The movement that brought Hitler into power did not happen in a vacuum, nor was it an anomaly of history. It may have sprung up like wildfire, but the ground was set for him long before. The same could be said for the sudden surge in the popularity of an equally radical ideology: postmodernism. In trying to better understand the nature of these two ideologies, I was indirectly encouraged to read a few books on Carl Jung and Hitler. While Hitler and Jung aren’t exactly common bedfellows, a lot can be learned from the cultural background that each shared and how that acted as a catalyst for their ideas.
The first was a book by Milton Mayer written in 1955 called ‘They Thought They Were Free: The Germans’ where Mayer attempts to understand what caused ordinary Germans, en masse, to follow Hitler and the Nazi movement. This was followed by Richard Noll’s book ‘The Aryan Christ: The secret Life of Carl Jung’, and lastly ‘The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler’ by Robert Waite.
The following is an attempt to summarize the above books while presenting a rather shocking and little-known historical account of Carl Jung and how someone who is considered one of the most influential psychiatrists of the 20th century could be even remotely connected with someone as universally despised as Adolf Hitler.
Germany in The Early 1900’s
Jung (1875-1961) like Hitler (1889-1945) were products of the time in which they lived and the various intellectual and nationalistic movements that swept through German and Austrian circles. As young men, both were moved by the works of Richard Wagner, in particular, his opera ‘Parsifal’, as well as the dark and disturbing paintings of Franz Von Stuck, and each longed for the return to the old Aryan gods of Wotan and the völkisch pagan spirit. Noll writes:
All of the values that formed the foundation of the industrial order – repressive Judeo-Christian anti-hedonism, utilitarianism, and rational thought – were confronted with new philosophies of life or of pure experiences that exalted myth over history, impulsive action or deed over conscious reflection, and feeling or intuition over rational thought.
The iron cage of “civilization” – Judeo-Christian beliefs and other political and value systems – had to be cast off in order to recover true culture, the primordial ground of the soul, the Volk. There was only one solution: recover the “archaic man” within, allowing a rejuvenating return to the chthonic powers of the Edenic, Aryan past.(p.115).
While Germany was in the midst of this religious and cultural crisis, it started to be considered ‘modern’ to question and even reject Christianity and instead search for ancient roots. Philosophical ideas, the theosophical society, books on occult mysteries, art and a host of various nationalist movements at the time inspired many people, and it is in this context that both Hitler and Jung appeared on the scene. Racialist thinking dominated the intellectual debate. An example of this can be seen in the full title of Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, which was published in 1859. Anti-Semitism was equally topical at the time and Jung and his movement eventually took on the nature of an Aryans-only cult of redemption and rebirth.
German Romanticism – which disregarded reason in favour of feelings, the instinctive and a return to nature – was influential to both. Nudism, vegetarianism, paganism, anarchism, contact with the ancestors, hiking in nature and sun-worshiping are some of the movements that stemmed from that period and thrived in Germany. This was linked to the idea of spiritual purity of the Aryan blood and the Aryan race which was seen as having been polluted, thus the body-centered approach to rectify that. This was part of the Lebensreform social movement of “going back to nature”, a concept that was captured in the paintings of the artist Fidus (1868-1948). Many of the ideas that the German romanticists expounded can be seen today on a political and cultural scale, in particular with the Progressive Left.
In this same period, one of the first “völkisch Nationalists” who preached the concept of Volkstum – the mysterious racial force that shapes all history – Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852) – founded German gymnastics societies. In 1813 he called for a national leader, “a great Führer, cast of Iron and Fire…the Volk will honor him as savior and forgive all his sins.”
So this is but a small sample of the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, that influenced Jung and Hitler. Jung delved into the Germanic Aryan part of mysticism casting himself as a messianic figure who would bring about a new era of spiritual antiquity, or as Noll puts it, took on the mantle of the Aryan Christ (pp. 112,142), while Hitler styled himself as the long awaited Führer that Jahn spoke of, who would be the savior of Germany and the Aryan race in the realm of worldly affairs.
Science And The Occult
On the road to becoming a trained clinician, Jung had shown an intense interest in the occult and paranormal and found it more than acceptable to use others for his experiments into the ‘unknown’ as well as furthering his own career. One example was the involvement of his young cousin Helly in an ongoing series of seances that went on for years despite the dire warnings and refusal of her caregivers for her to continue. Despite the toll it would eventually take on her, Helly acted as a ‘medium’ for Jung’s experiments with contacting spirits while he asked questions and jotted down notes of what was said. Years later, when he was writing a doctoral dissertation on trances and seances, with clinical precision he ‘threw her under the bus’ and disavowed his own beliefs in the supernatural in favor of more ‘scientific’ language which portrayed his cousin as an hysteric and, according to what Noll writes, played a significant part in the Helly’s untimely demise (pp. 47-51).
What wasn’t so apparent at the time, was that this was one of Jung’s personas or masks that he showed in public, that of a professor of science and eventually – a wise old man – while in private he delved into the occult and portrayed himself as the initiate of ancient occult mysteries. Many theories that he has been credited with, including the concept of archetypes, were actually thought of by others who were part of his inner-circle, people who were summarily and conveniently forgotten and received no credit for their contributions. One such person was Sabine Spielrein, a Jewish woman who was one of Jung’s patients and eventually his lover, for a brief period of time.
Jung’s interest in the paranormal and experiments with the i-Ching, astrology or the Ouija board were a problem in that he displayed a great naiveté and a lack of discernment that left him totally open to ‘dark forces’. He delved into the unknown, and rather than networking or bringing his ideas to the broader paranormal scientific community, which was considered a legitimate science in the early 1900’s, he viewed his ideas and experiences as being ‘his truth’ and therefore not open to interpretation or criticism from others.
Sadly, that naiveté is still prevalent in today’s New-Age movement which spawned from Jung’s brand of psychoanalysis. Instead of utilizing his scientific background and skepticism in his findings and conclusions, he delved further into dissociative trance techniques, something he called ‘active imagination, that left him on the brink of insanity. It produced in him ‘visions’ of spirits and otherworldly beings who spoke to and ‘guided him along his path’, with the end result being delusions of grandeur about himself as a special initiate of ancient Hellenistic mysteries that would bring about a new age of spiritual enlightenment for the German and Aryan peoples.
The Influence of Otto Gross
Otto Gross was a well-known ‘maverick’ psychoanalyst and radical ‘intellectual’ (of sorts) in Austria who lived a sordid lifestyle that saw him heavily addicted to cocaine, morphine and opium, as well as being pathologically polygamous and able to convince just about any woman to sleep with him. Like Hitler, who had a string of young women that were close to and involved with him commit suicide in his early days before becoming Fuhrer, Gross also left a similar path of destruction in his wake having convinced multiple women and patients of his to commit suicide due to their involvement with him. What convinced him to push them down that path? No one knows, although he was once diagnosed as suffering from ‘severe psychopathy’. However, he was also a product of the time and actively spoke about unshackling the ‘repressive mores’ of Christian society, bringing down the evil patriarchy and unleashing unbridled sexual liberation in all its forms. Despite this, Sigmund Freud spoke highly of him and wanted Gross to join his psychoanalytic movement, so he asked Jung to treat him as a patient.
The fateful meeting with Gross was another example of Jung’s tendency to leap without looking and even though he initially disliked Gross, he eventually adopted almost all of his ideas without realizing the kinds of energies that it unleashed and the destructiveness of that path on both himself and others.
In adopting polygamy, Jung betrayed a lot of his original beliefs and started to see sex as sacred and polygamy as the path to unleash the ‘ancient creative energies’ of the body and the unconscious mind. Obviously, he had no understanding of the dopamine pathway and how it enslaves us to materialistic addictions. Despite being married and having 5 children, Jung refused to give up on his polygamous lifestyle and had many lovers on the side. He came to believe God was the libido and that not giving in to a strong sexual impulse could result in illness or even death, and advised his patients along these lines.
This widespread public adovacy for deviant sexuality is very much alive today. Jung’s legacy can be seen in the pseudo-adage ‘follow your bliss’. He saw polygamy as the cure for many things and prescribed it to his male clients, one example being Medill McCormich, who Jung convinced to become polyamorous to overcome his despair and ‘save his soul’. Sleeping with clients, overstepping professional boundaries and trust, along with abuse of power, became the hallmark of Jung’s medical practice. As much as Jung believed this to be a pathway towards his ‘inner god’, there wasn’t anything ennobling or ‘higher’ about his lifestyle, except as a means to justify his hedonistic lifestyle.
