It is difficult to know where to begin this story, for I do not yet know where it is going to end. Perhaps I never shall know; perhaps it never
does end. And until I know the end I shall never know its real beginning.
For even were I to introduce the story with a wearisome complete autobiography, still I should not begin from the beginning.
For even were I to weary you with everything in my conscious memory before relating my story, still I should not begin from the beginning.
I should have to go much further back than the limits of my conscious memory will take me; back to infancy; back to the womb; back to my parents; back to their wombs and their parents and so ad infinitum.
Back, perhaps, to palaeolithic and anthropoid ancestors, back to Eden, back to primaeval swamps, back to the Mind of God.
And that is just what, as yet, I cannot do. I cannot know the beginning until I know the end; and when I know the End I shall know
Gordon Henry White was born in Croydon, Surrey, on 21 October 1902 and was baptized by his father in St Augustine’s church on the 22 November.
The family lived at 35 Avondale Road. His father, John Henry White (1865-1950) and grandfather, John White (1822-1905) were Anglican ministers, as was his uncle Frederick Ernest White (1853-1929).
On this side the family can be traced in Northumberland, and later Sunderland, from the sixteenth century.
Less is known of his mother, Beatrice Mary Phillips, the daughter of a merchant, James Phillips. White was the oldest of three sons.
The second son, Basil Philip Dawson became a commercial clerk, and the youngest, John Francis Christopher (1912-1971) became an Anglican clergyman.
From an early age White himself felt that a clerical future was to be his path.
He later reflected that it was his relationship with his father that had prevented his becoming an Anglican priest (letter to John Layard
There is no record of his early education.
At the age of 14, in October 1916, he joined the fourth form at Bloxham School, Banbury, Oxfordshire, gaining prizes in Divinity, English and French.
He would also have studied history, Greek and Latin. He completed his studies in the summer of 1919.
He later went to St Charles House, Begbroke, Oxford, about 15 miles from Bloxham School. This was a center primarily for Anglican clerics converting to Catholicism. He was by far the youngest student.
The rather scrappy Register of St Charles House for September 1919 to April 1921 has an entry for what seems to be 1921 showing G. H. White arriving on 24 March: “son of an Anglican clergyman; just left school; under instruction.
Still at Begbroke.
“4 Since according to the Valladolid record he was received into the church on 12 March 1921 by the Warden of Begbroke, Monsignor H. Barton Brown, “with whom he had lodged for some months”, the year of entry must be 1920.
White was accepted for ordination training for the diocese of Plymouth by Bishop Keily and from 1921 to 1923 studied at the English College at Valladolid in Spain.
The reason for sending some candidates for the priesthood to study at the English Colleges in Rome and Valladolid were various.
It could be either that they showed exceptional promise, or that as converts were thought to benefit from immersion in a traditional Catholic culture, or both.
The Liber Alumnorum oddly records George Gordon White arriving there on 10 September 1921.
It notes his interest in Dominican life in the summer of 1922 and his leaving the college on 3 April 1923, when he decided to join the order.
It is possible that he studied briefly at Fribourg in Switzerland before becoming a novice at the Woodchester Priory in Gloucestershire on 29 September.
His name in religion was Victor.
Until recent times names were assigned by the novice master – in this case Eustace O’Gorman – possibly in consultation with the novice.
Of the 13 St Victors, ten were martyrs of whom one was a Pope of North African origin in the late second century, and the last recorded another Pope, Victor III, 1027-1087.
Studies at Woodchester concentrated on the history of the order, liturgy, learning plainsong, spirituality.
He was professed on 30 September 1924, along with Gerald Vann, who remained one of his closest friends in the order.
The following year he went to the priory at Hawkesyard, Staffordshire, as a student in simple vows and was ordained priest in June 1928.
In 1929 the priory in Oxford was opened and the theologians (students in their final years) moved there from Hawkesyard the following year.
The Studium remained divided until 1967, with the Regent of Studies in Oxford and the philosophers (students in early studies) remaining with a Lector Primarius in Hawkesyard.
The re-establishment of the priory was of major intellectual and symbolic importance.
The original priory had been suppressed in the English reformation.
Catholics and Jews had been excluded from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge until the University Test Acts of 1871.
Following suspicions in Rome about “mixed education”, while there was no formal prohibition of studying at Oxford and Cambridge the English bishops warned parents of the attendant religious and moral hazards.
In the 1930s the Master of the order, Father Gillet, wrote a trenchant report on the generally poor quality of Dominican education. In this light the English studium was a strong one.
The Regent of Studies between 1920 and 1932 was Hugh Pope (1869-1946) who had taught scripture at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1913 – he was suspended on suspicion of modernism but rehabilitated by Pope Benedict XV Reginald Ginns had studied at the Ecole Biblique; Wilfrid Ardagh had a doctorate of theology from Fribourg; Hilary Carpenter, who taught Greek and philosophy, was an Oxford B.Litt.
Some of the more conservative members of the province were deeply worried at the move from rural isolation to the heady secular world of Oxford and there was even an attempt at having the studium move back to
Hawkesyard. The liveliness of Oxford Dominican life at that time is captured in Bernard Wall’s recollection:
I sought out and rapidly made friends with every neo-Thomist I could find …. I remember going for long walks with Gerald Vann or
Victor White beyond Boars Hill discussing minutiae of Thomism, the problem of Suarez, the nature of grace, matter and form, the
operation of transubstantiation, faith in the sense of substantia rerum sperandarum argumentum non apperentiu, the sense in which
the valid active life derived from contemplation, and Thomas’ sudden passionate appeal for the mixed contemplative-active life which
was that of his own Dominican order.
White completed his licentiate in sacred theology in 1930.
His thesis was rather challengingly titled “The Platonism of Saint Thomas Aquinas: An Outline of Thomist Exemplarism”.
Ten years later in the midst of his crisis of faith he picks up two phrases of Goethe on symbolism cited in John Middleton Murry’s Heaven and Earth of 1938:
“The supreme thing would be to comprehend that everything actual is itself theoretical. We must not try to get behind the phenomena – they themselves are the lesson.” “In true symbolism the particular represents the universal not as a dream or shadow, but as a living, momentary revelation of the ineffable.”
“It is significant that only Christian thought has an adequate expression for Goethe’s belief: which is, simply that eve1ything is sacramental, and that the supreme thing would be to be permanently conscious of this.”
Following this White reflects,
“how Jungianism inculcates this state of mind, and I recall how it was universal before the ‘Aristotelian renascence’ of the XIII century. Was it not in the hope of salvaging it that my lectorate dissertation was on the exemplarism of St Thomas?”
