Pearls from artists* # 562

June 7, 2023

“Shadow,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 26” x 20,” in progress

*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

Jung observed that complexes could affect groups of people en masse. He saw that certain moments seemed to be expressions of a collective shadow, a bursting forth of a mass psychosis; the repressed side of a whole group coming alive; a tribal Mr. Hyde. He saw this madness first-hand in Germany in the 1930s and wrote about it. But every era carries some measure of collective shadow.

One could argue that no moment in time has seen more of the reality of human darkness than ours. Having witnessed the Holocaust and faced the threat of nuclear war in the twentieth century, and now facing the environmental impact of fossil fuels and plastics in the twenty-first century, we are undoubtedly aware of more of humanity’s potential for destruction than any of our ancestors ever were. Such a view does not come from a moralizing stance. Our era has made forced witnesses of us all.

The shadow is about where we put the Devil – where do we allow darkness to be housed? Racism and bigotry offer the relief of foisting our group’s shadow onto another whom we view as lesser. Doing so enables us not to look at or feel our shadow, and not see our own worst selves. But this collective shadow of our modern culture is also bigger and wider than group-to-group projections. There are culture-wide or civilization expressions of the collective shadow.

Jung saw the widespread loss of connection to the inner life and to a lived spirituality as one of the primary illnesses of our time. He observed that people were no longer animated by the traditional religions… For Jung, this meant that we’ve lost the old way but not yet found the new, and are sitting in a spiritual vacuum.

Into that vacuum, without our awareness, has slipped our fascination with human technology. Observe people closely today and you’ll notice that we have an almost magical faith in our devices. People see their computers and phones as all-knowing and expect them to function perfectly all the time, and view pharmaceuticals as magic cure-alls. Where we used to put God, we now have put technology. Where spirit was, we have unconsciously placed human genius.

Gary Bobroff in Carl Jung: Knowledge in a Nutshell

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