DIAGNOSIS: PSYCHIC EPIDEMIC
All we have to do to see the madness of our species is to open our eyes and look at what we are doing to each other, to the environment which we depend on for our survival, and to ourselves. What more evidence of a collective psychosis do we possibly need?
To quote the great doctor of the soul C. G. Jung:
The fundamental process underlying what is collectively playing out on the world stage is psychic in nature. What is getting acted out politically, socially and economically is a manifestation or expression of what is going on deep within the collective unconscious of humanity. It is because of this that Jung says, “We can no longer afford to underestimate the importance of the psychic factor in world affairs.” [Emphasis added]
It is very dangerous when millions of people fall into their unconscious together and act it out en masse. Mass psychology, which is a herd phenomenon based on fear, then becomes the order of the day. When speaking about Germany in the 1930’s, Jung sounded eerily prophetic when he said that it “...fell prey to mass psychology, though she is by no means the only nation threatened by this dangerous germ.”
Because of our inherent suggestibility, we can easily reinforce the unconscious parts of each other, as if we are mutually hypnotizing each other in a self-perpetuating feedback loop. For example, Bush and his supporters are co-dependently feeding into and supporting each other’s unconscious delusions. At a certain point we can’t separate the phenomenon of George W. Bush from his followers, as they are interconnected expressions of a deeper process. In their interplay, Bush, his followers and everyone who reacts against them are the manifestation of a deeper, unconscious field which is expressing and revealing itself as it incarnates through them.
By not seeing Bush’s madness and thereby falling under its spell, Bush supporters unwittingly become agents through which the collective psychosis non-locally propagates itself. Like a higher-dimensional virus that reproduces itself through our unconscious blind spots, a psychic epidemic is spreading itself through Bush, his supporters and everyone who reacts against them.
When we fall prey to conforming to mass psychology, our unconsciousness makes us prone to potentially ignore and deny our individual perceptions and give away our power to others, which is the ‘group-think’ characteristic of cults. We then become dis-associated from our ability to discern between our inner fantasy-image of what we believe to be true, and the reality of what is actually happening, which is a sign of madness.
When we collectively fall into fear, we become easily manipulated and controlled by leaders who themselves have fallen prey to the power-drive of the shadow, as we mutually feed into and off of each other’s unconsciousness. Once emotions such as fear reach a certain pitch, to quote Jung, “...the possibility of reason’s having any effect ceases and its place is taken by slogans and chimerical wish-fantasies. This is to say, a sort of collective possession results which rapidly develops into a psychic epidemic.” [Emphasis added]
A collective psychosis is a closed system, which is to say that it is insular and not open to feedback from the ‘real’ world. Reflection from others, instead of being looked at and integrated, is perversely mis-interpreted to support the agreed-upon delusion that binds the collective psychosis together. Anyone who challenges this shared reality is seen as a threat and demonized. An impenetrable field gets conjured up around the collective psychosis that literally resists consciousness. There is no point in talking rationally with a Bush supporter, for example, as their ability to reason has been dis-armed.
To be of genuine benefit, we need to understand the dynamics that are at the root of this psychic epidemic. If we don’t understand the psychic roots of our current world situation, we are doomed to unconsciously repeat it and endlessly re-create destruction. Recognizing the psychic origin of what is playing out on the world stage is, in-and-of-itself, the very realization that the deeper, underlying psychic process is revealing to us.
THE UNCONSCIOUS IS COMING!To quote Jung, “The great problem of our time is that we don’t understand what is happening to the world. We are confronted with the darkness of our soul, the unconscious.” [Emphasis added] It is as if our shadow, both personal and archetypal, has gripped us and is revealing itself to us as it plays itself out through our unconscious. This is particularly dangerous because this process is happening unconsciously. When we act out and give shape and form to our unconscious without being consciously aware of what we are doing, it is always destructive.
