In the latest issue:

Loathed by Huysmans

Julian Barnes

Too early or too late?

David Runciman

Short Cuts: Five Victorian Marriages

Tom Crewe

Society as a Broadband Network

William Davies

Indefinite Lent

Thomas Jones

In 1348

James Meek

The Yorkists

John Guy

At the Movies: Pasolini’s ‘Teorema’

Michael Wood

Whitehall Spookery

Neal Ascherson

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon

Clarice Lispector

Rivka Galchen

Marius Petipa

Simon Morrison

At the Foundling Museum: ‘Portraying Pregnancy’

Joanne O’Leary

Gordon v. O’Connor

Rupert Thomson

Revism

Joe Dunthorne

Poem: ‘The Reach of the Sea’

Maureen N. McLane

Diary: Where water used to be

Rosa Lyster

MadnessesJohn Kerr
Close
Close
The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement 
by Richard Noll.
Princeton, 387 pp., £19.95, January 1995, 0 691 03724 8
Show More
Show More

It has taken the entire century to bring Freud to the judgment of history. Whatever shall we do about Jung?

His beginnings were not promising and his father frankly worried about him. Dominated by a mother at once unreliable and eerily intimate, the child was an asocial miscreant, rejected by his peers. Home was no better – the atmosphere was ‘unbreathable’ – and when he could not escape to the countryside the boy began to explore his own interior. The father was chaplain to a nearby mental hospital, and the mother once a patient there, but the boy was too young to know that nervousness ran on both sides of his family and that inwardness was not a proper tack for a child with ‘hereditary taint’.

Imagination proved an ally. To relieve periodic choking fits he took to visualising golden angels against a blue background. And there were spaces inside spaces where one might be safe. He carved a tiny mannikin, hid it beneath the attic floorboards, and for a year ritually presented the little man with miniature scrolls written in a secret language.

Guilty in his demeanour when challenged, Jung was a natural target at school. His teachers punished him, the other boys tormented him, and he could find no better solution than to fake dizzy spells so that he might stay at home. He was so convincing in this role that the doctors worried his father into believing he might be incurable. It was too much for a pastor without private funds: ‘I have lost what little I had, and what will become of the boy if he cannot earn his own living?’

More startled than stung, Jung rallied and through sheer will power began to resist the faints, which had taken on a life of their own. It was his first experience of what it was to overcome a neurosis. He grew to the size of a Notre Dame linebacker, as the Harvard psychologist Henry Murray later estimated him, and his classmates learned to tolerate, even like him. Nicknamed ‘Father Abraham’ for his opinions on everything, and finally apprised of the fact that he would have to work if he was to excel, the sermonising Gymnasium student appeared to have found himself at last, but inwardly he still thought of himself as a ‘Corrupt and inferior person’.

His secret hope was to be somebody else. The romance of Jung’s second self, his ‘Personality No 2’, would later dominate his remarkable memoirs, composed in old age with the assistance of Aniela Jaffé and at the instigation of Pantheon’s Kurt Wolff in one of the great publishing coups of the century. But neither Wolff nor Jung was so simple-minded as to think the world wanted to know exactly who ‘Personality No 2’ was. By Jung’s own account, it all began in childhood – while he was being reprimanded by a neighbour for commandeering the fellow’s rowing boat. As he took the scolding, Jung began to feel that he was really somebody else, somebody who had lived a long time ago, somebody very important. A not uncommon family legend for the time had it that Goethe had been Jung’s great-grandfather. What Jung hoped, and sometimes believed, but would never tell for the record, was that he was a reincarnation of Goethe.

It did make sense. Had not Goethe winced at the sight of a crucifix? Had not Goethe known the sufferings of the inner self? Had not Goethe celebrated temptation and somehow made the world believe that one could find redemption that way? But it was no easy business to be Goethe. One should not disbelieve the statements of Jung’s memoirs, the first three chapters especially, which make it plain that adolescence continued to be a struggle and that keeping in meaningful contact with ‘Personality No 2’ was difficult.

‘The boy is interested in everything imaginable,’ his father commented within earshot, ‘but he does not know what he wants.’ Jung let his classmates think he might go into literature, but he opted for science, more properly for medicine, the safest road for a scholarship student to take. In his college years he took up the study of the occult by participating in séances with the secret connivance of his mother and by special courtesy of a teenage cousin who was in love with him and who could contact the illustrious ancestors of both sides of the family. In a past life, she had been Goethe’s mistress, and in yet another past life, mother to a previous incarnation of Jung.

College life had its own lessons. He learned through experience to moderate his alcohol intake and learned, too, that he could now read Nietzsche without risking his own sanity. His father died during the first year, leaving Jung the man of the house, but he returned regularly in Jung’s dreams, leaving Jung too embarrassed to tell him he was dead. Thereafter, Jung seriously wondered about survival beyond the grave. ‘He died in time for you,’ was the mother’s comment.

The proportions of ‘Jung’ could already be outlined. At the student drinking and literary society, he expounded on philosophy and science; among his favourite targets were the liberal Protestant theology of Albrecht Ritschl and the biological materialism of ‘the Berlin Jew’, the physiologist Emil DuBois-Reymond. As for making his living, he ultimately settled on psychiatry after reading in Krafft-Ebing’s textbook that it was a field where theory still bore the personal stamp of the author.

