Critical Context

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

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.

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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.

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