Jung goes on to say, “This is an exceedingly dangerous time and we are confronted with a problem which has never been known in the conscious history of man. You cannot compare it with the early times of Christianity, because that movement did not come from the blood, but came from above, a light that shone forth. This is not a light but a darkness, the powers of darkness are coming up.” Instead of God incarnating in his light aspect, it is as if the powers of darkness are coming out of hiding in the shadows and are showing themselves. It is as if the dark side of our nature, or we could even say the shadow of God, is revealing itself and incarnating itself through the unconscious of humanity.
Our species has been seized by a more powerful energy that has taken us over and is acting itself out through our unconscious. It is as if we are a species possessed. The Unconscious itself is incarnating and becoming visible as it drafts people into its service so as to give shape and form to itself. We then become the unwitting agents through which the Unconscious is literally materializing itself into full-bodied form.
What is getting acted out in the body politic is a reflection and expression of what is happening deep within the collective unconscious of all of humanity. In other words, as if in a dream, the boundary has dissolved between the inner and outer. The inner process of the Unconscious has spilled outside of ourselves, so to speak, and is expressing itself through the medium of the outside world. The Unconscious is non-local, which means it is not bound by time or space. This is to say that the Unconscious is multi-channeled and can express itself both inwardly and/or outwardly. The Unconscious is revealing itself by synchronistically configuring events in the outer world so as to give shape and form to itself. What is happening in our world IS the Unconscious expressing and manifesting itself in, as and through the forms of our world.
We are living in a truly historic moment of time in which the inner is revealing itself to be the outer and visa versa, as the Unconscious births itself through us. The Unconscious is simultaneously revealing itself to us as it acts itself out through us. As long as this deeper process continues to go unrecognized, however, it will continue to get acted out destructively.
The good news is that a deeper realization becomes potentially available to us at such unique moments of time. These times we are living in are truly initiatory. When the Unconscious appears in full-bodied form, it activates a deeper, unconscious process in all of us. Recognizing and metabolizing what is being revealed and activated in us is itself the very act which redeems and transforms our situation. This realization happens through the agency of our consciousness, which is what is being revealed. Recognizing what is being revealed to us is the greatest service we can do not only for ourselves and all of humanity, but for God as well, so to speak.
LIKE GERMANY IN THE 1930sThe fundamental psychic process that underlies what is playing out in our world today has certain striking similarities to what played out in Germany in the 1930s. Speaking back then, Jung could just as well be talking about the modern world when he says, “The struggle between light and darkness has broken out everywhere. The rift runs through the whole globe, and the fire that set Germany ablaze is smouldering and glowing wherever we look. The conflagration that broke out in Germany was the outcome of psychic conditions that are universal.” [Emphasis added]
The eternal mythic struggle between light and darkness, whose source is the psyche and whose arena is the world stage, not only underlies what happened in Germany, but is at the bottom of what is being collectively acted out in the world today. What played out with the rise of fascism in Germany was the manifestation of an unrecognized deeper psychic process that, fractal-like, has been endlessly recreating itself in a destructive way all throughout history. If we fail to recognize this underlying, universal, psychic process--be it in Germany in the 1930s, or current day--the result is a destructive collective psychosis.
To quote Jung, “The phenomenon we have witnessed in Germany was nothing less than the first outbreak of epidemic insanity, an irruption of the unconscious into what seemed to be a tolerably well-ordered world. A whole nation, as well as countless millions belonging to other nations, were swept into the blood-drenched madness of a war of extermination. No one knew what was happening to him, least of all the Germans, who allowed themselves to be driven to the slaughterhouse by their leading psychopaths like hypnotized sheep.” [Emphasis added] Like Germany, we are in the midst of a collective psychosis. Volcano-like, the Unconscious has erupted into our world, and, unrecognized, is wreaking havoc as it gets unwittingly acted out through us. We don’t want to unthinkingly follow our commander-in-chief and mimic the Germans, who, to quote Jung, “.....follow a mediumistic Fuhrer [which means leader] over the housetops with a sleep-walker’s assurance, only to land in the street with a broken back.”
