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Three Pillars of World War III

Erel Shalit suggests that there are three distinguishing facets of the modern psychological attitude that augur a third world conflict.

Three Pillars of World War III

by Erel Shalit

“… looking at the world today, do you feel that a third world war is likely?"
… there are so many indications that one doesn’t know what one sees. … One thing is sure. A great change of our psychological attitude is imminent.
Face to Face Interview, 1959.

Dark clouds have gathered in the sky, and have wreaked havoc over the world that was. The notion has been expressed that September 11, 2001 marked the actual passage into the new millennium, or that it signifies the beginning of World War III, wherein the phantom dangers in the shadow have taken shape in the Golem, endangering the world by the very means of Western technology.

For years, the world has abounded with apocalyptic predictions. The hostile powers of Gog and Magog will, so it has been said, meet in battle before the world comes to its end (Revelation 20:8), and Armageddon has been described as the symbolical battlefield of the forces of good and evil at the end of times. (The actual place of Armageddon is Har Megido, a small hill in the Jezreel plain, a one-hour drive from my home in Ra’anana.)

Jung was acutely aware of and sensitive to the collective forces at play within the individual soul, as well as the impact of conscious and unconscious forces in the world at large, terming the relationship between these two dimensions synchronicity. During the year prior to World War I, for instance, he had the visions and dreams that he initially thought pertained to his being “menaced by a psychosis,” but later understood “coincided with [the experience] of mankind in general” (MDR, p. 175-6). In one vision he saw “mighty yellow waves, the floating rubble of civilization, and the drowned bodies of uncounted thousands” (ibid.), undeniably and profoundly attuned to the shadow-forces at work.

Likewise, many of us can report synchronistic accounts from patients - who often are intuitive and sensitive enough to attend to and pick up what takes place in our world before it actually happens, just like some animals sense the slight tremors that precede an earthquake. In my own practice I did not observe any instances of premonitions of the September 11 terrorist attacks; however, “meaningful coincidence” is not uncommon among my analysands, since the summer of 2000, when hope-inducing dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians broke down and turned into hateful hostility, it may well have been overshadowed by the severe, overt and widespread anxiety – the immediate concern about the welfare of friends and family, as well as the catastrophical fear about the country’s capability of survival.

After the rise of Nazism, Jung was temporarily, yet regrettably, fascinated by the archetypal eruption of pagan forces, prominently Wotan the god of wind and storm, in spite of his own warnings against archetypal identification: “identification with a preconscious wholeness, possesses a prodigious psychic virulence, or power of contagion, and is capable of the most disastrous results” (CW 8, p. 224-5). He recognized the Führer as the deified carrier of a projected Self, but his value-judgement (feeling function) misled him.1

Following the war, Jung wrote some of his most exceptional works, as regards the individual as well as the collective, or objective, psyche, for instance After the Catastrophe (CW 10. This piece, however, does as well contain some dubious exculpations of Jung’s). His central thesis, repeated in a variety of ways, was that “the principal and indeed the only thing that is wrong with the world is man” (CW 10, p. 216), or, man is “the origin of all coming evil.” As Jung said (in the Houston Films, Face to Face), the world hangs on a thin thread – man’s soul.

We may extract three essential characteristics from the above:

• Where there is ego, there is shadow. The one does not replace the other, but they should, rather, interact and be related, which is the responsibility of the conscious ego – the shadow knows all too well by itself to make its presence felt. Where wealth is attained, poverty must be related to. As matter is refined to merchandise, its origin in Mother Earth must be respected. The Other – whether person, nation, era (past or future) must be related to. The shadow not related to implies pathology of Eros.

• The ego can gain its spirit from the Self, and be ensouled by relating to the Self, and learn its craft from the architectural blueprint of the Self. When the ego is inflated and tries to replace the Self, catastrophe ensues. Modern science and technology have transcended the state of devising mechanisms that extend the arm of the inventor, and they now bring forth self-generating genes and robots. The DNA-based computer supposedly already exists in the laboratories. But the development is not paralleled with a love of wisdom (philosophy). Sophia has been discarded in the shadow, thinking is one-sided and limited. There is pathology of Logos.

• Archetypal identification inevitably brings madness and destruction. Then, one’s war is holy, the world order must be violently overthrown, and while claiming godly rights, the Other represents the evil to be “rightfully” destroyed. Where we find archetypal identification, the ‘final, elevated’ goal supposedly justifies the means, whether extermination camps or terrorism. Archetypal identification indicates pathology of Mars. Mars is necessary in the process of the archetype’s fragmentation into complexes, which then need to be related to and partly assimilated into the ego; otherwise Mars becomes acted out onto the other. For people in quest of meaning and relatedness, it is difficult to accept that dialogue is not viable as long as archetypal identification persists, and we may be misled into a “Mr. Chamberlain’s ‘give-it-a-chance’ attitude,” as Jung said (CW 10, p. 206). Terror and terrorism is a weapon in the hands of someone whose hand you cannot shake. Peace and dialogue, agreement and disagreement, fury and embrace, lamb and lion cannot dwell together under such circumstances.

The work of repair and re-civilization can only take place when the painful cry for life as living reality, rather than the archetypal flight to divinity by destruction of the enemy, is heard from within the suicide bomber’s killing womb.

As Jungian’s, perhaps we are obliged to strengthen the psyche’s self-regulation, and compensate a not-good-enough-consciousness – with relatedness where shadow is projected; with mindfulness where the brain is one-sided, and by strengthening complexity where there is identification with archetypal totality.

Morally, we must ensure that we avoid that “darkest places in hell,” which, says Dante, “is reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”

© Erel Shalit 2002. All rights reserved.


1. “… take the name ‘Sturmabteilung’ –Storm Troops. Storm, you see-wind. … And all these symbols together of a Third Reich led by its prophet under the banners of wind and storm and whirling vortices point to a mass movement which is to sweep the German people in a hurricane … on to a destiny which perhaps none but the seer, the prophet, the Fuehrer himself can foretell-and perhaps, not even he” (Jung Speaking, p. 118)

2. Jung Speaking, p. 436