by Richard Noll. 1997, Macmillan. ISBN 0 333 666186
Richard Noll’s previous book on the subject The Jung Cult, appears to have provoked considerable outrage in the international Jungian community, causing certain analysts to organise a boycott of Noll’s 1997 seminars on Jung.
In this second volume, provocatively titled The Aryan Christ, he has aimed a scholarly, if somewhat partisan, body blow at Jung’s personal credibility. With the help of newly released diaries and considerable research into Jung’s early background, he mercilessly probes any personal weakness opening up areas of Jung’s career that show him in a less than flattering light.
Particular attention is given to Jung’s encounters with a handful of vulnerable trainee analysts, including Edith Rockefeller McCormick, whose fortune founded with Psychological Club in Zurich. Their diaries give a remarkable insight into the tumultuous early years of analytic psychology and are used by Noll to explore Jung’s manipulative and messianic shadow. These diaries notably coincide with the period when Jung was going through his own psychological crisis during the first World War.
The many therapeutic successes upon which Jung’s considerable reputation was built, are conveniently ignored or receive only oblique references in Noll’s iconoclastic crusade.
In his overview of Jung’s early interest in occult phenomena, spiritualism and the mystery cults, Noll claims the conservative moral high ground. His witch hunt, however, throws much light on the strong Germanic folk heritage which led Jung into a highly ambivalent relationship with early Nazism. Here in fact, Noll seems uncharacteristically even-handed in appreciating the dilemma Jung faced during the early 1930’s. Gathering breath once again he launches into an attack on Jung’s Theory of the Collective Unconscious. dismissing it through much dogged research into false memory traces in the casework used by Jung to prove his theories.
The title, The Aryan Christ, although chosen by the publishers, refers to Noll’s view that Jung succumbed to a racial hubris during his own individuation process and did little to discourage his followers from revering him. His lover, Toni Wolff, however seems to have playfully sent him up by nicknaming him “The Bishop”.
What comes across quite forcibly is the enormous effort Jung expended in exploring, expounding and justifying his own theories, even at the expense of others. His wife, Emma commented in public, “you know perfectly well that you are not interested in anybody unless they exhibit features of the collective unconscious”. This obviously put Jung in his place for he seems he shut up after that. Other areas of interest include Jung’s advocacy of polygamy as a therapeutic process and an overview of analysis as the new religion.
It is hard to predict whether Noll will succeed in tarnishing Jung’s formidable reputation. If anything, it may encourage many to investigate or return to Jung’s own body of work in order to reassess the man in a new light. It is certainly a valuable contribution to the burgeoning commentary on Jung’s work, and a welcome antidote to much that is cursory and adulatory in Jungian lore.