WE ALL HAVE A GEORGE W. BUSH INSIDE OF USWe could say that George W. Bush, because he has literally become taken over by the Unconscious, is a living embodiment or incarnation of the Unconscious in human form. In other words, Bush is a living, breathing symbol, in full-bodied form, of the state of being unconscious. To recognize that George W. Bush is a symbol reflecting back to us our own unconsciousness is to begin to get insight into and integrate this unconscious part of ourselves.
George W. Bush is a mirrored reflection of the part of ourselves that is unconscious. The inner meaning of the word ‘mirror’ is ‘shadow holder.’ Bush is the embodied reflection, or incarnation, of our own unconscious shadow in living, breathing color.
To quote Jung, “The future of mankind very much depends upon the recognition of the shadow.” This is to say that the future of humankind depends upon enough of us recognizing the shadow that is being revealed to us through the figure of George W. Bush. Recognizing our shadow as it is reflected through Bush is the very act that inoculates us from the negative effects of the collective psychosis. To quote Jung, “If we could see our shadow, we would be immune to any moral and mental infection.” [Emphasis added]
Recognizing that George W. Bush is a mirrored reflection of our own unconscious shadow is to realize that the evil that we see George W. Bush acting out and being an instrument for is something that we too are capable of. To quote Jung, “Nobody is immune to a nationwide evil unless he is unshakably convinced of the danger of his own character being tainted by the same evil.” [Emphasis added] Recognizing our potential, at any moment, to fall asleep and unwittingly become an agent of darkness is to become psychically immunized from falling prey to this malevolent bug.
Jung continues, “But the immunity of the nation depends entirely upon the existence of a leading minority immune to the evil and capable of combating the powerful suggestive effect.” In recognizing the shadow that is being revealed as our own, we are able to connect with each other and collaboratively put our collective lucidity together so as to creatively embrace, express and transmute these shadow energies, benefiting the entire field.
Ultimately, we are not separate from George W. Bush. Compassion spontaneously arises from this realization.
To quote Jung, “So-called leaders are the inevitable symptoms of a mass movement.” [Emphasis added] Both Hitler and Bush have gotten ‘dreamed up’ to express the unconscious shadow of their time. Speaking of the German people, Jung says, “Like the rest of the world, they did not understand wherein Hitler’s significance lay, that he symbolized something in every individual.... He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.” [Emphasis added] To make his point even further, Jung says of Hitler, “The German people would never have been taken in and carried away so completely if this figure had not been a reflected image of the collective German hysteria.” [Emphasis added]
Just like Hitler was in Germany, Bush is an embodied reflection of the madness deep within the collective American psyche. Bush has literally gotten dreamed up into incarnation to embody and reflect back to us the state of our unconscious collective madness. To quote Jung, “A political situation is the manifestation of a parallel psychological problem in millions of individuals. This problem is largely unconscious (which makes it a particularly dangerous one!)” [Emphasis in original]
Anything we are not in conscious relationship with possesses us from behind, beneath our conscious awareness, and acts itself out through us in a way that is destructive. To quote Jung, when the Unconscious is activated and “...not consciously understood, one is possessed by it and hence forced to its fatal goal [which is always destructive].” It is because of Bush’s position of power that our situation is so dangerous, for he is able to act out and give shape and form to the Unconscious on the world stage in a way that creates endless suffering and devastation for the entire planet.
WE ARE A SPECIES GONE MADIn the figure of George W. Bush we are collaboratively dreaming up someone to incarnate, embody and reflect this unconscious part of ourselves so that we can objectively see it. Our projecting out and dreaming up into full-bodied materialization this asleep part of ourselves is simultaneously the very way we are integrating this unconscious aspect and becoming conscious of it. From this point of view, George W. Bush is really a great Bodhisattva, as someone had to play this incredibly challenging and unpopular role.
Jung, in saying that Hitler, “...gripped the unconscious of normal people,” could have been talking about Bush in our current day. Bush himself has been seized by the Unconscious, as if a deeper, more powerful energy is acting itself out through him. When we become seized, we momentarily forfeit our humanity and develop a certain charm or charisma which has a gripping or enchanting effect on others. Interestingly, to be seized is related to the word ‘rapture.’ When a group like Bush and his supporters are collectively taken over by more powerful unconscious forces, to quote Jung, “...delusions were abroad everywhere, and people began to believe the most absurd things (see rapture), just as the possessed do.”
While getting dreamed up to embody the state of being unconscious, George W. Bush simultaneously activates the Unconscious in the field in a reciprocally co-arising feedback loop. Seeing the Unconscious as it expresses itself through Bush triggers a corresponding, unconscious resonant frequency in ourselves, as we are all interdependent and interconnected in this non-local universe of ours. This is to say that it is impossible to see the Unconscious, such as it is emanating from George W. Bush, and not have our own unconscious activated.
Like Hitler did in Germany, Bush is ‘hooking’ something in the American unconscious that he himself is an expression of. Because Bush himself is so asleep and under a spell, he has an unconscious ability to trigger other people’s unconscious and attract their projections. In a dark sort of way, his lack of awareness is the very source of his hypnotic power over the collective psyche of his followers. He is a conduit through which the Unconscious transmits, propagates and incarnates itself.
Speaking of the danger of having the leader of a country be so asleep, Jung says, “The impressive thing about the German phenomenon is that one man, who is obviously ‘possessed,’ has infected a whole nation to such an extent that everything is set in motion and has started rolling on its course towards perdition.” It is as if the leader who is acting out his unconscious is a megaphone that catalyzes the Unconscious in the field to such a degree that it can potentially precipitate a mass catastrophe. Speaking of this danger of psychic contagion, Jung says, “Perhaps in a more enlightened era a candidate for governmental office will have to have it certified by a psychiatric commission that he is not a bearer of psychic bacilli.”
If we try and relate to Bush and his supporters before we metabolize what has gotten triggered in our unconscious, we will only strengthen the unconscious part of them (and ourselves) in a never-ending cycle that just endlessly perpetuates the polarization in the field. If we become polarized against Bush and his supporters, we are then unwittingly feeding into and supporting their polarized position. If we polarize against Bush and his supporters, we are just as much in our unconscious as they are. We are then just unconsciously reacting to the unconscious part of ourselves which they embody. We are doing the very same thing to them that they are doing to us in a self-generating feedback loop that has no resolution, as if we are mirrors reflecting each other.
By unconsciously reacting in this way, we are complicit in enacting on the world stage the repetition compulsion of the traumatized soul of humanity. We are a species in trauma. By not recognizing that we are reacting to our mirrored reflection, we are dreaming up the very situation which we are fighting against. We are a species gone mad.
We don’t recognize our collective madness because not only is it so pervasive, but because it is so overwhelmingly obvious. All we have to do to see the madness of our species is to open our eyes and look at what we are doing to each other, to the environment which we depend on for our survival, and to ourselves. What more evidence of a collective psychosis do we possibly need? We have become habituated to our collective madness, thinking of it as ‘normal,’ which is in and of itself an expression of our madness.
What is happening in the outside world is related to, and a reflection of, what is going on inside of us. Do we really think that the state of the world has nothing to do with us, that what is happening on the world stage is not expressing something in ourselves? To believe that what is going on in the world today is not related to us is the dissociated fantasy of a person gone mad. We cannot remove ourselves from the equation and become separate from what is happening in the world, for we are the source of what is going on in the world. To experience ourselves as separate from the psychic epidemic that is happening ‘out there’ is itself an expression of our madness.
What is going on in the world is an externalization of our own madness, which is being revealed to us through a world gone mad. We have collaboratively dreamed up our madness into full-blown incarnation, collectively acting it out on the world stage so as to (potentially) become aware of, ultimately heal and thereby integrate this mad part of ourselves.
Until we realize that there is a collective psychosis going on, we are its unwitting instrument. We are then feeding into the collective madness through the denial of our own madness, which is a simply mad thing to do. The denial of our denial is truly maddening, which is to say that our self-deception is a crazy-making activity, both for ourselves and for others.
To realize that we have unwittingly been playing a part in the creation of the collective psychosis is to realize that part of us IS mad. Paradoxically, the very realization of our madness is what re-connects us to our basic sanity. Realizing our complicity in the prevailing madness instantaneously snaps us out of the collective trance and enables us to be of benefit to others, who are recognized to be parts of ourselves which have fallen asleep.
A DEEPER, UNIFIED FIELDThe Unconscious pervades the entire field of human consciousness and it is expressing itself throughout the field in the interdependent and co-related figures of Bush, his supporters, those who react against Bush and those who recognize that we’re all suffering from a form of collective madness. We are all interconnected parts of a whole system or field, and we are picking up roles in this deeper, unified process or field. We are not separate. This deeper, unified field which is in-forming and giving shape to events in our world is the very thing that these events are reflecting back to us to recognize. To recognize this is to instantaneously step out of unwittingly being an instrument for feeding, supporting and creating destruction, and to become an agent of compassion who can be of genuine benefit to others.
The collective psychosis that pervades our planet is a field phenomenon and needs to be contemplated as such. This means that the collective psychosis needs to NOT be viewed through the lens of the separate self, which by its nature pathologizes individual people, who are seen to exist separately from the field. Instead of relating to any part of the field as an isolated entity, it’s important to contemplate the entire interdependent field as the ‘medium’ through which the collective psychosis is articulating itself. Yes, George W. Bush is mad, AND he is a reflection of the part of all of us that is mad (see my article “The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis”). The reason why it is so hard for our culture to recognize Bush’s madness is because our culture itself is mad. Bush’s madness is our own.
The fact that the mental health community, which should be concerned with psychic hygiene (both personal and collective), is not even addressing the issue of a collective psychosis is an expression that the mental health community is itself embedded in and hence, infected with the very psychic epidemic that it should be studying. The fact that the underlying psychic roots of our current world crisis are not even part of our planetary dialogue is itself an expression of the pervasive unconsciousness inherent in the psychic epidemic. Our unawareness of there being a psychic epidemic is itself a symptom of the psychic epidemic.
To recognize that the collective psychosis that is running rampant on our planet is a field phenomenon is to develop a more expansive, holistic vision in which we step out of the illusory identity which imagines that we are discrete entities who are separate from one another. This realization of our interconnectedness expresses itself as compassion. Together we are all collaboratively dreaming up what is happening. This is a mass shared dream in which we are all complicit.
As Jung writes, when we realize our complicity, “Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is also in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow, he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved problems of our day."
The way to change our world is through the individual, one person at a time. Any one of us metabolizing the unconscious shadow as it gets triggered in our daily life instantaneously affects the entire universe, as we are not separate. As Jung points out, if the Unconscious is “...properly dealt with in one place only, it is influenced as a whole, i.e., simultaneously and everywhere.” Because of our interconnectedness, any one of us recognizing the underlying psychic roots of the collective madness that is playing out on the world stage affects the entire field and paves the way for collective realization.
The Unconscious, in its manifestation as a collective psychosis, is revealing to us that the key to resolving our world crisis lies in consciousness itself. Any one of us realizing this might be the very grain of sand that tips the scales for all of humanity and precipitates a collective awakening of consciousness that has been unable to manifest until right now. Imagine that!
Copyright © 2005 Paul Levy. A spiritually informed political activist, Paul Levy describes himself also as "an artist and healer in private practice, helping others who are spiritually awakening to the dream-like nature of reality." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit awakeninthedream.com for more information.
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This story was published on June 19, 2005.