I published my first post on corona way back on 25th July 2020. At that time, I had topics for about the first four posts and, although I never expected to write thirty-seven posts, I figured I should come up with a catchy name. Just for fun, I’d been mucking around with inventing some corona neologisms and had created a pretty long list. It turns out corona works very nicely as a prefix. Some examples: coronamusement, coronatentment, coronaphoria, coronannoyance, coronasentment, coronaversion, coronavulsion, coronaffender, coronaformer, coronapentance, coronappointment, coronanimity and, of course, coronapocalypse. A year and a bit later, I now consider my choice of title to be another synchronicity because what we are witnessing now is, if I’m correct, the end of not just one but several historical cycles including perhaps the biblical meaning of apocalypse as the end of the Christian era. In order of time and importance, these cycles are: the neoliberal period of the last thirty years, the US/British empire and the global dominance of European civilisation of the last couple of hundred years, the era of materialist science which drove that empire and, taking the theme from Jung’s Aion, the end of the period of the Antichrist which was itself the second half of the Christian era captured astrologically in the Age of Pisces giving way to the Age of Aquarius. Here’s a graphical representation.
In my first book on corona – The Plague Story – I was primarily concerned with the materialist science part of the story. My main guides were the works of Gregory Bateson, James C. Scott, Gerald Weinberg and others who had written some of the major critiques of materialist science in the 20th century especially in relation to its manifestation in bureaucratic-authoritarian governance structures. I argued that corona was exactly the error caused by what Scott called High Modernist Ideology which, in a nutshell, is the notion that science was the solution to all our problems and all we have to do is put experts in charge of everything and a shiny, high-tech utopia will inevitably follow. This ideology was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was common to many political theories including Marxism. It was in the name of Marxism that the idea was pushed to its ultimate conclusion in both the USSR and Maoist China. The result was the deaths of tens of millions of people mostly from starvation. That should have been enough real world evidence about the matter but the 20th century also saw the ideology implode from within science itself most notably quantum mechanics. That’s why Shroedinger, Niels Bohr and others ended writing a lot on philosophy because they had seen materialism’s failure in practical, scientific terms. Corona represents the first time the high modernist ideology has been applied on a mass scale in the West. Scott’s work showed in grim detail where the interaction of that ideology enforced through rigid bureaucracy leads and we are now experiencing it directly in our daily lives. That explanation made sense to me but I had the intuition I was missing something. I had tried to find it in the chapters of The Plague Story which dealt with the denial of death, the declining economic conditions implied by corona and a few other bits and pieces. After finishing the The Plague Story, I continued to write the other posts in this series until finally I arrived at Jung and the pieces fell into place which led to the notion of The Devouring Mother as the archetype that had taken over during corona. I realised that what was missing from the High Modernist Ideology expalanation was the psychological background which Jung had already described in detail and with great clarity.
The psychological requirement for an individual or society to fall into the high modernist trap is the dissociation of the conscious mind from the unconscious. This happens in a number of ways. The breaking from tradition, often involving the break up of the family structure. The rejection of religion as the primary mode of symbolising the contents of the unconscious and bridging the gap to the conscious mind. The debasement of art as another bridge to the unconscious. The replacement of all these with state-sponsored education which, in the high modernist period, means a “scientific” education (although very little real science is conveyed in our modern education system). The encouragement of rational thinking without the counterbalancing input from the unconscious leads to psychic dissociation. When combined with the bureaucratic structure where the decision maker’s decisions are based entirely on abstractions with no connection to the real world, the results are disastrous. We don’t normally notice the problem because such dynamics are normally only mild inconveniences such as when you need to get your driver’s licence renewed or get some piece of paperwork from the government. When applied to important matters like the growing of food or the management of a pandemic, the results are exactly what we saw during the 20th century and are seeing now. Within the Jungian perspective, it is no coincidence that both the USSR and Maoist China waged war on religion, that they censored art, that they featured the uprooting of populations and the attack on traditional values to be replaced with state-mandated education. It was those measures which created the psychological conditions that enabled the high modernist ideology to flourish. A very similar thing happened in the years prior to Nazi Germany: the defeat of WW1, the humiliation at Versailles and then the chaotic years of the Weimar Republic. All these had the impact of destroying traditional values and upending the natural relationships in society leaving Germany ripe for archetypal takeover. The High Modernist Ideology is the symptom. The underlying problem is psychological. Destroy art, religion and tradition and replace it with scientific materialism and you leave yourself open to psychic epidemics.
