The psychic phenomena between mediumship, unconsciousness and psychopathology: considerations about a study of case by
Carl G. Jung
“I don’t know whether the Spirits tell me and teach me is true, nor do I know if they are what they claim to be, but there is no doubt that they exist. I see them around me, I can touch them, and I talk to them about whatever and so naturally as I am now. “Definitely, they exist.” S.W. (JUNG, 1993. p. 34)
1. Presentation of case
“A case of somnambulism and heredity” is the name of publication by Dr. Carl G. Jung that focuses the analysis of phenomena and the personality of an alleged medium (called S.W.) that was followed in the period between 1899 and 1900. Curiously, it’s not about a patient, but a relative that was being studied in mediumistic meetings that Jung attended.
S.W. was 15 at the time, she was from a protestant family and her family had some cases with psychopathologic alterations (grandfather, uncle, and sisters, for example), but, at the same time, they suggested clairvoyance, prophecies and somnambulism. She was thin, small, with a pale face and never had serious diseases. Her performance at school was mediocre, her behavior was uninterested, shy, but with isolated reactions of euphoria. She didn’t like reading and music; she preferred manual works or “dreams”. She made mistakes while reading, what made her brothers mocked her. Her literary knowledge was reduced (some poems by Schiller, Goethe, psalms, and magazines). S.W.’s family was composed workers and merchants “with limited goals” and her mother is described by the author as “inconsequent, vulgar and sometimes brutal”.
In July, 1899 she attended some mediumistic meetings with friends and brothers, when she found out she was a medium. From then on and during a year she showed a varied phenomenology, that we summed up, and after the initial enthusiasm of the participants of the meeting, she started lacking confidence, as she was caught red-handed carrying small objects to fake phenomena of “apport”. After these events she stopped attending Spiritist sessions and became worker at a commercial house, becoming “more reserved and nicer” and working properly. This latter information, Jung obtained by hearing. In a careful reading of the report, it was observed a certain disdain the author had for the medium and even her family. It can be clearly noticed the influence of authors like Flournoy, Binet and Janet who looked for, in their own ways, characterize the Spiritist phenomena as psychopathologic manifestations.
2. Phenomena with S.W. which suggest the existence of mediumship
Some phenomena described by Jung suggest that S.W. really had some mediumistic faculty. In her first sessions she managed to move a glass and, with the aid of letters that had been cut out and put around her, she could produce entire messages, some direct and others backwards, “produced so quick that only later could it be seen they were written backwards” (JUNG, 1993. p. 37) Initially, also, she obtained messages from her grandfather, who she didn’t meet personally, and whose content amazed the participants and her own family. One of the entities (called Ulrich von Gerbenstein) spoke in a perfect German, with the accent of the North of Germany (p. 42), very different from the medium herself. Jung tries to explain this phenomenon as a “perfect copy of Mr. P.R.”, who was a member of the meeting (JUNG, 1993. p. 42).
The medium showed “amnesia” (or unawareness?) related to the outcome of the automatic phenomena occurred during the trance. Although it’s not possible to conclude by the thesis of mediumship alone this phenomenon, associated to others it is quite suggestive. At last, there were phenomena which Allan Kardec called “table-turning”. “The last sessions generally started by laying our hands upon the table which immediately started moving” (JUNG, 1993. p. 43).
3. S.W.’s psychological and psychopathological phenomena
There were many the phenomena which, along with the mediumistic ones, suggest the action of S.W.’s psyche and unconsciousness. We selected a few which provide basis for some considerations.
The first situation talks about the features of S.W.’s tone of voice, which indicate that the medium was forced to present a voice for each entity she communicated with. “The tone of voice sounded a bit artificial that only became natural once it got closer, as the conversation went on, to the medium’s voice (in later sessions the voice was altered in a few moments, when there was a new Spirit communicating).” (JUNG, 1993. p. 38)
S.W. read the book “The Seeress of Prevorst”, classic of German magnetism written by Dr. Justinus Kerner, which talks about mediumistic phenomena and diseases of Frederica Hauffe. Since then, incorporated to her practice some elements (quite weird, by the way) which were registered (eight-shaped auto passes, she claimed to be the reincarnation of Frau Hauffe, alleged that her mission was to teach and improve the black spirits who are banned from certain places or those who are found on Earth (just like the clairvoyant, among others).
Being aware of Florence Cook (English medium) and William Crookes (English researcher), she started calling them brothers. She showed exaggerated emotional reactions to mediumistic communications, normal for a teenager, but Jung considered as an emotional lability and, therefore, a hysterical trace. “I told the Spirits I didn’t want, that couldn’t be, that it tired me a lot (she started crying): Oh Lord, is everything going to happen once again? Won’t you help me?” (JUNG, 1993. p. 39)
Many communications showed fake information, and sometimes incorrect, like the materialization of the medium in Japan to stop a wedding, a declaration of love from an alleged brother of one of the participants of the meeting to another participant he hadn’t met yet, the everyday life on Mars, the change of communications which were disapproved by the group, the accounts of previous incarnations (Goethe’s lover, Frederica Hauffe, lady of nobility burned as a witch, Christian martyr, Jewish who received from an angel the mission of being a medium) involving almost all her relatives and members of the group in familiar relations.
Since the members of the group discussed philosophy (Kant) and she couldn’t understand it, she produced an improbable and confusing mythic system composed of all the forces existent in t
he Universe, ordered in seven circles. Dr. Jung noticed that her memory related to phenomena directly connected to Ego (speak loudly or glossolalia, for instance) was perfect, contrary to the amnesia of automatic phenomena.
