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Maintaining Mental Health In The Age Of Madness



Sep 25, 2012
Planet Lunatic Asylum
Maintaining Mental Health In The Age Of Madness, By Carolyn Baker « Speaking Truth to Power

Americans have a remarkable ability ‘to look reality right in the eye’ and deny it.

~Garrison Keillor~

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” A state of well-being is obviously more than just the absence of disease. It assumes that a human being is reasonably functional mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Similarly, this definition can be applied to healthy communities with the addition of social functionality as another aspect of well-being.

However, most readers are aware of the decline in mental health treatment within the past three decades. Whereas thirty years ago many working people had insurance benefits for outpatient psychotherapy as well as in-patient treatment, not only have the benefits dramatically decreased, but massive unemployment makes it virtually impossible for millions of people to pay for any kind of health care, physical or mental.

Meanwhile, nearly all inhabitants and communities of industrial civilization are struggling to cope with living in societies in unprecedented decline. Energy depletion, climate change, economic contraction, and the collapse of myriad institutions such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and police and fire services weigh heavily on the wallets and emotions of millions. In the United States, the realities of the sequester debacle will only exacerbate the unraveling, and for many, avoiding homelessness and starvation are top priorities with nothing left over for any kind of healthcare. Yet it is precisely this demographic who are contending with monumental stress, and for many of them, just as they may be one paycheck away from being homeless, they may also be one stress away from mental and emotional meltdown.

The reader does not need yet another litany of this culture’s hyper-proliferating dysfunctions. However long or short your residence on this planet, you are well aware of its genocide of species and its suicide of itself. And regardless of how far removed from this madness you experience yourself, it invariably weighs upon you whether you choose to admit that or not. If you are the least bit honest with yourself, you recognize that you are surrounded by madness yet constantly being reassured, particularly in the United States, that you live in the safest, healthiest, freest, and most desirable country on earth.

Moreover, if in recent years or months you have dared to explore the realities of peak oil, climate change, and economic contraction and their inevitable ramifications, you may feel mega-schizophrenic as you live with this information and at the same time attempt to navigate a society in which every form of functioning is dictated by denial. In fact, you may feel as if you’re looking at one of those cube diagrams from a chapter on perception in a psychology textbook in which looked at one way, one of the sides of the cube appears to be in the foreground and the other side in the background, but when looked at another way, the foreground and background are reversed. On some days, you may feel completely crazy, yet on another day, you may feel blessedly sane but overwhelmed by the madness around you.

Historically speaking, it is important to remember that millions of individuals throughout history have felt similarly. Some were able to trust their instincts and respond resiliently; others were not. In the final days of the Roman Empire, many were able to see through the madness around them and vacate large cities. In Nazi Germany, some were able to discern the horror that lay ahead and escape. In the Soviet Union, millions lived through Stalinist purges and totalitarian oppression for decades knowing that a collapse was inevitable such as they witnessed in 1989-90.

Regardless of how robust a civilization may appear, certain aspects of it are terribly fragile, particularly its commitment to creativity vs. destruction. Jungian author and blogger, Paul Levy, writes in his 2013 Dispelling Wetiko:

A civilization usually doesn’t die from being invaded from the outside, but unless it creates culture which nourishes the evolution of the creative spirit, a civilization invariably commits suicide. As if possessed, our civilization is, trancelike, sleepwalking in a death march toward its own demise.

The word wetiko is a Native American term, the spelling of which varies from tribe to tribe, but essentially it means a diabolically wicked person or energy that terrorizes others by means of evil acts.

Carl Jung was one of the first modern psychologists to address the issue of collective madness. He theorized that individual humans possessed not only a personal unconscious mind but were also part of a collective unconscious mind which from time to time becomes activated and generates a collective psychosis. In the current moment, inhabitants of industrial civilization are living in cultures committed to infinite growth, consumerism, resource extraction, war, and of course, massive denial that any of these are inexorably destructive policies of planetary suicide. Humans are colluding in mad behavior, based on the sharing of an illusion which is the literal definition of collusion or co-illusion.

In fact, on days when you may feel as if you are surrounded by madness, it might be useful to read these words from Levy:

Whenever the contents of the collective unconscious become activated, they have an unsettling effect on the conscious mind of everyone. When this psychic dynamic is not consciously metabolized, not just within an individual, but collectively, the mental state of the people as a whole might well be compared to a psychosis. Jung never tired of warning that the greatest danger that threatens humanity is the possibility that millions of us can fall into our unconscious together and reinforce each other’s blind spots, feeding a contagious collective psychosis in which we unwillingly become complicit in supporting the insanity of endless wars; this is unfortunately an exact description of what is currently happening.

Collective madness manifests in myriad ways, but one manifestation is the self-reinforcing feedback loop of what Canadian psychiatrist, Gabor Maté calls “the realm of hungry ghosts,” a Buddhist term for people who are always hungry, always empty, and always seeking satisfaction from the outside. That is to say that we have created a society of insatiable addicts, many of whom have poor attention skills or full-blown attention deficit disorder.

