C.G. Jung in the 1930s: Not to idealize, neither to diminish

  • C.G. Jung in the 1930s:

Not to idealize, neither to diminish

C. G. Jung in the 1930s – it’s a key theme for analytical psychology. I would like to mention a few aspects that I believe are important if one wants to reach a closer, more objective view of Jung during this dark and difficult time. But first, a preliminary observation.

Jung’s confession that he “slipped up” is well known and often quoted. In 1945 Jung sought out Leo Baeck in his Zurich hotel and talked with him. Aniela Jaff? later spoke of “a shadow of Jung’s,” which she said had become mixed up in his political attitude. His error, she said, was “dass er mehr h?tte schweigen sollen” (Jaff? 1968, p. 85). Her phrase could mean that Jung “should have been more discreet,” or even that he “should have kept quiet more often.”

The conversation in question is known only through a letter from Gershom Scholem to Aniela Jaff? (Scholem 1995, p. 94). In 1947 Scholem, who had just received an invitation to speak at Eranos, asked Baeck what he thought. Baeck said he should “definitely go” and told him about his conversation with Jung. He said they had “a two-hour discussion, often extremely lively,” during which Jung defended himself but also said, “It’s true, I slipped up.” Leo Baeck accepted the apology and lectured at Eranos in 1947. His theme was, “Individuum ineffabile” – the inexpressible (aspect of the) individual. It was an essay about the uniqueness of the human existent, about inheritance, moral choice, and freedom. The other Eranos speakers of 1947 devoted themselves to the same thematic framework: Karl Kerenyi (“Urmensch und Mysterium” – “Primal Man and Mystery”), Hugo Rahner (“Das Menschenbild des Origenes” – “The Human Image in Origen”) and Father Victor White (“Anthropologia rationalis” – “Rational Anthropology”). That year Jung gave no lecture of his own.

Scholem himself accepted the invitation to Eranos and spoke there in 1949.

In the conclusion of his letter to Aniela Jaff?, Scholem elaborates as follows:

The point of this brief presentation was not to idealize the image of C. G. Jung, neither to diminish it. The point was to free his image from the “parties of hate and favor.” For human beings it is generally hard to stand beside the great and still keep one’s own dignity. This leads to uncritical reverence on the one hand, and to equally uncritical exaggeration of existing faults . . . . Even harder than confronting the greatness of another, and tolerating it, is to bear the destiny of greatness oneself. Greatness has the impact of the inbreaking transcendent. It is a life assignment which pushes one to extreme limits. So the most powerful personality is the one in which greatness is joined with humanity, the singular with the collective, spiritual light with wandering in darkness. From the endurance of this tension may emerge, in the case of a great artist or researcher, a great human being, a capacity to embrace the world with wisdom, understanding, or love.

(Scholem 1995, p. 95; also Hakl 2001, pp. 255f)

The following discussion considers five aspects: Jung’s medical attitude; the problem of rootlessness and madness after 1918; German perfection and mythologizing; Jung’s relation to Zionism; and the problem of language. The topic of Jung’s presidency in the International General Medical Society for Psychotherapy will receive only marginal attention.


  1. Jung’s medical attitude

Looking back at the National Socialist period, Jung wrote in 1947:

After Hitler took power it was clear to me that a mass psychosis was brewing in Germany. Nevertheless I told myself that Germany was after all a culturally European nation, possessing morals and discipline. So the final outcome of this impenetrable mass movement seemed uncertain to me. In the same way, the figure of the F?hrer struck me at first as merely ambivalent. When I gave a series of lectures in Berlin in July of 1933, I was very unfavorably impressed by the posturing of the Party and the person of Goebbels. But at first I did not want to accept these symptoms as determinative, for I knew people of unquestioned idealism who tried to prove to me that it was a case of inevitable aberrations, such as are common at times of enormous transformation. And in fact, for a foreigner at the time, it was not easy to form a clear judgment. Like many of my contemporaries, I had doubts.

(Jung 1947, CW 10, §472, alternate trans.)

Jung continues:

As a psychiatrist I knew that, with a patient who is threatened by overwhelming unconscious contents, it is most important to strengthen as much as possible the patient’s consciousness and understanding, that is, the normal components of personality, so that something is present to receive and integrate the inbreaking contents of the unconscious. For these are not destructive in themselves, only ambivalent, and it depends entirely on the condition of the consciousness that receives them whether they turn out to be a curse or a blessing.

(Jung 1947, CW 10, §472, alternate trans.)

In June 1933, a few months after the beginning of the dictatorship, Jung traveled to Berlin together with his wife, Emma, Toni Wolff, Marie-Louise von Franz, Barbara Hannah and others, to visit the newly founded C. G. Jung Society. The lecture series mentioned by Jung (the so-called “Berlin Seminar,” Jung 1933a) was very well received. Barbara Hannah, von Franz, and Kaethe B?gler wrote about their recollections.

Barbara Hannah described how she drove to Berlin (Jung and the others took the train) and saw with her own eyes that the whole of Germany was afoot. This phenomenon had been brought about by “the reawaking of Wotan from his sleep in the unconscious” (Hannah 1976/1997, p. 209). Everywhere people were restlessly on the move. Later, in Berlin, Jung reportedly said to her: Here they are, the archetypes, walking in the street. As Hannah reports,

He spoke again at greater length of the panic that was gripping the German people and of his fear that nothing could stop a disaster. At least, the only thing that could possibly stop it, he said, would be for enough individuals to become conscious of the possessed state they were all in. Therefore, he said, for as long as we could we should give them the benefit of the doubt and help as many as we could to become more conscious.

(Hannah 1976/1997, p. 211)

Hannah stresses how absurd it is to suppose that Jung ever showed sympathy for the Nazi program, since one of the fundamentals of Jungian psychology is that it “lays its whole emphasis on the individual” (ibid, p. 214). For Jung, Hannah explains, the “isms” of Nazism and Bolshevism were basically the same thing:

The political and social ‘isms’ of our time may preach all sorts of ideals, but under this window-dressing they pursue the goal of lowering the level of our culture by limiting the possibilities of individual experience or thwarting them altogether.

(Jung, CW 9.1, §617, alternate trans).

Marie-Louise von Franz completes Hannah’s report on Jung’s “therapeutic optimism,” as she calls it; “that is, his medical passion.” In so doing, she objects to Aniela Jaff?’s critical statement about Jung, that he should have been more discreet (Jaff? 1971/1989, p. 87). Von Franz agrees with Jaff?, however, that Jung was too optimistic, “which supports the old lesson, that a great scientist is not necessarily also a careful politician” (von Franz 1972, p. 65). She writes:

Wherever there was an outbreak of darkness and destruction, in an individual or in the collective, he tried with the passion of a doctor to rescue whatever could be rescued. When a friend once pointed out to him that he was always too optimistic about a certain difficult woman patient, saying, Now she’ll get better, he answered: “I know, I know, you’re right; but how could I practice as a therapist if I didn’t go on being hopeful?”

(von Franz 1996, p. 65).

Von Franz recounts that Jung also admitted, in a letter of April 1946, that he had “harbored illusions about the human being; he never could have imagined something so abysmal, so evil, becoming manifest.” She continues: “Jung was not led astray by any hidden shadow-motive, but by his temperamental ‘therapeutic’ optimism” (ibid).

I have done a close reading of the report of the Berlin Seminar, 26 June to 1 July 1933, and the text of the interview Jung gave at this time to Adolf von Weizs?cker, a Berlin Jungian and Nazi Party member (Jung 1933a). It is clear that during the seminar, which took place a few months after the seizure of power and the beginning of state-sponsored terror, Jung worked something like a group therapist, talking about the political situation, but began with the case of a completely “normal man” finding his way to self-development. Hannah comments on the Berlin Seminar as follows:

Jung’s seminar was taken down at the time in an unusually good stenogram and multigraphed for the use of the class in almost verbatim form. I have reread my notes (…), to remind myself how Jung had dealt with the Germans in their panic at the time. Although he did all he could to open the eyes of the individual to the myth of Wotan that was possessing Germany, he did not speak of it or refer to the political situation at all, when addressing his large German audience in Berlin. But he did do his utmost to open their eyes to the reality of the psyche and the inner life. He also spoke a good deal of the danger of being unconscious and of getting caught in participation mystique and mass emotion, but he always spoke in general terms and left the individuals in the audience to apply it to their own present situation. He certainly managed to calm his audience. [Emphasis added by me, J.R.] I have never felt a general atmosphere change so quickly, nor have I ever heard such enthusiastic and persistent applause as at the end of the final lecture.

