Jung and Kalsched on Trauma – some reflections

                                         Jung and Kalsched on Trauma – some reflections.


Jung only wrote one paper specifically using the idea of trauma or “nervous shock” to elucidate his thinking, by the way of psychoanalysis, on the then infant science of psychology. Perhaps his almost complete silence on the matter of traumatic events, and their relation to his psychology in his later works, reflected his disagreement and break up with Freud; trauma theory was something associated with Freudian psychology and Jung could hardly be seen to be still treading in the master’s footsteps when he had his own more spiritual psychology to pursue.

Freud had learnt from Charcot and Janet how a secondary personality could be considered daimonic, a force that was capable of possessing the personality from within and often under hypnosis this force would identify itself as a daimon. These powers of possession were thought to originate in traumatic events and this induced a trance-like state, which made the traumatic experience difficult to access in memory form. Charcot and Janet in their early work even named and subjected these daimons to flattery to enlist their help so that their trance-making powers over the patient’s consciousness could be transferred to the doctor helping the patient to gain access to the traumatic memories.

Freud furthered these advances in psychology by applying Charcot’s hypnotic techniques to his own hysterical patients and through these experiments started to formulate a psychoanalytic theory of trauma and it’s effects, and the first results of this were published in Studies in Hysteria in 1895, a book the Freud co-authored with Breuer.

In Jung’s essay on the subject he follows the development of Freud’s theory from Charcot and Piaget’s theory of nervous shock and thence to Breuer and Freud’s work on a theory of psychogenesis and the importance of trauma in the aetiology of hysteria. In Freud’s new theory hysteria was understood as the result of a trauma that was incompletely abreacted, that is, a failure of expression of affect associated with the traumatic event by the experiencing subject, and it was the task of the therapy, aptly name the cathartic method, to release the blockage of affect. Jung pays great homage to Freud’s concept of repression, a concept he believed lead far beyond trauma theory and to his own experiments with the word association test and the theory of feeling-toned complexes. He discovered here that associations relating to complexes were much less easily remembered and often forgotten and that they need not be related to traumatic memories, merely painful experiences. Jung notes that there is an incongruity between the concept of repression and that of trauma as “the concept of repression contains the elements of an aetiological theory of environment, while the trauma concept is a theory of predisposition.” (CW 4 para 214)

This predisposition led back into the mists of earliest childhood and apparent recollections of sexual scenes that were connected with the aetiology of neurosis in later life. However, Freud’s original view had to be revised as it transpired that the sexual trauma reported by his patients turned out on the whole to be unreal, that is fantasy. This leads Jung to conclude that,

“(…) the trauma, other things being equal, has no absolute aetiological significance and will pass off without having any lasting effect. From this simple reflection it is perfectly clear that the individual must meet the trauma with a quite definite inner predisposition in order to make it really effective. This inner predisposition is not to be understood as that obscure, hereditary disposition of which we know so little, but as a psychological development which reaches its climax, and becomes manifest, at the traumatic moment.” (Ibid. 217)

In fact Jung questions whether the trauma really needed to occur or not to produce psychic illness. This point is taken up by Donald Kalsched, who argues that Jung did not really think this at all in his clinical cases and cites Jung’s early case of a traumatised patient whose secret inner world had her living on the moon where she tried to save the children from a winged vampire who had dominion over the land. The source of the trauma and her subsequent admission to hospital had been sexual abuse by her brother.

Since Jung’s writings on actual trauma are so scant Kalsched takes up the idea that the feeling toned complexes exhibit a full range of traumatic encounters, either actual or transpersonal, through the archetype at the core of the particular complex. He argues that the secondary ego states encountered in complexes are Jung’s equivalent of a trauma theory, but that Jung differs from Freud in that sexuality alone is not seen as the precipitating factor. A variety and full range of tragedy and misfortune uniquely conditioned by individual life events and ancestral conditions are seen as occupying feeling toned complex dissociations. There is also the question of the archetypal core of the complex itself being experientially traumatic which Kalsched summarises in the following.

“These archetypal images defined a deeper strata of the unconscious which gave them a numinous character. As carriers of the numinosum, they participated in aboriginal man’s experience of the sacred, at once both awe-inspiring and terrifying, i.e. potentially traumatic. For Jung, it was among these numinous ambivalent archetypal images and their associated complexes that the search for a universal trauma-related unconscious fantasy in neurosis would have to proceed.” (Kalsched, 1996, p.72)

Kalsched is interested primarily in proving his thesis of archetypal defences of the personal spirit brought about by specific instances of trauma in cases of severely distressed patients. This archetypal defence mechanism prevents real relationship from happening on a pathological scale. For Jung, however, the collective dissociation of the personality arises from the birth of modern consciousness itself in the mists of tribal antiquity and the phenomenon of cross-cousin marriages, with ever expanding population and the rise of the exogamous tendency and the pushing down of the endogamous aspect into the unconscious. It is this that results in the characteristic dissociation of the personality that, according to Jung, everyone suffers from, which takes’ the form of projected contrasexual archetypes of animus and anima, which since the decline of the ideals of Christianity which held these contrasexual factors in its mythologem exert a force which is dissociative. One could equate Kalsched’s archetypal defences simply with persona, which in the un-analysed person can be identical with the field of consciousness. The persona is what one most wishes to be, and thinks one is, thus its function could be seen to protect the individual who is traumatised from finding out the whole story of their inner world – in other words who they really are. What object relations and psychoanalysis calls ‘false self ‘ or ‘caretaker’ needs no other explanation other than persona identification. In view of Freud’s initial discovery of sexual traumata and fantasy as a factor in dissociative states, and in view of Jung’s later thoughts on sexuality, it’s spiritual significance in the divine marriage and it’s relation to the incest archetype, one can discern a broad cultural shift since the birth of modern psychology with Freud, and with Nietzsche’s announcement of the death of God. For if the divine is no longer found through conventional religious dogma where can it be found? One answer is that it can be found in the complexes and their archetypal core, and since it is individual life experience that the complexes contain, including trauma experiences, then this is the place where the divine is found. This is not a particularly modern idea since it is expressed in Corinthians as “My grace is sufficient for you for My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” It is precisely in traumatic experiences where these weaknesses are to be found.

It seems to me that because trauma somehow has a connection to the divine, whose nature is inexplicable, it is something that is difficult to theorize about and to bring within the realm of scientific understanding. In Kalsched’s thinking the defence against experiencing trauma locks away the personal spirit so that it can never be harmed. This personal spirit in Kalsched is elevated very high on a scale of values; it is the most valuable thing that exists.

In systemic work, such as in Bert Hellinger’s Family Contellations (and others) the individual is downplayed. What is important is the group, and specifically I mean the family. On the systemic level we could say that specific trauma fails to be abreacted on an individual level because the group-oriented portion of the unconscious is functioning to maintain the group and it’s ideals. The group must be protected – after all the individual depends on the group for survival and anything that ensures the group’s survival also insures the individual’s survival. So a systemic based theory of trauma might reverse Kalsched’s theory since on a scale of values it is the group, not the individual, that is most valuable.

This does not mean that I am refuting Kalsched’s theory of trauma. I am, after Jung, suggesting that theories are the very devil in psychology. If we really take the prospective function of the psyche seriously we have to follow what is individual in each case as the basis, not a theory. I think this is why a trauma theory disappears from Jung’s writings; when he embraced the prospective aspect of the psyche, with its individual basis, a general ‘reductive’ theory of trauma became untenable.


Kalsched, D. (1996) The Inner World of Trauma London, Routledge

Jung, C.G. (1961) Collected Works Volume 4 Freud and Psychoanalysis London, Routledge & Kegan Paul

Two souls – the essence of a framework for mutual support.


The essence of a healing systemic work captured in just one image. Two souls, in physical bodies, holding and supporting each other while standing on the thin ice of life itself. In moments of crisis, we reach out and hold each other.   – Daan van Kampenhout.




I came across this quote and picture online, and was inspired by the simplicity and beauty of the sentiment. Then I wondered who do we reach out to and hold, and who holds us, in times of need and moments of crisis? When do we reach out, in what circumstances? Can we reach out to those around us? Are there some people who are more appropriate to reach out to than others? In counting the numbers from my own life, I had many fingers left as counters. I had to gauge whether or not my prospective holder would be able to handle my crisis, would not buckle under their image of me as a strong source of support myself. What effect would my needs for support have on them, how would they cope with me, and how would I be with the risk that in my moment of crisis, there would be nobody who would have the humanity to put aside themselves for a while and help me?

In our age, of course, we no longer need to have a web of mutual support around us, because we can turn to professional helpers, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, shamans, counselors, etc. Provided, of course, that we can afford it. If we cannot, the best we could do is to be prescribed drugs form our General Practitioner, and perhaps gain something from the human contact in his or her consulting room, a smile or two perhaps, a kind word, a little reassurance.

However, increasing numbers of people go down these avenues when the problem has become so enormous that they are totally overwhelmed. They cannot turn to those around them, because there is no habitual, inbuilt system of local support in the modern world. This was not so in antiquity.

Raymond Firth, in his celebrated 1936 study of Kinship in ‘primitive’ Polynesia, paints quite a different picture of native life on the island of Tikopia. Kinship in this context in threefold; it is consanguineous but also social and economic. The general body of kinsfolk is referred to by the Tikopian’s as te kano a piato which is specific to each individual person. These are the people who an individual can turn to in times of stress, or conversely in times of celebration. It can be translated as “the whole of the families” or “the collected families”. Unlike other native kinship terms it is not a clearly defined unit to which one either belongs or does not belong, but rather it “has it’s borders vaguely defined, fading away into the broad plain where classificatory kinship needs the spur of economic interest, neighbourliness or the touch of rank to make it effective”[1] In a small community, such as that on the island of Tikopia consisting of around 1200 inhabitants, family ties are the basis of social and economic life, but not exclusively so. Moreover, kano a piato is not exclusively called upon in times of drama in one’s life. It is a system of natural cooperation between persons who are involved in living together in all its social and economic ramifications.

In our modern world, we go out to work and we get paid and we have downplayed the other aspects of life which used to go hand in hand with economic survival. That is we need not equate the social and the economic. This in turn seriously narrows our network of support, those on whom we can depend when our very survival is called into question.

Many years ago, when I was in my mid twenties, I was practicing my guitar in my lounge where I could be seen from the street as the curtains were open. It was the evening time, and mid way through playing some Bach I was interrupted by the doorbell. I went to the door and found a middle-aged lady looking up at me from the steps. She apologized for interrupting me but said she had seen me there and had just wanted to talk to someone. She had been drinking a little, but she was not drunk. I agreed to talk with her and we spoke for about 2 hours. She was not a desperate woman, as she explained. She had a job and a social life, but there was nobody she could talk to and gain support from. So I listened, and gave her support. I have not thought about this event for a long time but I realize it made me feel better too, as well as her, that there is something gained from being a support as well as being supported, just as in Daan’s picture above. She talked about incidents from her early life, her mother, her abusive stepfather, incidents which she had never spoken about before. I was not a therapist then, but I didn’t need to be. I spontaneously became her kano a piato for two hours one evening in the 1990’s.

[1] Frith, R. We, The Tikopia Routledge, 1936 (reprint 2004) p.224



What is depression? A little light from Jung…

Depression is probably the most likely symptom to make a person seek out the help of a psychiatrist or psychotherapist. As a symptom it has a wide field of gradations ranging from a general feeling of low morale to a dark tormented condition of hopelessness which in severe cases can result in suicide. In the former state we might do well not to pathologise since periodic fluctuations of mood are normal and a natural counterpart to periods of happiness and as James Hollis observes “Could we even imagine the possibility of joy if we could not contrast it with its opposite?” (Hollis, 1996) Seen in this light a periodic feeling of low morale interspersed with periods of brighter moods is a natural and true consequence of being alive. Thus a certain amount of depression within a life is normal and healthy.


Psychiatry in the past divided depression into ‘neurotic’ and ‘psychotic’ varieties. The neurotic type was often termed ‘reactive’ meaning that the sufferer in this state was reacting to a significant event that was thought to have been the genesis of the depression. This might include a broken love affair, a bereavement or loss of employment. The psychotic form of depression however was thought to be endogenous, i.e. having its genesis in the personality of the sufferer without being set off by external events. In this form the depression is more likely to be accompanied by symptoms such as weight loss, insomnia or other psychosomatic conditions. In such cases a psychiatrist is likely to prescribe ant-depressant drugs without recourse to an in-depth analysis of the patient’s personality in order to find the root causes. (Storr, 1990)

Social factors may play an important role in cases of depression even when there is so definable traumatic event that may set it off. Women are particularly vulnerable to depression brought on by social factors, which can include being stuck in an unsatisfactory marriage, living under poor conditions, having 3 or more children under the age of 14 at home and generally having no life outside these restrictive factors. Chronic ill-health also can also an make a person more vulnerable to depression.

Depression can be thought of as a ‘disorder’ only when there is a certain predisposition towards it. Thus in a normal case of depression an adverse life event may set if off and yet the person can return to their normal state of equilibrium after a certain period. How long this might take is not quantifiable and would depend on the individual circumstances and the severity of the precipitating event. When the depression becomes a disorder – i.e. it can be thought of as pathological – then the person cannot return to the state of equilibrium and remains in a depressed sate.


Once a thing has fallen into the unconscious it is retained there, regardless of whether the conscious mind suffers or not. (C.G. Jung)


The characteristics of the depression in any one case would depend on whether it could be classified as ‘simple’ or ‘melancholic’. In a simple depression the tone is one of “feelings of weakness, lack of motivation, pessimism and loneliness.” (Steinberg , 1989). In melancholic depression however the symptoms are more severe, characterised by a

profound and overwhelming feeling of self-blame, hopelessness and self-deprecation. Such people suffer from a pervasive melancholia, disorder of thought processes, psychomotor retardation and somatic dysfunctions. Their thoughts are gloomy and morbid.” (ibid.p339-340)

Depression around mid-life is very common and in Jungian terms can be thought of as an inevitable collision between the ego, which may have developed in less than ideal circumstances in the first half of life, and the Self which wishes to be in the foreground in the second half of life. The collision of these two opposing forces creates a depression.

Jung himself did not evolve a theory of depression in itself but, in fact, saw all symptomology as basic to the alienated state of human kind in general where dissociation of the personality is the norm, involving projection of the contents of the unconscious rather than integration of them and thereby enlargement of the personality. Thus for example, a man possessed by his anima, “a creature without relationships” is prey to a “moody and uncontrolled disposition” (Jung, CW16 para. 504). Jung is always looking for the archetypal background of symptomology so the symptom itself is not a main source of focus for him. Thus he considers depressions, moods, nervous disorders as the appearance of certain psychic contents “which express themselves by their power to thwart our will (and) to obsess our consciousness.” (Jung, CW7 para. 400) These psychic contents Jung argues are a manifestation of God and to deny this is an act of repression and the personality as a result becomes impoverished. He argues that this impoverishment comes about because contemporary experience and knowledge , which is characteristically rational and one-sided, regard the experience of symptoms like depression as valueless and meaningless, something to be gotten rid of, when in fact on a higher level of experience they lead the way to wholeness via integration of unconscious contents.


Could we even imagine the possibility of joy if we could not contrast it with its opposite. (James Hollis)


These unconscious contents carry a charge of libido and since this libido is trapped in the unconscious through a characteristic one-sided attitude of the ego then the ego itself is depleted of energy. In speaking of the depressive world of one of his patients Jung remarks

The patient’s world has become cold, empty and grey; but his unconscious is activated, powerful, and rich. It is characteristic of the nature of the unconscious psyche that it is sufficient unto itself and knows no human considerations. Once a thing has fallen into the unconscious it is retained there, regardless of whether the conscious mind suffers or not. The latter can hunger or freeze, while everything in the unconscious becomes verdant and blossoms.” (ibid. para. 345)


Because the development of the ego in the first half of life has to be one-sided to fit in with certain circumstances, libido builds up in the unconscious as a counter-position to the conscious one. Through time and further repression of contents it has the power to invalidate all conscious contents. Thus in the above case that Jung cites the depression was caused by negative feelings that were “so many autosuggestions” which were accepted without argument by the patient, despite him being a “very clever young man who had been intellectually enlightened” (ibid. para. 344)


The dynamics of depression are thus to be thought of with reference to the concepts of compensation and introversion. The unconscious compensates for the one-sided attitude of consciousness by causing libido to be diverted from the object-world through the process of introversion leaving the ego depleted of libido which causes depression. In order for the depression to be lifted the unconscious contents must be integrated, contents which may be wildy different from the conscious standpoint, and this leads the ego to be replenished by the libido which can flow freely. In the above case the conscious attitude of the patient was so one-sidedly rational that nature rose up and annihilated his whole world of conscious values.


The depression turns out to have been trying to realise something, is directed towards a goal and this goal is transformation.


This introversion of libido and the depressive state Jung sees as a kind of marker as to where the ego needs to go to be replenished. The patient must look back into the depths of the depressive state which has links to the past, to the personal unconscious, insofar as the past is an object of memory and therefore a psychic content. Jung says this can only be done by “consciously regressing along with the depressive tendency and integrating the memories so activated into the conscious mind – which was what the depression was aiming at in the first place.” (Jung, CW5 para. 625)

The depression turns out to have been trying to realise something, is directed towards a goal and this goal is transformation. This goal represents a “regression of energy in service to the Self” (Hollis, p.73) This Type of depression is what Esther Harding calls a “creative depression” and the hero’s descent into the underworld is it’s primary myth. The hero entering the underworld can be seen symbolically as the introversion and following back of libido and the encounter with the monster or dragon as some unconscious affect associated to a complex or archetype. and inasmuch as the hero is changed by the encounter, he has died. The introversion process itself is accompanied by depression firstly because the ego becomes depleted as energy is drawn towards the unconscious and secondly because change itself is always symbolised as death and this prospect, the death of long held values and beliefs, is naturally accompanied by depression. The symbolic experience of death can also be confused with actual death and this can lead to obsessive fantasies revolving around disease. The analysand going through such a rebirth experience can become convinced that actual death is around the corner. Steinberg relates such a case where “the symptom became so strong and the affect so real that “even his wife, who was a physician, was convinced.” (Steinberg, op. cit. p.342) However, after thorough analysis of dream material the analysand realised his paranoia was related to psychological change rather than actual physical death.

Jung’s approach to depression is consistent with his ideas on how the personality is structured and as such all symptomology can be seen as the withdrawal or redirection of libido from the ego as the centre of the conscious personality.

Recognising that Jung’s main focus was the transformation process and not the , of symptoms, Steinberg has questioned Jung’s (and others) assumptions about the aetiology of depression. One of these assumptions has to do with precipitating events and he argues that actually set backs in life such as the loss of a job often result in strongly adaptive coping behaviour where the libido is progressive rather than regressive, and that therefore a predisposition is an important factor. One significant factor in this predisposition is the severe loss of love early in life leading to the idea that a personal factor was responsible for the loss. This conclusion is usually supported by moral criticisms from the parents and the depressive is always motivated by the need to regain this love by the proper form of ‘redemptive’ behaviour. In this situation an adult can carry the childhood patterns of relationship into adult encounters and find similar relationship patterns in search of this redemption. This concern with primary sources of love makes depressives very sensitive to the environment and significant others, dispelling the observation or assumption that depressives have a lack of interest in the environment. Steinberg argues that the withdrawal evident in depressive states should not be confused with introversion as depressives usually have an extremely extraverted psychology which they have developed as a defence against the loss of love and that the real challenge for them is to develop their introversion by becoming attuned to their own needs rather than trying to satisfy the needs of others to regain their own sense of being loved. This is often plagued with difficulty as the discovery of individual feelings at odds with the environment are most feared because they lead to the threat of the loss of love.

One last thing to mention is the correlation of depression with impounded aggression; either this aggression turned in causes the depression or that the impounded aggression is the result of depressive dynamics. Steinberg put the situation thus;


The excessive and irrational guilt and self reproach from which depressed individuals suffer is often induced by parents who threaten to withdraw their love from a child unless he conforms. Such threats often centre on a child’s self-assertiveness, which the parents experience as hostile.” (Steinberg, op. cit. p.348)


I can agree with this to a point but my own experience leads me to believe that such situations are rather more complex. For example the parents don’t experience the child’s assertiveness as hostile since depression indicates that the child has failed to be assertive and therefore it is the child’s fear that he or she will be experienced as hostile that is the issue. The child is responding to family dynamics where there is an unconscious agreement between family members that the child does not have any rights to self-assertion. For example when I was 11 years old my mother told me that she was leaving because she had fallen in love with another man. Evidently I was meant to feel very pleased for her to serve her narcissism, which consciously I did. Many years later I told her about my experience and she denied it ever happened and told me that it must be a ‘false memory’. In reality at the time her animus was calling the shots and she was just as much a passive victim as I was. I believe these things stretch much farther back than the immediate situations at which the depressive person is said to have started to develop in a way that leads to depression. My experience is also that the depression or affect does lead into the unconscious, it is purposive and it uncovers a whole nexus of intertwined relationships which are inter-generational, basically primitive insofar as they lead back to ancient kinship customs (Jung, CW16 para. 441) and that bringing consciousness to these configurations does indeed lead to religious experience, insofar as the contrasexual archetypes acting properly as an inner relationship, leads to experience of the Self .




Hollis, J. (1996) Swamplands of the Soul Inner City Books p.47

Jung, CG.( 1966) Symbols of Transformation Collected Works Volume 5 London Routledge & Kegan Paul 2nd Edition

Jung, C.G (1966) Two Essays on Analytical Psychology Collected Works Volume 7 London Routledge & Kegan Paul 2nd Edition

Jung, C.G. (1966) The Practise of Psychotherapy Collected Works Volume 16 London Routledge & Kegan Paul 2nd Edition.

Steinberg, W. (1989) Depression: a Discussion of Jung’s Ideas in JAP Vol. 34 issue 4 p. 339

Storr, A. (1990) The Art of Psychotherapy London Routledge

The Question of Psychological Types – book review

Beebe, J. & Falzeder (Eds.) The Question of Psychological Types London & Oxford, Princeton University Press, 2013. Pp. 184. Hb

This book is a record of the the correspondence between Jung and Hans Schmid-Guisan written between June 1915 and December 1916, some five years before the publications of Jung’s Psychological Types. Schmid-Guisan had met Jung at a psychiatric conference in Lausanne while the former was an assistant physician at the Manhaim Clinic in Cery. Schmid-Guisan went to study analytical psychology with Jung in Zurich and was also his analysand. Gradually their relationship broadened into a friendship and the problems that both men encountered in their practises would often bring them together for discussion. As Jung wrote of Schmid-Guisan in his obituary,


At the time we were especially interested in the question of the relativity of psychological judgements, or, in other words, the influence of temperament on the formation of psychological concepts. As it turned out, he developed instinctively an attitude type which was the direct opposite of my own. This difference led to a long and lively correspondence , thanks to which I was able to clear up a number of fundamental questions. The results are set forth in my book on types. (p.169)


This ‘lively correspondence’, then, it what is set out for the reader in this new publication and translation. The problem is set out in the first letter by Jung, a problem which he encountered both in the difficulties of his daily analytical work and in his experience with other people in his personal relationships. In their previous discussions Jung and Schmid-Guisan had identified the problem as the existence of two diametrically opposed types. In speaking of their earlier face-to-face discussions Jung says,


“For one thing we saw very clearly: the problem is not so much the intellectual difficulty of formulating the differences between the types in a logical way, but rather the acceptance of a viewpoint that is diametrically opposed to our own and which essentially forces the problem of the existence of two kinds of truth upon us. Thus we arrived at a critical point of the greatest order, because we had to ask ourselves, in all seriousness, whether the existence of two kinds of truth is conceivable at all.” (p.39-40)


The two kinds of truth Jung refers to are introversion and extraversion and the correspondence between the two men cast them in their natural positions as introvert (Jung) and extravert (Schmid-Guisan) to which the two men adhere throughout the entire correspondence. At this early stage of Jung’s working out of psychological types extraversion is equated with feeling (‘feeling-into’ the object) and introversion with thinking and these terms as they are used here are rather experimental, having not acquired the fully worked out technical meanings that were assigned to them in Psychological Types. Nevertheless, Jung’s psychic model at this time did include for the opposite type and function being present in the unconscious in an inferior and less developed form, and this is evident and consciously recognised in both men’s exchanges leading to exasperating and quite emotionally charged disagreements in counterpoint to their more attentive and patient agreed roles in their conscious standpoints.


By the ninth letter exchange Jung has had enough, although Schmid-Guisan continues with a further three more letters. This last letter from Jung’s pen, entitled the ‘The Last One’ sums up the experience for Jung in no uncertain terms.


Your last letter strengthens my conviction that reaching an agreement on the fundamental principles is impossible, because the point seems precisely that we do not agree. To this end the (unconscious) uses every means, and be it ever so hair-raisingly stupid. (p.131)


It was perhaps because of this ‘hair-raising stupidity’ that Michael Fordham, one of the editors of Jung’s Collected Works, found the letters ‘”unreadable” and “very dull and not particularly illuminating” and, noting that Jung thought the letters were essentially preparation, was “against their inclusion anywhere” (p. 5) , either in Volume Six of the Collected Works as an appendix, or as a projected stand alone volume.


I am inclined to agree with Fordham here, although I would not go as far as to say that the letters are unreadable, although they are indeed quite dull, and exceedingly repetitive as each man goes over and over their own misunderstandings and how the other man has misunderstood them. They are nevertheless very confusing for someone used to mature Jung since the theoretical premises of two fixed functions, thinking and feeling which are in turn are seen as inseparably paired to introversion and extraversion respectively, leave a lot of ground uncovered. Similarly there is no mention of intuition and sensation as independent functions as we know them today, although Jung does allude fleetingly to these missing functions in his ninth and final letter.


The extensive and scholarly introduction by John Beebe and Ernst Falzeder goes a long to way fill in the blanks in this historical evolution of Jung’s thought, caught as it is in the space of six months. They include both a pre-history of Jung’s thinking on types pre these letters and an ‘aftermath’ charting the way content from the letters found their way into various publications before the publication of Jung’s fully worked out theory in 1921. Beebe’s commentary on the letters helps clarify some of the points the reader may miss, not least the somewhat murky references to Schmid-Guisan’s analysis with Jung. The book is well referenced with many helpful notes and includes Jung’s own summary of the first three letters as an appendix, and also his obituary of Schmid-Guisan.


The overall impression one receives from these letters is of a failed experiment which ends somewhat acrimoniously, with a lot of mutual frustration along the way, although the two men continued their friendship until Schmid-Guisan’s untimely death. This publication would be of interest to those readers seriously interested in the history and formation of Jung’s ideas, but for those of us who are still struggling with his mature ideas, the standard texts will suffice.



C.G. Jung Dreams Ancient and Modern, Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford, 2014

This latest publication from the Philemon Foundation is a record of parts of the seminars Jung gave on children’s dreams and the historical literature on dream interpretation from 1936-1941 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The Children’s Dreams seminars were interspersed with material from wide ranging historical sources on the nature and meaning of dreams as an overview to how dreams were understood in different epochs. As in the Children’s Dreams material, each topic is a prepared presentation by a seminar member. I shall give a (very) brief summary of the flavour of each in turn.

The fist paper delivered in chapter one is on the Neoplatonist Macrobius who lived in Rome around AD 400. The paper summarises Macrobius’s commentary on Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis, a lost work which only survives in Macrobius’s commentary on the dreams of Cicero’s adopted grandson who live from 185 to 129 BC.

Macrobius presenting his work to his son Eustachius. From an 1100 copy of Macrobius' Dream of Scipio.
Macrobius presenting his work to his son Eustachius. From an 1100 copy of Macrobius’ Dream of Scipio.


