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Jung's "Amfortas' Wound":
Psychological Types Revisited
John Ryan Haule
www.jrhaule.net


This article was published in the journal Spring 53 (1992), pp. 95-112.

      

          Psychological Types occupies a unique and confusing position within the Collected Works. Its title is probably the best known by a public that has learned only two things about Jung: that he had been a follower of Freud and had introduced the notions of introversion and extraversion. The typology is probably best understood by administrators of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [1]: people who are usually not Jungian analysts and have generally not read the book. Meanwhile, Jungian analysts seem to have less familiarity with typology than with any other aspect of analytical psychology. Finally if impressions are to be believed, the main text of Psychological Types is the least-read portion of the book, the summary type-descriptions and definitions (pp. 330-486) having gotten nearly all the attention.

          There is good reason for Types' neglect. It is arguably the most difficult and chaotic of Jung's writings. Von Franz tells a dream Jung had at the time he was trying to pull his material together. [2] Getting nowhere with the elegant, rational thesis he wanted to write, he dreamt of an enormous cargo ship that a delicate white horse was trying unsuccessfully to pull into port. Suddenly an enormous red-headed giant appeared, killed the horse, and hauled the ship to the dock with one tug.

After that, Jung got up at three o'clock every morning and just wrote the whole thing down in one lan, carried by an enormous affect of enthusiasm, the only possibility for bringing such complicated material together. It had to be hammered together with an affect! (von Franz, 1972: p. 173).

The enthusiasm von Franz speaks of is unmistakable for anyone who really takes up the text of Types and reads it. A feeling-tone of optimism and discovery pulls us through the rough seas of the book's multiple intentions and sources, and we come into port with a picture of the psyche as wounded and split but capable of finding its own reunification and wholeness.

          We also get a glimpse of how analytical psychology was done in the third and fourth decades of this century. My first hint of this came from Marion Milner's autobiographical introduction to The Hands of the Living God, where she describes her first experience of psychoanalysis with a Jungian. It amounted to trying to understand Milner's "problems" in terms of the eight character types as they were personified in her dreams (Milner, 1969: p. xxv). When we look at Types through the historical lens Milner's account provides us, we see that it is more than a typology. It also describes an attitude toward therapy and the human soul -- beneath a layered fabric of other arguments. Most superficially considered, Psychological Types discusses the views of an assortment of poets, theologians, philosophers and psychologists on how they believe people can be divided into "types." Jung uses this material as a pretext to unfold his own typology. This second, deeper argument, the one about extraversion, introversion, and the four functions, although generally seen as the focus of the book, is overshadowed by a third and still bigger issue: what Jung calls "the Amfortas' wound."

          Briefly put, the central argument reads like this. Each of us is split when, as we must, we develop one of our "functions" at the expense of the other three. We find ourselves divided into a civilized, socially adapted part and a barbaric part that holds the secret of our individual uniqueness. We suffer from this internal split as from an ever open, never healing wound -- like the one that tormented the Grail-King, Amfortas -- and we long for the uniting principle Jung calls "symbol" and "transcendent function."

          Psychological Types was used in the 1920's and 30's as analytical psychology's therapy textbook because it describes neurosis in a schematic way that fits any condition, and prescribes a healing stance for the analyst. As a kind of companion volume, Symbols of Transformation (1911/52), provides analysts an archetypal technique of interpretation by amplification to explore the nature of the patient's split and to understand the language of the transcendent function. Furthermore, the new psychology of types easily absorbed the old "complex psychology" that had dominated Jung's writing prior to Symbols; for his earlier works, Experimental Researches (1906, 1909) and The Psychology of Dementia Praecox (1907), too, were about the splitting of the human psyche.

          Types developed a master plan that showed how each of the other analytical tools could be used. Its central image is the Amfortas wound. In what follows, we will explore the meaning of this wound for Jung in two ways. First, we shall look at the sources of Jung's metaphor of a wound that splits the psyche, how he developed it in the writings that precede Psychological Types, and what Types adds to the discussion. Then we shall investigate the mythologem of the Amfortas wound itself, paying particular attention to the parallels between the Amfortas narrative and developments in Jung's personal life.


