Speaking about World War I, Jung could just as well been commenting on our current war when he said, “The psychological concomitants of the present war- above all the incredible brutalization of public opinion, the mutual slanderings, the unprecedented fury of destruction, the monstrous flood of lies, and man’s incapacity to call a halt to the bloody demon- are uniquely fitted to force upon the attention of every thinking person the problem of the chaotic unconscious which slumbers uneasily beneath the ordered world of consciousness. The war has pitilessly revealed to civilized man that he is still a barbarian, and has at the same time shown what an iron scourge lies in store for him if ever again he should be tempted to make his neighbor responsible for his own evil qualities.”
Jung was illumining the root cause of war itself, which is to be found in the unconscious psyche of humanity. Jung was pointing out the underlying psychological lesson of war, which is that to project the shadow, our darker half, outside of ourselves, is an “inner” act which always results in incredible destruction in the “outer” world.
Shadow projection is itself the unmediated expression, revelation and playing out of the shadow. Shadow projection, the process in which we “demonize” our enemies, entrancing ourselves into believing that “they” are inhumane monsters who need to be destroyed, is the underlying psychological process which, when collectively mobilized, is the high-octane fuel which feeds the human activity of war.
Commenting on the human act of projection, Jung said, “Properly understood, projection is not a voluntary happening; it is something that approaches the conscious mind from “outside,” a kind of sheen on the object, while all the time the subject remains unaware that he himself is the source of light which causes the cat’s eye of the projection to shine.” When we shadow project, we hypnotize ourselves into relating to our own shadow as if it is outside of ourselves. Jung talked about “…the overweening pretensions of the human shadow, which we so gladly project on our fellow man in order to visit our own sins upon him with apparent justification.”
In shadow projecting, we split-off from and try to get rid of a part of ourselves, which is a self-mutilation that is actually an act of violence. In the act of shadow projecting, we disassociate from a part of ourselves and “split” (in two), turning away in revulsion from and severing our association with our darker half, as if we have never met it before in our entire life. We throw our own darkness outside of ourselves and see it as if it exists only in others. We then react violently when we encounter an embodied reflection of our shadow in the outer world, wanting to destroy it, as it reminds us of something dark within ourselves that we’d rather have nothing to do with.
In the act of shadow projecting, we perpetrate violence (both psychic and/or physical) not only on ourselves, but on the “other” who is the recipient of our shadow projection. This act of external violence is nothing other than our inner process of doing violence to a part of ourselves changing channels and expressing itself in, as and through the external world. In trying to destroy our projected shadow in the outer world, however, we act out, become possessed by and incarnate the very shadow we are trying to destroy.
Trying to kill our shadow as it appears in the outer world is itself the embodied reflection of our original inner act of splitting off from, projecting out and trying to destroy the dark part of ourselves, which is the impulse at the very root of shadow projection in the first place. In other words, our present-moment “inner” activity of projecting the shadow “outside” of ourselves is being dreamed up and played out in the seemingly “external” world. The outer world is the canvas upon which our inner process em-bodies, or incarnates itself. We are literally acting out on the world stage our very inner process of disassociating from, projecting out, and trying to destroy our own darkness. The inner psychological process of shadow projection is spilling outside of the boundaries of our skull and is manifesting and revealing itself in the outer world through collective world events. Just as in a dream, our inner psychological process is projected outside of ourselves, and both literally and symbolically, dreamed up into materialization in the seemingly outer world.
Once we collectively shadow project, just like in a dream, the seemingly outer universe will reflect back our projected shadow in the form of someone who will play out and thereby justify our projection by supplying all the evidence we need to confirm the apparent truth of our shadow projection. When a group (or a nation) co-operatively project the shadow onto an agreed upon enemy, we literally “dream up” the universe to incarnate the very shadow we are collectively throwing outside of ourselves, which continually justifies our initial act of shadow projecting in a self-generating feedback loop that is truly daemonic.
In shadow projecting, we become bewitched by our own reflected and dis-owned shadow, thinking it exists objectively, separate from ourselves. In trying to destroy our own shadow, we find ourselves in an endless conflict with no “exit strategy” that, moment to moment, we ourselves are unknowingly feeding, supporting and creating. Trying to destroy our own projected shadow is a genuine form of madness, as it is an insane battle that can never be won. It is like trying to extinguish a fire by pouring gasoline on it.
