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Category Archives: On Projection

This indivisibility of group, individual, and external world is
found wherever psychic contents–contents, that is to say, which
our present-day consciousness recognizes as psychic and which
it therefore relegates to the world within us are projected upon
the world at large and are experienced as though they were
outside ourselves. Contents of this kind are recognized readily
enough as projections when they derive from earlier epochs,
from alien spheres of culture, or from other people, but it becomes
increasingly difficult for us to do so the more closely they
approximate to the unconscious conditions of our own time, our
own culture, and our own personality. The animism which endows
trees with indwelling spirits, idols with divinity, holy
places with wonder-working powers, or human beings with magical
gifts is easily seen through; for us it is a transparent case
of “projection.” We know that trees, idols, holy places, and human
beings are recognizable objects of the external world, into
which early man projected his inner psychic contents. By recognizing
them, we withdraw such “primitive projections,” we
diagnose them as autosuggestion or something of the sort, and
thus the fusion effected by participation between man and the
objects of the external world is nullified. But when it comes to
experiencing God’s intervention in world history, or the sanctity
of the Fatherland symbolized by flag or king, or the devilish
intentions of nations beyond the latest Iron Curtain, or even the
bad character of those we dislike or the good character of those
we love; when it comes to experiencing these as a projection,
then our psychological powers of discernment incontinently fail
us, not to mention the fact that we cannot lay our finger on the
most blatant examples of all for the simple reason that they are
entirely unconscious and belong to the preconceptions which
we accept without question.

– Erich Neumann (Origin and History of Consciousness, p.267-8)