Thus, it is no coincidence that our archetypal takeover by The Devouring Mother during corona was preceded by thirty years of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, along with the information revolution (the internet, social media etc) have psychologically done to us what was done in Weimar Germany, Stalinist Russia and Maoist China. To my mind, the most eloquent critic of the neoliberal agenda was Sir James Goldsmith. The interested reader can check out this video filmed in 1992. Fittingly, it was Goldsmith’s Schumacher Lecture named after another of the 20th century’s great critics of materialism, E.F. Schumacher. Among other things, Goldsmith warns in the video about the dangers of mucking around with the genetic engineering of viruses. It doesn’t get much more prescient than that given what we now know about the lab in Wuhan. But it’s Goldsmith’s warnings about the social and psychological effects of neoliberalism that I think are even more important in the corona story because they mirror the warnings that Jung had already made. With neoliberalism, we kicked those psychological processes into overdrive: the deification of (materialist) science as a secular religion transmitted through the education system, de-socialisation caused by the uprootedness of the population, broken families representing a break from tradition (note: this is why The Orphan archetype has been dominant during corona), the increasing dissociation of people from “nature” as they leave the land and take to the cities. Every one of Goldsmith’s warnings now rings true. They have come true right before our very eyes and we can trace them directly back to their cause: neoliberalism. The only thing that Goldsmith missed, and he couldn’t have known in 1992, was the advent of the internet. The information revolution has heightened all the processes that were already at play. We are drowning in information these days but we have completely lost the ability to make sense of it. The internet presents us with a sea of abstract information without the corresponding wisdom to understand it. Thus, the voices of the real experts have been there from the start of corona but they were drowned out by the noise. Governments have stepped in to try and fill the void, to be the wise voice of reason (actually, more the stern voice of authoritarianism) but that has just given rise to the high modernist intervention. That’s all modern governments working through their bureaucracy are capable of.
The neoliberal movement is, of course, run by the same kinds of people who have always thought government and the “experts” should run things. The comparisons to communism are valid in that respect. The pattern is the same. Traditional society, what Goldsmith calls the “real nation”, is to be corrected, put in order and, if necessary, overturned so that society can be restructured according to rational principles and materialist science. But this is just another way to frame the psychic disconnect that Jung had identified. It’s the separation of the conscious mind from the unconscious. The rational mind wants to take over but it gets lost in a field of abstractions that bear no relation to reality. Goldsmith identified GDP as one abstraction. Nobody cares about GDP anymore. What we care about are corona “cases”. It’s the same error at work. Meaningless abstractions manipulated by bureaucrats with no tacit understanding of what is going on. It’s part of every real scientist’s training to know very precisely what is and is not being measured by abstractions such as “cases”, but government bureaucrats are not required to know. That’s the high modernist ideology at work. But the ideology is just the symptom. The underlying issue is psychological and it was this which Jung had already identified. Let’s take a few choice quotes from him:-
“Naturally the present tendency to destroy all tradition or render it unconscious could interrupt the normal process of development for several hundred years and substitute an interlude of barbarism.”
“Hence the ever-widening split between conscious and unconscious increases the danger of psychic infection and mass psychosis. With the loss of symbolic ideas the bridge to the unconscious has broken down. Instinct no longer affords protection against unsound ideas and empty slogans. Rationality without tradition and without a basis in instinct is proof against no absurdity.”
“But a predominantly scientific and technological education, such as is the usual thing nowadays, can also bring about a spiritual regression and a considerable increase of psychic dissociation. With hygiene and prosperity alone a man is still far from health, otherwise the most enlightened and most comfortably off among us would be the healthiest. But in regard to neuroses that is not the case at all, quite the contrary. Loss of roots and tradition neuroticise the masses and prepare them for collective hysteria. Collective hysteria calls for collective therapy, which consists in abolition of liberty and terrorisation. Where rationalistic materialism holds sway, states tend to develop less into prisons than into lunatic asylums.”
That is, of course, where we are now in western societies: a lunatic asylum.