4. The diagnosis of S.W. and the explanation of the phenomena
Jung diagnosed her as hysterical, based on anesthetics, incorrect reading beyond repair, automatic substitutions of associations and what he considers “hysterical division of the consciousness”, which, according to him, doesn’t threaten the structure of Ego. The situations in which S.W. altered her state of consciousness were understood as “semi-somnambulism” that Jung considers as being the activity of a sub consciousness independent of the consciousness itself. There we indentify an anticipation of what would be the theory of complex and archetypes. “Seen by this angle, all the being of Ivenes (1), along with its enormous family, is nothing but a dream of satisfying sexual desires that is different from a dream for the fact of lasting months and years.” (JUNG, 1993. p. 79)
The phenomena of table-turning are explained as the result of automatic pushes by the medium (discarded the hypothesis of simulation), what does not satisfactorily explain either the production of messages with content or the glass phenomena mentioned earlier. The automatic writing by S.W. is understood as a symptom of the synthesis of an unconscious personality, what seems to be a partial explanation, but there is no description of content of messages in the article that allows us to point out the presence of correct information to what the mediums hadn’t had access.
S.W.’s clairvoyance is considered as a hallucination and would be the outcome of hypnosis, facilitated by entopic phenomena of darkness. The changes of character are related to the changes of puberty, but characterize a specific disturbance. Thus, Jung associates S.W.’s grandfather to her education in childhood, Ulrich von Geberstein’s jokes to her adolescent humor, and Ivenes’ seriousness to a manifestation of the future personality of the youngster, which didn’t incorporated into the Ego due to special difficulties, like the unfavorable relationship and a certain psychopathic disposition of the nervous system (?). (JUNG, 1993. p. 79) With his analysis based on good psychologists and psychiatrists of his time, Dr. Jung puts in parts of his work the possibility of existing mediums and they actually communicate with the Spirits of people who died. Mediumship is being reduced to mere psychopathology, just like Charcot did with hypnosis.
5. Discussion of case and analysis of Jung
We won’t discuss in this brief communication the existence of mediumship but we’ll take it as admitted earlier for the discussion of this case. Considering S.W. as a possessor of mediumistic faculties, we clearly see that in its practice we also find the manifestation of her pathology and unconsciousness. Jung kept to the analysis of these two points carefully, showing what the Spiritist movement of today would call “animistic component of mediumship”.
One of the important points of consideration from this psychiatrist talks about the construction of the identity of the medium S.W. Adolescent, with social and familiar problems, going through the crisis that Erikson (1976) would call identity versus confusion of identity, enhanced by hysterical traces; the experience of being considered as a medium and, in a certain way, admired by her relatives and acquaintances, is extremely gratifying for S.W. She seems to have held to it desperately, this possibility of reconstruction of her identity and didn’t measure efforts to absorb into her practice some behaviors showed by mediums known as important ones (like Frederica Hauffe). The process of social identification is so important, that S.W. claims to be the reincarnation of Mrs. Hauffe. This phenomenon is noticed in mediumistic meetings today, to a minor extent, since most of cases there is no psychopathologic component. It needs to be further analyzed, since that, as Jung showed, clearly interferes in the content of the message based on intuitive mediumship and its derived forms. The medium with hysterical traces fantasized, having as a theme her intimate drama, many times altering substantially the content of messages. The need to be recognized, accepted and loved as a medium, among other things, put her in the situation of fraud. The desire to be respected led her to ridiculous theories, whose points of contact with her own psyche couldn’t be ignored.
The communications by the entity called Ivenes deserve a special attention. According to Jung, it is a sort of a basis for some of its central ideas, like the process of individualization, the archetypes, the transcendental function, the teleology of the unconscious, etc. It’s more difficult to accept that a hysterical adolescent, who represented the fantasy of being a medium, is capable of creating a character that fits this description, than counting on mediumship. “Talking to her, there was the impression of speaking to an older person who got to a secure and balanced attitude due to many experiences of life.” (JUNG, 1993. p. 36)
The study by Dr. Jung opened two great fronts of work in the beginning of the century: the first, for the academics, suggests the necessity of more in-depth study of mediumistic phenomena and its compared analysis to pathologic and psychopathologic studies. The latter, for the Spiritist movement, suggests the theoretical and practical study in understanding the so-called animistic phenomena and its implications in mediumship. A hundred years later, these proposals are still relevant.
(1) Ivenes is the name of one of the entities presented by S.W.
DENIS, Léon. In the invisible. Rio de Janeiro: FEB, 1981. [translated by Leopoldo Cirne].
ERIKSON, Erik. Identity, youth and crisis. Rio de Janeiro: ZAHAR, 1976. HUMBERT, Elie G. Jung. São Paulo: Summus, 1985. [translated by Marianne Ligeti] JUNG, Carl G. Psychiatric studies. Petrópolis-RJ: Vozes, 1994.
Foundations of Analytics Psychology. Petrópolis-RJ: Vozes, 1985.
The nature of psyche. Petrópolis-RJ: Vozes, 1986. KARDEC, Allan. The Mediums’ Book. Rio de Janeiro: FEB, 1978.
KERNER, Justinus. The seeress of Prevorst. Matão - SP: Clarim, 1979. [Translated by Carlos Imbassahy]
MIRANDA, Hermínio C. Reincarnation and Immortality. Rio de Janeiro: FEB, 1983. p. 181-202.
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