A Dangerous Method
(Occidental Observer) -- by Penelope Thornton --
David Cronenberg’s latest movie gives us his view of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his pupil, Carl Jung, and even more centrally it tells the story of the affair between Jung and his patient, Sabina Spielrein. It is set in Vienna in the early years of the 20th century.
The battle between Freud and Jung is fairly well known. Jung was the heir apparent of the psychoanalytic dynasty founded by Freud. But he began to go astray because Freud demanded a strictly sexual explanation for all neurosis. Jung wanted to incorporate more; he rejected the orthodoxy.
For Freud everything boiled down to sex. All conflicts in the psyche were rooted in early sexual experiences. Jung challenged this core concept, telling Sabina that there must be “another hinge to the universe.” In the words of Sabina, Jung did not want his patients to simply understand why they were the way they were but to become whom they might have been.
Jung is an idealist but Freud sees him as a threat to psychoanalysis because of what he considers his mysticism and mumbo-jumbo. He dismisses Jung’s approach as simply replacing one delusion with another. You then have to ask yourself why he chose Jung to carry on his work. The usual explanation is because he needed a non-Jew to cross the bridge to the European society in which he lived, as the world of psychoanalysis was understood at the time to be Jewish...
Jung is a very devout student of the father figure Freud, but when he goes in search of other theories and explanations, his very search is portrayed as part of his own psychopathology. Jung had the naïve belief that psychoanalysis was a real science where the idea was to keep searching for new ideas and honing old ones rather than simply accepting Freudian dogma. This idea plays throughout the film and though not landed on too heavily, it is developed as the underlying theme. Jung, it is pointed out, is an Aryan. From the standpoint of the film (and Freudian orthodoxy), the very fact that he cannot see what Freud considers the scientific basis of psychoanalytic theory is portrayed as a by-product of his repressed German Protestant culture. His very search for an ideal is a flight from sex, or a flight from seeing life as it is, or a flight from the pragmatic. His two antagonists are Jewish: Sabina is a Russian Jewess and Freud a German Jew.
At one point Jung counters Freud’s suggestion that Sabina had been arrested at the anal stage of development by saying that she was quite the opposite: disorganized, emotionally generous and quite idealistic. Freud dismisses these characteristics as “a Russian thing” — as a German Jew he would have looked down on Russian culture. We do seem to be seeing the world from Freud’s perspective in the film. Freud is the watcher and so are we as we see the others through his eyes. Psychoanalysis as the art of watching.
In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud theorized that those discontents arise from its suppression of sex. In repressing your sexuality you become distorted and the family, particularly the patriarchal family inflicts this on the individual. But according to Freud, the Jews managed to avoid all this. The Jewish religion “formed their [the Jews’] character for good through the disdaining of magic and mysticism and encouraging them to progress in spirituality and sublimations. The people, happy in their conviction of possessing the truth, overcome by the consciousness of being the chosen, came to value highly all intellectual and ethical achievements” (Freud 1939, 109). In contrast, “The Christian religion did not keep to the lofty heights of spirituality to which the Jewish religion had soared” (Freud, 1939, 112).
Jung’s essential failure was that was that he was an Aryan, a Swiss one at that, and a product Christianity. He has a perfectly lovely wife to whom he is loyal, a beautiful home provided by her money, and beautiful children. Jung’s wealth is underscored while it is pointed out to the audience that Freud bears the financial burden of supporting a large family. Jung’s is a life without passion, an “inauthentic life,” as it would be called in the psychobabble of the age to come. He has the exterior wealth but not the interior richness, the latter seen as typical of Jews. This sense of psychological superiority is, of course, a favorite theme of the Jewish world view, which we have all seen depicted time and again. What is interesting in the film is that although Jung will critique Freud’s theory, Freud criticizes Jung’s character. Freud’s character remains above reproach...MORE...LINK
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