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Letter to the Editor   |    
Hagiographic Treatment of C.G. Jung
ROBERT M. KAPLAN, M.B.Ch.B., F.R.A.N.Z.C.P., M.A.
Am J Psychiatry 2003;160:388-388. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.160.2.388

To the Editor: While it is understandable that space limitations prevented Sam C. Naifeh, M.D., from providing greater detail on C.G. Jung (1), the biographic information provided was so one-sided that it verged on the hagiographic. While Jung undoubtedly was a pioneer at a time when organic psychiatry was on hiatus, most of his ideas have not stood the test of time, and it is difficult to believe that psychiatry today owes any significant debt to his contribution.

All of his life Jung was obsessed with the idea of a collective unconscious, stemming from the notorious (and discredited) solar phallus dream (2). This spilled over into racial theories, and his more-than-tacit support for Nazi psychiatry was conveniently forgotten or blurred over after World War II (3). He wrote indiscriminately or wildly about a range of paranormal phenomena—such as astrology, alchemy, and telekinesis—without any attempt to challenge their irrational basis.

Furthermore, in his relationships with colleagues and patients, Jung’s behavior was often unethical. After his split with Freud, his anti-Semitic utterances increased considerably. He had few qualms about sleeping with patients (to gauge the extent of Jung’s malevolence, readers need only learn of his well-documented affair with the tragic Sabina Spielrein; see reference 4) and, furthermore, inflicted his lovers on his long-suffering wife and family.

All leaders or pioneers have their feet of clay, but the extent to which Jung’s followers eulogize their hero is unacceptable. No less an authority than Henri Ellenberger used the fiction of a creative neurosis to explain away a psychotic illness (5).

Psychiatry needs more history, tinctured with respect for the difficulties of an earlier time when there were fewer certainties. However, ignoring Jung’s appalling behavior, bizarre ideas, and extreme irrationalism does not provide a balanced picture or do the situation justice.

Naifeh SC: Carl Gustav Jung, M.D., 1875-1961. Am J Psychiatry  2001; 158:1973
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Noll R: The Jung Cult. London, Fontana Press, 1996
 
Maidenbaum A, Marten S (eds): Lingering Shadows: Jungians, Freudians and Anti-Semitism. Boston, Shambhala, 1991
 
Kerr J: A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud and Sabina Spielrein. New York, Alfred Knopf, 1993
 
Ellenberger H: The Discovery of the Unconscious. New York, Basic Books, 1970
 
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References

Naifeh SC: Carl Gustav Jung, M.D., 1875-1961. Am J Psychiatry  2001; 158:1973
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Noll R: The Jung Cult. London, Fontana Press, 1996
 
Maidenbaum A, Marten S (eds): Lingering Shadows: Jungians, Freudians and Anti-Semitism. Boston, Shambhala, 1991
 
Kerr J: A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud and Sabina Spielrein. New York, Alfred Knopf, 1993
 
Ellenberger H: The Discovery of the Unconscious. New York, Basic Books, 1970
 
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