Archetype of the Apocalypse:

A Jungian Study of the Book of Revelation

Edward F. Edinger 1999

From C.G. Jung Page (

Open Court, Chicago and La Salle, Illinois

Edward F. Edinger, the late, renowned Jungian Analyst and scholar has written an important book that should be read by all politicians, not just theologians and Jungians. The book is based on a series of Edinger's lectures that follow the New Testament "Book of Revelation," also known as the "Apocalypse of John", and with many direct quotes from the Old Testament. Each chapter is richly amplified with imagery, symbology and dreams. Various illustrations and engravings provide visual images that enrich the text: illustrations such as "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse" (Durer), "The New Jerusalem" (Dore), "The Last Judgement" (Michaelangelo), "Whore of Babylon" (Blake) and "Dragons Vomiting Frogs" (15th century Miniature).

Edinger was brought up as a Jehovah Witness which he found unsatisfying as he did his life as a physician. He found his place as a Jungian Analyst who together with M. Esther Harding helped found the C.G. Jung Foundation of Analytical Psychology and the C.G. Jung Institute of New York. Edinger practiced in NY and Los Angeles and was a prolific writer who explored core issues in religion and psychology. Archetype of the Apocalypse is his final book, gifting us with insight and meaning to meet the challenges of the millenium. Only by understanding the archetypal constellation of the Apocalypse in the individual and the collective can "the worst of external catastrophe can be softened" (Editor's Preface -George R. Elder)

We live in interesting and challenging times. Rapid technological advances and global internet access have opened new doors that impact our daily lives. The technological leap into the 21st century has been accompanied by a collective fascination with angels, aliens, extra-terrestials, psychic readings and the emergence of apocalyptic cults and sects.

Reagan coined the term "the evil empire" in relationship to Russia; a projection of the enemy without. The end of the cold war prompted us to find another enemy - the enemy within. The Oklahoma city bombing with 168 killed and hundreds wounded was done by a man, Timothy McVey, who believed these individuals were part of an "evil empire". Edinger, deeply disturbed, wrote a letter to a local newspaper (May, 1995) entitled "The Psychology of Terrorism" where he stated:

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 (her) 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.

Unfortunately, the letter was not published. The deluge of media coverage and comments by politicians and religious leaders professed to not understanding how such a terrible event could occur. Edinger's Archetype of the Apocalypse addresses these questions and the miscomprehension. Edinger says in his book, "In my opinion, as our world sinks more and more into possession by this archetype, nothing is more important than the existence of a certain number of individuals who understand what is going on."

The book's appendices provide rich examples of modern day possession by the archetype of the Apocalyse. David Koresh in 1993 was the leader of an apocalyptic sect in Waco, Texas, that fought Federal agents, a stand-off culminating in the fiery demise of his group. Koresh "developed a full-blown possession by the Apocalyse archetype" and "was convinced that God had revealed to him total understanding of the Book of Revelation." The Heaven's Gate Cult who committed collective suicide in 1997 in California is also discussed. Hitler was possessed by the archetype of the Apocalypse and thought of himself in religious terms. This psychological state as described by Edinger is a "state that generates charisma with tremendous energy in it!"

These insights provide essential reading for our age and our humanity. A must read!