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Ammann, P. (2020). Encountering the other: Jungian Analysts and Traditional Healers in South Africa Part I: The History. J. Anal. Psychol., 65(1):206-208.

(2020). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 65(1):206-208

Encountering the other: Jungian Analysts and Traditional Healers in South Africa Part I: The History

Peter Ammann, Ph.D.

Encountering the Other, encountering the Other in Africa! Let's start with our forefather. In her biography of Jung, Barbara Hannah reports that once he told her an active imagination according to which:

his fantasy led him into a remote valley, evidently inhabited by primitive people. A tall and rather impressive medicine man figure was silently beside him, watching his every step and movement. Jung came on some writing carved on a rock, which he wanted to read, but found that it was in a language quite unknown to him. Since it was also rather illegible, he took a chisel and hammer and began carefully deepening the letters in the stone. The medicine man came close, watching him even more intently, until he suddenly complained that a splinter of stone had got into his eye. He commanded Jung to take it out, but the latter, seeing his opportunity, refused to do so until the medicine man had read and translated the inscription for him! The man was unwilling to do so, but Jung held onto him and waited … until at last he read the text of the whole inscription.

(Hannah 1991, p. 161)

Here is no time to analyse this story in detail. However, it gives us the frame for all the problems of our topic. Jung, the Western psychologist, finds himself alongside a representative of those ‘other’ people once upon a time called ‘primitive’. He is even a counterpart of the Western doctor, an indigenous healer. Could it be that he is not as ‘primitive’ as it seems, but perhaps in possession of some ‘other’ knowledge, some indigenous wisdom? Jung's active imagination is unquestionably a story of encountering the other, the medicine man. But there is the other side of the coin: Jung is bluntly blackmailing the indigenous man: ‘Yes, I'll take the splinter out of your eye, but on condition only that you tell me the meaning of the inscription.’

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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