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Transforming the Pattern of War and Terrorism

Proposal for a Film or TV Series
Dr. Scilla Elworthy and Anne Baring

copyright©Anne Baring

“We have changed everything save our mode of thinking and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophes.” Albert Einstein

The brutality sweeping the Middle East, the tragic spectacle of millions fleeing the collapse of civilisation in their homeland, and the suffering of those trying to reach the safe haven of Europe prompt many people to ask:

  • What causes human beings repeatedly to regress into the behaviour pattern of predator and prey?
  • Is there anything we could do to break this pattern and lift ourselves out of it?
  • Are we condemned, because of our moral unconsciousness, forever to repeat it?

What spectacle of cruelty, ignorance and unconsciousness does our species present? Just what are our values and do they serve to protect life or destroy it?

Synopsis: This 100 minute film would explore:

1. What Factors Create War: The wars, atrocities and mindless cruelty inflicted on humans by humans over the past several thousand years reveal certain deeply engrained habits. These habits derive their power from deeply unconscious instincts which constellate, reflect and perpetuate the archaic pattern of predator and prey. They have manifested throughout known history as the drive to dominate, control and destroy others, whether in the context of the behaviour of individuals or of tribal groups, nation states and religions.

2. What allows violence and brutality to breed? There are two major factors promoting these. One is brutality in the context of the family and educational establishment (indoctrination) whereby a child is subject to devastating brutality and bullying by adults. The other is the mechanism of projection whereby another group is targeted, demonised and attacked as the ‘enemy’.  The traumas inflicted by war lead inevitably to further conflicts, even centuries after the original one. Projections can escalate until the phenomenon of a mass psychosis manifests when millions are drawn to follow a psychopathic leader into war, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

3. How could this change?
Pioneering the Possible - breaking the habit of repeating the cycle of violence:
recognising the persistent and long-term influence and effects of trauma
acknowledging the (historical) role of religions in fomenting projection and aggression
suggesting how we could rise to a new level of planetary responsibility which would take us beyond the current power-drives of both nation-state and religious ideologies
involving the cooperation of all nations toward shared goals which would honour and safeguard all aspects of life on this planet

4. Love in a Time of Hatred
Five (or more) examples are given of how the pattern of war, conflict and indoctrination can be transformed, producing spectacular results.

The insights of psychology together with the wisdom of indigenous peoples offer ways forward which could help us to transform the pattern of the predator where we treat other human beings as our prey.

This film would take current theatres of conflict and explore the main causes and effects of war in those regions. It will show what can be done to prevent future conflict.

1. The Causes of War:
tribal, ethnic and religious rivalry (Sunni/Shia)
religious ideology (ISIS)
genocidal impulse (Rwanda and Myanmar)
indoctrination of children to hate others (Wahhabi Islam)
demonising others as ‘pigs, vermin, cockroaches, dogs, scum, infidels, kaffirs’
territorial ambitions
fear of attack – building up weaponry
climate change with consequent shortage of food and water

The Effects of War:
destruction of life (genocide, ethnic cleansing: see report on those responsible for citizen deaths in Syria)
destruction of cities and towns
destruction of livelihoods and professions
the infliction of deep trauma on the population as a whole
rape, the humiliation and degradation of women and the birth of unwanted children
eradication of education
deterioration of medical facilities
effects of trauma on the physical and emotional health of children
endemic hatred originating with trauma and passed down generations
the long-term physical and emotional trauma of veterans

Preparations for War

The Pentagon plans to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years on a new generation of nuclear bombs, bombers, missiles and submarines, including a dozen submarines carrying more than a 1,000 warheads. Obama has ordered 200 new nuclear bombs to be deployed in Europe. Russia has revealed plans for a new kind of weapon – a hydrogen bomb torpedo – that can traverse 6,000 miles of ocean just as a missile would in the sky. On impact, the bomb would create a “radioactive tsunami” designed to kill millions along a country’s coast. (Washington Post article January 2016).

The Arms Trade
Major exporters of weapons in 2013 were Russia, the United States, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Major importers of weapons in 2013 were the United Arab Republic, China, Saudi-Arabia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan.
World Military Expenditure for 2013 amounted to $1747 billion. (SIPRI)
weapons sales for 2014 amounted to $64 billion (IHS research company, The Times 9/3/15)

Military Expenditure 2015

US $596 billion
China $215 billion
Saudi Arabia $87.2 billion
Russia $66.4 billion
UK $55.5 billion
India $51.3 billion
France $50.9 billion
Japan $40.9 billion
Germany $39.4 billion
South Korea $36.4 billion

total for 2015 = $1,239 billion, $1trillion, 239 billion (source The Times, 01/03/17)

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."                                                                                                                    General Eisenhower

Not by arming to the teeth, each for itself, can the nations defend themselves in the long run from the frightful catastrophes of modern war. The heaping up of arms is itself a call to war.  Rather they must recognise those psychic conditions under which the unconscious bursts the dykes of consciousness and overwhelms it.”                                                                                                C.G. Jung, CW18 para. 1358