Moreover, without using the terms “collective madness” or “collective unconscious” as Jung did, Maté describes a similar phenomenon with respect to how children in our society develop:

… the conditions in which children develop have been so corrupted and troubled over the last several decades that the template for normal brain development is no longer present for many, many kids. And Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, who’s a professor of psychiatry at Boston—University of Boston, he actually says that the neglect or abuse of children is the number one public health concern in the United States. A recent study coming out of Notre Dame by a psychologist there has shown that the conditions for child development that hunter-gatherer societies provided for their children, which are the optimal conditions for development, are no longer present for our kids. And she says, actually, that the way we raise our children today in this country is increasingly depriving them of the practices that lead to well-being in a moral sense.

In other words, post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed the conditions required for healthy childhood development.

The Madness Of The Mental Health Community

Yet if you feel you need professional help with the schizophrenic feelings you are experiencing regarding the state of the planet, and if you are brave enough to visit a mental health professional in the United States and begin talking about the “collective psychosis,” peak oil, or the collapse of industrial civilization, you are likely to be diagnosed with some sort of anxiety disorder or clinical depression. Sooner or later, your mental health professional is likely to suggest medication and attempt to work with you to “reframe” your perception of the world or perhaps suggest that you invest more energy in the positive aspects of your life than dwell on the negative realities of the macrocosm. Certainly, we would like to believe that the mental health community is exempt from a collective psychosis, and some members of it are. However, the overwhelming majority are not. Of this Levy says:

That the mental health community, which should be concerned with psychic hygiene (both personal and collective), is not even addressing the issue of a rampant collective psychosis is a clear indication that the mental health community is itself embedded in and hence infected with the very psychic epidemic it should be studying….What clearer sign do we need of a psychic epidemic than when our mental health system itself, whose job it is to study, monitor, and deal with such phenomena, not only doesn’t recognize that there is a collective psychosis running rampant in our society, but is itself infected with it?

In an article entitled “Working Through Environmental Despair” in Theodore Roszak’s marvelous book, Ecopsychology, Joanna Macy writes:

But because of the individualistic bias of mainstream psychotherapy, we have been conditioned to assume that we are essentially separate selves, driven by aggressive impulses, competing for a place in the sun. In the light of these assumptions, psychotherapists tend to view our affective responses to the plight of our world as dysfunctional and give them short shrift. As a result, we have trouble crediting the notion that concerns for the general welfare might be genuine enough and acute enough to cause distress. Assuming that all our drives are ego-generated, therapists tend to regard feelings of despair for our planet as manifestations of some private neurosis.

In the first pages of John Michael Greer’s latest book, Not The Future We Ordered: Peak Oil, Psychology, And The Myth Of Progress, he notes a number of “unmentionable crises” throughout history that were actually social crises, but because of the undesirability of dealing with them, they were temporarily “re-framed” as personal crises. One of these was a contrived “pathology” in relation to African American slaves living in slave states who were said to have suffered from a mental illness called “Drapetomania” in which they had an “irrational” desire to run away. Yet another example Greer cites is the lack of meaning and value in the lives of women in the 1950s and 60s that Betty Friedan described as “the problem that has no name.” These are two examples of how social crises were reframed as personal problems which conveniently enabled addressing them as social phenomena to be postponed indefinitely.

Similarly in current time, we are witnessing an enormous gap between the dominant story of our culture which is one of “infinite progress” and the palpable sense of anxiety and despair that permeates the psyches of most inhabitants of industrial civilization. According to Greer, the notion of infinite progress has become nothing less than a “civil religion,” and questioning the reality of the notion is one of the most disturbing heresies a “civilized” human being can commit. Moreover, as Greer notes, “Central to the myth of progress, and also one of the keys to its potent emotional appeal, is its affirmation of the omnipotence of human agency.” That is to say that axiomatic within the “religion of progress” is the assumption that if an individual or a community is not experiencing progress, it is merely because that individual or community is not exerting enough effort, is not working smart enough, or its investments are not shrewd enough. This is another way of saying that progress is of our own making—or not, and that if we aren’t reaping the fruits of it, we are suffering the consequences of our choices and need to make different ones.

Those who embrace the notion of peak oil or the collapse of industrial civilization are perceived by the society at large as “deviant” because they do not hold to the dominant mentality of infinite progress. Greer points out that mainstream culture can conceive essentially of only two scenarios for the future: 1) Infinite progress which has a few fits and starts but overall, continues in an upward trajectory indefinitely; 2) An apocalyptic scenario such as an asteroid hitting the earth, a nuclear war, or severe natural disasters that wipe out a series of regions worldwide. What it cannot grasp, according to Greer, is a steady, gradual decline over a period of decades and years which results in abject energy depletion, the long-term collapse of institutions and centralized systems, and the protracted devolution of industrial society downward to a state of primitive, pre-industrial functioning.

By and large, mental health professionals in the modern world are able to connect the dots between the explosion in the number of clients suffering from addictions, depression, anxiety, attachment disorders, learning disabilities, and other illnesses with world events at large. Most fall somewhere on the liberal side of the political spectrum and support efforts to maximize the quality of life for humans and the quality of the environment for all species. Yet I believe that most clinicians who are not familiar with the “Three E’s” of energy, environment, and economics as converging crises signaling the collapse of industrial civilization, will be emotionally challenged in working with a client who embraces this perspective. Few Gabor Matés, Paul Levy’s, or Joanna Macys occupy therapy consulting rooms, and few mental health professionals are willing to deeply explore what the collapse of the systems on which they rely would mean for them personally.

