Jung's Wandering Archetype: Race and religion in analytical psychology, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Jung's Wandering Archetype

Race and religion in analytical psychology, 1st Edition

By Carrie B. Dohe


266 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

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Is the Germanic god Wotan (Odin) really an archaic archetype of the Spirit? Was the Third Reich at first a collective individuation process? After Friedrich Nietzsche heralded the "death of God," might the divine have been reborn as a collective form of self-redemption on German soil and in the Germanic soul? In Jung’s Wandering Archetype Carrie Dohe presents a study of Jung’s writings on Germanic psychology from 1912 onwards, exploring the links between his views on religion and race and providing his perspective on the answers to these questions.

Dohe demonstrates how Jung’s view of Wotan as an archetype of the collective Germanic psyche was created from a combination of an ancient discourse on the Germanic barbarian and modern theories of primitive religion, and how he further employed völkisch ideology and various colonialist discourses to contrast hypothesized Germanic, Jewish and ‘primitive’ psychologies. He saw Germanic psychology as dangerous yet vital, promising rebirth and rejuvenation, and compared Wotan to the Pentecostal Spirit, suggesting that the Germanic psyche contained the necessary tension to birth a new collective psycho-spiritual attitude. In racializing his religiously-inflected psychological theory, Jung combined religious and scientific discourses in a particularly seductive way, masterfully weaving together the objective language of science with the eternal language of myth. Dohe concludes the book by examining the use of these ideas in modern Germanic religion, in which members claim that religion is a matter of race.

This in-depth study of Jung’s views on psychology, race and spirituality will be fascinating reading for all academics and students of Jungian and post-Jungian studies, religious studies and the history of religion.


‘Dohe’s careful study adds C.G. Jung to the ever growing field of intellectual redeemers in interwar Germany, who sought to salvage Germans from their disenchantment with modernity and a lost war. The figure of the Germanic god Wotan becomes Dohe’s leitmotif in her wide-ranging and thoughtful exploration of Jung’s search for a new spirituality. Jung’s deep imbrication in Nazism is not an aberration, but an aspect of this philosophy of self-validation and its heady brew of science and spirituality.’ - Michael Geyer, Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago, USA

‘Even though C.G. Jung was never fully accepted within the academic institutions, his influence on the arts, literature, new religious movements, generic spirituality, and, obviously, psychology of the 20th century was profound. Yet, the scholarly literature on the intellectual and ideological background of this Swiss pupil of Freud is not very impressive. In Jung’s Wandering Archetype Carrie B. Dohe knowingly synthesizes previous work and thoroughly depicts Jung’s attitude to the discourses on race, primitivity and spirituality of his time, as well as supply us with a careful analysis of his fascination for Germanic mythology and National Socialism.’ - Stefan Arvidsson, Professor in the History of Religions, Linnæus University, Sweden

‘More than fifty years after his physical death, Carl Gustav Jung’s ghost remains very much alive, but may need to be exorcized. The Swiss doctor who co-founded psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud, then broke with his mentor, is still romanticized by many as a seer for the modern age, a sage who wrested wisdom from the depths of the unconscious. Neither the fanfare surrounding the 2009 publication of Jung’s Red Book of dream visions, nor his depiction by the charismatic Michael Fassbender in the 2011 film, A Dangerous Method, seriously challenged this standard hagiography. Following such pioneers as Steven Wasserstrom, Carrie Dohe now has given us a finely researched account that explores the darker side of Jung’s theories and shows how his deployment of such categories as ‘Aryan,’ ‘Jewish,’ and ‘primitive’ applied the patina of science to dangerous racial stereotypes common in early-20th-century Europe. Jung identified National Socialism as a resurfacing of repressed elements of the German spirit, as represented by the God Wotan, or Odin. Jung’s positive estimation of this archetypal berserker figure as a sign of impending spiritual renewal signaled his embrace of the irrational in religion. Dohe’s conclusion that Jung’s mythopoetic science ‘lent universal significance and an undeserved dignity to yet another disastrous chapter of German history’ is convincing. Her book makes an important contribution to the recovery of some long-repressed episodes in the 20th-century history of religion. One hopes this will prove therapeutic for the discipline of religious studies.’ - Robert Yelle, Professor of Religious Studies, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Germany