To the extent that we are entranced by our shadow projections as existing outside of ourselves, we are moment to moment hypnotizing or casting a spell on ourselves. Commenting on people who insist on projecting their shadow outside of themselves and refuse to self-reflect, Jung said, “Since reflection is so troublesome and difficult, they prefer to judge without restraint, not realizing that they are merely projecting and making themselves the victims of a stupid illusion.” When we shadow project, we are deceiving ourselves, which is to say that deep down, in the core of our being, we are lying to ourselves and becoming “victims of a (self-created) stupid illusion.”
Splitting off from our own darkness and projecting it outside of ourselves, to quote Jung, “…creates a dangerous situation in that the disturbing effects are now attributed to a wicked will outside ourselves, which is naturally not to be found anywhere but with our neighbor…. This leads to collective delusions, ‘incidents,’ revolutions, war- in a word, to destructive mass psychosis.” To disassociate from the darkness within ourselves and shadow project onto an “other” is not only a mad thing to do, but is truly “maddening” to ourselves and others, as it is feeding and supporting the madness in the greater body politic.
Jung wrote that “…the normal person…acts out his psychic disturbances socially and politically, in the form of mass psychosis like wars and revolutions. The real existence of an enemy upon whom one can foist off everything evil is an enormous relief to one’s conscience. You can then at least say, without hesitation, who the devil is: you are quite certain that the cause of your misfortune is outside, and not in your own attitude.” Projecting our own evil outside of ourselves seemingly relieves us of the burden of having to deal with the evil within us. And yet, projecting the shadow, by avoiding dealing with the evil inside of ourselves, is the primal act which generates the very “evil” that we are attempting to avoid in the first place.
Wars are manifestations of collective madness being acted out en masse on the world stage. At the root of this collective insanity is the propensity of humanity to fall prey to mass psychology and collectively project the shadow outside of ourselves. Jung said, “Nations have their own peculiar psychology, and in the same way they also have their own particular kind of psychopathology. It consists in the accumulation of a large number of abnormal features, the most striking of which is a suggestibility affecting the entire nation.” Jung continually warned that the greatest danger that our species faced were psychic epidemics in which millions of people fall into their unconscious together and because of their “suggestibility,” mutually project the shadow onto an agreed upon adversary, thus reinforcing each others’ disassociation, and hence, madness.
When enough people fall into mass psychology, they will dream up someone to play the role of leader who is an expression of their unconsciousness. Jung said, “Its leader will soon be found in the individual who has the least resistance [to falling into his unconscious], the least sense of responsibility and, because of his inferiority, the greatest will to power. He will let loose everything that is ready to burst forth, and the mob will follow with the irresistible force of an avalanche.” [Emphasis added] Because the so-called leader’s underdeveloped psychological process corresponds to the unconscious of the herd, in Jung’s words, “…it produces a psychic epidemic that swells like an avalanche.”
In a self-generating feedback loop, the so-called leader is the symptom of the unconsciousness in the nation, while at the same time being the mouthpiece or medium through which the underlying unconsciousness of the herd further incarnates itself in the greater body politic as a psychic epidemic. A revealingly similar reciprocal relationship existed between Hitler and the Germans in the 1930s, as is eloquently expressed by Walter Langer, author of The Mind of Adolf Hitler, “…the madness of the Fuehrer has become the madness of a nation, if not of a large part of the continent…these are not wholly the actions of a single individual but that a reciprocal relationship exists between the Fuehrer and the people and that the madness of the one stimulates and flows into the other and vise versa. It was not only Hitler, the madman, who created German madness, but German madness that created Hitler. Having created him as its spokesman and leader, it has been carried along by his momentum, perhaps far beyond the point where it was originally prepared to go. Nevertheless, it continues to follow his lead in spite of the fact that it must be obvious to all intelligent people now that his path leads to inevitable destruction.”
