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A Dangerous Method, A Film Directed by David Cronenberg: An Extended Review

Donald R. Ferrell

Journal of Religion and Health ISSN 0022-4197 Volume 51 Number 3 J Relig Health (2012) 51:682-700 DOI 10.1007/s10943-012-9628-3

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Author's personal copy J Relig Health (2012) 51:682–700 DOI 10.1007/s10943-012-9628-3

A Dangerous Method, A Film Directed by David Cronenberg: An Extended Review Donald R. Ferrell

Published online: 3 July 2012  Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

The life and work of Carl Gustav Jung, founder of Analytical Psychology, has recently been the subject of two international media events of great interest. With the publication of Jung’s long-awaited Red Book (Jung 2009) in 2009 to much commentary and critical acclaim, followed by the release in 2011 of David Cronenberg’s feature length film, A Dangerous Method, Jung’s creative life has once more become a focus of widespread public curiosity as well as serious engagement. It is interesting to note that both the Red Book and A Dangerous Method concern a period in Jung’s life dating roughly from 1904 to 1930. It was during these years that Jung, recently graduated from medical school, began his search for himself as a husband and father, a psychiatrist, a post-Freudian psychoanalyst and ultimately one of the great figures of twentieth century psychological thought. It was during these years that Jung developed formative relationships with significant others—his wife, Emma, Sigmund Freud, and his colleague and lover Toni Wolff to name but a few. It was also during these years, that by Jung’s own account, he underwent a sustained experience of deep engagement with his own unconscious, which nearly destroyed him. This encounter was precipitated to a large extent, this reviewer has argued (Ferrell 1995, pp. 467–474), by wounds he suffered within the significant relationships of his life both in childhood and during the era to which Cronenberg’s film and Jung’s Red Book both refer. A Dangerous Method is an artistic representation of a critical period in Jung’s life that extends from 1904 to the early 20’s. The film is Cronenberg’s attempt to tell the story of one of the most remarkable intellectual collaborations in the history of the twentieth century as it was lived by Sigmund Freud (played by Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender). The film attempts to disclose the nature of their relationship and its enormously originative contribution to the human quest for self-understanding, as well as its profoundly tragic conclusion. It is also a story of a young woman who came into Jung’s life in 1904 and who was to play a significant role in his emotional and intellectual development, as he was to play in her’s. Interestingly, she also contributed substantially to the development of Freud’s thought.

D. R. Ferrell (&) 46 Grouse Lane, Dorset, VT 05251, USA e-mail: [email protected]

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The film opens with 19-year-old Sabina Spielrein (played by Keira Knightley), a Russian Jew being brought against her will to perhaps the most benign and celebrated psychiatric hospital in the world at the time, the Cantonal Psychiatric University Hospital and Clinic of Zurich, commonly known as the Burgholzli. Under the Directorship of Dr. Eugen Bleuler, the Burgholzli was not only a residential center for the severely mentally ill but also a major center of psychiatric research. In the 1880 s, Auguste Forel, who preceded Bleuler as Director, drew heavily upon the use of hypnosis and suggestion in the treatment of some forms of mental illness and he also introduced these techniques at the Burgholzi. Hypnosis and suggestion proved effective especially in treating the psychological condition that came to be known as hysteria. Under Bleuler’s leadership, an increasingly psychodynamic understanding of psychological life gained the ascendency, giving rise to research that sought to demonstrate experimentally the influence of unconscious processes on normal and abnormal functioning. Included in this research was the development of the famous Word Association Test and the concept of unconscious complexes that could be activated under experimental conditions, which Jung and his collegue Dr. Franz Riklin carried out at the Burgholzi (Covington and Wharton 2003). Carl Jung joined the Burgholzi staff in 1900 as Assistant Staff Physician, having recently completed his medical education at the University of Basel. In 1903, Carl married Emma Rauschenbach, a wealthy young woman whose financial resources provided Jung with the financial resources to establish his personal and professional independence to pursue his own course; wealth which the film suggests Freud deeply envied. In 1905, he was appointed Senior Staff Physician at the Burgholzi and lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Zurich. With several publications to his credit, C. G. Jung began his career as what Joseph Campbell calls scholar-physician (Campbell 1971). Jung became aware of Freud’s work in Vienna by reading Studies in Hysteria, which Freud wrote with Josef Breuer and The Interpretation of Dreams. Jung also shared his work on the Word Association Experiments with Freud. In fact, Freud’s and Jung’s personal correspondence, which extended from 1906 to 1913 began with Freud’s first letter to Jung on April 11, 1906, thanking him for sending Freud a copy of his Diagnostic Association Studies (McQuire 1974). By 1904, Jung had become deeply interested in Freud’s approach to the treatment of neurosis for which Freud coined the term ‘‘Psychoanalysis’’. However, at this point, Freud had written very little about the method and technique of psychoanalysis. Jung was eager to employ Freud’s method in an actual case but had little understanding of how a psychoanalysis should be conducted. Using the screen play by Christopher Hampton based on the latter’s stage play, The Talking Cure (2002), Cronenberg represents both Jung’s inexperience with Freud’s method and his need for a patient upon whom to practice the new approach, by having Jung call Freud’s method ‘‘Psychanalysis’’ in discussing it with Emma (played by Sarah Gadon). Ironically, Jung tells Emma of a case history he wrote about another patient the week before Sabina’s arrival at the Burgholzli. He used the code name ‘‘Sabina S.’’ to identify the other patient’s case. A week later this fictional name becomes strangely replicated in the actual person of his new patient, who bears the name, Sabina Spielrein! Jung, anticipating his later concept of synchronicity, denies that this is a mere coincidence. After a moment, Emma says to Jung: ‘‘Perhaps she’s the one’’—meaning that Sabina Spielrein might be the patient he has been looking for. Jung informs Emma that he will not consult with Freud in conducting this ‘‘psychanalyis’’. He has, in fact, already begun Sabina’s psychoanalytic treatment unbeknownst to Emma. As Hampton has written this scene, we are to imagine that something fateful, secretive and morally and ethically ambiguous is already unfolding in the lives of Emma and Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein.

