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Masson, J.L. (1974). India and the Unconscious: Erik Erikson on Gandhi. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 55:519-526.

(1974). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 55:519-526

India and the Unconscious: Erik Erikson on Gandhi

J. L. Masson

As a Sanskritist with a profound interest in classical psychoanalysis, I was naturally intrigued by Erikson's new book on Gandhi (Erikson, 1969). I would like to talk about the manner in which I feel that Erikson fails to do justice to the complexity of Gandhi. I must confess at the outset of this paper to a prejudice: I do not believe that eclecticism works in any field. Though Erikson is obscure on Jung, I feel he is not unimpressed. My own reading of Jung has convinced me that he has nothing to say of any value about India. I believe that the whole concern with anagogic phenomena must be resisted, or met with a healthy dose of scepticism or just plain common sense. Jung dreams of his own golden phallus; the ancient Tibetans chose a prime minister by holding a state levitation contest; my undergraduate students still speak passionately of nocturnal visits to other planets. One has an intellectual responsibility not to refuse to make value-judgements. Such phenomena are symptoms; they cannot be treated as 'true' in any meaningful sense of that term. Psychic reality is nonetheless an inner reality, and no Tibetan monk ever lifted himself one inch off the ground, nor did any student ever visit another planet, nor did Jung have mysterious and inexplicable insights into the nature of life after death. Now it seems to me that Erikson has not taken up an analytic stance towards Gandhi. He seems to suspend his judgement in crucial areas where plain speaking is called for.

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