Get rid of religion, get rid of sacred symbolism, get rid of stories, get rid of history, break up family ties and community and replace it all with “rationalist education” and the results seem to be the same every time. You get the decoupling of rationality from the unconscious. In the modern world with materialist science, you get the high modernist ideology. It’s because the underlying psychology is the same that the high modernist ideology can occur in cultures as diverse as Russia, China and the West. The psychological structure of man is the same everywhere in the world. Corona is the first time a high modernist intervention has been tried in the West but its arrival signifies the deeper psychological problems wrought be neoliberalism and the information revolution.
That is the psychological and ideological-political background to corona but the corona story, The Plague Story, is falling apart as we speak. The vaccines are not going to “work”. All the elements that make up modern western culture are involved in that failure: neoliberalism, the British-US empire, bureaucracy, the healthcare system, materialist science. What’s more, the failure is going to involve every single citizen in western nations. We have all been pulled in to this business, some willingly and some unwillingly. That failure would have been significant enough by itself, but it comes at a time of the rapid deterioration of the US empire and the global dominance of western European culture that has been in place for a couple of centuries. The neoliberal program was the last hurrah of that empire. It created the conditions for the rise of China and the forming of the Eurasian block as the counterbalance to western power. It is also created the conditions for Trump and Brexit causing a split within our socities. It is yet another synchronicity that the virus came from China during the presidency of Trump and that it was funded by neoliberal money. Some have suspected foul play; that the virus was a conspiracy either by China or by the neoliberal enemies of Trump. Those explanations posit the “cause” in the ego (conscious mind). With The Devouring Mother, I have tried to explain it by recourse to the unconscious mind and in the larger forces that are at play beyond the realm of human consciousness. In any case, neoliberalism had already hollowed out western societies from the inside and led to the rise of Trump and Brexit. At some point in the near future, I expect something will happen that will make clear exactly where the balance of power lies. We will see plainly that the US is no longer the sole superpower and perhaps no longer even the main power in the world. The Eurasian block will assert its strength. That is going to be a great shock to westerners and another blow right at the time when we are already psychologically, economically and politically frail. The fallout is going to hit hardest in the US and the countries in the inner circle of the US empire. I expect the fallout may actually hit hardest in Canada, Australia and New Zealand for several reasons. Firstly, unlike the US, we have benefitted, at least nominally, from the neoliberal agenda. As a result, politics in our countries have been stable, boring and monotonous for the last few decades. What that means in practice is that we have no alternative narrative on offer. If our leaders have any clue what is coming they are doing a very good job of hiding it. There is certainly no talk that I have heard about a Plan B. More importantly, our societies were founded by the British empire and our culture is based on materialist bourgeois society. Corona strikes at the heart of our very identity. I am sure this is the reason why the corona response has been so much more hysterical in our countries than elsewhere. What is at stake here is fundamental in a way that is not true even in the United States.
As corona has been conducted in the name of “science”, its failure is going to be a huge blow to the prestige of science. I think the blowback will be big enough to put an end to the age of materialist science (aka the Antichrist). It was this which I addressed in detail in post 11 of this series, giving it the name that Kenneth Clark gave: heroic materialism. Heroic materialism was the application of materialist science to bourgeois society creating the material abundance that we all enjoy. Applied to the natural world, it works wonders for building bridges and flying rockets to the moon. It doesn’t work in the biological world. That was the lesson learned the hard way in the USSR and Maoist China and it is the lesson we are learning the hard way right now. As I have alluded to above, we should already have known this from the lessons from quantum mechanics, cybernetics and systems thinking. But those lessons did not filter through to the broader culture. The broader culture is still running on the heroic materialist idea that science can solve every problem. Corona is going to destroy that illusion. The best case scenario now is that the vaccines will be ineffective. The worst case scenario is that they will be actively harmful. Either way, I don’t see a pathway through this where the whole thing is not an abject failure. That failure has already affected every citizen in western societies. Thus, the magnitude of the matter is enormous and the political and cultural fallout will be equivalent. It may take months or it may take years, but I expect that to happen. In the process, the reputation of institutionalised science will have been dragged through the mud and heroic materialism with it. With any luck, we can use this failure to re-establish the limits of the materialist paradigm so that “science” in general does not disappear entirely.