‘An excellent study of Jung’s theory of a Germanic archetype and "Aryan" unconscious and how this theory has been used and misused by the ethnic and racist branches of contemporary Heathenism. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Dohe’s book is a notable contribution to existing discussions about Jung’s racial psychology and its influence on contemporary religious and spiritualist movements. As an insightful study of the darker undercurrents of European culture, the book’s relevance extends to the discussion of race and religion in contemporary politics and society.’ - Petteri Pietikäinen, Professor of the History of Science and Ideas, University of Oulu, Finland

‘Carrie B. Dohe’s Jung's Wandering Archetype is a major study of the historical context of Carl Jung’s obsession with myth-making and mythology. Given that this formed the core of Jung's psychological theory Dohe’s work goes a long way to placing him in the debates about the primitive that haunted neo-pagan ideology of the interwar period and was at the core of Jung’s considerable influence in American culture through the work of Joseph Campbell. This is a solid, readable, and important addition to our understanding of the origins and impact of neo-paganism on European and American theories of the mind.’ - Sander L. Gilman, Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychiatry, Emory University, USA

‘Carrie Dohe’s important new book marks the return of serious critical scholarship on Jung. For at least the past 15 years we have seen a resurgent Jung Industry recreate an ahistorical mythology fueled by Jung’s heirs and its sales force of self-proclaimed preeminent Jung scholars. Courtiers, not critical scholars, have produced one coffee table book after another that divert the public’s attention away from Jung’s deep German völkische roots and have restored a more marketable Jung as a perennialist mystic and literary genius (akin to William Blake or Goethe) who magically exists outside of history, race, and German cultural influences. Dohe convincingly documents the reasons why Jung is best understood as more of a problem for German cultural history and the history and sociology of religion than for the history of psychiatry.’ - Richard Noll, Ph.D., author of American Madness: The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox (Harvard University Press, 2011)

'Jung’s Wandering Archetype provides an innovative analysis of the racial premises of Jung’s supposedly universal theory of the collective unconscious and its archetypes. Reading in the original German, Dohe maps the social and cultural influences that contributed to these premises, and identifies the translation erasures that have hitherto concealed their full extent. Through her astute analysis of his "Wotan" essay, and by relating this essay to his work as a whole, she demonstrates Jung’s disturbing proposition that the Nazi program was the embodiment of a specifically Germanic archetype, one which held the potential for the collective individuation of the Germanic peoples.' - Celia Brickman, author of Race in Psychoanalysis: Aboriginal Populations in the Mind

‘Carrie Dohe's book is an exceptionally scholarly analysis of the place of Germanic racial ideology in Jung's psychology. Rather than glossing over Jung's obsession with race and with the German "race" as superior to any other, she shows how Jung's obsession infects his overall psychology. Her analysis of Jung's key essay, on Wotan, is superb. I strongly recommend Jung’s Wandering Archetype as one more recent corrective to the hagiographical view of Jung.’ - Robert A. Segal, Sixth Century Chair in Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen, UK

Table of Contents

1. "Something like Wotan"? 2. "Because we Germanic people still have a genuine barbarian in us: On Ancient Ethnographers, Humanist Thinkers, and Modern Theorists of Primitive Religion, or Where Jung Got His Ideas. 3. A "far finer and more comprehensive task for psychoanalysis": Science, Religion, and Self-Redemption in Analytical Psychology 4. The "paleontology of the soul": The Concept of Primitivity and Jung’s Theory of the Stratified Phylogenetic Unconscious 5. "Baldr comes home": From the Paleontology of the Soul to the Invention of a Germanic Mythology 6. Wotan and "the archetypal Ergriffenheit": A Tragedy in Three Parts 7. "After the Catastrophe": Wandering Diagnoses and Changing Relationships Post-"Wotan" 8. The "most complicated psychology": The reception of Analytical Psychology in Contemporary Heathenism 9. Conclusion: "man as he was – and will always be"? Racial Essentialism, Scientific Discourse, and New Spiritualities

About the Author

Carrie B. Dohe was a guest researcher at the University of Marburg’s Department of Religious Studies from 2010 to 2015, investigating how people use discourse about the divine to justify their social and political claims. Her current research looks at religiously-motivated environmentalist movements in Germany.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Nationalism
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Jungian
RELIGION / Religion, Politics & State