Macrobius distinguishes and classifies five different types of dream. Two are discarded as uninteresting because they contain nothing divine. The worthy types of dream are oraculum (when an honourable figure gives advice as to action, or about future events), visio (looking into the future), and somnium (symbolic material that requires interpretation). This latter category is itself split into five subcategories. Essentially the paper highlights the similarities of the ancient mode of dream interpretation with Jung’s modern approach. Although the former mode of interpretation is less sophisticated, it is essential the same.

Chapter 2 focuses on a monograph of Monsieur Edmond Le Blant on Artemidorus’s Five Books on the Art of Dream Interpretation, of the 2nd century AD, which we learn was a primary source for the treatment of dreams and superstition in antiquity. We are transported by the paper into a time when the content of dreams were of primary of Gods, the circus and theatre, danger and death and other motifs of pivotal importance in the lives of Artemidoris’s contemporaries (he was said to have worked on around 3000 dreams). This cultural history is amplified in the hundreds of little motifs encountered in everyday life that appear in dreams, such as proverbs, customs, quoted verses, details of cults, etc. much the same as our modern dream life is also populated in the main by motifs and objects from our everyday existence. Much of the paper is devoted to the Gods and their appearance in dreams as the most important factor, carry varying forms a specialised interpretations, good and bad omens. Again the association method is used to interpret dreams, excepting that for Artemidorus the use of personal associations was unthinkable as the ‘personal problem’ was not in the ascendant at that time., although the personal concrete circumstance of the dreamer were taken into account in the interpretation. Jung sums up this attitude in one of his rare comments on the proceedings at this stage of the seminars:

“For ancient man the Gods had a completely direct influence. Fate, morality, and thinking depended upon them. There was no room, therefore, for personal psychology. This mentality prevailed until the 17th or 18th Centuries.” (p.19)


Chapter 3 deals with the Treatise on Dream Visions by Synesius of Cyrene who lived circa AD 370-AD 415. He concentrates on the prophetic nature of dreams, the dream’s relation to what will come to pass in reality. This prophesy possible because of the underlying unity in the cosmos where everything is interconnected and bears a close relation to everything else. Whoever understands this has wisdom.

Synesius of Cyrene

In chapter 4 we jump more than a thousand years to the thinking of the 16th century professor and physician Caspar Peucer.Peucer draws on ancient dream theory, Macrobius in particular. He distinguishes dreams with two different causes; procatarctic causes are the physical, material causes of dreams which originate from sense impressions of the outer world. Prohegomenic causes are those immaterial causes not affected by the senses and their general direction is towards the future. In Peucer’s cosmology of dreams, in addition to these causes, there are two different types of dreams. Phantasmata are those dreams produced by material causes and hence do not have a metaphysical background in themselves. Visions and dream oracles which originate in God, demons and Satan are the second type. The ‘natural’ dreams are those sent by God whereas ‘incubation’ dreams are sent by Satan and their most likely function is to deceive. Peucer, after Macrobius, also has a classification of dreams into five categories depending on the dream object to be interpreted. The treatise under discussion is mostly devoted to somnia physica, physical dreams, and Peucer describes the anatomy of the brain/dream convergence at length.

We are now firmly in the territory of Enlightenment rationality. Chapter 5 is devoted to M. L’Abbe Richard’s Theorie des songes and his intention is one of “destroying the ancient belief in the preternatural and prophetic characteristics of dreams, and explaining them in terms of rational causes.” (p.45) Richard’s cosmology of dreams is embedded firmly in the physiology of Descartes, having their source in the sense impressions which filter through the body into the esprits animiaux, subtle blood corpuscles that are secreted through the blood and absorbed into the nervous system. Although this is a physiological dream theory, there is a place for soul, since “imagination is the place where the soul forms images.” (p.46) and the strength of the impressions that the esprits animaux receive depend on the vivifying effect of the soul..


Chapter 6 deals with Franz Splittgerber’s Schlaf und Tod from the latter half of the 19th Century. He classifies dreams into meaningful and meaningless varieties. The meaningful dreams represent the workings of the “eternally waking spirit” from the deep within the psyche, whereas the meaningless dreams contain only remnants of the day. He comes close to Jung’s formulation of the collective unconscious as he remarks that the symbolic form that images take in dreams can have the same characteristic in many different peoples from all over the world with constantly recurring motifs. Ethically he believes that dreams can improve the dreamer as they often characterise the dreamer in less favourable terms than the dreamer would expect. Which of course  Jung’s principle of compensation.

Franz Splittgerber








Chapter 7 deals with the biologist Yves Delage’s La Reve, wriiten in 1891 and published in 1920. In the main his approach to dreams is physiological. For Delage there are 3 methods of dream research, which he calls objective, experimental and introspective and he categorises dreams into 10 different forms of content. He is very much of the spirit of his time in his rational explanations of dream life.

