Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 572

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Not without reason had Jung guarded his dreams and visions. He knew that they would serve only as ammunition for people who wanted to discredit psychology or his approach to it. And so they did. In an early review, the British analyst D.W. Winnicott described the autobiography as an account of a creatively managed case of schizophrenia. Later, in C. G. Jung: The Haunted Prophet (1976), the American analyst Paul Stern cited the daydreams of Jung’s schooldays as evidence that he suffered from delusions of grandeur and was generally unstable; the autobiography seemed to Stern a Jungian bible in the form of parable. More sympathetic biographers such as Jung’s friend Laurens van der Post have conceded that Jung suffered greatly, especially at mid-life, but regard his encounter with the unconscious as an essential act; if he was psychotic for a time, they point out, so is anyone in a thoroughgoing analysis. All biographers thus far have taken the shape of their stories (the mythos in the word’s original sense) from Jung’s myth.

Another ground for objection is what Jung has not said. Other than to Freud and his own parents, he gives no more than passing notice to any personal relationship. Critics are quick to cite his silence about Toni Wolff, his confidante and lover of nearly four decades, and there is only passing reference even to his wife in the English editions. “Reading the Memories,” writes Gerhard Adler, “one is struck by the absolute uniqueness of Jung’s personality, a uniqueness which also conveys the feeling of the great loneliness in which his genius had to exist.” The book is so personal that it needs to be complemented by Jung’s letters, where one finds what Adler calls “the personal flavor of involvement in the problem of his correspondents.” Many biographies are now available as well, some with lavish illustrations, and there are such documentary films as Matter of Heart (1986). One case mentioned in the autobiography has been novelized in Morris L. West’s The World Is Made of Glass (1983), and the more important case of Sabina Spielrein is the subject of an illuminating book by Aldo Carotenuto.

More recently, Jung has been assailed for his views of women. In large measure, the criticism is based on the common misconception that he considered men and women totally different and attributed specific historical contents to the archetypal form of the anima (female soul). In fact, Jung takes care to show how he himself attached specific personal content to a form that he believes to be found in everyone because it belongs to the collective experience of mankind. He notes that most of his patients were women, and most of his closest associates as well. His autobiography owes much to Jaffe’s abilities as a listener. According to van der Post, she was so unsure of herself when she first came to Jung for analysis that she could not talk to him, but simply listened. In letters to her, Jung confided fantasies of which her dreams reminded him, and he thanked her once for responding to his work with “a creative resonance which is at the same time like a revelation of the feminine being.” Although many autobiographies have grown out of collaborations, often bearing the phrase “as told to” on the title page, this one represents a “fusion” of efforts, as Jaffe called it, which is virtually unique.

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