Jung arrived at the Burghölzli hospital on 10 December 1900. Thus began what could have been the greatest psychiatric career of the 20th century. No account of Jung is adequate that does not take note of how gifted he was in his chosen profession. He was an intuitive type, by his own later definition. He was sensitive to the point of clairvoyance and to the point where he had sometimes to protect himself from the company of people. He was also a voracious reader who could consume and retain huge tracts of literature. He had a commanding personal presence, instant authority and seemingly limitless physical energy.

As an endeavour psychiatry is necessary, tortuous and grimly paradoxical. What is dispensed is not sanity, but madness. The healing art consists in finding a kind of madness that the patient – and neighbours and family – can live with. Few men have possessed the sort of talent that Jung brought to this delicate, but potent encounter: the young R.D. Laing to a great degree, Harry Stack Sullivan when he was in the mood, D.W. Winnicott with children, and very few others. The patients loved Jung; staff were in awe.

For most of this century, the kind of madness people have been willing to settle for has involved such things as guilty childhood secrets, terrible traumas and the irrationality of sexual desire. More recently, chemical imbalances have also become acceptable. But at the beginning of the century, madness meant hereditary taint, nervous fatigue, endogenous toxins and the like, all girded around by a strange nomenclature and informed by the deepest resignation. Jung the psychiatrist was at the very heart of the movement from one kind of madness to another: the historical moment amplified his gifts.

The career was meteoric. It took Jung only six years to become internationally known for his pioneering work with the word-association test. An ordinary medical term, ‘complex’, took on a new meaning and became a commonplace. Jung held the copyright. Professionally, his opinions were sought on subjects ranging from the Ganser syndrome to schizophrenia. It was universally assumed that when his chief, Eugen Bleuler, retired, Jung would take over the Zürich chair in psychiatry and the directorship of the Burghölzli hospital.

What happened instead is well known: Jung bolted. A question that is not usually asked, but should be, is why he elected to join forces with Freud when he did. Jung certainly didn’t need to. One answer is that he was still trying to discover a reliable way of making contact with Personality No 2 – and for a time he thought Freud could help him. Then, too, as Freud was becoming controversial thanks to the Dora case, Jung could now play rebel on a grand scale.

Jung the psychoanalyst was nearly as gifted as Jung the psychiatrist. And fittingly he rose to the same degree of pre-eminence in the new movement: editor of the first journal, official head of the International Psychoanalytic Association, gentile ‘son and heir’ of the man who had invented the procedure. But weaknesses began to show. Over the long haul, Jung had a hard time keeping himself disentangled from his patients. One of these, Sabina Spielrein, became his lover before she departed for Vienna to pursue her own psychoanalytic career. Protracted therapeutic intimacy has its temptations and its dangers; Jung seemed not to know how to fend these off while yet remaining in a dialogue. And as with patients, so with Freud, Very close became too close.

They challenged each other: Jung believed Freud was having an affair with his sister-in-law, and that the triangle was skewing Freud’s theories. Freud took a closer look at Jung’s dream of his father, and decided it was all Oedipal. In truth Jung’s biography is open to Freud’s gloss but Jung insisted – and eventually persuaded the world he was somehow right – that there was more to know. When the time came to part company, the two men did so with professionalism, hitting on the pious fiction that theirs was a theoretical disagreement. Central in the formation of that legend was an unreadable and incomprehensibly massive work by Jung, Transformations and Symbols of the Libido. In this work, he took a mountain of material from the available literature on ancient mythology, attacked it assiduously with the machinery of analytic interpretation, and ended up with a kind of lurid, libidinal swamp that caused reviewers’ jaws to drop. Intellectually, the book was a tangle of incompatible concepts, but at least one of them had enduring value: the son needs to separate from the mother in order to individuate. Freud was not pleased, but he wasn’t outraged either. He was confused. Later, it became good business for Jung to note that the book had introduced the notion of mythological survivals in the unconscious – and that he knew ahead of time that it would cost him his friendship with Freud. In retrospect, it became the first distinctively ‘Jungian’ work.

As the two tectonic plates came apart, a new kind of analysis was promised in Zurich – ‘analytical psychology’ – which was supposed to surpass the Viennese kind by recognising the forward strivings of the patient. Interpretation was no longer ‘semiotic’ in the sense that it detected everywhere the signs of libidinal drive; it was now to be ‘hermeneutic’, in the sense that it saw the manifestations of the unconscious as symbolic communications from a better, wiser, deeper self. Jung was already halfway to Kohut, the historical differences in their idioms notwithstanding. But the reconstituted society of Swiss analysts never really got off the ground as the Great War supervened.

And then what happened? Everyone who might have known is dead. In 1916, Jung founded a local Psychology Club composed largely of former patients plus a few remaining colleagues. And about the same time, Toni Wolff, another former patient, became his semi permanent mistress.