Wounding: Gradual and Acute

          Throughout his life, when asked where his ideas came from, Jung began by citing what he called the "French School" of psychology. [3] He referred to the Parisian hypnotists of a century and more ago whose foremost representative was Pierre Janet, particularly in his first book, Automatisme psychologique (1889). The "automatism" of the title refers to organized personality fragments which are capable of rather intelligent activity and function "automatically" during times the ego is hypnotically "put to sleep" or otherwise occupied. The hallmark of the psyche, for these investigators, being its ability to split, individuals with a special talent for dissociation were studied as paradigms.

          Jung wrote his medical dissertation (1902) strictly within this "French" tradition. This study of his cousin, Helly Preiswerk's, mediumship discussed her fragment personalities, their relationship to one another, and their contribution to the maturational challenges of puberty. In retrospect, we can read this document as an introduction to Jung's theory of the complexes. He showed in his word association experiments (1906, 1909) that an indefinite number of complexes operate autonomously below the surface of everyone's consciousness. They emerge when some event in the environment, possibly as inauspicious as the sound of a casual word, evokes them. Complexes are the sub-personalities into which our psyches have been "split." Such a formulation, common to both Jung and his French forebears, implies an original wholeness which has been injured or wounded in some way.

          Trauma, indeed, has usually been linked with dissociation, as its putative cause. Janet (1898) shows how the evidence moved him away from the notion of a wound caused by a discrete "big-blow" to the psyche toward a theory of intra-psychic dynamics. Meanwhile, Freud accepted a big-blow theory in his contributions to Studies on Hysteria (1895), but a decade later significantly modified the doctrine, now seeking the etiology of neurosis in typical interactions between parents and children (Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, 1905).

          Vacillation between a big-blow theory of accidental wounding and a gradual development theory of essential woundedness has been wide-spread in the history of psychoanalysis. But the two models are not mutually contradictory. The notion of gradual wounding implies that to some extent we are all injured through neglect and mistreatment in our earliest infancy, however commonplace and unintended this may be, making it a general metaphor for the human condition. Gradual wounding belongs to our essence. Acute wounding, in contrast, occurs through damaging events which exceed the norm in every respect and is therefore accidental to the human condition.

          Jung was aware of these issues. In his earliest writings, he argues along the lines of Janet's theory of "emotional shock": that a complex may arise from experiences that engender strong emotion (e.g., Jung,1906: par. 665). Be it happy, sad, or anxious, an emotional complex-kernel draws new experiences and old memories to itself and gradually builds up an aggregate of images and sensations, all with the uniform "feeling tone" of the original emotion. Thus in its earliest form, Jung's complex theory came closest to the image of an accidental wound. But only six years later (Jung, 1912: par. 217), he defines "trauma" as "a psychological development which reaches its climax, and becomes manifest, at the traumatic moment." In this Fordham University address, Jung argues that psychic injury requires a process of sensitization: an event has to be perceived as traumatic, and the perceptual system that so interprets the event is the complex-to-be. The injurious event gives the complex an identity, whereby the already autonomous and potentially dissociable sub-personality becomes capable of taking charge of the psyche as a kind of alter ego with its own agenda.


Jung's Wound

          This sensitization hypothesis completed the model of a splitting wound as Jung understood it in the first decade of his career (1902-1912). In the second decade, Jung himself suffered a major blow to his own psyche that so deepened his appreciation for splitting that it took on mythic dimensions for him. The precipitating cause of this personal crisis was the break-up of his friendship with Freud. It occasioned a lengthy series of psychotic-like experiences, which he called his "confrontation with the unconscious" and which Ellenberger (1968) called his "creative illness." It made him realize that what he had written in the previous decade, albeit possibly correct, had come out of "an uncertain cloud of theoretical possibilities which I was beginning to regard with increasing distrust" (Jung, 1950: xxv).

          Still, in Symbols of Transformation (1911/52) he pushed that "uncertain cloud" to the limit and argued for an archetypal or mythic stratum of the psyche, denying Freud's premise that a single Oedipus myth underlies all psychodynamics. Among the myths underlying psychic life, Jung favored that of the hero who has to stand up to a devouring Great Mother figure threatening to drag him back into symbiotic unconsciousness. His entry into her womb/tomb and successful re-emergence constitutes his own renewal and transformation. The temptation to incest, therefore, is no longer -- as with Freud -- a literal or symbolic genital seduction played out with the personal mother. In Jung's mythic view, it is a seduction to blissful dissolution in the collective unconscious, the generating matrix of conscious life.

