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Letters

Vol. 17 No. 8 · 20 April 1995

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Madnesses

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well knows, was that when I revealed my knowledge of the document to him I had already identified it as a mislabelled, unpublished lecture by Jung to the Psychology Club and knew that it contained a plethora of Germanic völkisch metaphors that constituted supporting evidence for my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

Salem’s Lot

To judge by her article on ‘Satanic Child Abuse’ (LRB, 23 March), Leslie Wilson seems genuinely to believe satanic abuse is a myth and that the many people working in this field are fanatical extremists engaged on a modern witch-hunt. The truth is that this abuse happens and most of us are more involved with helping the victims than with catching the perpetrators. But unless it is exposed, there is little hope of doing either effectively.

Ten years ago, I was as sceptical as she appears to be. I regarded the subjects of witchcraft and black magic as boring mumbo-jumbo. However, I was forced to accept the reality of satanist abuse from hearing my own patients’ accounts and those from other members of Rains (Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support). These survivors have no contact, yet their descriptions of abuse are remarkably similar to each other and to those given by children. My account of cult practices was a compilation of this information and was confirmed by many sources.

Both my written pieces from which she quoted were strictly limited in length. Hence not everything is explained. Had Leslie Wilson interviewed me before writing her article, answers and some evidence would have been provided. For instance, the clinical outcome after disclosure was improvement in all cases with a steady reduction of symptoms. Were she a clinician, she would know that both retraction and an initial increase in disturbance, when first disclosing, are common features of abuse survivors and do not imply that the allegations are false. As she has mentioned the so-called ‘False Memory Syndrome’, whose proponents dispute the validity of any recovered memories, I must point out that none of my patients had forgotten their involvement in satanism, although some traumatic memories had been repressed. These were not recovered through hypnosis.

Why is it so hard to believe that professional people could be members of satanic cults? Religious and political extremists have been members of most professions from time immemorial. All the criminal activities, such as child abuse and pornography, child murder and drug-dealing, allegedly performed by satanists, are committed by others who are not satanists. Other cult leaders such as Jim Jones and David Koresh have brought about mass slaughter. Personally, I, too, have difficulty with the concept of satanic worship and I am no nearer to believing in black or any other sort of magic than I ever was, but it is almost equally hard to understand how grown men, mostly from the professional classes, can go along with the extraordinary initiation rites involved in Freemasonry.

Joan Coleman
Guildford

I was impressed by Leslie Wilson’s article. In the course of reading the British and American literature on the subject I have been astonished and appalled by the willingness of writers and specialists with impressive qualifications to repeat manifest falsehoods and absurdities, and their failure to recognise grotesque, transparent and wicked miscarriages of justice. However, there are some points in her article that are worth going into in more detail.

Leslie Wilson briefly mentions the 1980 book Michelle Remembers as providing the main impetus for the anti-satanism panic. This book is so totally fantastic that it is hard to understand how anybody, let alone responsible professionals, could have taken it seriously. Its claims of involvement in a satanic cult closely parallel Rosemary’s Baby and Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out. It is written from the standpoint of ultra-traditional Catholicism and includes claims of supernatural events such as the appearance to the satanic cultists of the Devil himself (who prophesies that Armageddon will come in the Eighties as a result of a Soviet-Iranian alliance, an idea that was then popular with US right-wing Christians). Like the two other best known US ‘satanist survivor’ books, Lauren Stratford’s Satan Underground and Mike Warnke’s The Satan Seller, it includes autobiographical information that is demonstrably false. There are two similar British works by Doreen Irvine and Audrey Harper, chiefly sold in evangelical bookshops. Neither is checkable at any point and neither of the authors states that she has contacted the police although they both claim to have witnessed serious criminal offences.

Wilson mentions the US day-care centre satanism cases as being parallel to the British ones. The recent Ayrshire case, where a group of children in care were returned to their parents, gives clear indication of cultural contagion of British investigations by these earlier US cases. One allegation in Ayrshire was of sexual abuse in a hot air balloon, a detail that occurred in the 1988 Edenton North Carolina day-care satanism trial. This latter case, incidentally, was remarkable – even by the standards of such cases – for the highly bizarre nature of the allegations. Robert Kelley, a day-care centre proprietor, was imprisoned after children told tales of his shooting babies, taking children in his car as he robbed banks, throwing them to sharks and taking them for rides in a spaceship.