White pursued further studies in Louvain in 1931-2. Back in Oxford he taught dogmatic theology and church history.
Some of his writings of this time – on sexual ethics, and on scholasticism, for instance – are clear and competent, well within the conventions of the time, giving little sign of the profoundly original work to come 20 years later.
The exceptions to this rather run of the mill writing included his Black friiars contribution about the 1938 report from the Church of England doctrine commission, “the best comments by anyone on that report …exemplary”, as the philosopher Donald MacKinnon recalled.
There were also his many short contributions to Blackfriars on political topics under the pseudonym “Penguin”, black and white being respectively the colors of the Dominican tunic and cloak.
In particular, it was the critical line many Blackfriiars items took on the general Catholic support for Franco in the Spanish Civil War that drew a lot of adverse comment.
The background to this stance came from White’s close contact, from 1928 onwards, with the group around the sculptor, typographer, engraver and polemicist Eric Gill at Pigotts in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
A number of the Dominicans were deeply involved in the anti-industrialism, “back to the land” movement of smallholdings and William Morris-inspired craft revival that had, in its Catholic form, started at Ditchling in Sussex as the Guild of Saint Joseph and St Dominic in 1918.
Gill was also a pacifist and White was drawn by this, had many contacts with the Pax association, predominantly but not exclusively Catholic, though not identifying himself as a pacifist.
As he wrote to John Layard: “I am not a pacifist. … But some of my difficulties have been regarding the Catholic pacifists, and the various
machinations to prevent them from stating their case” (12.1.41).
The “machinations” of church authorities regarding the Pax group infuriated him.
His position on politics vis-a-vis established Catholic authority and the common inevitable strains of community living were obviously
exacerbated in wartime and led in 1940 into a general crisis about his identity as a Catholic theologian.
Fourteen years later he wrote:
I am by profession a theologian. But I am a theologian to whom …something happened. Suddenly, or perhaps, not so suddenly, theology
ceased to have any meaning for me at all: I could not get my mind onto it, or anything to do with it, except with horror, boredom
The “machinations” that angered him seemed symptoms of a wider problem:
Catholicism tending to keep European man “in a state of infantilism and dependence, and so become the Terrible Mother who stifles the children and will not let them grow up. It is impossible for Europe to return to the Faith …. A bewildering paradox: the Church the condition and yet the hindrance to Faith” (Diary 29.8.40).
Writing of his dogmatic and socio-political difficulties in November 1940 he says:
These abuses in R.C. Church, if they are abuses at all [i.e. they may be intrinsic and systematic—AC] seem to me so flagrant and pernicious,
that spades should be called spades – and not merely by cautious and diplomatic articles in learned periodicals …. If one is conscious of Gemeinschaft with the Sancta Romana, one can patch up and interpret ad lib. If one does not, it all seems a tiresome waste of time. (Diary 21.11.40)
His teaching around this time suffered and he would respond to students’ questions by reading from a standard commentary.
In crisis he had turned to his friend, the philosopher and theologian Donald MacKinnon (1913-1994) and on 31 August 1940 “by the banks of the Cherwell I expose my soul to him”.
He wanted to relate his problems of religious identity, the agnosticism burdening him to what he had recently read of Jung. MacKinnon recommended him to contact the Jungian analyst John Layard, which White did two weeks later.
A fellow Dominican at Blackfriars, Paul Foster, was already in contact with Layard. Along with other Jungian therapists – Gerhard Adler,
William Kraemer, Vera von der Heydt, and Toni Sussman – he had moved to Oxford from London to avoid the bombing. In mid-1940 the outcome of the war was very uncertain.
Hitler had added to earlier conquests by invading Norway, Belgium, and Holland.
There had been earlier contacts between the English Dominican and Jungian worlds.
Norbert Drewitt was in correspondence with Jung in 1937 ( C. G Jung Letters, Vol. I p. 237 where “O.P.” is misconstrued as “Ordo
Praemonstratensis”, a quite different order), enclosing his Blackfriars article on myth.
Jung replied suggesting a meeting in London in April 1938.
Drewitt was a close confidant of White’s in the crisis of summer and autumn 1940.
After a period as military chaplain Drewitt left the order in the early 1940s.
The former psychiatrist Aidan Elrington O.P. had reported in Blaclcfriars on the Tenth International Congress for Psychotherapy (Oxford, 29 July-2 August 1936), where he met Jung, who gave the opening address.
Also White’s closest Dominican friend and colleague, Richard Kehoe, referring to his student days under John-Baptist Reeves, O.P., recalled “how refreshing and exciting to hear the Scriptures expounded a la Jung.
I was decent enough not to tell him that I had not yet read a word of that great man’s works” (letter to Conrad Pepler O.P. 18.12.76).
Or, as White characteristically puts it the other way round:
“I fancy you may find there are remarkable affinities between Jung’s technique of dream-interpretation and traditional canons of Scriptural exegesis” (letter to Layard 22.9.40).
There is no sign that White himself took much interest in psychology or had read any Jung before late 1939 or early 1940.
By inclination and training White’s initial attempt to understand what was happening to him was a feverish immersion in reading and thinking: theologians like Karl Barth and D.R. Davies; von Hartmann’s Philosophy of the Unconscious; three books by John Middleton Murry; and for a second time Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and especially the “Grand Inquisitor” section.
Against this background the work with Layard on dreams and symbols came as a liberating shock.
He also read Jung’s Psychology of the Unconscious and his commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower, the only two books he mentions specifically. In wartime conditions, “The opera jungiana, it seems, can’t be got for love or money second-hand or first-hand
– save by a fluke. Nor are they easy to borrow” (letter to Gerald Vann 21.6.42).
The problems about authority in the ecclesiastical (“Oh, to be dealing with men and not ecclesiastics!”) and political sense led into wider and deeper doubts about the authoritative basis of Catholic doctrines.
The issue was not so much the contents of belief as the way that, reinforced since the modernist crisis, the church had got itself into an absurd position where the historical basis for events in the life of Christ, for instance, were held as a matter of faith.
Difficulties in the relation between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith were a commonplace in Christian theology, especially since the early part of the nineteenth century with new historical and textual methods but the official “solutions” to these were highly vulnerable.
Catholic orthodoxy seems to have got itself into a hopeless tangle by interpreting dogma in terms of a naiive realist epistemology.
Not satisfied with that, that philosophical interpretation is virtually de fide. (Diary 31.8.40)
To take the example of the Virgin Birth, whilst White did not feel compelled to categorically deny it as a historical fact, he felt it at least questionable but as a historical and physiological fact it was de fide for Catholics.