          Jung appears to have identified with this hero insofar as the very writing of the book constituted his own battle to emerge from the womb of psychoanalysis as an intellectual pioneer of significant originality. The emotional crisis that followed the break with Freud took Jung so deeply into the "realm of the mothers" he had written about in Symbols that he frequently wondered if he would ever emerge. He tells us he had to recite over and over his address, occupation, and family obligations in order to keep himself oriented in time and space (Jung, 1961: p. 189). He returned renewed to his profession in 1921 with the publication of one of the most chaotic and elusive of his books, albeit one extremely rich and well worth the effort of studying. In Psychological Types the wound itself takes on mythic proportions, as Jung addresses the human tendency to dissociation and fragmentation:

The breakdown of the harmonious cooperation of psychic forces in instinctive life is like an ever open and never healing wound, a veritable Amfortas' wound, because the differentiation of one function among several inevitably leads to the hypertrophy of the one and the neglect and atrophy of the others (par. 105).

          He means that when we have learned to relate to the world with only one of our "functions" (thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition), we act with refinement and adaptation in only one realm of life. In the other three realms, we remain primitive, unconscious, and liable to be overwhelmed with fantastic ideas, tidal waves of emotion, and other material, so that we feel "out of control," a humiliating and confusing mystery to ourselves -- much as he had felt during a good part of the previous decade. Jung argues that insofar as we adapt and become "merely identical" with the collective, we cease to be unique individuals. Our individuality then resides in our inferior, undeveloped functions, where we are "simply barbarian[s]." Meanwhile our collectively adapted, dominant function enables us to "deceive [ourselves] as to [our] actual barbarism" (par. 111).


New Views on Woundedness

          Two things are to be noted in this new way of describing the splitting wound. The first is that the nature of the split itself makes one think of Heinz Kohut's distinction between vertical and horizontal splitting. [4] As a shorthand formula, it might be said that the vertical split divides more-or-less parallel sub-personalities which differ in style and content while the horizontal split separates different orders of psychological organization. For example, Mr. A. resembles his mother in his compulsive housekeeping and orderliness but favors his father in his idealistic moral philosophy. These two traits belong to separate sub-personalities, neither of which is markedly more mature or well adapted than the other. His moralizing complex is thus split vertically from his housekeeping complex, and the intrapsychic conflicts he suffers as a result resemble the struggles between his parents that he witnessed in his childhood. Both complexes are far better organized and more mature than Mr. A's behavior in the realm of intimate relationship, where his boundless and painful neediness suggests an emotional arrest originating in infancy. We can speak meaningfully of a civilized/barbaric split in Mr. A only in terms of the horizontal divide between the housekeeping and moralizing complexes on the one hand and the erotic, merging complex on the other. Indeed, it may often happen that his compulsive and moralizing tendencies conceal and protect his infantile neediness. Being largely unaware of his barbaric longing for merger, Mr. A provides edifying and enlightening explanations to all who will listen, and thereby keeps his self-image socially respectable and keeps his unconscious wound "ever open and never healing."

          The second major change introduced in Types is that it personifies and ascribes a mythic narrative to the wound, explicitly referring to Richard Wagner's music-drama, Parsifal. Amfortas, the priest-king of the Grail Kingdom, acquires his wound while doing battle with Klingsor and the forces of evil. He allows his erotic interest in the pagan wild-woman, Kundry, to distract him long enough for Klingsor to steal the Holy Spear and stab him in the thigh. Amfortas languishes and bleeds for centuries until a "pure fool," the young Parsifal, brings the wisdom of genuine compassion.

          In giving a mythic name to the splitting wound, Jung universalizes it and provides us a symbolic understanding of how it came about, what it means, and how it may be healed. Furthermore, he gives away some indication of his own experience. He speaks of Amfortas and his woundedness in several places in his published writings, always relating it to unconscious, brutish barbarism and to "the Faustian split in the Germanic man." (Jung, 1938: par. 70). He illustrates his theme with a letter from a woman who has learned to accept life as it comes. Having given up her former attitude of resisting what she did not want out of fear of being overcome, she is now "more alive" and appreciates "the game of life," in which "sun and shadow [are] forever alternating." From this it seems Jung identifies the Amfortas' wound with a deadening rigidity, a holding fast to a particular "cloud of theoretical possibilities" that leaves no room for life's abundance.

