Reposted from Awaken In The Dream
As if living in a never-ending “war-time,” the drumbeats of war are once again fast approaching. The country I live in, the United (sic) States of America, is already involved in multiple wars—some overt, others covert—and its recent assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, widely recognized as an act of war, indicates that the US government is itching to go to war with another sovereign nation – Iran.
We should be clear – war is an epidemic of madness. Most wars are pointless, creating hell on earth, with no benefit to our national interests—or anyone else’s either—except for the war profiteers. Our government’s reliance on military solutions, what has been called its “war psychosis,” is pathological, a form of mental illness. Modern-day humanity is confronted with, to quote the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, “a crisis of sanity first of all.” The fact that we, as a species, are investing our creative genius to conjure up an endless war which is unceasingly draining us of our most precious resources is complete and utter madness.
The United States, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, “has gone mad on war.” Our country doesn’t seem to know how to imagine solutions outside the paradigm of war. Once the cycle of violence starts and the dogs of war are unleashed, there is simply no stopping nor predicting it. A force of nature unlocked, once the Pandora’s box of war is opened, there is no coaxing the genie back into the bottle. Like a cancer, war metastasizes and spreads, steamrolling all peaceful solutions under its relentless, circular and self-justifying logic. War is the ultimate feedback loop: We define ourselves by defining our enemy, who we then try to kill, who now has no choice but to see us as the enemy and subsequently tries to kill us back, which confirms our notion that they are indeed an enemy deserving to be killed, ad infinitum.
War is a living flesh and blood example of how human societies can fall prey to systems of behavior that are entirely of our own creation that can sweep up and devour all who are involved. In the war machine, our species has created a robotic out-of-control Frankenstein monster that generates its own self-perpetuating momentum; war is simultaneously its own cause and effect. Once enlivened, this self-created war-mongering entity develops a seemingly autonomous will and quasi “life of its own,” independent of its creator – us. This is why the doctor of the soul C. G. Jung calls war, “a being in itself.”
With sufficient investment of resources, the beast of war breaks all human restraints and runs amok, wreaking untold havoc all over the planet, as we are swept up and enlisted in its inexorable momentum, drafted into its gravitational field-of-force, unable to escape from its iron grip and the out-of-control hell of our own making.
The fact that throughout our lifetime there has not been a moment free of one group waging war on another makes war seem normalized, as if it is just the way things are, part of the shared human experience. This thought-form is a lie, inspired and fed by the very same energy that animates war itself. Psychic epidemics like war can only take place when there is a collective lowering of the state of consciousness, an abaissement du niveau mental. Steeped in the fog of war, we become psychically blind, like zombies, sleepwalkers in a dream, lemmings headed for the sea, unable to escape from the downward pull into war’s never-ending sinkhole of unimaginable carnage and destruction. Once in the grip of the madness of war, our fate is sealed, as we are fully conscripted to fulfill its fatal goal.
In war, it is as if we—a species suffering from a collective form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—are compulsively enacting our unhealed trauma on the world stage. In modern times, many people apparently find the most captivating manifestations of power to be in that which destroys, rather than that which creates, which is an expression that our unconscious is filled to the brim with un-integrated trauma. Similar to the repetition compulsion of the madness of trauma, whereby in trying to heal from our unresolved trauma we endlessly doubledown and re-create the very trauma from which we are trying to heal, in our interminable drive towards war, we are suffering from a seemingly endless inability to learn from our past mistakes, never learning the lesson that war is not, and can never be, the answer. The origin of this process is the human psyche.
War is an inflammation, an outbreak in the world’s body politic reflecting a deeper systemic disease in the underlying psyche of humanity. In collective events such as wars, we are seeing through a looking glass into the world-soul of humanity as it is being played out—for all who have eyes to see—on the global stage. War is an irrational phenomenon that can’t be stopped or controlled with rational arguments, for its source is the shared unconscious of humanity, which is to say that the roots of war are to be found deep within the unconscious psyche of humanity.
Analogous to how an individual in the throes of addiction will insanely act out behaviors contrary to their own best interests, in war this same self-destructive process is collectively acted out writ large in the global body politic, a process in which the world is compulsively driven to do exactly what everyone flees from in terror. The roots of this self-and-other destructive process—both on the individual and collective level—are to be found nowhere else than within the human psyche. As Jung simply states, “It is the psyche of man that makes wars.”
Most people are more than happy to try to understand the cause of war with, in Jung’s words, “the most preposterous political and economic theories.” These theories might be true on one level, but are in actuality just the superficial coverings of the deeper psychological processes that have animated war from time immemorial. Once there exists enough evidence in outer events to support these theories, however, it becomes nearly impossible to convince anyone that the source of the disaster is to be found within the human psyche. The psyche is typically overlooked or neglected entirely as a source or causal agent in our planetary crisis, as we search for myriad external causes and solutions to the multiple crises we ourselves are collectively bringing about. These crises issue forth from the part of the empirical world that we, as a species, know the least about and are most disinclined to look – our own psyche.