(Hannah 1976/1997, p. 215)

After 1945 a Berlin student of Jung’s, Dr. K?the B?gler, still remembered Jung’s seminar and the gratitude of the many participants who felt personally spoken to in their distress (Streich 1990). In 1963 she wrote: “The number of interested people was greater than Jung had expected. Nevertheless a lively seminar situation emerged, with questions and answers (…). Years later we were still feeding from this seminar” (B?gler 1963, p. 29). She continues: “On the opening day of the seminar (26 June 1933) there was also a dialogue on Radio Berlin between Jung and Adolf von Weizs?cker. The interview was essentially about the problematic time in which we were living. It is still exciting to read” (ibid).

In the context of Jung’s therapeutic idealism, the Weizs?cker interview is informative. Here Jung expresses himself in an explicitly political vein. It contains passages that can be irritating. Jung says, among other things:

Mass movements have the capacity to overwhelm individuals through mass suggestion and render them unconscious. The social or political movement gains nothing from crowds of hypnotized followers. On the contrary, there is the danger that, on awakening from hypnosis, a corresponding disappointment will set in. For this reason it is especially important for mass movements to have adherents who follow not from an unconscious compulsion but from conscious conviction.

(Jung 1933a, p. 170)

I read this, in the context of the seminar, as a challenge to consciousness. One striking part of the seminar deals with a dream interpretation, which concludes that the dreamer “must look into his own eyes.” In this dream interpretation, the issue is “self-mastery.” A person “will find a relationship to other people only if he can admit to himself his own weakness, i.e., if he is not too far from his ‘darkness’ and in communion with his alter ego. By doing this, he will be more prepared to find the connection to other people, than if, for example (…) he plays a role or assumes some kind of pose” (Seminar, p. 37). A little later Jung says about a dreamer, “at least now he is walking with his shadow, i.e., he is looking himself in the eyes [original emphasis]. He sees his dark side (…). The shadow is his unconscious. He does not love the shadow (…)” (Seminar, p. 45). The motif of ‘looking oneself in the eyes’ comes up in the Weizs?cker interview when attention turns to the F?hrer. Jung says that a real leader must “be able to look into his own eyes.” “But if he doesn’t know himself, how will he lead others? Therefore the true leader is someone who has the courage to be himself, to look into not only the eyes of others but also, above all, his own.” It seems almost as if Jung had the seminar text open before him when he gave the interview. He was obviously hoping that something positive could happen for Hitler, too, who was certainly listening.

Let me mention that I don’t overlook the way, at other points in this interview, Jung fell in apparently uncritically with the National Socialist diction that his interview partner, von Weizs?cker, handed him with his questions. These passages may however be misunderstood. In her analysis of the interview, Deirdre Bair nevertheless works out how Jung “trained his sights on Hitler,” and how von Weizs?cker “moved swiftly to safer ground” (Bair 2003, p.442). I will come back later to the problematic of language.

So much for Jung’s medical attitude in Berlin 1933. To shed some light on the context, I would mention that most Jewish Jungians emigrated out of Germany that year and the following. K?the B?gler, classified under the Nuremberg Laws as “half-Jewish,” survived the Nazi era in Berlin, mainly in hiding. Here she carried out the few Jungian training analyses that occurred during the war, protected by her life-partner Richard Heyer, who had become a professed Nazi (Streich 2000). After the war she became the analyst of Hildemarie Streich and of Harald Poelchau, who had been a prison chaplain in Pl?tzensee, where he was the confidant of many resistance fighters and went with them to execution. In the first years of the war, Poelchau had attended lectures at the Berlin Institute and even studied psychology with John Rittmeister, who was later executed as a resistance fighter (Harpprecht 2007, p. 123). Poelchau made friends with this “careful and humanly engaged doctor,” whom he later visited in prison and finally had to accompany to his execution. Poelchau belonged to the circle of friends that often met at the apartment of Dr. Peter’s family, the parents of Hildemarie Streich. Besides K?the B?gler, members of this circle included Prof. Siegmund-Schulze (godfather of Frau Streich), founder of the first German Youth Office and the Fellowship of International Reconciliation of 1914 (exile, 1933); Herman St?hr, who was sentenced to death in 1940 as a war resister (R?hm 1985); and Birger Forell (pastor of the Swedish congregation that enabled hundred of Jews to escape). In this circle Jung was also read and discussed (Peter 1943). Poelchau was also a member of the Kreisauer Circle and facilitated the secret transfer of letters in and out of the prison, among them the letters of Count Moltke and his wife (Moltke 2011). Before his execution Moltke wrote to his wife that among his friends, he alone had never been yelled at by Freisler (the notorious judge of the Special Court). He, Moltke, had looked him straight in the eyes and smiled at him. “One must look evil in the eye,” Moltke wrote, “then it loses its demonic power.” Freisler was not equal to that gaze (Harpprecht 2007, p. 157). Perhaps Moltke had heard about Jung’s seminar from Poelchau.

Was it right that, in the seminar of 1933, Jung tried to calm the public? What else should he have done? He tried to be medically and psychoanalytically neutral. That he gave an interview on the already Nazi-conformed radio was certainly na?ve. Here he should have been more discreet and talked less, as Jaff? wrote. Presumably he could hardly have imagined the methods and procedures of the totalitarian system, just as later he could not imagine the dimensions of genocide. Bair supposes that Jung did not read the newspaper articles that made advance propaganda for his Berlin visit, and walked into a trap (Bair 2003, p. 441). After all, his conversation partner was one of his former pupils and analysands, who came from a highly respected family. No tape recording of the interview still exists, from which one could determine where the spoken text was cut and edited. Perhaps the interview was recorded on a wax cylinder, which did not survive the war.

To the topic of Jung’s medical attitude also belongs, in his own words, his assumption on 21 June 1933 of the leadership of the International General Medical Society for Psychotherapy, after the resignation of Kretschmer (cf. Bair 2003, pp. 436ff; Rasche 2007; Lammers 2012). He said he could not leave his German colleagues in the lurch. In 1934 he managed to pass provisions permitting German Jewish colleagues to become members. Before 1933 was over, incidentally, Kretschmer became a sponsoring member of the SS, and in November 1933 he signed a “Testimony of the Professors at German Universities … to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist State” (Klee 2005, p. 339).

  1. Rootlessness and Madness

The second part of my discourse is concerned with the Zeitgeist (spirit of the times) and with the atmosphere of the 1920s and early 1930s in Germany. Some mention has already been made of the many people out in the street, the panic, the anxious underlying mood, the scarcity of basic provisions. The enormity of the psychological catastrophe in Germany during and after the first World War, the disorientation of many people, and the search for meaning during the Weimar period, are hardly to be imagined now despite the many published documents (e.g., Stresemann 1987) and analyses (e.g., Winkler 1993). One literary witness is Damian by Hermann Hesse, who was himself in analysis with Jung’s pupil Dr. Lang (and after 1921 with Jung himself), and who used certain passages from Jung’s Red Book. The model for the title character of Demian was probably Gusto Gr?ser, a poet-preacher, who wandered through Germany and became Hesse’s “guru” (M?ller 1987). Another literary witness is Gerhard Hauptmann. The atmosphere of the search for meaning, the aimless wandering, and the extremes of glorifying violence, brutality, and spiritual ecstasy, are uniquely captured in Hauptmann’s Till Eulenspiegel (1922-27). Eulenspiegel, who travels through desolated Germany in this period as a fighter pilot and vagabond, persecuted by the spirits of the French soldiers he has killed, has a tent on the fairgrounds, into which he invites the uprooted, begging people:

Come in, Ladies and Gentlemen!

What you will see here is worth the price! Don’t begrudge a poor, unemployed soldier his little Groschen. I’ll gladly refund it, by Dog, if you’re disappointed in any way. But you won’t be disappointed, you’ll walk out of the stall, out of the tent – it’s linen and served me at the Marne! – totally thrilled by the greatest, the highest discovery of modern times, which heaven practically threw into my arms on the night of our misfortune, as reparation for the shamefully lost war! What can it be, you ask? A serum for tetanus, to detoxify the dying body of the Reich? A medicine for war-plague and dysentery? An airplane to fly to Mars? Or is it just a hair in the soup of the convict, that rancid mess, which is now the daily bread of the ordinary German … ?

The novel is written in hexameters, as if in an absurd search for an inherited, credible form, at a time when all credibility was lost, after the trench- and gas-warfare in Flanders and the first mass-killing of the last century. In hexameters Hauptmann writes of gas warfare, tetanus, starvation, and the aimless wandering of uprooted people in Germany after the lost war; about the Kapp-Putsch of the Volunteer Corps, the general brutalization, the growing familiarity with violence.

