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Interview to Sonu Shamdasani by Emanuele Casale

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Interview of Sonu Shamdasani by Emanuele Casale

Interview to SHAMDASANI (by Emanuele Casale, psychologist)

Emanuele: Most of my questions are about your five years of studies and one of your works that I liked a lot, which is Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology: The Dream of a Science. I believe that this work should be used in every university of psychology and psychiatry, especially in Italy, because with this work you rewrote the history of psychology in the last century, giving new light to Jung and his contribution. In the book mentioned earlier, you considered a list of topics that Jung left to posterity, indicating them as the areas of research that analytical psychologists should have pursued through new studies and developments. Do you think they are currently carrying them out? For example, topics like the associative family models and complexes; collection, evaluation, and analysis of childhood dreams; psychical phenomenon in pre and post-mortem; compensatory dynamic of marriage; individual behaviour in the crowd. I’d like to know, in your opinion, how many psychologists are interested in developing these themes today.

Shamdasani: I approach this from a historical angle, so these themes were among Jung’s recommendations in 1948 for complex psychology. I think when you look at it, what is striking is there’s more work on these themes outside of analytical psychology; for instance, in fields such as parapsychology than in analytical psychology. So as to the level of work going on in each topic, I think you’d have to check the literary data bases and do a kind of research because it’s not directly my focus.

Emanuele: Jung decided to call the institute that was opened in his honor by his closest collaborators “Institute of Complex Psychology”, both to emphasize the distance from a possible and yet another and useless Jungian “orientation” (he despised this adjective), and to remember the importance of his complex psychology project. For this reason, I also decided to name my national blog Jung Italia – Complex Psychology [Jung Italia – Psicologia Complessa]. Today, particularly in Italy, I think that this project on complex psychology has been completely forgotten in terms of the development of research and training. In fact, we always hear about Jungian psychology instead of complex psychology, as if complex psychology would be just one among many psychological approaches. Complex psychology is an open building science. What do you think about this?

Shamdasani: One reason for Jung’s change of the name of his field from analytical to complex psychology was—he thought analytical psychology did not properly capture the nature of his enterprise because it was too tied to the practice of analysis. Whereas, his main interest was in interdisciplinary science of complex psychology, which had applications to education and to psychotherapy, but was not a psychotherapeutic school. And what is striking is that that project pretty much got abandoned by most of his followers, even during his lifetime. So for instance, very quickly, the Institute in Zurich became, predominantly, almost solely an institute for the training of psychotherapists. So initially, people from other disciplinary fields were involved, such as the Nobel Prize for physics Wolfgang Pauli. However, none of the other people in the institution were interested in scientific research as Jung was, in researches such as sectioning dreams to look at the instance of archetypal motifs of dreams. So in that sense, the type of work that Jung was attempting to do—in which analysis is one component, an important component, but by no means the sole thing, he was proposing a general psychology—that project got left behind. So, in terms of whether people want to take it up or not—why not? I think it’s certainly more interesting than what has happened to analytical psychology, which has largely become a clinical discipline.

Emanuele: What do you think about Herman Hesse, what kind of feeling do you have reading Hesse? Between Jung and Hesse, it has often seemed to me – even in their letters – that Hesse expressed some sort of resistance to Jung’s psychology and analysis. Sometimes it seems that he agrees with Jung, and other times it seems that he rejects his views on particular subjects.

Shamdasani: It’s a complicated question because there’s a long history, and the positions of Hesse and Jung is the relation of psychology and literature—they evolve during that encounter. In a certain sense, there is an ambivalence, respect and ambivalence on both sides, which is what I found interesting to reconstruct, to look at the various phases of their relationship.

Emanuele: Have you ever met Ellenberger?

Shamdasani: No, I’ve never met him. I sent him an article and I got a very nice letter back after I wrote my first article. I just sent him a copy of my first article and I received a very nice letter.

Emanuele: Was Ellenberger important for your work?

Shamdasani: Yes, his work was inspirational for me personally, but also for opening up the old field of dynamic psychiatry—to use his term—in the history of the field.

Emanuele: Some researchers affirm that the unpublished work of Jung is three times bigger than the published work. Would you kindly comment on this?

Shamdasani: At this point, the collected works of Jung were 18 volumes and a number of seminars in the Bollingen series. There was Nietzsche, the Zarathustra, the 1925 seminar, the visions seminars, and the Kundalini. Currently on the way—the Philemon Foundation has produced nearly, I think, about 10 volumes or something—in different sizes. In a few years time, when the edition of the ETH Lectures is complete, the Philemon Foundation would have done about 20 volumes. What is big in size is all of the volumes of the collected works, they were never less than 20 volumes. There are still over 100 unpublished manuscripts in Jung archives in the university. There are other important items in the family archives. There are—in terms of two-way correspondences—I think something like over 35.000 letters at the ETH Institute. This is two way. They’re not all by Jung, and there are correspondence in other archives all over the world. So I don’t know the exact size comparison, but there is still more unpublished than published.