As a priest, let alone professor of theology, he was required to recite the anti-modernist oath which, among other things, precluded the idea, for instance, that what is true of “the Christ of faith” can be false of “the Christ of history”, or vice versa. It was issues such as these that made for great difficulties in his remaining a Catholic (letter to John Layard 20.11.40).
This problem of the antimodernist oath arose again, in less acute form, when he became a master of theology in 1954.
Whilst his reading of Jung and the sessions with Layard deepened his understanding of religious symbolism, Jung’s writing on Christ gave a further edge to the familiar problems of the Christ of faith and the Christ of history:
Why does Jung disturb me so?
Because it is impossible to read him without drawing the conclusion that if Jesus had not existed it would have been necessary to invent Him.
And if it was necessary to invent Him, it seems unnecessary that He should have existed. (Diary 31.8.40)
At the same time he had no doubt that what he wanted to do was to see how far Jung could be placed within Catholic theology (letter to Layard 7.11.40).
In an extended exchange of ideas with Layard about the Fall of mankind (which is picked up in his 1942 lecture “The Frontiers of Theology and Psychology” and has an obvious bearing on the issues with Jung at the heart of many of their discussions and correspondence) White feels they raise in acute form the degree to which collaboration between Jungians and Christians is possible:
Whether there is not considerable likelihood that Jungians, by going beyond their empirical data and making metaphysical and metapsychical affirmations which are not necessarily demanded by those data, may lay the foundations for a religion or ersatz-religion which, so far from complementing Christianity, may contradict it radically. (letter to Layard 5.12.40)
By early November following a “mammoth interview” with Layard, White felt desperate, “at the edge of an abyss”: “I feel I am now on the brink of the Urgrund whence Gods and demons proceed … the imminence of a descent into hell.” “I seem to have gone back in time to a devil-infested universe” (Diary 6.11.40, 8.11.40).
A turning point came a few days later with three waking visions of a dazzling white sun, a windmill, and a revolving disc like the governor of a machine. Layard saw this mandala symbolism as one of a fundamental change and suggested White was ready to go back to teaching -a suggestion he fell in with. “Indeed I feel a changed person – at the dawn of a new life. Now I must thank God” (Diary 12.11.40).
White returned frequently to these visions as a source of support but the euphoria of thinking about a return to teaching did not last.
Attending Mass two weeks later he listened to a sermon on the holy souls, the sufferings of purgatory, and indulgences “delivered with dogmatic assurance but with little sign of personal emotion or even conviction.”
“And I am expected to teach this and the like to simple people. No, dear Victor it can’t be done!” (Diary 24.11.40).
He was resisting the urging of Layard, Kehoe and Drewitt that he return to “Blaggers” with mental reservations about his religious position (he had left Blackfriars to stay with friends outside Oxford).
In the only sharply critical comment on Layard as a person at this period he writes that to the extent that Layard is vehemently weighing the scales about a return “he sells me out to my ‘enemies’, – Roman authority – he himself becomes one of them – and a prelate who can be of no use to me an orator and not a scientist. In doing so he sells his own soul as an analyst” (Diary 28.11.40).
At this point White was considering four options: rejoining the Church of England; becoming secretary or “apprentice” to Layard; returning to Blackfriars; joining a new religious foundation planned by the Benedictine editor of the Eastern Churches Quarterly, Dom Bede Winslow (1888-1959).
White was under the misapprehension that the scheme was for a linked Catholic and Uniate foundation like the abbey at Amay-Chevetogne.
He had an abiding attraction to Orthodoxy vis-a-vis what he saw as the rationalized and literalized theology of the western church and reflected that his haste to convert to Catholicism had led him to pass over the Orthodox option.
A subsequent meeting with Winslow in London cleared up the misunderstanding.
The new foundation to work for church unity was to be a wholly Latin rite agricultural community.
White was still considering the possibility of joining Winslow as late as July 1941 when he was being sounded about returning to teaching in Oxford. The scheme did not get started.
From 1944 to 1948 Dom Bede organized annual three-day conferences of Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox theologians at Blackfriars, Oxford.
White was one of the participants.
By the end of January 1941 his diary records that he was at the parting of the ways. Finances had made it impossible for him to remain without employment and Layard’s offer of work could not be seriously considered until he felt the “official” priesthood was clearly impossible.
Various ideas had been proposed by the Dominicans to allow him to stay in the order without being in Oxford or teaching.
One was to work in the London parish ministry to people in air-raid shelters, for which he rightly felt no talent.
Another possibility was to accompany young evacuees to Australia or South Africa, a position he briefly entertained.
This pretty outlandish idea suggests the desperateness of his need to put a distance between himself and teaching at Oxford.
Finally, he accepted the Dominican proposal that he move to their house of study in Cambridge.
Founded in 1938, it became a priory in 1969.
“Now that I had, as it were, discovered the real ME, the contrast between the ME and the persona – I-should-be as a priest became more intolerable than ever. Perhaps at Cambridge it would be different” (Diary 27.3.41).
The Diary ends four days later. White continued work on dreams with Layard by correspondence and he must have overcome his qualms about mental reservations and returned to Oxford in September to resume teaching.
“I’ll be damned glad to go on with the analysis. In fact, I’ve a hunch there’ll be another disaster if I don’t” (letter to Layard 12.8.41). 18 There is no extant record concerning further sessions.
White’s first substantial writing on Jung was a paper he gave to one of Layard’s Oxford groups in June 1942,
“Some Bearings of Religion on Analytical Psychology” (the order of phrases in the title is interesting) – amplifying themes from his discussions with Layard on the Fall and what he saw as the Jungian dogma of the autonomy of the psyche.
The paper was repeated for the Guild of Pastoral Psychology in Octobe1~ but with an important change.
For that meeting White omitted some pages of the original paper which took Jung to task in supposing that:
The virtual ignoring of the devil, disastrous as the tendency has become in modern bourgeois Christianity, is something endemic to
original and authentic Christianity itself. I am convinced that he is utterly mistaken, and still more so in concluding that Christianity has fulfilled its historical function (Hegel?) and has now outlived its usefulness. The mistake would seem to be largely due to a failure to grasp the real significance of the definition of evil, found in many Christian philosophers, as the “privation of good”. So far from implying, as Jung seems to suppose, a denial of the reality of evil, it precisely supposes it, and confirms his own conception of the opposites.20
The Guild paper version, published as “Frontiers of Theology and Psychology”,
later appeared in the early sections of God and the Unconscious.
Two points are relevant here: the very early date at which White had hit on a major problem in a rapprochement between analytical psychology and theology which became pivotal in his later relation to Jung, and rather puzzlingly, why he dropped this section after its first presentation.
