John Kerr’s Errors in “A Most Dangerous Method.”
The third omission consists simply in a small detail, yet its implications for the understanding of the genesis of Jung’s thought is perhaps no less significant.
In a passage in Memories that has attracted much attention, Jung describes his experience of hearing the voice of a female patient speak within him, informing him that his activities were in fact art, and which he famously christened as the voice of the anima.
Subsequent to the publication of Aldo Carotenuto’s A Secret Symmetry, it has generally been assumed that this patient was none other than Sabina Spielrein.
The most extended argument for this occurs in John Kerr’s A Most Dangerous Method, where it forms a crucial part of a thesis that the most important intellectual and emotional influences on Jung were Freud and Spielrein.
Kerr states: “The first mention of the ‘anima’ to occur in Jung’s writings came in his 1920 tome Psychological Types.”
(However, as noted long ago by the editors of the collected works, Jung had already treated of the anima in his 1916 “The Structure of the Unconscious” and Psychological Types was actually published in 1921.) Kerr claims that
Jung “immortalised” Spielrein under the name of the anima, arguing that two clues Jung gave as to the woman’s identity—that he had been in correspondence with her, and that he broke with her in 1918–19, point to Spielrein.
However in the transcripts, where he actually speaks of Spielrein
by name, Jung simply implies that he lost touch with her when she went to Russia.
Kerr claims that: “Perhaps the biggest clue…is the debate on science versus art.”
However, to make this last clue point to Spielrein, Kerr claims, without any textual support, that the voice had actually said, “It is not science. It is poetry.”
Kerr’s supposition that the voice was Spielrein leads him to “correct” the historical record so that it supports his claim, forming a circular argument.
Kerr also claims that Jung’s stone carving at Bollingen of a bear rolling a ball represents Spielrein, and concludes that “Jung’s ‘anima,’ the ‘she who must be obeyed’ finished her career as a Freudian,” thus substantiating his Freudocentric reading of the genesis of Jung’s psychology.
However, there are grounds for asserting that the stone carving does not represent Spielrein.
Roger Payne notes that “Franz [Jung] said that the often discussed bear which ‘sets the ball rolling’ in his Bollingen carving was actually Emma [Jung].”