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Fig 3.5 – Wotan Myth

Text: Pages 112 and 113

One of the greatest contributions of Jung to political understanding was the belief that a society can experience a “social psychosis.” In a 1936 essay, “Wotan,” Jung ventured apologetically into the political realm. He believed that Nazism was the manifestation of a Wotan archetype, a collective unconscious psychological reaction to sociopolitical forces. This was exemplified by the powerful Wotan myth, the Germanic god of storm, frenzy, and war that was immortalized by Richard Wagner in The Ring operas.

The question for Jung was whether the German psyche would produce the positive or negative force of a “bipolar” Wotan. In 1945, writing After the Catastrophe, Jung admitted he was mistaken about the bipolar Wotan as the German people had a destructive unconscious relationship to Wotan, “a Faustian pact with the devil.” He concluded that the German people were still under the psychological influence of polytheism, which had been interrupted by Christianity. This influence only provided a veneer of civilization and concealed the primitive, destructive, and demonic forces that lay dormant in the collective unconscious.

Although his analysis of the Wotan myth was incorrect, lost because of the mistake, was his significant contribution to political understanding that cultural mythology, archetypal energies, unconscious shadow, and symbol can grip a nation.

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