After the war, Jung reappeared with yet another massive work in hand, Psychological Types. This one was coherent. ‘Introversion’ and ‘extraversion’ joined ‘complex’ in the language. And in smaller pieces he was already constructing a still more elaborate system in which the unconscious was peopled by a collection of ‘archetypes’, primal structures capable of directing thought, feeling and action in more or less interpretable ways provided one knew what one was looking for. Jung spoke of these archetypes with great conviction. And he could be spellbinding when he went on to demonstrate how readily their activity might be detected in everything from fairy tales to Thus Spake Zarathustra. By the mid-Twenties, he was dispensing neither sanity nor madness, though to be fair, he still recognised the latter when he saw it. He was dispensing something ambiguously lodged between dissociation, introspection and spirituality. ‘Jung’ had arrived. The next four decades witnessed, and attested to, the unfolding of a great personality.

Interested in everything imaginable indeed. Counting posthumously published seminars, Jung’s collected works run to more than twenty-five volumes on the bookshelf and one could win many a wager daring the unsuspecting to name a topic that is not touched on there. Flying saucers, alchemy and electro-galvanic machines. Ancient initiation rites and schizophrenic delusions. Freud, of course, but also Bergson, William James and Count Keyserling. Mandalas, yoga and the I Ching, plus warnings to the Western mind about becoming too deeply immersed in Eastern practices. Archetypes, psychological types and, regrettably, racial types. Wotan until the reader is woozy. And we are just warming up ...

Holding all this together was one of the most popular psychological ideas ever – ‘the collective unconscious’. It is not finally a coherent notion. Like ‘primary process’, it designates an amalgam of different phenomena which deserve to be more sharply distinguished, but which suit a theory better by being lumped together in a single category. Still, it is a notion that people like to believe in. When students first learn about Jung, they are attracted. Here is a way of talking about the inner world that seems accepting, that foregoes the Freudian accusations of perversity, hostility and just plain bad intentions. A kinder, gentler unconscious, George Bush might say.

Jung could never quite match Freud as a literary persona, but then who can? Jung’s forte was rather his therapeutic attitude. Much of what he had to say about treatment was both humane and wise, very much to be preferred to the blank-screen superiority that predominated for so long in orthodox Freudianism. The problem for the historian as for the biographer is that ultimately Jung could not maintain this attitude, either privately or publicly. Protecting both his vacations and his solitude, Jung saw patients for only half the year; he routinely farmed out his cases to an entourage of assistants, most of them women, some of them highly capable. And in his writing, he holds onto the unconverted reader’s point of view for only brief spans before becoming newly overwhelmed by an inner urgency to go into arcane disquisitions about irredeemably obscure matters. Finally, the performance gets to be infuriating. Jung can be very, very sane, and very much worth listening to, but only on the third Thursday of each month.

Historians were going to have their problems with this man in any case, but then at the very end of his life came the memoirs, the first three chapters of which he wrote himself, to throw history off the scent. Jung outfoxed everyone by being belatedly honest about his childhood. This allowed him to slip past the reader an account of his private experiences during the First World War, in the form of a somewhat prettified rehash of an already mythologised version given to a seminar in 1925 and theretofore available only in typescript and, for a time, only to the initiated. It described a ‘confrontation with the unconscious’ interpreted archetypally and, apparently for that reason, ending happily.

The period of time when this inner ‘confrontation’ took place is clearly critical. Any attempt to reconstruct Jung’s development chronologically necessarily comes to fix on the First World War and its immediate aftermath as the crucial interval during which the erstwhile psychiatrist-psychoanalyst transformed himself into the philosopher of the collective unconscious. But in the face of literary heirs guarding his reputation and his papers, history has had no better recourse than to accept Jung’s own account. And that, in yet another version of the historical sleight of hand which appears de rigueur for modern systems of depth psychology, means accepting the theory that grew out of an experience as though it were logically prior. Henri Ellenberger, a psychiatrist by training and an inspired historian of the ‘unconscious’, was sufficiently impressed by Jung’s disclosures to allow Jung to review the chapter on himself in The Discovery of the Unconscious. Which caused the historian of medicine, Erwin Ackerknecht, to question Ellenberger’s judgment. Though otherwise an admirer of Ellenberger’s work, Ackerknecht said in private that Ellenberger ‘was taken in by that crypto-Nazi crook’.

Whatever else happened in the decisive period one thing is certain: Jung went more than half mad. One can make out that much. Moreover, there were, as there always must be, reasons for his breakdown and one can half make these out, too. Yet there seems to have been a curious clarity to it all. Or at least to what we know about it. As the pieces of Jung’s personality ruptured and split, he was able to observe his own dissolution with exquisite exactitude, and the observation itself became a kind of therapy. Then there is the perplexing fact that Jung survived his madness, built on it, and in the end prospered. He was mad, but he was not just mad. There is more to know.

This is the historical lacuna that Richard Noll exploits in his disturbing and often illuminating book. Noll comes to the quest for the historical Jung – his phrase – with a broad background in Jungianism, psychiatry and shamanism and his training stands him in good stead much of the time. He understands in a trice, for example, that ‘active imagination’, an important facet of Jung’s revised therapeutics, is actually a dissociative technique. Similarly, he is not the least bit tantalised by the hope that the unconscious might contain mythological survivals of significant spiritual or ethical import. The evidence for such an assertion, Noll rightly points out, is worse than fragmentary. It is tainted through and through by suggestion and collusion, and even the most extraordinary examples are liable to be undermined as the residue of forgotten memory, or ‘cryptomnesia’, a phenomenon that the psychiatrist Jung knew well but that the philosopher of the collective unconscious conveniently forgot.