Trying to understand does not mean excusing, and we will never get to the bottom of many things. According to Hannah Arendt, “understanding totalitarianism does not mean excusing anything, but reconciling ourselves to a world in which such things are even possible” (Arendt 2006, p. 59). For the “demoralization of the Germans,” which finally led to the collapse of the Weimar Republic, in 1966 Gregory Bateson, the American systems theorist and a reliable witness, quotes a powerful metaphor: “The fathers have eaten bitter fruit and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Bateson 1971/1999, p. 481). He recalls the pre-history of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the blood-bath of the First World War. According to the “Fourteen Points” put forward by democratic President Wilson, which were intended to persuade the Germans to capitulate, there were to be “no annexations, no contributions, no punitive damages…. And the Germans surrendered” (ibid, p. 479). The contract which was finally signed, however, contained exactly those things; which then “led fairly directly … into World War II” and to “the total demoralization of German politics.” (ibid, p. 480). Bateson continues: “If you promise your boy something and renege on him, framing the whole thing on a high ethical plane, you will probably find that he is not only very angry with you, but that his moral attitudes deteriorate…”. Furthermore, he says, “From the demoralization of Germany, we, too, became demoralized.” Bateson compares the consequences for following generations with the curse that weighed on the House of the Atrides: “I want you to imagine that you come into the middle of one of these sequences of tragedy. How is it for the middle generation of the House of Atreus? … It is all very well for the fathers, they know what they ate. The children don’t know what was eaten” (ibid, p. 481). Bateson concludes, writing in 1966: “We all live in the same crazy universe, whose hate, distrust and hypocrisy relates back (especially at the international level) to the Fourteen Points and the Treaty of Versailles” (ibid, p. 481).

If one follows Sebastian Haffner (1994, pp. 12ff), one comes up with an earlier date for the demoralization, namely 1914, when the leaders of the SPD agreed to the war credits and thereby destroyed the foundations of their political program and their ethics. In the briefest time, the party had to explain to their millions of members that now it was right when a German worker shot at a French one. It is one of the catchwords of Versailles that the great humiliation of France occurred here, in the Hall of Mirrors, when the Prussian-German Empire was proclaimed in 1871.

Numerous analyses have been made of the “crisis years of the modern age” (Peukert 1987) and the final sinking of the Weimar Republic; but it is difficult to grasp the dimensions and complexity of the psychic breakdown. With the unanticipated lurch into cultural modernization, there was also a deep loss of security. Not long before, in 1871, after the victorious war against France and (re)establishment of the empire, Germany had taken an unprecedented upswing scientifically, economically, industrially, and in national self-awareness. But democratic structures and democratic consciousness had it hard. In 1918, with the collapse of the empire and the flight of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the patriarchal psyche also fell apart. Jung observed in 1918, in many of his German patients, a “strange state of mind prevailing then in Germany. I was seeing only signs of depression and a great restlessness, but this did nothing to dispel my suspicions. … The archetypes that I could observe expressed primitivity, violence and cruelty” (Jung, CW 10, ¶447, alt. trans.). Material misery (war reparations, the loss of the Saar region, the global economic crisis) and moral disorientation (Bateson 1971/1999) did their work all too well. “The black-red-gold cultural banner of freedom, from the liberal Hambacher Fest of 1832 through the failed revolution of 1848 to the Weimar Democracy” (Grosser 2009, p. 45), could not hold together the social and psychological contradictions.

What the Swiss citizen Jung describes as a necessary contemporary search, namely the search for myth, for archetypal images and stories, was experienced in Germany as a kind of subliminal illness. The culture had already been, as it were, infected by this illness since 1848, when the Grimm brothers, for instance, gathered Die Teutschen M?rchen (German fairytales), seeking the roots of German national feeling. One may differentiate the foundational myths of the various nation-states that were then in the process of defining themselves (Flacke 1998, pp. 101ff). For Germany it was essential to establish a barrier against “the foreign.” Among the foundational myths of the German Empire of 1871 is that of Arminius, for instance, who fought back the Roman invaders in the Teutoburger Forest. From there a straight line can be drawn to the “anti-Roman” Luther and the nationalistic anti-Semitism of a Richard Wagner. Meanwhile in France, for example, in the myth of Vercingetorix, the integration of the foreign, the Roman occupier, became an essential part of what it was to be French (Flacke 1998, pp. 129ff).

In the vacuum after 1918, the “German illness” broke out to a degree that is hard to imagine. The British writer Helton Godwin (“Peter”) Baynes has analyzed this illness, which he calls the “Hitler disease” (Baynes 1941, pp. 229ff). Baynes was a close collaborator of Jung’s. Unfortunately, his book Germany Possessed, once famous in England, has never been republished or translated. In over 300 pages, Baynes develops Jung’s thesis that Wotan has taken possession of the German psyche (Jung 1936). In doing so he relies not only on Jung’s works, but also on clinical material and numerous documents. Frequently he refers to Hermann Rauschning, who had published Gespr?che mit Hitler (Conversations with Hitler) while in exile. These conversations, sketched from memory and probably partly invented, were widely read at the time and offer a highly interesting interpretation of Hitler’s psychology. Jung himself had drawn creative inspiration from a 1935 publication of Diederich Verlag, Martin Ninck’s book, Wotan und germanischer Schicksalsglaube (Wotan and the germanic belief in fate), which also lent itself to the mythologizing of Hitler. The publisher, Eugen Diederich, can be counted “as one of the most important trail-blazers of “v?lkisch” thinking” (Hakl 2001, p. 403n). Alfred Rosenberg, a prominent ideologue of the National Socialist movement, in his Mythos des 20. Jahrhunderts (Myth of the twentieth century) emphasized a “Christian” conception of the movement and distanced himself from the heathen Wotan-religion (Rosenberg 1930). The “F?hrer-myth” (Hockerts, 2008), with its model of “charismatic leadership,” designated Hitler as a messianic figure, a bringer of salvation, and simultaneously as “a person like you and me, a man of the people” (Hockerts 2008, p. 199). Wotan- motifs were present in numerous Nazi productions, like the summer solstice festivals or the weekly rituals of the Hitler Youth; although official propaganda, as far as I know, did not use the Wotan myth as such. Even today, Wotan is a familiar theme in the interior cantons of Switzerland; so the image may have been easily accessible to Jung (cf. Jung 1971, p. 316).

In 1933 Jung saw himself confronted with a mass psychosis. Its extent and possible consequences, however, were beyond him. He also could not grasp how perfectly the National Socialists were exploiting an uprooted people’s hunger for meaning and how skillfully they staged Hitler as the image of a German messiah (Herbst 2010). When Jung realized that he himself was being made into an instrument, he withdrew as much as possible. His biographer Bair indicates that as early as 1933, Cimbal and G?ring were “worried that he was so angry about their deception” (Bair 2003, p. 448). More than once Jung declared that he was resigning from the presidency of the International General Medical Society for Psychotherapy. He left Society correspondence mainly to his representative, C. A. Meier (Bair 2003, pp. 453ff).

Wotan is a deracinated deity. He has no house; he moves through forest and air as a wind-god. With his wolves and ravens he wanders or flies, driven here and there like Hauptmann’s Till Eulenspiegel. If we look back at the history of germanic mythology, we find Wotan or Odin as the wandering god of traumatized tribes in the era of mass migrations. According to Jung’s theory, this figure was brought back to life in the collective unconscious of uprooted, war-traumatized Germans. A sinister historical note: no sooner did the original germanic Wotan-religion emerge than it was doomed to decline. What we know about it, we owe to Christian monks.

  1. German Perfection and Mythologizing

When Jung came to Berlin in 1933, the power apparatus of the Nazis was already fully in place. A mere few weeks after Hitler was declared State Chancellor, on the 30th of January, G?ring’s “Schiesserlass” (SA and SS slang, roughly “fatal edict”) ended the neutrality of state agencies. On the 28th of February an emergency order suspended constitutional rights. The SA and SS were given free rein. Book-burning, which included the works of Sigmund Freud, was staged on May 10th in front of German universities. No one outside the country, and very few Germans, had believed in January that Hitler would last longer than the many chancellors who preceded him. Much has been written about the confluence of terror and intimidation, propaganda (financed by German industry) and corruption (profiting from the theft of Jewish property – Aly 2005 – etc.), as well as the nearly perfect system by which Goebbels steered and manipulated the public flow of information. Fitting into this context, too: Jung’s Weizs?cker interview.

We are considering Jung’s behavior in the context with which he was confronted and in which he took action. Every behavior is also a response to a situation. For me, as a German, the compelling question is: How could it happen that my country committed one of the greatest mass murders of history? Only when I understand this to some degree can I know what Jung, a Swiss, was dealing with. Then perhaps I’ll understand better what I’m dealing with today. Will I, though, understand Jung any better?

The Germans are known for their perfection. Peter Baynes (1941) describes this as a compensation for the “German inferiority complex” (cf. Jung 1938, the so-called Knickerbocker Interview). Germany has never played a real political role in Europe. With the Thirty Years’ War, 1618-48, it fell into political irrelevance, and the efforts to compensate for this constitute some of the German cultural complexes. Prussia’s expansionary policies under the Soldier King and Frederick II were aggressive attempts to turn the page. On the other hand, Goethe, Herder, Lessing and many others represent an introverted culture:

To raise a nation for yourselves, Germans, is a futile hope;

But raise yourselves (this you can do), in greater freedom

to full humanity.

