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Tacey, D.J. (1983). Patrick White: The Great Mother and Her Son. J. Anal. Psychol., 28(2):165-183.

(1983). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 28(2):165-183

Patrick White: The Great Mother and Her Son

David J. Tacey, Ph.D.

I White and Jung

Many Critics of the Australian novelist Patrick White have claimed that the writer has made conscious use of Jung's ideas and archetypes. A. P. Riemer has been the most vocal in espousing this view. He argues that both The Tree of Man (1956) and Riders in the Chariot (1961) rely heavily upon Jungian material and that the recognition of this is important for the comprehension of White's intentions. He even goes so far as to add that a novelist's use of such arcane material will inevitably involve questions of propriety: but I prefer this problem of artistic licence to be fought out elsewhere, as I have no doubt it will be (RIEMER 7, p. 116). This line of thought is entirely misdirected. White's novels seem Jungian because the writer has in his own way drawn upon the deep unconscious and its archetypes. It is precisely this fact that makes the novels so powerful and accounts for their genuine visionary quality. They are not products of his conscious mind but spring up, as it were, from the creative unconsious. A writer does not have to read Jung to formulate archetypal configurations—he has rather to turn within and enter into his own dialogue with the imagination. This, surely, is the mark of all great imaginative or visionary art.

Far from basing his work on Jung, White claims not even to have read him before the mid 1960s, after all his most ‘Jungian’ novels had been written. In a letter to the writer of 14 February, 1976, he says:

I did not read Jung until about the time of The Solid Mandala, when somebody gave me Psychology and Alchemy. And again in a letter dated 28 September, 1975, he writes:

I did not know of Jung's work at the time of writing The Aunt's Story. I don't think I had even heard of him, though I may have as I had read some Freud. Jungian influence is evident in The Solid Mandala (1966). The title itself betrays some knowledge of Jung, and the text reproduces passages from his work.

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