In his examination of these issues, Noll provides historical footholds for those such as the prominent Jungian analyst Michael Fordham who have raised serious questions as to what is really going on in a treatment that ultimately encourages the patient into active imagination with the promise that he or she will experience ‘the union of the opposites’. Or that urges patients to ‘amplify’ their dream symbols by taking out mythological picture-books from the library. Myth is undoubtedly too much neglected in the modern world, but this is scarcely the reason people become psychologically ill. In this context, some of what Noll reports, such as the behaviour of Herman Hesse’s analyst, Jung’s colleague Josef Lang, is truly chilling. But contemporary therapeutics are not Noll’s real interest. He is after bigger game.

At the turn of the century, there was a host of small, élitist groups throughout Europe, and most especially in German-speaking Europe, which owed their existence to a widespread interest in non-Christian forms of transcendence. Free association applied to political groups before it applied to words: an interest in esoteric mysteries appeared to many to be a perfectly fine reason to get together. The specific theology of these groups varied, but certain themes and practices recurred so frequently that devotees could and did sample widely from a common literature. One has to have a taste for gobbledegook to go very far into the specifics of their beliefs, and the heterogeneity of their endeavours needs to be respected, but some common features may usefully be noted. Sun-worship was preferred. There were ancient mysteries to be understood. Ancestral spirits could be contacted. The racial genius, the spirit of the Volk, was ready to be tapped within. If the Christ lived on in one’s breast, it was because He was an Aryan. Enlightenment proceeded in stages. Inner renewal was the only antidote to cultural and spiritual degeneration. And so forth. Moreover, by a kind of syncretistic impulse that made perfect sense to the initiate, but which horrifies today’s scholar, these basic themes were most often projected backward onto various cults of the ancient world thence to be read forward again as a kind of racial destiny.

A whole reticulated world of small groups arose, and it was not below the floorboards either. Composers, generals, psychologists, and writers brushed elbows with Theosophists, Anthroposophists, Monists, crystal-gazers, nudists and whatnot. Publishers had a field day, providing both popular and scholarly accounts of everything from the mysteries of Mithra to the secrets of the runes. And adventurers of all kinds – sexual, artistic, political and psychological – found spiritual justification as well as a reservoir of ready recruits.

The argument of The Jung Cult depends on the recovery of this lost continent of belief, a continent whose fate it was to be submerged beneath the tidal wave of a Nazi state determined to have a monopoly on all things völkisch. Arguing both on the basis of personal relationships and textual reference, Noll demonstrates that this élitist mystical movement constituted a part of Jung’s intellectual world even before he broke with Freud – and that it became virtually the whole of his context for the three decades thereafter. If history has hitherto not understood what Jung was saying, Noll contends, it is because history has not understood to whom he was speaking for the greater part of his life. Moreover, as an argument based on changing social contexts, the völkisch mystery angle cancels itself out felicitously. Between Hitler and the Second World War, the network of völkisch cults disappeared, and with it an entire milieu. And Jung, now caught in the spotlight of his own anti-semitic remarks, needed to find a whole new style of discourse, which explains his post-war passion for alchemy, a topic that had been available to him right along.

Noll’s thesis also makes good biographical sense. That ‘Father Abraham’ should rematerialise as völkisch guru fits, just as it seems appropriate that Freud’s former friend should take to recasting the various contemporaneous cult beliefs in the universalist terms of a depth psychological system. The thesis, moreover, stitches together aspects of Jung’s career that otherwise seem quixotic, ranging from the kind of journals he published in to his lifetime preoccupation with putative racial differences in the unconscious. Perhaps only scholars will appreciate the emergence of a hitherto unrecognised dimension in Transformations and Symbols of the Libido: much of what Jung was interpreting there by the way of solar symbolism had implicit reference to an inner path of völkisch transcendence. But any reader can appreciate that when Jung started to go mad following the break with Freud, he naturally hoped that the route he was following might lead to a deeper truth such as had been widely hinted at in the books of his library – and not simply to the banalities of psychosis.

Yet the question remains of just how serious Jung was about initiating his own mystery religion. After all, the ‘Collective unconscious’ might be a justification for a variety of idiosyncratic beliefs and experiences, but it might also be the interpretation of them. The issue is one of intellectual distance; how it is to be resolved, in turn, depends on a biographical understanding of Jung’s state of mind. Here Noll has an additional stunner. One of Jung’s visions during the period of his ‘Confrontation with the unconscious’, a vision reported to the 1925 seminar but left out of the memoirs, involved his transformation into Aion, a lion-headed god from ancient Mithraism. Noll has argued his interpretation of the vision more persuasively in the Jungian journal Spring, but it remains sturdy: Jung was self-consciously living out a fantasy of self-deification along the lines of what he believed to be the secret initiation ritual of an ancient mystery cult. His library was organising, or should we say decorating, his breakdown.

