The Soul in Communism

Jozef Magdic
Murska Sobota, Slovenija
Association of Graduate Analytical Psychologists

My intention in this presentation is not to judge persons, but to examine communism psychologically. I’m aware that some may think this is nonsense, but living with ex-communists leads me to think about them. I believe in man’s capability of transformation, of individuation. I’m also acquainted with the statement, “There is a communist in every man,” and it is just this consideration that keeps me from dealing with communists negatively. I am quite a good judge of people around me, and I know of no family tree with no communists in it. So any offence to such a person would also be an offence to his relatives. If I held such offensive opinions of communists, many people would be frustrated, which would create a communist-like situation.

I once revealed my intention to deal with communism to a psychologist who had been living in a communist regime. He responded that there is no communism in his country anymore and so there is essentially no point in dealing with it. It is smarter to live the present life than to deal with the past. According to him, people who lived in communism should forget that they lived in communism. It is good, thank God, if a human psyche has such self-curing capability and mechanism. Jung’s analytical psychology strengthens this belief. The collective unconscious is stronger than either the individual unconscious or ego consciousness; psychic self-healing processes develop from below to above, and psychic rehabilitation is possible only through reaching archetypal depth.

Those who believe that one shouldn’t deal with the psychology of communism consist of three groups:

The first is composed of individuals who never lived in communism. In fact, they have no experience or idea of communism; why should they deal with it at all? These psychologists are not prepared to work with an ideologically burdened psychology.

The second group of psychologists are those who lived well in communism. Even today they miss communism, for then they belonged to the top level of people in control.

The third group lived in commnism but is still so deeply frustrated that, despite their high intelligence, they are not able to talk critically about this topic. Personally, I was in this third group, from which I got out after a long individuation struggle. I was born during World War II. My own ego conscioiusness and experience of this world’s reality began in communism. I took part in the destruction of communism. I am aware that it is much too arrogant to claim that human consciousness alone destroyed communism; it required the power of the archetypal collective level of the psyche.

There are still several communist territories in the world, but personally, I’m interested only in the Slav’s variant of communism, for the following reasons: communism’s first victory in our hemisphere was won in Slav territory. I am a Slav, and knowing the Slav’s soul makes it easier to comprehend the essence of communism.

At least one question arises: Is communism a sociological, psychological, or “religious” phenomenon? A comparative study between the specifically Slavic soul and the “contents of communism” should be done – not a general category of “the soul of communism.” In my opinion, psyche creates society and no society is created without psyche. So far, communism has been dealt with mainly from social and religious aspects, but not from a psychological aspect.

But when dealing with communism from a psychological aspect, I hear the remark that all dictatorships are the same. Perhaps this is mostly true. It took me quite a while to find the specificity of communist dictatorships, but it is present, not only in the sociological but also in the psychological sense. To understand the psychological specificity of communism, one has to think about its preparation, its “life,” and its end. It is important to study the mental state of the “actors” and “victims” of communism. As you can sense, the areas of dealing with “communist syndrome” widen and deepen vertiginously.

In this paper I’m limiting myself to the subject of the soul of a suppressed people. When we speak about communsm, we have, usually, something negative in mind. The word “communism” is primarily associated with suffering because it has caused the most visible and invisible crimes in absolute and relative numbers in the history of mankind. A complex of inferiority about being a communism developed even in many ex-communists.

And what was it that communism suppressed in the soul? What did it suppress so greatly in people that they became second-class?

It suppressed human religiosity. An important axis of engagement in communism was between religion and irreligion. Gerhard Weber writes in his biography of Jung that when Jung is interpreted superficially, one could get the ipression that as a psychiatrist he dealt much more with cultural-religious phenomena than with medical- psychotherapeutic ones. To Jung, God is “pre-experience” in a man. He claims that the main interest of his work is not dealing with neurosis, but approaches to the numinous. Access to the numinous is the only therapy. Religion is one of the eearliest and most universal manifestations of the human soul.

Not a single psychology that deals with human personality can avoid the fact that religion is not only a sociological or historical phenomenon, but signifies also an important human opportunity. For Jung, the statement that God is capable of manifesting everywhere but in the human soul is not acceptable. Archetypal religious ideas have – as does every instinct – specific energy that can’t be lost even if ignored by consciousness.

Jung claims it is not true that dictatorship emerges by constraint and political ruling “from above.” The communist state takes over religious feelings. In the communist anti-religious attitude, the divinity of the state serves the religious function. The state simply takes over the place of God. With no special effort the state harvests the same enthusiasm, gladness to sacrifice, and love, that was earlier devoted to church. Communism claims to be heaven on earth. Instead of religions calling for fear of God, the communist state provides the necessary terror. Instead of religious processions there are army parades, state ceremonies, speeches, portraits, busts, “spontaneous” mass demonstrations, all with the intention of implanting fear into the state’s enemies. Czeslaw Milosz says that social communists’ rituals achieved the effect of collective psychosis. According to Jung there is an obvious difference between suggestive parades of power and religious meetings. While a parade of power and a religious meeting generate feelings of collective safety, secular communist demonstrations deal with external events and give individuals no protection against their internal demons and fears. Therefore the individual will stick to the state power even more. He will leave himself psychically even more vulnerable, although he is socially already beheaded. Man loses self-respect, joy, intrest and pleasure in living. Due to deep regression, a communist society has but one leader, the same as a primitive tribe.