Emanuele: Do you think that many of these unpublished letters will be published?

Shamdasani: Yes.

Emanuele: So your goal is to publish them. Do you think you’ll be able to publish them all?

Shamdasani: I doubt it. It requires a lot of funds and support and this is the difficult par, finding people who are interested in supporting it. So we’re just starting, we just launched a crowdfunding project to produce an addition of Jung’s unpublished 1937 book on alchemy and individuation. In my opinion, it’s the most important single item in the Jung’s archive at the ETH, but we need a lot of funds to be able to edit it, translate it, and produce it.

Emanuele: Ok, thank you. Regarding the Black Books, I would like to know when—if you know, if you can say something about them—when they’ll be published.

Shamdasani: About this time next year.

Emanuele: Next year? Wow.

Shamdasani: Yes.

Emanuele: Okay. This question is about Jung and reincarnation. In his last days, Jung changed his idea about reincarnation from an archetypical view to a more personal view. The drivers of this change were some dreams that he had and a few dreams of children that he had studied. There’s some very interesting proof regarding this, it comes from the Jungian analyst Roger Woolger and is found in the book “The secret of other lives”: a friend of Woolger went to Jung’s house in Zurich, where he was welcomed by one of his daughters. She said that Jung wrote a lot about reincarnation in his autobiography, but the book had been reworked by family members and curators to exclude these passages on the subject. So Jung’s daughter brought Woolger’s friend to a room where he kept the original manuscript of “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” in a showcase and showed him the passages and all the sentences where Jung spoke about reincarnation. What can you tell us about this?

Shamdasani: First, I don’t think there was a major shift in Jung’s views on reincarnation. I think that he was convinced of life after death for quite some time. And it’s certainly true that there were sections on reincarnation in the unpublished manuscripts, in the unpublished protocols from Memories, Dreams, Reflections, which I’m currently editing for publication. So for instance, the speculations that Tony Wolff was likely to be reincarnated soon because she had to complete her further development. Whereas his wife, he felt had reached a further stage in her development and was less likely to reincarnate soon.

Emanuele: There are a lot of written texts about the theme of reincarnation that you’re working on and that—

Shamdasani: No, not writings, these are the interviews, the notes of the interviews between Aniela Jaffé and Jung, where there is more discussion of the issue.

Emanuele: All right. A few final questions. When did you read the Red Book for the first time? What did you think?

Shamdasani: I first found a transcription of the first two books and part of the third book in 1996. And at that stage, it seemed completely different to what one had been lead to believe by the mist and legends around it. So I stopped trying to understand and started translating it as a way of just entering into the text.

Emanuele: I’d like to ask you about the process that you went through to succeed, because you did a work on this—it was perfect, a very beautiful piece of work. And I think that it changed the idea about Jung quite a lot. It also took a very long time because it’s difficult to translate from language to language, but you translated not only from language but also from image, so you did a wonderful job.

Shamdasani: Yes, thank you.

Emanuele: Translation is a difficult task in general, but it is especially true in the case of the Red Book because of its complexity and length. Moreover, your translation was not just translating from a language to another, but also translating from images. Did this work change your relationship with language, with words?

Shamdasani: I wouldn’t say it changed my relation with the words. I’m not a professional translator and I found the work of translation fascinating and instructive. I consider it a privilege to work with professional translators and to learn something of their art. I collaborated with Mark Kyburz and John Peck, and I also continued working with John Peck on the translation of the Black Books in collaboration with Martin Liebscher. And it’s been a very rich experience. It was just a translation, but I find that with translation you enter into a focus on the word, on the sentence. It’s like taking a minute magnifying glass to the text, in terms of how do you understand this and how do you render it into another language. It’s like transcribing music from one instrument to a different instrument.

Emanuele: A personal question about Jung. Have you ever dreamt about Jung?

Shamdasani: Yes, many times. Well, one dream that comes to mind is—when I was working on the Red Book, I dreamt that Emma Jung was still alive, and so I thought of asking—I was going to ask her what she thought of the Red Book. And I remember waking up and thinking, “That’s a very interesting question”. I still think it is a very interesting question, imagining what her view of this was.

Emanuele: Thank you. A last question about music. But first let me ask you—someone says that this book is like a Bildungsroman because it’s a description of a transformation, of a change. Do you agree with this kind of definition?

Shamdasani: I think Jung would not have not used the word Roman. It was one possibility of writing a Roman, but he decided not to.

