A Woman Shall Lead Them: The Feminine in “A Dangerous Method”

And a Woman Shall Lead Them

The Feminine in A Dangerous Method

By Len Cruz, MD

A Dangerous Method is one of the best psychological film portrayals of the feminine I have seen in a very long time.  Knowing many of the historical elements that director David Cronenberg smoothly wove together in a 95 minute film helped me look past the two Titans of 20th century psychology and delight in the figure who was for me the main character, Sabina Spielrein.

I am looking forward to the conference (webinar) led by Dan Ross that is scheduled for February 8th.  For registration information visit http://ashevillejungcenter.org/webinars/february-discovering-psychotherapy-dangerous-method/register/  

The arc that transports Sabina Spielrein from wounded virgin delivered forcibly to the Burghölzli by uniformed Russian guards to the pregnant Hectate (in all her chthonic, celestial, and maritime glory) sitting on a bench by the fragile Jung, fresh from his break with Freud, depicts so many facets of the feminine that a list may do them justice.


Ravaged Virgin


When Sabina arrives at the Burghölzli we discover that the harsh, brutal corporal punishment her father administered had awakened something.  The early studies on hysteria posited that sexual abuse and unacknowledged sexual desire was akin to Lethe, the subterranean river that flowed around the cave of Hypnos from which all who drank experienced complete forgetfulness.  Sabina’s character is extraordinary in her capacity to first remember, the first achievement of the talking cure and then press on to a healthy integration of the sexual pleasure she first experienced at her father’s hand.  Sabina starts out as a ravaged virgin and this image is re-presented in the scene of Jung’s first sexual intercourse with her.  But even as she lifts the bloodied sheet and the camera draws back we do not observe a young woman ravaged by her father figure.  Instead we are witness to a woman who has taken another step in claiming her full, individuated capacities.  It evoked a sense of baptism and Jung the man was an instrument of this baptism into womanhood.




Sabina is also portrayed as a vulnerable waif who cautiously places her trust in Jung.  Jung is looking for someone on whom to try his hand at this new talking cure.  Rather quickly, Sabina displays her perspicacity in a scene in which Jung is conducting his word association experiment with a pregnant woman whose ambivalence is evident.  When she asks if the woman was Jung’s wife (she is), we observe the native gifts and talents that will mature into an analyst whose influence has never been properly acclaimed.

Divine Daughter/Vestal Virgin


Spielrein matures fairly quickly during the film.  She is well into her medical career and displaying uncanny abilities in the infant field of psychiatry.  Like the Vestal Virgins of Rome, she has respected a chastity that has allowed her to learn the rituals of the psychoanalytic state.  And like the Vestal Virgins, she keeps the sacred fires of eros burning in Jung.


There is scene in which Sabina initiates a kiss.  Sabina and Jung are discussing her ideas concerning creative destruction and the inherent clash of opposites from which arises something new and creative.  Jung admonishes her for being the aggressor.


Jung “It’s generally thought to be the man who should take the initiative.”


Sabina “Don’t you think there is something male in every woman and something female in every man, or should be?.”


What is so striking in this scene is the intimation of many foundational ideas of analytical psychology: transcendent function, conjuctio mysterium, anima, and animus.  The scene also suggest the possibility that one woman, shuttered away and later shot by the Nazis, might have been a fount for Jung and later Freud whose concepts of Thanatos may owe a tremendous debt to Sabina according to Cronenberg’s portrayal.


A Completing Woman


Sabina reaches the completion of her training, she presents a paper titled “Destruction as the Cause of Coming Into Being.”  Astoundingly original ideas were contained in this article made me wonder if another unnamed giant from Vienna may have been inspired by Sabina.  Joseph Schumpeter, the famous mathematical economist credited with popularizing the idea of creative destruction introduced ideas that sound like spin-offs of Spielrein’s ideas.  This concept of creative destruction still enjoys considerable cache as evidenced in its frequent appearance in the Republican Presidential Debates in America concerning Mitt Romney’s time at the venture capital firm, Bain Capital.  When others have accused him of shuttering American companies in which Bain Capital invested, he defends himself with Schumpeter’s (or should I now say Spielrein’s) ideas of creative destruction.  that has recently found its way into the United States’s political discourse concerning Mitt Romney’s venture capital dealings that shuttered certain companies.


Wrathful Feminine (The Furies, Hera, Athena, Kali)


There is a tense period in the film when it appears that Spielrein intends to cause Jung’s destruction.  It turns out that Jung has unleashed more than one fury when he discovers that the anonymous letters Freud received about his indiscretions with Spielrein were not authored by his mistress but by his wife Emma who apparently write to Spielrein’s mother and perhaps others in Vienna.  Spielrein does strike out and cut Jung’s face, but her temperance dignifies her even more and begins to establish the strength of this character in the film.  I cite the Erinyes (Furies), because Spielrein appears to threaten to unleash a severe vengence upon Jung and the whole psychoanalytic movement.  Recall that the infernal goddesses were chthonic deities whose vengence was unleashed upon those who swear a false oath.  How fitting that this figure of the feminine should menace the great pioneers of depth psychology.  I call upon Hera for the wrath she displayed whenever she discovers Zeus’ infidelities.  How like Hera Spielrein desires to be and Emma appears to be.  I invoke the image of Athena because of her fiery warrior eruption from the head of Zeus.  Spielrein, like Athena, comes to life within the container of Jung’s intellectual interests but must emerge fully formed by breaking out that same container.  Is there a woman who strives in the patriarchal realms who cannot identify with the goddess of just warfare?  Athena had no consorts and is also called Athena Parthenos.  Towards the end of the film, when pregnant Spielrein reappears with barely the mention of a husband, Athena Parthenos, somehow comes through as having had no consort.   This woman’s fertility has transcended the need for the man’s sperm.