By what authority do succeeding generations of leaders in the nuclear-weapons states usurp the power to dictate the odds of continued life on our planet? Most urgently, why does such breathtaking audacity persist at a moment when we should stand trembling in the face of our folly and united in our commitment to abolish its most deadly manifestations?
                                                General Lee Butler, former head of the U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom)

Of course, war and the large military establishments are the greatest sources of violence in the world. Whether their purpose is defensive or offensive, these vast powerful organizations exist solely to kill human beings. We should think carefully about the reality of war. Most of us have been conditioned to regard military combat as exciting and glamorous - an opportunity for men to prove their competence and courage. Since armies are legal, we feel that war is acceptable; in general, nobody feels that war is criminal or that accepting it is criminal attitude. In fact, we have been brainwashed. War is neither glamorous nor attractive. It is monstrous. Its very nature is one of tragedy and suffering.
                                                                                        His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “The Reality of War”


2. What allows violence and barbarity to breed?

  • The projection of evil onto others: demonising, dehumanising and attacking those we name as our enemies. The habit of projection and demonising can start with the deliberate indoctrination of children to regard others as a threat and build into paranoid projections onto an ‘enemy’ and the call to attack, invade and instigate a deliberate campaign of terror, murder and rape.
  • Collective projections: We know that negative projections onto others can happen in the field of national politics and personal relations (e.g. Twitter and Facebook) but what triggers collective projections in the population as a whole? How do leaders manipulate this phenomenon?

Goering quote: “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” 

  • The compulsion to obey orders: the mentality of the herd and fear of being killed if one does not obey orders. “There is a need to draw a line between leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders. I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.” Adolf Eichmann, final hand-written letter to Israeli president Yitzak Ben-Zvi.

  • The predator-prey Pattern:
    It is not generally understood that the instinctive reflexes of the reptilian and mammalian brain can easily take over the more recently developed neo-cortical levels of the brain. These unconscious survival and territorial instincts may control us in any situation which arouses fear or the nationalist desire for power and conquest. (1)

  • The personality structure of fanatics: the paranoid personality and the psychopathic leader. The borderline psychopathology of ‘followers’. The dangerous psychic inflation and grandiosity of political leaders who are convinced they have a divine mission to impose a New Order.

  • The drive for power for a nation to become the most powerful on earth, reflected in the current struggle for power between the United States, Russia, China and the aim of so-called Islamic State.
  • The powerful influence of mythology on religion and politics:
    The Battle between Light and Darkness (originating in Persia c. 500 BC but still a very powerful influence today)

    The influence of the Hero Myth and the drive for victory, renown, glory. The Hero Myth begins with the story of Achilles in the Iliad andcarries on to Alexander the Great, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, Osama bin Laden & the present leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It drew George W. Bush and Tony Blair into its spell in the belief that they were fighting the axis of evil with God on their side. The Warrior Myth goes hand in hand with the Hero Myth. 

In this section Jung’s concept of the Collective Unconscious and the work of psychologist and social philosopher Erich Fromm will be drawn on to demonstrate how we can be taken over by these powerful instinctive patterns of group behaviour, consistently overruling the moral values that have been developed with huge effort and sacrifice over many centuries. (2)

Jung’s concept of the Shadow will also be explored – that part of our psyche of which we are unaware and which behaves in ways that our conscious, rational mind would normally deplore yet can easily be persuaded by the shadow aspect of our nature to justify our actions. “We do not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.” (3)

1. Anne Baring, The Dream of the Cosmos, Chapter 12: the Shadow
2. Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
3. C.G. Jung, Civilization in Transition, Collected Works, Vol X

3. How could this change?

  • Breaking the cycle of violence: the cycle of violence starts with the political response to a perceived threat, followed by demonising an ‘enemy’, and the call to action and aggression. Atrocities cause terror and trauma, followed by grief and then anger. If nothing is done at this stage, anger leads to the drive for retaliation and revenge, causing an escalation of atrocities. Thus the cycle of violence is perpetuated over generations and even centuries. The cycle can be broken by providing physical, political and psychological security through tried and tested methods of conflict prevention and transformation.
    see: diagram in Making Terrorism History by Scilla Elworthy and Gabrielle Rifkind and important material in interview with GlobalLeadership TV https://vimeo.com/158098994/

  • Addressing the persistent and long-term influence and effects of trauma
    When a people has suffered massive loss and trauma, the memory of this can remain in the collective psyche for generations. Therefore it is imperative to recognise, respect and acknowledge the wrong that was done, and the atrocities inflicted even many centuries ago. In this way, ancient wounds can be healed and the pattern of revenge and retaliation relinquished.