To be fair, many mental health professionals are frantically attempting to re-invent themselves as hospitals, clinics, and agencies close and they find themselves without employment, but in my experience, few are able to grasp the larger picture of peak oil and the Long Emergency. Curiously, if they are able to make the leap to the larger picture, then indeed, they will at some point find themselves reeling from this knowledge and probably begin feeling as schizophrenic as any client who would seek help with the same issue.

Collapse Deviants And The Shadow

The shadow, according to Levy is: “…typically conceived of as the underdeveloped, undesirable, and inferior parts of our personality; the aspects of ourselves which we repress the most; it is the part of ourselves we are least proud of and want to hide from others.” (86) Not only do we each individually have a personal shadow, but cultures create shadows as well. When we do not own the shadow and affirm that it is as much a part of us as the other aspects of ourselves that we cherish, we invariably construct a system of projection in which we unconsciously attribute the shadow parts of ourselves to someone else.

“When we project the shadow,” says Levy, “we unwittingly become a conduit for evil to possess us from behind, beneath our conscious awareness, and to act itself out through us.” As individuals we frequently project the shadow onto other individuals without realizing that we are doing so. Whenever we encounter someone that we really don’t like or who pushes our buttons, we are also encountering some aspect of the shadow. That is not to say that the other person has no offensive qualities, but rather, that some aspect of our own shadow is triggered by them. Furthermore, how we choose to respond externally to the other person is less important than what we learn about our own shadow by exploring it throughout our interactions with the other.

Collectively, we project the shadow on nations or communities when we attribute virtue to ourselves and evil to the other. The repeated utterances of George W. Bush as he called Islamic fundamentalists “the evildoers,” demonstrated an exquisite example of shadow projection. Likewise, as American citizens target and bully immigrants, gays, lesbians, and the disabled in hate crimes, the shadow is blatantly and brutally at work in projecting onto the other the unclaimed parts of the self. (For an in-depth study of America’s collective shadow projection, I recommend Madness At The Gates Of The City: The Myth Of American Innocence, by Barry Spector.)

Understanding the shadow and its projections assists us in navigating a culture in which we are deemed “deviants” or “heretics” because we no longer embrace the notion of infinite progress. Certainly, it is no surprise when a corporate lackey or a Wall St. banker accuses us of deviance, but being pathologized by a mental health professional may be. I have experienced that even in circles of Jungian therapists and teachers who have spent decades of their lives working with the shadow, resistance to the tragic, ultimate consequences of humanity’s suicidal behavior is frequently interpreted only symbolically and attended by a refusal to recognize a literal collapse of industrial civilization, including the possibility that humanity may inevitably cause our planet to become uninhabitable.

A Call To Mental Health Professionals

As the Long Emergency intensifies, mental health professionals can choose to continue framing client anxieties about the social situation as personal pathologies, as the majority are now doing, or they can open themselves to having an “End of Suburbia” moment in which they themselves confront the demise of the civil religion of progress. This necessitates, as Greer notes, a willingness to pass through what he calls “The Five Stages Of Peak Oil,” in which one moves from denial, through anger, bargaining, and grief, toward acceptance—a non-linear process first outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in relation to death and loss.

As a result of moving through their own epiphany about our predicament and doing their own grieving, if a therapist or counselor can, in the words of Greer, “take the presence of collective crisis into account in their work, help clients explore and articulate the cognitive dissonance they are experiencing, and provide a supportive framework in which clients can work through the stages of grief and begin the search for meaningful ways of living in a world on the far side of progress, the benefits to society as well as the individual may not be small.”

The human toll of mental health professionals not allowing themselves to pass through the Five Stages of Peak Oil and therefore be able to genuinely empathize with and hold their clients in the current crisis will be severe, not only for the individual client but for society at large. The rewards, however, for the clinician, the client, and the community are potentially incalculable and profoundly hopeful. And here I use the word hope in the same manner as Greer who defines authentic hope as the combination of personality traits that respond to difficult circumstances by finding some good that can be achieved, and then striving to achieve it. In other words, genuine hope is an internal, pro-active response to one’s predicament as opposed to a passive anticipation that external circumstances will change or that someone will discover a magic solution.

The Healing Power Of Paradox

So how do we maintain our wholeness in an increasingly fractured, fragmented, and shattered world?

A pillar of Jungian psychology is the notion of holding the tension of opposites. This ancient concept, clearly articulated by the Medieval alchemists, applies to the psyche as well as to the alleged transformation of metal into gold. The alchemists claimed that the transformation resulted from allowing opposite chemical elements to remain in a container subject to intense heat. Psychologically speaking, when confronted with the horrors of our predicament, the most crucial ingredient for maintaining our wholeness is holding the tension of the opposites within ourselves, that is, the both/and of our experience. Rather than asking: “Will the collapse be fast or slow?” we must know that it is being both fast and slow even as I write these words and you read them. Rather than pondering whether to retreat back into the comfort of denial and pretend that everything you’ve heard about collapse is nonsense or conversely, sinking into abject depression and despair because “nothing matters anyway,” consider that the future is all about both/and.