(Goethe 1794)

German nationalism got its start during the Napoleonic era, giving signs at first of being thoroughly democratic. Then there emerged, with industrialization, an enormous crafts-technical and scientific civilization, an organizational potential with which individual human maturity could scarcely keep pace. In a distinct way from, for example, England, France, or the U.S.A., with their histories of revolution and basic democratic consensus, there was no power in the German nation after 1918 which could have mastered a democratic hegemony. Many people were also apparently excluded from technical advances in the media, so they never developed adequate democratic antibodies or critical capacity. One must not generalize about this (I have in mind the critical publications of the Weimar era, with Tucholski or K?stner); but when the final score was tallied, Goebbels and his “conformed” media easily won the day. The numerous rituals of the “movement,” too, led to the perfectly organized mass demonstrations in Nuremberg. Hand in hand with indoctrination went the terrorism of the SA and SS. For many it seems to have been easier to look away than to risk their lives.

Hannah Arendt describes, with fright, the organizational wealth and perfectionism of the Germans (as they then were) in her portrait of Adolf Eichmann, who had a talent for organization but no ability to assess the moral enormity of his crimes (Arendt 1964). Here should be mentioned, too, that any moral scruples that began to appear were relativized by racist ideology: It was said to be good to kill Jews, and that the fifth Commandment was a Jewish invention to weaken the Aryan race in their self-defense.

Wotan-madness, the Hitler disease, was only one side of the deadly phenomenon; another consisted in the unimagined possibilities that played into the hands of the Germans through technical advances and organizational talent. Peter Baynes, living in England, describes it in 1942 through the dream of an acquaintance: A huge, armored, German ship is sailing toward the British coast, monstrous and unassailable, a totalitarian invasion-machine with a “great, cranelike arm projecting before it” and countless soldiers on board. The only possibility is to flee in a boat so small, the huge war machine won’t notice it. But when the monster reaches the coast, it falls apart without a sound (Baynes 1942, p. 258). Baynes interprets the dream symbol as overcompensation for an inferiority complex, the inflation of a spiritless, godless, totalitarian machine of annihilation. He asserts, in the words of Hermann Rauschning, that the Germans’ original mass-psychosis and hypnotic state had long since evaporated, now that they were determined on war and dedicated to death. At any rate, he said, since 1939, when the invasion of Russia began, he had seen no more jubilant crowds in Berlin.

In Stalin’s Soviet Union, too, we see how a population without democratic traditions was stretched to the limit by modern economic systems, industry, mass rituals and media. Here, too, a criminal, psychically disturbed clique took control of the government and the media and secured their dominance through terror and indoctrination.

Jung’s thesis, that Wotan took possession of the Germans, must be rounded out by considering the circumstances that predisposed to such a mass-psychosis. People were manipulated through the new media (primarily radio), and public life was ritualized. Hitler was also mythologized with unexampled perfection by Goebbels and his team. The “charismatic Hitler” was invented: Hitler as messiah; Hitler as the great leader, as the resurrected Barbarossa who would bring the colonies to Germany; Hitler as the one whose coming was foretold. Elements of Hitler’s personal delusion and intoxicated self-idealization were built into a system of images, pseudo-mythologies, ideologies and rituals, ranging from the daily drill and solstice fire of the Hitler Youth to the mass rituals of the Nationalist Party Days (Herbst 2010). What many perceived as strange and repellent nevertheless infected millions. Hitler himself probably had a fascination with Siegfried, who in Richard Wagner’s version comes to the assistance of the wanderer, Wotan (Baynes 1942, pp. 215ff). Wagner’s Siegfried appears to be a perfect mythical fulfillment of Jung’s Wotan-hypothesis.

Perhaps Jung let himself be more influenced by the mythologizing of German propaganda than he consciously knew. He never writes about the apparatus that stood behind the Hitler-mythology, the “movement,” and the “Third Reich.” In his “Wotan” (1936) he depicts the phenomenon whereby a resurrected archetype can fill a dry riverbed and then devastate a whole countryside. Yet he writes as if he were describing a natural phenomenon, without mentioning intentional manipulation by politicians and their media. Perhaps he did not yet know how far the effective power of archetypal images, precisely as such, can be used and abused. Today, when we discuss cultural complexes and their instrumental uses, these potentialities are our central focus (Kimble, Singer 2004).


  1. Jung and Zionism

A further aspect to be considered is Jung’s relation to Zionism. In 1934 a dialogue was published in J?dische Rundschau, a newspaper which appeared in Berlin until the November Pogrom of 1938 (Kristallnacht). Several writers discussed to what extent, rather than charging Jung with anti-Semitism, his statements on Judaism and Jewish psychology (Jung 1933, 1934) could be greeted as a contribution to the Zionist project. Erich Neumann, James Kirsch and Gerhard Adler came forward in print to defend this thesis, and the publisher, Robert Weltsch, also agreed with this interpretation.

Erich Neumann, then already living in Tel Aviv, cites Jung’s published work from 1918, a year “when Judaism had hardly even begun to take stock of Zionism.” In his 1918 essay, “On the Role of the Unconscious,” Jung wrote that the Jew “is domesticated to a higher degree than we are, but he is badly at a loss for that quality in man which roots him to the earth and draws new strength from below. … The Jew has too little of this quality– where has he his own earth underfoot? The mystery of earth is no joke and no paradox” (Neumann 1934, quoting Jung CW 10, ¶18).

Neumann picks up from here:

This is exactly the acknowledgment and the formulation of Zionism. In his wish to make Jews conscious about it, Jung is ‘more Zionist’ than the Jews and Zionists who want to varnish things over. We believe that Jungian psychology will be decisive in the effort of Jews to reach their foundations. Precisely the ‘Zionist’ character of his thought, which recognizes the deep irrationality of the ancient source of all human creativity, serves here as a directional sign. Just as consciousness of the shadow side, the personal unconscious of the individual human being, is a precondition for reconnection with the foundation, in exactly the same way Zionism must go through the hard process of becoming conscious of the negative. Only this will enable the final and deep-rooted building-up of Erez-Israel and the new birth of the Jewish person from his creative foundation

(Neumann 1934)

Robert Weltsch, the prominent publisher of J?dische Rundschau and a friend of Leo Baeck, commented on the discussion as follows:

It was thought good manners not to remind anyone of being Jewish. If this were nevertheless to happen, whoever did it was shouted down as “anti-Semitic.” With Zionism for the first time Jews were enabled to regard matters more dispassionately. The acknowledgment of Zionism that being a Jew was really a constitutive category of the Jewish person, and that the Jewish question was not an invention of anti-Semites but actually exists, also opened for us the possibility of discussing questions of Judaism with objective non-Jews. We recognize that every non-Jew may also have thoughts about the problem of Judaism, and we believe these thoughts can be all the more fruitful the more we Jews help to penetrate the problem, and in this way clear up existing misunderstandings or false observations. The phenomenon of anti-Semitism gains a whole new meaning for us when we make an effort to use this reaction of the surrounding society as a resource for understanding the Jewish question.

(Weltsch 1934)

I have transcribed these texts from photocopied documents. To my knowledge they have never been republished since 1934. I thank my colleague in Berlin, Dr. Langwieler, for referring me to the online source (www.compactmemory.de).

The discussion of Zionism is many-layered, even today in Israel (Livni 1999, Shalit 2004). It seems to me, however, that these texts can yield a new and (considering the attributions made to date) a nearly diametrically opposed image of Jung’s position and attitude at the beginning of the Nazi period. I now believe I understand how Martin Buber could give a lecture at the Eranos Tagung in August 1934, even after Jung had published his controversial 1933 “Editorial” and “On the State of Psychotherapy Today” (February 1934). The texts also throw a new light on the relationship between Leo Baeck and Jung. Each in his own way supported the Zionist project. Perhaps Aniela Jaff? was right when she wrote, later, that Jung simply should have talked less (Jaff? 1971/1989). Martin Buber himself, be it noted, did not break off contact with Jung. After the November Pogrom of 1938 he openly declared that the “Jewish-German symbiosis” was at an end: “This means a more profound dismemberment within Germany itself than anyone can imagine today” (Buber 1939). Yet in 1953 Buber wrote at length and critically about Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious, in which there was no place for a divine revelation (Buber 1994). The intellectual argument continued.