Even so, the question is not settled. A religion needs more than a founder: it needs followers. And now Noll begins to reach. Eager to argue that Jung self-consciously decided to form a ‘secret church’ – the phrase is indeed Jung’s – he wants to make that the basis of a critique of modern institutional Jungianism. In explicitly Weberian terms, Noll contends that the network of institutes, clubs and bookstores that makes Jung’s a still living voice in today’s world can be usefully seen as the bureaucratisation of a charismatic movement. Fair enough, but at the same time Noll insists that the charismatic movement in question can be traced back to a moment of dubious inspiration – the founding of the Psychology Club as a cult in 1916. Though the point is never stated as such, the reader is being invited to think of the Jung Cult as referring to Jungianism both past and present. The expanse is too great. Issues of intent and lineage start to blur; the author’s discernment eventually gives way to tendentiousness. Worse, the more local historical argument pertaining to the foundation of the Club is stretched in so many directions, some of them needless, that it loses much of its elasticity and almost all of its snap.

Still, if the Psychology Club was truly a cult, understood as such by its members, that is news. Noll has limited but striking evidence including one archival jewel. Late in his exposition of Jung’s accelerating post-Freud mania for self-transformation, Noll produces what seems to be Jung’s inaugural address to the newly constituted Club. This document is somewhat strange, not at all easy to read. Yet it does appear to be what Noll says it is: an invitation to a small group of people to band together in an ‘ideal analytical collectivity’. ‘The Mysteries’, a poem written by Goethe exactly a hundred years earlier, is invoked as a model for spiritual brotherhood. Self-deification, and its dangers, are discussed at length, with specific reference to becoming the Christ. Also discussed are struggles with the ‘spirits of the Dead’. There is no mistaking the fact that Jung is talking, albeit at one ‘Jungian’ remove, about his own bout with madness. There is also no mistaking the fact that Club members are expected to follow the path that Jung has followed. The talk ends by suggesting that, in further imitation of Goethe’s example, the Tree of Life might make an appropriate symbol for the Club as ‘the expression of a collective function, created by Analysis and life’.

By any standard, it is an extraordinary archival find. But the provenance of this find is a story in itself. The document, as I shall call it henceforth, was first discovered by the independent Jung scholar Sonu Shamdasani some five years ago in an archive in the Rare Books Department of the Countway Library at Harvard Medical School. I know because I was with Shamdasani the very evening he realised what he had.

The document had been lodged among the Fanny Bowditch Katz papers. She was the niece of the important American neurologist James Jackson Putnam, and when she became desperately depressed following the death of her physician father, he sent her to Jung. The treatment almost fell apart during the first year, and the stormy letters exchanged between her, Jung and Uncle Jim are of historical interest, in part because they were written during the period of the great schism between Zürich and Vienna. Also in that archive are various papers relating to her subsequent analysis with Maria Moltzer, one of Jung’s closest assistants during that time. Moltzer appeared to help Fanny a great deal, though how one can scarcely tell, given all the arcane terminology. On initial inspection, these papers appear to be of less interest, but Shamdasani realised that Moltzer was very close to Jung, and that whatever she was telling Fanny about ‘the union of the opposites’ and suchlike probably originated with Jung himself.

I was staying at the Hotel Commander just off the Cambridge Common and that night I discovered Shamdasani by chance in the lobby bar sitting with Eugene Taylor, another historical researcher with a deep interest in psychology at the turn of the century. The Countway Library has several different collections pertaining to Jung, and it was a time before we got through all the papers in Shamdasani’s satchel. We came to the Katz papers last; by now it was late, and Taylor had left. We turned to the document. It consisted of several pages of typescript in English with handwritten corrections. ‘Frl. Moltzer’ was written at the top of the first page, and we began reading it as though it were an address by her to the Psychology Club; presumably she had made an English translation for Fanny’s edification. Eleven paragraphs in, however, the speaker suddenly referred in the first person singular to a paper that he hoped to have finished soon, ‘The Transcendental Function’. This was not Moltzer. This was Jung. And then we recognised the handwriting of the corrections – Jung’s own.

We read line by line – Shamdasani’s knowledge of Jung is much more detailed than mine, so I followed him – trying to deconstruct Jung’s jargon in terms of what we knew about his personal life at this time. It was very late when we got to the end and to the proposed rules for the Club. We were both spooked. Jung appeared to be clothing himself in the robes of the sacred and asking his followers to join him in his psychosis. Recovering my composure, I congratulated Shamdasani on his discovery. To my surprise he asked me to join him in a publication. He did not want to do this alone, he said, it was too much.

So how does the document end up in another author’s book? Two years ago, I received a call from Noll, who had lately been diving into historical research himself, and we talked shop. At one point, he suddenly shifted gear and said: ‘You know, this whole thing is starting to look to me like some kind of cult.’ I replied: ‘It’s worse than you know – Sonu has found the inaugural address to the cult. But no one knows about it because in the archive it’s in, it’s mislabelled. We’re planning to write a book about it.’ Noll at once identified the document. Shamdasani had advised him to take a look at the Katz papers and Noll had already made his own copy; he led me to understand that he was planning to take a closer look at it in the course of time.

Would Noll have figured out what he had if I had not told him? Who knows. I also understood him to say that he would keep the document’s existence a secret. Subsequently I understood him to say that he would not be using it in his book, when he decided to write one. Lastly, after I had seen the manuscript, I understood that he would remove references to it. But he has used it, and the injured party is not myself but Shamdasani.