As I write these words, more than 13,000 contaminated dead pigs are floating down the Shanghai River in China, and yet somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, spring is coming to the land—robins are singing and crocuses are bursting forth from the earth. Yes, if you are preparing for the Long Emergency, you are a deviant in the eyes of so many of this culture’s institutions, the mental health system being one of them—and, you are also an extraordinary, intelligent, vibrant, unique human being with gifts to offer your community and your world that we all desperately need.

In this both/and world of the present and the future, as psychologist Bill Plotkin says, we must move from pre-occupation with EGO-psychology to immersion in ECO-psychology. Otherwise, we will not be able to maintain wholeness in the madness. Perhaps the loudest message of this Great Turning/Great Churning/Decline/Demise/Collapse/Transition is that living our lives from the perspective of the human ego is exactly what brought us to this convergence of crises, and not only is it no longer working; it will never work again! Excluding spiritual and emotional preparation for the future in our arduous efforts to prepare logistically is a continuation of the soul-murder perpetuated by industrial civilization.

We maintain our wholeness in the madness by joining with others to begin making the kind of world we want our children and the next seven generations to live in. If you yourself are a helping professional of any kind, embrace your deviance and commit to proliferating the deviance! The opportunities for re-imagining, sharing, cooperating, and partnering with kindred hearts are endless. In fact, never have so many humans had so many opportunities to resiliently re-fashion their lives and their communities.

However, we must not revert to the “keep busy doing projects so that you don’t have time to think” syndrome of industrial civilization. In my experience, every person who is preparing for the Long Emergency needs safe spaces where they can discuss their feelings about the future with kindred souls. The Transition founders certainly got it right when they included “The Heart And Soul/Psychology Of Change” initiative in the Transition model. Consciously preparing for the future is a task far too onerous, too overwhelming, and too anxiety-provoking to take on in isolation. In terms of the Five Stages of Peak Oil, the mental health system lags far behind “the psychology of change” initiative and is yet another institution highly susceptible to collapse.

In my own community, our local “Growing Resilience” group is moving into its fourth year. Our activities have included a weekly book study, a quarterly movie/potluck night, and annual solstice rituals. We have created a safe place for members to speak freely their concerns about the future and give and receive support. Yet ours is but one model in a sea of possibilities for dialog and the forging of bulwarks for creating emotional resilience.

And so dear reader, know that this Sacred Demise is awakening humans throughout the planet and carries within it the potential for creating a new species of human. But we must remember that health means wholeness, and without attending to the soul, wholeness eludes us. In the words of Paul Levy:

The only thing that really matters now is whether humanity can climb up to a higher moral level through self-reflection and be able to evolve into a more expanded state of consciousness….If ever there was a time when the turning inward of self-reflection was of critical importance, it is now, in our present catastrophic epoch….In the moment of self-reflection, the psychospiritual necessity for evolutionary growth overrules the biological compulsion of unreflective animal instinct….Self-reflection is a genuinely spiritual act, which is, essentially, an act of becoming conscious.

Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. manages her website at Speaking Truth to Power and is the author of Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path Of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse and Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition. She lives in Boulder, Colorado where she works with Transition Colorado. A former psychotherapist, she offers life coaching for people who want to live more resiliently in the present as they prepare for the future. Her forthcoming 2013 book is entitled, Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times. She may be contacted at [email protected]


Well-known member
Sep 2, 2009
So to maintain mental health in the age of madness we need to
weekly book study, a quarterly movie/potluck night, and annual solstice rituals


Sep 25, 2012
Planet Lunatic Asylum
THE WORLD IS PSYCHE | Awaken in the Dream

One of Jung’s greatest discoveries is what he called “the reality of the psyche,” by which he means that the psyche exists in its own right, in its own open-ended sphere of seemingly unlimited influence. To quote Jung, “The psychic is a phenomenal world in itself, which can be reduced neither to the brain nor to metaphysics” (Note: “psychic” is used throughout this article as the adjective form of “psyche” and not with any parapsychological connotation). Jung is using the word “psyche” in an all-inclusive sense, as he means the totality of all psychic processes, both conscious and unconscious. Jung says, “For me, the psyche is an almost infinite phenomenon. I absolutely don’t know what it is in itself and know only very vaguely what it is not.”[ii] The psyche is not an epiphenomenon of biochemical processes in the brain, however, as it cannot be reduced to physical matter, or anything other than itself for that matter. Instead of the matter of the brain being the source of the psyche, to quote Jung, “We might well say, on the contrary, that physical existence is a mere inference, since we know of matter only in so far as we perceive psychic images.”[iii] The psyche can’t be factored out of our experience of either matter, or metaphysics, as it is inseparable from and connects both the seemingly opposite physical and metaphysical realms. Any physical or metaphysical experiences are mediated by the psyche by virtue of both of them essentially arising out of and being experiences within the psyche. Jung states, “Metaphysical assertions, however, are statements of the psyche…It is the psyche which, by the divine creative power inherent in it, makes the metaphysical assertion; it posits the distinctions between metaphysical entities. Not only is it the condition of all metaphysical reality, it is that reality.”[iv]

Jung states, “For our only reality is psyche, there is no other reality.”[v] The psyche is a mysterious, substance-less substance through which spirit and matter work out their seeming differences and intermingle so as to reveal their unity. To quote Jung, “Between the unknown essences of spirit and matter stands the reality of the psychic – psychic reality, the only reality we can experience immediately.”[vi] We never have an experience, of either the world or ourselves, except within the psyche (please see my article It’s All in the Psyche). Jung writes, “The realm of psyche is immeasurably great and filled with living reality. At its brink lies the secret of matter and of spirit.”[vii] The psyche is the essence of humanity, its greatest instrument, an indefinable creative entity of enormous scope, subtlety and power that eludes all attempts to explain it, including this one. We should not forget that, to quote Jung, “when we say ‘psyche’ we are alluding to the densest darkness it is possible to imagine.”[viii] The psyche is a true mystery that is impossible to pin down. Jung comments, “In reality, there is nothing but a living body. That is the fact, and psyche is as much a living body as body is living psyche: it is just the same.”[ix] The world is the living psyche. Because the psyche is not separate from the farthest corners of the whole universe, Jung writes that “The psyche reflects, and knows, the whole of existence.”[x]

The psyche is inseparable from the whole materialized universe, while at the same time being a “no-thing” that is other than and transcendent to the physical universe. The psyche is indistinguishable from and expresses itself as and through its manifestations, yet is independent from and other than its forms. Jung comments, “matter is a thin skin around an enormous cosmos of psychical realities, really the illusory fringe around the real experience, which is psychical.”[xi] This is what the Eastern sages are pointing at when they talk about the world being an illusion, as the phenomenal world is not separate from, as well as being a revelation of, the more fundamental reality which is the psyche itself. To quote Jung, “The East bases itself upon psychic reality, that is, upon the psyche as the main and unique condition of existence.”[xii] The whole materialized universe is moment by moment the display of and emerging out of the spacious, radiant and effulgently over-flowing ground of the psyche. Jung continues, “The psyche is therefore all-important; it is…the Buddha-essence, it is the Buddha-Mind, the One…All existence emanates from it, and all separate forms dissolve back into it.[xiii] The forms of this universe are not separate from the spacious emptiness out of which they are arising. As the Heart Sutra of Buddhism succinctly expresses: “Form is Emptiness. Emptiness is form.” Emptiness itself is appearing in the form of form. Form and emptiness are not two separate entities; the universe is non-dual. The psyche, which is the bridge between the inner and the outer dimensions, has a “sacred” (from sacren – to consecrate and make holy, whole, and unified) nature, which is a reflection of our own divinity. Jung continues, “The Buddha is really nothing other than the activating psyche of the yogi – the meditator himself. It is not only that the image of the Buddha is produced out of ‘one’s own mind and thought,’ but the psyche which produces these thought-forms is the Buddha himself.”[xiv]

Jung writes, “The psyche creates reality every day.”[xv] It is as if the psyche extends its tentacles out into the world and arranges, configures, and organizes the world so that the world becomes the very medium through which the psyche is simultaneously expressing, em-bodying and revealing itself. Being nonlocal, the psyche is “located” both within our heads (i.e., in the subjective domain of mind) and synchronistically out in the world at the same time, as time and space become relativized within the all-embracing realm of the psyche (please see my article Catching the Bug of Synchronicity). Jung points out that “it is clear that timeless and spaceless perceptions are possible only because the perceiving psyche is similarly constituted.”[xvi] The nonlocal psyche is not bound by either the rules of third dimensional space and time, nor by the laws of man. Because of the psyche’s nonlocality, “we have every reason to suppose,” Jung says, “that there is only one world, where matter and psyche are the same thing.”[xvii] For psyche and matter to be inseparably united is just like being in a dream, where the apparent matter of the dream is a direct reflection of the psyche that is dreaming. Jung writes, “‘At bottom’ the psyche is simply world.”[xviii] The psyche animates and gives rise to the world, while at the same time, the world reciprocally generates and in-forms the psyche. The psyche is not just a reflection of the world, however, but to quote Jung, “The psyche does not merely react, it gives its own specific answer to the influences at work upon it.”[xix]

Endowed with the dignity of a cosmic principle, the psyche has a pre-eminent place in the natural order of things. The life of the psyche arises out of organic life, while at the same time transcending it through its own self-creation. The psyche has the unique quality of creating itself through its own activity. A product of cosmic evolution, the conscious psyche is a relatively recent emergence out of the womb of nature itself. The psyche, what Jung calls “the greatest of all cosmic wonders”[xx] is a natural phenomenon, emerging out of and being nothing other than pure nature itself. Jung writes, “And just as life fills the whole earth with plant and animal forms, so the psyche creates an even vaster world, namely consciousness, which is the self-cognition of the universe.”[xxi]

Many people have been conditioned to devalue the psyche, thinking of the contents of the psyche as mere nothings, empty fabrications. Realizing the reality of the psyche is to recognize, that quite to the contrary, its contents have a living reality. If many people have a belief that a river runs backwards, for example, this is not a physical fact (i.e., the river doesn’t run backwards), but the fact that many people believe this irrational idea is a psychic fact that has its own category of existence per se. Jung comments, “A psychic process is something that really exists, and a psychic content is as real as a plant or animal.”[xxii] Though psychic contents aren’t quantifiable, don’t occupy space nor have a location, and don’t have a physical mass, they have a reality all their own. Jung even suggests that if “we wished to form a vivid picture of a non-spatial being of the fourth dimension, we should do well to take thought, as a being, for our model.”[xxiii]

