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Carl Jung Depth Psychology Facebook Group

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Jung’s Insigts Formed the Basis of A.A.

To the Editor:

I was surprised and delighted to see your Nov. 19 Op-Ed article by the great psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung. His thoughts are so pertinent despite the passage of 34 years.

I wonder how many people know that the insights he expressed in this “unpublished letter” were the spiritual basis for Alcoholics Anonymous. It came about in 1932 when an American alcoholic named Rowland Hazard was sent to Zurich, Switzerland, to Dr. Jung’s clinic. After about a year, Jung told Rowland that since they had been unable to bring about a psychic change in him, he would be discharged.

No doubt startled, Rowland asked, “Is there no hope, then?”

Dr. Jung’s answer, an astonishing one for a man of science, was, “No, there is none — except that some people with your problem have recovered if they have had a transforming experience of the spirit.”

Through a religious movement of the time called the Oxford Groups, Rowland experienced the inner change Jung was talking about and carried this message to an alcoholic friend, Ebby Thatcher, who in turn carried it to a seemingly hopeless drunk, Bill W., the founder of A. A.

Up to that time the “cures” for alcoholism focused on weaning the drunk away from the bottle; but thanks to C. G. Jung, the A. A. program deals almost entirely with gaining meaning in life and with feeling a part of the “wholeness of the world,” as Jung says in his letter. The alcoholic then doesn’t need to go back to drinking. With this essential difference, literally millions have found a new life in Alcoholics Anonymous.

I have been a member of A. A. for 32 years, and heard Bill W. tell this story many times.

My own favorite Jung quote is in his book “Memories, Dreams, Reflections.” (If you substitute the word “alcoholic” for “neurotic,” it expresses how A. A. works; but it applies to everyone!):

“I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success or money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking. Such people are usually confined to too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning. If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears.”

In accordance with the 11th Tradition of A. A., please do not publish my whole name. BOB P. Riverside, Conn., Nov. 23, 1993