To Our Readers
Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we do about living. This is our 20th century’s claim to distinction and to progress.
Army General Omar N. Bradley, November 10, 19481
In 1954, not even a decade removed from two cataclysmic World Wars that changed the world forever, Jung summed up the existential terrors that still threaten us:
The gigantic catastrophes that threaten us today are not elemental happenings of a physical or biological order, but psychic events. To a quite terrifying degree we are threatened by wars and revolutions which are nothing other than psychic epidemics. At any moment several millions of human beings may be smitten with a new madness, and then we shall have another world war or devastating revolution. Instead of being at the mercy of wild beasts, earthquakes, landslides, and inundations, modern man is battered by the elemental forces of his own psyche. This is the World Power that vastly exceeds all other powers on earth. The Age of Enlightenment, which stripped nature and human institutions of gods, overlooked the God of Terror who dwells in the human soul. If anywhere, fear of God is justified in face of the overwhelming supremacy of the psyche. (1954/1981, CW 17, ¶302)
The violence wrought by the Russian invasion of Ukraine reminds all of us of how fast a blitzkrieg can be mobilized, how far-reaching the actions of one nation can be, and how much human suffering can be initiated in a few days. Given the unrelenting series of catastrophes that appear in our newsfeeds every day, it is clear that we are living in a chronic traumatic stress period (CTSP). Jung captures the nature of the root of our chronic trauma so well as “the sickness of the age in which we live”:
If we are honest, we must admit that no one feels quite comfortable in the present-day world; indeed, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable. The word “crisis” so often heard, is a medical expression that tells us that the sickness has reached a dangerous climax.
When man became conscious, the germ of the sickness of dissociation was planted in his soul, for consciousness is at once the highest good and greatest evil. It is difficult to estimate the sickness of the age in which we live. (1964/1978, CW 10, ¶¶290–291)
So where does all of this leave us? There is only one thing I do know for sure. The monumental crises of our time continue to reduce (or elevate) us to our core, opening us into the great unknown about the future.