Jung writes, “We could well point to the idea of psychic reality as the most important achievement of modern psychology if it were recognized as such.”[xxiv] The discovery of the living reality of the psyche was a precious gift that the new field of psychology had to offer to the world, and yet, it has mostly gone unappreciated and unrecognized. Jung was so far ahead of his time when he realized the living, autonomous reality of the nonlocal psyche that few people understood what he was talking about. The discovery of the ‘reality’ of the psyche, the ‘most important achievement of modern psychology,’ is something that most people still don’t even know about. Modern, behaviorist psychology, in Jung’s words, “reduces psychic happenings to a kind of activity of the glands; thoughts are regarded as secretions of the brain, and thus we achieve a psychology without the psyche.”[xxv] The psyche itself is truly a subject worthy of our contemplation and veneration. Jung opines, “It is my conviction that the investigation of the psyche is the science of the future.”[xxvi] The psyche is the subject of all knowledge, being the womb in and out of which both art and science are born.

“I am of the opinion,” writes Jung, “that the psyche is the most tremendous fact of human life.” The psyche is the underlying matrix, the infinite emptiness that is over-flowingly full, the maternal womb out of which world events are born. Jung calls the psyche “the mother of all human facts, of civilization and of its destroyer, war. All this is at first psychic and invisible.”[xxvii] What is currently playing out in the collective body politic is a process that has been gestating in the depths of the human psyche over millennia (please see my article Shadow Projection: The Fuel of War). There has been a preparatory process going on within the human psyche over the history of our species that has unleashed the very forces that are at work today in the world. Jung writes, “what the unconscious really contains are the great collective events of the time. In the collective unconscious of the individual, history prepares itself.”[xxviii] World events are being cooked up in the crucible of the collective unconscious of humanity into living experiences.

Jung elucidates, “What future developments are being prepared in the unconscious of modern man…It depends on us whether we help coming events to birth by understanding them, and reinforce their healing effect, or whether we repress them with our prejudices, narrow-mindedness and ignorance, thus turning their effect into its opposite, into poison and destruction.”[xxix] We are potential spiritual midwives, who by ‘understanding’ the psychic nature of ‘future developments,’ ‘reinforce their healing effect’ and birth ‘coming events’ into incarnation through the womb of the psyche. The psyche, which is pregnant with open-ended possibilities, is the very cipher in which the history of humanity is being written. Jung writes, “The world today hangs by a thin thread, and that thread is the psyche of man.”[xxx]

The psyche is historical, in the sense that its development can only be understood in the context of its personal and collective past. History, which is the psyche’s revelation of itself, is not only being given birth to within the psyche; the psyche itself is the very force which in-forms and gives shape to history. The psyche is simultaneously historical and trans-historical, however, which is to say that the psyche atemporally abides outside of linear time yet simultaneously generates events experienced by humans as historical time. Though within its very structure is written the whole history of humanity, the psyche is at the same time teleological, in that it is purposeful, seeking its own actualization. Jung writes, “Anything psychic is Janus-faced: it looks both backwards and forwards.”[xxxi] The psyche is like a pivot through which, both on the individual and collective levels, we choose either to look backwards and re-create the unhealed past, or step into consciously participating in our own creative future evolution in the present.

The psyche doesn’t solely belong to a self-contained, particular person, but is related to the collective, which is to say everyone, as the psyche exists in and as an underlying, all-pervasive field which in-forms and gives shape to all of life. To quote Jung, “the psyche is not only a personal but a world problem.”[xxxii] The psyche is like an omnipresent atmo“sphere” that exists in all times and throughout all space. The psyche expresses itself like a fractal, in that it uses synchronistic iterations of itself to express itself in multiple dimensions simultaneously – within ourselves, in relationship with each other, and throughout the collective organism of humanity. Jung comments, “the psyche of a people is only a somewhat more complex structure than the psyche of an individual. Moreover, has not a poet spoken of the ‘nations of his soul?’ And quite correctly, it seems to me, for in one of its aspects the psyche is not individual, but is derived from the nation, from the collectivity, from humanity even. In some way or other we are part of a single, all-embracing psyche.”[xxxiii] In his own researches, both with his patients and within himself, Jung had tapped into a supra-personal psyche that he called the collective unconscious, a dimension of reality in which we are all contained through our infinitely intricate interconnectedness. Pointing at the nonlocality of the psyche, Jung writes, “the psyche does not exist wholly in time and space…For the psyche this means a relative eternality and a relative non-separation from other psyches, or a oneness with them.”[xxxiv] Commenting on a collective evolutionary process that is taking place within the psyche of humanity, Jung writes, “Our world has shrunk, and it is dawning on us that humanity is one, with one psyche.”[xxxv] We are beginning to wake up, due to evolutionary necessity, to the fact that we are indivisibly interdependent, only existing in relation to each other. We are, by our very nature, one human family. Just like when one family member changes it propels the whole system to reconfigure itself, each single person waking up to the fact that ‘humanity is one’ changes the whole world’s psyche, the soul of the World. When one person in this moment realizes the reality of the psyche, which is to become lucid in the waking dream called life, this particular person’s realization nonlocally registers throughout space in no time whatsoever, changing everything.

