Zvi  Lothane,  MD

On  revient toujours à ses premiers amours (first love springs eternal) (Freud, 1905).

In the history of the psychoanalytic movement no other schism rivals the one between psychoanalytic titans Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) in its doctrinal, political and personal aspects. I have discussed some of these issues in a paper (Lothane, 1989a) on Paul Schreber (1842-1911) and his famed Memoirs (Schreber, 1903), while in my book about him (Lothane, 1992) I briefly broached the relevance of  Sabina Spielrein[1] (1885-1942) to the Freud-Jung polemic regarding how to interpret Schreber’s book. I shall elaborate on the methodological and doctrinal aspects of that polemic in a future issue of International Forum of Psychoanalysis (Lothane, 1997a).

The goal of the present communication is to revisit the story of Sabina Spielrein, Jung’s first analysand later lover and among the first women analysts to join the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, as reflected in the letters exchanged between Freud and Jung (Freud/Jung Letters, 1906-1914; henceforth abbreviated as  F/J Letters) and other sources. It is also a defense of Spielrein against the falsehood promoted in a recent book by John Kerr (1993) who claims that as Jung’s lover Spielrein was “at the center of the squall of distrust that led to the break with Freud” (Kerr, 1993:13).[2] Similarly, I shall argue that diagnosing Spielrein as schizophrenic by the Italian Jungian Aldo Carotenuto (1980, 1986),  the first to publish Spielrein’s diary and letters between her and Freud and Jung, was also wrong and a ploy to exonerate Jung. But what was Jung really guilty of?

Recently new data and insights have been provided by the Swiss Bernard Minder MD, the first to publish Jung’s clinical chart of Spielrein’s hospitalization at the famed Burghölzli asylum (Minder, 1994), thanks to permission granted by Burghölzli and Mme Menicha Isakovna Spielrein,  Sabina’s niece still living in Moscow, and by the Russian Ph.D. in philosophy V. I. Ovtcharenko (1992, 1995), both in the forefront of a growing literature about Sabina Spielrein[3]. Let us retrace the story of Jung’s involvement with Sabina Spielrein as patient and lover.


At Burghölzli: the doctor and his patient

After graduating from medical school in 1900, the 25 year old Jung joined the staff of the Burghölzli cantonal state hospital in Zurich, directed by the eminent Eugen Bleuler, a facility for the treatment of acute and chronic patients suffering from schizophrenia and other psychoses; well-to-do patients and hysterics were a small minority there.  Jung has been reading Freud’s articles and books since 1901 and the list would have included the papers on the neuro-psychoses of defense, Studies on Hysteria,  The Interpretation of Dreams; he later read the The Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. As a member of the burgeoning Zurich school of psychoanalysis he was among the first to utilize Freud’s dynamic ideas in the treatment of psychotic patients.  His experience with hysteria being limited, his “paradigmatic” hysteric turned out to be Sabina Spielrein, admitted to the hospital on 17 August 1904 and discharged on 1 June 1905. The chart contains a copy of  a hitherto unknown report in the form of a letter written by Jung on Burghölzli stationery, four months after Sabina’s discharge. This letter remained in Sabina’s possession (Carotenuto, 1980:101) and Carotenuto erred in thinking Sabina mistook that letter for part of the published Freud-Jung correspondence (Carotenuto, 1980:224, footnote 6). Here is that report in its entirety:


Report about Ms. Spielrein to Professor Freud in Vienna, delivered to Mrs. Spielrein for possible use.


Dear Professor Freud:

The daughter of Mrs. Spielrein, Miss Sabina Spielrein, a medical student, suffers from hysteria. The patient has a heavy hereditary taint, father and mother are hysterics, especially the mother. A brother of the patient is a severe hysteric since his earliest youth. The patient is now 20 years old, clearly clinically ill for about the last 3 years. However, the pathogenic events and experiences, of course,  reach back to her early age. I have analyzed the clinical condition almost completely with the help of your method and with a favorable result from early on.

The analysis has essentially brought out the following:

The corporal punishments on the patient’s buttocks, applied by the father from age 4 to 7, have unfortunately aroused the precocious and now quite strong sexual feelings in the patient. Sexuality manifested itself very early on in that the patient began to masturbate by pressing her thighs together.  Masturbation always followed punishments suffered at the hands of the father.  Gradually beatings were no longer necessary to arouse the sexual excitement:  mere threats would suffice, or even situations marked by a certain degree of violence, e.g., curses, threatening gestures with the hands, etc. In the end, she could no longer bear to look at her father’s hands without being sexually aroused,  she could not bear to see him eat, for she felt compelled to think where the food leaves the body, then the punishment on the buttocks, etc. Such  thoughts were also extended onto a younger brother, who has also been masturbating for the longest time.  Threats or minor shows of harshness toward the boy would get the patient excited, and she also had to masturbate when she saw her brother punished.  Gradually she would become aroused by any situation reminiscent of any measure of aggression,  for example, when someone said she had to obey. When alone, she would be tormented by obsessive thoughts, for example, she felt compelled to imagine all manner of tortures, and the same occurred in her dreams;  for example, she dreamt repeatedly that she is eating her midday meal and sitting on the toilet, and everything is immediately coming out behind, while she is surrounded by a big crowd of onlookers;  on another occasion she is being whipped by a big mob, etc.

In this way the situation at home became unbearable and about a year ago, after many angry scenes at home,  she was brought for treatment to Switzerland, first in a private mental institution [of Dr. Heller in Interlaken],  where the treating physician was not at all up to her demonic mood swings and manipulations. There she brought everybody to the brink of despair. Eventually they were unable to cope with her in the private facility and she was admitted to our asylum.  Here initially she was still a holy terror and tormented the nurses to the utmost. With advancing analysis her condition improved markedly and eventually what emerged was a most intelligent and gifted person endowed with the highest degree of sensibility. In her character she showed a measure of inconsiderateness and unfairness, as well as a lack of any feeling for what is opportune and for external decorum,  which should of course be attributed to her Russian character.

Her condition improved so markedly that she was able to resume her studies last summer semester.  She is still suffering when she meets with members of her family, which the mother especially refuses to comprehend, but which follows from all that has been said before. (By the way, Frau Spielrein is well acquainted with the bulk of her daughter’s complex.)

In the course of her treatment the patient had the bad luck to fall in love with me.  She continues to rave blatantly to her mother about this love and her secret spiteful glee in scaring her mother is not the least of her motives.  Therefore the mother would like, if needed, to have her referred to another doctor, with which I naturally concur (Minder, 1994:121-122; emphasis added; translation by Z. L.).

No referral was ever made to Freud, but this undelivered report remains the most succinct summary of Spielrein’s clinical picture, consistent with the notations in the hospital chart. Noteworthy is Jung’s formulation regarding Sabina’s repeated early psychosexual traumas, spankings by her father on her bare buttocks, and their connection to a premature arousal of her sexual emotions, masturbation, and florid sadomasochistic fantasies.

At the time of Sabina’s discharge Jung was 30 years old, married for two years to Emma Rauschenbach, a daughter of a wealthy Swiss industrialist, and living with his wife and first child, one year old daughter Agathli, on the grounds of the Bughölzli Hospital. His Jewish-Russian patient, ten years Jung’s junior, was born in Rostov-on-Don.  As recalled by another Jewish émigré in Switzerland, the first President of Israel (Weitzmann, 1949), that city in “southern Russia is the gateway to the Caucasus; the Jewish community there was small, and though subject to all the disabilities which crippled Jewish life in the Pale [the ghetto district into which the Jews were crammed by the Czar], … the district was wealthier [than the ghetto area of Russia known as the Pale], competition was less keen” (Weitzmann, 1949:71).  Similarly, Sabina’s family would have belonged to a “class of so-called ‘guild merchants [that] enjoyed special privileges … and consequently a more comfortable existence” (Weitzmann, 1949:71): indeed, her father was a merchant and her mother a dentist.

Sabina described her family background in her diary:

I still remember my great-grandfather, from 3-4 years old,  [as] a large friendly man in black. What made a much deeper impression was what I heard about him: he was a highly honored rabbi in Ekaterinoslav. In our town he was borne through the streets by the people. Many stories were told about his prophetic abilities. … My grandfather is still alive. He has become senile, but remains cheerful and loving. … It is significant that my father speaks with great respect of my grandfather, something he does of no one else …  He was also very good-looking. He chose … the a daughter of a physician … who was considered to be an unbeliever [which] my great-grandfather could not tolerate … the dream had to be relinquished and he married a girl his father selected for him. … My grandfather must have unconsciously retained the image of his first love, for he considered study of the Christian sciences more important than anything else. His daughter was supposed to study, only to study. … In spite of all the threats directed against him as a rabbi, he sent his daughter to the Christian Progymnasium … and also saw to it that she was educated at the university. Mother, who learned everything easily and eagerly, was his pride and joy. How did this complex manifest itself in my mother? … Mother was very much afraid of falling in love with a Christian or being loved by a Christian. … One man … a Christian, a respected figure in St. Petersburg [was told by her] … that she would never marry him, because that would destroy her parents; the next day he shot himself. For a long time my mother did not want my father … presented to her by my grandfather … my mother did not find satisfaction in her love for her husband. Now for the third generation. … I believe no one could have been happier than my grandfather when I decided to study medicine (Carotenuto, 1980:21-23).

These intergenerational conflicts around Jewish religiosity vs. emancipated Jewish secularism and gentile worldliness left an indelible mark on Sabina’s identity, determining both her active feminism and her future relations with Christian Jung. The story of the mother was even more complicated:

In her youth my mother had loved someone else. Her love was returned. They became engaged,  … exchanged blissful letters when they were separated. And … [t]hey had to part. Relatives were opposed. My mother felt her life was ruined. … Around this time she met my father who soon won her.  Mother was impressed by his intelligence, his firm and noble character, his tender concern for her. In spite of all this mother did not love  him. … They became a couple. One could hardly imagine two more different people” (Carotenuto, 1980:7).

We can see here Sabina’s various normal and neurotic identifications with her parents, as reflected in her illness, which Sabina herself saw as having started in the “sixth grade, after the death of my little sister [when she] took refuge in isolation” (Carotenuto, 1980:24), and in her subsequent life story. Her psychosexual identity was forged in a series of  adolescent crushes, described with great insight in her diary:

Up to the age of 13 I was extremely religious. In spite of the many contradictions I perceived, in spite of my father’s derisions, I dared not give up the idea of God. Relinquishing God was very difficult for me. What resulted was a void. I kept my “guardian spirit” … [in] the fifth form in Gymnasium. My history teacher. A Christian. … at first calls forth deep revulsion in me. After his first lecture his high intelligence and the serious, sad expression in his black eyes vanquishes me. Precisely because I would like to be especially earnest in his presence, I am unable to control myself and burst out in convulsive laughter at the sight of his odd grimaces. … Later … my crush on the man who opened up to me previously unknown vistas grows by leaps and bounds. I want to make some sacrifice for him, I want to suffer for him. My Jewish girl friend also like this teacher best. She, too, admires his great intelligence. We read history and cultural history together … [and] receive the highest grade from him — a 5. … [later] my love for him cooled. … After my departure his need for a confidante found an outlet in my mother. He had come to love her, too, and when she left for Paris, he jumped out of a window intending to take his life. He was diagnosed as suffering from dementia praecox. His competitor for my affections was the Uncle Adolf I mentioned earlier, an exquisite example of father-transference. He is by no means as intelligent as my teacher, but he has my father’s noble character and a decidedly artistic bent. … My uncle also finally fell in love with my mother. … Later when I went to Warsaw, [he] was replaced by my present friend [i.e., Jung], who has more of a hold on me than anyone else thus far (Carotenuto, 1980:25-26).   

Hitherto unknown details about Sabina are described in Jung’s clinical notes.  The father, habitually very tense and nervous, tyrannized the household with his quirky moods.  He hit his daughter often and when challenged or frustrated would retreat into bed or threaten suicide. Sabina’s relationship with him was particularly ambivalent and disturbed. Mother was described as severely hysterical and vain, who indulged herself with spending considerable sums of money of clothing and jewelry.  Sabina was raised very religious by her mother, taught to say prayers and to believe in God, angels, punishment for sinning and she also beat her daughter frequently, the daughter witnessing a great deal of bickering and violent scenes between the parents.

The oldest of five children, followed by a sister that died and three brothers,  Sabina was a precocious child and was sent away for five years to study in a Fröbel-type elementary school in Warsaw, where she learnt to speak German and French.  Between 7 or 8 Sabina “conversed with a spirit. … By the by God began answering her in the form of an inner voice expressing a feeling tone rather than audible sentences. Sometimes the inner voice spoke German to her. … Gradually it came to her that it [i.e., the voice] not God, but an angel sent to her by God, because she was an unusual person.  Gradually she saw the angel as a good spirit that helped her and guided her. At first the spirit spoke German, then Russian. Often she felt she understood the meaning of the words even before she actually heard them” (Minder, 1994:64).  These are daydreams and fantasies of a highly imaginative soul, prone to exaltation, idealism and Weltschmerz; from the perspective of nosography such fantasies could be qualified as hysterical at best, but not as psychotic hallucinations or delusions.

Back in Rostov she returned to her parents and attended high school, studying Latin and Greek as well as piano and voice.  At another time she also “arranged to have lessons in Ancient Hebrew, so as to read the Bible in the original” (Carotenuto, 1980:25). But her chief aspiration was to study medicine.  She graduated from the gymnasium with honors and one year later the situation at home became so unbearable that she had to be brought to Switzerland for treatment.  After the stay at the Heller Sanatorium she was refused admission to the private hospital of von Monakow.  A violent scene at Hotel Baur en Ville led to a certificate of a Dr. B. who diagnosed hysteria and admission to Burghölzli. Sabina was a private patient and her hospitalization cost 1250 Swiss francs per trimester.

In his clinical notes Jung documents the patient’s unruly histrionic behavior that antagonizes the staff, including himself, and refers to his “analyses” of Sabina’s complexes, mood swings, hysterical abasias, pains in the feet, etc. There is no mention of any hallucinations, delusions, or any symptom compatible with a schizophrenic thought or speech disorder.

Sabina was Jung’s very first hysterical patient to be treated with Freud’s psychoanalytic method and with striking success.  The method had been compellingly described by Breuer and Freud in their “Preliminary Communication” of 1893 and in their 1895 epoch-making book,  The Studies on Hysteria, that Jung’s chief Bleuler called in his 1896 review of it (in the Münchener Medizinische Wochenschrift) “as one of the most important publications of the last years in the field of normal and abnormal psychology” (Minder, 1994:55).   The method  Jung took from Freud consisted in interpretively connecting —  thus analytically resolving, solving, and dissolving —  Sabina’s present-day symptoms, complexes, masochistic dreams and day dreams,   masturbatory practices, and “massive tics, grimaces, and defensive gestures” (Minder, 1994:68) — to the traumas of childhood,  specifically, to her father’s beatings that became erotically charged for the patient. “Strictly speaking,” writes Jung in the chart, “it is to this complex, that one can trace all the disgusting gestures and negativisms” (Minder, 1994:68).  However, while dwelling on the sexual aspects of the material, Jung disregards a no less important determining cause: aggression and rage embedded in the symptoms and evident in the repeated violent enactments, and its cure by means of abreaction, i.e., the cathartic method of Breuer and Freud, that allows the patient “‘to cry oneself out’ [sich ausweinen] and to ‘blow off steam’[sich austoben, literally, ‘to rage oneself out’]” (Freud, 1895:8). By providing sympathy, guidance, and a firm hand, Jung was able to restore his patient to health.

It is also noteworthy, as Minder notes, that Jung presciently tells Freud that Sabina fell in love with him and addresses a warning to Sabina’s mother.  In characterizing this love as a piece of bad luck Jung followed Freud in qualifying such love as transference,  a phenomenon already clearly described by Freud in his chapter on therapy The Studies on Hysteria,  thereby implying that he, Jung,  was not to blame.  Jung is silent about the realistic, that is nontransference, aspects of this love and  his own strong attraction to his patient.  

Towards the end of her hospital stay Bleuler gives Sabina a medical statement certifying that she had undergone treatment for “nervousness with hysterical symptoms” (Minder, 1994:119) and recommending that she be matriculated for the summer semester at the medical school of Zurich University. Bleuler and Jung also write to the father requesting to spare his daughter the burden of having to do with family members, such as writing letters to father or being involved with her brother who wanted to study in Zurich. Following her release form the hospital Sabina on June 1, 1905 Sabina moved *to a flat downtown and continued to see Jung as an outpatient at Burghölzli, at unspecified frequency and *for a  period ending in December of 1909, to judge from the correspondence about bills and payments *between her and director Bleuler that continued until that time.

 A cure by love

A year after the discharge, Jung’s second letter to Freud, of  23 October 1906, contains the first mention of Spielrein’s ongoing treatment, without any allusion to the aforementioned report:

Dear Professor Freud,

At the risk of boring you, I must abreact my most recent experience. I am currently treating an  hysteric with your method.  Difficult case.  A 20 year old Russian girl student, ill for 6 years.

First trauma between the 3rd and 6th year. Saw her father spanking her older brother on the bare bottom. Powerful impression. Couldn’t help thinking afterwards that she had defecated on her father’s hand. From the 4th-7th year convulsive attempts to defecate on her own feet, in the following manner:  she sat on the floor with one foot beneath her, pressed her heal against her anus an tried to defecate and at the same time to prevent defecation.  Often retained the stool for 2 weeks in this way! Has no idea how she hit on this peculiar business; says it was completely instinctive, and accompanied by blissfully shuddersome feelings. Later this phenomenon was superseded by vigorous masturbation. I should be extremely grateful if you would tell me in a few words what you think about the story (F/J Letters:7).

The patient is now 21 year old, not 20,  and the description is not only dated but also silent about the tell-tale details contained in the previous report,  especially as regards transference and countertransference issues that Jung was so much in need to abreact. Freud is generous in his response, invokes the dynamics of his  1905 “[Three essays on the] Theory of Sexuality” (F/J Letters:8), and is mainly limited to “pointing out what is glaringly evident, that is, the role of sexuality … [and] anal erotism,” ideas he will develop two years later in his well known paper (Freud, 1908). Freud does not react to the loaded emotional overtones.

A year later in 1907 Jung defended Freud’s sexual theories as a converted Freudian in a lecture delivered at the First International Congress of Psychiatry and Neurology in Amsterdam in which he included a vignette about Spielrein as a case of “psychotic hysteria” (Jung, 1908:20), a statement that was both dated and false. The adjective “psychotic” was arbitrarily applied to the patient’s severely disordered behavior: “at eighteen, her condition had got so bad that she really did nothing else than alternate between deep depressions and fits of laughing, crying and screaming. She could no longer look anyone in the face, kept her head bowed, and when anybody touched her stuck her tongue out with every sign of loathing”(Jung, 1908:21). But the qualifying term “psychotic” contradicts his own statements in the chart and Bleuler’s certificate, is more a matter of degree than form or substance;  it fit Sabina only during her hospitalization and does not reflect Jung’s observations from 1905 to 1907.  More importantly, given Sabina’s personality and rich emotional life, the history and clinical picture of the disorder, the nature and the relatively brief duration of the hospital treatment and its outcome, and the subsequent developments, any notion that she was ever essentially psychotic, let alone schizophrenic, is untenable. Another early psychoanalyst, Karl Abraham, who worked with Jung at Burghözli and would have known Spielrein in some capacity, confirmed that she was an hysteric  (Freud Abraham Letters, 1907-1926).

What is even more telltale, is that by 1907, as I will discuss presently,   Jung’s and Sabina’s love affair is already in progress. Given this situation, the  diagnosis of psychotic hysteria may serve Jung to place the entire burden of responsibility for the affair upon Spielrein, doing what he would accuse Freud of in dealing with his opponents: damning Sabina with a diagnosis.  Taking the hint, Carotenuto, bent on defending Jung, went Jung one better. Without ever seeing the clinical record, and solely on the basis of Spielrein’s reasoning in her paper on destruction as a cause of becoming (F/J Letters:469),  Carotenuto argued speciously that because “destruction and end of the world is typical of schizophrenia” (a falsehood that would be also applied to Schreber), Spielrein was ipso facto schizophrenic (Carotenuto, 1980:144). I consider both Jung’s post hoc and Carotenuto’s posthumous diagnoses as politically rather than scientifically motivated[4].

There is no direct epistolary evidence when and how the infatuation mentioned by Jung in his 1905 report blossomed into a real sexual love affair, dubbed “poetry” by Sabina.  “At the time our poetry began,”  writes Sabina in German, not in her native Russian, in her diary, “[Jung] had two girls [the second, Gret, born in 1906] and the potentiality for a boy [Franz, born end of 1908],”  that is, sometime between 1906 and 1908.  Sabina described it as “a close erotic relationship” (Carotenuto, 1980:100) that materialized “on the days of our usual rendez-vous” (Carotenuto, 1980:97), which means meetings or trysts.  She does not say where and how the meetings occurred, does not call them therapy sessions, or what the focus of such therapy was.

Neither is it clear who initiated the love affair, although given Sabina’s shyness and the mores of the time it is plausible to assume it was Jung who took the first step.  This is suggested by the ribald allusion to Sabina in Jung’s  letter to Freud of 6 July 1907. After describing Mrs. St., a woman whose marriage is barren and who is laboring under a fixation on her father (in  connection with whose story Mrs. Jung, “who knows a thing or two said recently: ‘I am going to write a psychotherapeutic handbook for gentlemen’”),  Jung  continues:

A hysterical patient told me that a poem by Lermontov was continually going around in her head. The poem is about a prisoner animated only by one wish: sometime in his life, as his most noble deed, to give some creature its freedom. He opens the cage and lets his beloved bird fly out. … In her dreams she is condensed with me. She admits that actually her greatest wish is to have a child by me who would fulfill her unfulfillable wishes. For that purpose I would naturally have to let “the bird out” first. (In Swiss German we say: “Has your birdie whistled?” A pretty little chain, isn’t it? Do you know Kaulbach’s pornographic picture:  “Who Buys Love gods?” (Winged phalli looking like cocks, getting up to all sorts of monkey tricks with the girls.)

The German colloquial word for copulating is “vögeln,” from Vogel=bird.  As informed by Nabokov, McGuire quotes the entire poem, by Pushkin not Lermontov, making it clear that Jung’s erotization of its content was personally determined, as shown by his association to Kaulbach’s pornographic production.  This is not to deny Sabina’s eroticism, but rather to show how boys will be boys: while for the virgin Sabina’s sexual attachment was part of a greater love, for permanently married Jung it was no more than an amorous adventure, almost a God-given prerogative of the double standard as widely practiced in European societies.

Jung avails himself of another justification for his behavior, polygamy, an idea spouted in his ears by his patient Otto Gross, MD (1877-1919), a devoté of free use of narcotics and sex, presumably in all its forms.  This unruly son of Dr. Hanns [sic] Gross,  a noted psychiatric forensic expert of his day(Lothane, 1992:368),  began his career as a psychiatrist in Graz, Austria (Lothane, 1992:368, 373) and was an early and keen champion of Freud’s ideas in a number of publications that remain unknown today Gross, 1902, 1904, 1907), including a forgotten clinical psychoanalytic paper (Gross, 1914) in which he quotes Spielrein’s work discussing the fusion of erotic and aggressive impulses; I wonder if the latter was noticed by Spielrein. Gross would later achieve notoriety as a case of psychiatric railroading by his own father and as the lover of  Frieda von Richthoffen, the future wife of  D. H. Lawrence.

Back in 1908 Gross consulted Freud as a patient, was found too hot to handle and referred to Jung;  the troubles the enfant terrible caused Jung are discussed back and forth in the letters (F/J Letters). Curiously, Gross will surface during one of the lovers’ encounters: “[Jung] wanted to show me we were complete strangers to each other, and it is humiliating … I decided to act completely professional … I sat there waiting in deep depression.  Now he arrives, beaming with pleasure, and tells me with strong emotion about Gross, about the great insight he has just received (i.e., about polygamy)” (Carotenuto, 1980:107), an insight which Jung would live by for the rest of his days.  But this idea was not new with Jung, for two years earlier, in a letter to Freud, Jung quoted Gross as follows: “Dr. Gross tells me that he puts a quick stop to transference by turning people into sexual immoralists.  He says the transference to the analyst and its personal fixation are mere monogamy symbols and as such symptomatic of repression.  The truly healthy state for the neurotic is sexual immorality. Hence he associates you with Nietzsche” (F/J Letters:90).  The above  call for sexual immorality rings true for three sexual rebels: Jung and Nietzsche, both sons of ministers, and Gross, the son of a criminologist;  Freud, while aware of the hypocrisy in civilized sexual morality, was more restrained and he never got sexually involved with a past or present patient. It is also possible that Gross might have preached polymorphous,  i.e., homosexual, immorality as well, as hinted by Jung: “He is taking up an incredible amount of time, … a definite obsessional neurosis. … the infantile identification blockages [are]  of a specific homosexual nature” (F/J Letters:151).  Was this a homosexual countertransference in Jung?  For he confesses:  “this experience is one of the harshest in my life,  for in Gross I discovered aspects of my own nature, so that he often seemed like my twin brother — but for the Dementia praecox” (F/J Letters:156),  where the damning diagnosis is another indicator of countertransference. I doubt that diagnosis, as did Freud,  who thought Gross was only a case of toxic paranoia (F/J Letters:158). In the end,  Jung felt that “Gross, no matter how hard to digest, did [him] a world of good” (F/J Letters:171).  All this points to Jung’s considerable countertransference difficulties with both his patients: “Like Gross, she is a case of fight-the-father. … Gross and Spielrein are bitter experiences. To none of my patients have I extended so much friendship and from none have I reaped so much sorrow (F/J Letters:228-229); clearly, Jung was in need of both a personal and a control analysis.

The word “poetry,” Sabina’s code word for her ardent “first love …  [the desire] to live with [Jung], or at least for him, for the child [she] wanted to give him” (Carotenuto, 1980:12), also refers to the spiritual love of the parallels, the intellectual affinity between the lovers: “[Jung] was deeply stirred by the parallels in our thinking and feeling … ‘I am not one among the many, but one who is unique, … [able] to surprise him this way with an independently developed system of thought that is completely analogous to his own … because our souls are deeply akin’”; it was “a beautiful and noble friendship” (Carotenuto, 1980:20).

The relationship between Jung and Sabina continued undisturbed until the summer of 1909 when in the aftermath of anonymous letters sent to Spielrein’s mother and a confrontation Sabina wrote to Freud on 30 May 1909 requesting a “brief audience” (Carotenuto, 1980:91), which Freud at first evaded.  In his reaction to a letter from Jung, Freud immediately sides with his “dear friend” (note that Jung never stopped addressing him as “professor”), ever ready for a cover-up:

Dear friend,

… another letter — which I enclose — … reached me at the same time as  yours. Weird! What is she? A busybody, a chatterbox, or a paranoiac? If you know anything about the writer or have some opinion in the matter, would you kindly send me a short wire, but otherwise you must not get to any trouble. If I do not hear from you, I shall assume you know nothing (F/J Letters:226).

In a letter of 4 June 1909 Jung disingenuously puts the blame on Sabina,  displaying a condescending macho attitude that does him as little honor as it does Freud:

Dear Professor Freud,

At the moment I do not know what more to say: Spielrein is the person I wrote you about. She was published in an abbreviated form in my Amsterdam lecture of blessed memory. She was, so to speak, my test case [paradigmatic case], for which reason I remembered her with special gratitude and affection. Since I knew from experience that she would immediately relapse if I withdrew my support, I prolonged the relationship over the years and in the end found myself morally obliged, as it were, to devote a large measure of friendship to her, until I saw that an unintended wheel has started turning, whereupon I fully broke with her. She was of course systematically planning my seduction, which I considered inopportune. Now she is seeking revenge. Lately she has been spreading a rumour that I will soon get a divorce from my wife and marry a certain girl student, which has thrown not a few colleagues into a flutter. What she is now planning is unknown to me. Nothing good, I suspect, unless perhaps you are imposed upon to act as a go-between. I need hardly to say I made a clean break. … I was trying to cure [her] gratissime [free of charge] (!),  with untold tons of patience, even abusing our friendship for that purpose. On top of that, naturally, an amiable complex had to throw an outsize monkey-wrench into the works.  As I have indicated before, my first visit to Vienna had a very long unconscious aftermath … the compulsive infatuation [with] a Jewess … [who] popped up in another form, in the shape of my patient (F/J Letters:228-229).

Jung’s idea that Sabina would relapse is nothing but self-serving altruism: how did he know?  More importantly: was this treatment or trickery? To be sure, his taste for Jewish women, in spite of an anti-Semitism that remains hidden for now, is here to stay. Sabina would later quote Jung’s as having claimed that his penchant for Jewish women, such as herself and a colleague and Jung’s patient Esther Aptekman (F/J Letters:455; Carotenuto, 1980:17), derived from Jung’s earlier infatuation with Freud’s daughter, which would have to be Freud’s first child Mathilde born in 1887, mentioned a few times in the Freud/Jung letters. “Who knows,” writes Sabina, “what [Jung] meant when he said that he had transferred his libido from Frl. Freud to me?” “Perhaps he felt that your daughter occupied a lofty moral position in any case,” speculates  Sabina,  “and I happened to be the first girl with whom he came into closer contact,” which is, of course, nonsense, because Jung fell in love with Sabina first and then met the Freud family when he traveled to Vienna with his wife in March of 1907. “One might think I was jealous, but then I would have to be jealous of Frl. S. W.” (Carotenuto, 1980:104).   Here the plot thickens, for S. W. stands for Helene Preiswerk, a cousin of Jung’s, a medium on whom Jung carried out experiments he later described in his 1902 MD dissertation, “On the psychology and pathology of so-called occult phenomena,” printed in Leipzig by Oswald Mutze, the published Schreber’s book (2) a year later and led Jung to the discovery of Schreber.  “In the course of an analysis,” Sabina tells Freud,

it turned out that so-and-so many years ago Dr. Jung had been fond of a dark-haired hysterical girl called S. W., who always described herself as Jewish (but in reality was not). At that time Jung was not married. Now just listen, Professor Freud, and tell me if this is not interesting:  Dr. Jung and I were very good at reading each others minds. But suddenly he gets terribly worked up, gives me his diary, and says mockingly I should open it at random, since I am so wise and know how to find my fortune. I open it — and lo and behold! it was the very passage where S. W. appeared to Jung one night in a white garment. … This girl was deeply rooted in him, and she was my prototype. … Later on he would sometimes turn reflective when I said something to him; such and such a woman had spoken in just this way, etc. And it was always this girl! Now in his fear he has forgotten everything about that; he comes to Freud and looks for an excuse and help. He recalls that Freud’s daughter once appealed to him so much, and now the easiest way to obtain the father’s favor is to explain the matter as a transference of the affinity for your daughter. You will understand, Professor Freud, that it is completely irrelevant to me whether his love for me is a transference from Frl. S. W. or X. Freud; the latter transference is even more to my liking, for … Professor Freud’s daughter would be the more significant personality, one whom I could replace psychosexually, … and, besides, of course, your daughter is said to be very pretty, which would be especially flattering to me, since I cannot be so bold as to consider myself pretty. And yet I suspect that this interpretation [of Jung’s] rests on an unconscious nastiness. Why? … The person who stood in my way was Prof. Freud himself. He displayed certain peculiarities of character which I recognized at once, because they are also present in me, completely suppressed, and so I thought that Dr. Jung must be repelled by you, and if you become disgusting to him, I will too (Carotenuto, 1980:105-106; emphasis Spielrein’s).  

Sabina is both perceptive about the present and uncannily prescient about the future hostility of Jung toward Freud: perhaps events would have evolved differently for Freud and his followers had Freud heard Sabina’s warning that Jung did not really like Jews.

For the time being, formally speaking, the exchanges between Jung and Freud about the love affair display considerable opportunism:  Jung both confesses and denies his sexual involvement with Sabina while Freud does his utmost to be loyal to his crown prince and to exculpate him from any wrongdoing.  Freud is at first paternally reassuring: “Such experiences, though painful, are necessary and hard to avoid. … I myself have never been taken in quite so badly. I have come close to it a number of times and had a narrow escape … because I was ten years older than yourself when I came to PsyA” (F/J Letters:230;  emphasis Freud’s). Later Freud gets sneaky with Sabina: “I  … suggested [to her] a more appropriate procedure, something endopsychic, as it were” (F/J Letters:235), i.e., that Sabina imagined it all, or that she was crazy to experience or insinuate such a love for Jung or from Jung.

Anticipating Jung’s request, Freud addresses Sabina in the manner of Germont the elder pleading with the courtesan Violetta, in Verdi’s La Traviata,  to leave his son:  he is dissembling, condescending, and takes Jung’s side against Sabina.

Dear colleague,

Dr. Jung is  my friend and colleague;  I think I know him in other respects as well and have reason to believe that he is incapable of frivolous or ignoble behavior.  I am reluctant to set myself up as a judge in matters that affect him intimately … but I should not be able to ignore the old legal dictum audiatur et altera pars  [let us listen to the other party].

Nor do I think you would wish me to act less judiciously. From the enclosures you sent me with your letter, I rather gather that you used to be close friends … and that this no longer is so.  Did that  friendship perhaps arise from some medical consultation, and did his readiness to help a person in mental distress perhaps kindle your sympathy?  I am tempted to think so, for I know of many similar instances.  But I know nothing of how and through whose fault it came to grief, and I do not want to pass judgment on that.  Still, if on the basis of the above assumptions I might address a word to you, I urge you to ask yourself whether the feelings that have outlived this close relationship are not best suppressed and eradicated, from your own psyche, I mean, and without external intervention and the involvement of third persons.

Should these remarks be inappropriate, then I would beg you not take them amiss (Carotenuto, 1980:114).

Quite expectedly, savvy Spielrein sees through Freud: “Ah, but  you are a sly one, too, Professor Freud. … Even the great ‘Freud’ cannot always ignore his own weaknesses” (Carotenuto, 1980:104). She pleads her case in a number of eloquent, revealing, and moving letters to Freud, from 10 to 20 June 1909,  at a time she was serving as an intern at Burghölzli. Claiming not “to be a  brazen seeker after fame” (Carotenuto, 1980:91), Sabina declares and then explains:

Dear Professor Freud,

My dearest wish is that I may part from him in love. I am analytical enough, know myself well enough, and am sure that for me an infatuation à distance would be best. Suppressing my emotion will not work for me, for if I do it with Dr. Jung, I will never be able to love anyone else,  … Far from me, Professor Freud, to bring accusations against Dr. Jung before you! On the contrary: I would be happy if someone could demonstrate to me that he is worthy of love, that he is no scoundrel (Carotenuto, 1980:92).

Well: I cannot help complaining of a faithless lover. … Four and a half years ago Dr. Jung was my doctor, then he became my friend and finally my “poet,”  i.e., my beloved. Eventually, he came to me and things went as they usually do with “poetry.”  He preached polygamy, his wife was supposed to have no objection, etc., etc. Now my mother receives an anonymous letter that minces no words,  saying she should rescue her daughter, since otherwise she would be ruined by Dr. Jung.  …  I kept absolutely mum. … There is reason to suspect his wife. … My mother writes him a moving letter, … begging him not to exceed the bounds of friendship. Thereupon his reply:  “I moved from being her doctor to being her friend when I ceased to push my own feelings into the background.  I could drop my role as a doctor the more easily because I did not feel professionally obligated, for I never charged a fee.  …  Therefore I would suggest that if you wish me to adhere strictly to my role as doctor, you should pay me a fee as suitable recompense for my trouble.  …  My fee is 10 francs per consultation. I advise you to choose the prosaic solution, since that is the more prudent one and creates no obligation for the future.” … How terribly insulting that must have been for my mother (Carotenuto, 1980:93-94).

The anonymous letter Spielrein alludes to may have been written by Mrs. Jung herself who would have picked up either covert or overt hints about the affair from her husband, whereupon the mother went into action: she first confronted Jung but also threatened to complain to Bleuler. While at the height of their affair Sabina is honest and principled,  Jung is cagey and calculating, but also mightily confused. It is noteworthy, however, that Sabina views herself, as did Jung, as having terminated therapy four and half years ago, as an ex-patient who went on to become a friend and is currently a lover interested in a committed relationship.  Fearing a scandal, Jung is wishy-washy with his mistress but not entirely incorrect toward the mother.

Sabina’s emotions are many-sided and complex in a love situation fraught with ambiguity. On the one hand, she is torn between love and a feeling she calls “ambitia” (a Latinate word, ‘ambitsia’ in Russian), meaning wounded pride, in her case, the sacrifice of “maidenly pride” that Jung repaid with “disdain,” after her having “loved him for four, five years, … because when he began my treatment I was nothing but a naïve child” (Carotenuto, 1980:93). To complicate matters, Jung did act lovingly at times: “Just think, Professor Freud,” writes Sabina, “he did give me his entire soul! When he handed me his diary, he said hoarsely, ‘Only my wife has read this … and you!’” (Carotenuto, 1980:99-199). On the other hand, she realizes she has not been the only victim:  “Dr. Jung is no hermit, he sees many other women besides me” (Carotenuto, 1980:100), writes Sabina,  “I have just learned of tragedy that occurred with [another] woman patient whom he first led on, then rebuffed, then people talked about other such ‘feats’” (Carotenuto, 1980:96). “As a patient” Sabina had warned [Jung] countless times against too thorough an analysis lest the monster get in, since my conscious desires are much too compelling and demand fulfillment. I begged him  ever so many times not to provoke my “ambitia” with various probings, because otherwise I would be forced to discover similar complexes in him. Finally the inescapable had happened. …  My love for him transcended our affinity, until he could stand it no longer and wanted “poetry.” For many reasons I could not and did not want to resist. … And now he says he was too kind to me, that I want sexual involvement with him because of that, something he, of course, never wanted, etc. (Carotenuto, 1980:96).

There were  times she when Sabina felt moved by murderous rage and at one time she “stood there with a knife in my left hand and I do not know what I intended to do with it; he grabbed my hand, I resisted, I have no idea what happened then. Suddenly he went very pale and clapped his hand to his temple: ‘You struck me!’”  Actually, it was no more than a box on his ears that Jung received. In the trolley on the way home she wept  “torrents” and when her colleagues saw blood on her hands she babbled: “That is not my blood, that is his: ‘I murdered him!’” This was, of course, “rubbish,” for she also discovered signs of fingernails on her skin. It was part of her many “follies” and the “mess” that ensued. Such scenes made Sabina “realize that we must separate. … At that time Professor Freud first appeared to me as an angel of deliverance. I wrote a poem to [him]” (Carotenuto, 1980:97).

Eventually Sabina would live up to her initial declaration and accept  separation as the inescapable fate. She was also “really lucky that [her] parents have reacted so reasonably to these events. I described the manner of our parting to my mother and she passed it on to my father who said only: ‘People have made a god out of him, and he is nothing but an ordinary human being. I am so glad she boxed his ears!’” (Carotenuto, 1980:99).
Freud could not help conspiring with Jung: “But now I must entreat you, don’t get too far in the direction of contrition and reaction” (F/J Letters:235). But Freud need not have worried:  Jung would be anything but contrite toward Sabina, who made it very easy for Jung, as he attests himself:

Dear Professor Freud,

After breaking up with her I was almost certain of her revenge and was deeply disappointed only by the banality of the form it took.  … She turned up at my house and had a very decent talk with me, during which it transpired that the rumour buzzing about me does not emanate from her at all.  … she freed herself from the transference in the best and nicest way and has suffered no relapse (apart from a paroxysm of weeping after the separation).   Although not succumbing to helpless remorse, I nevertheless deplore the sins I have committed, for I am largely to blame for the high-flying hopes of my former patient … Caught in my delusion that I was the victim of the sexual wiles of my patient,  I wrote to her mother that I was not the gratifier of her daughter’s sexual desires but merely her doctor, and that she should free me from her. … I very reluctantly confess to you as my father.  I would now like to ask you for a great favour: would you please write a note to Frl. Spielrein telling her that I have informed you of the matter … that you and she know of my “perfect honesty”  … [to prevent what]  would have been a considerable hindrance for me in my work  (F/J Letters:236; first emphasis Jung’s, the second added).

Jung is cavalier, trying to eat his cake and have it, too, and using the elders, Sabina’s mother and Freud, to extricate him from his mischief.   The mannerism “perfect honesty” is an admission of the opposite:  while admitting he misled Sabina into believing the earnestness of his love for her,  he now uses double talk by evasively calling it transference.  The difference was that  Sabina wanted Jung for herself, while Jung wanted a permanently secret love affair. Jung, “constantly torn between two women” (Carotenuto, 1980:95) and possibly fearing Bleuler’s censure of the adulterous affair, resigned from Burghölzli,  moved to his newly built home and private office in Küssnacht, stayed with his wife and children and went on to find other mistresses.  In the end Spielrein would be replaced in short order by another Jewish analysand/student who became Jung’s mistress, the convert Antonia (Toni) Wolff.  According to John H. Phillips (21), who studied with Jung in Zurich from 1951 until 1961, Jung toyed with the idea of marrying Toni but instead ended offering her an extramarital arrangement that Mrs. Jung, after a struggle, accepted as permanent. Wednesdays belonged to Toni, vacations were split between Toni and Mrs. Jung, Sunday evenings Toni would have dinner with the Jung family and the children called her “Aunt” . Other than providing independent confirmation for these stories, Rosenzweig 1994) also advanced an ingenuous dual hypothesis: firstly Jung’s third Clark lecture in 1909 on the case of Anna,  “Experiences Concerning the Psychic Life of the Child,”  depicted the neurosis and sexual preoccupations of his own daughter Agathli,  the presentation patterned on the story of Freud’s Little Hans (Rosenzweig, 1994:136-144);  secondly, since the affair with Spielrein was at its climax in 1909, the two cases, the daughter and the mistress were interwoven in Jung’s mind and as a result,  Mrs. Jung’s anxieties and mistrust were transferred onto the child and expressed as the child mistrust of the parents and especially the father (Rosenzweig, 1994:147-149).

Jung would never repay Freud with gratitude for his crafty connivance.  Quite the contrary:  Freud, never a good Menschenkenner,   naively hoped Jung  would “continue and complete [his] work by applying to psychoses what [he has] begun with the neuroses.  With your strong and independent character,” Freud expected,  “with your Germanic blood which enables you to command the sympathies of the public more readily than I can, you seem better fitted than anyone else I know to carry out this mission” (F/J Letters:168).  Instead of lending Gentile vigor and respectability to psychoanalysis and ridding it of the stigma of a Jewish science, Jung would declare in 1933 that “The ‘Aryan’ unconscious has a higher potential that the Jewish … This suspicion emanated from Freud. … He did not understand the Germanic psyche any more than did his Germanic followers” (Lothane, 1995). As already noted, Jewish women were the obvious exception. One can only wonder whether Jung had secretly harbored similar anti-Semitic sentiments back in the halcyon days of his admiration for Freud.

But time heals all wounds:  in 1911 Spielrein would complete her M. D. dissertation, started under the supervision of Bleuler, with Jung’s guidance and proceed to publish it as a brilliant and profound essay, “Concerning the psychological content of a case of schizophrenia” (F/J Letters:426). That year she would also join the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, where she would read her second important paper of 1912, “Destruction as the cause of becoming,” duly acknowledged by Freud in a footnote on page 55 of his Beyond the Pleasure Principle as anticipating  his theories about primary masochism and the death instinct.  That same year Sabina married the Russian-Jewish physician Pavel Scheftel and a year later, in 1913, a daughter Irma Renata was born (Minder, dissertation).

Spielrein and Jung parted amicably, as reflected in Sabina’s letters to Freud and to Jung.  Spielrein’s role as peace-maker and friend to both Jung and Freud for years to come is best expressed in her letter to Freud of 1914 after the breakup:

I deplored his behavior towards you, Professor Freud, and his attitude towards the society … [which] I could forgive even less than the business with me. I saw him only once after my marriage. …. In spite of all his wavering I like J. and would like to lead him back into our fold. You, Professor Freud, and he have not the slightest idea that you belong together far more than anyone might suspect” (Carotenuto, 1980:112).

A more gentle and tender Jung emerges in his letters to Sabina from 1908 to 1919 Carotenuto, 1986), released by the Jung family after the first edition of Carotenuto (Carotenuto, 1980).  “Will you forgive me that I am who I am?” writes Jung in 1908, “And will you never take revenge on me for that,  neither in word, thought or feeling?”  And he explains his ideal quest,  outside of  a conventional marriage he is too weak to dissolve: “I am seeking a person that knows how to love without punishing,  confining, or draining the other … and for whose love is an end in itself and not a means to an end.  My misfortune is that I cannot live without the happiness of a love that is both changing and stormy.  This demon wreaks havoc with my compassion and sensibility” Carotenuto, 1986:195-196; author’s translation).  Two years later he expresses his delight after having begun reading Spielrein’s draft of her case history.  In the summer of 1911 Jung has read the draft of Sabina’s paper on destruction: “Your thinking is bold,  far-reaching and philosophical. … Hopefully grandpa Freud will rejoice in this fruit of your mind as I do” Carotenuto, 1986:199-200).   In the fall of that year, deploring Sabina’s absence at the Weimar congress, where Freud read his postscript to his Schreber analysis, and where copies of Spielrein’s work were distributed among the participants, Jung writes: “I have banished all bitterness from my heart. … I am sure Freud will receive you.  He has mentioned your dissertation a number of times, the best proof he had been impressed. You do not need me to recommend you. Go to this great master and rabbi, and I am sure it will be good” Carotenuto, 1986:210-202). And toward year’s end: “Freud spoke very well of you to me” Carotenuto, 1986:205).  Jung freely acknowledges his indebtedness to Spielrein’s ideas:  “In Part II of my work [his major polemic against Freud,  Symbols and Transformations of the Libido,  Z. L.] … I refer frequently to your work. I would like to do the same with your next paper” Carotenuto, 1986:203).  In due course Jung says:

My dear friend,

In reading your work [on destruction,  Z. L.] I have found in it many parallels to my own work.  … Your work will be published in the Jahrbuch[für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen Jung edited] before mine. … With this I mean much more than just to pay you a compliment.  The paper is unusually intelligent and contains excellent ideas whose priority I am willing to recognize.  … Nobody should think that you have borrowed from me. There is no basis for that.  … Perhaps I myself borrowed from you;  I have surely unintentionally swallowed a piece of your soul as well as you mine. It depends what one does with it. You have made something good out of it.  It pleases me that you are my representative in Vienna. Hopefully you will also be able to defend my new viewpoints Carotenuto, 1986:206-207, 208; emphasis Jung’s).

The foregoing exposition goes to show that Spielrein’s love affair with Jung and Freud’s acting as go-between could not and did not have a detrimental effect on the Freud-Jung relationship, and that over the years Spielrein maintained her friendship and her intellectual exchanges with both men.

Spielrein’s landmark dissertation,[5] written under Jung’s supervision, in which Spielrein blends insights from psychoanalysis and mythology to interpret the delusions of her schizophrenic patient and briefly discusses Schreber,  establishes her standing as an independent thinker and her role of femme inspiratrice  for Jung.  She may also have inspired the work of other psychoanalysts at Burghölzli,  among them Nelken (F/J Letters:494) and Grebelskaja (F/J Letters:541),  who wrote in a similar vein about their schizophrenics, and, at a later date perhaps, the mythological interpretation of Schreber by Ida Macalpine,  the future translator of Schreber’s Memoirs (Schreber, 1903)  although one searches in vain for the name Spielrein in Macalpine’s texts.

On revient toujours à ses premiers amours

First, it seems justified to reappraise the reality and the ethics of the extramarital triangle formed by the Jungs and young Spielrein, a recurrent motif in life and fiction. Was Spielrein a sly seductress, Jung a callous cad,   Freud a conniving co-conspirator?  Or did Spielrein, as the literal meaning of her name suggests, played clean, a victim of Jung’s predation, while the two men played dirty, as previously claimed by Bettelheim (Carotenuto, 1980) and Cremerius Carotenuto, 1986), as I have previously thought myself (Lothane, 1987a)? Not as much anymore.

The entire situation set up between Jung and Spielrein was ambiguous, a mix of informal free “therapy,” discipleship, and love affair, and it ought to be judged not by its seeds, as Sabina’s transference and  Jung’s countertransference, but by its fruit:  the good it did for both. Nor should it be regarded as pathology,  but as an issue in the politics of marriage and the double standard.  Spielrein ended her inpatient treatment with Jung in 1905, when she was 20 and Jung 30 and father of his first child Agathli.  The relationship that developed subsequently, after the discharge from the hospital, cannot be totally construed as therapy, since no private fees were charged by Jung and none were paid by Sabina and both speak of her as a former patient. I submit that the “therapy” was erected as an ambiguous screen for the extramarital affair, adulterous for Jung only, and therefore dangerous for his professional reputation. To justify it to himself and to Freud, Jung viewed this secret arrangement as therapy, an excuse for double talk about reality and transference.  But Sabina was not merely in a state of transference:  she really was ‘the other woman,’ hoping Jung would leave his wife, marry her and give her a son.  When finally confronted with the hopelessness of such a prospect, persuaded by her mother and Jung himself, she saw the light and gave up the love affair without a fuss. They parted amicably and each went their way: he to start a similar relationship with Toni Wolff,  she  to marry, probably, without love, as done earlier by her mother, and give birth to a daughter she called Renata, which means born-again. They both went on with their work as psychoanalysts and investigators: Spielrein adjusted without a major emotional crisis, Jung not after a self-described episode of psychosis (Jung, 1989).

The triangle between Spielrein and the two men is an entirely different issue.  The historic record as reflected in Sabina’s diary and letters does not indicate that Spielrein’s involvement had any ill effects on the relationship between Jung and Freud, for they had other matters to worry about:  their personal erotic conflicts; their ambition to be popes;  and their disagreements about method and doctrine, as it erupted around their difference concerning Schreber.

On the personal level,  Freud’s sexual life came to a virtual standstill when he reached the “male climacterium,”  while Jung’s continued vigorous and permanently included extramarital relations.  Both Freud and Jung harbored homosexual conflicts:  Freud was open about his and tolerant of homosexuality, Jung’s remained repressed and in later years translated into homophobia (Phillips, J. H., personal communication).  However, Freud consistently opposed sexual gratification during ongoing therapy, and defined it not merely as countertransference but as a misconduct and a breach of ethics (Lothane, 1981).  These biographical insights into Freud and Jung are important for the understanding of their methodological and ideological positions.

The Freud-Jung schism as a father-son transference issue is straw to the fire of their political ambitions to become leaders rather than followers,  as with Adler before, and as played out in the subsequent evolution of  Freudian psychoanalysis, Adlerian individual psychology and Jungian analytic psychology. Ideologically, these psychologies were the vehicles for Freudian, Adlerian and Jungian doctrines; politically, they became the manifestoes of the Freudian, Adlerian and Jungian movements, or establishments,  the first two still important on both sides of the Atlantic. Spielrein understood such conflicts over doctrine, as expressed in her letter to Jung in 1918:

It is very possible that Freud will never understand you when you propose innovative theories. In his lifetime Freud has accomplished such extraordinary things, …  You, on the other hand, … can understand Freud perfectly well if you wish to, i.e., if your personal affect does not get in the way. The Freudian theories were, are, and will remain extraordinarily fruitful. To reproach Freud with one-sidedness seems very unfair to me since each of us, and particularly one who constructs a mighty world-edifice, at first appears a king;  then, when people have had enough and want to free themselves from his sphere of influence, he is denounced as one-sided and distasteful (Carotenuto, 1980:85).

Spielrein might have also added, as cogently argued by Phillips (Phillips, 1962),  that theirs was a futile war of either/or antinomies: for the mind is not either causal or teleological,  regressive or prospective, but always both this as well as that,  both reactive and proactive, both analytic and synthetic.

Freud’s method as therapy is reductive, a psychical analysis in the sense of the chemical metaphor, a retrospective solving, resolving and dissolving of pathogenic memory, fantasy and conflict, leaving the individual to choose his future intellectual or ideological itinerary.  By contrast, already in 1909 Jung told Freud: “if there is a ‘psychanalysis’ there must also be a ‘psychosynthesis’ which creates future events according to the same laws. … hence … the prospective tendency” (F/J Letters:216-217).  Presciently Freud wanted “to shake his wise head over psychosynthesis,” For Jung was engaged in a  regressive transvaluation: psychoanalysis, the revolutionary methodology that served to understand myth, folklore and fairy tale, was being undone by the new mythology, the quest for archetypal visions, mandalas, alchemy, God as Abraxas (Jung, 1989); in short, the method was being replaced by a message.

Given their differences of temperament, ambition, and conviction, the tragic conflict between Freud and Jung was inevitable.  But when all the wars of doctrine are done,  when the battles are lost and won, one returns to the source, to the method:  the psychoanalytic dialogue, which  the mother of all hysterics,  Anna O.,  called the talking cure, when cure still meant treatment,  as in water cure, and etymologically related to ‘tractatus,’ another synonym for  dialogue.   Early on Freud and Jung agreed on one matter of method: “essentially, one might say,” writes Freud in his fourth letter to Jung, “the cure [here: healing, “Heilung” in the original,  Z. L.] is effected by love … and transference” (F/J Letters:12-13).  But whereas in high theory transference might be defined as “a “fixation of the libido prevailing in the unconscious” (F/J Letters:12), it certainly was not to be understood as satisfying the patient’s real sexual demands.  Rather, it pointed to love writ large (Lothane, 1987b, 1989b, 1997b), to that fire within,  the ardent and passionate emotions, that make life worth living. For these  also animated the first psychoanalysts, in their quest of truth and their labors of love, on behalf of their patients and pupils, and themselves.


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[1]   A further stimulus to delve into Spielrein came from New York psychoanalyst Dr. Arnold Richards, who provided me with the address of Mme Menicha Isakovna Spielrein, Sabina’s niece surviving in Moscow. She was first discovered in Moscow in 1982 by the Swedish professor of Slavic literature Magnus Ljunggren (Carotenuto, 1980:x) and proceeded to establish contacts in the West.  I began a correspondence with Mme Spielrein in 1994 and she sent me reminiscences  about her great aunt and a list of articles and books about her and the addresses of the authors, all of which I acknowledge with gratitude.

[2]   Kerr claims that the “most important aspect of the Spielrein affair was the change it occasioned in his [Jung’s,  Z. L.] relationship with Freud” (Kerr, 1993:227), and that she “had innocently played the decisive role in fomenting this change” (Kerr, 1993: 386).  In such tendentious conclusions Kerr has clearly sacrificed scholarship to sensationalism. But Kerr has added no new biographical data to support such a claim, remaining indebted to the pioneering discoveries of Carotenuto.  Moreover, Kerr left unexamined the role of the Schreber in the genesis of the Freud Jung schism and thus deliberately omitted citing my work in the main text when he wrote: “As for Freud’s analysis of the Schreber case, few clinical studies by Freud have been subject to so much modern rebuttal as this one” (Kerr, 1993:317).  For a critique of Kerr’s mistakes see a review of his book by Nellie Thompson (1996), as well as her paper, “Early women psychoanalysts,”  International Review of Psychoanalysis,  14:391-407, 1987.

[3]  Recently the #1 January-March 1995 issue of L’Evolution Psychiatrique contains additional contributions by Kress-Rosen, Garrabé, Séchaud, and Vidal, which I have not read. For a discussion of Spielrein’s ideas, see Adeline van Waning’s “The works of pioneering psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein/ ”Destruction as a cause of coming into being,” International Review of Psychoanalysis, 19:399-414, 1992. For another Jungian perspective on Sabina see Martine Drahon-Gallard’s “Una donna fra due dottrine: Sabina Spielrein,” in Giornale storico di psicologia dinamica, 8:89-106, 1984, translated from the French original in Cahiers de psychologie jungienne  #34, for 1982, and Fiorella Bassan’s “Sabina Spielrein e la pulsione di morte,” in Revista di psicologia analitica, 14:157-163,  1993.   In Russia Aleksandr Etkind devotes a great deal of attention to Spielrein in his Eros nevozmozhnogo/ Istoria psikhoanaliza v Rossii, St. Petersburg: Meduza, 1993, while Ovcharenko includes an article on Spielrein in his Psikhoanaliticheskii Glossarii, Minsk:”Vysheishaia Shkola, 1994.

[4]  In 1996 Spielrein was the heroine in “Sabina,” an evocative off-Broadway play by Willy Holtzman, who fashioned the script on Sabina’s letters and diary as intrepreted by Carotenuto (1980); the playwright treated the Spielrein-Jung-Freud triangle with sensitivity, albeit with a generous dash of dramatic license. Carotenuto also provided a rhapsodic “Introduction,” imbued with Jungian (Temenos,  shadow material) rather than Freudian ideas, in which he still refers to Sabina as “a brilliant Russian student” and “an intelligent psychotic woman.”

[5]  In addition to these two works, volume IV of Grinstein’s The Index of Psychoanalytic Writings lists a respectable number of Spielrein’s papers in clinical psychoanalysis published during the years 1913 to 1931,  predominantly devoted to the psychology of children and mostly in Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse and Imago, with such titles as: “Contributions to the knowledge of the child’s soul” (1913), “Mother love” (1913),  “Animal symbolism and phobia in a boy” (1914),  “The manifestations of the Oedipus complex in childhood” (1916), “The sense of shame in children” (1920),  “Accelerated analysis of an infantile phobia” (1921), “Some short communications from child life” (1927-1928),  “Children’s drawings made with open and with closed eyes” (1931). New York psychoanalyst Mrs. Liselotte Weyl told me that Spielrein’s “The origin of the child’s words Papa and Mama” (1922) inspired her to become an analyst.

Published in International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 5:203—217, 1996  and in Mahony, Bonomi & Stensson, eds., Behind the Scenes Freud in Correspondence. Stockholm: Scandinavian Universities Press, 1997.