Sunday, June 12, 2005

Carl Jung and Peace

Posted by AmishThrasher at 8:35 am
Peace sign
How well does Jung fit?
Having an interest in ‘psychoanalytical philosophy’, my first reaction to the work of various peace theorists was to wonder how compatible psychoanalytic theories were to the work of peace theorists, and if compatible, how they may expand – or give depth to – peace theorists. As already noted by Mark Juergensmeyer, there are significant differences of opinion between Mahatma Gandhi and Sigmund Freud. Juergensmeyer hypothesized that if the two met in a conversation, Freud would tell Ghandi that “I can’t imagine a single soul capable of what you are asking: to rid the psyche of anger.”(1) Freud would continue to explain that “It’s not the extremity of your requirement that concerns me. It’s not a problem of degree. It’s the very idea of it – repressing anger. It seems antithetical to an honest search for the truth.”(2) The cause for this is that “A submerged emotion, such as the anger you dislike so much, may return in an even more virulent form, and prove itself victor in the end. Better that it be released at the outset instead.”(3)

But while such differences of opinion exist between the (Gandhian) Satyagrahi and Freudian worldviews, this does not necessarily mean that the views of other psychoanalysts, like Carl Jung, are incompatible. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is to compare how compatible the Jungian framework is with the peace theorists like Gandhi and Johan Galtung. However, before I can proceed to this point, I will first explore the key points of the Jungian worldview.

In the tradition of Freud, Jung proposed that people have both a conscious and subconscious mind, noting “If we assume that there is anything at all beyond our sense-perception, then we are entitled to speak of psychic elements whose existence is only indirectly accessible to us.”(4) However, unlike Freud, Jung asked “…are there still deeper and – if that be possible – still more unconscious processes which infiltrate into the dark regions of the psyche?”(5) Jung came to believe there was, and that “This absolute unconscious would then be a psychic activity which goes on independently of the conscious mind and is not dependent even on the upper levels of the unconscious, untouched – and perhaps untouchable – by personal experience. It would be a kind of supra individual psychic activity, a collective unconscious, as I have called it, as distinct from a superficial, relative, or personal unconscious."(6)

In other words, the Jungian psyche contains a conscious mind – like Freud’s Ego, largely hidden from this, a personal unconscious, and below this yet again is a deeper part of the mind, the collective unconscious. “In this ‘deeper’ stratum, we also find the a priori, inborn forms of ‘intuition’, namely the archetypes of perception and apprehension, which are necessary a priori determinants of all psychic processes.”(7) With the archetypes that make up the collective unconscious - including the shadow, the anima, and the animus - “It is not a question of inherited ideas, but inherited thought patterns.”(8)

Jung noted the value of the conscious mind, but noticed it had a very significant catch to it. For Jung, “The definiteness and directedness of the conscious mind are extremely important acquisitions which humanity has bought at a very significant sacrifice, and which in turn have rendered humanity the highest service. Without them, science, technology, and civilization would be impossible, for they all presuppose the reliable continuity and directedness of the conscious process.”(9) However, the catch of this directed consciousness is that, “Even when no outwardly visible drawback seems to be present, there is always an equally pronounced counter-position in the unconscious…”(10); in other words the subconscious acts as a counter-balance to the conscious mind. And “The further we are able to remove ourselves from the unconscious through directed functioning, the more readily a powerful counter-position can build up in the unconscious, and when this breaks out it may have disagreeable consequences.”(11)

Such a situation clearly has implications for ‘peace’, on an intra-personal, inter-personal, and broader level. While, like Freud, Jung believed that such a state would lead to neurosis, on an inter-personal level it could also lead to ‘projection’, where the subconscious counter-position to our conscious mind is projected on to other people; with results like racism, sexism, and homophobia. And on a broader level, “Even security has gone by the board, for man has begun to see that every step forward in material ‘progress’ steadily increases the threat of a still more stupendous catastrophe.”(12) Phrased differently, “Let man but accumulate sufficient energies of destruction and the devil within him will soon be unable to resist putting them to their fated use.”(13)

Finally, for Jung, there is a path out of such a situation, or a means available to avoid it, for those who wanted to. Through a process he labeled ‘individuation’, “In the last resort it is a man’s moral qualities which force him, either through a direct recognition of the need or a painful neurosis, to assimilate his unconscious self and to keep himself fully conscious. Whoever progresses along this road of self realization must inevitably bring into consciousness the contents of the collective unconscious, thus enlarging the scope of the personality.”(14) This is a good alternative, given that “It is well known that fire-arms go off of themselves if only enough of them are together.”(15)

It is worthwhile, at this point, to explain a fundamental difference between Jungian and Freudian psychoanalysis. For Freud, violence could not be eradicated from the psyche; either it is acted upon by the Ego, or it is repressed by the Superego and creates neurosis. In contrast, the Jungian subconscious acts as a balancing force to the Ego. This balancing function can activate archetypal thought patterns in our subconscious, which can be projected onto our view of the outside world if not dealt with. In repressing our flaws, our subconscious compensates by projecting those flaws on to the ‘other’, with violent reactions from the Ego. The key for Jung was not acting upon or repressing such urges, but rather acquiring the self knowledge (either through therapy or ‘true’ religious experience) of our psyche, to acknowledge our flaws, and to broaden our consciousness. Jung referred to such a process as ‘individuation’.