The parallels between Britain and the US should not be pressed too far, however. There is a major difference in that, while most of the British accused have been members of what it is now fashionable to call the underclass, the US cases have mostly taken place in middle-class settings and have originated not in interventions by the authorities but in acts of moral vigilantism by parents against alleged abusers. This difference is probably due to the fact that while the British satanism panic is largely confined to professionals in social and psychiatric work, and is spread by books and seminars aimed at a limited audience, the US panic is more general and popular, being spread by other means including rumours, sermons and TV talk shows.

Wilson is certainly correct to point to historical parallels such as the witch mania and allegations made against heretics. But she misses the most relevant of all historical parallels: that of Jewish ritual murder of Christian children.

These stories, common in the Middle Ages, were revived in the 1905 Russian pogroms and by the Nazis. In the latter cases they were combined with tales of a Jewish plot to overthrow society. Some modern anti-satanists make similar allegations. Dr Joan Coleman, who is quoted in the article, believes that Satanists are involved in drugs, arms smuggling and ‘snuff movies’ (another contemporary myth). Even more disturbing than Dr Coleman’s ideas are the fantasies of Dr Corydon Hammond, a US abuse specialist who claimed at a conference endorsed by the American Medical Association that satanism had been brought to the US by one Dr Greenbaum, allegedly a Hasidic Jew who had shared Kabbalistic secrets with the Nazis and had been brought to the US by the CIA in 1945.

When nonsense like this can be taken seriously it is not surprising that attempts are being made to use the satanism myth to revive other images of child sacrifice. Apparently British neo-Nazis have recently been circularising nurseries with leaflets about ‘Jewish ritual murder’. Those who, like Valerie Sinason, compare satanism sceptics to Holocaust deniers might care to reflect on those parallels. One can only hope some of the believers will read Leslie Wilson’s historical summary, since the ignorance their own writings show about the witch mania seems as total as the confidence with which they proclaim that ritual abuse dates back hundreds of years. Children for the Devil, a book by the British journalist Tim Tate which is taken seriously by many professionals, attempts to prove this claim in a section that cites as evidence confessions made during the witch mania as well as blatant historical forgeries.

There is another historical parallel worth pursuing. Although the Malleus Maleficarum was written by two Dominicans, Protestant witch-hunters used it as a manual and their works were in turn quoted by Catholics. The modern satanism panic is kept alive by a similarly bizarre set of allies. On one hand there are evangelical Christian groups such as the Outreach Trust; on the other liberal professionals. Nor does this exhaust the list of strange bedfellows. The group Accuracy About Abuse, which champions the accuracy of recovered memories, is taken seriously in the media in spite of being run by Marjorie Orr, whose main credentials as a therapist consist of being the astrologer to the Daily Express.

Particularly disturbing is the role played in maintaining the panic by some feminists such as Beatrix Campbell. It is hard to imagine the reason for this since in many of the cases women have been accused (unlike cases concerning genuine child sex rings, which rarely involve women); at least one US case, that of Kelly Michaels, was clearly influenced by anti-lesbian prejudice.

The satanism panic in the last decade has been so clearly irrational that one cannot help speculating on the motivation behind it. While many of its proponents may be well-meaning, it is hard to escape the conclusion that some of them are people harbouring sadistic fantasies which they project onto others. Certainly, Wilson’s quote from one professional who justifies oppressive questioning of children by saying that some children really want to continue even when they say no is disturbingly similar to the rationalisations of real-life child abusers.

