Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a leading Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. His novel psychological concepts include the collective unconscious (the part of the mind that derives from ancestral memory and experience), the psychological complex (the repressed organization of experiences that govern perception and behavior), the shadow (the suppressed negative aspects of the personality), synchronicity (causation as the basis for seemingly random coinciding occurrence of events), extraversion and introversion (a focus on one’s inner thoughts and feelings vs. a focus on external things), and archetypal phenomena (common collective and frequent mental images or themes).
Jung, who originally came to Freud’s attention because he shared his certainty regarding the existence of the unconscious, began as Freud’s leading disciple and the man Freud expected would ultimately assume leadership of his psychoanalytic movement and validate his work. Freud characterized his relationship with Jung in grand biblical terms; for example, in a January 19, 1909, letter to Jung, he wrote: “We are certainly getting ahead; if I am Moses, then you are Joshua and we will take possession of the promised land of psychiatry, which I shall only be able to glimpse from afar.”
An important and sometimes overlooked factor in Freud’s selection of Jung as his heir apparent was the fact that Jung was not Jewish. Much of the opposition to Freud was predicated upon a perception that his theories were inherently “Jewish ideas” – and, indeed, most of his early followers were Viennese Jews – but Jung’s prominent position within Freud’s inner circle curbed the ability of anti-Semites and others to dismiss psychoanalysis as a “decadent Jewish discipline.”
However, irreconcilable fundamental views regarding the unconscious triggered an acrimonious alienation between these two great founders of psychology: Freud emphasized its physical and biological nature, while Jung analyzed the psyche from the perspective of polarity (extremes of perception, emotional state, and way of thinking). In particular, Jung publicly rejected Freud’s theories regarding the role of sexuality as the source of neurosis and, as we shall see, Freud’s outrage arguably played a role underscoring allegations that Jung was anti-Semitic. Indeed, in his History of the Psychoanalytic Movement, Freud specifically notes that Jung’s prejudices seem to have developed after their breakup.
In 1933, shortly after the Nazi rise to power, Jung accepted the presidency of the German General Medical Society for Psychotherapy. In the December 1933 issue the Zentralblatt, the Society’s journal, an editorial was published praising Nazi ideology, mandating that every practicing psychotherapist adopt Hitler’s Mein Kampf as a basic reference, and presenting Jung’s theories of archetypal cultural patterns to justify the superiority of the Aryan race. Though Jung claimed that this editorial had been run without his permission by Matthias Göring, the leader of organized psychotherapy in Nazi Germany (and a cousin of Hermann Göring), he never published a subsequent editorial repudiating the first; nor did he ever disassociate the Society – or himself – from this rank anti-Semitism or he resign his position in protest.
Some critics justify Jung’s inaction to his belief that, under his leadership, the Society would be better able to protect some Jewish psychotherapists from Nazi persecution. As the argument goes, had he taken a purely principled stand and refused all involvement, all opportunity to help psychoanalysis survive in Nazi Germany would have been lost. However, this fallacious argument is no different than the Judenrat in the Nazi ghettos who, while collaborating with the Nazis and facilitating their liquidation of the ghettos, claimed that they were actually acting in the interest of the Jewish community.
Moreover, the Psychological Club of Zurich, organized and dominated by Jung, imposed a 10 percent quota on Jewish membership and a 25 percent limit on Jews permitted to attend the lectures as guests – and this policy was actually committed to writing in 1944, at the height of the Holocaust. But perhaps the greatest evidence that Jung was an anti-Semite was his discussion of the differences between “Jewish psychology” and “German psychology” in The State of Psychotherapy Today (1934):
The differences which actually do exist between Germanic and Jewish psychology and which have long been apparent to intelligent people shall no longer be glossed over . . . The Jewish race as a whole possesses an unconscious which can be compared with the Aryan only with reserve. Creative individuals apart, the average Jew is far too conscious and differentiated to go about pregnant with the tensions of unborn futures. The Aryan unconscious has a higher potential than the Jewish; that is both the advantage and the disadvantage of a youthfulness not yet fully weaned of barbarism . . . The Jew, who is something of a nomad, has never yet created a cultural form of his own and as far as we can see never will.
Many Jewish Jungians, deeply offended by the article, publicly and vociferously denounced it, but Jung never rescinded it and, in fact, he continued to transmit his anti-Semitic views of “racial infection” in journal articles, seminars, lectures and radio broadcasts. In one memorable 1934 correspondence to one of his students, he wrote that “specifically Jewish points of view have an essentially corrosive character” and that “if this Jewish gospel is agreeable to the government, then so be it.” On the eve of the Holocaust, he observed that “perhaps it would be nearer the truth to regard them [the Germans] also as victims.”
Although he apparently rued the 1934 article late in his life – he admitted that “I have written in my long life many books, and I have also written nonsense. Unfortunately, that article was nonsense,” and he admitted to Rabbi Leo Baeck, the leader of Reform Judaism in Germany, that he had “slipped up” – he still never issued a public acknowledgment of error or a public apology.
Some critics attribute the allegations regarding Jung’s anti-Semitism to Freud’s followers who, they say, were seeking vengeance against Jung for his breakup with their leader and mentor. Jung himself claimed that “I am absolutely not an opponent of the Jews, even though I am an opponent of Freud’s. I criticize him because of his materialistic and intellectualistic – last but not least – irreligious attitude and not because he is Jewish.”
The problem with this argument is that Jung portrayed negative Jewish stereotypes even before he ever met Freud. Moreover, his opposition to Freudian psychology was far from merely academic and scholarly; rather, he characterized it as subversive and obscene with a decadent emphasis on sexuality, not at all dissimilar to the language used by the Nazis. Whether Jung’s opposition to Freud was, at least in part, related to Freud’s being a Jew remains a hotly debated topic to this day, but there can be little argument that Jung’s obsession with religious and cultural distinctions of the psyche, at the very least, fed Nazi propaganda and created legitimate grounds for describing him as an anti-Semite.
It is perhaps inevitable that, as the founder of the psychology of archetypes and the collective unconscious, and as the architect of “the psychology of nations,” Jung would consider the Jews, a people with no country or land, a people with no national culture disbursed throughout all the nations of the world, a threat to his psychological theories. He viewed the National-Socialist movement enthusiastically as the massive explosion of the “collective unconscious” that he had accurately predicted in the wake of Germany’s defeat in WWI.
In a 1938 interview later published by Omnibook Magazine, he unambiguously expressed his belief that the emergence of National-Socialism marked the return of the suppressed German psyche and that the German people turning to Hitler as their savior was indistinguishable from the Jews awaiting their Messiah. Even after Hitler’s true agenda became evident, he continued to urge that the Nazis “be given a chance.”
However, although he romanticized the concept of national glory and initially hailed Hitler as a great and unifying leader, Jung became outspoken in his opposition to Naziism, earned a place on the Nazi Blacklist, and had his works burned by the Gestapo. Moreover, he not only assisted in plots to assassinate Hitler by providing psychological analyses of Nazi leaders to American operatives, but recent evidence shows that he actually operated as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services. His handler, Allen W. Dulles – the first civil director of Central Intelligence and later head of the CIA – later commented, “Nobody will probably ever know how much Professor Jung contributed to the Allied cause during the war.”
Nonetheless, rather than recant his previously expressed views, Jung disingenuously reinvented what he said and mischaracterized what he meant. Even after the defeat of Hitler’s “Thousand-year Reich,” he wrote a letter to a former patient in 1945 suggesting that the Jews were complicit in their own destruction: “Jews are not so damned innocent after all – the role played by the intellectual Jews in pre-war Germany would be an interesting object of investigation.”
Many critics argue that Jung was never an anti-Semite on a personal level, noting that many of his top students were Jewish; that he maintained his friendships with Jewish colleagues and other Jews, notwithstanding the rise of the Third Reich; that he treated some Jewish patients pro bono; that he provided support to Jews, including providing financial support to arrange for some German Jews to flee to Switzerland; and that he employed an attorney – ironically, a Jewish lawyer named Rosenbaum – to introduce various loopholes into the anti-Semitic regulations introduced by Matthias Göring. Others spew the usual claptrap that the culture of anti-Semitism was persistent in Europe at the time – i.e., “everybody’s doin’ it, doin it” – which, to my way of thinking, can never excuse anti-Semitism and racial hate.
However, at the end of the day and notwithstanding arguments by Jung’s apologists, his unambiguous writings and statements speak eloquently to his anti-Semitism and it is not necessary to take Jung out of context to identify him as an anti-Semite. Given his attraction to National Socialism and his view of Hitler as a charismatic leader, it does not require a great leap to conclude that he was also attracted to anti-Semitic ideas; there were even some suggestions after the war that he should have been put on trial at Nuremberg.
