Friday, August 18, 2017

Wotan Time: Being Seized by a Dark Archetype

In November 1932, Jung declared in a speech in Vienna that "the gigantic catastrophes that threaten us today are…psychic events. To a quite terrifying degree we are threatened by wars and revolutions which are nothing other than psychic epidemics.”
     Four years later, as the full horror of Nazism unfolded, Jung gave a name to the psychic epidemic that had seized Germany. He suggested that Hitler, in himself a hollow man, had been seized by a dark force and that through him the collective mind of the German people had been possessed. He expressed these thoughts in a 1936 essay titled “Wotan”.
     Jung brought out of Teutonic mythology a dark archetype, the wild and furious figure of a war god ever hungry for blood, who drives men to crazy and violent excess. “Because the behavior of a race takes on its specific character from its underlying images, we can speak of an archetype 'Wotan’... Wotan is an Ergreiffer [possessor] of men, and, unless one wishes to deify Hitler – which has indeed actually happened – he is really the only explanation."
     Jung observed, “We are always convinced that the modern world is a reasonable world, basing our opinion on economic, political, and psychological factors... In fact, I venture the heretical suggestion that the unfathomable depths of Wotan’s character explain more of National Socialism than all three reasonable factors put together.”
    In a letter to Miguel Serrano, he added, “When the belief in the god Wotan vanished and nobody thought of him anymore, the phenomenon originally called Wotan remained; nothing changed but its name, as National Socialism has demonstrated on a grand scale. A collective movement consists of millions of individuals, each of whom shows the symptoms of Wotanism and proves thereby that Wotan in reality never died, but has retained his original vitality and autonomy. Our consciousness only imagines that it has lost its gods; in reality they are still there and it only needs a certain general condition in order to bring them back in full force.”
   I wish we could say that none of this is relevant to our current conditions.

Note: We want to separate Odin, the shaman-god of the Eddas, from the bloodthirsty entity Jung was talking about. Just as we would wish to separate the swastika - a symbol of transformation in the Baltic, in India, and among the Pueblo - from the crooked cross of Naziism (though alas, thanks to the Nazis, it is now probably impossible to reclaim that symbol in the West).

Illustration: This is also troubling. In the year Hitler was born, 1889, Franz von Stuck made a painting of the Die Wilde Jagd, the Wild Hunt, showing Wotan leading a crazed band of hungry ghosts. At 13, Hitler saw the painting and was fascinated. Von Stuck became his favorite artist. Some people see a strong resemblance to Hitler in the face of the leader of the mad and deadly hunt in the picture.


Lynetta said...

Apt and appropriate, thank you. I read with apprehension, at first, until I saw you so clearly separate Wotan from Odin. The confusion of the two, even in much of the 'scholarship' surrounding them, really troubles/irritates me. Your post is a first-class reminder of the dark sources of the times we move in.

filledb said...

Well point out a happier time. I can't think of one....

Stellanorte said...

This makes so much sense and sheds light on shadow "events," how powerful a complex can be, when energy finds a conduit....

nina said...

Well, yes there are many similarities with today´s paranoic thinking of many. Even so there are simultaneously happening incredibly "good-will" activities - although on a much smaller scale. Just reminds me of a very good documentary called The Man Who Saved the Louvre. Probably many people already saw it but if not, it´s an impressive story of Jacques Jaujard who along with many heroic curators and art historians saved the Louvre collection from Nazis. I am wondering what kind of archetypal deity stood behind his vision and behaviour.
Thank you very much for a wonderful post.