Carl Jung’s book “The Undiscovered Self”, starts out with a warning for the individuals living in the 20th century.
“The Plight of the Individual in Modern Society” delves into the dangers of rationality, specifically in the growing belief that humans and the nature of their consciousness could be understood through theoretical and statistical means.
The idea of the traditional, omnipotent God was in decline long before Nietzsche declared famously “God is dead, God remains dead and we have killed him”.
He manifested his realization in narrative form through the Parable of the Madman. In his book “The Gay Science”, he channeled his prophetic claim through the madman who desperately tried to warn his fellow men of the catastrophic and irreversible deed.
“We have killed him — you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon?
What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time?
Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition? Gods too decompose.
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives.
Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it?
There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us — for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.”
The doctrine of Christianity stated that all humans had a divine aspect to them, that the kingdom of Heaven was within them, if only they embodied the spirit of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
The belief in an all powerful God and an absolute, objective morality grounded humans in this world.
The belief in a painless and blissful afterlife gave humans the power to bear the tragedies and sufferings of life.
Shattering this belief exposed humans to the eternally lurking possibility of nihilism. We woke up from the religious dream that we had put ourselves in in the Western world and shivered.
It forced us to face a different possibility about life: all knowledge and values are baseless, as without an objective morality/authority, who was to say what the “right” or “correct” way to live this life should be?
Life was deemed objectively meaningless, and it was up to each individual to decide how they should conduct themselves in this world and figure out how they would spend their time in this world before they cease to exist.
Jean Paul Sartre saw this experience as “Vertigo” — the dizzying realization of the totality of our unprecedented freedom, that we each have the responsibility to choose what our fate will be rather than rely on a predetermined destiny organized by an all powerful being.
Some humans were able to bear with this realization and saw the freedom as empowering. They saw a future full of possibility and growth. They saw a future full of opportunities that were once inhibited by the power of religious structures in society.
But for many people in society, they did not know where to go. They did not know how to make directions, as they were used to following directions. They did not know where to begin, and they did not know if they could have the resolve that was necessary to take the responsibility for their lives. They would rather have someone else tell them what they needed to do to be happy. They needed to be promised paradise, or they would lose their minds to the growing force of nihilism.
The Rise of Socialism After The Death of God
If there is no heaven beyond this life, why don’t we try to create one on this earth?
What did heaven in this earth look like?
It meant a place where unnecessary suffering did not have to happen.
It meant a place where everyone’s standard of living could be the same, where food, water, and shelter was always accessible to everyone.
It meant a place where certain people couldn’t enjoy the finer things in life at the expense of the rest of the people.
It meant a place where kids couldn’t die of dehydration and starvation while people with excess wealth had access to all the pleasures of the world.
This is something that most people would agree with. It would be great if humans didn’t have to suffer unnecessarily — if we had the means we would help the dispossessed and make sure everyone was living a relatively happy life.
However, this idea opened the gateway for individuals with malicious motives. There were people who were angry and resentful at the people who had more than what they had. They wanted to be in their position, enjoying the pleasures that the world had to offer. But if they couldn’t have it, they’d rather have it all burnt down.
They channeled their internal resentment and influenced the people around them.
From the corpses of religion came ideologies. Ideologies gave people new axiomatic beliefs and attempted to fill the hole that religion had filled.
People started losing their individuality in their fight for change. They became an embodiment of the will of the crowd. They swallowed individuals who attempted to stand their ground and fight back. Fellow men conspired against each other to bring utopia to their nation.
They rationalized the deaths of millions of people with their declarations of bringing heaven on earth. Whoever fought against their crusade was to be silenced or brought to submission.
This made sense because if there was a heaven with everything you could ever desire waiting for you, wouldn’t you do whatever it took to get there?
Besides, at this point there was no objective morality, no omniscient Being who would judge you after you died. It was all about the here and now, so take what you can get before you’re dead.
Can Human Nature Be Objectively Observed Through Scientific Means?
The past few minutes covered a brief history of the ideology of Socialism that was quickly growing in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.
Carl Jung feared that as man attempted to observe its own nature in a scientific manner using statistical truths and abstract knowledge, each peculiar and distinct individual would be regarded merely as a marginal phenomenon.
If 1,000,000 people liked the color blue, and you happened to like green, you would be considered an anomaly, an abnormality. You would be considered an exception of the rule.
But you are still of the human species, are you not? Are you not worthy of being studied? And what of the next man who likes yellow? Red? Is our unique phenomenological experience not worthy of study? Do we not also possess what the scientists regard and study as “human nature”?
“Scientific education is based in the main on statistical truths and abstract knowledge and therefore imparts an unrealistic, rational picture of the world, in which the individual, as a merely marginal phenomenon, plays no role.
The individual, however, as an irrational datum, is the true and authentic carrier of reality, the concrete man as opposed to the unreal ideal or normal man to whom the scientific statements refer.”