In Jungian terms, ‘being in conflict with the other’ or ‘being in conflict with an opponent’ could be more accurately expressed as us ‘conflicting with a part of our Self that we don’t want to acknowledge, or conflicting with the difference between where our conscious currently lays and where it should lie; and that difference being projected on to the other’. So when a Prime Minister asserts that “We will not negotiate with Terrorists”, what he is really saying is ‘We will not negotiate with a part of ourselves that we are in conflict with’. In many cases, the projection is mutual; that is, that both sides in the conflict are both simultaneously projecting on to each other. Therefore, there can be a great psychological benefit – for both sides – in the process of open negotiation; for in a sense both parties are really negotiating with their Self.

From this perspective, Gandhi’s view of negotiation appears to look like common sense. For instance, as Gandhi writes “As a Satyagrahi I must always allow my cards to be examined and re-examined at all times and make reparation if an error is discovered.”(16) While to someone viewing negotiation as a debate this step makes little sense, if we use negotiation as a step towards inner balance this is an important step. Similarly:

"Immediately we begin to think of things as our opponent think of them, we shall be able to do them full justice. I know that requires a detached state of mind, and it is a state very difficult to reach. Nevertheless, for a satyagrahi it is absolutely essential… We will then agree with our adversaries quickly and deal with them charitably."(17)

Again, in viewing ourselves from the imaginary standpoint of someone who dislikes us, we can begin to see flaws in our (conscious) way of being.

If we accept the validity of the Jungian framework, it is quite understandable that Gandhi would state that “A thing acquired by violence can be retained by violence alone.”(18) If we acquire something by violence, it seems almost certain we haven’t undertaken any individuation before, or during, the acquisition. Our unbalanced conscious minds are being chased by the shadows of our unconscious; which are still being projected on to other people. Thus, the assumption – rightly or wrongly – that ‘they’ want our newly won possession. Our only choice in such a position is force, lest we begin a dialogue that reveals something about our ‘perfect’ Selves that we are uncomfortable with.

Finally, in reading Gandhi and Jung, there is a distinct feeling that the Self (or psyche), and the Truth, are different conceptions of the same thing. Both Jung and Gandhi were on a spiritual quest to reach a state of spiritual wholeness, of inner harmony; as stated earlier, the Truth of the Self. Ultimately, both Jung and Gandhi were searching for God within themselves, and wanted to help others to this end. Support for the notion that Gandhi believed that the Truth, and therefore God, could be found within is supported by the quote “’In God is Truth’ is certainly does not mean ‘equal to’ nor does it merely mean ‘is truthful’. Truth is not a mere attribute of God, but He is That… We are only to the extent that we are truthful.”(19) Further support for this notion – that the Truth (and thus God) exists in what Jung would describe as the Collective Unconscious of the Psyche – is provided by Gandhi noting that, with Truth, “The individual himself would determine that.”(20) If, from these quotes, we can conclude that Gandhi did believe that the Truth lays within us, we find a core point of agreement between Jung and Gandhi.

In short, if we view the process of individuation as a search for the Truth of the Self, what we end up with Jung is something like how we would express Gandhian Satyagraha in psychoanalytic terms.

Another important theorist in the area of peace studies is Galtung, who defined peace based on three premises. The first of these premises sees Galtung noting that “The term ‘peace’ shall be used for social goals at least verbally agreed to by many, if not most”(21), with the second being that “…these social goals may be difficult, but not impossible, to attain.”(22) Many would argue that a society attempting nonviolence through inner peace is a worthwhile goal, and one which is at least logically possible to obtain, albeit perhaps quite difficult in the western world as it stands. So Jung and Gandhi’s core belief does clearly fulfill the first two premises of peace, as set forward by Galtung. However, the third premise – “What we intend is only that the terms ‘peace’ and ‘violence’ be linked to each other such that ‘peace’ can be regarded as ‘absence of violence’”(23) - may be more problematic, depending on our reading of Jung.

We could interpret Jung as suggesting that peace is best defined, not as an absence of ‘violence’ (albeit in it’s broadest possible sense), but rather as a state of full integration, or individuation. Such an interpretation sees the opposite of ‘peace’ being ‘neurosis’, rather than ‘violence’. However, even if we were to take such an interpretation of Jung, in practical terms, the implications of this disagreement are less severe than they first appear to be. This is because “Emotion, incidentally, is not an activity of the individual but something that happens to him. Affects usually occur where adaptation is weakest, and at the same time they reveal the reason for its weakness, namely a certain degree of inferiority and the existence of a lower level of personality.”(24) The net result of such a state is that “…one behaves more like a primitive, who is not only the passive victim of his effects but also singularly incapable of moral judgment”(25); the ultimate result of this may well be violence. So in effect, such a reading results the debate between Jung and Galtung being on whether the opposite to peace is violence, or the opposite to peace is neurosis, which leads to violence.

