Theodore Flournoy: A Remembrance of C.G. Jung

Theodore Flournoy: A Remembrance C. G. Jung (Translation and Commentary by Gary V. Hartman)

During the time of my relationship with Freud, I found a fatherly friend in Theodore Flournoy.

He was already an old man when I got to know him.

Unfortunately, he died a few years later.

When I was still a physician at the Burghi:izli, I read his book, Des Indes a la Planete Mars, which made a great impression on me.

I wrote Flournoy that I would like to translate it into German.

Only after half a year did I receive his answer in which he apologized for leaving my query unanswered so long.

To my regret, he had already chosen another translator.

Later I visited Flournoy in Geneva, and as I gradually recognized where Freud’s limits lay, I traveled from time to time to [Flournoy] to talk with him.

It was important for me to hear what he thought about Freud, and he said extremely intelligent things about him.

Most of all, he put his finger on Freud’s rationalism, which made much about him understandable and also explained his one-sidedness.

In 1912 I got Flournoy to attend the congress in Munich at which it came to the break between Freud and me.

His presence provided me with support.

In those years-especially after the separation from Freud-I had the feeling that I was still much too young to be independent.

I still needed moral support, and I especially needed someone with whom I could speak openly.

This I found in Flournoy and, therefore, he soon represented for me a kind of counterbalance to Freud.

With him I could also talk about all the problems which occupied me scientifically, about somnambulism, for instance, about parapsychology and the psychology of religion.

I had no one at that time who shared my interests in this regard. Flournoy’s views aligned completely with mine and gave me some encouragement.

The concept of the imagination creatrice which especially interested me, I adopted from him.

I learned much from him, above all the way to observe a patient, the loving absorption in his story.

I, therefore, also took up a case of his, namely that of Miss Miller. In Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido5 (1912), I subjected it to a careful analysis.

I had long been interested in the inter-relationships of schizophrenics’ fantasy material, and Flournoy helped me to better understand them.

He saw problems as a whole, and he especially saw them objectively.

For him facts were important, what was happening.

He carefully approached a case and never lost sight of the whole.

My determining impression of Flournoy’s scientific attitude was that he had a truly objective “approach” and, compared with Freud, that impressed me. Freud had a dynamic and penetrating manner: he expected something from his cases.

Flournoy wanted nothing.

He saw from a distance and saw clearly.

Through Freud’s influence, I acquired knowledge but was not enlightened.

Flournoy taught me the need for distance from the object and supported and kept alive my effort to classify in a broad horizon.

His approach was more descriptive, without succumbing to assumptions.

In spite of a lively and warm interest for his patients, he always maintained an observing distance.

That way he kept sight of the whole.

Flournoy was a cultured and distinguished personality, very well educated, intellectually balanced, and with a differentiated sense of proportion.

All that was very beneficial for me.

He was a professor of philosophy and psychology.

He was heavily influenced by James’s pragmatism, a perspective that does not appeal to the German spirit and, correspondingly, has not enjoyed the recognition which it deserves.

Especially for psychology, though, pragmatism is of no little importance.

What I especially valued in Flournoy was his philosophical perspective and, most of all, the deliberateness of his criticism which rested on a comprehensive education.