Jung could just as well have been talking about our current war(s) when, speaking about World War I, he says, “The whole war was a psychical phenomenon…It was simply the time when that thing had to happen from unknown psychical reasons. Any great movement of man has always started from psychical reasons.”[xxxvi] The source of any great transformative collective movement of humanity throughout history, be it constructive or destructive, is the human psyche. Jung comments, “I can see no sense in our blaming the war for things that have happened to us. Each of us carried within himself the elements that brought on the war.”[xxxvii] Most people don’t realize that wars are themselves full-bodied expressions of inner psychic processes being played out in the world theater (please see my article Archetypal Dimensions of World Events). Commenting on the Second World War, Jung said that it “was recognized as an unmitigated psychic disaster only by the few. Rather than do this, people prefer the most preposterous political and economic theories.”[xxxviii]

Just like a dream supplies all the evidence we need to confirm the seemingly objective truth of the viewpoint we are holding within it, once the sociopolitical insanity plays itself out in the form of war, we have all the proof we need that the conflict is outside of ourselves. It is then nearly impossible to convince anyone that the source of the conflict lies within the psyche of every individual. The psyche becomes exteriorized, as an internal psychic conflict then takes place on the plane of projection outside in the world in living flesh and blood in the form of war. To quote Jung, “In the same way that the atom bomb is an unparalleled means of physical mass destruction, so the misguided development of the soul must lead to psychic mass destruction.”[xxxix]

As if an iteration of the same, underlying fractal, the psychic forces that animated the totalitarian psychosis (what I call “malignant egophrenia”) that inspired the two world wars of the previous century are actively at work creating war in our current day and age. Being Janus-faced, however, hidden in this psychic dis-ease is a profound potential blessing. Jung points out that “the totalitarian psychosis with its frightful consequences and the intolerable disturbance of human relationships are forcing us to pay attention to the psyche and our abysmal unconsciousness of it. Never before has mankind as a whole experienced the numen of the psychological factor on so vast a scale.”[xl] Jung is articulating that the psyche, in its full-blown numinosity, is manifesting in, as and through our world crisis as if the psyche is a higher power. Just like the unconscious compensates a one-sidedness through the dreams it sends our way, the totalitarian psychosis that is playing out in the world today is the very compensatory form through which the psyche is trying to get our attention about the psyche’s profound importance. The totalitarian psychosis running rampant throughout the world today is the psyche’s way of revealing to us that we are forgetting the very role the psyche plays in creating our experience. Marginalizing our own authorship and authority, we then dream up totalitarian forces to limit our freedom and create our experience for us. A true conjunction of opposites, the totalitarian psychosis is both a horror, as well as a potential revelation showing us how we have disconnected from our own creative power. A quantum phenomenon, how the madness plays itself out depends upon whether we recognize what it is revealing to us about ourselves.

It is high time for us to pay attention to the psyche’s role in human affairs. Paradoxically, both the origin as well as the potential re-solution to our world crisis are to be found within the subtle organ of the psyche (please see my article Shadow Projection is its own Medicine). To quote Jung, “a complete spiritual renewal in needed. And this cannot be given gratis, each man must strive to achieve it for himself. Neither can old formulas which once had a value be brought into force again. The eternal truths cannot be transmitted mechanically, in every epoch they must be born anew from the human psyche.”[xli] What is born anew from the human psyche is the awareness of the reality of the psyche, as we become the instruments through which the psyche becomes aware of itself. Jung writes, “It is our own psyche, constantly at work creating new spiritual forms and spiritual forces which may help us to subdue the boundless lust for prey of Aryan man.”[xlii] The potential re-solution to our world crisis is emerging out of, into, and through the human psyche itself within each person. Since there are no absolute boundaries between an individual’s psyche and any other part of creation, none of us are separate from the cosmic creative principle itself; in fact, we are that principle incarnated in human form. This is to say that each of us is ultimately identical with the divine source of creation itself.

Jung writes “no explanation of the psychic can be anything other than the living process of the psyche itself.”[xliii] This means that these very words about the psyche are the “living process” of the psyche reflecting upon itself. Jung reminds us that “We should not forget that in any psychological discussion we are not saying anything about the psyche, but that the psyche is always speaking about itself.”[xliv] Not just in these words, but in everything, at every moment. The universe is an oracle, an instantaneous feedback loop that is a living revelation of itself, and it is speaking symbolically, just like a dream. Literally.

The psyche is the means by which we observe the psyche; it is in the peculiar position of being simultaneously subject and object of its own contemplation. In the domain of the psyche, the observer is truly the observed. Jung writes, “there is no knowledge about the psyche, but only in the psyche.”[xlv] Instead of the psyche being within our brains, just like a dream, we are inside the psyche. Jung comments, “the psychical is no longer a content in us, but we become contents of it.”[xlvi] We are indeed ‘such stuff as dreams are made.’ To quote Jung, “Far, therefore, from being a material world, this is a psychic world”[xlvii] (please see my article One Great Dream of a Single Dreamer). Recognizing the psychic nature of reality is to recognize that, just like in a dream, the inner is the outer. Recognizing the mysterious co-relation between what is occurring in the world and what is happening within our own minds empowers us to become dynamic transformative agents in our world. Instead of unconsciously reacting to our projections as they appear out in the world, our relationship to our projections and our world radically changes. Recognizing ourselves in the world, we become en-abled to play with our projections in a way that serves the whole field, ourselves included.

