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Scarcella, E. (2014). The Jung-Kirsch Letters: The Correspondence of CG. Jung and James Kirsch, edited by Ann Conrad Lammers, translated by Ursula Egli and Ann Conrad Lammers, Routledge, New York, 2011, 354 pp., $110.. Psychodyn. Psych., 42(1):141-143.
(2014). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 42(1):141-143
The Jung-Kirsch Letters: The Correspondence of CG. Jung and James Kirsch, edited by Ann Conrad Lammers, translated by Ursula Egli and Ann Conrad Lammers, Routledge, New York, 2011, 354 pp., $110.
Review by: Erminia Scarcella, M.D., DLFAPA
This book charts 32 years of correspondence between Carl Gustav Jung and James Kirsch. The book contains 150 letters spanning 32 years—from the first letter of Kirsch's dated November 16, 1928, to the last letter of Jung's dated November 2, 1960, 7 months before his death on June 6, 1961. There is a gap in the correspondence during WWII.
James Kirsch was a German-Jewish psychiatrist (1901-1989) who first met Carl Jung in May 1929, 11 years before WWII. Following an experience with an unsatisfactory psychoanalysis and having had a positive analytic experience with Jungian lay analyst Tony Sussmann, Kirsch decided to ask to be analyzed by Jung. Kirsch was 28 years old when he met Jung, who was then 54. Soon after meeting Jung, Kirsch felt transported by the depth of Jung's thoughts and maintained a strong relationship with him, regardless where his life was taking him.
As many Jews did in the midst of the political confusion, Kirsch left Germany in 1933, understanding the extremely dangerous situation the Jewish community faced under Nazi rule. He was so impressed by Jungian psychological theories that he founded Jungian professional groups wherever he went: from Berlin, to Ascona, to Portofino, to Tel Aviv, then to London, and finally to Los Angeles, where he arrived in 1940. In Los Angeles, he established the first Jungian center in the United States. He was like the missionary Johnny Appleseed, spreading Jung's analytic psychology everywhere he went.
It is fascinating to see how Kirsch's connection to Jung helped him through many long periods of difficulty while he was trying to escape the Nazis. His was a heroic struggle for survival, and his deeply desired connection with Jung was the anchor in those periods of political, financial, and professional turmoil. This heroic journey can be easily appreciated when reading these letters.
Kirsch's letters are always deferential and respectful toward Jung. At times, he seems to be pleading for connection even though he knew he was asking for more than he could get from Jung, but at other times Kirsch seems to ignore his excessive requests. Kirsch knew Jung was a very busy and hardworking psychiatrist who became more overwhelmed as he aged, but Kirsch nevertheless relentlessly keeps up the epistolary relationship.
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