Jung Stripped Bare
By His Biographers,

Sonu Shamdasani
(Karnac Books)
  • Gustav Jung was responsible for only a small portion of what most think of as his autobiography. Memories, Dreams and Reflections was written --- for the most part --- by Aniela Jaffé, secretary to the Jung Institute and one of his analysands;
  • At one point, when Jung was visiting with Freud in 1909, there was a "loud noise" which Jung believed to be parapsychological --- "a catalytic exteriorisation phenonemena" is how he termed it in his pedantic Swiss-German phraseology. These guys literally blew each other away;
  • When Jung split with the Freudians, they accused him of being mad --- a "deviant," suffering from "grandiose delusions;"
  • Jung was subject to visions. One, a bloody one he had in 1914 was, he felt, a presentiment of the upcoming war. His most famous vision, which he produced at age eleven, showed God perched on a golden throne, high above the cathedral at Basel, letting loose a giant turd;
  • The author of the present volume doesn't give a tinker's dam for any of the biographies of Jung --- except for an earlier one by Barbara Hannah --- Jung: His Life and Work (1976);
  • Like most therapists --- at least non-Freudian therapists --- Jung reveled in ambivalence. He was considerably exercised by the fact that his translator Richard Hull was too precise with his words which, he felt, would later affect students' understanding of Jung's thinking --- especially in such works as Synchronicity and Psychology and Alchemy.

§     §     §

Jung Stripped Bare by His Biographers, Even may be a clever title for a book that sets out to pan all those who presume to write his biography, but it has little to do with Marcel Duchamp's very funny 1923 glass-work La Mariée Mise a nu Par Ses Célibataires, même which looks, at least to these hoary eyes, to be a take-off on the mechanization of sex. Since Shamdasani claims, rather fervently, if not repetitively, that Jung was nothing if not a loyal and devoted husband and father, the title might be stretching it to make a dadaesque artistic injoke.

Even more to the point: if we are to accept the author's tale of how Jung worked so hard to get his approved biography written and published while he was still in this world; then, again and again, backed away from those writers and historians he appointed to carry out the project --- we might agree with the Freudians that he was a bit dotty, that indeed, using formal psychological terminology, there might have been a few bats in the belfry.

In all, however, you and I know that it makes no difference if Jung was a potty mystic, and only partly responsible for Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. This book --- not Jung Stripped Bare by His Biographers, Even, but Memories, Dreams, Reflections --- is a hell of a good piece of writing. Take it as pure fiction if you wish, it's gripping, funny, and more than a little original. It certainly had a powerful effect on us psychology students when it was published some forty-five years ago.

I was, perhaps, more partial to the theories of Jung back when I first read it. I had my first psychotic head-on collision at that time, and ended up in the office of a respected Jungian, Dr. Francis Clark.

In our year-and-a-half together, the good doctor helped me to piece me and my brain back together; taught me the value of dreams (for artistic, as well as personal, insight); gave me the chance to experience a kindly, disinterested, insightful listener; and taught me respect for the more zany aspects of the mind --- mysticism, cosmic force, out-of-body experiences --- as well as more basic, sometimes droll, Jungian lore: the mind seeing its various parts as a house, complete with basement, living-room, bathroom, bedroom, attic; the role of mythic heroes in our lives; the psychiatrist as a hair-dresser --- common in the dreams of many who are in therapy; and most wonderfully, the ambivalence, imprecision, and duality of everything. Everything.

--- Ignacio Schwartz
Send us e-mail


Go Up     Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH