splitting of the world's consciousness by an 'iron curtain,' [editors note: see and in the other a splitting of the individual personality. This dissociation extends throughout the entire world, so that a psychological split runs through vast numbers of individuals who, in their totality, call forth the corresponding mass phenomena. [...] The cause of this development lay principally in the economic and psychological uprootedness of the industrial masses, which in turn was caused by the rapid technological advance. But technology, it is obvious, is based on a specifically rationalistic differentiation of consciousness which tends to repress all irrational psychic factors. Hence there arises, in the individual and nation alike, an unconscious counterposition which in time grows strong enough to burst out into open conflict.
The same situation in reverse was played out on a smaller scale and on a spiritual plane during the first centuries of our era, when the spiritual disorientation of the Roman world was compensated by the irruption of Christianity. Naturally, in order to survive, Christianity had to defend itself not only against its enemies but also against the excessive pretensions of some of its adherents, including those of the Gnostics. Increasingly it had to rationalize its doctrines in order to stem the flood of irrationality. This led, over the centuries, to that strange marriage of the originally irrational Christian message with human reason, which is so characteristic of the Western mentality. But to the degree that reason gradually gained the upper hand, the intellect asserted itself and demanded autonomy. And just as the intellect subjugated the psyche, so also it subjugated Nature and begat on her an age of scientific technology that left less and less room for the natural and irrational man. Thus the foundations were laid for an inner opposition which today threatens the world with chaos. To make the reversal complete, all the powers of the underworld now hide behind reason and intellect, and under the mask of rationalistic ideology a stubborn faith seeks to impose itself by fire and sword, vying with the darkest aspects of a church militant. By a strange enantiodromia, the Christian spirit of the West has become the defender of the irrational... .