          His reliance on Richard Wagner's treatment of the Amfortas theme is intriguing for several reasons. Wagner, almost the only composer of music to have won space in Jung's writings, [5] was discussed enthusiastically with Sabina Spielrein, as her diary indicates:

. . . tears came to his own eyes when I explained something about, for example, Wagner's psychological music, for he had thought, felt, written (in unpublished works, too) the very same things. (Carotenuto, 1982: 12.)

          Spielrein's Wagnerian imagination centered on The Ring of the Nibelung, as she wished to bear Jung's blond, half-Jewish son and name him Siegfried. Jung discussed aspects of The Ring in Symbols of Transformation, having been drawn into it by his dreamer's associations. But there is a different kind of weightiness in his references to the Amfortas' wound. The symbol of the Grail King's bleeding thigh is pregnant [6] with personal meaning for Jung. Possibly he saw himself as an Amfortas who had fallen for a Kundry in Sabina.


The Wound of Amfortas

          He "unpacks" the Amfortas' wound of its symbolic meaning only once, in Psychological Types (par. 371-3). He argues that sexuality did not cause, but only occasioned, Amfortas' fall -- the crux of the problem lying deeper, in the "nature-bound compulsion," of the lower half of a split psyche. Lying deeper in one's psyche than sexuality is one's "attitude." Jung does not refer, here, to our conscious philosophy but to the heritage of ideas and religious feelings stemming from "the primordial images of the collective unconscious." These can be dealt with successfully "only when the individual possesses so much self-awareness and power of understanding that he also reflects on what he experiences instead of just living it blindly."

          Although to my mind these three paragraphs constitute the central unifying passage of a very complicated book, they are very abstract and elusive. I believe Jung writes as cryptically as he does about the Amfortas wound because it describes his own personal pain: his break with Freud, his lapse into caddish behavior with Spielrein, [7] and possibly the suicides of two of his closest friends and colleagues, Otto Gross and Johann Honegger. [8] Readers of Types who would comprehend the experience of woundedness that motivated Jung's writing must look more closely at Wagner's Parsifal.

          The story is quite simple. The greatest and holiest knight of Christendom finds himself at middle-age, seriously wounded, through the concerted efforts of two of his split-off complexes: a relentless, power-hungry magician, and a homeless, seductive witch. Impotent to help himself, the wounded Grail-King has to wait for the appearance of yet a third sub-personality, a foolish youth. The lad gains the power to heal the wound the moment he understands it empathically. In this way of reading the drama, the four main characters are each a fragment personality of a single Amfortas who suffers from two splits in his psyche. A vertical cleft divides Amfortas from Klingsor (the power-hungry magician) while a horizontal rift separates them both from Kundry (the seductive witch). Both of these divisions correspond to Jung's struggles with himself.

          In the vertical split, a glorious scent of truth and solidarity with angelic knights draws one gladly to the Holy Grail one moment, while a need for self-definition and individual achievement draws one's hand to the shaft of the Holy Spear a moment later. Jung came to a halt between such alternatives during his work on Symbols, according to his wife's letters to Freud. (McGuire, 1974: pp. 452-463). Evidently he was caught between a desire to serve the cause of psychoanalysis and bask in the admiration of Freud on the one hand, and a drive to secure his own reputation on the other. He had already analyzed his ambition at some length -- albeit in disguised form -- in his interpretation of his own dream [9] of a horse which falls from a hoist and races through town dragging a log behind it. (Jung, 1907: pars. 123-133). His dangerous career through the streets is slowed to a safe pace when a horse and rider and then a buggy with children appear in front of the run-away, moving at a slower pace. Jung interprets that his "chief" at the mental hospital and his wife and children are represented by the moderating influences that keep him back from making important career moves in America. If the "chief" was Eugen Bleuler, director of the Burghöltzli Mental Hospital at the time of the dream (1905 or 1906), he would have been Freud by the time of the writing of Symbols[10] And Jung was no longer able to slow down. Symbols represents his stealing the Holy Spear, and taking the heroic course -- riding rough-shod over his "chief."