This was one of the papers he sent to Jung in his initial letter of August 1945. Visiting Kusnacht in March of the following year G.A. Bennet heard how in1pressed Jung was with his Dominican correspondent.
That August was the first of White’s ten more or less annual visits to Jung, the substance of most of which can be gathered from their correspondence.
White’s efforts to put his reflections on Jung and theology into systematic form developed slowly. On Ascension Day 1946 he writes to the novelist Antonia White that his “God and the Unconscious” still needs a lot more knocking into shape – she had expressed an interest in translating the final product for publication in France.
Versions of the paper were given in America in 1948 and Oxford in 1949 and it finally appeared as Chapter three of God and the Unconscious in 1952.
At various points in the 1940s he considered writing a systematic and historical treatise on the relations between depth psychology and theology,
but wrote to Antonia White in October 1947 that he had found that C.G. Carns had already written his book a century earlier (Psyche 1846).
Further research showed that the work of Albert Beguin on early ideas of the unconscious and the Swiss volume Ratsel der Seele on the theological side rendered his own work on these lines redundant.
The first two chapters of God and the Unconscious are all that survive of the abandoned treatise.
The Edward Cadbury Lectures of 1958-9 at the University of Birmingham that are the core of Soul and Psyche: An Enquiry into the Relationship of Psychotherapy and Religion (1960) are his most sustained and mature coverage of the subject and have received less study than God and the Unconscious.
While the finished work is invariably clear and fluent, White had to work hard at this in the early stages: “I was evidently never meant to be a writer anyway.
It’s well to know one’s own sterility” (letter to Antonia White 13.2.48).
Tim and Benita Smiley, who lived at the Cambridge Dominican house, recall that around 1957 White would take to his bed for days at a time struggling with an intellectual problem.
In the Jung correspondence and elsewhere his view of formal teaching is almost invariably negative.
There is a striking divergence of views about different phases of his teaching work.
Around the time of his 1940 breakdown not surprisingly he seems a mundane if not boring lecturer.
It may have been the contact with Jung, the difference of perspective that his year in America in 1947-8 provided, as well as his reading of contemporary – mainly French – Thomist scholarship that gave a very different flavor to his work in the 1950s.
As one of the most influential English Catholic theologians of the last century wrote, White gave him “the reality of Aquinas stripped of the
scholastic obfuscations of so much modem ‘Thomism’ “.
The fall of 1947 marked the start of a remarkable 12 months for White.
After his second meeting with Jung and the success of his paper on Aristotle at the Eranos meeting in Ascona in September, and being invited to be a founder member of the Zurich Institut, he sailed to New York. For some months he was the guest of the “millionairess” he mentioned to Jung, Mrs Frances Leggetts at Stone Ridge, Ulster County. He stayed en famille for two
months in the main house and then moved to the “Inn” on the estate, a retreat for, mostly, Catholic writers and artists. The sharp contrast to the wear and tear of Oxford over recent years, the “controls and malnutrition” of post-war Britain, provoked a lyrical response:
This is an indescribably lovely place, and nowhere could be more suitable for my purposes … keen mountain air, brilliant light casting
deep shadows, strange flowers and birds and beasts and no snakes.
A lovely big bed-sitter room in the entrancing Colonial wooden house with porticos in all directions; an enchanting and most prayerful
chapel with a 14th century Avignon altar-piece and an 11th century equal-armed crucifix.
Most understanding and sympathetic people, and interesting visitors at weekends only, and lashings of such food and drink that – alongside all the rest – I’ve never felt so well in my life! Plenty of outside occupation, right down to EARTH.
So far the writings have not been going so well; but I must allow time for all this influx of new impressions to subside perhaps.
In December he was invited to become a patron of what was to become the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich.
In February 1948 he lectured on Gnosticism to the New York Jung Club and at Easter left his “hermitage” for lectures and seminars in Chicago, the North West Pacific coast, California, New Mexico and Arkansas to pay his way.
The post-war £75 restriction on foreign currency made this inevitable.
In this and other earnings any significant surplus would be turned over to his order. This “heavenly but hectic tour of the West, with one damn Lecture after another” (letter to Layard 8.5.48) left him exhilarated but exhausted.
At some point he met with Jacques Maritain. He resumed writing at Ridgely Inn in July.
“Anyway God and Ucs. aren’t coming to the surface too well. Maybe you’re right – and they are queerer bedfellows than I liked to suppose” (letter to Layard 8. 7.48).
He began to dread the return to Oxford: “on the surface at least everything is just tootsy-wootsy … [but there are] persistent nightmarish dreams about being back in England betimes in a state approaching panic … and hideously homesick for the USA. … I am afraid I do just love this country, and it’s gratifying to find it seems to like me” (letter to Antonia White 20.5.48).
He left New York for England towards the end of August and after spending 6 to 14 September with Jung resumed his teaching in Oxford, and the usual round of conducting retreats and addressing various societies around the country.
In late October 1950 he went on his first visit to Rome for the “ridiculous exam” he mentions to Jung. In fact it would have been a tough examination for a baccalaureate which in due course would become a mastership in Sacred Theology (STM).
It would also mean reaffirming the anti-modernist oath which had so deeply exercised him in 1940.
Several stray references in 1951 apart from what he writes to Jung indicate that he still found difficulties in his Dominican life.
These were compounded in December 1952.
“I think it is now no secret that my very best friend among the O.P’s – Fr Richard Kehoe – has left the Order, and for the most conscientious reasons which I am bound in varying measure to share” (R. 30.12.52).
White does not elaborate on what these reasons were.
By November 1953 he was again desperate:
I am paid, I owe my bread and butter, to the alms and gifts of good Christians, who support me in the belief that I am a good Christian
priest, labouring to bring all I can into the one Ark of salvation! Their God simply isn’t my God any more; my very clerical clothes have become a lie. I feel acutely that my position has become morally impossible and dishonest. … So I tell myself from time to time that,
whatever the cost, I must get out. (to Jung 8.11.53)
God and the Unconscious had been published in 1952. Many reviews were positive but the author later reflected:
In one important respect God and the Unconscious did not receive the criticism, or arouse the discussion, for which the author hoped. In
his own view the book’s most salient feature, which it argued laboriously in one chapter, and which the rest of the book presupposed,
was its insistence that religion and psychology shared a common territory and a great many concerns; but for the most part this
feature was passed unchallenged, and indeed hardly noticed.
This common territory, it was maintained, is what religion calls the human soul and what psychology calls the human psyche.
It was maintained that, although the viewpoints of religion and psychology differed, and that each made different (and sometimes even seemingly conflicting) statements about them, this “soul” of religion and this “psyche” of the psychologist are identical – or, at the very least, overlap. (unused “Epilogue and Prologue”, 1958, for Soul and Psyche)
This is a somewhat puzzling comment for it is the very objection to this position that concerned the influential British Catholic psychiatrist E.B. Strauss over many years.