There is gentleness in Spielrein’s attentions to Jung.  At the various stages depicted in her own evolution, she demands almost nothing, apart from a similar degree of care and regard.  She tells Jung when he insists they end their sexual relationship because she asked too much, “I never asked for more…”  The movie’s portrayal of Spielrein’s demand that Jung disclose the truth to Freud so that she may undergo analysis with him, is at once forgiving, firm, and self-assured.  For a brief instant, Freud is depicted as redeeming Jung’s mistakes until he reminds Spielrein that they are both Jews and will always be Jews.  Spielrein understands the powerful and nuanced destructive forces being acted out between Jung and Freud better than either of them do.  Yet she seems capable of holding them both with the gentle forgiving qualities that the feminine sometimes exudes that can heal the deepest wounds in a man’s soul.  It is in these scenes that Spielrein’s dignity and force of character was most apparent to me.


The Miller’s Daughter (The Rumpelstilskin Story)


Something about the development of Spielrein’s character left a deep impression of what the individuated woman is like.   A Dangerous Method’s portrayal of is a woman who has secured, through hard fought struggle, a formula for making inner gold from the base metals of her life experience.  This film’s Sabina Spielrein is a stark contrast to the miller’s daughter from the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale.  That miller’s daughter had to reply on the impish Rumpelstiltskin to spin gold for her.  Rumpelstilskin we recall deliver’s the miller’s daughter from her plight on condition that he can take possession of the girl’s first born child.  In the final scenes of the movie, Jung shares a great deal in common with Rumpelstiltskin.  He is seen sitting on a bench, overtaken by deep melancholy when he declares that Spierlein’s baby should have been his; she agrees.  Like Rumpelstiltskin, Jung comes across as an incomplete, broken, maybe deformed man who covets the fecundity he sees before him.  But Speirlein, unlike the miller’s daughter, has a connection to her animus.  She has learned to spin gold without relying on a covetous or undeveloped man.  (See Robert Johnson’s Inner Gold for a concise rendering of alchemical gold).  When she confirms that Jung has moved on to another mistress, Toni Wolff, the viewer is left with the impression that Jung has progressed very little yet.  He has hardly remembered, he has repeated, and he has yet to work through his struggle with monogamy and sexual license.




There is one more facet of the feminine that comes to full fruition in the final scenes at Lake Zürich. Emma and Sabina seem to understand one another now and they both have a wisdom about Jung.  It seems that in the course of a man’s development, in those early years when he severs the connection to his interior feminine, he also loses the connection he might have had to Sophia.  If such a man is fortunate to encounter a woman possessed of sufficient Sophia and she elects to share herself with him, the ability to rekindle the relationship with his anima is likely to quickened.  Jung may have had the blessing of at least three women who imparted to him Sophia.  In the case of Emma, she also gave him his beloved home at 228 Seestrasse in Künsnacht.   Perhaps, Spielrein, in addition to Sophia, gave Jung a container in which he burst onto the scene of psychoanalysis and also delivered him beyond it to the place he was destined to go.  And Toni Wolff, apart from Sophia, may have furnished a vessel for his completion.


A Woman Shall Lead Them; The rest is silence.

31 Responses to A Woman Shall Lead Them: The Feminine in “A Dangerous Method”
  1. Noclain Michele pseudo:Michka
    January 29, 2012 | 11:10 pm

    excellente analyse, bien détaillée, pertinente, claire et concise;la rehabilitation de cette grande psychologue ,la reconnaissance de S.Spielrein est vraiment méritée et grâce à ce film elle refait surface , provoquant de bonnes et profondes discussions pour notre érudition à tous; merci, parfait!

    • LenCruz
      January 30, 2012 | 12:16 am

      (Michele’s comment translated using Google Translate)
      excellent review, well detailed, relevant, clear and concise, and the rehabilitation of this great psychologist, the recognition of S. Spielrein is truly deserved and thanks to this film has resurfaced, causing good and deep discussions for our scholarship at all, thank you perfect!

      Merci pour vos remarques réfléchies. J’accepte que reconnaissant la contribution Spielrein d’idées majeur dans les premières années est en retard. J’espère que vous serez en mesure de participer à la conférence le 8 Février.

      Thank you for your kind remarks. I agree that acknowledging Spielrein’s contribution to major ideas in the early years is overdue. I hope you will be able to participate in the conference on February 8.

  2. Daniel Ross
    January 30, 2012 | 8:38 pm


    I am catching up on posts and your emphasis on the feminine in all its facets is important. The ravaged virgin, the waif, the divine daughter, completing woman, wrathful feminine, madonna, miller’s daughter and Sophia look at the archetpal elements of the feminine in this story. Let us remember there seems to be a collective movement in film toward the feminine as represented in some of the more serious artistic films over the past two years. The character of Lisbeth in Girl with a Dragon Tatoo more currently comes to mind as the ravaged virgin and wrathful feminine.

