Tag Archives: herd mentality

The herd-madness of the crowd

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”― C.G. Jung

There is a famous picture of a single individual with his arms crossed in defiance amid a sea of German dockworkers giving a Nazi salute in the port city of Hamburg on June 13th 1936. The picture went viral after being rediscovered in 1991.

The man in the picture was later identified as August Landmesser. The workers attended the launch of a new ship with Adolf Hitler personally attending the launch of the “Horst Wessel”. It was an extraordinary act of defiance with tragic consequences for Landmesser.

The individual who stood against the crowd

Records show that Landmesser joined the Nazi party in 1931 to get a job. Then he fell in love with the Jewish girl, Irma Eckler. Sex and marriage between Germans and Jews was strictly prohibited at the time. When the party learned of the affair they expelled him. The couple nevertheless had a daughter out of wedlock in 1935. When the couple refused an order by the authorities to break up they were arrested in 1938. Landmesser served time in prison and was later forced into the army and is presumed to have died in battle. Eckler was murdered in the Ravensbrück concentration camp in August 1937.

The famous picture illustrates that Landmesser must have felt a deep resentment toward the Nazis, having experienced firsthand how their doctrine had destroyed his life. It symbolizes great courage in resisting the crowd hysteria in the idolization of an evil leader.

The individual mind versus the herd-mind

There appears to be a particular herd madness to a crowd. We were starkly reminded of this by the recent events in Washington with the storming of the Capitol by a frenzied mob. Many of the participants, ordinary people with good jobs and businesses, now themselves seem to be surprised by the consequences of their own actions, pleading for pardons from the president.

Education in the Western world emphasizes individual freedom of expression and individuation. At the same time an inner loneliness and spiritual disconnect appears to exert a gravitational pull toward the herd-mind. Affiliation to a particular football club, political parties, music groups or a brand take on a fanatical religious fervor.

A dark destructive force seems to awaken in the large human group when the individual mind succumbs to the herd-mind. The famous Swiss psychotherapist Carl-Gustav Jung, who spent much of his lifetime studying the Nazi phenomenon, distinguished between the liberated conscious individual mind and the “unconscious” collective mind.

Sinking to the level of mob psychology

“A group experience takes place on a lower level of consciousness than the experience of an individual. This is due to the fact that, when many people gather together to share one common emotion, the total psyche emerging from the group is below the level of the individual psyche. If it is a very large group, the collective psyche will be more like the psyche of an animal, which is the reason why the ethical attitude of large organizations is always doubtful. The psychology of a large crowd inevitably sinks to the level of mob psychology,” Jung wrote in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

We are experiencing exceptional times of change where acute vigilance and critical awareness is called for. It is tempting to join the fan clubs of the professional deceivers offering simple solutions for complex problems. Mass media, reflecting the voice of the mass crowd, has been contaminated with distortion, lies and conspiracy theory. Very few news channels still abide by the professional ethic in providing objective information to the public, instead falling prey to the general trend of stoking toxic emotions such as hate, fear, xenophobia and anger. News on many channels and social media is no longer information but designed to jolt you into a negative emotion.

At last there are first signs that the social media giants are realizing their co-responsibility. For too long they have acted as echo-chambers of the dark unconscious mind.

  • If you are exposed to information where you immediately have an uncomfortable feeling, then ask yourself: Where does this come from?
  • What intention does the communicator of the messenger pursue?
  • Does it really serve my life and my well-being today?

Reino Gevers – Author – MentorSpeaker

One more thing…

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