          All of this, however, admits of a deeper interpretation; for vacillation between the vertical opposites works to distract one from the much more painful horizontal split. After the emotional break with Freud, Jung fell into an overwhelming flood of much more primitive psychic material. If at the vertical split he trampled Freud for the sake of his career, at the horizontal he beat him off for a rapist.

          To appreciate this more primitive reaction, we will be well-served by a look at the scene where the "pure fool," Parsifal, encounters the seductive Kundry. Like Galahad in the other major Grail story, [11] Parsifal is completely ignorant of the world, naïve, unsocialized, without armor. As a fool, he lacks all "common sense," is oblivious of obstacles, and constantly finds himself "tripped up." His life is a series of prat-falls. As a pure fool, he falls without guilt and without regret -- whereas we ordinary fools generally trip over our own greed or vanity. Our falls are accompanied by humiliation because there is too much "ego" involved. Our foolishness escapes our control like a dirty secret exposed in a slip of the tongue. But Parsifal is not exerting any control. His life is supremely simple. [12] He fails in the first act to ask the healing question of Amfortas because ignorance of his own woundedness renders him incapable of empathy. But when Kundry calls him by name, she wake him as from a dream. He recalls his mother's voice, and a whole forgotten world assembles. The wedge of the name "Parsifal" has opened up a split the fool had totally repressed. We now know the source of the lad's unflappability. He cannot resonate with people because he has (unconsciously) cut off all memories of pain. The secret behind the pure fool is that his serenity has been artificially constructed by screening his wound off from awareness.

          Parsifal's wound is deep, indeed. It amounts to matricide. He learns he has killed his mother by breaking her heart when he left her to follow his fool's fortune. He feels guilty to the core; but behind his sorrow and guilt lie nearly forgotten memories of blissful union with his mother, having her all to himself, as his father had died in battle. In sorrow over the loss of her spouse, his mother sheltered Parsifal entirely from the outside world -- particularly from all reports of aggression and violence. Then one day he just tottered off without saying good-bye and without a thought of returning. It must have been so tender a prison that Parsifal remained unaware of its walls, and particularly of the tremendous depression on which it was founded. His mother had made the unspoken premise of their common life that parting meant death.


Jung and Parsifal-the-Fool

          The parallels between Parsifal and Jung are unmistakable. Jung tells us his mother mysteriously disappeared for a period of some months when he was about three years old.

From then on, I always felt mistrustful when the word "love" was spoken. The feeling I associated with "woman" was for a long time that of innate unreliability. "Father," on the other hand, meant reliability and -- powerlessness. (Jung, 1961: p.8).

Jung's mother had two quite distinct personalities. Behind her conventionality and good humor, lurked a somber witch of uncanny power and frightening pronouncements. (Ibid., p.49). She confided to her son what she could not tell her husband, but so inaccurately that Jung might have created one disaster after another had he acted on her confidences. His father was too weak to confide in and his mother too unreliable. (Ibid., p. 52). Like Parsifal, Jung must have been forced to forget the insecurity of his childhood in order to get on with life. Several details from his autobiography suggest this: for example his forcing himself to ignore the fainting spells that threatened to make him unfit for Gymnasium studies (Ibid., pp. 31f) and statements like the following:

[S]omething happened that I had already observed in myself several times before: there was a sudden inner silence, as though a soundproof door had been closed on a noisy room. It was as if a mood of cool curiosity came over me, and I asked myself, "What is really going on here? All right you are excited. . . . You distrust yourself and others, and that is why you side with those who are naïve, simple, and easily seen through. One gets excited when one doesn't understand things." (Ibid., pp. 65f).

          Clearly, the relationship with Freud brought Jung to a brink he had frequently seen. Because Freud had both personal power and an unparalleled gift for handling confidences, he must have been a mother/father figure of godly proportions for Jung. Furthermore, the attraction was mutual: Freud also felt attached "narcissistically" -- i.e., involving needs from below the horizontal split. After the break, he stood before Michelangelo's Moses every day for three weeks, trying to master his own wrath, pain, and contempt [13] for the sake of psychoanalysis just as Moses had placed the divine project of the Exodus above his own personal feelings. (Freud, 1914). Although the very grandiosity of the imagery bespeaks its origins below the horizontal split, Freud appears to have been able to slam shut a door on his narcissistic rage.