In his excellent book (and essential reading) The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt refers to the six moral tastebuds that all people possess in some measure. The ‘tastebuds’ are care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty. Before meeting Otto Gross in 1908, Jung had been a bourgeois conservative and perhaps, at least in appearance, in possession of the full compliment of moral tastebuds. Gross was an anarchist and, according to Noll, inspired Jung with utopian ideas of transforming the world through psychoanalysis (p.84). This appears to have radically changed Jung’s outlook (p.121) and with it, his moral tastebuds. It appears that loyalty, sanctity and authority were removed from his list of values.
Having elevated himself to the level of God after his self-acclaimed initiation into the ‘mysteries’ in 1913, sanctity became for Jung a repressive Christian value that stifled the archaic and creative energies of the universe. In adopting Gross’ belief system, Jung was able to absolve himself of any responsibility for the hurt and misery that he caused to those around him.
The Spread of Psychoanalysis and Racism
Jung held a racial view of spirituality, seeing it as the purview of those distinctly German and Aryan. This was highlighted in his response to the arrival of the Greek-Armenian Gurdjieff and the Russian Ouspensky on the ‘spiritual’ scene in England, where a number of his proteges, such as Maurice Nicoll and Constance Long, had had enough of Jung’s more ephemeral approach to esoteric development and instead decided to follow the more practical and solid approaches initiated by Gurdjieff and followed by Ouspensky. Jung, on the other hand, argued for racial spirituality, claiming that teachings from foreigners was poisonous.
Jung’s German spirituality was never more apparent; his references to the rootedness of one’s spirituality, of the fact that one’s spirituality must come from one’s blood, and the appeal to stay within the boundaries of one’s mystical landscape.
Jung argued that Germans would find Jewish psychoanalysis unsatisfying. Analytical psychology is therefore an Aryan science and form of spiritual psychotherapy that can truly assist only those of Aryan blood. Whereas Jung considered the English an extension of Germanic blood, his tolerance did not extend to the Slavs such as Ouspensky. The English were Aryans, they could be redeemed with his methods. Slavs, although originally Aryan, had too much Asian blood mixed in; they would have a difficult time. Jews could not be redeemed. that spirituality must come from one’s blood and that one should be aware of the sweet poison of foreign gods. (p.258-259)
According to Noll, Jung learned how to be the leader of a closed sect from Freud’s Vienna circle (1856-1939). Everyone who was part of the group had to give him intimate details about themselves which he could use as leverage and control. Freud was initially venerated by Jung in an almost religious way. He represented a godlike figure to his followers, including Jung, who later became something similar for his followers. As things developed and with the help of Rockefeller money, the idea to use psychoanalysis to bring a spiritual rebirth to the world took shape (p.225). Considering the pervasiveness of Jungianism in psychological thought and how its influences made their way into the world via New-Age movements, Freudian and Jungian ‘psychoanalysis’ has been very ‘successful’ over time.
Jung’s ability to lure rich men and women into his orbit helped the spread of his ideas, and also played a key role in his own financial success. In addition, his wife, Emma Jung, was at the time of their marriage in 1903 the second richest heiress in Switzerland, being the daughter of a rich Swiss industrialist.
Jung attracted a lot of doctors and psychiatrists, not to mention female patients, into his orbit, all of whom became willing followers of the Jungian gospel. Similarly, Hitler attracted millions of followers, the closest of whom became his generals and immediate henchmen, for whom Hitler became the heralded savior of Germany and the German people. The most influential German philosopher in the 20th century, Martin Heidegger, who also happens to be one of the fathers of postmodernism, hailed Hitler in May 1933 as the fulfillment of his fondest dream for Germany. (Waite p.324 and Stephen Hicks p. 69)
Like Hitler, Jung wanted a cultural revitalization, as Noll says in ‘The Aryan Christ: The secret Life of Carl Jung‘, “he seems to have been attracted to psychoanalysis as an agent of cultural revitalization through its promotion of core Nietzschean themes of uncovering, the breaking of bonds, irrationality, and sexuality.He was not alone.” If this ethos sounds eerily similar to that which has informed modern day social ‘revolutions’, the sexual revolution and sits that the heart of postmodernist thought, that’s because it is.
Inside the ‘Criminal’ Mind
On close inspection, it becomes apparent that Jung and Hitler possessed similar traits. Both were authoritarians and expected blind obedience from their followers. Because of this, neither could handle criticism and would fly into rages (Noll p.187) and temper tantrums anytime their beliefs were challenged or their despotism questioned. In regards to Jung, Noll suggest that this was due to a Freudian father-complex, which is something that Waite also suggests Hitler suffered from.
Jung was very paranoid and “suspicious of everyone, always thinking they had some ulterior motive.” Because of his ever-increasing dissociative tendencies, Jung’s personality started to fracture and split. He started to keep a loaded pistol by his bed so that he could kill himself if he ever felt that he had gone over the edge and lost his sanity entirely (Noll p.151). Hitler was also extremely paranoid and distrustful of everyone around him, including his own generals from whom he often kept his wartime plans hidden, and he too always kept a pistol by his side (Waite p.161) and had a strong death wish. In opening a second front against the Soviet Union – who were his allies at the time – at a point when England was close to defeat, it has been suggested that Hitler may have unconsciously intended to lose the war in order to go down in a ‘blaze of glory’ while taking the German people with him.
Both men spent a lot of time alone with their fantasies and daydreams. Jung talked to ‘spirits’ whom he thought of as his teachers and divine in origin. In his autobiography, ‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections‘ Jung said that these spirits would send him visions, show him ‘secret knowledge’ and in some instances overtook his own personality to act through him. His wife and children were only ever mentioned once, indicating that this ‘inner world’ of fantasy represented his reality, as opposed to the shared outer reality with others that he seemed to ignore or treat as secondary.
Hitler was similar in this regard and claimed in 1919, while laying wounded in a military hospital, that he received a supernatural vision which commanded him to save Germany. (Waite pg. 27) And even though he could be a calculating and ruthless politician, as a young man he lived a bohemian life in Austria, spending many nights by himself drafting plans for ‘great architectural designs’ for the future. One acquaintance remarked that he acted as if these designs already existed and would visit where he imagined them to be. Even building an imaginary villa in his own mind for a woman he fancied and endlessly agonizing where to put the grand piano. This pattern continued for the rest of his life, causing himt to ‘rail against reality’ in favor of what his fantasies, which he deemd to be the real truth.
After he became chancellor, the worlds of fantasy and reality continued to interconnect in his life and in the life of the Third Reich. He himself sometimes became confused by his own fantasies and experienced difficulty in separating them from reality. In a highly revealing statement he confided to his doctors: “I suffer from tormenting self-deception.” (Waite pg. 38)
Jung and Hitler were reamarkable men who played a defining role in 20th century history, and it would be natural to think that, had neither of them existed, our world today would be much better off. However, looking at the people who surrounded Jung and readily played their part in what became known as the psychoanalytic movement, it is likely that there were several other ‘Jungs’ ready and willing to take his place had he not stepped up to the mark. The same goes for Hitler. The German people were looking for a Fuhrer, and in a strange way he defied fate and death on a number of bizarre occasions to fulfill that role.
If we look at them from a distance, the movements started by Jung and Hitler close to a hundred years ago were, at the outset, completely opposite to each other, yet both sought to destroy the existing order to bring about their version of a utopian paradise, essentially material in nature. Today, that same ideology is seen in the vocal offspring’s of Jungian thought and the ideology of postmodernists and ‘social justice warriors’ everywhere. The goal, it seems, is to promote leftist fascism that supports a Big brother society that stifles free speech and dissenting voices, while claiming the holy high-ground of protecting the planet, the animals, the climate and of course ‘freedom and democracy’ of a very new and deviant variety. One can perhaps say that the herding of the sheep which started a long time ago from different directions is now reaching its apogee (or should that be ‘nadir’?). Let us hope that Hitler’s Third Reich was not a practice run, although it would appear that the programming of the masses today has reached a level that Goebbels would have envied.
It is also important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. A number of Jungian concepts have validity as a framework of understanding some aspects of human nature, and one can even say that many of them are not even Jungian. Jung just got the credit for them, but some were worked out by his collaborators at the time or later and he also got ideas from the works of other authors, to whom he didn’t necessarily give credit.
Lastly a disclaimer. Even if I found quite a number of similarities between Hitler and Jung’s character traits, I am not saying that Jung was a Hitler or that psychoanalysis is Nazism. Having read a number of these books in succession, these connections were apparent to me.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana
The Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung by Richard Noll
The Psychopathic God: Adolph Hitler by Robert G. L. Waite
They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault by Stephen R. C.Hicks