The Jung Cult
Comment on Ouspensky mutterings…
15.06.09 at 9:20 am ·
I am in the midst of reading a book entitled ‘The Jung Cult: The Origins of a Charismatic Movement’ by Francis Noll
I appreciate some of the Jung material, but decided, before getting more deeply involved, to try and learn something about Jung’s social context. I want to be able to appreciate and use ideas and methodologies, but remain adult and autonomous in relation to such methods and such systems.
I want to be appreciative but not to become an inmate of anyone’s system, no matter how useful I happen to find it for my own private use.
Noll’s book is of the utmost value, even if one does not happen to be interested in Jung’s work. Noll shows us a method we can use to become and remain adult in relation to charismatic guru figures.
Noll studied the history, culture and sociology of the place and time and ideas that formed Jung’s own social context, and that of Sigmund Freud. He also utilizes the work of Weber and suggests, very forcefully that Jung did not in the end function as a scientist, but created a society of discipleship around himself.
Now, what is of interest to Darwiniana’s readers is that Noll gives us a terrific list of sources that can applied very much further than even the career of Jung.
1) Noll shows us that the 1890s to 1920s were especially fertile for elitist study circles and reform societies. He focuses on Central and German speaking Europe and desribes many of the Volkish philosophies that were in vogue–various belief systems that people were formed by their countries and terrains of upbringing, that Germans had a special root to their northern geography, versus Jews and others who were rootless, and genetically orginated from desert areas.
Noll has a lot to say about Neitszche. He commented that there was no single movement that derived from N. That people were inspired by him but too their inspirations and invoked his name as part many, many different trends of influence.
Noll also described the impact of Wagner–Wagner was also part of this Teutonic revival moment and wanted to create an opera house that would actually be a site for an initiatory/tranformational experience in which Germans would get ecstatically in touch with their ancestral energies by making pilgrimage to Bayreuth, and then listening to the Wagnerian Ring Cycle of operas, to emerge thrilled, exalted and transformed….
Some of these volkish philosophies remained benign. But others went on to form ideological roots of National Socialism–Nazism.
Noll also utlizes Webers methodology to desribe the process by which Jung and Steiner and Keyserling, became charismatic leaders of their study circles and then, after their deaths, how their charisma became ‘routinized’ and institutionalized as a source of legitimation for successors (eg the various Gurdjieff spin off groups today)
Noll also tells us about the appeal of such elitist study groups, in which members considered themselves outsiders, but with a special destiny, set apart from and in opposition to mainstream society.
Finally, I must mention yet another thing I found a revelation. Noll told how these volkische movements and societies created a seekers scene in Southern Germany and especially Switzerland, a terrain that included Kusensacht, where Jung lived, Bollingen, Ascona, and Burgholzi, the town in which Jung trained and practiced psychiatry at the local asylum.
According to Noll, people pushed themselves too hard, were at risk of suffering breakdowns, and some for whom such breakdowns were severe would have landed at Burgholzi psych ward–where Jung practiced.
So when Jung reported solar symbols and mandalas amongst the halluciantions of his schizophrenic patients–he does not always tell us whether these people had been pre-exposed to elements of Volkish philosophy, with its emphasis on solar symbols, runes, nordic myths and images.
So some of Jungs schizophrenic patients may *not* have been ideologically naive at all–some of them may well have arrived at Burgholzi psych ER with their heads already full of material from Teutonic revivalist fantasies, and were, even if temporariliy, inpatients in a clinic situated in the 19th to early 20th Century Swiss equivalent of Marin County, San Francisco, Sedona, Arizona, Totness in Devon, UK, or Byron Bay, Australia–all nodes on today’s seekers circuit!.
According to Noll, this really was a proto hippie scene of sorts. People hiked, sometimes strenuously, dieted, tried what drugs were available in those days, went on Teutonic vision quests.
This may still be the case today, because some weeks ago, in the news, there was a story about upcoming elections in Appenzell, a conservative canton in the Alps, located in a lovely and famous area which has attracted many hikers from other German speaking countries. The Appenzellers were angry because many visitors from Germany were hiking in the nude, and refused to give respect to the modesty of the local culture.
So the citizens of Appenzell voted to make nude hiking illegal in their area.
This to me shows that the brutish visitors had no respect for the modest people who make their homes in Appenzell’s mountains. The selfish visitors were probably following a vision of private bliss, caring only about their private concepts of place and rootedness, feeling free to disrobe caring only for the beauty of the mountains.
The people who had lived in Appenzell were part of German culture. They’d lived amidst those mountains for centuries. They disapproved of public nudity–but as far as the vistors were concerned, the Appenzellers could be ignored.
Only the landcape mattered to the visitors. The people for whom that landcape was indeed home–mattered nothing. Such is the selfishness of any ideology, even volkishmus, when taken to extremes.
So I say all this to encourage people to appreciate ideas and even systems, but remain adult in relation to them. Find out the social background and ambitions of whoever created a system that fascinates you.
And especially do this before you become too emotionally and financially involved.
Noll tells us that Jungs American students would have lacked the cultural and linguistic background to know about Jungs ideological roots in Volkish revivalist philosophies.
And later in his career, Jung published and taught much more in English, and became to emphasize alchemy, the Grail myth and gnosticism, shifting his earlier Volkische interests into the background.
Nolls can help us take a similar adult and autonomous stance in relation to our own intellectual and spiritual mentors. He make it clear that Jung created a most interesting body of ideas. But he also makes it clear that too much of this was based on Jungs personal charisma and tight control, making it a context in which the material could not be tested scientifically.
And, ironically for a man who spoke of individuation, Jung offered himself as the role model of individuation. To be truly loyal to Jung, one must avoid
being charismatically beguilled by him. In a way, Noll has taken a true individual path–because publishing his book probably brought him real hardship, perhaps even hatred from persons charismatically invested in Jung, and unwilling to become adults in relation to their admired role model.
Hats off and my best bow to Richard Noll. He gives us a method by which to assist us to appreciate someone’s ideas, yet at the same time avoid the trap of discipleship–to learn from someone while keeping control of our projections, our energies–psychologically, emotionally and even financially–and at a time when finances of are of the utmost importance to us all. .
Note: Noll has extensive footnotes and mentions James Webb as a most valuable source of information–most noteably Webb’s book The Occult Establishment.