    Perhaps recognition for Spielrein’s contribution comes at a time when there is a collective movement in looking at the individuating female in film and none more approprate than the woman whose influence on Jung led to the development of the idea of individuation itself. The coniunctio and separatio of Spielrein’s relationship to Jung, in light of her paper “Destruction as the Cause…” , it would seem Spielrein could not remain in the shadow of Jung nor Freud and though her paper struggles toward the end it is clear she is introducing ideas with which Jung had to be impressed. At the end of her paper she writes,” The world can only be saved when life returns to its primal source.” The primal source would later become the collective unconscious for Jung. This was a paper Jung struggled with reading as his own work, “Symbols and Transformations” took precedence before he reviewed Spielrein’s. One wonders what took him so long to tend to it and why Freud, when it was partially presented to his Wednesday night group, dismissed it in a letter to Jung but acknowledging he understood what Jung saw in her (wink). Thank you Len for this greater focus on the feminine.

  3. David Thompson
    February 1, 2012 | 12:54 pm

    Wow! Len, I’m flabbergasted! Sabina Spielrein as vessel for so many aspects of the archetypal feminine! All in one movie!

    Sabina Spielrein…all things feminine to/for Carl Jung…

    It sounds like you saw a different movie than I did.

    Have you seen “The Soul Keeper”? I’d be interested in reading your thoughts, feelings and analysis of that film…


    Originally posted on Daniel Ross’ “A Dangerous Method” blog, on January 29th. Reposted here by request.

    • LenCruz
      February 4, 2012 | 5:21 am

      (Portions posted earlier on Daniel Ross’ blog and David Thompson’s comments)
      I did see a different movie perhaps than David. I credit the fact that I’d listened to the Audiobook by the same title written by John Kerr first and then having read the comments associated with Daniel Ross’ blog before seeing the movie. Perhaps as a consequence, I was predisposed to see the many faces of the feminine and the centrality of Sabina Spielrein’s character to the development in the movie. I have not seen “The Soul Keeper” but I plan to do so.

  4. David Thompson
    February 1, 2012 | 1:30 pm


    The title of your posting, “A Woman Shall Lead Them”, reminds me of the last lines of Goethe’s “Faust, Part 2″:

    “Eternal Feminine
    Leads us above.”

    Last word also translated as…upward, higher or heavenward.*

    But I’m not sure what you intend with your use of the Prince of Denmark’s dying words? Perhaps you could explain?

    Also…you write, “…pregnant Hecate (in all her chthonic, celestial and maritime glory)…”.

    Hecate is most certainly a chthonic, Underworld goddess. A goddess of fertility. She plays a major role in thew myth of Hades/Demeter/Kore-Persephone and the Eleusinian Mysteries. She’s a torchbearer. A “lucifer”…light-bringer.*

    Hecate was not an Olympian. She was far older than that generation of gods and goddesses. An ancient deity. She was a Titaness, and one who sided with the Olympians in their war against the Titans, known as the “Titanomáchy”.*

    A goddess of the night, sometimes encountered at the crossroads, where she appears with her hounds. In late antiquity, she was seen from a more negative perspective, the terrible goddess of sorcery, and witches. Hesiod, in his “Theogony”, credits “…her with power in heaven, earth and sea, bringing wealth and victory to her worshipers, whether they were farmers, soldiers, fisherman, or athletes.”** But the heaven and sea aspects of Hecate, do not seem to be emphasized in her mythology and worship, after Hesiod. Rather, those celestial and maritime aspects were more associated with “foam born” Aphrodite. Celestial, with her epithet, Aphrodite Urania–Heavenly Aphrodite. And with her maritime attributes, she was known as Aphrodite Euploia–Aphrodite of Good Sailing. Aphrodite Galenaia–Aphrodite of the Calm. Aphrodite Pelegaia–Aphrodite of the Ocean. She was the goddess sailors and seafarers sacrificed to, for a safe voyage. In this aspect she became associated with the Mysteries of the Great Gods, as practiced on the island of Samothrace.

    Then there’s “…Aphrodite Praxis–Aphrodite of Success, of the good result, the happy issue, of the ultimate moment of love, the orgasm…”.*** But that’s another goddess story…

    ** from, The Meridian handbook of Classical Mythology (1974). Written by Edward Tripp.

    ***from, THe Goddess of Love: The Birth, Triumph, Death and Return of Aphrodite (1976). Written by Geoffrey Grigson.

    Also originally posted on Daniel Ross’ “A Dangerous Method” blog, on January 29th. Reposted here by request.

    *Additions to this posting. Not included in original posting.

    • LenCruz
      February 3, 2012 | 10:16 pm

      Earlier reply to this comment (re-posted)
      I was not aware of the resonance with Goethe’s Faust, Part 2. Thank you. As for “pregnant Hectate” I can only reply that I was moved in the immediate aftermath of the movie to see a figure reminiscent of Hectate in her liminal qualities. Hectate has evoked for me a sense of the guardian of the interstitia, the crossroads, and the boundaries. You were precisely on the mark with your comments about Hectate though you expressed with much greater clarity. In the final scenes where she sits with Jung, I sensed her simultaneous awareness of Jung’s frailty/her own strength, her impending departure/her interrupted bond with Jung, her fecund state/her unfulfilled desire for Jung, etc. It was really in this sense of Hectate as the goddess ruling over the entrances or passages that I was invoking her. It was not specifically referent to her central role in the Persephone myth.

      Thank you for the additional references and guidance. Your scholarship and informed play of dialogue with so many of the participants in these blogs continues to enrich.

  5. Julie Perkins
    February 2, 2012 | 5:34 am

    Perhaps there can be one more category added to the list of descriptions of the powerful feminine! It is a word that Marie Louis von Franz used – homo putissimus. I might call it sovereignty.
    This reply is prompted by the end of Dr Cruz’s point of the Sophia element being given to Jung through his interaction with these three seminal women. I am posting a section of Dr. John Beebe’s paper* in which I just read, immediately after the above post, which points to a testimony or a witnessing of a sense of Sophia in Jung, during a visit by Elizabeth Osterman, when he was in his later years.
    “The force that emanated from this man sitting beside me was amazing. He seemed at once powerful and simple; real, the way the sky and rocks and trees and water around him were real. He seemed to be all there in his own nature, but what made it so exciting was his awareness of it. (1963, 219)
    Privately, she put it to me yet another way, “I felt he was with her—Sophia.” Sophia,a figure who appears in Proverbs, is the personification of a feeling wisdom that can only come from experience. For the student of Jung, she is the final, fourth stage in the development of the anima, who succeeds in tempering the force of eros with the wisdom
    of logos, an integrative stage beyond, but still including, lust (Eve), romantic love(Helen), and compassion (Mary). Jung conceived these stages of anima development in classically German, Goethe-influenced terms, and described them as “steps of culture of Eros.”6 This is what von Franz addresses in her discussion of the individuated emotional attitude of the homo putissimus, whose rosy-colored blood symbolizes the developed feeling function emanating from the man or woman who is able not only to be who he or she is but also to share what he or she has.” *
    I have not seen the movie yet, but via the descriptions of Sabina Spielrein in this post, it seems that she, too, contained the homo putissimus all along in her spirited insights via her papers and demands upon Jung, as well as in her own polishing of her ‘inner gold’.
    *Once More with Feeling
    Author(s): John Beebe
    Source: Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Fall 2009), pp. 28-39

    • LenCruz
      February 3, 2012 | 10:30 pm

      The categories could have continued to be added to and I was glad you did. Thank you also for the explication of Sophia. She was the last figure I sought to summon because she seems to embody the full fruition of the feminine. I have often wondered about the quality of Sophia in a man’s psyche and how it finds expression. Sometimes, I have seen men who were possessed of a certain innate wisdom that they could not integrate in their youth choose a flesh and blood partner who likewise displayed very little of Sophia. Some of these men, when they have begun to recognize their own interior feminine and integrate her, may find a flesh and blood partner who is possessed of much more evident wisdom. I have also observed many men who found a woman whose Sophia became their guide for living (until such time as they recognized that Sophia, as she appeared in the mate, was really resonating with his own anima.

      Because Spanish is my other mother tongue the term “homo putissimus” evoked the word “puta” a slang for whore, slut, etc. Was that connection relevant to the latin “putissimus”? One thing that struck me powerfully about the portrayal of Sabina, including in her sexuality, was a sense that she was self-possessed. If so, that leads to a very different meaning for “puta”, one that is less derogatory and more full-blooded. Thank you for your reflections and contributions.

      • Julie Perkins
        February 8, 2012 | 5:05 pm

        Len – I very much appreciated the above response as well as your Feb 2nd response in citing of ML Von Franz’ lecture “C.G. Jung’s Rehabilitation of the Feeling Function in Our Civilization” for the origin of the words I used “homo puttisimus”.
        Here I am citing part of your response on Feb 2nd, : “Julie,
        Thank you for the reference to Von Franz, Jung’s colleague, who in her final seminar published in English in the Jung Journal,2(2) entitled, “C.G. Jung’s Rehabilitation of the Feeling Function in Our Civilization”
        which she describes the “rosy-colored blood” which emanates from the Philosopher’s Stone (or homo putissimus) which heals all people. Homo putissimus means “most pure” or “true man”, literally unalloyed man.” The rosy-colored blood signifiies “love coupled with insight”. Eros and Logos coupled and when they are apart and emphasis on one over the other we are in trouble.
        Perhaps the two films, A Dangerous Method” and “The Soul Keeper” are the Logos and Eros of the Jung and Spielrein story. At the end of her final seminar on November 25th, 1986 this is what she offers us about Jung,
        “Perhaps Jung will be remembered as a knight who restored to the community the feminine principle of Love, or Eros, as symbolized by the Holy Grail or by the homo putissimus of alchemy, who emanates a whole-making, healing Eros, through which even the opposites of the collective versus the individual may be reconciled.”
        Julie also discusses Jung’s stages of anima development and how they seem to ring true for Sabina as portrayed in these films carrying the different aspects of the feminine as Len discussed and now the stages in anima development. And I would like to add that Jung was perhaps too early in his anima development in his relationship with Sabina to bring wisdom and eros together in a coniunctio that would later come about.” Len

        I agree that the movie takes one slim slice in time and does not give room for the portrayal of Jung in his later maturity – so your observation of a coniunctio gives us a fuller picture of Jung the man and teacher of individuation, circling back to the essence of the word that ML Von Franz used: homo putissimus, as that of sovereignty in the full and humble being of one’s self, a coniunctio with Sophia in us, male and female alike. THank you for your insights, Julie

        There is much in ML Von Franz’ final lecture that can be carried forward and she was also a pivotal woman for analytical psychology.

  6. Teresa Ramsey
    February 2, 2012 | 2:22 pm

    As a student of Jung, not affiliated with any formal training, and holding such deep gratitude and recognition of Jung’s compassion and genius within me over a few decades, I find a particular scene in the movie disturbing, and wanting to draw me into deeper understanding. The scene where Jung is hitting Sabina with a belt while she is handcuffed to a bed came into me as an indulgence into a wounded psyche. It felt somewhat like giving an addict a drug, with anticipation of being rewarded by sexual passion. This scene definitely pulled Jung close to the edge of the pedestal I had him on, yet, I want to understand this as process or what took him deeper into his personal journey. Help!

    • LenCruz
      February 3, 2012 | 10:36 pm

      After one week of reflecting on the movie (and after hearing from a client who is an avid participant in BDSM) I had a new idea about the scene you mention. Sabina seemed at ease in that scene but Jung seemed terribly uncomfortable. I wonder if the dominant/submissive themes being portrayed on screen there invite a deeper interpretation still. I am told there is something in the BDSM world referred to as “topping from the bottom” in which the person being dominated actually holds sway and control over the person in the apparent dominant position. In that scene where Sabina is handcuffed and enjoying the experience, Jung seems almost as if he is being forced to participate. To the extent that this is true, it makes for an interesting reversal where Jung may once have been the aggressor/exploiter who misused his position as analyst but now Spielrein is sort of abusing Jung by her release into her BDSM that provokes such discomfort in Jung. What do you think?

      • Teresa Ramsey
        February 4, 2012 | 4:21 pm

        Len, after following Daniel’s suggestion to go read some of the earlier blog postings about these particular scenes, the thought is moving in me that (whether these types situations occurred or not), the director may have been wanting to indirectly show Jung’s willingness, desire, fascination, deep curiosity about the impulses contained in the shadow, his shadow and Sabina’s. The interaction and seeming guidance that Otto offered to Jung to give into his desires, contrary to consciousness, ethics, might also been some of the director’s desire to explore this motif. My personal desires to understand have led to contemplation about some of the dark aspects of loving. I am enjoying the postings and am relieved for those with historical knowledge that have offered corrections where they can be made. In the deep,intimate relationships, we are still in the throes of the unknown, the undisclosed…at least for now.

    • erica lorentz
      February 7, 2012 | 8:24 pm

      That was Cronenberg signature love of S&M and putting women in dependent and compromising situations. Did you really think a Hollywood movie would not do something like that- specially a director like Cronenbeg. From her diary and letters, it is clear Carl and Sabina had some kind of romance, but we don’t know exactly what. She says they had a few tender and loving embraces. She never mentions his name in her diary and did not cause a scandal as is insinuated. It did not last long as they both came to their senses. She came to the conclusion that she did not want to ruin his marriage and hurt his children or her carrier and hope of a marriage and children. He realized he had wrongly crossed a professional boundary. They actually talked it through and became friends and colleagues until she moved back to Russia.

  7. Carolina Van Stone
    February 2, 2012 | 2:52 pm

    Late one night while studying Jung and Freud for a class in my Ph.D. program I read something about Sabina Spielrein and the two men.
    I thought I had dreamt it because I couldn’t find it again and the triad was never discussed. I recently saw “My Name is Sabina Spielrein,” a film by Elisabeth Marton which uses Sabina’s diaries, and letters between she and Freud and Jung. In this film Sabina is not abused my her father. What is elucidated are her erotic fantasies and acting out as a result of having to watch her father spank her brother’s bare bottom. My question is why Cronenberg felt compelled to change the storyline in that way or if it even matters. Loving the discussion, thank you.

    • erica lorentz
      February 7, 2012 | 8:26 pm

      That’s Cronenberg. Watch his other films. They all involve sex and usually violence. See Crash 1995.

  8. Daniel Ross
    February 2, 2012 | 6:21 pm


    Thank you for the reference to Von Franz, Jung’s colleague, who in her final seminar published in English in the Jung Journal,2(2) entitled, “C.G. Jung’s Rehabilitation of the Feeling Function in Our Civilization” in which she descibes the “rosy-colored blood” which emanates from the Philosopher’s Stone (or homo putissimus) which heals all people. Homo putissimus means “most pure” or “true man”, lierally unalloyed man.” The rosy-colored blood signififies “love coupled with insight”. Eros and Logos coupled and when they are apart and emphasis on one over the other we are in trouble.

    Perhaps the two films, A Dangerous Method” and “The Soul Keeper” are the Logos and Eros of the Jung and Spielrein story. At the end of her final seminar on November 25th, 1986 this is what she offers us about Jung,

    “Perhaps Jung will be remembered as a knight who restored to the community the feminine principle of Love, or Eros, as symbolized by the Holy Grail or by the homo putissimus of alchemy, who emanates a whole-making, healing Eros, through which even the opposites of the collective versus the individual may be reconciled.”

    Julie also discusses Jung’s stages of anima development and how they seem to ring true for Sabina as portrayed in these films carrying the different aspects of the feminine as Len discussed and now the sateges in anima development. And I would like to add that Jung was perhaps too early in his anima development in his relationship with Sabina to bring wisdom and eros together in a coniunctio that would later come about.

    As Jung himself said, “If the encounter with the shadow is the ‘apprentice-piece’, then that with the anima is the ‘master-piece’.” CW 9, i, paragraph 61.

  9. Daniel Ross
    February 2, 2012 | 8:16 pm


    Your struggle with that scene is shared with many others. Please read the blog posted originally for the film a few weeks ago with now nearly 100 comments for a better understanding of why this may have been included in the film. I will tell you that there is no historical evidence of this occuring nor is there proof they had a sexual relationship at all though the evidence does suggest they had a deeply passionate and loving relationship. Having had Jung on a pedestal myself for so long as many others have, I have found the veiw of him to be much richer at ground level where I am sure he would have preferred to be placed. Thank you for joining our discussion.


    I am not sure what Cronenberg’s vision of this story was beyond some sensationalism but my guess is it was more dramatic to paint a picture of abuse rather than what appears to be common disciplinary practice during that time though there is in her medical records reports of her being spanked by her father until a pre-adolescent age. I think Sabina’s hysteria was partially a result of this physical disciplining by the father but also the loss of her sister after which her symptoms began. Let’s see what others can share.

  10. David Thompson
    February 2, 2012 | 10:25 pm

    To Len, Daniel, Gail, Julie, Teresa, Caroline, and anyone else interested in seeing good films with portrayals of the feminine…I suggest you track down a DVD, VHS, Netflixs hard copy or streaming video of…”Some Girls” (1988). Take a chance. Watch the movie (if you haven’t seen it already). I don’t think you’ll be disappointed…I hope…

    David T.

  11. erica lorentz
    February 3, 2012 | 2:05 am

    I saw My Name was Sabina Spielrein a number of years ago and was struck by what a fair and sensitive job the award winning documentary did in trying to show the intensity and and complexity of their relationships.
    I did not like the way that Sabina was portrayed or Emma. Both women from what I have heard and read (the analytic community has been talking about this for years- I’m an analyst) were much more grounded and strong than Cronenberg showed them. Sabina was made into a crazed, immature and insecure child through most of the film. I thought the S&M scenes were gratuitous and an example of Cronenberg’s constant need to show the feminine in that kind of position. He seems to have a fascination of sex. Watch his movie Crash. Why did he chose to make this movie?
    If you watch the documentary and you carefully read the letters there is no reason to be sure that their relationship was sexual. Also, Jung realized it was wrong and broke off their relationship pretty quickly.
    I thought the movie was more interesting around the relationship between Freud and Jung. Except Croneneberg and Kerr do not understand what Jung’s sensitivity around the archetypal world was about at all. Jung did not have a “nervous breakdown”. Andrew Samuels comments that the bookcase cracking scene should have been more dramatic because by all accounts it made both Jung and Freud jump. That scene made Jung look silly.
    Watch the documentary and then think about this Hollywood version.
    I can see from the book why Kerr was rejected to train as a Jungian analyst. He has no understanding of the symbolic or archetypal.

    • LenCruz
      February 3, 2012 | 10:40 pm

      Thanks Erica
      I share the same impressions you did about those scenes. I would add that a film maker, like anyone who creates a work for others to encounter, will put their own stamp upon the work. Upon reflection, you have made a keen observation about Cronenberg’s body of work that makes me want to go back and watch several of his films again with the idea of his fascination with sex in mind.

  12. Daniel Ross
    February 3, 2012 | 6:07 pm

    Thanks Erica,

    I did not realize Kerr was rejected for analyst training. Perhaps he is a better historian anyway. I am glad you referenced Andrew Samuels. I am including here the URL for his article on the film for those who qare interested. I agree with Samuels that there is little in the film that represents what Jung actually said or stood for. It was a portrayal of a much more passive man than most believe he was and though the origins of his thinking in relation to Spielrein and Freud are interesting speculate, there is no denying his inlfuence on psychology specifically and human thought in general. I appreciate that Samuels gave a summary of those influences. Take a look…


  13. David Thompson
    February 3, 2012 | 8:38 pm

    Erica Lorentz,

    I don’t quite understand your animus (no Jungian pun intended) against John Kerr and his book, “A Most Dangerous Method”. The majority of people who have posted comments on Daniel Ross’ blog site seem to agree that Kerr’s book, after Aldo Carotenuto’s “A Secret Symmetry”, is a well researched and written addition to the story of Sabina Speilrein/Carl Jung/Sigmund Freud and the early years of psychoanalysis. And Kerr had access to Jung’s letters to Sabina, which Carotenuto did not, at least for the English edition (they were included in the German edition). So I wish you would enlighten me as to why you are so critical of “A Most Dangerous Method” (AMDM).

    FYI, John Kerr had no involvement in the making of the film, “A Dangerous Method” (ADM). Let me recount the history of this project, based on interviews Christopher Hampton and David Cronenberg gave last fall, around the time ADM opened in limited release, on November 25th…and my own research.

    Christopher Hampton originally wrote the story as a screenplay, in the mid-1990’s. With Julia Roberts “attached” to the project to play Sabina Spielrein. Now, because Hampton’s screenplay was based on John Kerr’s book, AMDM had to be “optioned”, that is, the film rights to the book need to be purchased, at least for a certain period of time. Writers usually do not have the money to pay for an option themselves, and stars such as Julia Roberts usually do not want to spend their own money on an option when they can get a producer, production company or studio to put up the money to purchase the option and pay the writer to write the script. In this case that studio was 20th Century Fox. But the project was never “green lighted”, that is, never went into production. What happened? Perhaps Julia Roberts lost interest, or signed to do another film, or Roberts or Fox passed on the screenplay. Then the script goes into “turnaround”, which means that the writer is free to try and sell another option on the screenplay, with the condition that 20th Century Fox be “compensated” when the project eventually goes into production.

    So Christopher Hampton approached Fox (who owned the rights to the screenplay until it could be sold again) about getting their permission to adapt his screenplay into a stageplay. As Hampton said in an interview, Fox did not see a stageplay as a moneymaking project for them so they signed off on his request. Thus “The Talking Cure” was written (which may have also been the title of Hampton’s original screenplay). “The Talking Cure” (TTC) premiered at the National Theatre, London, in 2003, and subsequently in NYC and LA (where I saw the play). Then, some time later, Hampton was approached by producer Jeremy Thomas and director David Cronenberg about adapting TTC into a screenplay. How much of the final script is based on his original script, as well as the stageplay? One would need a copy of Hampton’s first screenplay, the ADM screenplay and a copy of TTC to compare in order to make that determination.

    Many of the comments posted on Daniel Ross’ ADM blog agree with you about the portrayals of Sabina Spielrein and Emma Jung, as well as your opinion of the S&M/B&D scenes (as do mine). But it’s somewhat inaccurate to say that ADM is the “Hollywood version”. While the film is being released by Sony Pictures Classics, ADM’s financing is European and Canadian. The financing for the film came from:

    Lago Film; Prospero Pictures; Recorded Picture Company; Millbrook Pictures; Telefilm Canada; Ontario Media Development Corporation; Corus Entertainment; Deutscher Filmförderfonds; Filmförderungsanstalt; Flimstiftung NRW; Filmförderung Baden-Württemberg; Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg, and Elbe Film. That’s how financing gets put together for a independent film being shot mostly in Europe, with pre-sales to European distributors and TV networks. Along with, in this case, Canadian financing. A long way from Hollywood…except, according to Hampton, 20th Century Fox had to be bought out of the project before production could go forward.

    I take issue with your criticism that “…Cronenberg and Kerr do not understand what Jung’s sensitivity around the archetypal world was about at all.” At the time of the story, Jung was only dimly aware of the reality of the archetypes and the collective unconscious…if at all. He had some hints, from his and Johann Honegger’s study of the so-called Solar Phallus Man, incarcerated at the Burghölzli, and his “House With Two Skulls” dream, but, by and large, Jung was…well…unconscious of the archetypes and the collective unconscious at this time in his life. If he had been more conscious and sensitive of the dynamics of the archetypes in his personal life, especially the anima, I think he would have handled his relationship with Sabina Spielrein somewhat better than he did.

    I was not aware either that John Kerr had been rejected for a Jungian analyst training program. How did you come by this information? Which training program? Where? I had been told that Richard Noll had been rejected for one of the analyst training programs in London (three now! count ‘em, three!), and his subsequent animus towards Jung and the Jungians led him to write his two very-critical-of-Jung polemics/screeds, “The Jung Cult’ (1994), and “The Aryan Christ” (1997).

    Wait! I’m having a vision! The boxing ring! The “squared circle”! Richard Noll vs Sonu Shamdasani…”Shadow” boxing…eight rounds, multiple of the quarternity…

    Seriously folks…

    The reason I ask about the source of your comment about John Kerr and his rejection by an analyst training program, is that he impresses me as being more of a historian of Freud, Freudian psychology and psychoanalysis, than Jung, Jungian psychology and Jungian analysis. More in the Freud camp than the Jung camp, so to speak. After all, he is the co-editor of “Freud and the History of Psychoanalysis”.

    David Thompson

    PS: I wholeheartedly agree with Andrew Samuels about the bookcase scene in “A Dangerous Method”, as I wrote in my posting of January 14th, on Daniel Ross’ ADM blog.

    • erica lorentz
      February 7, 2012 | 8:41 pm

      Dear David,
      I appreciated your laying out how the film was made. I don’t appreciate you referring to my animus.
      If you read the book, it’s full of many accurate details. Many people have taken these facts and interpreted them in their own way. Even the documentary has its own view. When I read Kerr’s analyzing of Jung’s behavior, he does not understand Jung’s gift and sensitivity to the archetypal dimension. This began when he was a child. He talks about it in his speeches in college. In the introduction he says (I’m not quoting) that psychoanalysis turned away from a verifiable scientific method to art- something like that.
      Facts are one thing but there is no such thing (as Jung points out) as an objective point of view. We can only have our subjective viewpoint. Hi whole method was based on that.

      • erica lorentz
        February 7, 2012 | 8:43 pm

        Just wanted to be clear. In Kerr’s book he talks about the scientific verses the artistic method.

  14. David Thompson
    February 3, 2012 | 10:19 pm

    Mea Culpa: I wrote the PS to my posting above, based on what Erica Lorentz wrote in her posting. Then I clicked on the link to Andrew Samuels’ comments on “A Dangerous Method”, posted above by Daniel Ross. I read his comments once. Twice. Three times. And I could find no reference whatsoever to the bookcase scene in ADM.

    Did I miss something?

  15. David Thompson
    February 4, 2012 | 2:33 am


    Nice to know you’re still among the living. I thought you were going to re-post your replies to my posts on Daniel Ross’ blog site, after I re-posted them onto your blog site, as you requested. What happened?


    PS: When you go back and watch several of David Cronenberg’s films with the idea of his fascination with sex in mind, be sure to watch Cronenberg’s film about those two really kinky misogynist gynecologist brothers, both played by Jeremy Irons. They were seriously into Demerol, morphine and Dilaudid, as well as female sexual anatomy…

  16. David Thompson
    February 5, 2012 | 1:22 am


    Just read your posting on the death of James Hillman. As someone who had many educational and soul nourishing experiences of James Hillman over a 30-year period (mostly in LA, San Francisco, and at Pacifica Graduate Institute) I concur with your thoughts and feelings about this extraordinary individual and archetypal psychology pioneer.

    I don’t know if you ever attended one of the men’s events led by James Hillman, Robert Bly and Michael Meade…but Hillman would often recite what he always said was one of his favorite poems. So here it is:

    The feelings I don’t have, I don’t have
    The feelings I don’t have, I won’t say I have.
    The feelings you say you have, you don’t have.
    The feelings you would like both of us to have, we neither of
    us have.

    The feelings people ought to have, they never have.
    If people say they’ve got feelings, you may be pretty sure
    they haven’t got them.

    So if you want either of us to feel anything at all
    you’d better abandon all idea of feelings altogether.

    To Women, As Far As I’m Concerned
    D. H. Lawrence

    PS: Not sure if this has anything to do with the feminine in “A Dangerous Method”, but I thought I’d post here anyway. Maybe it’s the wine…

  17. David Thompson
    February 7, 2012 | 9:25 pm


    I used the word “animus” in terms of its definition long before Jung ever chose the word animus for the contra-sexual archetype in a women’s psyche. And that definition is…a feeling of hostility, of animosity, of enmity…a grudge.

    Jung defined animus as meaning “spirit” or “mind”. Animus is Latin for mind, but the word is also defined, as well as the above definitions, as “animating or actuating spirit”. The Latin for spirit is ‘”spiritus”, from “spirare”, meaning to breathe, to blow, as in the Greek “pneumatos”, wind, air. From which also comes “pneuma”, also meaning wind, air, and…spirit as well.

    So, in using the word “animus”, I was trying to reference, with a dash of humor, what I perceived as your hostility towards John Kerr’s book “A Most Dangerous Method”…not the contrasexual archetype in your psyche.

    Doesn’t sound like I should pursue a career as a stand up comedian…


  18. Brian Skea
    February 10, 2012 | 9:33 pm

    The movie, ADM, is more Freudian than Jungian in spirit, following Kerr’s book. He as a historian, focusses more on the history of Freudian psychoanalysis, than an explication of Jung’s interest in deeper layers of the psyche, the personal versus the collective unconscious. I did not know Kerr had applied to be a Jungian analyst. I wonder, Erica, if you are confusing him with his colleague, Richard Noll. From both Jung’s family background on his mother’s side, and his own disturbed childhood, there is clear evidence in MDR of an interest in a deep mythological layer to psychic experience, see his mother’s persoanity 2, or Jung’s, or his archetypal childhood dreams (eg the underground plallus) in addition to more Freudian ones (eg God shitting on the cathedral). He and his mother attended seances, involving his cousin Helene, who had all kinds of ‘memories’ from ancestors, which Jung recorded in his thesis (1901). Some of her ideas were possibly suggested by Jung who gave the teenage girl books on clairvoyance to read. Working with schizophrenics at the Burgholzli he was exposed to all kinds of regressive fantasy, very differennt from the neurotic conflicts Freud mainly treated. When Sabina worked with Frau M for her thesis (not dealt with in the movie) she found all kinds of fantasy from what would be seen as the collective unconscious level, and Sabina herself named it. Jung was working on the same area in his analysis of Miss Miller’s poems and fantasies (to become Symbols of Transformation), but even before that he spoke of archaic levels of the psyche in his “Significance of the Father in the Destiny of the Individual.” His other assistant, Honneger was working at the same time with the Solar Phallus man , which is seen now as controversial, as it is not clear if the man had perhaps remembered the image from a book (cryptomnesia) rather than it being a spontaneous image from the col.unc. Likewise Frau M’s images might have come from her previous reading. Many psychoanalysts were dabbling in mythology at this time, Rank, Abraham etc. Even Freud, studying Dr Schreber’s bizarre and schizophrenic writings, was at least a little open to mythological interpretations in addition to his more typical reductive analysis. The final area of interest at that time came from looking at childhood fantasy. Jung and Sabina both remembered all kinds of primitive fantasy as children (see MDR, and her Contributions to the Child Psyche) while Jung wrote on his own daughter’s fantasies in “Psychic Conflicts in a Child”. Freud’s Little Hans had fantasies which Freud felt more related to Oedipal conflict(personal unc level). The capacity to regress to archaic levels of the unc varies from person to person, depending on ego strength (capacity to return to an ego level, versus getting stuck in psychosis), capacity to repress impulses (Freud) versus more primitive splitting/dissociation mechanisms (Jung, Sabina). While the latter tendency may give rise to more severe pathology, Jungians tend to focus on its capacity to lead to creative transformations in art, poetry, music, inventions etc. This may have happened for Jung (The Red Book), Sabina, but not apparently to her patient Frau M (see my JAP article, 2006).

    Brian Skea

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    February 29, 2012 | 11:06 am

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