  • Naming the pathology of any nation or religious group which seeks world domination

  • Naming the pathology of  religious leaders who encourage projection, hatred and aggression against others
    Query why the teachings of the greatest spiritual teachers such as Lao Tse, the Buddha, Christ, have been consistently overridden by religious and political leaders, whose actions and words ignore them and incubate the phenomenon of mass psychoses.
  • Defusing the fear of threat: overcoming suspicion through dialogue between opponents
  • Defusing the dangers of aggressive nationalism
    Imperialism has left a legacy of bitterness and resentment in all corners of the world. The drive for power between nations needs to yield to awareness of the necessity for a different kind of relationship between nations.

  • Resolving the current challenges faced by humanity by moving to a new level of planetary responsibility which would involve the cooperation of all nations toward shared goals which honour and safeguard all forms of life.

  • Listening to the marginalised. The voice of women and children would carry particular weight in this film since it has been inaudible for centuries. (women of Mostar, Scilla’s interview)

4. Love in the Time of Hatred:
“Everything now depends on man: immense power of destruction is given into his hand and the question is whether he can resist the will to use it, and can temper his will with the spirit of love and wisdom.”  (C.G. Jung, Answer to Job, CW 11, p. 459)

Five Examples of transforming the pattern of war, conflict and indoctrination


The insights of indigenous peoples can offer ways forward based on very ancient beliefs and practices which could help to overcome our inheritance of projection and belligerence and develop a different attitude to our role on this planet. Their different values based on love and respect for the planet and all living elements on it have been clearly articulated recently by indigenous leaders in the US.

The voice of women and children would carry particular weight in this film since it has been inaudible for centuries. Interviews with Syrian, Yazidi and African women, and the voice of children traumatised by seeing and experiencing horrific acts of violence.

The importance of trauma conselling in healing deep wounds and the meeting of those who have been traumatised with those who have harmed them. Entering into the deep humanity of both victims and perpetrators. (South Africa and Ireland, see examples above)

The experience of psychiatrists and psychotherapists would be drawn on – those who have to deal with the fall-out from the deep traumas inflicted by war, rape, torture and terror.

The need for self-awareness and insight in those who are working to resolve conflict. The greater the level of self-awareness, the greater the effectiveness of the work. Essential for those mediating between opponents not to be driven by anger or fear. Example of Nelson Mandela.

The value of the practice of Meditation in this work.

Examples of Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing and Atrocities: Past & Present

[the list below offers a selection of examples that could be used]

Islam and the Sunni/Shia split originating in the 7th century
The Christian Crusades 11th and 12th centuries
The Albigensian Crusade 13th century (Papacy and King of France)
The Inquisition: burning of witches 13th to 17th centuries
The Expulsion of the Moors and Jews from Spain 11th to 16th century: Jews in 1492 and Moriscos (Moors who had converted to Christianity) in1609
Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants in Europe - 30 Years’ War (1618-48) one third of the population of Europe died of war and starvation
The Spanish Conquest of South and Central America (Mexico) 16th century
The French Revolution 18th century
The Persecution of North American Indian tribes and other indigenous peoples 19th century
Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’ 20th century – the Holocaust (4)
China: 20th century civil war & genocide under Mao’s Cultural Revolution
The Great Terror under Stalin in the former Soviet Union 20th century (5)
The wars of conquest in Africa (Liberia, Congo)
the Armenian Genocide 1915
The ethnic cleansing in Cambodia under Pol Pot 20th century
The partition of India and massacres that followed (Hindu/Muslim) 20th century
The Vietnam War 1955-75
The Balkan Wars and ethnic cleansing 1990’s
The genocide in Rwanda 1994
George W. Bush and the Invasion of Iraq 2003
The displacement of the Palestinians by the founding of the State of Israel and the ensuing Arab/Israeli war
The ongoing proxy struggle for power in the Middle East between the Sunni and Shia: the war in Syria
The current rise of Islamic State and its vow to eradicate ‘infidels’
The genocide of the Yazidi people 2014 onwards
The ethnic cleansing, rape and murder of the Rohingya people in north-western Myanmar (Burma) 2017

4. see David Cesarini, Final Solution
5. see Robert Conquest, The Great Terror and The Harvest of Sorrow


Dr Scilla Elworthy
founded the Oxford Research Group in 1982 to develop effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics, work for which she has been three times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She founded Peace Direct in 2002 to fund, promote and learn from local peace-builders in conflict areas. She was adviser to Peter Gabriel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson in setting up ‘The Elders’. She co-founded Rising Women Rising World, and advises the leadership of selected international corporations. Her latest book is Pioneering the Possible: awakened leadership for a world that works (North Atlantic Books, 2014), and her TED talk on non violence has been viewed by over 1,000,000 people. https://www.ted.com/talks/scilla_elworthy_fighting_with_non_violence


Anne Baring (MA Oxon) is a Jungian analyst, member of the Scientific and Medical Network and author and co-author of 7 books of which her most recent one, The Dream of the Cosmos: a Quest for the Soul was awarded the SMN 2013 Book Prize. The ground of all her work is a deep interest in the spiritual, mythological, shamanic and artistic traditions of different cultures. Her website is devoted to the affirmation of a new vision of reality and the challenges facing us at this crucial time of choice.


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