Czeslaw Milosz says in his book, Zniewolony umysl, that in the year 1945 countries of Eastern Europe were conquered by a new religion coming from the east. At that time it was “in” in Warsaw’s intellectual community to compare communism with early Christianity. The new Eastern European religion, communism, was in fact pagan.

The communist party knew that only the party is the church. The transformation of humankind depends on the extent to which communist dictatorship will be able to canalize human irrational inclinations. It is not enough to persuade people. Club rituals, poetry, novels, film, are perhaps more important, as they reach deeper into areas where emotional opposition to Christianity is necessary. The Church is enemy Number One, and that is because of its scepticism about radical human change. An absence of a “mirror” to communism’s one-sidedness leads to excessive compensation and fanaticism. Fanaticism exterminates any opposition and difference in thinking within the fanatic himself, as well as of other subordinates. The state sphere becomes religion; the head of the state becomes half-god. Only the one who has state authority in his hands can interpret state doctrine authentically and he does so, but in the way he likes. Every excessive concentration of power leads to formation of “subconscious subversive tendencies.” The greater the power, the greater the mistrust and paranoia.

Social legislation can never overcome the differences between personality types. That wouldn’t even be desirable, as differences generate creative vital energy in a society. Jung says: “The individual is the bearer of spirit and life. All the greatest successes and sufferings as well as the greatest crimes are individual.” (Odajnuk, p. 56) “Communization” and “socialization” of an individual do not happen without serious psychological and social consequences. If an individual has no belief of his own and neglects religious feelings, collective worship of world movements and ideologies take their place.

The next area of communism’s frustration of the human psyche is intra-psychical, in a limited sense of the word. The human soul is in its essence democratic, which means that all psychical structures must get enough energy from their primary orientation. We know that every insufficiency of energy leads to qualitatively unsuitable development of the relevant psychical area. Here, it is about dealing with completely intra-psychical traumatized area. The problem of people traumatized in communism is a weak ego. An early and chronically energy-deprived, weakened ego is less developed. Ego energy is left in sub-consciousness due to disturbed personality development. Quantitatively and qualitatively, weakened ego-consciousness cannot managae reality very well. As we know, personality development is the ratio between individual sub-consciousness and ego-consciousness. In communism, suppressed personalities could not get along in the society to the extent that would suit their archetypal inclination. Our ego has several aspects of its manifestation in reality. One of them is “social value.” It is about the social aspect of our ego. An individual as a non-cmmunist was, in reality, second-class. He couldn’t realize himself in the areas that were given to him archetypally-biologically.

The individual had to do something else or he was forced into other activities. As an illustration, let me say that when I was about to graduate from high school, I had to give a written statement that I wouldn’t study theology, meaning, I will not become a priest. This statement was the condition to allow me to take the exit examination. Numerous people had to use not only their primary but auxiliary function of consciousness. Jung speaks about secondary neurotization of the typology of consciousness.

Important executors of communism’s ideas are intellectuals, those that use their proven intelligence for the realization of communism. Czeslaw Milosz says that Stalinist manipulators took into account the psychologically understandable tendency of intellectuals to be visible among the masses. Thanks to this tendency, intellectuals became fair game for totalitarian ideas.

Milosz tried to understand the psychological logic of intellectuals’ consent to the Stalinist system through “Peter’s dream.” In his dream, Peter sees his headmaster in uniform, the very same headmaster that one drove him out of the classroom. A moment later, Stalin’s figure appears, which is perceived by Peer as the invisibuel presence of “full power and kindness.” Peter felt in his dream such a love that he cried. That was love for Him. Stalin took him on his knees and hugged him. Then Stalin lifted small Peter up. Stalin transforms into a giant and they both soar. Suddenly, Peter realizes it was God-Father, in a phosphorescent triangle with everlasting peace and endless happiness. It is important to know that Peter’s father was killed by communists and that Peter had this dream as a prisoner in a Siberian prison. Therefore he has no reason to love Stalin. But there is a deep emotional logic in the background. When a man is exposed to force stronger than himself, he reaches the limit where the object of hatred transforms into the object of astonishment. There is nothing left for him but to be as close to the center of this force as possible. This is enantiodromia.

Communism is most reflected in the present post-communism situation. Differentiation between “actors” (communists) and their victims is obvious. Ex-communists, now liberals with sufficiently energized egos, as children of this world, swagger and get rich. And their victims, with distrubances of ego socialization, haven’t found their right place in the society. Post-communist crises of religious life manifest in the pre-Christian way, religious regression, in the form of the revival of various types of pagan cults.

I have tried to throw at least some light on the darkness of communism, in the hope that we Jungians contribute our fair share to the democratization of the human spirit.


  • Czeslaw Milosz: Zniewolony umysl, Bromberg Bokförlag.
  • Gerhard Wehr: Carl Gustav Jung, Arzt-Tiefenpsychologe, SV International / Schweizer Verlagshaus Zürich.
  • Wolodymyr Walter Odajnuk: C.G. Jung und die Politik, Ernst Klett Verlag, Stuttgart.