Zionism represented at that time just one stream of various political and cultural currents in Judaism. Another, more influential position in Germany was assimilation. Yet another was integration, while still retaining the Jewish religion. “Theodor Herzl was a man of the Enlightenment, for whom the preservation of the Jewish people was more important than their religious tradition. … If the Jews were brought together into their own national entity, they could become a normal nation, one state among others, and thereby anti-Semitism would be buried elsewhere” (Grosser 2009, p. 106f). Herzl’s project of a Jewish state certainly did not meet with general agreement. We should note that in Jung’s family the wish for a Jewish settlement in Palestine had its own tradition. His grandfather Samuel Preiswerk (1797-1871), first a pastor and later Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature in Basel, was respected as a forerunner of Zionism. He had published a monthly, Das Morgenland (The Orient) in which he argued that Jews should settle in Palestine and make it their homeland once again (Bair 2003, p. 15). Jung certainly knew his grandfather’s writings. Theodor Herzl “saluted” Samuel Preiswerk at the first International Zionist Congress, “as a precursor of Zionism” (Bair 2003, p. 655, note 56, quoting Henri Ellenberger). Presumably it was “not by chance that the First International Zionist Congress took place in Basel” (ibid, quoting H. Ellenberger), where the concept of Zionism had such a history. (compare Grosser 2009, p. 107).

Today it is probably an accepted fact that, without the settlement of Palestine (contradicting the British Mandate), many more people would have perished in the Holocaust. The attribution to Jung, that he played into the hands of the Nazis, misses the heart of the problem and is unjust. In this connection one must consider the controversy between Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem about Zionism, the role of the Jewish Councils, and Jewish identity.

  1. Language before and after the Holocaust

To anyone with a developed feeling for the German language, many formulations used by Jung or his disciples in 1933 and 1934, or even by Buber, make strange reading today. Some words have become contaminated and inseparable from our awareness of the Holocaust. Words like minderwertig (inferior), zersetzend (corrosive), F?hrer (leader), or Rasse (race) are unacceptable in today’s German, which has differentiated itself from the W?rterbuch des Unmenschen (Dictionary of Brutality) (1957). In English, for example, “leader” is a normal word, whereas in German the word F?hrer cannot be used at all any more, for good reason. No translation of Jung into other languages takes account of this issue, unfortunately. Even German-language editions never comment on the changed use of language or the different thinking that was connected to that earlier usage. One must also reckon that the old Jewish world, discussed in many texts, hardly exists any longer. Who knows these days, for example, what “galut psychology” means? The Eastern European Jewish world of “galut” (exile), with its differentiated culture, its mystical tradition, its language; this world of pogroms and uprooting was almost completely destroyed in the mass murders of the Holocaust. Only its traces remain, in Israel and a few other places.

On this subject, we should note the differences between German and Swiss linguistic usage at the time. I cannot supply here a thorough discussion on the cultural thematic of anti-Semitism, but it is certain that Jung, like almost all of his contemporaries, even those outside of Christian tradition, thoughtlessly made devaluing remarks about Jews. All this has nothing to do with the militant anti-Semitism of Hitler, except insofar as the latter used such patterns of thought and turns of phrase as parts of his insane, racist hallucination. The moral of the story: Racism begins in small things.

Even when contemplating Jung’s statements about “Jewish psychology” in 1933, I find it important to bear in mind the ways this theme was discussed in general terms for decades, even in psychoanalytic circles. We know that Freud designated Jung as his successor, precisely because he was not a Jew, and in spite of his own mistrust. In May 1908 Freud wrote to Abraham that he (Abraham) was closer to him than Jung because of their “racial family relationship.” Abraham, he wrote, had an easier time following his (Freud’s) thinking: “First, you are completely independent, and second, you are placed closer to my intellectual constitution through racial relationship (Rassenverwandtschaft); whereas he, being Christian and a pastor’s son, has found his way to me only against great inner resistance” (Freud 1965, p. 47; cf. Sander 1994, p. 33-83). This was long before 1933. The discussion about Jewish psychology has a history. It was a leading topic in Zionism. In their articles for J?dische Rundschau, Jung’s disciples brought his statements into this context. Jung may have believed, too, that he could do something for the German inferiority-complex by expressing the value of “Germanic psychology”; this would fit the tenor of the Berlin Seminar. He intended no devaluing of “Jewish psychology,” as he had already stated in his “Editorial” and testified again, over and over. Erich Neumann, despite his support of Jung in J?dische Rundschau, wrote very critically to him. Perhaps Jung also hoped that he could put his own psychology, which was not as well known yet in Germany as in Switzerland, England and the U.S.A., in a better position (Rasche 2007). If this was the case, he may possibly have fallen into the shadow realm of his Freud-complex, darkened by disappointment and by thoughts (though he always disputed these) of competition and revenge. He may also have fallen into the conviction that his psychology could contribute more than Freud’s to understanding the times and the phenomena in Germany, and that it could also accomplish more therapeutically. He did not realize with what criminals he and the Germans had to do.

Final comment: appeasement, guilt feelings and projections

With all this, one may wonder what remains of the reproaches against C. G. Jung. In “After the Catastrophe” (1946), he wrote about “collective guilt,” from which Switzerland was in no way excluded. Intellectuals like Erich K?stner, who had stayed on in Hitler’s Reich even after the book-burning, were infuriated. Guilt, they argued, was always individual. The Swiss Jung, who had always lived in security, could not throw the Nazis and the resistance into a single pot. This was not what Jung meant, of course. He could not imagine, from personal experience, what it was like in 1933 and 1934 to live under the dictatorship, with its fears, its constant threats to life, the dragging away of Jewish neighbors, the tortures and murders in police cells and camps, and the necessity of somehow accommodating oneself. But then he heard accounts from Jewish patients who were able to flee from the horrors in Germany. In 1937 he learned that the National Socialists had murdered a daughter of Frau Fr?be-Kapteyn (founder of Eranos), because she was disabled. Jung was put on the Nazis’ Black List in 1938, when he proposed a diagnosis for Hitler (Jung 1939). In 1940, when Switzerland feared invasion by the German army, Jung retreated with his children to the safety of the mountains, where he himself was persuaded to stay for a time.

It is one of the basic insights of C. G. Jung – probably gained from experience – that one projects onto another what one can least stand about oneself. “It isn’t me, it was Adolf Hitler.” Today, 50 years after Jung’s death, we are experiencing once again the collapse of dictatorships, which the democratic West (Germany included this time) had supported for decades and supplied with weapons, in order to keep trouble away from them and to guarantee a supply of oil and other natural resources. The difference between this history and the appeasement of the 1930s is only relative. At that time the Western powers (France, England, Switzerland, U.S.A.) hoped that Hitler would keep Stalin’s Communism away from them. To this end they were prepared to accept all possible concessions, up to and including the Munich Settlement. Today Jung’s theory of collective guilt, for which every individual must answer, is just as timely as it was then – and just as unpopular.

It would be simplest to put oneself on the right side; but Jung has taken such security from us. Everyone is responsible for himself. That is the real scandal.



Personal Note

A colleague and friend once told me she was amazed that, like Aeneas, I keep carrying my “father”, C. G. Jung, out of the fire. It is a theme of my generation. For the most part, our fathers go on sitting in the fire. I myself again try to understand dictatorship, war and genocide. I keep bumping up against shadow- projections and the problem that value-judgments are only possible from the perspective of today – after Auschwitz, after Stalingrad and Hiroshima. The old mirror of the Thirties, into which I gaze, has gone dark. If I see anything in it, I see myself. “What could have been” becomes a question of how I, how we, are to behave honestly.

Jung’s appearance in Berlin in 1933, as I have come to see, had an enormous meaning. He tried with success to calm his Berlin public. He underestimated the democratic tradition in Germany, which is understandable, given the failure of most Weimar politicians and the impression made by the Hitler movement. He hardly noticed the terror that had been going on since the seizure of power. He tried to save psychotherapy (hence his acceptance of the presidency of the International Society …); and he himself practiced psychotherapy with Berliners instead of making a statement for democracy and human rights when that might still have had an impact. In doing so he was in good company, from German intellectual giants to the Pope; but that does not make things better. He did no favors to the intimidated resistance. Yet he helped some people to survive psychologically. For myself, I try to frame the question to which Jung’s behavior gave an answer – the complex and depressing situation of the time. But in the end, countertransference is all I see. I see a great catastrophe with uprooting and demoralization, with seduction, with desperation, and (to a lesser degree) with heroic courage. I myself have never been through a war; my reality is a comparative paradise. What concerns me further is the paranoia which we students experienced after 1968 – an unconscious recreation of the atmosphere of the Thirties.

Francis Picabia once said, in 1922: The head is round so that thinking can change direction. I see that as an encouragement to keep a clear head and to think and act democratically. This means, among other things, to try for objectivity and to take back projections of guilt. Whether that will be enough to carry our fathers out of the fire, I cannot say.



I am grateful for Ann Lammer?s support and help with the translation. She also checked all the quoted literature and its English versions.


