This paper discusses C. G. Jung’s fascination with the art of alchemy. We shall look at some of the diverse theories and practices that lie behind the monolithic term ‘alchemy’; at the appeal of this ‘hermetic philosophy’ to Jung for the support and development of his psychology, his notion of alchemy as the historical link between ancient gnosis and the modern psychology of the unconscious; and his argument that it acted ‘like an undercurrent to the Christianity that ruled on the surface.’ We shall examine some of the alchemical works from which he drew inspiration and meet some of the authorities (Hermes Trismegistus, Paracelsus, Dorn, Khunrath) who were influential figures not only in the history of alchemy but also in his psychology.
The Pope and the Unconscious. The speeches of Pius XII on Psychotherapy in 1952-1953, Agostino Gemelli’s Commentary, and Psychoanalysis in Italy
Professor Marco Innamorati (University of Rome, Tor Vergata)
The attitude of the catholic environment towards Psychoanalysis followed a strange historical trajectory. The first period, from the first Italian psychoanalytic writing until about 1950, was marked by a complete opposition. After World War II, there were attempts outside Italy to integrate Psychoanalysis within catholic culture, while the Italian Catholics stayed clear from Freud for quite a long time. A very important role was played by the two speeches about Psychotherapy given by Pius XII in 1953, at the opening of two congresses: the World Congress on Psychotherapy, in Rome, and a medical congress in France. The speeches showed an open attitude towards psychotherapeutic practices in general, but contained admonishing words against reductionist and materialist theories. They were interpreted differently in Italy and abroad. In the United States it seemed obvious that Pius XII wanted to open the doors to Psychoanalysis; in Italy the same words were interpreted as an absolute and total prohibition of psychoanalytic therapy. Such a “non expedit” was factually effective until the pontificate of Paul VI. The second interpretation was expressly suggested by Agostino Gemelli, who at the time was the most influent personality of Catholic psychology in Italy. Gemelli published a book containing an in-depth hermeneutics of the Pope’s words, deducing an opposition towards Freud’s psychoanalysis and Jung’s analytical psychology. Actually, the Vatican did not refute neither the American interpretation, nor Gemelli’s. Our talk will deepen the historical context and the reasons for this hermeneutical divide.
The psychologies of utopia and reality. E. H. Carr, 1919-1939.
Alex Woodcock (UCL)
How do theories from across human and social science disciplines connect, merge, and inform one another? In the early to mid-twentieth century, Edward Hallett Carr was one of Britain’s most visible and controversial public intellectuals. His legacy had dwindled to being little more than an academic signpost within History and International Relations. However the turmoil of twenty-first century political world and the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, on which he was an authority, have led to a resurgence of interest in his work. This presentation explores in detail Carr’s relation to his own academic, political, and intellectual context. It will look to understand his life and work from 1919 to 1939 in terms of prevailing trends and formative theories derived from the psychological disciplines. Understanding his intellectual formation in this way allows one to appreciate the nuances and depths of his milestone 1939 IR text, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939, as well as giving an insight into how and why Carr arrived at his historical and political conclusions. Moreover, such a view speaks to wider issues regarding the specific importance of the ‘history of the psychological disciplines’ within the human and social sciences.
C. G. Jung and the Berneuchen Movement: Meditation and Active Imagination in Jungian Psychotherapy and Protestant Spiritual Practice in the 1930s
Dr. Martin Liebscher (UCL)
Active imagination is one of the methodical corner stones of Jungian therapy. Evolved from his self-experimental phase after 1913, Jung tried to establish a psychological and cultural framework for this method. In his university lectures of the late 30s Jung showed the parallels between active imagination and forms of spiritual meditation in Buddhism, Tantrism, and Christianity. During this period, he was in contact with leading clergy men of the Berneuchen circle, a movement that sought to reintroduce meditative spiritual practice in the German protestant church. Using hitherto unknown archival material I will follow the dialogue between Jung and main representatives of the Berneuchen movement and reveal the traces it left in his understanding of spiritual meditation and active imagination as well as in the practice of pastoral care of this protestant group.
‘Kingsley Hall: An Island? Exploring Archival Accounts of Life at the Hall’
Kingsley Hall was radical therapeutic community established by R. D. Laing in 1965 (and that ran until 1970) in the East End of London. Here I turn to archival accounts of life at the Hall by residents and visitors. These accounts are from a book (never published) about Kingsley Hall and other communities established by the Laing network in the 70s. In his introduction to the book (the most stable title of which was Asylum: To Dwell in Strangeness), Laing engages in a debate with his former collaborator, David Cooper, who had spoken derisively of the Hall and other communities as “happy islands”, isolated zones of pseudo-freedom. Following a consideration of the aims, scope, history and marketability of the book project, I take the island metaphor as my starting point for exploring archival materials. This route allows me to trace significant connections and dissonances among several contributors to Asylum: To Dwell in Strangeness, and offers rich possibilities for interrogating the nature of the Hall and the radical psychiatry associated with R. D. Laing. In particular, I want to examine debates around the politics of the Kingsley Hall project; the relation of the Hall to its surrounding area in the East End; as well as the relation of Laing and his project to mainstream psychiatry, and to 1960s counterculture.
Dr Jelena Martinovic (Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL)
‘Visual Illusions, Mescaline and Psychopharmacology: Heinrich Klüver’s Form Constants’
Mescaline, the chemical compound of peyote, attracted the interest of Western scientists since the late 19th century, among them Heinrich Klu?ver (1897–1967). A German emigre?, Klu?ver introduced gestalt psychology and the pharmacological tradition of experimenting with psychoactive drugs to the United States in the 1920s. Klu?ver became interested in mescaline for its effects on visual perception and claimed that the substance helps to articulate mechanisms of hallucination. In my talk, I will take up Klu?ver’s brain scientific quest to catalogue visual illusions to question the extent to which his work can elucidate the interrelations of psychopharmacology and the human sciences in the first half of the 20th century. More generally, I will explore how the exemplary focus on visuality, which characterises mescaline research in its constituting years, offers a framework to understand the dissemination of expressive forms in fields such as art therapy, psychopathology and creativity research.
Dee McQuillan (UCL), “Excavating an English Psycho-Analyst: James Strachey’s Papers and Work 1909-1945”
To what extent can studying a psychologist’s private life and personality contribute to the understanding of their work? In sharp contrast to his contemporaries, such as Edward Glover, John Rickman or Joan Riviere, James Strachey left an enormous quantity of manuscripts, mostly in the form of personal letters. While Strachey was not an avid writer in his own right — Ernest Jones complained about his lack of productivity — excavating the wealth of personal paperwork that he left presents an ideal opportunity to explore this question.
Monday 5th June
Dr Ernst Falzeder (UCL) ‘How Jung Became the First President of the International Psychoanalytical Association’
It shocked Freud’s closest followers at the time that he wanted, in 1910, a Swiss gentile to become lifetime president of a new international organization of psychoanalysts. This talk sketches the background and repercussions of this “coup.”
SELCS Common Room (G24)
University College London
Monday 8th May
Professor Greg Eghighian (Penn State University) – NASA/American Historical Association Fellow in Aerospace History
‘From Crackpots to Survivors: How Contact With Aliens Was Pathologised‘
While the first reports of flying saucer sightings appeared in 1947, it was not until the 1950s that witnesses began claiming to have encountered extraterrestrial visitors. Throughout the fifties and sixties, the reports of “contactees” tended to emphasize the shyness and benign nature of extraterrestrials. Over the course of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, however, the stories increasingly revolved around terrifying encounters with coercive aliens engaged in performing human experiments. And as the tales became more gruesome, psychiatrists and psychotherapists began playing a growing role in analyzing and counseling self-professed “abductees.” In this talk, I will discuss how and why this happened and some of the consequences it has had for contactees, clinicians, and critics.
SELCS Common Room (G24)
University College London
‘Disciplining Bergson: Cinematographs as Epistemic Devices, 1896-1922’
Henri Bergson’s use of the cinematograph as a metaphor for scientific epistemology had a major impact on twentieth-century conceptions of science: even today, many philosophers of science regard the relation between recording mechanisms and embodied observers as critical to our understanding of objective knowledge. Yet little is known about the extent to which Bergson’s characterization of cinematographs as epitomizing a pervasive ‘fragmentation’ of nature into lifeless ‘snapshots’ reflected actual scientific practice during the early twentieth century. This talk will address cinematographic experimentation by such contemporaries of Bergson as Charles Scott Sherrington, Hugo Münsterberg, and Max Wertheimer. In doing so, it will suggest that as well as expressing a broader trend towards the mechanical analysis of nature, cinematograph-centred experimentation contributed to a disciplinary divergence between psychological and physiological science during the first decades of the twentieth century. It will further highlight how this changing disciplinary structure came to haunt Bergson’s philosophy during the 1920s. Ironically, the prominence that Bergson gave to his to cinematographic metaphor prevented him from adapting his philosophy to a mode of scientific organization that grew up around the devices themselves.
‘C.G. Jung’s Interpretation of Girolamo Cardano’s Dreams’
Between 1936 and 1941, Carl Gustav Jung presented a seminar on children’s dreams and the historical literature on dream interpretation in Zurich. As part of the seminar Jung analysed twelve dreams of Girolamo Cardano. These sessions do not only give a peek into Jungian dream interpretation in practice, but also demonstrate how Jung used Cardano’s dream reports to corroborate his ideas about archetypes, the collective unconscious, synchronicity and the harmonization of opposites. In his book on dreams, titled Synesiorum somniorum omnis generis insomnia explicantes, libri IV (1562), Cardano defends the merits of dream interpretation and offers a philosophical explanation for his views. Central to his dream theory is the idea that the cosmos is a unified, harmonic and animated entity. The universal harmonic interrelations between all cosmic phenomena provide the basis for Cardano’s theory of dream interpretation. In this paper I will investigate how and why Jung used Cardano’s dream reports to revive the Renaissance notion of a unitary harmonic world as the eternal ground of all empirical being. Moreover, I will analyse why Jung was prepared to make a ‘salto mortale’ to appropriate Cardano’s dreams, while at the same time he considered him as ‘a free thinker who was more superstitious than primitives.’