The so-called leader will be the amplifier through which the collective psychic virus will spread and propagate itself. (I talk about this in greater depth in my book The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis, which is available on my website www.awakeninthedream.com). The so-called leader becomes a portal through which a collective web of self-deception is endlessly woven, captivating all who invest in its reality. Speaking about Germany before World War II, Jung could just as easily have been talking about our current times when he said, “Thus the avalanche rolled on in Germany and produced its leader, who was elected as a tool to complete the ruin of the nation.” When mass psychology prevails, inevitably a leader manifests who embodies the unconscious shadow of the collective and becomes the instrument through which a process of complete and utter self-destruction becomes accomplished. Ours is a very dangerous time.
Though he was speaking of Hitler, Jung could’ve been talking about our current commander-in-chief when he said he, “…gripped the unconscious of normal people, who are always naïve and fancy themselves utterly innocent and right. The majority of normal people…are ridiculously unconscious and naïve and are open to any passing suggestion. So far as lack of adaptation is a disease, one can call a whole nation [psychically] diseased. But this is normal mass psychology, it is a herd phenomenon.”
When mass psychology presides, the so-called leader and his followers will collectively project the shadow onto an agreed upon enemy “out there.” To co-operatively shadow project is, of necessity, to dream up and empower the very enemy we are fighting against, as the two roles (the projector of the shadow, and the recipient/embodiment of the projection) mutually co-arise and reciprocally generate each other in an infinitely self-perpetuating feedback loop. It cannot be said often enough- to project out our shadow is of necessity to call forth an enemy, as these two roles feed into and off of each other. They are always found together, which is to say they are co-related parts of an underlying, unified field. A deeper process is becoming visible through their interplay.
To be able to shadow project we need an “enemy combatant” to project our shadow onto so as to cultivate and justify our act of shadow projecting. Shadow projection in never one-way, it is always mutual. At the same time that we are projecting our shadow onto our adversary, they are projecting their shadow onto us, as if we are two mirrors reflecting each other. In this act of reciprocal shadow projection, all participants re-inforce each others’ unconscious disassociation, feeding into the collective madness that pervades the field. To collectively shadow project and fight with our own projected shadow is nothing other than the repetition compulsion of the traumatized soul being played out in full-bodied form on the world stage, which is a form of collective madness.
Collective shadow projection is truly “diabolical” (whose inner meaning is that which separates and divides), as it is an expression (an effect) of madness while simultaneously being “crazy-making” (a cause of madness) for all concerned. In other words, collective shadow projection is a symptom of collective madness while, at the same time, being the very act which generates the collective madness of which it itself is a manifestation.
Jung said, “The psychology of the individual is reflected in the psychology of the nation. What the nation does is done also by each individual, and so long as the individual continues to do it, the nation will do likewise. Only a change in the attitude of the individual can initiate a change in the psychology of the nation. The great problems of humanity were never yet solved by general laws, but only through regeneration of the attitudes of individuals.” It is not through legislation, but only through a change in the individual that genuine transformation happens in the collective. Embracing the darkness within ourselves initiates a process of transformation in the darkness in the world. When enough of us individually withdraw our shadow projections, we non-locally affect and lighten the collective shadow of the greater body politic. When each of us individually heals the part of ourselves which projects the shadow, we can re-associate with ourselves as well as each other and collectively add light to and “e-lucid-ate” the darkness that pervades the field. Once we add the light of consciousness to the darkness, the darkness loses its autonomy and omnipotence, as it can no longer act itself out through us.
By illuminating the darkness within ourselves we are able to connect with each other in a state of “co-inspiring lucidity,” mutually helping and empowering each other so as to stabilize and deepen our individual and collective realization. Joining together in our shared lucidity (etymologically, the word “lucid” has to do with “light”), we discover how we can creatively put the light of our collective realization together so as to dis-spell and transmute the destructive effects of the darkness in the world.
Paradoxically, owning our darkness is to simultaneously own, step into and activate our inner light. The light within us is not the light we see with our eyes, it is the light by which we see. It is not a light opposed to darkness, but a light which embraces and transcends the duality of light and darkness. It is the light of conscious awareness itself.
Illuminating our inner darkness frees us from the unconscious compulsion to project the shadow outside of ourselves. Recognizing, owning and shedding light on our own darkness, we become able to help make the darkness in the world conscious. Withdrawing our shadow projections from the outside world, we become active agents and embodied representatives of peace.
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,which is available on his website www.awakeninthedream.com. (See the first chapter, The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis). Please feel free to pass this article along to a friend if you feel so inspired. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections. © Copyright 2010