Tuesday, May 30, 2017

“Jung in Larger Context”: A Review of Toni Wolff & C. G. Jung: A Collaboration, by Nan Savage Healy

 (Los Angeles: Tiberius Press, 2017). ISBN: 978-0-9981128-0-0 (paperback)

In the interest of Disclosure, I served as the editor for this book. That said, and keeping in mind the relationship of editors like Maxwell Perkins with their writers (in his case, no less than Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and, somewhat synchronistically—to use Jung’s term—Thomas Wolfe), this should not preclude a fair review. Indeed, editors are reviewing books all the time. The difference is, they have the opportunity to provide different eyes to the author’s work before the fact, as opposed to reviewers, who do so after the fact (although I have done a number of pre-publication reviews that precipitated changes before publication).
But enough of that. I agreed to the editing contract for the same reason that I am now reviewing Toni Wolff & C. G. Jung—Nan Savage Healy’s detailed and insightful exploration of Jung’s unsung and nearly obliterated collaborator shines a powerful light on Jung, whom I, like others, practically deified as I have made my own journey through Jungian staples such as Archetypes, Dreams, the Shadow, and Myths.
I have reviewed many books by Jungian psychologists (e.g., Lawrence Staples and Erel Shalit) and have read many of Jung’s books. His work is an essential part of my own in Storytelling and I put him right up there with Joseph Campbell as one of the giants whose shoulders I stand upon.
An essential question that I have struggled with in the nearly three years that have elapsed since I first heard from Nan with a request to edit this book is this: Has my estimation of Jung decreased, increased, or stayed the same as I have learned about his relationship with Toni Wolff, who first met Jung as a patient and soon became a Lover, Muse, and Collaborator? I would say, after careful, continued reflection: all and none of the above.
My reasoning for this answer serves as the basis of this review, as I am sure that many of the reviews written by Jungian analysts and various historians and academics of Toni Wolff & C. G. Jung cover the nuts and bolts of the psychology and the finer points of who came up with what theory, who wrote which part of each book or essay, and who we really owe the credit to. This review is perhaps more personal, which may help this outstanding book to reach an audience segment it might otherwise miss.
Make no mistake—this is a work of deep academic excellence. The notes take up 52 pages, and the acknowledgments illuminate the depth and width of the resources—human and documentary—that Healy pursued to bring this book to fruition. She spoke with descendents of Wolff and Jung and went where the winds of inquiry took her. There is plenty of synchronicity at work, from her first stumbling upon an essay by Toni Wolff up through the book’s completion and I can tell you that I edited the book not once, but twice (and I understand considerable work was done after the fact while adding the 101 images that bring the words to life and give the reader a different kind of insight into Wolff and Jung), all the result of Healy’s commitment to tell Toni Wolff’s story as best as she can.
Toni Wolff’s story is very much inextricable from Jung’s, and from men’s in general. Coming from a wealthy household, college was not a proper option for her—and her lack of a degree was something she continually worked to overcome. After the death of her father and the subsequent responsibility she took for the family’s well-being and finances, she sought therapy from Jung (who took his own father’s death hard as well), and he instantly saw her genius. At the time she was a poet and very much in tune with her dreams. As she moved from patient to lover, muse, and collaborator, Toni abandoned poetry, focusing on the more concrete world of psychology. In fairness to Jung, he always regretted her leaving her poetry behind.
Fairness is a key strength of this book. It would be easy for Healy to put it all on Jung, to portray him as an unethical doctor who preyed on his female patients (there were others besides Toni), ignoring the dangers of Transference for his own selfish reasons. But she does not. Indeed, the primary reason Jung does not diminish as a thinker, writer, and artist in my estimation through this journey is because Nan Savage Healy Humanizes Jung, illuminating his Quests for answers in the deep void of symbolism and the subconscious, a Quest he inspired me to take nearly two decades ago.
In line with his Humanness is Jung’s recognition of the Shadow and the warring aspects of one’s personality. I have called my own warring halves Joe and Joey since college, a realization I came to intuitively in a moment of shamanic crisis—it was not until a decade later, listening to Michael York’s masterful reading of Memories, Dreams, Reflections that I began to understand what was at work through Jung’s own experiences. It truly changed my life. Since that time, I have worked through theatre, storytelling, shamanic studies, and voracious reading and diligent spiritual practice to get to know my Shadow and integrate the two halves of my personality. To this day, Treaties are broken and the war ensues again. Studying the Liber Novus and Black Books and undertaking similar projects of my own keeps the casualties down and treaties ever renegotiated. Toni Wolff & C. G. Jung has been invaluable to that process (see pp. 68 and 74–77).
The one area where I am most suspect of Jung’s motivations begins to be explored in depth in chapter 5, “Spiritual Wife.” Some of Toni’s most important contributions to psychology stem from an essay she wrote called “Structural Forms of the Feminine Psyche,” in which she outlines four structural forms for the “chief perspectives of women” (p. 90): Hetaira, Medial, Amazon, and Maternal. Space does not allow me to define and explicate them… and I could not do better than Healy in doing so. For my purposes here, it is enough to say that the Medial operates akin to a Muse for the creative man, while the Maternal is self-explanatory. Here is where it gets complex. Jung did not believe that one woman could be both his Muse and the head of his household—his wife Emma served in the role of the latter, raising their children and overseeing the home, while Toni served as the Medial. One might bleed this down into the vulgar Madonna and Whore, but that is impossible to do while absorbing Healy’s portrait of Toni.
Perhaps I am lucky (as was Joe Campbell with Jean Erdman, although they did not have children)—my own wife has been both for me (the Medial is a “prophetess and psychic seer,” p. 90; fittingly, my wife is a psychic medium) and so, for me, Jung’s thesis looks more like Convenience than Truth. This dual role in one woman, I should say in fairness, can at times be destructive when we consider Jackson Pollock’s muse and wife, Lee Krasner or Sylvia Plath to Ted Hughes, although destructive marriages for artists and poets are not all that unusual. In the case of Jung, Toni, and Emma, this triangle, which went on for decades, was awkward and painful for Emma and Toni both.
There is no doubt that Toni shepherded Jung through dark nights of the soul at her own peril. At one point, she was determined to marry him, a notion that Jung rejected out of hand. It could be said that this tumultuous relationship led Toni Wolff to pay the ultimate price: death by broken heart.
Toni Wolff & C. G. Jung, like a good analyst, operates on many levels. Healy covers the history of analytical psychology, from the main ideas to the Clubs and gathering places funded by wealthy American heiresses as well as illuminating the key phases of Jung’s career through the contributions of and disagreements with Toni Wolff. For instance, Toni had no use for Alchemy, and Jung took on another Medial in order to push that segment of his work forward.
The man who built towers like Bollingen out of stone as well as scientific and mythological towers out of sheer intellect and depth journeying was complex and suitably human for the tasks at hand. Toni Wolff was indispensible to the process. Nan Savage Healy mediates between the two with the effortless grace that only comes from years of committed toil.
We should all be thankful that she stumbled upon that essay by Wolff those many years ago.


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