          It was not so easy for Jung; instead of closing the crevasse, he fell into it, as had Amfortas. After several years contemplating images that drove him nearly to madness, he was able to get his feet back on solid enough ground to write Types; a book not about closing the gap, as Freud had written, but about "transcending" it. The "transcendent function" (i.e., the "self" deep in the unconscious) works irrationally and spontaneously to produce an image that bridges the gap. Such an image is not an opaque seal on the psyche's rift, but a transparent overpass that allows us to move from one side to the other -- and even to stand over the abyss -- without losing sight of the riches and the pain lying underneath.

          Similarly, when Parsifal stumbles into the arms of Kundry, he becomes a transparent symbol of the Amfortas' wound. The fool who formerly fell on his face without remorse is now riven with matricidal guilt, a kind of "original sin" that has permanently tarnished his world. Seeing this as her opportunity, Kundry invites him to get to know the love that inflamed his father. As she sings this tender seduction, Kundry bends ever closer over Parsifal's stricken face and draws his lips into a lingering, passionate kiss.

          Sexuality and motherhood, soothing and treachery. love and hate, are mixed in a confusing intoxication. The blatant incestuousness of the moment is of cardinal importance, for nothing draws us like incest. Incest promises the dark fetal sufficiency of dissolution into a larger whole electrified with Eros. Sex is the crossover point where spirit and body flow into one another, where the soul's magnetic interest becomes somatic tumescence and the body's reddening bursts into theological flame.

          I believe Jung must have had such considerations as these in mind when he insisted that, for Amfortas and Parsifal, "sexuality is not the point." "It was not sexuality that dealt him his wound so much as an attitude of nature-bound compulsion." (Jung, 1921: par. 372). Sexuality energizes our impulses and "glamorizes" in the original sense of the word: it lends an uncanny aura of power to whatever it touches. It touched Jung's relationship with Freud, as Jung revealed in a letter written to his mentor, October 28, 1907:

[M]y veneration for you has something of the character of a "religious" crush. Though it does not really bother me, I still feel it is disgusting and ridiculous because of its undeniable erotic undertone. This abominable feeling comes from the fact that as a boy I was the victim of a sexual assault by a man I once worshiped. Even [when my wife and I visited you] in Vienna the remarks of the ladies ("enfin seuls," etc.) sickened me, although the reason for it was not clear to me at the time. (McGuire, 1974: p. 95).

          Decades later Jung refused to treat a homosexual man who had dreamt of swimming in Lake Zurich with him, again telling the story of the childhood abuse, and going on to say, "That's also the reason why I was afraid of Freud's approaches." (Donn, 1988: p. 151). The man who assaulted Jung had been an important father-figure and confidant during the boy's late teen years (Ibid., p.49) -- very likely Freud's only predecessor in filling this need. Freud recognized the neurotic element, accusing Jung of having "conjured up the intimacy" only to break it off abruptly -- what he does with all his male friends. (Ibid., p. 151).

          Freud plainly inspired in Jung an overpowering longing to merge as well as an equally strong panic to flee and destroy. Symbols of Transformation and Psychological Types both derive from this overwhelming ambivalence. In the earlier book, Symbols, he develops a heroic scenario based on the myths of Osiris, Jonah, and the other dying/rising figures who enter the belly of the Terrible Mother and are transformed as they fight their way free. He projected onto the young woman analyzed in that book, Miss Frank Miller, [14] an American he never met, an infantile longing for undifferentiated bliss. Because she seemed to transpose the sexual longings which might have led her out of her incestuous refuge into grandiose religiosity, Jung saw her as pre-schizophrenic and recommended vigorous action to get her involved in real life. It is not hard to see this argument as Jung's admonition to himself to break free of the womb of psychoanalysis and his longing to merge with Freud.

          After Jung's own sojourn in the belly of the whale (his "creative illness"), Types presents a far less heroic view of the psyche than does Symbols. Now, in place of a daring entry and heroic conquest, the recommended attitude involves refusing to identify with either alternative, holding the truth of both sides, and waiting for the irrational symbol which transcends the conflict:

By his renunciation of the opposites (unwilling though this was, at least in part), Parsifal caused a blockage of libido that created a new potential and thus made a new manifestation of energy possible. The undeniable sexual symbolism might easily lead to the one-sided interpretation that the union of the spear and Grail merely signifies a release of sexuality.

. . . [But if we take this approach,] we get entangled in an insoluble contradiction, since the thing that harms is also the thing that heals. Such a paradox is true and permissible only when one sees the opposites as united on a higher plane . . . (Jung, 1921: pars. 372f).

          When Parsifal emerges from the incestuous kiss realizing, "The wound I once saw bleeding, now bleeds here in me!," everything has come together for him: the mysterious, horrific impression of the ever-bleeding wound; the emotional abandonment and cloying over-protection of his incestuous childhood; the matricidal, paradise-destroying guilt that lay as a secret behind the facade of the pure fool; the sexual longing for ecstatic union of spirit and body; and the infantile craving for an understanding and totally gratifying holding environment. In Parsifal's transparent pain, all these dimensions are revealed. The resolution of the drama has been reached when the young hero attains this empathic understanding of Amfortas. He departs Klingsor's underworld with the Holy Spear at the end of Act Two, snarling in bitter triumph: "You know where you can find me!"


Wisdom Through Empathy

          It is a bittersweet triumph, indeed, this business of "gaining wisdom through empathy." [15] The wisdom Jung gained through confronting his unconscious in the 1910's was not his first such victory over a dogmatic father. At the age of twelve he believed he had discovered the secret for resolving crises of faith like his father's, having resolved one of his own. While the elder Jung was afraid to let go of his collective theology, the boy allowed himself to witness a horrifying image of God defecating on Basel Cathedral. It convinced him that God works through the soul's irrational processes and that -- scary and painful as these may be -- they can transform one's attitude. He wished to share this discovery with his father, but did not dare.

          Thirty-four years later he had a dream in which his dead father appeared to him, and his first impulse was to show him Psychological Types. (Jung, 1961: p. 315). I believe Types was for Jung the completion of his work on the "horrible image of the cathedral" and, therefore, a message to his father about the wound in the human psyche and the secret of the "transcendent function," with its capacity to heal through spontaneously produced images. Jung evidently believed he had the Amfortas' wound as a heritage from his father and that he had found the healing principle in what he later came to call "active imagination." His first use of it seems to have been as a twelve-year-old with the image of the Basel Cathedral. Later, after the break with Freud drove a wedge so deep into his wound that his psyche poured forth psychotic-like images, he again employed the technique of observing and dialoguing with fantasy figures. Types summarizes the discoveries he made during those precarious years.

 




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  1. I have been informed by some of these people that Katherine Briggs had developed her own typology before the English translation of Types appeared and that she substantially revised her work in light of Jung's.

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  2. Thanks to Prof. Cecile Tougas for pointing this out to me.

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  3. For example, in 1939 (par. 490) he recommends the writings of Janet, Flournoy, Prince, and others so that the readers will understand the image of multiple personality and the premises on which he is working; in 195l (par. 231) he traces his own psychological heritage from Paracelsus through Mesmer, Charcot, Janet, and Freud; and in 1954 (par. 383) he cites cases of double personality, automatisme ambulatoire, and the researches of Janet to illustrate what the "complexes" are.

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  4. E.g., the diagram in Kohut, 1977. p. 213.

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  5. There are three inches of references to Wagner in the General Index to the Collected Works, while there is no mention at all of Verdi, Brahms, or even Bizet, whose Carmen is supposed to have made such an impression on Jung. Bach is mentioned three times in the twenty volumes, Beethoven and Mozart only once, each.

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  6. Zeus' bleeding thigh gave birth to Dionysos.

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  7. Carotenuto (1982) documents Jung's response to Spielrein's mother, who had written out of her concern that sexual relations between Jung and his patient, her daughter, would undo all the good work that had been accomplished. Jung writes back that if she wishes him to behave like a doctor with a patient rather than as a friend with a friend, she will have to pay his fee, which he then quotes.

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  8. On June 4, 1909, he wrote to Freud: "Gross and Spielrein are bitter experiences. To none of my patients have I extended so much friendship and from none have I reaped so much sorrow." (McGuire, 1974, p. 229).

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  9. He admits it is his own dream in a subsequent letter to Freud. (McGuire, 1974, p. 14).

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  10. Or possibly psychoanalysis is the hoist that lifts the horse into impotent prominence.