Jung over and over reiterates in his writings that the greatest danger which threatens humanity comes from our own psyche. Millions of us can fall into our unconscious together and reinforce each other’s madness, feeding a contagious psychic epidemic in which we unwittingly become complicit in supporting the insanity of endless wars (please see my article Diagnosis: Psychic Epidemic). Unconscious psychic forces are the active world powers which rule over humanity. “The powers of the psyche” are so unimaginably vast that, in Jung’s opinion, they “are far mightier than all the Great Powers of the earth.”[xlviii] The psyche is an active power that can’t be form-fitted into a limited, materialistic world view that sees the world as separate from itself. Hidden within the psyche, like a treasure in encoded form waiting to be discovered, is an incalculable meta-nuclear power which, as history shows, can transform entire civilizations in unforeseeable ways. Jung says, “the investigation of the deeper levels of the psyche brings to light much that we, on the surface, can at most dream about.”[xlix]

What would happen, I find myself imagining, when more people investigate and more fully realize, not intellectually, but experientially, the living reality of the psyche? What would it ‘bring to light?’ Being that recognizing the psychic nature of reality simultaneously transforms both the psyche as well as our experience of ‘reality,’ how would the psyche, and the world, reflect back this realization? How would the human dynamic of our present day world change, I wonder, if the psyche was realized to be the ground and origin of all that occurs in our world? How would we, as individuals, be different than we are right now? The psyche itself is an always-available, living portal through which we can both transform ourselves and re-create the world in which we live. It is our greatest gift. Being that this gift is a passageway to the healing and evolution of our species, what if we more fully open it?

A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. Paul is also a visionary artist and a spiritually-informed political activist. He is the author of The Madness of George Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis, (click here to read the first chapter). Feel free to pass this article along to a friend if you feel so inspired. Please visit Paul’s website with Paul Levy | Awaken in the Dream. You can contact Paul at [email protected]; he looks forward to your reflections. Though he reads every email, he regrets that he is not able to personally respond to all of them. © Copyright 2010.

Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, par. 667.

[ii] Jung, Letters, vol. 2, p. 69.

[iii] Jung, Psychology and Religion: East and West, CW 11, par. 16.

[iv] Ibid, par. 836.

[v] Jung, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, vol. 2, p. 986.

[vi] Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, par. 748.

[vii] Jung, Letters, vol. 2, p. 71.

[viii] Jung, Psychology and Religion: East and West, CW 11, par. 448.

[ix] Jung, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, vol. 1, p. 396.

[x] Jung, The Practice of Psychotherapy, CW 16, par. 203.

[xi] Jung, The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. 47.

[xii] Jung, Psychology and Religion: East and West, CW 11, par. 770.

[xiii] Ibid, par. 771.

[xiv] Ibid, 931.

[xv] Jung, Psychological Types, CW 6, par. 78.

[xvi] Jung, Letters, vol. 1, p. 117.

[xvii] Jung, Letters, vol. 2, p. 342.

[xviii] Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, CW 9i, par. 291.

[xix] Jung, Freud and Psychoanalysis, CW 4, par. 665.

[xx] Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, par. 357.

[xxi] Jung, The Development of Personality, CW 17, par. 165.

[xxii] Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, par. 651.

[xxiii] Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 213.

[xxiv] Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, par. 683.

[xxv] Ibid, par. 658.

[xxvi] Jung, Psychological Reflections, p. 14.

[xxvii] Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, CW 9i, par. 206.

[xxviii] Jung, The Symbolic Life, CW 18, par. 371.

[xxix] Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10, par. 731.

[xxx] Jung, Psychological Reflections, p. 14.

[xxxi] Jung, Psychological Reflections, p. 15.

[xxxii] Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections, p. 132.

[xxxiii] Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10, par. 175.

[xxxiv] Jung, Letters, vol. 1, p. 256.

[xxxv] Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10, par. 779.

[xxxvi] Jung, The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. 46.

[xxxvii] Jung, Analytical Psychology: Notes of the Seminar given in 1925, p. 85.

[xxxviii] Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, par. 424.

[xxxix] Ibid, 428.

[xl] Jung, The Practice of Psychotherapy, CW 16, par. 442.

[xli] Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10, par. 443.

[xlii] Ibid, par. 190.

[xliii] Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, par. 429.

[xliv] Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, CW 9i, par. 483.

[xlv] Jung, The Development of Personality, CW 17, par. 161.

[xlvi] Jung, The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. 57.

[xlvii] Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, CW 8, par. 747.

[xlviii] Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10, par. 326.

[xlix] Ibid, par. 330.


Well-known member
Sep 2, 2009
Dear CPU
If that is some kind of answer to the question originally posed -
Then can you get Herr Jung to summarise it? -
as an answer it is just TOO F**ING LONG:mad:


Sep 25, 2012
Planet Lunatic Asylum
What can I say? This Civilisation is Insane, Drugging everyone isn't working, & individuality & collectively we create our own reality & need to find a deeper realisation, awareness, consciousness & appreciation of the psyche & life - before it's game over on this particular planet/experiment - Not that I really care too much any more what the outcomes are.
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