Roger Sandell
Richmond, Surrey

The Information

In his piece on Frank Tipler’s The Physics of Immortality (LRB, 23 March), John Leslie tries to adumbrate chaos theory thus: ‘The classic example is the butterfly which, if given incredibly precise information and access to a gigantic computer, could deliberately induce or prevent a hurricane some weeks later, by fluttering this way or that.’ He completely misses the point. A chaotic system is one in which an infinitesimal change in input causes an arbitrarily large change in output. Therefore, in order to predict how the system will behave, it is necessary to know its starting conditions with infinite precision – a finite approximation to the starting conditions, no matter how good, has no predictive power whatsoever. The information would not need to be incredibly precise; it would need to be infinitely precise. And the computer would not need to be gigantic; it would need to be infinite. Chaotic systems are thus both deterministic and unpredictable. John Leslie mentions Freeman Dyson’s infinite computer based on asymptotic cooling towards absolute zero. Such a computer, however, even though only requiring finite energy, would necessarily take an infinite time to finish the butterfly’s infinite computation; a fact that rather makes one wonder about the meaning of the word ‘finish’.

To move away from the dud outline of chaos in order to try to iron out one or two of the creases in Tipler’s woolly book: suppose that quantum mechanics does obviate the need for infinite precision in the chaos calculations by virtue of the granularity that it superimposes on the universe. Then – if finite – the universe itself is a finite-state machine. All that can happen is rearrangements – swapping pieces between different squares on the universal chessboard, if you will. If such a universe only lasts for a finite time Tipler’s idea of infinite progress is shot immediately. If it lasts for ever, after a while all possible arrangements will have been exhausted, and the whole thing would have to go round the loop again – a grand version of Tipler’s ‘horror of the Eternal Return’; the idea of progress seems a trifle elusive in this case too. If the universe is infinite in extent, quantum-mechanical granularity doesn’t eliminate chaos, as the infinities are back in the sums and the computer would need to work for ever; any progress (whether infinite, or just trivial stuff like raising the dead) that depended on answers to the sums would never even get off the ground. You can’t beat the house by having an infinite number of computers either, because it would still take an infinite time to distribute the initial data amongst them before the – very fast – computations could begin. Q (as we used to write in non-woolly school geometry lessons) ED.

It is rather important when dealing with this sort of thing carefully to distinguish between the very big and the infinite: something that is infinite is different in kind – not merely in degree – from something that is just very big.

Adrian Bowyer
University of Bath

He Needs Help

Can your readers help me? Perhaps, growing old, I can no longer take things in as well as I was once able. Bill Johnson I never agree with but can always understand, whereas I always know I ought to agree with Tom Nairn (or else I would lose the respect of all my Scottish friends), but I cannot always grasp quite what he is saying. So may I offer a prize of one hundred pounds worth of new books (left over from the shortlist of the recent Orwell Prize for political writing) to whoever sends me the clearest hundred-word précis of his long review on Northern Ireland (LRB, 23 March)? Or use as many words as necessary, but not longer than the article. This is a genuine offer. No one is excluded, not even Tom.

Bernard Crick
Political Quarterly

Catching on

It’s surprising that, discussing the sexual significance of zippers, and the part played by this in their eventual hold on public fancy, E.S. Turner (LRB, 6 April) doesn’t mention Brave New World (1932, rather earlier than the epoch suggested for the zipper’s arrival as ‘the tool and symbol of seduction’). Surely Huxley’s super-pneumatic Lenina, stepping alluringly from her unzipped zippicamiknicks, might have been worth a mention?

Mr Turner didn’t touch at all on one of the zipper’s lasting holds on popular imagination, its utter mysteriousness. In more than seventy years I have never, despite frequent inquiry, found anyone who even claimed to know how zip-fasteners fasten, let alone explain it to me. This apparent magic must be one of the things which caused it to catch on, so to speak. Indeed, it must be a factor in the popular fascination exercised by a great many inventions, ‘necessary’ or otherwise. Though doubtless it is a help to have some practical application – are zippers really so inutile? Just wait till someone finds an everyday use for the Möbius strip.

Christopher Small
Edinburgh

Mistake

I regret that in my review of Love’s Work (LRB, 6 April) I gave the wrong surname for Gillian Rose’s sister Diana; I should have written Diana Stone.

Marina Warner
London NW5

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