See his otherwise enthusiastic review of Soul and Psyche in The Tablet (19.3.60).
Other instances are in the hostile reviews that led to his later difficulties with Rome – those in particular by Dom Gregory Stevens (Theological Studies, Vol. 9, 1953); Raymond McCall (New Scholasticism, Vol. 28, 1954); and, as we shall see later, by Agostino Gemelli (Vita
e Pensiero, 1955).
The events of 1954
May 1954 was an important month for White.
In Brussels on 1 May 1954 he gave his paper to a meeting of the Wiener Arbeitskreis fiir Tiefenpsychologie.
It was a small conference and it would be fascinating to know what the speaker on “Avatars de la parole” (Jacques Lacan) had to say to the speaker on “The Unity of the Person” (White).
On 28 May at Blackfriars the cap and ring of a master of theology were given to Victor White and Ambrose Farrell.
It was expected that White would become Regent of Studies for the coming October term.
In fact around late July or early August Farrell was appointed instead.
Words have been chosen deliberately here for it is generally held that White had been appointed and further that the Provincial, Hilary Carpenter, had taken the opportunity of the sudden death of the Master General, Emmanuel Suarez, to have the regency switched from a radical to a conservative.
This may have been so but I have some doubts about this version.
In a warm letter to White of 12 August the English language member of the master general’s council, Aelwin Tindal-Atkinson, who had been very close to Suarez, writes:
My own impression had been that you were to be designated for Fr Daniel Callus’s office as soon as his second term was concluded this
month. Hence the change came as a great surprise to me, as it would have, I believe to Fr Suarez. Formally it would make sense for the appointment to be made after the conferral of the STM, that is between 28 May and Suarez’s death four weeks later. If White had been formally appointed then no record of it survives. In fact this brief letter is surprisingly the only document about the affair extant.
In reactions to the change there may not be much difference between “were to be designated” and actually appointed but since I want to consider the affair in a broader context it seems right to cross t’s and dot i’s. Certainly Tindal-Atkinson’s not being consulted, as was customary, indicates something strange in the acting master general’s procedures.
The broader context is the crisis affecting the Dominicans in 1953-4, focussed on the suppression of the worker priests in France.
These had their roots in 1943 in the sending of clandestine priests as civilian workers in German labor camps. At the end of the war the worker priests continued and expanded in France as part of a mission to offset the alienation of great parts of the working class from Christianity.
The Vatican’s immediate anxiety about this and the increasing trade-union and political activities of the priests was followed in February 1951 by Rome’s forbidding the admission of any new candidates and a request to the French bishops for annual reports on each individual priest.
The speeding up of restrictions on the worker priest mission can, in Gregor Siefer’s account, be traced to one fact, the replacement of Mgr Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, as Papal Nuncio in France.
In May 1953 the Dominican Pere Montuclard, leader of the Jeunesse de l’Eglise community in Paris, resigned from the order and the priesthood after his book, Les Evenements et la Joi was condemned.
In August 1953 Cardinal Giuseppe Pizzardo, Prefect of the Congregation for Seminaries and Universities, ordered heads of religious orders to recall their worker priests and in September called for an end to the “experiment” indicating severe penalties for any continuation.
Of the hundred or so priests ten were Dominicans.
The order was unusual in that it had from the outset enshrined in their Constitutions a strong juridical independence from the central Roman authority.
There was severe pressure within the Vatican to even have the Constitutions revised. Twenty-five years earlier Master General Parades had been more or less forced to resign in Pope Pius XI’s campaign against Catholic involvement in the Action Frarnaise movement, the 1929 General Chapter being forbidden to have any discussion of his resignation.
The 1953 crisis looked likely to be even worse.
In November Suarez made a formal visitation of the English province speaking individually to every member of the order.
This would, among other things, have given him an opportunity to take soundings on the regency to fall vacant in the following year.
It is inconceivable that he did not discuss the French and more general crisis with White and with others.
Suarez still delayed, but after the bishops declared on 19 January 1954 that the worker priests completely stop their work by 1 March he acted ruthlessly lest worse happen to the order.
On 9 February in Paris he removed the three French Provincials (Avril of Paris, Belaud of Lyons, and Nicolas of Toulouse); the leading theologians, Chenu, Congar and Feret, were removed from their teaching posts and banished from Paris; the director of the publishing
house, Editions du Cerf, Fr Boisselot, was dismissed.
The French bishops were concerned with Chenu’s leading influence in the worker priest movement.
Conservative Dominicans in the Holy Office, like GarrigouLagrange, had been concerned with Cougar’s ecumenism, perhaps from as
early as 1937, and took the general crisis as an opportunity to discipline him as well.28
On the night of 30 June Suarez and his assistant were killed in a car accident near Narbonne.
In accordance with the Constitutions the interim master of the order was the provincial where the next general chapter was due to be held. In this case it was Timothy McDermott of St Joseph’s province,
New York, a very experienced ecclesiastical politician of a conservative and authoritarian disposition. He held office until the General Chapter of May 1955.
In the context of the above it seems to me that there was probably a general scrutiny of regencies in Rome over the summer of 1954 with the Holy Office objecting to White as regent, something that McDermott would be inclined to go along with. It seems less likely that Hilary Carpenter initiated the change from White to Ambrose Farrell.
Although the assignment of Laurence Bright and Cornelius Ernst to teach at Hawkesyard promised well, the new appointment of a conservative canon lawyer as regent set back studies at Blackfriars for several years.
When Henry St John became Provincial in 1958 he took steps to ensure that Farrell’s term was not extended beyond the usual six-term period.
The elderly former regent Daniel Callus was appointed for the year 1960-1 and then Columba Ryan served as pro-regent until, with the relaxing of the STM requirement, Cornelius Ernst was appointed regent in 1966.
In 1954 it was an anguished Cornelius Ernst who had tried unsuccessfully to start a petition for White’s appointment.
Certainly, it was a personal affront to White but he seemed to recover from it quite quickly.
When he passed the STM examination in 1950 he told Jung this “means the end of my hopes that I can retire from teaching and the wear and tear of community life and devote my time to quiet reading, writing and seelsorge” (3.12.50).
And writing to Jung in September 1954:
“So all the fuss about the oath, the degree, and my beautiful self-sacrifice pro bono publico [in becoming regent] have been a sort of sacrifice of Isaac – or maybe something a great deal more comic.” – He adds, “But in many ways it is of course a huge relief’ (25.9.54).
Given the anguished need to “get out” in his letter to Jung the preceding November, this last reflection is far from surprising.
As he put it to Herbert McCabe, “poor old Hilary mucked me about but it was a blessing in disguise”.
It was the Provincial’s rather desperate suggestion that White go to California and find something to do there.
As his next letter to Jung makes clear he was soon occupied:
“It seems that I’ve definitely got a job to do in my present calling, however uncomfortable I still feel about it, and there is nothing to do but get on with it. It is at least satisfying to feel one is needed, and doing something that nobody else can do. But it is just telling the old, old story, and not very original or creative” (8.1.55).
It was whilst in Oakland that he wrote his article on Answer to Job that so upset Jung (“Jung on Job”, Black.friars, March 1955). It seemed to have surprised its author too: “that Job article may be true – but it’s terrible. I’ve amazed myself and others by the mercilessness of it” (R. May 1955).
He left America in April for a general chapter of the order where Michael Browne was elected master and then went on to Zurich.29 Here he gave seminars at the institute on “Classes of Opposites” and “Baptism Ritual and the Opposites” (Christ and “Self’).
These were an attempt to come at the issues between himself and Jung from a different angle.
The problems between them over the Job book were at their height.
Thus their brief meeting at Mammern where Emma Jung was convalescing turned out to be a disaster, as White’s subsequent letter acknowledges and Jung’s distress was confirmed to me by Aniela Jaffe many years later.
In a subsequent dream White notes:
“Waiting to say good-bye to Jung ….Trying to find him. ‘The only great man I’ve known’. I wonder if this is artificial”. “So I am still out of touch with C.G. and anxious (genuinely?) about it. Compensation for my own central lack of strong effort to contact him? But it seems I have to do without him in this ‘afternoon’ of life and should reconcile myself to this” (23.7.57).
Their very last meeting was to be in June 1958.
On returning to California in August 1955 for a further year White found that as well as some teaching in the Dominican house he had a “rather mounting collection of ‘souls’.
It must be quite hell to be a lay Catholic in USA if you have any imagination or individuality at all, and this alone is back of a great many problems” (R. 25.12.55).
Among other engagements was a request from Hollywood to give a short retreat to “ladies of the motion pictures” (R. 31.10.55).
In April 1956 he spent a wonderful weekend in Yosemite with Gerald Vann and Killiki Palmquist who were also on lecture tours. It is likely that all three visited Henry Miller at Big Sur – “a GENUINELY FREE man”.
Palmquist was a vocation counselor in Stockholm whom White had first come across in 1946. She was to become one of his most trusted friends and colleagues.
She was present at the talks White gave at Staket near Stockholm in 1954 and 1957; the theme of the latter was “Guilt, Theological and Psychological”.
She worked in London several times and they were planning to see West Side St01y in the last months of his life.
In August White returned to England. His American Provincial had begged that he might return for a further period. White was keen but the English Provincial was unwilling: “My year in California has been a rather wearing but profitable experience. I feel much more settled within myself now; not that any problems are solved, but they don’t seem to matter so much anymore; and I feel more ready to plow a lonely furrow” (letter to Jung, 25.8. 56).
He then set off for Zurich and Bollingen, 6-14 September.
Further problems with Rome In the June and July issues of the review Vita e Pensiero in 1955 the editor Agostino Gemelli (1878-1959) wrote a not wholly lucid account of Jung’s psychology of religion, noting its increasing appeal for Catholics.
He singles White out for particular criticism. God and the Unconscious is seen as a disconcerting book. “It is quite extraordinary that this work should carry the imprimatur of the Archbishop of Birmingham.”
He finds White not very watchful of orthodoxy, inattentive to the mind of the Church. Gemelli asserts that to understand the religious sphere one needs to operate in philosophical and theological terms, not seek support from psychology.
“Here lies the very grave intellectual31 error of those Catholics, like White, who use the teachings of Jung in order to strengthen support for the truths of religion or, even worse, to enrich it”.
Vita e Pensiero was one of the most widely read Italian Catholic periodicals.
The Franciscan Gemelli was a major figure in Italian Catholicism, founder of the Catholic University of Milan in 1921 and director until his
death. “II Machiavelli di Dio” and “naturaliter fascista” are phrases cited from his biographers in the 20-column entry in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (Rome, 1999, Instituto della Enciclopedia Italiana).
When White was to attend the Seventh International Congress of Catholic Psychologists in Madrid in September 1957, where Gemelli was to be president of honour, it is not surprising that he refers to him as “my Enemy” (R. 8.8.57). 33
The Holy Office’s concern about White’s orthodoxy came to a head in late 1957 and in a curt note of 8 January 1958 from Cardinal Giuseppe Pizzardo to Michael Browne as Master General he asks for an opinion of White’s teaching and a list of his publications.
This was not Pizzardo’s first interest in English Catholic writers. In 1953 he had condemned Graham Greene’s novel The Power and the Glory on the grounds that it was “paradoxical” and “dealt with extraordinary circumstances” and requested changes in a text published
14 years earlier.
Cardinal Griffin’s Advent pastoral letter in the Westminster diocese was along similar lines. 34 Browne’s request about White to the
English Provincial Hilary Carpenter met with a swift reply on 14 January.
Given the importance of Carpenter in what did or did not happen in the regency issue four years earlier, it is worth quoting in full.
Knowing that his response to Browne would go to Pizzardo, Carpenter echoes the rotund phrasing of the original in the opening and closing phrases:
Most Reverend and dear Father General, I beg to acknowledge the receipt of Your Paternity’s letter in which you express some anxiety in respect of the writings of Father Victor White and ask for information concerning him. I will endeavour to answer as fully as possible and to the best of my ability and knowledge.
I am very happy to be able to reassure Your Paternity, first of all, as to his life and spirit as a religious. From this point of view I have always found him admirable in every way and, if anything, increasingly so as the years go by.
I have had more than one occasion to admire his humble obedience, both during my Provincialate and earlier during my years as Prior at Oxford, and in general his personal life is, as far as I am aware, above criticism.
As to his intelligence, he is endowed above the average.
He has a particular gift for teaching as well as for preaching, and he is a most assiduous student.
He is regarded as something of an international expert in the field of modern psychology, but at the same time his adherence to and devotion to the saw doctrina of St Thomas has long been established and becomes more and more evident with the years.
His great desire, for a considerable time past, has been to combine these two interests, trying to sift out what is good in modern psychology and to measure it against a background of Aristotelico-Thomist teaching. [sentence illegible] … he has done complete justice to himself in either.
The former is mostly a collection of essays and lectures directed to very diverse readers and audiences, some to Catholics, some to the
general public (as in the case of the broadcast talks included), some to academic societies.
But all were meant to be, in one form or another, a critique, favourable or unfavourable, of modern psychological investigations and theories.
The book had a limited appeal, but was well received.
There was no adverse comment, as far as I was made aware, either from the Hierarchy or from the recognised theologians.
The diocesan censorship was effected in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
The other book is theological. In his opening chapter Father
“Those who are acquainted with the opening pages of
the Summa Theologiae of St Thomas Aquinas will, I hope, recognise
to how great an extent my own account depends on his: indeed
what follows will be to a large extent a paraphrase or an amplification
of the more relevant parts of that opening chapter ‘
On the Holy Teaching’.”
I quote this because I believe it truly represents Father Victor’s mind and intention in general, however the actual outcome may be estimated.
But here again the book in question is, for the most part, a collection of essays and articles already printed in various journals. Yet it was received with notable approval.
This book was also given its diocesan imprimatur in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
His only other publication in permanent form is the translation of and commentary upon St Thomas’s letter to Brother John “On How
To Study” which originated as an address delivered at an academia in Blackfriars.
Of this “The Clergy Review” wrote: “The text of the De Modo Studendi with translation needs less than three pages; the rest of the little booklet contains a profound commentary on it … It is tempting to quote some of the more telling passages, but the task of selection from so much that is valuable is too difficult”.
Except for an article on the psychologist Jung, rather critical in tone, I cannot recall any other recent writings by Father Victor.
He is engaged now upon a book, as I understand, but I do not know its content.
It will be submitted to me in due course, I need hardly say, for censorship.
In my own judgment, for what it is worth and speaking generally, if Father Victor lays himself open to criticism in his writings this may well arise from an active and penetrating mind reacting, somewhat impatiently at times, against a more passive approach to the understanding of the sana doctrina; he feels that St Thomas has much to say to the modern world as such, but that it must be said with cognisance of modern theories and research. It may arise too, I think, from a too ready vocabulary not always subjected to that restraint of expression necessary especially in the written word when matters of grave import are under review.
On the other hand I am bound to say that as a lector in formal theology and as
a preacher he has received much praise.
The year he spent, with Your Paternity’s kind approval, in California was so successful from both points of view that the Provincial there has begged that he might be allowed to return for another period. (I felt that, for the time being, I was not able to agree, and it is typical of Father Victor that he accepted this decision with commendable alacrity and obedience.)
No comment, adverse or otherwise, has reached me from the hierarchy or other ecclesiastical authorities in respect of Father Victor.
Amongst theologians he is regarded, as far as I know, as of good standing and merit.
Finally while I cannot regret too much that Your Paternity should have been given reason for anxiety,
I can at least assure you that in all basic things Father Victor is an excellent religious and Dominican. If it were necessary to offer him correction, I am sure that he would accept the same humbly and even gratefully. I have tried to answer Your Paternity’s queries as fully and accurately as I could, and I hope satisfactorily. With profound respect and devotion. Your Paternity’s most obedient son in S. Dominic FR HILARY CARPENTER, O.P.
This response was received by Cardinal Pizzardo on 24 January. Partly reflecting on his own position at this time, White writes:
The trouble for so many of us converts-in-adolescence is something awfully difficult for you cradle Catholics to understand! The trouble
is that, one fine day, we find that we did (unconsciously) pose when we became RCs. It is more a matter of culture, of our picture-of-the world, than of religion! We revolted from the whole “protestant materialist” world and values in which we were brought up: probably
threw out the baby with the bath-water. For that we substituted a beautiful, romantic “Ages of Faith”, medieval world – perhaps helped by Chesterbelloc [G.B. Shaw’s term for G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc], Gill, Pepler etc. The Church was central in that pretty picture; and after playing with High Anglicanism of course we became Catholics.
There was really very little choice in the matter, certainly no idea of choosing thorns rather than roses: it was just the most important part of the picture – and in the “Church” of this picture, we found certainty, security, a consoling ritual, almost EVERY thing.
Perhaps we had never had much to do with the “real” Church of the average Catholic, and we never did feel much at home in it.
We found “home” in the rather exceptional Catholicism of Blackfriars, Oxford; and were perhaps enamoured of the rather rarefied out-of-this-world “Life of the Spirit”.
Of course the fantasy doesn’t last: we grow up, see it’s phoney: and with the mirage our Church-picture fades too: we feel we just don’t belong any more, and some of us “lapse” out as inevitably as we had come in. And to the old picture we cannot return, though we’d like to find another vision. (R. 10.2.58)
By late 1958 he had completed Soul and Psyche, the key themes of which were to be his Cadbury lectures.
At the invitation of Professor G.W.A. Lampe of the University of Birmingham Theology Department, these were delivered between 16 January and 6 March 1959:
“The lectures in Birmingham are being quite well attended and received – so far. And the book thereof has somehow got all the required imprimaturs! I am finding John XXIII such a joy and relief. We must pray hard that this Ecumenical Council really does something – and undoes a lot else” (R. 27.1.59).
At this time White came regularly from Cambridge to London for his Thursday sessions working at the More Clinic and visiting friends like
Barbara and Bernard Wall, his publishers Manya Harari and Marjorie Villiers of the Harvill Press, Antonia White, and Catherine Ginsberg.
In early 1959 I had two long conversations with him at St Dominic’s Priory, Haverstock Hill, about my attempts to understand Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy and difficulties I was having at school about these and similar interests. The relaxed and friendly reassurance from the smiling priest with cigarette holder was important to me and I started to read his books.
On 17 April 1959 White was in a severe accident on his motor scooter near Peterborough.
As Layard wrote to Jung:
“The news from Victor White is that he recovers consciousness from time to time but wanders when he talks. What will he be like if he recovers from it I do not know. Will there have been a change. If so in what direction?” (20.5.59.)
As he reflected five months later:
“Oh, I HOPE I’m changed all right! It would be pretty futile to be nearly dead and return to ego-less childhood if something wasn’t reborn, even ifI’m not sure what” (R. 9.10.59).
In the meanwhile Michael Browne had written to White that the Holy See had ordered that sales of God and the Unconscious be suspended (23.7.59).
Returning to Cambridge from convalescence White replied that God and the Unconscious had been out of print for two years but that he would do what he could to prevent a further edition or reimpression (11.8.59).
In a memorandum for the new provincial Henry St John he outlined the contractual and other legal issues about the copyright of the book and the problem of sales of translations ending:
“It is difficult to plan when one is told nothing about what the trouble is all about; and without even knowing why orders should be given to the author to ‘take steps’ to ‘suspend sales’ … I would like to know where I stand, and conscientiously can stand in the future!”
St John replied that in justice White should be officially told just what is considered to be wrong with the book and that if it would be expedient to make such a petition he would energetically back it.
In his formally humble brief response to the Master General White kept silent about the problem of translations of the book.
Replying to a letter of Henry St John’s which cannot be traced, Thomas Garde notes that “Father General is very pleased and edified by
Father Victor’s excellent dispositions.
It seems that the Holy See does not usually give reasons for orders of this kind” (19.9.59). St John’s response was brilliant:
I am forwarding to Fr Victor the M.G.’s very kind words concerning his “edifying dispositions” – I am sure he will be greatly comforted
by them. In view of the not unnatural anxiety and worry he has suffered in this matter I have felt justified in assuring him that since
he is not to be told what, in the content of his book, has moved the Sacred Congregation to take this action there can be nothing in it
even remotely dangerous to his own faith and morals or to those of any of his readers capable of understanding its subject matter. I hope I have judged rightly in saying this.
To White he continues:
I think you may regard the matter as closed; that the S.C. will forget it and that the M.G. is content to leave it so. Since you have received no warning of any kind concerning further publication on this subject and no indication as to matters on which it might be expedient to take extra care when writing about it you are perfectly free to proceed and I am glad that Soul and Psyche will soon be appearing, and in case of any possible trouble, glad that the diocesan censorship is Westminster, and that the censor [Charles Davis] is Professor of Dogma at the Cardinal’s own seminary. He will not rat in the event of any criticism, which I think however is quite unlikely. I expect you will hear no more of this. You know that you have my fullest support. (21.9 .59)
Either there was some further move or news of the problems spread slowly, for Eve Lewis wrote to Catherine Ginsberg ten months later:
“I am grieved to learn from Dom Oswald [Sumner] that God and the Unconscious is to be proscribed and that he is afraid in case the same fate should befall Soul and Psyche” (21.7.60).
In material not used in the latter book which may refer to these events, White wrote:
It seems necessary to add that a word of caution should be added for the benefit of a type of reader who seems to be more numerous and
influential than might be supposed.
The gang-mentality of early adolescence, with its all-black and all-white groups, its undiscriminating loyalties to a gang, a leader or a cause, its simple divisions of mankind into warring parties of those who are for and those who are against, has an extraordinary persistence into later life …. I have found it widely supposed that (in spite of much that I have said to the contrary) I am somehow “for” every form of psychiatry or psychotherapy, and approve all that is done in its name (in sharp contrast to, let us say, Monsignor X., who is notoriously “against” it).
When the Mother Prioress of a contemplative order sent him Jung’s September 1959 letter to her about White’s illness he replied:
“I am rather sad he is in such a self-piteous state about being ‘misunderstood’ etc. But amused somewhat at his remarks about my not fully disapproving of his work – if he knew half the trouble I’ve had and am having for approving most of it, even if I don’t agree with some of his views. And his work wouldn’t have much future if everybody did” (9.10.59).
The last year White’s major scooter accident in April 1959 left him with permanently impaired sight and hearing: “there is no doubt I have learned a lot! But there are a lot of difficulties ahead, both interior and exterior …. It may be quite a time before I can go anywhere unaccompanied, or even cross streets by myself!” (R. 21.1.59).
Fortunately his mental recovery was complete and he was able to dictate for transcription by his friend Donald Nicholl parts of his translation of the first section of the new edition of Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae and write with some difficulty. In September he suffered acute abdominal pains and was admitted to Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge for two weeks.
This problem seemed to clear up. But he was in hospital again for an operation 20 January to 11 February 1960.
The stomach cancer was now irreversible and his medical notes for 11 March say that “he is going down hill . . . there is nothing further we can do. He is aware of his condition”.
He had been due to speak at a joint meeting of the Society of Analytical
Psychology and the Analytical Psychology Club on 21 January 1960 but was
too ill to attend. In a manuscript note to his contribution ”
The Self’ he writes:
“I might say that this is my very first attempt at anything like a public appearance since – perhaps rather significantly – a gust of wind blew me off my scooter onto my skull- and cracked it. And I could not possibly want this first attempt at public speaking to be anywhere else”. He had the satisfaction of seeing Soul and Psyche published in February.
For the last six or eight weeks of his life White was persuaded by Catherine Ginsberg to move from the North London Dominican priory in Hampstead to Harrowby Court in Kensington. It is unclear when she and White first met.
She was associated with The Open Way, a charitable trust founded in 1957 to further mental health education developed by the psychiatrist Dr Graham Howe: Toni Sussmann was honorary associate director and R.D. Laing a member of the advisory council.
Dr Margaret Grant had invited Ginsberg to help her run a therapeutic community in Rosary Gardens in London.
Some of this group moved to flats in Harrowby Court and under Ginsberg’s leadership this became the Fabyc community (Family by Choice), and as members grew considerably they moved to their present location at Kew in Surrey. White was nursed by Christina Megroz in Flat 5.
She recalled that she did not know how Ginsberg persuaded White and his superior that this was the best plan and that there were difficulties.
Ginsberg was a Catholic convert of forceful and unorthodox ideas who frequently challenged White to demanding arguments.
It was Megroz’s impression that White felt lonely and at times may have regretted leaving the priory.
At some point after his accident it seems that, according to Richard Ingram O.P., Eve Lewis made a “detour” to visit Jung and urge him, without success, to contact White.
The building of bridges came with the letter in July 1959 to Jung from the Mother Prioress of a contemplative order who had known White since the late 1940s.
She sent Jung’s September reply to White –
“You are certainly privileged to have (these days) this autograph letter from the old man” (9.10.59). With White’s letter of thanks about this a week later the correspondence had resumed, though not without some continued misunderstandings.
His friend from wartime Oxford, the Jungian analyst F. Elkisch, visited him at Harrowby Court and recalled White saying:
“Look, Elk, the letter I got from Jung: listen, he said, and read a few lines which I have forgotten but which to me in no way sounded offensive: We are friends, close friends, how could he write like this? …. I feel Father Victor and Jung had lived for so long on different levels that it was understandable when the new common platform was a bit slippery on occasions” (R. 7.10.76).
White died on 22 May 1960.
Lucid until the end, his last words were, “God, take me”.
After the funeral at St Dominic’s in London he was buried at Woodchester where he had entered the order 36 years earlier.
In a subsequent letter Elkisch wrote that somewhere he had read words which he never forgets in which Jung said:
“I have a huge correspondence, see innumerable people but have only two real friends with whom I can speak about my own difficulties; the one is Erich Neumann and he lives in Israel and the other is Father Victor White in England” (R. 29.10.76). ~Adrian Cunningham, Victor White: A Memoir, Jung-White Letters, Page 307-334