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Stern Sigmund's Rebel Son : JUNG A Biography by Gerhard Wehr; translated by David M. Weeks (Shambhala: $25; 505 pp.)

December 27, 1987|James S. Gordon | Gordon, a psychiatrist who teaches at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, is the author of "The Golden Guru: The Strange Journey of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh" (Stephen Greene Press).

Toward the end of the 19th Century, Sigmund Freud left the safe haven of the neurophysiology lab and conventional psychiatric classification to explore the depths of his own and his patients' unconscious. He listened carefully to communications that evaded conscious censorship--his own and others' dreams, jokes and slips of the tongue -- and the half-formed memories that emerged from the minds and mouths of his patients as they lay, free associating, on his couch.

Freud traced neurotic and normal thoughts, feelings and behavior to the early childhood longings and frustrations that first gave rise to them. And, to the horror of the Viennese medical establishment and the fascination of the psychiatric seekers who read his early papers, he showed how libido, sexual energy, animated these longings and was diverted and dammed by these frustrations.

When potential disciples appeared at Freud's lectures or entered his consulting room, he swiftly organized them. They could, he assured them, free themselves and others from their thrall to unconscious drives and be part of a revolutionary vanguard, conquerors and colonizers of the vast psychic territories he was exploring.

Most of Freud's students were content to work within the borders that the master established. They applied his dynamic concepts--repression, sublimation, projection and transference among them--to their understanding of individual patients' problems and sought to delineate ever more precisely the map of the mind he sketched--the instinctual id in conflict with a censorious superego and both mediated by the synthesizing ego.

However, some of Freud's most brilliant and devoted disciples, among them Alfred Adler, Wilhelm Reich and Carl Jung, chafed against the limits the master established. They had been attracted to a brave explorer whose search mirrored and inspired their own, but in time, they found themselves dealing with a stern autocrat who seemed more concerned with preserving his ideas--particularly his concept of libido--and propagating his movement, than with encouraging his disciples in their own researches. To pursue the path of self-knowledge, scientific inquiry and therapeutic efficacy that had brought them to Freud, they had to part company with the man who had become their intellectual and spiritual father.

Carl Gustav Jung was the man whom Freud had selected as his successor, the brilliant and versatile gentile "crown prince" who would rescue psychoanalysis from its status as a "Jewish science" and ensure its acceptance in the world at large. And in spite of his apostasy it is Jung whose work now commands the respectful, even idolatrous, attention that Freud's once did.

Even before he read Freud, Jung was a brilliant and prescient therapeutic innovator. As a young psychiatrist working at Eugen Bleuler's Burgholzli Mental Hospital in Zurich, he "took neurotic patients seriously" and eagerly explored the dreams that he believed to be "the most important source of information concerning the unconscious." While virtually all of his contemporaries, including Freud, were dismissing psychotic patients as radically different from the rest of us and unavailable to verbal treatment, Jung, who had worked closely with them, was declaring that "at bottom we discover nothing new in the mentally ill. Rather we encounter the substratum of our own nature."

After his traumatic break with Freud in 1913, Jung entered a prolonged and painful period of self-analysis and self-discovery, which he described in eloquent detail in his posthumously published autobiography, "Memories, Dreams and Reflections." During this time, Jung began to construct his own distinctive anatomy of the unconscious and to elucidate the psycho-spiritual themes which would preoccupy him for the remainder of his long life.

Human beings, he believed, are not simply the sum of their drives and conflicts. They are embarked on a journey toward wholeness or integration, a process that he described as "individuation." The crisis of meaning and faith that he experienced after his break with Freud was, Jung came to understand, both an example of the "midlife crisis" that will almost inevitably afflict modern men and women who are on the path to individuation and an individual manifestation of humanity's collective crisis.

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