Noll’s transgression aside, he has made a contribution. Anyone in search of the historical Jung must now pass, however critically, through The Jung Cult. The world of völkisch mystery cults, aptly termed and aptly described, formed the greater part of Jung’s intellectual environment during the period 1914-39. The literature on inner transcendence produced by and for these groups, moreover, helped to organise Jung during a very desperate time. Later, the literature and practices provided a justification for his behaviour when he decided that the best way to hold onto his personality was to disperse it through his own little group. Noll’s achievement is flawed, but it deserves comparison with Frank Sulloway’s Freud, Biologist of the Mind. Sulloway retrieved an important, but almost entirely neglected dimension of Freud’s thought; Noll has done the same for Jung.

How close, then, are we finally to bringing Jung to the judgment of history? A parallel to Freud suggests that it will take time. One cannot expect the Jung heirs to surrender such primary source material as The Red Book, a privately printed copy of Jung’s very private journal, available only to the elect, any more than one can expect the Sigmund Freud Archives suddenly to announce a fire-sale on hitherto restricted materials. Critical re-examination of the Freud legend has lately reached a stage of maturity principally thanks to the intrepid research of a few independent scholars, beginning with Ellenberger and continuing with Peter Swales, Anthony Stadlen, Albrecht Hirschmüller and others who have added to the available fund of primary source material. Their intellectual adventure, and the consequences it has for Post-Modern thought, deserves separate discussion. In the matter of Jung, however, only Shamdasani appears to be on the case with anything like the same degree of informed, passionate concentration.

The parallel with Freud suggests another caution, too. When it all finally gets sorted out, one will yet have to concede that something was achieved, less than what was claimed perhaps, but progress nonetheless. In the meantime, one wonders how Jung himself is making out in the Land of the Dead about which he spoke so often, and whether his father still worries about him.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Letters

Vol. 17 No. 8 · 20 April 1995

John Kerr’s review of my book The Jung Cult (LRB, 23 March) contains some misstatements and overstatements that need to be addressed. First, it should be made clear that the position that Jung was ‘psychotic’ and that he formed a ‘psychotic’ cull is Kerr’s and not mine. No-where in my book do I make the argument which so many others have that Jung was psychotic. That in 1913-14 he underwent a psychological disturbance of such magnitude that he almost blew his brains out with a pistol he kept next to his bed, in full view of his wife and children, is without question, since Jung himself said as much. But years of clinical experience on inpatient units have made me wary of the overuse and over-extension of the term ‘psychotic’, especially among those in psychoanalytic circles. Diagnostic reliability for psychotic disorders is notoriously poor when assessing living patients; diagnosing the dead, sight unseen, is a most dangerous method.

Second, there are several corrections I wish to add concerning Kerr’s account of how the transcript of the 1916 talk by Jung to the Psychology Club, probably at its inauguration, came to appear in my book. As Kerr clearly and truthfully states, by the time of my telephone conversation with him I had already independently found the document among the many boxes of the Fanny Katz papers during a research trip in August 1992, had photocopied it and other items, and had obviously read it and realised it was of some significance. What Kerr didn’t say in his review, and as he well knows, was that when I revealed my knowledge of the document to him I had already identified it as a mislabelled, unpublished lecture by Jung to the Psychology Club and knew that it contained a plethora of Germanic völkisch metaphors that constituted supporting evidence for my hypothesis that Jung had not only formed a mystery cult of spiritual redemption, but that it was an Aryanist cult of some sort. I told him so on the phone that day, also telling him that it was mostly filled with a lot of Jungian gobbledygook and was not of such signal importance as he seemed to think. I could say this because I already knew the völkisch background of the document and had much more compelling evidence of Jung’s cultism from other sources. Kerr told me it was evidence of Jung’s psychosis, and I told him I would go back and read the Jungian gobbledygook more carefully as I did not agree. To this day I do not attach the same significance to the document that he does. Unfortunately, Kerr overstates his influence, making it sound as if he tipped me off about the document, when in fact he confirmed what I already knew about a document already in my possession. I should mention that neither Kerr nor Shamdasani had realised the deeper significance of the document, as they were completely ignorant of its German völkisch references and context. According to Kerr, they both thought it was merely confirmation of Jung’s ‘psychosis’.

I do have Sonu Shamdasani to thank (and do so in my book) for suggesting I take a look at the Katz papers (among many other items I had already planned to examine) during my August 1992 research trip to Boston, but it is incorrect to infer, as Kerr does, that Shamdasani had told me about the existence of the document. He obviously did not. The truth of the matter is that, if Kerr’s story about the ‘finding’ of the document by Shamdasani five years ago is to be believed, and there is no reason not to, then obviously Shamdasani and I each independently discovered it. Why they did not publish it is a puzzle that only they can answer, but ethically I was well within my rights to do so and was given permission by the Jung estate to include it in my book.

