by Richard Noll ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1997
A fascinating, carefully researched study of the origins of Carl Jung's highly original, influential version of human psychology, and a work likely to generate intense debate. Noll's (History of Science/Harvard) goal here seems to be to deepen and expand arguments put forth in his previous work (The Jung Cult, not reviewed) that Jung didn't so much intend to develop a new form of psychoanalysis as to create a new pagan religion, one that was a unique (and alarming) blend of ""German mysticism, Hellenistic paganism, and Gnosticism,"" colored by Jung's growing anti-Semitism. Noll focuses primarily on the first two decades of the century, the period that saw Jung aggressively shape his revolutionary theories and break with Freud (he had been Freud's chosen successor). He traces in great detail Jung's fascination with the many arcane schools of mysticism current in northern Europe at that time, uncovering groups, books, and some bizarre would-be prophets, and he demonstrates the ways in which Jung incorporated their teachings into his theories. He also stresses the importance of a little-known incident in 1913 during which Jung, after repeatedly inducing a trancelike state, imagined that ""his head changed into a lion and he became a god."" This occurrence, Noll argues, is a central event in Jung's life, validating for the Swiss thinker the idea that he was a pagan savior, sent to summon Aryan culture back from the failed religion of Christianity (""a Jewish religion,"" Noll describes Jung's view, ""that was cruelly imposed on the pagan peoples of Europe""). All of this is bound to be intensely controversial, and Noll doesn't help his case by a sometimes scattershot approach. Still, there is much here that's hard to refute, and the image of Jung that emerges from this thoughtful study is deeply disturbing. (For another view of Jung, see Frank McLynn, Carl Gustav Jung, p. 932.) Surely not the final word, but nonetheless an important, angry work of historical revisionism.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997
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