I recently re-read Jung’s Symbols of Transformation, a massive revision of a work he composed thirty-seven years earlier, as he came to the parting of the ways with Freud. He noted that at 36, when he wrote Wandlungen und symbole der libido (published in 1912), he was still fighting to get out of the narrow box of Freud’s theories, and just embarking on the deeper journey towards death in the second half of life. His introduction to the 1950 edition contains some fine general statements about our relations with myth, suggesting that if we are unconscious that we are living a myth, we may be driven by it to unfortunate or disastrous outcomes.
The seed of this book is a 20-page journal of the “autosuggestive” fantasies of Miss Frank Miller, an American woman, a writer and journalist and stage performer. Jung did not know her personally, and got several things wrong about her. Her name was not a pseudonym; she was named for her father in Alabama. Jung diagnosed her fantasies as “the prodromal stages of schizophrenia” and predicted she would eventually suffer a full schizophrenic breakdown; she did not. However, in 1909 she was admitted to a hospital in Massachusetts diagnosed with a “psychopathic personality” and a tendency to “hypomania”. .Her fantasies were published in French translation by Théodore Flournoy, a professor of psychology at the University of Geneva and a student of the paranormal, in 1906. Jung read the French translation, not the original.
Jung’s method in exploiting this material is an example of both circumambulation and amplification. He walks round and around the images, then allows himself to find their likenesses on the big screen, in the mythology and iconography of all the world’s cultures that are known to him.
Jung’s approach – as he admitted many years later – may also be a textbook example of projection: what he finds in Miss Miller’s psyche are the contents of his own.
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