Carl Jung on the Subject of Demogoguery

Carl Jung had great wisdom into the unconscious machinations of the human mind, individually and collectively.  Here I want to share some excerpts from one of his books, “The Undiscovered Self” written in 1957.  Jung realized that humankind is always subject to influences beyond the grasp of his awareness and was characterologically averse to learning of this lack of awareness.  Jung concurred with Shakespeare who noted that when faced with the dawn of “consciousness,” the whole of mankind first cowers in fear and most never challenge the fear.  Jung realized that leadership in a culture was critical as it was this leadership functioning in a paternal role and exercising good judgment that could thwart the challenges that would otherwise arise from we “teeming masses.”

(My annotations are italicized.)

…there are subversive minorities who, sheltered by our humanitarianism and sense of justice, hold the incendiary torches ready, with nothing to stop the spread of their ideas except the critical reason of a single, fairly intelligent, mentally stable stratum of the population…The mass (i.e. “the herd” or “the mob”) crushes out the insight and reflection that are still possible for the individual, and this necessarily lead to doctrinaire and authoritarian tyrant if ever the constitutional State should succumb to a state of weakness.

Jung noted that should rationality cease to prevail in a culture, if, “affective temperature rises above a certain level (that of critical reason) “the possibility of reason having any effect ceases and its place is taken by slogans and chimerical wish-fantasies (i.e., “Make America Great Again,” or “Build that Wall” or “Lock her up”.)  That is to say, a sort of collective possession results which rapidly develops into a psychic epidemic…For every manifest case of insanity there are, in my estimation at least ten latent cases who seldom get to the point of breaking out openly but whose views and behavior, for all their appearance of normality, are influenced unconsciously by psychological and perverse factors…Their mental state is that of a collectively excited group ruled by affective judgments and wish-fantasies…Their chimerical ideas, sustained by fanatical resentment, appeal to the collective irrationality and find fruitful soil there. They express all the motives and resentments which lurk in more normal people under the cloak of reason and insight.  (Here Jung noted that beneath the surface of our “rational thought” we all of ‘motives and resentments’ that must not go unchecked in the interest of the common welfare.  He knew that otherwise a demagogue would exploit these subterranean fears.) In this broad belt of unconsciousness, which is immune to conscious criticism and control, we stand defenseless, open to all kinds of influence and psychic infections.

Jung’s observation, and my use of them here, suggests a certain snobbishness.  However, I think Jung knew he was speaking of all humans, including himself and certainly myself, as being subject to the tyranny of the ego without the presence of moderating influences from our external world.  And these “moderating influences” depend upon men and women who have the leadership skills, wisdom, and humility to place the welfare of the common good above their own selfish interests.


ADDENDUM—This is one of three blogs that I now have up and running.  Please check the other two out sometime.  The three are:


About literarylew

I am a retired mental health counselor in El Prado, NM near Taos. I have a life-long passion for the liberal arts and a deep spiritual commitment. I will utilize my voracious appetite for the written word in this blog, delving into literature, psychology, religion, philosophy, and linguistics.
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