One final point: Kerr makes it sound as if my telephone conversation with him in the spring of 1993 was the moment at which I realised Jung had formed a religious cult of some sort. In fact, in my article in the journal Spring that Kerr mentions in his review I explicitly make reference to Jung’s formation of his early movement and therapeutic techniques as based on the model of the ancient Hellenistic mystery cults of renewal and redemption, and indeed I focus on Jung’s experience of self-deification as the centrepiece of that article. The article appeared in published form in late December 1992. Both Kerr and Shamdasani had pre-publication copies of the original manuscript in their possession in the late summer of that year, which I provided during my very first contacts with them. My hypotheses, derived from my own scholarly research, of Jung’s self-deification experience and the neopagan cultic nature of Jung’s earliest movement predate any contacts with Kerr and Shamdasani, and predate any knowledge on my part that these two fine independent scholars even existed.

Richard Noll
Harvard University

There is a time-honoured institution by which publishers send manuscripts for peer review to anonymous reviewers. The implications are serious when such procedures are contravened, and compounded when publisher’s readers subsequently come to publish reviews of these works and neglect to mention the full nature of their prior involvement.

In his review of Richard Noll’s The Jung Cult, John Kerr gives an account of how a document that I provisionally identified as being by Jung came to appear in the book. According to him it features as Noll’s prime documentary evidence that under the guise of founding a school of psychology, Jung in actuality founded a cult akin to those around Luc Jouret and David Koresh, as Noll claimed in a piece in the New York Times.

Contrary to the impression given by Kerr’s account, my research has led me to conclude that the thesis that the document constitutes the inauguration of a ‘Jung cult’ is quite erroneous. Noll’s transcription of the document in his book is appallingly corrupt: handwritten additions in various hands are not distinguished from the typescript, and all are attributed to the sole authorship of Jung. Further, Noll’s account is riddled with errors. To cite but one, he states that the document was evidently mailed by Maria Moltzer to Fanny Bowditch Katz in America. Why would Moltzer have done this, when at the time in question Katz’s address was Bergheimstrasse 8, Zurich? Contrary to Kerr’s evaluation, the injured party is not myself, but responsible scholarship, which has once more taken a back seat to journalistic sensationalism.

In my view, an understanding of the document in question requires a contextualisation of Jung’s work within the myriad attempts to establish dynamic psychologies of the unconscious from the last quarter of the century onwards, coupled with detailed research in European archives. This is lacking in Noll’s work, but has been accomplished in an outstanding manner by Fernando Vidal in Piaget before Piaget, his biography of Jung’s Swiss compatriot.

Kerr states that after he read Noll’s manuscript, in which Noll had used the document, he understood that Noll would remove all references to it. He neglects to mention that he read the manuscript in the capacity of an outside reader for Princeton University Press.

When I was informed that the document was to appear in the book, I requested Noll to send me the relevant sections of his manuscript to judge for myself whether Kerr’s account of the appropriation of information (of which I had just learned) was true. He refused to do so. When Kerr learnt that Noll had no intention of removing the document from his book, he officially reversed his reader’s report and stated that Noll’s actions had undermined the integrity of the review process. This forms the hidden history of his review.

Sonu Shamdasani
London NW3

In his review of The Jung Cult, John Kerr followed his psycho-biographical précis of Jung’s life with a long discussion of the provenance of a hitherto unpublished document presented in Richard Noll’s recent book. Kerr’s account speaks of it, if not as the Lacanian lettre volée, then at any rate as the purloined ‘pep-talk’: purportedly the inaugural address that Jung gave to the Psychology Club, Zurich in 1916, which was recently discovered by Sonu Shamdasani but subsequently published by Noll. But however the document came to light, and whoever got there first, there remain some interesting questions about this text which Kerr might also have addressed.

First, it should be noted that there are at least 12 inconsistencies between the original document and the version published in Noll’s book, some of which have been pointed out by the Jung scholar William McGuire. Most of these, as well as the changes in punctuation, are minor, but two – the replacement of ‘devined’ by ‘defined’, and the omission of the sentence ‘The recognition and the acceptance of the personal life’s task leads to the Menschwerdung’ – might be considered more important.

Second, there is the question of style. The language of this ‘inaugural address’ does not remotely resemble Jung’s writing in the essay ‘The Transcendent Function’, apparently referred to within the document and written in the same year. On the other hand, it is equally dissimilar to another text from 1916 (which in turn looks completely unlike ‘The Transcendent Function’), Jung’s quasi-Gnostic Seven Sermons to the Dead. That work consists of seven exhortations to ‘the Dead’, who return from Jerusalem in the first part, and fall silent, ‘rising up like smoke rises over the fire of the shepherd’, in the final part. Clearly, it is likely that there is a connection with the ‘struggle with the Dead’ referred to in the ‘inaugural address’. Such stylistic divergences might not be inconsistent if, as Kerr puts it, ‘Jung went half mad’ during this period. But how these three texts relate to each other still needs to be satisfactorily explained.

Third, there is the question as to why this document was not published immediately when it was found five years ago. Of course, both John Kerr and Sonu Shamdasani may have good reasons for this; but, over and above their own research activity (which I’m in no way seeking to question), this issue leads on to the more general and more important question of access to other unpublished documents relating to Jung. Although I have found the Jung family and estate most courteous and co-operative in my own dealings with them, it is clear that making such primary source material as The Black Book, The Red Book and the notebooks in which Jung recorded his dreams available (to all scholars who are interested) would substantially advance the state of Jung scholarship. Doubtless the Jung estate are right to protect the privacy of patients whom Jung treated. Nevertheless, so many years after Jung’s death, and after his own case-history has become so exemplary in the 20th century, for numerous clients and psychoanalysts as well as for countless writers and intellectuals, the immense significance of these documents surely requires that they be considered in a different way.

