Current Events from a Jungian Perspective – An Interview with Murray Stein

Murray Stein, supervising analyst at the International School of Analytical Psychology {ISAP} in Zürich offers his thoughts on recent attacks by IS in this short interview with Laura London. Stein explains that many times in human history, a person or group of people is able to tap into an archetype with devastating consequences. Archetypes are powers in the human unconscious that express themselves through symbols an often can affect large numbers of people. When people (such as IS) are gripped by an ancient ideology, such as a dream of reviving an ancient caliphate, they are capable of monstrous deeds.

At the time of the outbreak of World War I, European nations were gripped by a nationalistic anxiety. Thus a small event, the assassination of Francis Ferdinand led to an explosive response that no one could control; explosive because it was rooted in the collective psyche. Stein is concerned that a similar volcano could erupt today, set off by a small event such as Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian aircraft.

He notes that many European countries today are also in a state of high anxiety. Having long histories and traditions they assimilate other cultures, such as Muslims, with difficulty, and that leads to deep seated resentment among Muslims.

What is a Jungian to do now in the face of the crisis? Murray quotes Jung who felt that a transformed individual has a great power to influence the collective. Outer political action is likely to be ineffective. However the sane person who has discovered himself at a very deep level can have an effect far and beyond his individual sphere. Jung liked to quote a Chinese saying, “When a man sits in his room and thinks the right thought, he will be heard thousands of miles away.”