    §
  11. The Quest of the Holy Grail is discussed at length in Divine Madness (Haule, 1990), Chapters 11-14; Galahad primarily in Chapter 12.

    §
  12. Jung says Parsifal is "free from the opposites and is therefore the redeemer, the bestower of healing and renewed vitality." (1921, par. 372).

    §
  13. These are attributes Freud explicitly attributes to Moses, when he encounters the Israelites worshiping the golden calf.

    §
  14. Sonu Shamdasani's excellent research into the life of Miss Miller reveals her to be rather a different woman from what appears in Jung's portrait. (Shamdasani, 1990).

    §
  15. "Durch Mitleid wissend, der reine Thor" (knowing through empathy, the pure fool): this phrase sounds frequently in the orchestra, even when it is not being sung by the chorus or one of the principals.

 

References

Breuer, J., & S. Freud. Studies on Hysteria. (1895). SE 2. London: Hogarth Press, 1978.

Carotenuto, A. A Secret Symmetry: Sabina Spielrein Between Jung and Freud. The Untold Story of the Woman Who Changed the Early History of Psychoanalysis. (1982). Translated by A. Pomerans, J. Shepley, K. Winston. New York: Pantheon Books.

Donn, L. Freud and Jung: Years of Friendship, Years of Loss. (1988). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Ellenberger, H. F. "The Concept of Creative Illness." (1968). Psychoanalytic Review, 55: 442-56.

Freud, S. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. (1905). SE 7. London: Hogarth Press, 1978: 125-243.

Freud, S. "The Moses of Michaelangelo." (1914). SE 13. London: Hogarth Press, 1978: 211-236.

Haule, J. R. Divine Madness: Archetypes of Romantic Love. (1990). Boston: Shambhala Publications.

Janet, P. L'automatisme psychologique: Essai de psychologie experimentale sur les formes inferieures de l'activite humaine. (1889). Paris: La Societe Pierre Janet, 1973.

Janet, P. Nevroses et idees fixes (Vol. 1). Etudes experimentales. (1898). (4th Edn.). Paris: Alcan, 1925.

Jung, C. G. "On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena" (1902). In CW 1. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970: 3-81.

Jung, C. G. "Psychoanalysis and Association Experiments" (1906). In CW 2. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973: 288-317.

Jung, C. G. Experimental Researches. (1906, 1909). CW 2. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.

Jung, C. G. The Psychology of Dementia Praecox. (1907). CW 3. Princeton: Princeton University Press: 1-152.

Jung, C. G. Symbols of Transformation: An Analysis of the Prelude to a Case of Schizophrenia. (1911/52). CW 5. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.

Jung, C. G. The Theory of Psychoanalysis. (1912). CW 4. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970: 83-226.

Jung, C. G. Psychological Types. (1921). CW 6. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971.

Jung, C. G. "Commentary on `The Secret of the Golden Flower.'" (1938). CW 13. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967: 1-56.

Jung, C. G. "Consciousness, Unconscious, and Individuation." (1939). CW 9i. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969: 275-289.

Jung, C. G. "Foreword to the Fourth Swiss Edition" (1950) of Symbols of Transformation. CW 5. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967: xxiii-xxix.

Jung, C. G. "Fundamental Questions of Psychotherapy." (1951). CW 16. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966: 111-125.

Jung, C. G. "On the Nature of the Psyche." (1954). CW 8. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960: 139-158.

Jung, C. G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. (1961). (Recorded and edited by A. Jaffe; translated by R. & C. Winston.) New York: Pantheon.

Kohut, H. The Restoration of the Self (1977). New York: International Universities Press.

McGuire, W. J. (Ed.). The Freud/Jung Letters: The Correspondence Between Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung. (1974). Translated by R. Manheim and R. F. C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Milner, M. The Hands of the Living God: An Account of a Psycho-analytic Treatment. (1969). London: Virago Press.

Shamdasani, S. "A Woman Called Frank." (1990). Spring 50: A Journal of Archetype and Culture. Dallas: Spring Publications: 26-56.

von Franz, M.-L. Patterns of Creativity Mirrored in Creation Myths. (1972). Zurich: Spring.

Wagner, R. Parsifal. In The Opera Libretto Library. (1980). New York: Avenel Books: Vol. 1, pp. 429-470.




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