Finally, what about the problematic status of the purported inaugural address? As I’ve suggested to Jung’s family and literary executors, it should not be hard to use the invaluable expertise of the Wissenschaftshistorische Sammlungen department of the Swiss Federal Polytechnic Library, where other Jungian documents are housed in a special archive, to investigate the paper, the typeface and the handwritten corrections (apparently by Jung) of the document. If this were undertaken – and why not immediately? – it might be possible to solve the doubts surrounding the authenticity or otherwise of this potentially hugely important document, even if not the specific quarrel about who should or should not have published it.

Paul Bishop
Centre for Intercultural Germanistics

John Kerr’s review made me uneasy on several counts. First, the generally sceptical tone through which, under a thin mask of academic objectivity, Jung’s work and that of his successors was made to seem insubstantial or woefully eccentric. For example, Jung’s reasons for becoming a psychoanalyst are treated in terms of purely personal agendas (the need to make contact with Personality No 2, and to ‘play rebel on a grand scale’). Or the dismissive tone in which the emergence of analytical psychology is described, as the ‘promise’ of a new kind of analysis ‘which was supposed to surpass the Viennese kind by recognising the forward strivings of the patient’ (whatever that means), as though nothing had really come of it. To describe ‘active imagination’ as a ‘dissociative technique’, as though that somehow disqualified it, is to ignore Jung’s concern with getting the ego to acknowledge its limitations and to recognise the psychic reality of other voices, other ‘characters’. And the way in which a mythological perspective is described as being irrelevant to ‘the reason people become psychologically ill’ misunderstands the difference between the psychiatry that Jung quit and the depth analysis he subsequently developed. And so forth. The point is not that Jung is beyond criticism – many of the shortcomings cited are real enough – but that Kerr’s summary and disdainful manner gives a false edge to his reassessment of Jung.

A more important point has to do with the issue of ‘founding fathers’ such as Freud and Jung, and the mythologising they undergo, not only at their own hands (and Freud with his rings and his ‘inner circle’ is just as secretively cliquish as Jung), but at the hands of their followers. I have not read Noll’s book, only his article in Spring: but while I can believe that Jung cast himself as a Mithraic solar and leonine figure, I think it is important that we recognise that this mythologising is not necessarily to be pathologised, either in Jung or his followers; or rather, that seeing such moves as in effect purely personal delusions of grandeur misses some important things out.

It is not just Jung’s career, nor that of analytical psychology, that is riddled with initiatory, charismatic or sectarian features: it is the field of psychoanalysis as a whole. Furthermore, Freud himself admitted (in a letter to Einstein of September 1932) that psychoanalysis, like ‘every natural science’, was ‘a sort of mythology’: Jung made this a much more explicit part of his theories, while still claiming (like Freud) that he was basically a ‘man of science’. Rather than just playing off these contradictions, so that they cancel out or detract from Jung’s contribution, I would credit him with a greater willingness to explore beyond the limiting framework of the scientific attitude, and to envisage a psychology founded on something other than the traditional divisions between self and others, inner and outer worlds, mind and matter.

David Maclagan
Centre for Psychotherapeutic Studies

Vol. 17 No. 10 · 25 May 1995

May I add a few points to the debate about Richard Noll’s book (Letters, 20 April)? It is striking that little has been written so far about how the Psychology Club of Zurich actually functioned. From my researches, published in the Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences, it seems that Jung’s club of 1916 had its immediate roots in the Psychoanalytical Club of Zurich, which was formed when the Freud Society collapsed following the Jung-Freud split in 1913. The Freud Society had been formed in 1907.

There seem to have been a number of reasons why Jung instigated the formation of a club. I will focus on two that have not so far been mentioned. First, he had the idea of a ‘silent experiment in group psychology’ on the grounds that conventional two-person analytical treatment was ‘one-sided from the collective and personal point of view’. It is clear that everyone involved knew about this, so perhaps the experiment wasn’t as silent as all that. There was an interest in what would now be called group process, and the criticism of individual analysis has a rather modern ring to it. Second, Jungian analysis involves linkages being made between the material of the individual patient (dreams, fantasies, transference projections and so forth) and so-called ‘amplificatory material’ drawn from myth, legend, art and literature. As Thomas Kirsch has pointed out, the patient needed a suitably stocked library in which to look up his or her amplifications.

The procedure of amplification is not as odd as it sounds to modern ears when one considers a possible parallel with contemporary psychoanalytic practice wherein the here and now of the clinical interaction is, so to speak, ‘amplified’ by reference to infantile and other early or primitive mental and emotional processes held to be inaccessible to the patient’s consciousness in the session itself. There always seems to be this need in analytical therapy to turn up the volume, make things that seemed a bit thin more ample, convert one kind of material into another kind, and to establish that individual experience has shared elements – cultural, social, political – in it.

The club model eventually proved itself inadequate for the formation of the modern profession that Jungian analysis has become. To the extent that today’s Jungian analysis is a cult, this would surely be something it has in common with psychoanalysis or psychotherapy in general.

Andrew Samuels
Society of Analytical Psychology

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences