Jung Stripped Bare: By His Biographers, Even

Jung by Vincent Brome (1978-10-23)

Jung: Man and Myth

In 1978, Vincent Brome, a professional biographer, published his biography, Jung: Man and Myth.

According to the cover blurb, the book “reveals to us the truth behind the myth of the semi-mystical Messiah”.

Brome, who had met Jung on two occasions, interviewed about thirty people who had known Jung.

Among those he interviewed were some individuals whom he did not name.

At the outset, Brome stated his book was not a definitive work, which he considered we would have to wait another thirty years for.

For his account of Jung’s early and late years, Brome drew heavily on Memories, Dreams, Reflections, unaware of its problematic status.

Brome’s attitude towards Jung’s work is clear in an appendix on “Jung’s model of the psyche”, where he presented an outline of Jung’s ideas, which he critiqued.

Brome is far more sympathetic to psychoanalysis, and presented Freudian interpretations of Jung.

Hence Brome’s approach can be characterized as psycho-biographical, rather than historical.

Brome encapsulated his overall assessment of Jung’s work in the following statement:

There was a sense in which Jung’s model of the human psyche converted autobiography into psychotherapy.

He had experienced every detail of his model, and it was as if he had elevated an elaborate process of self-analysis into abstract theory convinced that it had universal application.

If one holds such a position, it follows that a biography of Jung would present the key to an understanding of his work and its genesis.

Such a position negates intellectual history.

Brome’s psychobiographical approach is particularly apparent in his version of Jung’s “confrontation with the unconscious”, which he understood as a “breakdown”.

To be more precise, Brome diagnosed Jung as “a cyclothymic personality who suffered a manic depressive psychosis”, and raises the question whether hereditary factors were present in Jung’s “illness”.

Brome challenged Jung’s statements that his self-exploration was a deliberately undertaken enterprise:

Just how far deliberation entered into the process, and to what degree pathological forces carried him involuntarily back to his beginnings is difficult to establish . . . with a psyche so complex, rich and powerful every conceivable complication cross-fertilised the process until the rationally willed was indistinguishable from the compulsively inescapable.

Jung’s critical dreams and fantasies were subjected to reductive interpretations.

We may see this by considering his treatment of Jung’s “confrontation with the unconscious”.

Brome interpreted Jung’s waking fantasy of 13 December 1913 and dream of Siegfried cited earlier from the perspective of Jung’s “traumatic” break with Freud. Concerning the first, he commented:

Jung was six foot, Freud five feet seven, one relatively a dwarf to the other, and there in the first dream, the entrance to the cave was blocked by a mummified dwarf.

The dead Freud checked Jung’s struggle towards rebirth so powerfully that when the sun of a new day arose in the cave it suddenly obliterated everything with a bursting jet of blood, simultaneously symbolising rebirth and death.

Brome interpreted the Siegfried dream in terms of Jung’s supposed “identification” with Freud.

He set Jung’s own interpretations of the fantasy and the dream in Memories to one side.

His approach was to view Jung’s experiences during this period in terms of interpersonal dynamics.

His overall interpretation of Jung’s confrontation with the unconscious boils down to the following:

Slowly the reasonably “normal”, conventionally faithful married man, believing in one form of God, had been revealed as a person with bi-sexual potential, committing adultery, unreconciled to the personal God of Christianity and capable of murdering his own father [ie., Freud] at one remove.

The misprison of the Freudocentric reading of Jung is readily apparent in this account.

Furthermore, one sees how psychoanalytic interpretations are used to insert “Freud” into texts from which he is completely absent. Jung “must” have been preoccupied with Freud at this time, therefore these experiences “must” have been about his relation to Freud. Besides, what evidence is there that Jung was actually capable of murdering Freud, aside from the imputation of Oedipal hostility?

The problem with such interpretations is that they are completely arbitrary.

If one employs such hermeneutics, anything can stand for anything, without the need for any supportive evidence.

In historical work, as opposed to journalism, it is crucial that references and sources are clearly given, for this is the only way in which other scholars can potentially assess the reliability of the material in question and the claims made about it.

A feature of Brome’s book is his reliance on anonymous sources.

Information concerning Jung’s monetary discussions with his wife during his honeymoon is credited to an “anonymous English psychiatrist”.

An event where Jung allegedly awoke at night to hear his youngest daughter crying and left to seek solace with Toni Wolff is credited to an interview with “X”.

Brome referred to an anonymous person who talked to him “under a heavy cloak of anonymity with nothing more than corroborative verbal evidence from similar sources.”

The web of intrigue thickens—we now have anonymous sources backing up other anonymous sources.

Brome judiciously stated that it would be a mistake to take these as reliable, but then in the same sentence goes on to present another anonymous

witness “wo knew the situation intimately described him [Jung] as not a great lover.

His sexuality was very straightforward, and all the mythopoeic talk vanished in a cloud of uncomplicated passion”.

Talk of sexuality and anonymity often appear to go hand in hand.

We are left with no way to evaluate the veracity of these accounts, nor to ascertain to what extent they are based on first-, second- or third-hand evidence, nor to judge the reliability of the witnesses.

In the case of Jung, given the level of fantasy and gossip that surrounded him since his early days at the Burghölzli, this presents an especial problem.

As we have seen, it was for these types of reasons that Cary Baynes and Gerhard Adler declined to be interviewed for the Jung biographical project.

Brome presented information from a woman who had been a patient of Jung and who insisted on anonymity, whom he called “Anna Maria”.

Anna Maria was an English woman, who had been sent to Jung at eighteen, suffering from anorexia.

Brome commented, “the case is particularly interesting because Jung developed his new—mythological—analysis with this patient”.

If this was the case, this patient would be a vitally important paradigm case, but we are not even given the dates as to when the analysis took place. Without these details, such information is unusable from a historical perspective.  ~Sonu Shamdasani, Jung Stripped Bare: by his Biographers Even, Pages 73-77