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Had it not been for a quite fortuitous discovery of documents in the Palais Wilson, formerly the site of the Institute of Psychology in Geneva (Carotoneuto 1982), Sabina Spielrein might have disappeared from history. She was referred to in the early correspondence between Freud and Jung, first as a patient of Jung’s, and later as a psychoanalytic colleague of both Freud and Jung. She was also given brief reference in books written by both Freud and Jung. Still it is unlikely that these references alone would have sufficed to bring her into the prominence she now enjoys. These long hidden documents contained Sabina’s correspondence with Jung and Freud, as well as letters from Eugen Bleuler, Otto Rank and Wilhelm Stekel. Equally important, the discovery included Sabina’s diary written from 1909 to 1912. Aldo Carotoneuto, a Jungian psychoanalyst, was the first to have scholarly access to these documents. All written in longhand, Carotoneuto had them transcribed. He used excerpts from this body of material in his book: A Secret Symmetry: Sabina Spielrein Between Jung and Freud. The untold Story of the Woman Who Changed the History of Psychoanalysis. First published in Italian, the English translation was published in 1982. It was Carotenuto’s book that stimulated the increasing interest within both the Freudian and Jungian analytical communities in exploring the question of who Sabina Spielrein was and what her deeper impact was on both Freud and Jung and the history of the psychoanalytic movement as a whole. Prior to Cronenberg’s film, the discovery of Sabina’s letters and diaries had contributed to more recent stage and film treatments of these questions. These included the stage play, The Talking Cure, and the films: The Soul Keeper, directed by Roberto Faenza (2002) and My Name Was Sabina Spielrein, directed by Elizabeth Marton (2002). Scholarly studies of Freud, Jung and Spielrein include John Kerr’s A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud and Sabina Spielrein (1993), Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis, edited by Coline Covington and Barbara Wharton (2003) and more recently: Sex Versus Survival: The Story of Sabina Spielrein by John Launer (2011). Cronenberg’s film begins, as we have seen, with Sabina’s arrival at the Burgholzi in a state of severe emotional crisis. As one would expect from a film of this kind, a great deal of personal and psychodynamic history is compressed and omitted in a 99-min film narrative. Cronenberg strives for historical accuracy, especially in the care that was given to costuming and set design. Still it is difficult to find Jung’s treatment of Sabina, while she was hospitalized at the Burgholzli (and the way Knightley portrays her as a deeply troubled young woman), as credible without knowing far more about her, her history and the facts of her case, than the film provides. Sabina Spielrein was born on September 7, 1885, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Both the father and grandfather of her mother (Eva lublinskaya) were orthodox rabbis. Eva’s father, however, allowed her to attend a Christian school and encouraged her to pursue what he hoped would be a medical education. Instead, Eva trained as a dentist, although she seems to have had a very brief practice. Eva’s brother, however, did study medicine and became a doctor. Sabina idealized her rabbinic grandfather as a child, developing a deeply religious attitude in her childhood and unconsciously identifying with her grandfather’s desire that she, unlike her mother, should study medicine. Ironically, Sabina’s first encounter with the medical world in Switzerland, a country where many Russian women came to study, including the study of medicine, was as a psychiatric patient. By the time she reached her 19th year, her emotional problems had worsened such that her family brought her to Interlaken in Switzerland to be admitted to a private clinic for treatment. However, she was so disruptive and disordered in her behavior that she was sent to the equivalent of what in the United States would be a state mental hospital, the Burgholzli in Zurich. It was her

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maternal uncle, the doctor and a Swiss cantonal medical policeman who brought her there at 10:30 pm on August 17, 1904. In the film, she is brought during the daytime in a state of great agitation and irritability. It was clear from early childhood that Sabina was intellectually gifted. When she was 5 years old, her mother sent her to Warsaw to stay with a family where she attended the Froebel Kindergarten. We can only speculate how Sabina’s attachment needs were affected by this decision. When she returned to Russia from this school, she quickly learned French, German and English as well as Hebrew. For reasons that are not altogether clear, her mother, while interested in her daughter’s education, seemed absolutely committed that Sabina would receive no education whatsoever on human sexuality. Her mother made this decision while having affairs with other men. Sabina wrote in her dairy that her mother had met her father shortly after losing her true love (a Christian). According to Spielrein, her mother respected Nikolai Spielrein for ‘‘his intelligence, his firm and noble character … in spite of all this, mother did not love him’’ (Caroteneuto, p. 7). As significant as her parents’ loveless marriage and her mother’s ambivalent attachment to her daughter may have been in the formation of Sabina’s emotional suffering, and the crisis that brought her to the Burgholzi and to Jung, her father seems to have played an even more destructive role in the precipitation of that crisis. Nikolai Spielrein grew up in Warsaw and seems to have immigrated to Russia in his young adulthood, where he became a successful businessman. Thanks to his financial success, Sabina and her three brothers grew up with the significant social advantages of the upper middle class. (Sabina’s only sister, Emilia, died in childhood; a shattering loss for Sabina). Mr. Spielrein, himself, however, was deeply psychologically disturbed. Based on Jung’s notes taken while Sabina was under his care, John Launer describes Sabina’s father’s psychological condition: Sabina’s father was prone to suicidal depression and suffered outbursts of rage. Sometimes he would punish Sabina by smacking her on her buttocks, doing this in front of her siblings in order to humiliate her. On one occasion she begged him not to beat her, as he was trying to lift her skirt from behind. He gave in, but forced her to kneel down and kiss a picture of her grandfather and to swear always to be a good child (Laufner, p. 17). While Sabina describes her father in her diary as ‘‘an unusually good, wholly unselfish father to whom I owe much gratitude’’ (Caroteneuto, p. 37), it seems clear that his physical and emotional abuse of his children had serious pathogenic effects on all four of them. Sabina, for example, developed a particularly telling ritual to express her own trauma and inner conflict in her late childhood. While imagining creating a child from various compounds and mixtures, she would often sit with the heel of her foot pressed against her anus, preventing herself from defecating while experiencing the urge to do so. This ritual often led to sexual arousal, which over time led to masturbation (Caroteneuto, pp. 138–139). By the time she arrived at the Burghozli, Sabina would become sexually aroused and was driven to masturbate in witnessing any act of violence or abuse. Gratuitous aggression, given her experience with her father, seems to have been imprinted as a releaser mechanism of her sexual arousal, culminating in masturbation. As might be predicted, the dialectic of the father’s sadism, including, no doubt his own unconscious erotic gratification from acts of violence directed upon his children, especially his daughter, and Sabina’s masochistic transmutation of traumatic pain into erotic pleasure, led to a decidedly masochistic sexual pattern that was fully formed, though awaiting fuller expression perhaps, when she came into treatment with Jung.

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Sabina’s presenting symptoms led to her being diagnosed, upon her admission, as suffering from hysteria. Hysteria in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a common diagnosis, especially for women. The clinical manifestations of hysteria would, today, be included under the diagnostic categories of dissociative and somatoform disorders. We have Jung’s description of Sabina’s symptoms when she entered the Burgholzli from the recently published notes he kept during the course of her in-patient treatment with him. He writes on August 17, 1904: ‘‘Tonight at 10:30 patient is brought in by a medical police official and her uncle …. Pat. laughs and cries in a strangely mixed, compulsive manner. Masses of tics; she rotates her head jerkily, sticks out her tongue, twitches her legs. Complains of a terrible headache, saying that she was not mad, only upset, at the hotel; she could not stand people or noise’’. The following day Jung makes this notation: ‘‘Fairly quiet night. Expressed anxiety several times, demanding light. At one point said that she had two heads, her body felt foreign to her. This morning constant alternation of laughter and tears, jerking of the head, seductive glances’’ (Covington and Wharton 2003, p. 85). This was the Sabina Spielrein who was brought forcibly to the Burgholzli in desperate need of help. And this was the patient Jung was looking for to practice ‘‘psychanalysis’’ upon, though unanalyzed and analytically untrained himself. Sabina became Jung’s first ‘‘analytic’’ patient and he became her best hope of finding her way out of the tortured and terrifying world of profound trauma and narcissistic injury, anxiety, depression and transient psychotic episodes into which she had descended early in her adolescence. It is hard to imagine how the stakes could have been any higher for either of them. For Sabina, in her anguished desire to be healed, Jung represented the hope that by working with him, she could pursue her life with greater self-cohesion, internal integrity and purpose. For Jung, it was his ambition to establish his professional identity and reputation in the presence of his medical colleagues and the larger world as a healer. Their journey into this dangerous world, using this dangerous method, began on August 18, 1904, when Jung proposed to Sabina that he would treat her primarily by listening to her. The scene in A Dangerous Method where Jung introduces Sabina to psychoanalysis captures the uniqueness of this historical moment quite well. It is important to remember that Freud had only recently introduced ‘‘the talking cure’’ to the medical world. At this time in the history of psychiatry, Freud’s hypothesis that the patient suffering from neurosis could be helped by being encouraged to talk freely about her experiences with a doctor who was there to take her own self-narrative seriously by listening and asking questions based on that narrative was an unprecedented idea. Jung was asking Sabina, as Freud was doing with his patients in Vienna, to speak about things that were not to be spoken of, certainly, nothing a woman would say to a man. Cronenberg argues, in his Director’s commentary on the film, that Kiera Knightley’s dramatic portrayal of Sabina’s ‘‘hysterical’’ behavior in her first session with Jung was based not only on film records of hysterics from the early twentieth century, but was choreographed to depict the profound conflict Sabina was suffering when invited to speak about the tabooed and unspeakable. When Jung tells Sabina that he would like to meet with her every day for one or 2 h to talk, Knightley masterfully expresses Sabina’s dissonance and incredulity: ‘‘Talk?’’, she asks. ‘‘Yes, just talk’’, Jung replies. We then see Sabina’s face reflect her conflict about speaking of that which was never to be spoken—her abuse by her father, events which should remain a family secret. Her face becomes a grotesque battleground—her mouth gaping obscenely for the words to come out, a terrible stuttering and finally in a muted, broken form we hear, ‘‘humiliation’’. The taboo is broken, the secret revealed. With this spoken word, in Jung’s presence, Sabina’s self-liberation has begun.

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Sabina was confined to the Burgholzli from August 17, 1904, to June 1905, during which time she underwent nearly daily psychoanalytic sessions with Jung. Her treatment included not only her analytic sessions but, in harmony with Bleuler’s philosophy of work therapy for all the residents at the Burgholzli, Sabina was allowed to work as Jung’s assistant in his Word Association experiments. One of the first subjects where Sabina assisted was, unwisely, Emma Jung. Bleuler also played a remarkable role in protecting Sabina from her family, especially her father and one of her brothers, by keeping her safely within the ‘‘cordon sanitaire’’ of the Burghozli precincts. During this period of about 10 months, as the film portrays, Sabina made a remarkable recovery from the mental illness that had her in its grip when she first arrived. While not altogether symptom-free, Sabina had achieved a much higher level of self-cohesion and ego functioning, such that, with Bleuler’s help, she was able to find living quarters on her own in Zurich and to enroll in the medical school at the University of Zurich from which she graduated in 1911 with her MD degree. It could be said, given Sabina’s impressive story of healing and self-integration, that her psyche was seeking the container of human relationship and institutional safety to heal the wounds of her childhood. In the wake of this initial recovery, she was ready to take up her life beyond the walls of the Burgholzli. However, what was also clear is that she was not ready to separate from Jung. In the course of her treatment during this period, Sabina had fallen deeply in love with him. Consequently, ‘‘to prevent relapse’’, Jung told Freud, the analytic relationship between Sabina and Jung continued on an outpatient basis. It seems clear from the evidence that Jung’s treatment of Sabina during the years 1904–1905 was carried out with skill and with a rather remarkable outcome, given Sabina’s abreactive recovery during that time. Jung remained primarily in his role as her doctor/analyst, managing Sabina’s erotic transference to him appropriately. Jung was able to see clearly that even though she was ready to leave the hospital, her erotic/idealizing attachment to him required his continuing analytic presence in her life. What he apparently was less aware of was his own growing unconscious attachment to her. As their analytic relationship began outside the walls of the Burgholzli, Jung moved into the dangerous territory of what is now understood as unconscious countertransference stimulated by the profound impact Sabina was having upon his own psyche. Perhaps we can see Jung beginning to experience the depth of his own countertransference to Sabina when, in his second letter to Freud, October 23, 1906, Jung, in effect, asks Freud for supervision of his work with Sabina, a ‘‘difficult case’’(McGuire, p. 7). Now, Freud and Jung are allied with each other, not just in the exciting theoretical work of creating a new paradigm of understanding and treating the unconscious psyche, but also, vis-a`-vis Sabina, in dealing with what will become an increasingly complex triangulation between them. What is also clear from the documentary evidence, which Cronenberg’s film follows fairly closely (except, perhaps, for the explicit sexual relationship portrayed in the film) is that between the years 1905 and 1909, Sabina and Jung moved from the professional relationship of patient/doctor to a more personal involvement with each other. It unfolded first from ‘‘friendship’’ to, finally, a more intimate form of an erotically driven relationship. Sabina referred to this aspect of their relationship as ‘‘poetry’’. What the film shows us during this phase of Sabina’s and Jung’s relationship is Jung’s unnerving loss of his professional boundaries with Sabina and his near disintegration as he is forced to confront the abyss within himself, which his relationship with Sabina seems to have opened. While both Sabina and Jung ultimately recovered from what they had become for each other, both paid a high price in human suffering for the self-knowledge their profound encounter mediated to both of them.

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The dangerous method of psychoanalysis, named by William James from which John Kerr’s book and David Cronenberg’s film get their titles, refers, in James’ mind, to the symbolic interpretation of dreams, which is the cornerstone of psychoanalytic work (Kerr, p. 0). However, ironically, what the Jung–Spielrein relationship may also illustrate is the danger inherent when two human beings enter psychoanalytic space together with the sacred obligation of speaking truthfully of psychic existence. Today, the rigorous, and at times painful and challenging, training psychoanalytic candidates must now undergo in order to practice as psychoanalysts points to such dangers. It may turn out that the most significant contribution Sabina Spielrein will have made to the history of psychoanalysis and the psychoanalytic enterprise is her courageous struggle to bring to both Jung’s and Freud’s attention the profoundly transformative power of the erotic transference/countertransference. In spite of Freud’s and Jung’s mutually defensive positions toward each other and Spielrein, and at times, their scapegoating, jealous and envious attitudes toward her (Launer, pp. 30ff), Spielrein brought to the conscious attention of both men the deep ambiguity and suffering that enters the life of the patient when the analyst does not know him or herself deeply enough to keep the analytic venture on course for the sake of the patient’s healing. Out of this early experiment came the knowledge that the psychoanalyst must fully explore his or her own unconscious material before he or she can presume to heal the patient. And still the enterprise by its very nature is always a risky venture. Psychoanalysis as a dangerous method shows up as well in a fateful event in Jung’s life just as he had begun to lose his footing with Sabina. That was the arrival of one Otto Gross (played by Vincent Cassel) at the Burgholzli through the agencies of his father and Sigmund Freud. Gross arrived at the Burgholzli in May 1908 to become Jung’s psychoanalytic patient. Both brilliant and sociopathic, addicted to cocaine and morphine, Gross came under Jung’s care. Trained in medicine, Gross had become drawn to Freud and psychoanalysis and had treated some patients with Freud’s method. Brilliant as he was, Gross seems to have convinced Jung to enter into a mutual analysis with each other. As he is portrayed in the film, Gross confronts Jung with his bourgeois values regarding monogamy and repression of the instinctual. After Jung has obviously discussed his feelings toward Sabina with Gross, Gross seduces Jung with his arguments and gives Jung unconscious permission to reenact Sabina’s childhood abuse by telling him to ‘‘take her to some secluded place and thrash her within an inch of her life. That’s clearly what she wants’’. In the film, it seems to be Gross who releases in Jung his own repressed desire, induced, perhaps, by Sabina’s expressed need to be punished, that is, her need to act out her emotionally incestuous and masochistic relationship with her father. By becoming the incestuous and abusive father, Jung unfortunately thus concretized what they both needed to experience symbolically (See Taylor 1982, p. 47ff). We see this fateful development in the film when Sabina, in a meeting with Jung outside the analytic container, tells Jung she is a virgin. She confesses to him her need for sexual experience now that her sexually driven neurosis has been cured in her analysis with him. She suggests, further, that given that her study of psychiatry has taken her into the realm of human sexuality, she needs a lived knowledge of sexual relations. (In a previous scene Sabina asks Jung if he thinks she can become a psychiatrist, to which he answers affirmatively). Jung replies: ‘‘Law students are not normally expected to rob banks’’, whereupon Sabina kisses him and introduces Jung to what would become later his concepts of anima and animus. Thus begins, according to the film, the explicitly sexual relationship between Sabina and Jung.

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After this critical analytic session in which Gross advises Jung, in effect, to give Sabina what she wants for her sake as well as Jung’s, Otto declares his analysis with Jung completed, but says to Jung, ‘‘I’m not so sure about yours’’. Shortly thereafter, he flees the Burghholzli, leaving Jung a note asking him to tell his father that he is dead. The note ends: ‘‘Whatever you do, do not pass by the oasis without stopping to drink’’. We are then shown Jung about to appear at Sabina’s apartment, as she has invited him to do, and in a passionate sexual moment he deflowers her. As if still needing to cling to his bourgeois identity in doing so, he does not even pause to loosen his tie! The scene following Sabina’s sexual initiation by Jung is between Jung and Emma contemplating their new home in Kusnacht. Emma is pregnant again and tells Jung she imagines, as big as she is, that he wishes he were polygamous like Gross. Jung replies: ‘‘If I were, it would be something quite different from what we have, which is sacred’’. In this scene, Jung is clearly betraying Emma and asking her to rationalize his sexual relationship with Sabina as profane while she retains her privileged position as his sacred partner. To depict the conflict into which Jung is deeply sinking, the scene ends with Emma giving Jung his own sail boat. Jung is obviously stricken with guilt at Emma’s love and generosity toward him but expresses his gratitude. Emma says, softly, ‘‘You are a good man. You deserve everything that is good’’. Again, we see Jung at Sabina’s apartment deeply troubled by the multiple deceits of their relationship. Nonetheless, he confesses that he does not want to end their relationship. When Sabina asks what sex is like with Emma, Jung replies that it is a matter of habit, though tender (not what one would consider a manifestation of the sacred, perhaps). Sabina tells Jung that with her she wants him to be ‘‘ferocious’’, to punish her. In the next sex scene between them, just after a scene with Jung’s visiting Freud in Vienna where it is becoming clear that their collegial relationship is becoming unsustainable, Jung, still wearing his coat and tie, is seen spanking Sabina. The expression on his face suggests he is taking no erotic pleasure from this sadomasochistic act. Rather he seems lost and dismayed at this strange country into which he has entered. The film reveals Jung’s behavior perhaps as an expression of love for Sabina in which he is willing to relate sexually to her in terms of her own sexual pleasure, however pathological the form it takes may be in Jung’s mind. As his erotic relationship continues with Sabina, Jung’s situation becomes more desperate. Emma, as she is portrayed in the film, is aware that her husband is being drawn away from her by this young Jewish girl whom Jung is finding increasingly irresistible. In addition, Jung finds himself falling deeper into the abyss of inner conflict about his own sexual nature, triggered by his erotic entanglement with Sabina, his mutual analysis with Otto Gross, and a possible reenactment of his own sexual abuse as a boy (On the latter, see Bair 2003, p. 71 ff). Ironically, Jung’s fragile psychic state was documented by Ludwig Binswanger’s interpretation of Jung’s responses to the Word Association Test (See Ibid, p. 109ff). Consequently, Jung finds himself in a great psychic struggle. Jungian psychoanalyst Murray Stein has this to say about this crisis as presented in A Dangerous Method: … between[Gross] and Spielrein, Jung is starting to have all kinds of questions and doubts about his personal life, his marriage with Emma, the very proper persona couple that they present. And so you see him in the center under the pressures of all these different forces. And they all come to bear on him, come down on him, and create a tremendous turmoil in his life …. So something has happened to him. He has cracked under these pressures. Gross has gotten to him, this very intimate relationship with Spielrein has gotten to him, and his persona covering is cracking (Stein, p. 5).

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In his drive to personalize his relationship with Sabina, Jung betrayed his role as doctor/ analyst, Sabina as his patient, his wife, Emma and the analysis itself that had been so helpful to Sabina as a symbolic process. We see the pain he was experiencing in the face of these betrayals in a letter he wrote to Sabina on April 4, 1908: I regret so much; I regret my weakness and curse the fate that is threatening me. I fear for my work, for my life’s task, for all the lofty perspectives that are being revealed to me by this new philosophy as it evolves … My mind is torn to its very depths. I, who had to be a tower of strength for many weak people, am the weakest of all. Will you forgive me for being as I am? For offending you by being like this, and forgetting my duties as a doctor towards you? Will you understand that I am one of the weakest and most unstable of human beings? And will you never take revenge on me for that, either in words, or in thoughts or feelings (Covington and Wharton, p. 37)? Not only is Jung asking Sabina to take mercy on him and collude with him in his betrayal of her as his patient by keeping their illicit relationship a secret, he goes on in this letter to awaken in her the possibility of the realization of her deepest desire—that he loves her as his only pure and true love; and this in spite of his marriage to Emma, which he seems to have had no intention of ending to pursue his relationship with Sabina. He writes: I am looking for someone who understands how to love, without punishing the other person, imprisoning him or sucking him dry; I am seeking this as yet unrealised person who will make it possible that love can be independent of social advantage and disadvantage, so that love may always be an end in itself, and not just a means to an end. It is my misfortune that I cannot live without the joy of love, of tempestuous, ever -changing love in my life (Ibid). Yet, Jung is not completely misleading. He makes clear to Sabina that though he may love her passionately, he will never be faithful to her. He continues: When love for a woman awakens in me, the first thing I feel is regret, pity for the poor woman who dreams of eternal faithfulness and other impossibilities, and is destined for a painful awakening out of all these dreams. Therefore if one is already married it is better to engage in this lie [presumably the lie of marriage] and do penance … than to repeat the experiment again and again, and lying again and again, and repeatedly disappointing someone [presumably both spouse and lover]. What on earth is to be done for the best? I do not know and dare not say, because I do not know what you will make of my words and feelings (Ibid). By the time Jung writes these words to Sabina, his own transference/countertransference to her has begun to point toward a deep disturbance within his own psyche, in which he is looking for the all-loving, all-nurturing mother/analyst who will mirror him perfectly to himself as a self-object (Kohut; Covington, in Covington and Wharton, p. 185ff) without taking from him anything for herself. This may be what Carotenuto means by Jung’s ‘‘psychotic’’ love/countertransference for/to Sabina (Carotenuto, p. 161ff). Written after an ‘‘upset’’ between them, Jung is in a state of destabilizing dread that he cannot trust Sabina with his own profound internal sense of vulnerability to her. He continues: … I have completely lost my sense of security with regard to you. That weighs heavily upon me. You must clear up this uncertainty once and for all (emphasis mine) … I would like definite assurances so that my mind can be at rest over your

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intentions. Otherwise my work suffers, and that seems more important than the passing problems and sufferings of the present. Give me back now something of the love and patience and unselfishness which I was able to give you at the time of your illness. Now I am ill (Ibid). Whether intentional or not, these words bind Sabina to Jung out of both her love for him and her own guilt that she must now do for him what he has done so skillfully for her. Such a quid pro quo of mutual desire and obligation with its deeply incestuous energy deriving from the original analysis dooms the relationship between Jung and Sabina to end badly, if not tragically. The film proceeds with various subplots. One involves Jung’s belief that Sabina is circulating gossip about their affair in an attempt to discredit him and impugn his professional reputation. Another involves an anonymous letter to Sabina’s mother to which Jung’s reply further compromises his integrity when he says, in effect, that he will behave as a doctor toward Sabina if he is paid for his services (Bair asserts that Jung was getting paid by Sabina’s father during this time of her being his patient/friend [See Bair 2003, p. 155]). Still another revolves around Emma’s growing distress and Jung’s near panic need to restore his persona as husband, father and doctor. Finally, under the weight of all this, the inevitable estrangement between them begins to set in. By May 1909, Sabina has begun to see that she needs to separate from Jung and that she needs help in doing so. While her idealized intention is to separate in love, her seeking a third party for help has other, darker implications, including her unconscious need to hurt Jung by turning to the one man to whom Jung was most vulnerable, his father surrogate and mentor, Sigmund Freud. Ironically, by the time Sabina sent her first letter to Freud, Freud and Jung had already been in communication with each other about Sabina. We have noted Jung’s first mention of Sabina to Freud in his letter of May 1906, not quite a year after his relationship with her was becoming more personal (Jung had already written a report on his treatment of Sabina for Freud in 1905, but it was never sent) (Covington and Wharton, p. 137ff). The second letter to Freud in which Jung refers to Sabina, March 7, 1909, clearly presupposes the crisis in their relationship expressed in Jung’s letter to Sabina of 1908 cited above. In this letter, Jung openly, if not fully explicitly, expresses his painful vulnerability to Sabina. He writes: … The last and worst straw is that a complex is playing Old Harry with me: A woman patient, whom years ago I pulled out of a very sticky neurosis with unstinting effort, has violated my confidence and my friendship in the most mortifying way imaginable. She has kicked up a vile scandal solely because I denied myself the pleasure of giving her a child. I have always acted the gentleman with her (emphasis mine), but before the bar of my rather too sensitive conscience I don’t feel clean, and that is what hurts the most because my intentions were always honorable. But you know how it is—the devil can use the best of things for the fabrication of filth (emphasis mine) (McQuire, p. 207). Is Jung projecting Satanic meaning on Sabina, drawing perhaps unconsciously on the history of Christian anti-semitism to which he, as most of European Christendom, was heir? If so, it is all the more painful and ironic that he is expressing this kind of hateful projection to Freud, who is also a Jew (Richard L Rubenstein and John K. Roth 2003, 2nd Edition, pp. 49–70). It is even more ironic and tragic given that 30 years later Freud was driven out of Vienna after the Anschluss, not to mention that Sabina and her two daughters were murdered as Jews in a ravine outside Rostov-on-Don by one of the Nazi killing units.

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The Nazi murderers were, of course, following the orders of a man who convinced most of Germany that the presence of Jews in the German homeland exposed Aryans to the risk of losing their racial purity and cleanliness to the dirt and disease the Jews carried within themselves as the filthy children of the devil (John 8:44ff). It is interesting that as of March 1909, Freud does not know who this woman is who seems to be so ill-disposed and calumnious toward Jung. He does not learn her identity until June of 1909 when Jung identifies her as not only the woman he had written to Freud about earlier, but also as one of the cases Jung reported on in Amsterdam in 1907, apparently without Sabina’s knowledge or approval (Jung 1985, p. 20ff). Jung identified Sabina to Freud just at the time he had received a letter from her giving him more information about her relationship with Jung in the hope that Freud would consent to see her in Vienna. Freud forwarded Sabina’s letter to Jung with a request for more information about her from Jung (see Caroteneuto for this correspondence). Jung’s reply to Freud’s request runs as follows: … Spielrein is the person I wrote you about … She was, so to speak, my test case, for which reason I remembered her with special gratitude and affection. Since I knew from experience that she would immediately relapse if I withdrew my support, I prolonged the relationship over the years and in the end found myself morally obliged, as it were, to devote a large measure of friendship to her, until I saw that an unintended wheel had started turning, where-upon I finally broke with her. She was, of course, systematically planning my seduction … Now she is seeking revenge. Lately she has been spreading a rumour that I shall soon get a divorce from my wife and marry a certain girl student … What she is now planning is unknown to me. Nothing good I suspect (McQuire, pp. 228–229). As is clear from these early letters to Freud, Jung portrays himself as not only acting appropriately professional with Sabina but also offering her kindness and friendship to which she has responded with threats of undoing him, essentially, because of her illness. And until Sabina’s fierce commitment to her own truth as well as the truth of the relationship she has had with Jung prevails, both Freud and Jung collude in believing Jung’s highly edited version of the story. However, to his credit, Jung finally confesses to Freud what has actually happened between him and Sabina at her prompting (a powerful scene in the film). Since Jung’s letter to Freud in which he makes this confession raises significant questions on how both Cronenberg and scholars present the relationship between Sabina and Jung, we will give some focused attention to this letter below. Before doing so, however, it is necessary briefly to complete the account of Sabina’s life. After separating from Jung, Sabina managed to preserve a cooler but more mutually respectful relationship with him that continued, largely by letter into the late teens. After completing her medical degree from the University of Zurich, Sabina made her way between Vienna and Switzerland, consulting with Freud and remaining in contact with Jung with whom she worked to have her medical dissertation, ‘‘Concerning the Psychological Content of a Case of Schizophrenia’’ published in the Jarhbuch der Psychoanalyse of which Jung was the editor. In November 1911, Sabina presented her paper: ‘‘Destruction as the Cause of Coming into Being’’ to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. John Launer has discussed this paper in some detail in Sex Versus Survival (Launer, p. 38ff) and concludes that, while not as well written as it might have been and mistaken in some key assertions, the paper nonetheless establishes Sabina Spielrein as exceptionally gifted intellectually and remarkably anticipatory of the fundamental insights of evolutionary psychiatry in our time. In spite of their initial resistance, it is clear that both Freud and Jung

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were influenced by the ideas found in this paper. As a result of her presentation, Sabina was asked to join the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, launching her career as a psychoanalyst with a substantial focus on the psychoanalysis of children. Sabina married Dr. Paul Scheftel, like her, a Russian Jew with whom she had two daughters, Irma Renata and Eva. In a pattern strangely reminiscent of her relationship with Jung, Sabina’s husband also had a daughter with his mistress. For the remainder of the decade, Sabina remained in Europe with her family spending time in Vienna, Berlin and Geneva. It was during her time in Geneva that she provided a relatively brief psychoanalysis for Jean Piaget. During this time, although Freud and Jung’s relationship had ended in bitter disappointment for both men, Sabina continued to correspond with each of them. Her longing for and love of Jung continued into this period, though increasingly sublimated as she achieved her own growing independence of thought and being. In her last recorded letter to Jung, written in January 1919 (Caroteneuto, p. 88ff), Sabina struggles in Jung’s epistolary presence to understand the meaning of Siegfried, the child she wished to create with Jung, an Aryan–Semitic hero she imagined would have a symbolic messianic presence in the world. She considers this question in the context of an experience of synchronicity having to do with her music teacher, verses the teacher chose for her to set to music and Jung’s ‘‘resistance’’ to these verses sent to him by Sabina. In this experience, she tells Jung, she discovered ‘‘… how profoundly things in this world are interconnected … ’’, from which came the ‘‘realization … one cannot eliminate a psychic element by killing it’’ (in this case Siegfried as a psychic element). She then asks Jung: Does our subconscious give us any clues as to which of two noble contents we should choose or does it say, for instance, ‘It is your lot to create a great Aryan-Semitic hero’ and then leave it to me whether I fulfill this high religious vocation by realizing this great poet, musician, and world savior in the form of a child or in the form of an artistic or a scientific work? Jung’s response suggests that he is still deeply ambivalent toward Sabina and seems to cast the meaning of Siegfried in almost hallucinatory terms in his letter to her in March 1919. Jung is probably not yet fully emerged from his own ‘‘encounter with the unconscious’’ (Jung 1961). He writes to Sabina: My mistrust is aroused by the fickelness of the female spirit and its vain and tyrannical presumption. What you are calling ‘killing Siegfried’ (sic) is to me a rationalistic and materialistic razing to the ground … Your little daughter is quite safe when you do not want to kill the ‘strange being’ whom you call Siegfried. For this being produces a harmful effect when it is not accepted as a divine being but just as ‘phantasy’ … Your influence will be good and rich in blessing if you accept this being and worship it inwardly … I wish that you would learn to accept ‘Siegfried’ for what he is …. The hero unites [Reality and the unconscious] in a symbolic figure. He is the centre and the resolution … The human being [in contrast] stands between two worlds. Freud’s view is a sinful violation of the sacred [the view of the Jews in Christian anti-semitism]. It spreads darkness, not light; that has to happen, for only out of the darkest night will the new light be born [in the Gospel of John ‘‘the Jews’’ have fallen into the darkness of their father, the devil. For Augustine, this was necessary for the light to fully appear]. One of its sparks is Siegfried. This spark can and will never be extinguished. If you betray this, then you are cursed [as the Jews were cursed for rejecting and killing God] … I kindled a new light in you which you

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must protect against the time of darkness. That must not be externally and for the sake of external arguments. Surround this inner light with devotion, then it will never turn into danger for you or your little daughter. But who-ever betrays this light for the sake of power or to be clever will be a figure of shame and will have a bad influence (Covington and Harton, pp. 56–57). There are other ways of reading this remarkable passage than the way I am reading it in my parenthetical comments. Jung did lead Sabina out of the darkness of mental illness, using, of course, Freud’s method, Freud, the father of darkness! And he did kindle in her the light that comes from the capacity to enter into the dark mystery of the unconscious and its symbolic images. But, why we may ask, was Jung so anxious that Sabina would betray this light for power or cleverness? And why must he threaten her with being cursed if she does so? Is this not, in fact, precisely what Jung did to Sabina when he betrayed the analytic relationship he had, with ‘‘unstinting effort’’, created with her, which, in all probability, saved her life? We miss the point of this anguished communication to Sabina if we do not see in it Jung’s pleading with her not to betray him with her loyalty to Freud and his metapsychology. This is portrayed in the film in the scene where he crawls to Sabina and collapses weeping in her lap when she tells him she is going to Vienna to try to work with Freud. It is perhaps reminiscent of Jung’s losing his mother to hospitalization as a child. But I would also submit, we will ultimately fail to grasp the deeper dimensions of Sabina’s and Jung’s relationship if it is not seen against the background of Christian anti-semitism and its mythologization of the Jew. This demonization/dehumanization of the Jew, of course, reached its ultimate expression in German National Socialism, which swallowed Sabina and her two daughters as it did the six million Jews throughout Europe. And all this happened while Hitler listened to Wagner’s Siegfried opera for inspiration (See Ferrell 1995). It is clear that Jung deeply loved Sabina as she deeply loved him. It is also clear that he deeply wounded her and betrayed her. He may have loved Sabina more than any other woman in his life, including his wife, Emma and his mistress and intellectual partner, Toni Wolff. In a letter to Sabina dated September 1, 1919, apparently the next to last letter he would ever write her, Jung states his love for Sabina in guarded form: I have not replied until now as I have been in England for some time. The love of S. for J. made the latter aware of something he had previously only vaguely suspected, namely of a power in the unconscious which shapes our destiny, a power which later led him to things of the greatest importance. The relationship had to be ‘sublimated’, because it would have led to delusion and madness (a concretisation of the unconscious). Sometimes we must be unworthy to live at all (Ibid, p. 57). Jung sees Sabina’s love for him leading him to his greatest discoveries as the father of Analytical Psychology. It is not that his love for her led to these discoveries. In the end, as he rightly acknowledges, Jung was unworthy of Sabina’s love. Perhaps the extraordinary discoveries they made together, for which, until recently Jung has gotten all the credit, compensate for his moral and ethical betrayal of that love. Though I suspect many would argue with that conclusion. Perhaps work and the power derived from truly creative work is a more potent god than Eros, in the male psyche especially. If this is so, then Jung’s final words to Sabina may reflect a tragic import that we have not yet fully grasped. In 1923, Sabina left Geneva and she and her daughters returned to Russia, where between 1923 and 1942, her own life became increasingly tragic. According to Launer,

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with the Russian Revolution of 1917 ‘‘the Spielrein family had been dispossessed of their money, their possessions, and their home in Rostov-on-Don’’ (Launer, p. 70). Sabina’s mother died in 1920. Her husband had returned to Russia but had chosen to live with his mistress instead of Sabina and his daughters by her. All three of her brothers, Emil, Jan, and Isaac, were now living in Russia. During the years immediately following the Russian Civil War until the Stalinist regime declared psychoanalysis as bourgeois and anti-communist, Sabina invested herself in the task of bringing Freudian psychoanalysis to Russia. As the Stalinist years wore on, practicing as a psychoanalyst in Russia became a deeply dangerous enterprise. Sabina, at great risk to herself, continued to see patients in her home and, as long as she could, kept her children’s clinic open. However, the scourge of Stalinism and the police state he created fell with annihilating impact upon the Spielrein family. Launer states: The life of the Spielrein family became hellish [under Stalin], along with the lives of so many of their contemporaries. In 1935 the secret police arrested her brother Isaac, a professor of physiology, for anti-Soviet propaganda. He was sent to a corrective labor camp for five years. While there he was charged with spying on behalf of Germany, and shot the same day. Her two other brothers, Jan and Emil–one a physicist and member of the USSR academy of sciences, and the other a senior lecturer in biology–followed him into the labor camps. Neither were heard of again. Their father, Nikolai Spielrein, was tortured. He died in 1938. Spielrein’s husband Paul had died the previous year, and she approached his mistress with a proposal to share responsibility for all three daughters. They agreed that if one of them were to disappear, the other would take care of the girls (Launer, p. 72). These were the conditions under which Sabina and her daughters lived. Somehow, they managed to stay alive and out of the clutches of the secret police. However, as Jews, they could not survive the only war Hitler truly won, namely, the war to destroy what he targeted as the subhuman peoples throughout Europe. She and her daughters met their deaths in the Zmeyevsky gully outside Rostov-on-Don—shot to death by ‘‘Hitler’s willing executioners’’(Goldhagen 1996). I will give John Launer the last word on Sabina’s death: Sabina Spielrein was not only an innocent, in many senses of the word. She was a far-sighted thinker about human evolution and its implications. She was killed by men in the grip of a racist ideology that perverted evolutionary thinking to the point of madness. Incapable of understanding human destructiveness, they enacted it (Ibid, p. 73). Cronenberg’s film ends around 1913 after Freud and Jung end their relationship with each other. Sabina is married and pregnant with her first child. In the screenplay, she visits the Jungs at their home in Kusnacht, an event that is not historically accurate but seems dramatically justified. Emma informs Sabina that Jung is ‘‘not himself’’ and that he needs Sabina’s help. Sabina assures Emma that of all the women in Jung’s life, she, Emma, is the one most able to help him. Emma replies: ‘‘I hope you are right’’. In their final conversation together, as Hampton’s screenplay has it, Jung is in a state of trauma after his loss of his relationship with Freud. He tells Sabina of a repeating nightmare in which he sees Europe drowning in its own blood, a pre-cognitive anticipation of WW I perhaps. Sabina tells Jung of her husband and learns of Jung’s new mistress, Toni Wolff, whom Jung describes as the ‘‘perfume in the air’’. In discussing her plans to return to Russia, Jung expresses his sense of betrayal that Sabina is now in Vienna. Here, Jung expresses his

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desire to move psychoanalysis beyond Freud’s definition of it and to go wherever one must to find the resources to help people, in effect, to become themselves. With Wagner’s ‘‘Siegfried’s Idyl’’ playing in the background, Jung tells Sabina that ‘‘my love for you is the most important thing in my life. For better or worse, it made me understand who I am’’. It is interesting that Hampton actually has Jung say to Sabina the words that are missing in his letter to her, that it was through his love for her that he gained his own self-understanding. Still one is left with the uneasy knowledge that what ultimately mattered for Jung was his own work and his own preeminent position. Sabina’ work, her love, her well-being seem ultimately to be of less concern to Jung than his own individuation. Jung and Sabina in this scene linger for a moment, then Sabina leaves Jung sitting alone in his abandoned state about to descend into his own fateful Night Sea Journey into the unconscious that is documented in The Red Book. The film ends with Sabina driving away from the place where it all began, this time in a horseless carriage. She is now a courageous and self-possessed woman, whose life to come will be deeply tragic, yet profoundly creative. Cronenberg’s film is controversial in the way it portrays Jung and Spielrein’s relationship at the erotic level. First, in spite of Cronenberg’s assertion in his commentary, that there is evidence in Sabina’s diary that she and Jung had an explicitly sexual relationship when they moved into the ‘‘poetry’’ of their friendship, most scholars agree that there is certainly no explicit evidence for the sadomasochistic moments portrayed in the film. One might also suggest that whether there was an explicitly sexual relationship between Jung and Spielrein is a question best left open on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Here is Murray Stein again, describing Jung’s predicament when he finds himself becoming more emotionally involved with Sabina: … this is very troubling to Jung because he’s married and he doesn’t know quite what to do with this relationship with Sabina Spielrein, and that’s the film. The film really draws on that and presents us with scenes whose historical accuracy is very questionable with whipping scenes and lovemaking scenes. So nobody knows what happened behind those closed doors. That’s left to Cronenberg, the filmmaker’s imagination, which he shares with us in the film (Stein 2012). Perhaps it would be fair to say that Cronenberg’s portrayal of the friendship/erotic phase of the Jung/Spielrein relationship is a plausible artistic rendering based on the nature of the erotic field between them as described in their own words. They hint at, but yet carefully avoid, any explicit reference to a possible genital sexual relationship between them. For this reason, the cinematographic narrative cannot be taken as historically accurate. Nonetheless, for many who see the film, the sexual imagery is dramatically compelling as a contemporary mythopoetic narrative of the extraordinary love story of S. and J. It is also interesting to note that we know from documentary evidence that both Sabina and Jung each had confidantes with whom they confided something of the nature of their relationship. For Sabina, it was her mother with whom she was remarkably frank about her relationship with Jung, as well as her diary. For Jung, it was, of course, his father confessor, Sigmund Freud. Shortly after Sabina left the Burgholzli and became Jung’s private patient/friend, her mother became increasingly concerned about the nature of their relationship and urged Sabina to keep the relationship at the professional friendship level. In 1908, Sabina wrote a letter to her mother in which she both proclaims her love for Jung and his love for her and, at the same time, offers her mother an astute psychoanalytic account of the mutual transferential dynamics of their relationship. She writes:

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Just recently Jung finished his paper that created such a stir (The Significance of the Father in the destiny of the individual) in which he shows that the choice of the future (love) object is determined in the first relations of the child with his parents. That I love him is as firmly determined as that he loves me. He is for me a father and I am a mother for him, or, more precisely, the woman who has acted as the first substitute for the mother … Why he fell in love with his wife I do not know … Let us say, his wife is ‘not completely’ satisfactory, and now he has fallen in love with me, a hysteric; and I fell in love with a psychopath, and is it necessary to explain why? I have never seen my father as normal. His insane striving ‘to know himself’ is best expressed in Jung for whom scientific activity is more important than anything in this world. (Covington and Harton, p. 186). Sabina understands that her love for Jung is in the service of Jung’s ambition for his work. Yet, ‘‘so far’’, she writes to reassure her mother, ‘‘we have remained at the level of poetry that is not dangerous, and we shall remain at that level, perhaps until the time I will become a doctor, unless circumstances will change’’ (Launer, p. 29). Sabina’s diary, written from 1909–1912 is a remarkable testimony to the agony and ecstasy of her love for Jung. She describes in detail her predicament as a single woman who is in love with a married man, father of two, who desperately needs her in his struggle to understand himself, especially that part of himself he came to call his anima and what he called his polygamous component. Yet, she understands that Jung is clearly communicating to her that she will never occupy the place in his life for which she yearns, namely, to be married to him and to give him a child. In 1910, she confides to her diary: Almost 3 in the morning. I cannot sleep. The two of us love each other as much as it is possible to love. If only he were free! But he is not … let me record my firm decision: I want to be free of him! … I am absolutely determined now that I want to be free. Since yesterday, when I saw him, reason has abandoned me again … Can one even be reasonable when one loves this way? Describe calmly what happened? What he said to me? Yes, the stronger poetry (emphasis mine) probably occurred a week ago Tuesday. He said then that he loves me because of the remarkable parallelism in our thoughts; sometimes I can predict his thoughts to him. He told me that he loves me for my magnificent, proud character, but he also told me that he would never marry me because he harbors within himself a great philistine who craves narrow limits and the typical Swiss style (Caroteneuto, p.33). In these passages to her mother and her diary, Sabina is perfectly clear that she is deeply in love with Jung, her first adult love. And by his own declaration, he is in love with her. She also informs her mother that their ‘‘poetry’’ is not ‘‘dangerous’’. She states in her diary that she has experienced with Jung a moment in which the poetry between them has gotten stronger, causing her to lose her resolve to separate from him. The word ‘‘poetry’’, more and less dangerous poetry, and stronger and weaker poetry leave the question of whether Sabina and Jung are sexually involved with each other unanswered explicitly. However, it is difficult to avoid the speculation that Sabina is employing euphemistic language to describe a progressively sexual involvement between her and Jung that falls perhaps, just short, of intercourse. As Launer points out, in an age of little or no reliable birth control, this would be dangerous territory. Sabina expresses how destructive it would be for her to become pregnant by Jung in the context of her desire to bear his child (Caroteneuto, p. 13). Launer suggests the stronger poetry, which occurred in 1910, may refer, to their reaching mutual orgasm through heavy petting (Launer, p. 27). But who really knows?

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Can such a speculation be supported from Jung’s narrative of his relationship with Sabina? As A Dangerous Method shows, Sabina confronted Jung and demanded that he stop portraying himself to Freud as her victim and instead tell him the truth about the nature of their relationship. Sabina was at this time also in communication with Freud. She had also received from her mother Jung’s now infamous letter to Mrs. Spielrein in which Jung tried to defend the integrity of his relationship with Sabina. It was at this point that Sabina sent a copy of Jung’s letter to her mother to Freud. Here, the triangulation intensifies in the film and reveals the moral ambiguity and sexism of both men in relation to Sabina. When Freud received the copy of Jung’s letter to Mrs. Spielrein, he denied its implications and wrote Sabina saying that Jung ‘‘is my friend and colleague; I think I know him in other aspects as well, and have reason to believe that he is incapable of frivolous or ignoble behavior’’ (Caroteneuto, p. 114). Since these words were written in 1909, Freud still held Jung in high regard and remained deeply invested in his becoming his successor to the psychoanalytic movement. His cognitive dissonance regarding the actual picture of Jung Sabina was portraying led Freud to defend Jung’s standing as a doctor and psychoanalytic colleague. Freud retracted these words to Sabina, however, after receiving Jung’s confessional letter, attempting to honor his pledge to Sabina that he would provide Freud with a more complete narrative of his involvement in the relationship than he had given him to date out of his need for Freud’s esteem. In this letter to Freud, Jung writes: I have good news to report of my Spielrein affair(sic). I took too black a view of things. After breaking with her I was almost certain of her revenge [which might have prompted Jung’s resignation from the Burgholzli to avoid possible scandal] and was deeply disappointed only by the banality of the form it took …. she turned up at my house and had a very decent talk with me, during which it transpired that the rumour buzzing about me does not emanate from her at all. My ideas of reference, understandable under the circumstances, attributed the rumour to her. I wish to retract this forthwith. Furthermore, she has freed herself from the transference in the best and nicest way and has suffered no relapse (apart from a paroxysm of weeping after the separation) … Although not succumbing to helpless remorse [as he is portrayed as doing later in the film after Sabina tells him she must go to Vienna to study with Freud], I nevertheless deplore the sins I have committed, for I am largely to blame for the high-flying hopes of my former patient. So, in accordance with my original principle of taking everyone seriously to the uttermost limit, I discussed with her the problem of the child[Siegfried], imagining that I was talking theoretically, but naturally Eros was lurking in the background. Thus I imputed all the other wishes and hopes entirely to my patient without seeing the same thing in myself. When the situation had become so intense that the continued perseveration of the relationship would be rounded out only by sexual acts, I defended myself in a manner that cannot be justified morally (emphasis mine). Jung continues: Caught in my delusion that I was the victim of the sexual wiles of my patient, I wrote to her mother that I was not the gratifier of her daughter’s sexual desires but merely her doctor, and that she should free me from her. In view of the fact that the patient had shortly before been my friend and enjoyed my full confidence, my action was piece of knavery which I very reluctantly confess to you as my father (McGuire, p. 236).

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In these words to Freud, Jung seems to be coming to the painful awareness, a bit reminiscent of Oedipus before Tiresias, that he had been led unconsciously by Eros into a relationship with Sabina in which he had projected his own sexual desire for her onto her. Under the power of her erotic transference to him, he had fused with her in a loss of his own ego boundaries. In this state, he succumbed to the repetition of his sexual victimization as a boy, in which Sabina became the seductive sexual predator. At the same time, he concretized her incestuous longing by becoming her friend and ‘‘poet’’ in a personal relationship in which he believed he was no longer her doctor, while she seems to have believed that he still was. Yet he writes to Freud, even in his confessional state, as if there had been no physical contact between him and Sabina. If this is true, then what does Jung understand his ‘‘piece of knavery’’ to have been? One reading of the letter, and perhaps the one Jung wanted Freud to believe, is that Jung seems not to have fully grasped the power and strength of Sabina’s unresolved erotic transference to him at the time she left the Burgholzli in 1905. Furthermore, he was unconscious of his own sexual desire for her, which was only available to him as the projection it became. Thus, he completely underestimated his own sexual conflicts that came increasingly into play when he began his friendship with Sabina. Similarly, he underestimated Sabina’s profound desire for a more complete intimacy with him as father, as doctor, and finally as lover. Within this erotic field, Jung found himself being seen and understood by a woman in a way, it would seem, he had never been seen and understood before. In his mirroring transference to Sabina, Jung began his fateful regression into the unconscious. This dangerous unconscious fusion could not be sustained with her because she wanted and expected more from him than he could give in such a vulnerable state. His response was an effort to restore his doctor persona with Sabina for which he would be paid. To deal with the forces within himself, unleashed by his regressive attachment to Sabina, as well as by his loss of Freud, Jung began to conduct his own self-analysis and in the presence of a new self-object, anima woman (Wolff) with whom he was not as compromised as he was with Sabina. But this could only be done, by rejecting Sabina as his beloved. He chose the development of his professional and personal identity over what may have been the most profound love of his life. Speaking theologically, this is the sin to which Jung confesses to Freud. Meanwhile, Sabina was not only left to pick up the pieces, but she did so without trying to besmirch or destroy that which Jung loved most of all, namely his own individuating path and the work to which it led. Perhaps this whole drama unfolded while Jung remained sexually chaste with Sabina as he seems to want Freud and Sabina’s mother to believe. But it seems to require a great suspension of disbelief. Perhaps it was the case, however, that when the ‘‘perseveration’’ of the relationship drove toward the inevitability (‘‘rounded out’’ in his quaint phrase) of sexual intimacy, Jung realized he could no longer sustain the friendship with Sabina, in part, at least, because he knew he could no longer resist the temptation to act out sexually with her if the relationship had continued. Clearly, Jung’s was not a celibate or monogamous psychology. He wrote to Freud, after describing Emma’s ‘‘groundless’’ bout with jealousy: ‘‘The prerequisite for a good marriage, it seems to me, is the license to be unfaithful’’ (McQuire, p. 285). After Sabina, it is well known that he had sexual affairs with a number of women in the course of his long married life (Launer, p. 28). This may be a plausible reading of the story Jung told Freud in the letter above, if we consider that, apparently, Sabina and Jung practiced a form of ‘‘technical virginity’’ by not having actual sexual intercourse with each other. It is possible that Jung did not consider the emotional/erotic involvement he had with Sabina a sexual violation of the doctor/

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patient relationship because it stopped short of intercourse. If this is the case, then he was not consciously lying to Sabina’s mother or to Freud. This is not to exonerate Jung regarding what today would be considered such a serious boundary violation that he would suffer severe censure, including the possibility of losing his license. Whatever actually happened between Jung and Sabina, sexually speaking, what does seem beyond question is that they deeply loved each other and each suffered that love in terms of their individual psychologies, their fates, their life imperatives and structures to which they were both subject. They dared to love in the service of their own individuating lives. In spite of the wreckage this love left in its wake for both of them, in so loving, they revealed new meaning that ultimately deepened their lives and enlightened our world. Nietzsche believed that true friendship is an exalted state of mutual inspiration between equals. Without doubt, J. and S. lived a truly Nietzschean friendship of which, I believe, we are truly the beneficiaries.

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