In Germany Before the War

Today I was looking for one book and, as often happens, found something else which had been lost. It was a 1978 issue of Psychological Perspectives, which contained an article by Joseph Henderson in which he described a dream he had while near the Austrian border with Switzerland, before WWII. I have recalled this dream from memory a few times, and was interested to look at it and see how much I had recalled and how much I had forgotten.

Dr. Henderson had just been with Jung, discussing the situation in Germany and Europe generally. He had dreamed of a young man appearing at his door with the head of a bull, which symbolized an emotional impulse overcoming the rationality. Picasso used the bull image in his famous mural Guernica. The man with the head of a bull derives from the Minotaur, who ran the labyrinth beneath Crete. The Minotaur was born after Daedalus constructed a wooden bull in which Queen Pasiphae could hide and enjoy sexual congress with the white bull sent from the sea by Poseidon. The Minotaur was the offspring. It was eventually slain by Theseus. Daedalus provided him with a spool of flaxen thread by which he could find his way back from the labyrinth. King Minos shut Daedalus and his son, Icarus, in the labyrinth as punishment, but Daedalus had built the damned thing so he could find his way out. He constructed the wings for himself and his son and they flew away toward the mainland. Icarus flew into the sun, the wax on his wings melted, and he crashed into the sea. This is metaphorically what happens when a person, or a nation, gets too "godlike."

Crete was matriarchal, whereas the mainland, Athens, was patriarchal. The story gives a picture of the dangers beneath the matriarchy, the negative matriarchal forces. The labyrinth in a dream, like the spider web, suggests these forces. They entangle in emotional impulses and overcome the positive patriarchal forces of reasoned action. The ending of the story, which can be read like a dream, is that between the matriarchal and patriarchal forces there is the danger of the sun if you move too high up, and it will send you crashing into the sea, which represents unconsciousness, or loss of reason.

Dr. Henderson conferred with Jung, who showed him that Hitler and his entourage had left all reason behind, and were really just a mouthpiece for collective forces being let loose everywhere, and he lamented the destruction of the positive patriarchal forces. He wrote: "This, I felt, marked the beginning of a new realization expressed symbolically in a series of drawings by Picasso in which a bull-headed man is predominant, suggestive of the evil principle concealed in the labyrinth of the decadent period of Mycenaen culture in Crete. Picasso's first version of this, actually called 'Minotaur,' done in 1933, was a bull-headed man, a kind of nature god, associated with the Great Goddess in a deceptively harmless way. This was followed by a 'death-in-life' oxymoron,' to quote Joseph Campbell, appearing in the painting called 'Minotauromachy,' 1935. '... from the watery abyss, shading his eyes from the light, in polar contrast to the figure of the Sage, climbing aloft to escape the reality of the Dionysian terror ...' In the foreground is an eviscerated horse anticipating the horse that was to appear in the famous Guernica fresco in 1937, a horse that has been destroyed together with the horseman by the malevolent power of a bull with no human attributes."

It was while he was on the Austrian border, in a German speaking area, that he had the dream which I recalled in broad outline, but could not quite remember in its details. I had forgotten the "yellow hat," which is an essential part of the dream, because it shows where the power of the negative anima allied with shadow comes from, and why it has such a strong effect on men. It has similar godlike power as the Self. Here is the dream:

I dreamed my wife and I were in Munich and were about to enter a theater. In the foyer ushers were passing out pamphlets describing the typical Nazi propaganda of the time; how Germans were offspring of the superior Aryan race and were entitled to acquire the necessary lebensraum to accommodate their "master race" and so forth. I was unimpressed by this material and recognized its superficiality in the dream. Then I was told I might enter the theater but I must leave my wife outside. I entered and found the auditorium filled with men. As I took my seat I saw an enormous woman on the stage dressed in a gown that fell from her neck to the floor spreading out at the bottom so that it had a triangular shape, divided vertically in two, one half black and the other red. On her head was a small round yellow hat. The men were singing and completely under her influence as if she were a conductor. Her arms were not visible but her head moved from side to side mechanically like a metronome. As she moved it to the right all the men on that side sang loudly; as she moved it to the left the others came in; as she straightened up they all sang in unison. I had no reaction to this woman or to the enthusiasm of the men and realizing I was out of place, I rose and left the theater.


Dr. Henderson analyzed his dream as being an inner picture of the outer events taking place in Nazi Germany. The woman was the negative anima, who had achieved a hypnotic power over the men in the theater. No women were admitted because no real woman can respond to a man's purely anima inspired enthusiasm. A real woman, he wrote, "...would immediately cast doubt upon the validity of the enthusiasm, since, however powerful, it is at bottom always an illusion, and in this case an extremely dangerous one."

He further examined the seminars Jung had given in the 1930s, in England, on Nietzsche's "Thus Spake Zaarathustra."

"Nietzsche anticipated the style in which this was being expressed as an enthusiastic willingness to live for the moment, with no regard for where it might lead. (His) Superman was the model for this kind of inspired madness which promised to become divine. In the case of Nietzsche it did lead to madness, and we know now to what it led National Socialism."

The woman was not, he pointed out, a pure anima figure, but a distorted one. The mechanical movement of her head was reminiscent of the Nazi salute and the regimentation and brutality of the storm troopers. The red and black triangular form suggest something sinister rather than seductive. "Today," he wrote, "it is clear to me that this scene represented no ordinary case of anima possession, but the fatal collision, leading to a kind of psychotic identification, of the anima with the archetypal shadow, which made its effect so sinister."

Jung asked in a seminar what makes this identification between negative anima and shadow so dangerous, and made clear that it is because it is underrated. We aren't afraid enough of it because we don't recognize that it carries within it god-like powers of the Self. "This explains the little yellow hat on the woman's head, as a symbol of some conscious realization akin to the Self which could achieve control over and above the conflicting opposites represented by the dress with its black and red colors. But this is only the suggestion of a Self-image, not an effective counterpole for the satanic shadow in the dream that controls the whole figure's movement including the head. In the Thus Spake Zarathustra seminar Jung had pointed out that Nietzsche's fatal disregard of the shadow came from his having announced through the medium of Zarathustra that God was dead. If God is a transcendent spiritual reality, how can man know enough to say that he is dead? Only by inflating himself to a position of god-likeness. So ran the argument in these seminars, and this was being enacted for all to see by the deification of Hitler in Germany."

Posted: Thu - September 10, 2009 at 01:54 PM