What about the biases of the humans who attempt to study the humans in an objective manner? How can a subjective being attempt to be objective? Will they not admit that there are hidden forces within them that influence what they see and experience in the world?
“What is more, most of the natural sciences try to represent the results of their investigations as though these had come into existence without man’s intervention, in such a way that the collaboration of the psyche — an indispensable factor — remains invisible.
So in this respect, too, science conveys a picture of the world from which a real human psyche appears to be excluded.”
What does the attempt of understanding the nature of man through statistical truths lead to?
“Under the influence of scientific assumptions, not only the psyche but the individual man and, indeed, all individual events whatsoever suffer a leveling down and a process of blurring that distorts the picture of reality into a conceptual average.
We ought not to underestimate the psychological effect of the statistical world picture: it displaces the individual in favor of anonymous units that pile up into mass formations…
The moral responsibility of the individual is then inevitably replaced by the policy of the State (raison d’etat).
If each person is considered the same, and can all be reduced to a statistical unit, it opens the possibility of creating a moral system that benefits all of society.
Rather than having to handle the complexity of the unique needs and desires of each individual, each individual is considered the same and is believed to want the same things in life.
Instead of moral and mental differentiation of the individual, you have public welfare and the raising of the living standard.
The goal and meaning of individual life (which is the only real life) no longer lie in individual development but in the policy of the State, which is thrust upon the individual from outside and consists in the execution of an abstract idea which ultimately tends to attract all life to itself.
The individual is increasingly deprived of the moral decision as to how he should live his own life, and instead is ruled, fed, clothed and educated as a social unit, accommodated in the appropriate housing unit, and amused in accordance with the standards that give pleasure and satisfaction to the masses.
The rulers, in their turn, are just as much social units as the ruled and are distinguished only by the fact that they are specialized mouthpieces of the State doctrine. They do not need to be personalities capable of judgment, but thoroughgoing specialists who are unusable outside their line of business. State policy decides what shall be taught and studied.
What Starts As The Will of the People Becomes The Will of the Corrupt Individual
“The seemingly omnipotent State doctrine is for its part manipulated in the name of State policy by those occupying the highest positions in the government, where all the power is concentrated.
Whoever, by election or caprice, gets into one of these positions is no longer subservient to authority, for he is the State policy itself and within the limits of the situation can proceed at his own discretion.
With Louis XIV he can say, “L’etat c’est moi.” (I myself am the nation)
He is thus the only individual or, at any rate, one of the few individuals who could make use of their individuality if only they knew how to differentiate themselves from the State doctrine. They are more likely, however, to be the slaves of their own fictions.
Such one-sidedness is always compensated psychologically by unconscious subversive tendencies. Slavery and rebellion are inseparable correlates. Hence, rivalry for power and exaggerated distrust pervade the entire organism from top to bottom.
Furthermore, in order to compensate for its chaotic formlessness, a mass always produces a “Leader,” who almost infallibly becomes the victim of his own inflated ego-consciousness, as numerous examples in history show.
This development becomes logically unavoidable the moment the individual masses together with others and becomes obsolete.
Carl Jung continues to warn of scientific rationalism, which robs the individual of his foundations and his dignity.
“As a social unit he has lost his individuality and becomes a mere abstract number in the bureau of statistics. He can only play the role of an interchangeable unit of infinitesimal importance.
Looked at rationally and from outside, that is exactly what he is, and from this point of view it seems positively absurd to go on talking about the value or meaning of the individual.
Indeed, one can hardly imagine how one ever came to endow individual human life with so much dignity when the truth to the contrary is as plain as the palm of your hand.
Continuing with the perspective of scientific rationalism, what argument do you have that proves that you are special, when there are billions of other people similar to you? What makes your family and friends special, worthy and deserving of anything in this life? If you are simply one, what is really your value when compared to the 7 billion others? Are you not simply just a single unit, a mere number?
“Seen from this standpoint, the individual really is of diminishing importance and anyone who wished to dispute this would soon find himself at a loss for arguments.
The fact that the individual feels himself or the members of his family or the esteemed friends in his circle to be important merely underlines the slightly comic subjectivity of his feeling. For what are the few compared with ten thousand or a hundred thousand, let alone a million?
When faced with these arguments, one cannot help but be troubled by how much it makes sense. With the power of rationality, the life of an individual can merely be reduced to a mathematical quantity and stripped of its subjective, unique, and inherent value.
When an individual is stripped of any value and treated as a statistical unit, it is easy for that individual to become a means to an end for another’s gain.
I hope I leave you, the reader, to meditate on the dangers of scientific rationalism and the heavy importance of maintaining the importance of the idea of a sovereign individual.
Do not say or do anything to demean your own value. Do not let others diminish your individuality. You are important and your voice needs to be loud and clear to protect yourself and other individuals from being drowned out and exploited by the will of the crowd.