Emanuele: These days, it is possible to find many books that talk about the Red Book. What do you think about the number of these books—in Italian, in English, or other languages—from commenters and critiques on the interpretation of the Red Book?

Shamdasani: I am glad if people study the work and there’s a lot that needs to be studied. I personally don’t follow the secondary literature. Sometimes I see or hear something about it, but I am more engaged on different things. In a way, the Red Book and the Black Books are part of one continuous unpublished corpus. It’s like when you have the Black Books together with the Red Book on the table, then you can say “Okay, now we can eat”.

Emanuele:  Okay, because just the Red Book is not enough.

Shamdasani: It’s enough to study the work, and it’s important because it’s a work in its own right. But the questions that interest me most are when you take all of that and look at it altogether.

Emanuele: Because it’s more complete—it gives a wider vision, a bigger picture.

Shamdasani: Yes.

Emanuele: In your book with Hillman you wrote, “I can say that the younger brothers don’t live in peace and I don’t mind, I think differently from them. With Jung, I have the feeling that the end never comes. There is something limitless in him”. Do you believe that your work embodies an impersonal component or an impersonal karma? I have in mind the Hermetic cycle that Hesse mentioned to Serrano.

Shamdasani: As to what my work means, I have no clue—I have no idea. I just have to live it and elaborate it.

Emanuele: Let me ask you—if any, which is the image you like the most in the Red Book?

Shamdasani: You know, there’s an interesting question, it’s when we were discussing the cover. And the editor, Dumas—who’s a great editor— he said: “Look, I hate to say it, but none of these images on their own are sufficient to put on the cover, they’re not stand-alone images”. In a way, he’s saying that what’s most striking is the ensemble, the combination of text and image rather than one—there’s no one image that stands pars pro toto, for the whole”. So he was going to argue with the marketing department that this was a book of images without an image on the cover. It was not an easy argument. The designer, Larry Vigon, had done a lot of rock album design of many famous artists, and the model he had for this was the Beatles’ White Album. And he actually wanted a red-on-red, which I think would have been great. But I think, in a way, Dumas wanted the gold, and I think it’s more in keeping with what Jung wanted rather than the Beatles.

Emanuele: A very last question. In the book you wrote with Hillman, there’s a sentence that I liked a lot which says, “In my pantheon, music has a more important place than psychology”. I’d like to know more about this sentence.

Shamdasani: I spend many hours a day listening to music, I do a lot of my work while listening to music. And when I’m not listening to music, the image of a jukebox is often playing.

Emanuele: Okay. A curiosity. In the Jung Garden, there was a tombstone that Jung created for Tony Wolff. It was removed, probably, because the family didn’t like her. I was wondering where the tombstone could be. Do you know why it was removed and, maybe, where it can be found?

Shamdasani: I know, but this is not for print. So, my understanding is that it was removed by Franz Jung, but it’s sitting in the family archives so it’s there in the basement somewhere or something, but that’s not for print because that’s from the family members, so it’s indirect information. But don’t worry, it exists.

Emanuele: Okay, thank you. A final question—why was the family against publishing the Red Book and the Black Books, and how did you convince them?

Shamdasani: When I started discussing the Red Book in 1997 with the family, at that stage, no one that was living had read the Red Book—they did not know what was in it. And Ulrich Hoerni who was, at that time, managing the estate, he told us, the relatives, that they should think about what to do with this. So that then began a negotiation which lasted 3 years. And it was more the case that when the issue was considered, there was no reason not to publish it. The copy of the Red Book was clearly in the bank vault, but what the family didn’t know was that Jung had the work transcribed and given copies to his friends and associates. Second, it was clearly a work intended for publication, although he did not publish it. And it was—as I argued—this was the basis for the later collected works. And so, it seemed to be wiser to produce a proper scholarly edition rather than to allow the work to somehow stick into the public domain in an unauthorized form at some point. So in a way, there was no reason, when you considered it—it hadn’t been considered, except I would say there was an attempt, in the 1970s—William McGuire made a request to publish it, and that was denied. But this is a situation where William McGuire hadn’t read the book, so it’s a bit hard to enter a proper discussion when you don’t know what’s in it. So for instance, when I began the discussions with the Jung estate, they asked and said, “Well, what’s it about, what’s in it?” Which was in a way a very sensible thing to do, “Let’s look at what this is all about before considering what to do with it”. And with the Black Books—I started studying the Black Books in 2001, and it was essential for my understanding of the Red Book. And I took up the question with the editor Norton just after the Red Book had been published, and he said to me, “What do we do now, what’s next?” “How about the Black Books?” And then we started a discussion which lasted I think about two years or so, something like that. And they agreed to the publication. And it was a more straight-forward discussion, absolutely, given the success of the Red Book.

Emanuele: Okay, so we’re done. Thank you.