Aly, G?tz (2005): Hitlers Volksstaat. Raub, Rassenkrieg und nationaler Sozialismus, Fischer, Frankfurt/Main

Arendt, Hannah (1964): Eichmann in Jerusalem. Ein Bericht von der Banalit?t des B?sen, Piper, M?nchen 1986

Bair, Deirdre (2003): Jung: A Biography. Boston, New York, London: Little Brown & Co.

Bateson, Gregory (1972/1999): Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press

Baynes, H. G. (1941): Germany Possessed, London, Jonathan Cape

Buber, Martin (1939): Das Ende der deutsch-j?dischen Symbiose, in: J?dische Welt-Rundschau Nr.1, 10. M?rz 1939, Paris und Jerusalem

Buber, Martin (1994): Gottesfinsternis. Mit einer Entgegnung von C. G. Jung, Lambert Schneider, Gerlingen

B?gler, K?the (1963): „Die Entwicklung der analytischen Psychologie in Deutschland“ in Fordham, M. (Hrsg) Contact mit C. G. Jung, London 1963, pp. 23-32

Flacke, Monika (1998), Hrsg.: Mythen der Nationen. Ein Europ?isches Panorama, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Koehler und Amelang

Freud, Sigmund (1965/80): Briefwechsel Sigmund Freud – Karl Abraham 1907-1926, Fischer, Frankfurt/Main

Goethe, Wolfgang von (1794/1999): Goethes Gedichte in zeitlicher Folge, Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main

Grosser, Alfred (2009): Von Auschwitz nach Jerusalem. ?ber Deutschland und Israel, Rowohlt, Reinbeck bei Hamburg

Haffner, Sebastian (1994): Der Verrat. 1918/1919 — als Deutschland wurde, wie es ist. Verlag 1900, Berlin

Harpprecht, Klaus (2004): Harald Poelchau, Reinbeck bei Hamburg, Rowohlt TB

Hakl, H.T. (2001): Der verborgene Geist von Eranos, Scientia Nova, Verlag Neue Wissenschaft, Bretten, S. 255 f.).

Hannah, Barbara. 1976/1997. Jung, His Life and Work. G. P. Putman’s Sons, New York

Hannah, B. (2006): C. G. Jung. Sein Leben und sein Werk, Jungiana, Stiftung f?r Jung?sche Psychologie, K?snacht

Hauptmann, Gerhard (1929): Till Eulenspiegel, in: S?mtliche Werke (Centenar-Ausgabe) Berlin 1962, Versepen, part 2.

Herbst, Ludolf (2010): Hitlers Charisma. Die Erfindung eines deutschen Messias. Fischer, Frankfurt

Jaff?, Aniela. 1968. Aus Leben und Werkstatt von C. G. Jung, Rascher, Z?rich

Jaff?, Aniela. 1971/1989. From the Life and Work of C. G. Jung. New expanded edition. Translated by R. F. C. Hull and Murray Stein. Daimon Verlag, Einsiedeln

J?dische Rundschau, Jahrgang 1934: www.compactmemory.de

Jung, C. G. (1918). „The Role of the Unconscious“ CW 10

Jung, C. G. (1933 a): Bericht ?ber das Berliner Seminar 1933. Anhang: Zwiegespr?ch Dr. C. G. Jung und Dr. A. Weizs?cker in der Funkstunde Berlin am 26. Juni 1933; Vortrag Prof. H. Zimmer: „Zur Psychologie des Yoga“ in der C. G. Jung-Gesellschaft am 25. Juni 1933. Vervielf?ltigtes Typoskript (Expl.146). Publication of the seminar text (only) is now in preparation by Sorge, Giovanni (ed.), Philemon Foundation.

Jung, C. G. (1933 b): Geleitwort, Zentralblatt f?r Psychotherapie, GW 10

Jung, C. G. (1934): Zur gegenw?rtigen Lage der Psychotherapie, GW 10

Jung, C. G. (1936): Wotan, GW 10

Jung, C. G. (1939): Diagnosing the Dictators, an Interview with Dr. Jung by H. R. Knickerbocker. Cosmopolitan. Reprint in: von der Tann, Matthias und Erlenmeyer, Arvid: C. G. Jung und der Nationalsozialismus, Texte und Daten, DGAP 1991. There also the Weizs?cker-Interview

Jung, C. G. (1946): Nach der Katastrophe, GW 10

Jung, C. G. (1971): Erinnerungen, Tr?ume, Gedanken, Walter, Olten

Kimbles, Sam, und Singer, Tom (ed., 2004): The Cultural Complex, Spring, San Francisco

Klee, Ernst (2005): Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich, FischerTB, Frankfurt am Main

Lammers, Ann Conrad (ed., 2011): The Jung-Kirsch Letters. London: Routledge

Lammers, Ann Conrad. 2012. “James Kirsch’s Religious Debt to C. G. Jung,” The Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, vol. 6.1, February 2012, San Francisco.

Livni, Michael (1999): Reform Zionism, Twenty Years. Jerusalem

Moltke, Helmut James von/Moltke, Freya von (2011): Abschiedsbriefe Gef?ngnis Tegel. September 1944 – Januar 1945, C. H. Beck, M?nchen

M?ller, Hermann (Hrgb., 1987): Gusto Gr?ser. Aus Leben und Werk, Melchior Verlag Vaihingen

Neumann, Erich (1934): Zuschrift J?dische Rundschau 48, 15. Juni 1934, Berlin (Judentum in der Psychotherapie) (www.compactmemory.de)

Rasche, J?rg (2007): Versuchen zu verstehen hei?t nicht entschuldigen. Jung und die Jungianer in den 30-er Jahren. Vortrag auf der IPA-Tagung in Berlin, www.iaap.org

Peter, Alfred (1943): Sohar-Studien (Berlin, Manuskript)

Rauschning, Hermann (1940): Gespr?che mit Hitler, Z?rich/New York, Europa Verlag

R?hm, Eberhard (1985): Sterben f?r den Frieden. Spurensicherung Hermann St?hr (1898-1940) und die ?kumenische Friedensbewegung, Stuttgart, Calwer Verlag

Sander L. Gilman (1994): Freud. Identit?t und Geschlecht, Fischer, Frankfurt/Main

Shalit, Erel (2004): The Hero and his Shadow. Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel, University Press of America, Dallas a.a.

Scholem, Gershom (1995): Briefe II. 1948-1970, C.H.Beck, M?nchen

Streich , Hildemarie (2000 ff., personal communication)

Stresemann, Wolfgang (1987): Wie konnte es geschehen? Hitlers Aufstieg in der Erinnerung eines Zeitzeugen, Ullstein, Berlin

von Franz, M.-L. (1996) C. G. Jung. Sein Mythos in unserer Zeit, Walter

Weltsch, Robert (1934): Schatten einer Diskussion, in: J?dische Rundschau 62, 3. August 1934, Berlin (www.compactmemory.de)



The paper is published in: Jung Journal. Culture and Psyche, San Francisco, Fall 2012, Vol. 6, Number 4, pp. 54-73.

A German version was published as: “C. G. Jung in den 30er Jahren `Nicht idealisieren, aber auch nicht verkleinern`, in Analytische Psychologie: Zeitschrift f?r Psychotherapie und Psychoanalyse, 2012:43, 168 (Frankfurt/Main: Brandres & Apsel).

  • The Kraken

Symbolisation and Sandplay Therapy

This paper is about symbolisation – how symbols are created and may change their meaning in the living interaction between two people. Sandplay is a paradigm for this transitional space. The archetypal dimension will also be addressed.

I’ll start with some comments of the central symbol of a sandplay session with an 8 year old boy.

  1. The Kraken – octopus (?????: ??-?)

The Kraken is a very old symbol of the Great Mother Goddess. In the Mediterranean world the kraken often appears in Minoan and early Greek paintings newer than 1000 years b.c.e. Thetis, the goddess of the sea, providing food for the humans, often appeared in the shape of an octopus, changing form and colour.


The early symbolisation often seems to follow real experiences from which the symbol takes its shapes and patterns. Krakens (octopuses) live close to the rocks and are easy to catch, providing a good meal. The kraken nevertheless also shows problematic features with its ability to change form and colour and with its long snakelike tentacles. They can catch you when you are trying to catch them. Thy sling their arms around their victims – they embrace them – and pull them down into the waters of the unconscious.

Especially after the patriarchal transformation of the former Minoan culture by the Greek the more or less positive character of the kraken was replaced by negative associations (negative elementary character, Erich Neumann). In the myth of Peleus and Thetis the great goddess of the sea was even forced to marry the insignificant Greek warrior. Big krakens were said to pull ships under the water.

In the sandplay session with the 8 year old Dominic (see below) a kraken became a very concrete symbol of both the positive and the negative mother.

