Opinion

Jordan Peterson: Carl Jung and America’s Undiscovered Self

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Posted: Jun 15, 2021 12:01 AM
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Jordan Peterson: Carl Jung and America’s Undiscovered Self

Source: AP Photo/John Raoux

Before there was Jordan Peterson, there was Carl Jung (my new book, Citizen Trump  shows Jung’s hidden influence on Trump). He was one of the leading minds of the 20th century and a counter to Sigmund Freud.

Jung, like Peterson today, used the archetypes of good storytelling to explore the culture-changing forces like Order vs. Chaos or the persona as the Shadow to disclose the role of the character in the larger world. 

Trump made his fortune tapping into the power of these stories, as he explains in his 2004 book, How to Get Rich. 

Peterson admits Trump might very well be the Shadow of American culture and politics. Same chaos, different day thanks to an out-of-control media bowing to the false idol of big tech. Can new forces transform us? Jung, in The Undiscovered Self, answers “yes.” 

Jung, in the 1950s, warned the extremes of Right and Left of inevitable doom. In the case of the Right, he desired to contain religious dogma or nationalist fervor. For the Left, he warned not to fall for scapegoat tactics of State-driven ideology disguised as justice. 

Today, our binary rhetoric makes it impossible to communicate in inclusive terms.

As a result, hopes for change seem dimmer than ever before, with a civil war more likely on the horizon. That’s something few of us would have believed could be possible in our lifetimes, but the signs seem very familiar to history scholars. 

Perhaps our American checks and balances have run amok? As Thomas Jefferson hoped, a well-educated middle class could restrict the power of an expanding state and tame dichotomous war. Jung deepened the insight by exposing that state is too a religion.

Jung cautions the Left not to be so naive as to think these forces can be explained by race or gender or by the name of a political party. A party not governed by a “life-preserving myth of the inner man, which Christianity has treasured.” 

What of the positive trust also built by the traditional family and faith legacy? 

Jung adds, “People call faith the true religious experience.” Still, outsiders do not stop considering the deep roots and sacrifice of blood and treasure, “trust and loyalty” that go with religion - the blood on the beaches of Normandy.

The Undiscovered Self, born out of the horrors of World War II, exposes the darker currents absent the Christian self. Without hope, men and women find “political saviors” or benevolent dictators. 

He warns the individual that “ultimately everything depends on the quality of the individual, but our fatally short-sighted age thinks only in terms of large numbers and mass organizations.” 

As promoted by mass media sales, America’s obsession with political parties dismisses the smaller self-organizing groups such as families, churches, or cultural centers, as envisioned by the Founders. 

Instead, the media joined technology, and China Inc, to form new secular Temples. Jung again makes a crucial but seldom heard point, “A million zeroes joined together do not, unfortunately, add up to one.”

Some on the Right will fall into extreme patriotic-militaristic or unbridled free-market extremes, with the independent thinker lost in the herd. The Left’s misjudgment is that employment and economics alone will check state fanaticism.” 

During the Cold War, the Right galvanized the world against a foreign adversary. Since then, that same enemy has made its way like cancer into the American educational system. 

As a result, a pseudo-Marxism overtook the Western Christian model, which meant a desperate need for cultural chemotherapy. 

Since Jung completed his work, other thinkers like Jordan Peterson have taken his inclusive baton today, with non-binary nonpolitical solutions, on the now suspiciously labeled “dark web.” 

Peterson re-framed the debate as to the survival of the individual soul against the forces of the state. He also ended the Marxian demand that all religion be removed from the public square, aware that its absence leaves the state to play God. 

Their warnings that "the socialist dictatorships are religions and state slavery" is a form of worship. Beyond the primary role of government, they’re empathetic to human suffering and to the desperate mass’s efforts to find an opiate in the state.  

Peterson, painfully aware of this fact, tries to catch the coming catastrophes at the college level when he suggests we begin by making our beds and cleaning our rooms before setting out to save the world.

As long as humans rule, we will have poverty, injustice, misunderstanding, and even war. We are obliged to make it better and strive for the highest ideals.  

Still, the human project remains how to live despite these inequalities, not seek external enemies because “the truth” is on your ideological side. 

In the end, we are each in a psycho-spiritual battle of our own doing.