Due to its ability to inform and give shape to world events, Jung calls the human psyche “the World Power that vastly exceeds all other powers on earth.” The greatest danger that threatens humanity today is the possibility that millions—even billions—of us can fall into our unconscious together, reinforcing each other’s madness in such a way that we create wars and become unwittingly complicit in creating our own self-destruction.
Shedding light on the human psyche, which is something only we—as individuals—can do through the act of self-reflecting is the very act that illumines both the darkness AND the light that lies hidden within us. As Jung writes, “whoever reflects upon himself is bound to strike upon the frontiers of the unconscious, which contains what above all else he needs to know.” Self-reflection is the beginning of the way to the solution that we, as a species, are so desperately seeking. No one, to my knowledge, has made this point better than Jung (though written at the end of World War I, his words are just as relevant today):
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…. If ever there was a time when self-reflection was the absolutely necessary and only right thing, it is now, in our present catastrophic epoch…. Individual self-reflection, return of the individual to the ground of human nature, to his own deepest being with its individual and social destiny—here is the beginning of a cure for that blindness which reigns at the present hour.
In essence, Jung is pointing out that never before in all of human history has our species been forced to confront the numinous, world-transforming powers of the psyche on so vast a scale – a process which, it can’t be emphasized enough, can only start in the individual. If we forget the crucial role that the psyche plays in creating our experience, we marginalize our own intrinsic author-ity, tragically dreaming up both internal and external authoritarian forces to victimize us, limit our freedom and mold our experience for us.
I imagine that the one thing that everyone—be they Iranian or American—can agree on is that there is a genuine form of madness that is being acted out in our world. The origin of madness, we should remind ourselves, is to be found within the human psyche. The roots of human behavior are not located in the material world but are to be found within the psyche, a realization which itself takes place within the psyche. If the source of our collective madness goes unrecognized, however, we deliver ourselves more and more into its hands, just as a typhus epidemic flourishes best when its source is undiscovered.
As we see in the world today in the war against terror, “the battlefield” has no boundaries, as it is to be found literally everywhere, not just in every corner of the planet, but in outer space, cyberspace as well as inside of our minds. Hidden within the psyche, however, is an incredible power which, as history shows, can transform entire civilizations in unforeseen ways. As Jung points out, what distinguishes our age from all others is that a consciously awakening humanity is literally being forced by circumstances to acknowledge and come to terms with the overwhelming might of the psyche – or else! This is a process that starts within ourselves.
P.S. – Here’s what one of my friends wrote after reading the article: “If we can only let go of the horror of war and the hope of peace, the mind falls straight and true to the effortless state that transcends both. This was the route that Shakyamuni took I think. The sole sufficient solution to the dreadful feedback loop of war is not promoting peace or suppressing the war-makers, but abiding in the foundational luminosity/emptiness/compassion of the Awakened Ones.”
- A distinction needs to be made: I am not talking about wars in which one country rightfully defends itself from outright aggression from another (an example would be the Allies fighting Nazi Germany in World War II). The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and (possibly) Iran do not fit this category.
- From the ruling elite’s point of view, they are just trying to accomplish hegemonic geopolitical objectives and are willing to sacrifice as many innocent people as necessary in order to accomplish their morally depraved goal. Their moral deficiency in having no compunction in doing so is where the mental illness lies.
- Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense during much of the Vietnam War, reflecting upon its horrors, writes, “we can now understand these catastrophes for what they were: essentially the products of a failure of imagination.” The same phrase – “failure of imagination” – was used during the Bush Administration as an excuse for why they weren’t prepared for the 9/11 attacks.
- This brings to mind what in psychology are called “autonomous complexes,” which is what indigenous people refer to as “demons.” See my book Dispelling Wetiko, 134-137.
- Jung, Dream Symbols of the Individuation Process: Notes of C. G. Jung’s Seminars on Wolfgang Pauli’s Dreams, 265.
- French psychologist Pierre Janet’s term, literally translating as “reduction of mental level.” It involves a weakening of the restraints and inhibitions of the ego.
- The Native Americans call this ‘wetiko,’ which is a form of psychic blindness that not only believes it is sighted, but thinks it is more sighted than those who have clear vision. I have written a book about this – Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (North Atlantic Books, 2013).
- McGuire and Hull, eds., C. G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, 74.
- C. G. Jung, Analytical Psychology: Notes on the Seminar Given in 1925, 85.
- Ibid., para. 471.
- C. G. Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, CW 7, p. 4.
- Ibid., pp. 4-5.
A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a wounded healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. Among his books are The Quantum Revelation: A Radical Synthesis of Science and Spirituality (SelectBooks, May 2018) and Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (North Atlantic Books, 2013). He is the founder of the “Awakening in the Dream Community” in Portland, Oregon. An artist, he is deeply steeped in the work of C. G. Jung, and has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for over 35 years. He was the coordinator for the Portland PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center for over twenty years. Please visit Paul’s website www.awakeninthedream.com. His email is email@example.com; he looks forward to your reflections.