Finally, we come to the last and longest cycle outlined by Jung in his book Aion. The Age of Pisces is coming to an end and the Age of Aquarius about to begin. These have astrological significance which most people nowadays would not take seriously. What is more crucial is the meaning which Jung gave to this. To summarise an entire book in a few sentences, he believed the Age of Pisces was the age of Christ who was a symbol of the archetype of the Self. The Self represents the psyche consisting of the ego (consciousness), the shadow, the anima/animus and the unconscious. Religion and art are, among other things, a way to connect the conscious mind with the unconscious through symbols and the Christ symbol was the way in which knowledge of the Self was made manifest and brought into a form that consciousness could incorporate. No coincidence then that the fall of religion in the west has been tied to the rise of hubris and egotism. Our unconstrained ego is no longer counterbalanced by the unconscious. This leads to psychic epidemics and corona is the latest of those. The rise of materialist science occurred in the period of the Antichrist which had already been predicted at the beginning of the Christian Era. What was also predicted was the apocalypse, which was the end of the whole cycle. Jung believed we were coming to the end of that cycle right now. The period of Christ was the time when we were invited to understand the Self but the understanding of the self is not a pleasant experience. In Jungian terms, Christ on the cross is a symbol of the pain of individuation i.e. incorporating our shadow and facing our soul. That seems to me to be exactly what is happening right now in the West. The failure of corona is going to be enormously painful mostly because we will realise that it is we who have done this to ourselves. It is happening most acutely here in Australia. We have turned our country into a kind of hell. It is a very bourgeois hell. The pantry is still full of food (for most people) and we can all sit on the couch and share our opinions on facebook (as long as we have the right opinions). This is fitting. Australia was founded on the bourgeois ideal just like New Zealand and Canada. It’s that ideal, backed by the empire which secured it and running on materialist science which created it, which is going away. The end of the Aion of Christ/Pisces is the invitation to face the Self and that is precisely what seems to be coming our way. We think we are fighting a virus but we are really fighting ourselves. The “invisible enemy” is the unconscious mind that the ego has become untethered from. The process of individuation is the re-establishment of our connection to the unconscious and the facing of the Self. That is what is portended by the Age of Aquarius. The Age of Pisces was the formulation of the Self through the figure of Christ. Now we must put that formulation into action. That is how I understand Jung’s meaning in Aion.
Corona represents the last hurrah of the period of the Antichrist/Materialist Science. We are stuck in a hall of mirrors grasping at “scientific” abstractions that no longer work. Our leaders and the “experts” have been wrong at every turn for the last one and a half years. Not just a little bit wrong, but exactly the opposite of correct. That, in itself, is weird. Politicians are experts in not making statements to which they can later be held accountable. That is almost half the job of a politician. Yet our politicians, especially here in Australia, have made statement after statement that instantly and continually turned out to be wrong. If the Prime Minister of Australia came out this morning and said the sky was blue, I would fully expect it to turn green by sundown. That is a fitting end to the age of the Antichrist; the inversion of everything. Democratic societies turned authoritarian, truth turned to lies, authority turned to absurdity. It is this we are going to have to face in the years ahead. How we get there is the only question. We may blame the unvaccinated, we may then blame the “science”, we may finally blame the politicians, but ultimately we will have to face ourselves. That would be a fitting way to start the new Aion. A mass, collective individuation process at the societal level. Of course, the alternative is the one that Jung warned of: an extended period of barbarism of exactly the kind we are seeing now in Western nations. Perhaps that is what is needed to trigger the individuation process.
That is the conclusion I have reached through more than a year of blog posts on this subject and seems a fitting way to end this series. I can see now that The Plague Story was an ego-based, conscious explanation for what had happened during corona while The Devouring Mother is an explanation from the unconscious. This conclusion, therefore, presages a third book which would be a combination of the two perhaps against the backdrop on Jung’s Aion. The thesis would be that corona is the turning point to the new Aion. I’m not sure I’m ready to tackle that project yet and in any case I might be wrong. I suspect the answer will come very shortly. I think the next six months are going to be decisive. Lenin once said that there are decades where nothing happens and weeks where decades happen. I wonder if the same applies to centuries and even to millennia? We may be about to find out.
All posts in this series:-