However, taking an alternate reading of Jung sees even this dilemma – as discussed in the previous paragraph – bypassed. Such a reading of Jung sees intra-personal violence in the Jungian neurosis; and intra-personal violence just adds a further dimension to Galtung’s discussion of violence. For Galtung, “Violence is here defined as the cause of the difference between the potential and the actual, between what could have been and what is.”(26) So an extremely narrow or directed conscious mind that leaves neurosis or projection in its wake can easily be seen as a major cause of such a difference; and is thus part of a violent psyche to both itself and others. Indeed, this fits in with Galtung’s first distinction in his typology of violence:

"The first distinction is made between physical and psychological violence… where the latter would include lies, brainwashing, indoctrination of various kinds, threats, etc., that serve to decrease mental possibilities."(27)

Other distinctions made in Galtung’s typology include influence by rewards or punishment,(28) whether or not an object is hurt, or a subject involved,(29) whether violence was intended or not,30 and structural as opposed to manifest violence.(31)

Certainly the fundamental points of Jung and Galtung are compatible, if less complimentary than the fit between Jung and Gandhi in some interpretations. On the other hand, there is a mutual extension and deepening of theories between Galtung and Jung.

A question that emerges for us, though, is what is the value of the Jungian framework to peace studies? And, for that matter, why choose Jung’s framework over Behaviorism? The answer becomes apparent if we view Jung as presenting a philosophy of human nature rather than a psychological theory; and there is value for Peace studies in investigating such philosophies.

The reason for this is that, as demonstrated above, it gives depth to theories in the field. Peace studies deals with questions of violence and peace, and there is value in having a philosophy of human nature in order to deepen our understanding, and thinking, on questions of peace and violence. Through the 19 volumes of his Collected Works, Jung addresses many questions about human nature; including how inner peace can be achieved, and where violence comes from. Such philosophical questions are important even if we view ‘peace’ in the narrow context of the absence of war, and even moreso if we view ‘peace’ as being broader than the absence of war and violence.

So, in conclusion, we can read Jung as suggesting that the cause of violence is conscious narrow-mindedness. Such a state can lead to projection, neurosis, and ultimately to psychological violence to yourself, and violence to others. Such a reading sees Jung in fundamental agreement with Gandhi that a path to Truth, finding God within us – in a balanced psyche – should be the aim of our life. And the Jungian and Gandhian frameworks combine to give us insight into the process of nonviolent individuation that will get us there. Meanwhile, while disagreements exist between some Jungian and Galtungian ideas, again mutual insight can be garnered by considering both. So where the Freudian psychoanalytic framework is not a ‘good fit’ for peace studies, Jung’s work is a worthwhile and enlightening subject matter for peace studies.

1. Juergensmeyer, Mark, “Some Small Quarrels” in “Gandhi’s Way” / “Fighting with Gandhi”, 1st ed., Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1984, p. 122.
2. ibid.
3. ibid.
4. Jung, Carl, “The Structure of the Psyche”, in Campbell, Joseph (ed..), “The Portable Jung”, Penguin Books, New York, NY, and Camberwell, Vic., 1971, p. 27.
5. ibid, p. 30.
6. ibid, p. 34.
7. Jung, Carl, “Instinct and the Unconscious”, in Campbell, Joseph (ed..), “The Portable Jung”, Penguin Books, New York, NY, and Camberwell, Vic., 1971, p. 52.
8. ibid.
9. Jung, Carl, “The Transcendent Function”, in Campbell, Joseph (ed..), “The Portable Jung”, Penguin Books, New York, NY, and Camberwell, Vic., 1971, p. 274.
10. ibid, p. 276.
11. ibid, p. 276.
12. Jung, “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man”, in Campbell, Joseph (ed..), “The Portable Jung”, Penguin Books, New York, NY, and Camberwell, Vic., 1971, p. 465.
13. ibid, p. 465.
14. Jung, Carl, “The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious”, in Campbell, Joseph (ed..), “The Portable Jung”, Penguin Books, New York, NY, and Camberwell, Vic., 1971, p. 81.
15. Jung, Carl, “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man”, op., cit., p. 465.
16. Weber, Thomas, “Conflict Resolution and Gandhian Ethics”, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, p. 37.
17. ibid., p. 37.
18. ibid., p. 55.
19. ibid., p. 44.
20. ibid., p. 45.
21. ibid., p. 110 / 17.
22. ibid.
23. ibid.
24. Jung, Carl, “Aion”, in Campbell, Joseph (ed..), “The Portable Jung”, Penguin Books, New York, NY, and Camberwell, Vic., 1971, pp. 145 – 6.
25. Jung, Carl, ibid., p 146.
26. Galtung, Johan, “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research”, in “Journal of Peace Research”, 1969, VI(3), p. 111.
27. ibid., p. 16 / 112.
28. ibid., p. 112.
29. ibid., p. 113.
30. ibid., p. 115.
31. ibid.