Yves Delage


Chapter 8 is a discussion of Schlaf und Traum by Paul W. Radestock from the 1870’s and represents the height of scientific materialism in that all psychological processes are traced back to organic causes. He writes that there is “a continuous relation between physical and psychic changes” (p.72) and he draws on consciousness to explain the unconscious. However, there is here already the anticipatory idea of the dream function as compensatory and also that typical dream ideas can be found everywhere in ethnopsychology.


Chapter 9 is a discussion of the ideas around dreams coming out of German Romanticism via The Dream in German Romanticism by Philipp Lersche. There is a discussion of collective psychic life as contrasted to the collective unconscious and a discussion of the romantic attitude of intoxication towards mythology and folktales.


Chapter 10 is a discussion of The Dream in Primitive Culture by Jackson Stewart Lincoln, whom Jung new personally. He rejects Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious, believing that the dreams in primitives share the same mythological ideas as our dreams because of tradition and the similarity of social conditions, rather than because of something innate in the psyche, as Jung does. He also takes Freud’s view that the dream is a wish fulfilment and he deduces cultural processes – religion, ethic, the arts – to the Oedipus Complex.




Chapter 11 is a discussion of The Soul of the White Ant, by Eugene Marais, which is a digression from dreams to a comparison of the life of termites and it’s relation to subjects of concern for analytical psychology. Analogies are drawn, for example, between the social structure of humans and termites; between termite communities and the sympathetic nervous system; the seeming androgeny of the queen termite is compared to deities seen historically always portrayed hermaphroditically, and ultimately the comparison is between the queen and the Self, as the centre.




Chapter 12 is a discussion of the visions of St. Perpetua, which is of course given by Marie-Louise von Franz, which shows the psychic transition from antiquity to Christianity. Von Franz’s famous paper is not included but the discussion between Jung, von Franz and the participants really adds a new slant to the published version of the book available as part of von Franz’s oeuvre.



Chapter 13 is a discussion of the dreams of the Renaissance scholar Girolamo Cardano and is by far the weightiest portion of the book covering almost 100 pages, over one 3rd of the book., and it is where Jung really moves into his element as seminar leader and university professor, coaxing his students into ever deeper explorations of the texts. Cardano’s dreams are extraordinary. The 15 dreams discussed cover a period of 23 years and yet Jung weaves them into a narrative as if they were a single cycle. And indeed it is a single series to Jung:


“This process – it seems (with some reservations) to be a genuine series – is what we can also find today in a dream series, in which motifs appear but disappear again, so that one gets the impression of a circular process that proceeds on its own, unless it gets interrupted a some point by the intrusion of consciousness.” (p.195)


Ultimately this is a failed process for Cardano as his entrenched one-sided views spell the end for the fundamental change that is trying to break through into consciousness but does not, and so Cardano “really went to the dogs” (p.194) This failure is due to Cardano’s inadequate interpretations of his own dreams and his tendency to treat the unconscious as if it were merely material for his own conscious thoughts, despite his belief in the prophetic nature of his own dreams. In this Cardano shows that he is a man of his time, the time of the reformation and the decline of the Christian myth, or the beginning of the “great hubris” of consciousness, as Jung aptly names it. In discussing Cardano, we are treated to vintage Jung at his very best, and he covers an enormous range of subjects in the process, which makes this chapter very useful.

Girolamo Cardano


The last chapter deals with Three Dreams of Dr. John Hubbard published in 1916. The three dreams are quite astounding in their scale and intricacy. Jung discusses these dreams from the collective point of view, not the personal, and thus finds in them a parity with modern events, or modern events that are to come, particularly the idea of social contrasts which cause an inner conflict in the individual.


The introduction by John Peck is very dense, a piece of work in its own right, which pays dividends to read again when you have read the seminar material. Peck draws out what he believes Jung leaves largely unstated and compares his approach to today’s emergence theory in physics, biology and psychology (which he does not explain), although the drift of it is that to understand the fabric in which dreams are embedded there needs to be less of a concentration on myth, complex and dreams being somewhat interchangeable terms but rather that “inner and outer lives alike, radiate from psychoid comings-into-being.”(p. XIII)


As regards the format of the book I do have a question: why weren’t the whole of the EFT seminars published in their chronological form, rather than being split up into the Children’s Dreams portion and the current volume under discussion? The answer that comes to mind is that publishing them in this way makes them more marketable to non-specialists.


I did very much enjoy reading this book, and I wondered what the next 2000 years of dream-as-cultural-history will bring. An intriguing thought. I was struck by how remarkably human Jung appears in these seminars. Of course he is brilliant, sage-like and erudite as one would expect, but he also has something of the ordinary professor about him, a man who has a job to do and one that he takes pride in.G

Copyright Leslie Laine 2015