  1. Sandplay and “what lies in between us”

Sandplay Therapy is a nonverbal approach to the healing potentials of the psyche. The „free and protected space“ (Dora Kalff) and the empathic presence of the therapist are essential for this kind of therapy. The sandplay therapist should be alert in all mental functions: feeling, thinking, sensation and intuition.

The arrangement with both the patient and the therapist, and the sand tray within the miniatures as the „third“, form a kind of primary triangulated situation. An entire spectrum of different archetypal situations may be constellated there. Examples: a situation of more symbiotic experience, a more detached situation of „playing as if“ or a situation of „being alone in the presence of the mother“. In all such cases the mode of „co-transference“ is important: Both patient and therapist are projecting something in the scene arranged in the sand tray as a projection field. The task of the therapist is to be aware as much as possible of the unconscious arrangement in the setting in the constellated situation. It might be a „complex-episode” which is shaped in the interaction and in the sand tray as well. The working through this „episode“ may go together with some changes in the transference-counter transference relationship, as well as in the perception of what is going on in the sand tray.

Sandplay Therapy is about the „transitional field“ and „transitional objects“. This means it is about the emergence and transformation of a relationship. It is also about creativity: the autonomous creative act of the patient is essential for the construction of his own psyche. We are „re-creators“, and in this sense we are living both in the world of relations (beginning with the earliest symbiotic relations) and in the inner world of our own mind with its own experiences and biographic memories. Both worlds are following archetypal patterns. We are psychologically growing, developing and differentiating „us“ into these very complex worlds. This process is both active and passive. In every stage the psyche tries unconsciously and autonomously to balance one-sided feelings, sensations, intuitions and thoughts, and finally also one-sided attitudes.

In any therapeutic encounter, all the levels of these processes are constellated. As C. G. Jung wrote in a letter to James Kirsch:

„We are even dreaming out of that what lies in between us“. This is the same in Sandplay Therapy.

Margaret Lowenfeld wrote „It does seem undeniable that small children have a very strong and fundamental wish to reproduce their own experiences in play“. Lowenfeld created her „wonder box“ of toys early on, while working in her consulting room in 1926 (46 Queen Anne Street, London). The first „world“ was created in 1929 in her Institute for Child Psychology (ICP) with the inclusion of the sand tray and a collection of Lowenfeld’s small toy models of ordinary people, houses and small objects. In her very successful book „Play in Childhood“ (1935) she described in detail the „world technique“ and referred to the pioneering work of Piaget („The Child’s Conception of the World“1929).

Background: Piaget was an analysand of Sabina Spielrein. Lowenfeld underwent two analyses, but was not a psychoanalyst herself. Donald Winnicott was among the first to describe such processes analytically while working at Margaret Lowenfeld’s Clinic (ICP). Dora Kalff brought together a lot of experiences of the London child therapists and analysts during her stay in London after WWII, and later in her cooperation with E. Neumann. She made Sandplay Therapy a Jungian model for analytical child therapy.

In this paper I’ll use psychoanalytical models as well as Jungian-archetypal ones to describe what may happen in the process of constellation of a complex and of its symbolisation in the sandplay setting. The concepts of „affect attunement“ and „mentalisation“ (Fonagy) are also used.

  1.  Therapeutic Consultation

The setting of the following short case vignette was not a classical sandplay therapy but a „therapeutic consultation“ as developed and described by Winnicott. Winnicott tried to gain the maximum effect from a child’s first psychiatric consultation. According to Winnicott, a second (often „abortive“) session should be arranged some days after the first intensive one.

This case may demonstrate some of the changes in the transference during an encounter and also the transformations at the symbolic level. I recorded this case in 1990. It was 2 years after the opening of the Berlin Wall.

Dominic, 8 years old

His family emigrated after a long period of social and political problems from the former DDR (German Democratic Republic, i.e. East Germany) to the west. After a year in temporary housing with social conflicts the family (mother, father, child) got their own flat. The father had found work, but the mother was often ill and irritable. She often said that she wanted a job and didn’t want to have another child. The boy himself said “I don’t need a brother.” The boy’s problems included lack of concentration, clowning around at school, loss of capacities, and learning difficulties. He was accompanied by his father, who after the short anamnesis went into the waiting room.

D. first takes the big Kraken, which attracted his interest soon when he entered the room. In the middle of the sand tray there appears a big oval see. I ask D. whether he has seen a Kraken before. He answers: „No, only in Television.“ Then he puts some sharks into the tray, saying „They want to eat the Kraken“. They are laid on the sand around the sea, and partly also on my writing table. It is about oral aggression.

I ask: „Are Krakens dangerous?“ He answers: „Yes, I have seen the movie „Nautilus“, there the Kraken always wants to eat everything.“

I say: „This is frightening.“ (I also could have emphasized the pleasurable side.)

Then some crabs are put into the sand try at the left side. „So many fish I don’t need“, he says. „only one“. The fish are taken out of the tray, only one whale may stay there.

(Since the sharks are taken away, the Kraken stays as the only aggressive item. The whale has other connotations, as do the crabs. There a differentiation takes place.)

Now comes a new step, because D. is searching on the shelf, as if to start something new with another new symbol. This is what Winnicott calls the „period of hesitation“. He discovers the „flying saurian“. He removes it to another place, where the reptiles are, so he is „putting something in order“.

After this he starts to admire the big Dinosaur. He takes it off the shelf an puts it in front of me on my table. He asks me whether I feel fear of this saurian. I return the question. We are now both inspecting the monster, and D. comes to the conclusion that fear is not necessary. It was a kind of affect attunement. To underline this he puts his finger in the mouth of the dinosaur. (The border between reality and fantasy for this boy is a bit uncertain, as happens often with children who watch a lot of video. Indeed, for a boy of 8 this is not so rare.)

The boy is now becoming familiar with the dinosaur by moving its arms and legs. I say that once another child called this dinosaur a „friend“. He laughs, because obviously he can understand this very well, and puts the dinosaur back onto the shelf. It is as if the dinosaur has fulfilled its task and function as a transitional object.

Now D. starts to tell me that once there was a time of dinosaurs. He had read in a book that the whales in older times had legs, and that the water animals went on the land und got feet and „also became saurian – such big ones!“ (This is the expression of a fantasy which has to do with leaving the maternal urobororic sea. The saurian here appears as a necessary amphibious stage of transformation: very big and with feet.)

By doing that, the boy tested the reliability of the situation (transitional space, transference test), and made a link to his knowledge (the level of verbalisation, ego-function). Now he may let himself engage in the relation more deeply. He fills two little buckets of water into the lake in the sand tray, so that the Kraken is really swimming. It swims in the right hand side of the lake, looking straight at me, sitting on the left side of the tray. In front of the Kraken are now some little water animals, mussels and crabs. Two palm trees are put at the left shore, „so that it looks beautiful“. This means something may grow. At the opposite side (right, in front, mother’s corner) some bones are laid, „which were eaten by the Kraken“. He asks me what the bones were before, and I answer: „A rabbit“ (- I didn’t‘ want to go deeper in that moment; I could have asked after illness and death. The boy brings it up himself:) He says with a slip of the tongue: „Das hat der Kranke gemacht — This has made the ‚Kranke‘“ (a mixture of the Kraken and the German word “krank”: ill, afflicted, suffering).

I repeat this slip aloud for myself („Kraken – Kranke“) supposing that this has do with the mother, who was described as often being sick and irritable.

As if answering my silent thoughts the boy now puts another palm tree close to the Kraken, and puts a birds nest on the top. In the nest is a little bird with eggs – now directly above the Kraken. I think silently of the often endangered existence and „nest“ of the boy and also of the „Kraken“ of the totalitarian state.

I say aloud, but so to say only for me, that Krakens are dangerous and can reach with their tentacles everywhere. They can catch everything and draw it to themselves. The boy doesn’t answer but buries behind the Kraken a little treasure box with some golden treasures. Around this some bigger precious stone are laid in the sand: The Kraken now is watching and guarding a treasure. In front of the Kraken now two scuba divers are put into the water. They are attacking the Kraken and want to take its treasure away.

Now follows a short conversation about the dangers of such an enterprise. D. says that „Krakens are stronger than humans, and water animals in general have a longer life than humans, and therefore the divers can do nothing really effective – but the crabs can: If four of the crabs would secretly run behind the Kraken they can take the treasure. The Kraken would not notice.“ (This means that there would be a solution, at the animal level, which has to do with camouflage, armour and the archetypal number of Four – the number of the Self!)

It is now a critical point. The boy thinks aloud about taking one of the divers out of the sand tray and says: „There is only one diver alone.“ I say that the diver without his friend supposedly would be afraid. (I am thinking about the mythological twins and his saying that he doesn’t need a brother.) D. answers „Oh yes, very afraid.”

Now I think that the time has come to talk also about dreams – as a way to bring the reality of his feelings into the symbolic dialogue. I ask about fears when falling asleep, saying „This is a difficult moment for many children“. He immediately starts speaking about this situation and then that he always thinks and imagines things which are not bad. He repeats: „Everybody has fears“. He adds that once „in a movie“ he saw a coral which one was not allowed to touch, but once somebody did it and was pricked and became „bloody and nasty, and this made me anxious.“ I repeat that I can understand this and that falling asleep sometimes is not easy, but I don’t speak more directly about the masturbation complex, because this symbolisation is quite OK.

Following this dialogue the loathsome water world (with its fantasies) seems to have lost some of its dangerous aspects, because now after some searching in the shelf the boy takes a little sitting baby lion (a warm blooded animal, a mammal) and puts it on a palm tree on the left side. The bird’s nest on the other side is going to be removed and put back onto the shelf. My silent association is: Now it is about being breast fed and the body relationship to his mother.

Just now the boy takes the big Kraken out of the water, presses and touches it, and says „It is so soft and tender“. It is very clear that now it is about mother’s breast. Now, on this stage he is able to touch and to feel the breast of his mother without being afraid of the devouring aspect of the Kraken. The boy now speaks about the „tender arms“ of the Kraken and shows me on his body „how one can be embraced by a Kraken“. There is no longer any obsession of fears but it has the meaning of being touched. The boy even puts one of the divers in the Kraken’s tentacles. After this D. goes to the shelf again and, as if he wants to emphasize my (silent) association, he shows me the figure of a little mermaid. Her lower end is like a fish, and her upper body shows open arms and big naked breasts. She looks as if she wants to embrace somebody. By this action, the boy shows me the object of his desire.

After this he discovers the Centaur (??????), the horse-man and also shows this to me. Both are hybrid beings at the border of the passage from animalistic to human symbolism.

With this the session finishes. Everything which can be done in one session like this Therapeutic Consultation has been obtained. At the very end the boy puts a little black Kraken into the sand try – so to say the child of the big Kraken.

I want to add that a second session two weeks later was much less spectacular. The atmosphere at home was relaxed after „the therapy“, and the school efforts of the boy became better.

  1. Interpretation

The story is told here to illustrate something about symbolisation and its development in the framework of a therapeutic situation. This process is basically the same also in nonverbal sandplay therapy, in a single session as well as in the series of an entire sandplay process.

Symbolisation is a process, bringing together the qualities of a relationship and the inner creative transformation of emerging problems and archetypal developments.

The described session may show how communication was created on different levels. This communication itself was a creative act, shaped by both of us, the boy and the therapist. It was enabled by the „third“: the sand tray and the elements of the sandplay setting. The trustful „free and protected space“ was inaugurated by the common short anamnesis with the father, in the presence and with the participation of the boy. It became clear that there was a problem with security and particularly with his relationship with his mother.

After this anamnesis, the symbolic communication began immediately with the usual sandplay setting, without the parent. The symbolic function emerged around several complex-centres or „complex episodes“. The starting point was the Kraken, which the boy immediately found and recognized as something important for him. It is the phenomenon of „selective awareness“ or selective perception. It was as if the symbol itself was discovering the boy, a kind of mutual search or quest. C. G. Jung said: „Projections are not made, they are found.“

This interaction fits in with the feature of real krakens: they embrace their victims. Around the Kraken as a symbolic centre now the play emerged and the several facets of the symbol where addressed, one after one, disarmed and transformed: Oral aggression, devouring object, transitional object, the treasure (as a symbol for the Self and the Individuation), the fears of masturbation (body self) and the breast of the mother. The activated Symbolic (or „transcendent“) Function led finally to a reduction of the energy hidden in the complex.

In terms of Complex Psychology it is about clusters which build the shell around the nucleus of the complex. Here it is, following the terminology of E. Neumann, about a so called „Negative Mother Complex with the Elementary Character“.

How far the Symbolic or Transcendent Function can be constellated and supported depends on the quality of the emerging therapeutic relationship. This function is always working, especially in dreams but also in the unconscious fantasies we have all the time. In a therapeutic setting the original framework for this function may be re-created: the early interaction between the child and his first and closest relatives. Therefore a strong regression may happen which (among other aspects) may reproduce an atmosphere of shifting realities.

In the scene with the big saurian the connection between me, the boy and the figures is going to be more deeply established and condensed. The dinosaur becomes a transitional object and the further events become an Active Imagination in the framework of our relationship. The transitional object belongs to both the world outside and the inner world. It is partly a really dangerous saurian and partly a toy and a “friend”. The so called “inner object” is emerging out of this dialectic. With my naming of the saurian as a “friend” I (as I suppose) wanted to stabilize the transitional field. It is remarkable that the boy then speaks about the first amphibians. They are animals phylogenetically living in the first “transitional space”. We can see that a real dialogue has been created. The amphibians are of course also symbols of the boy’s own attempts to leave the “wet” domain of the great mother. This archetypal symbol emerges together with the narrative in the transitional space (the “transference test”, following Kay Bradway). There are aspects of affect attunement and of “playing as if” combined.

After the transference test a new level can be worked through. It is now about growing and being dependent, eventually becoming ill and dying. The problematic relationship with the mother becomes more clear. It is interesting how the masturbation guilt complex is linked with the non-sufficient (?) providing and care from the mother. The fears connected with masturbation are symbolically expressed – by telling something of a “movie”, not a dream, which would be too close to reality . After this the bird’s nest can be replaced by the little mammalian. The symbolic miniatures are concrete formulations of the problem and its transformation.

At the end the boy can even rediscover his pleasure when touching and feeling mother’s breast. The dangerous Kraken of the beginning and the exposition of the sandplay drama is now transformed into a source of fun and happiness. The boy feels loved and embraced – like being embraced by the little mermaid. The energy which has been enclosed in the negative mother complex can now be used for further growing and psychic differentiation. The atmosphere during the session was concentrated. The boy (and I also) were pleased and satisfied with the result of our work.


I want to mention, too, that with the last miniatures (the mermaid and the centaur) mixed (theriomorphic and anthropomorphic) symbols of both parents came into the scene: the mother and the father. The ambiguous beings are themselves symbols of threshold and transformation (like the sphinx and others.) The mermaid, by the way, is an expression of non-genital sexuality. The way to the father is free.

An interview with the mother two weeks later brought some information about her hard childhood as a girl, her depression and own need for being fed. She began to reflect on her relationship to her boy.

  1. Conclusion

The interdependency between the therapeutic relationship and dialogue, and the emergence of the symbols, and their transformation from dangerous into healing symbols, may be demonstrated in this case vignette. It was an example of a “therapeutic consultation”. In regular sandplay therapies this kind of transformations can be experienced, too. There the “silent incubation” and the inner dialogue replace the real intersubjective dialogue. Silence and waiting are essential for the constellation of the Transcendent Function. The example of this Therapeutic Consultation demonstrates the process in a way which is easier to follow. Symbolisation is an expression of relationship.

  1. Epilogue

There is a famous poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson “The Kraken”, illustrating a primordial archetypal dimension – a long time before the differentiation and separation:

“Below the thunders of the upper deep,

far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,

His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep

The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee

About his shadowy sides; above him swell

Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;

And far away into the sickly light,

From many a wondrous and secret cell

Unnumbered and enormous polypi

Winnow with giant fins the slumbering green.

There hath he lain for ages, and will lie

Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,

Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;

Then once by man and angels to be seen,

In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.”



Fig. 1: The bird’s nest and the big kraken.

Fig. 2: The sand tray after the end of the session. See the little baby lion on the palm tree at the left side. The bird’s nest has gone away.

Fig. 3: The mermaid and the Centaur.
Fig. 4: The final scene viewed from another direction.




Bradway, K. (1981/1990): in: sandplay studies: origins, theory and practice. Boston, MA: Sigo Press

Lowenfeld, M. (1936): Play in Childhood

Neumann, E. (1956): The Great Mother (Die gro?e Mutter, Walter, Olten 1965)

Piaget, J. (1966): L?image mentale chez l’enfant (Die Entwicklung des inneren Bildes beim Kind, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt 1978)

Rasche, J. (1986): Die Sphinx – Symbol am Anfang (Symbol at the Threshold: Origin and Development of the Sphinx Symbol) Analytische Psychologie V:17:2 (1986).

Rasche, J. (1992): Sandspiel in der Kinderpsychiatrischen Diagnostik und therapeutischen Beratung. Berlin (published in: www.opus-magnum.de)

Winnicott, D. (1971): Therapeutic Consultations in Child Psychiatry (Die therapeutische Arbeit mit Kindern, Kindler, M?nchen 1973)

Dr. med. Joerg Rasche, Jungian Psychoanalyst DGAP, IAAP, Sandplay therapist DGST, IGST, child psychiatrist in Berlin, currently vice president of IAAP

Contact: joergrasche@gmx.de