E.F. Edinger: “On the Psychology of Terrorism”
Unpublished letter written in 1995.
Terrorism is a manifestation of the psyche. It is time we recognized the psyche as an autonomous factor in world affairs.
The psychological root of terrorism is a fanatical resentment – a quasi-psychotic hatred originating in the depths of the archetypal psyche and therefore carried by religious (archetypal) energies. A classic literary example is Melville’s Moby Dick. Captain Ahab, with his fanatical hatred of the White Whale, is a paradigm of the modern terrorist.
Articulate terrorists generally express themselves in religious (archetypal) terminology. The enemy is seen as the Principle of Objective Evil (Devil) and the terrorist perceives himself as the “heroic” agent of divine or Objective Justice (God). This is an archetypal inflation of demonic proportions which temporarily grants the individual almost superhuman energy and effectiveness. To deal with terrorism effectively we must understand it.
We need a new category to understand this new phenomenon. These individuals are not criminals and are not madmen although they have some qualities of both. Let’s call them zealots. Zealots are possessed by transpersonal, archetypal dynamisms deriving from the collective unconscious. Their goal is a collective, not a personal one. The criminal seeks his own personal gain; not so the zealot. In the name of a transpersonal, collective value – a religion, an ethnic or national identity, a “patriotic” vision, etc. – they sacrifice their personal life in the service of their “god.” Although idiosyncratic and perverse, this is fundamentally a religious phenomenon that derives from the archetypal, collective unconscious. Sadly, the much-needed knowledge of this level of the psyche is not generally available. For those interested in seeking it, I recommend a serious study of the psychology of C.G. Jung.
Exerpt from the Archetype of the Apocalypse (1999), “Editor’s Preface,” p. xvii.