In this November 17, 1952, correspondence on his letterhead written to Dr. Camille R. Honig, Jung conspicuously ducks discussing his “alleged anti-Semitism” and suggests that Honig contact his “Jewish pupils” on that subject:
There is no point in my giving you any explanations or assurances concerning my alleged antisemitism, you had better ask one of my many Jewish pupils who have known me for many years, they can tell you a more plausible story. I prefer to keep all my views and ideas about any aspect of Jewish psychology to myself. If you are really interested in this respect, then any of my Jewish pupils can give you enlightenment.
Honig was an interesting character. Born in Poland the son of Orthodox shopkeepers, he was considered an ilui (young Torah prodigy and genius) in the yeshiva of the Tomasnow Rav before entering the secular world. A student of Freud’s who helped him escape the Nazis, he was an instructor at Cambridge and Bristol Universities and lectured on Middle East affairs to General Eisenhower and the American army. One of the organizers of the World Zionist Congress, he was close with Gandhi and Nehru and convinced the latter to support the establishment of the State of Israel. He later served as the rabbi of Redondo Beach, California.
Inspired by Jewish Mysticism
In contrast with the broad scrutiny brought to bear by the critics on Jung’s apparent anti-Semitism, little attention has been given to his preoccupation with Kabbalah in general and with his Jewish mystical visions in particular.
Later in his life, Jung began to cite kabbalistic concepts and sources in his work, particularly with respect to his psychology of dreams. His final work, Mysterium Coniunctionis (1954), is replete with his thoughts on G-d and his Shechinah (metaphorical bride), the Sefirot (the Kabbalah’s archetypes of creation), and Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man), and his final analyses of his central ideas, including archetypes and the collective unconscious, were predicated on these specifically Jewish ideas. He was particularly enamored with the Sefirot and the concept of Shevirat ha-Kelim (the “breaking of the vessels”) and the now-familiar idea of Tikkun ha-Olam (the duty of Jews to work to restore the world), for which man was created to complete G-d’s creation of the universe.
In a remarkable 1977 interview, he acknowledged with great admiration “the Hasidic Rabbi Baer from Mesiritz, whom they called the Great Maggid . . .[who] anticipated my entire psychology in the eighteenth century.” He describes a joyous dream of “indescribable eternal bliss” that helped to advance his devotion to Jewish mysticism:
Everything around me seemed enchanted. At this hour of the night the nurse brought me some food she had warmed . . . For a time it seemed to me that she was an old Jewish woman, much older than she actually was, and that she was preparing ritual kosher dishes for me. When I looked at her, she seemed to have a blue halo around her head. I myself was, so it seemed, in the Pardes Rimmonim, the garden of pomegranates [most likely a reference to a renowned kabbalistic work of that name by Moshe Cordovero] and the wedding of Tiferet with Malchut [the divine Sefirot, which represent the “masculine” and “feminine” aspects of G-d] was taking place. Or else I was Rabbi Simon ben Yochai, whose wedding in the afterlife was being celebrated. It was the mystic marriage as it appears in the Kabbalistic tradition. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was . . . I do not know exactly what part I played in it. At bottom it was I myself: I was the marriage. And my beatitude was that of a blissful wedding.
In his historic correspondence to Dr. Honig exhibited and discussed above, Jung discusses the importance and influence of Jewish mysticism of his work:
As you obviously do not know my more recent publications, you are unaware of the fact that I have taken Jewish mysticism very much into consideration. One could not possibly deal with alchemistic symbolism without coming across the Cabbalistic influence. It is true that I have not written an original disquisition about the Cabbala, for the simple reason that most of its tests are in Hebrew and I do not understand that language. One of my pupils, Dr. Sigmund Hurwitz . . . in his article ‘Archetypische Motive in der Chassidischen Mystik,’ which appeared in ‘Zeitlose Dokumente der Selle,’ has done some work in that field.
Hurwitz, who received his analytical training from Jung and became a member of his innermost circle, was also a kabbalistic scholar who often advised him regarding Jewish mysticism. He published many notable articles and books, including the above-referenced Archetypal Motifs in Chassidic Mysticism.