Freud, Jung, and Spiritual Psychology

Freud, Jung, and Spiritual Psychology

By Rudolf Steiner. Intro. Robert Sardello
Great Barrington, MA: Anthroposophical Press, 2001. Paperback. 141 pages.

In five lectures, delivered between 1912 and 1921, Steiner takes on the founding fathers of psychoanalysis, first through a reworking of some of their famous case studies and second through a remodeling of this material in terms d his own spiritual psychology. He critiques Freud for his focus on the sexual etiology of psychic illness and critiques both Freud and Jung for stressing the hothouse experience of "transference" as the touchstone of the analytic process. The problem with transference, with its intense activation of childhood Oedipal material that gets projected onto the analyst, is that it allows the analyst to enter psychically into and thus alter the karma of the analysand. Transference is thus an alien power.

Steiner proposes instead a procedure that allows us to distinguish between unconscious (pathological) projections and genuine clairvoyant visions by using the individual will to see if the particular vision or symptom can be dissolved by a concerted mental action. If it cannot be expunged, then it is not a symptom or projection, but objective and a product of higher dimensions of reality than those admitted by psychoanalysis.

Steiner's anthroposophic framework reverses the psychoanalytic understanding of the causal relation of external wound to internal symptom by arguing that we are self-causal before an external symptom is manifest. Only clairvoyant consciousness, not free association combined with libidinal cathexis, can open out the driving forces of the unconscious and liberate them for growth. To accomplish this opening and liberation, we are asked to envision an internal "artificial human being" who stands for the deeper causality behind our triumphs and failures. Once we see that this higher being has actually directed our lives, we can grasp the roles of karma and self-causality, which this artificial human being represents, in making us well and ill. That is, things do not just happen to us; we have directed (caused) them.

Steiner gives a fairly good account of the post-life realms of kamaloka and devachan. The former realm is the first that the soul encounters after the loss of the physical shell and is actually an externalization of our unprocessed internal projections, which are seen in kamaloka (the desire realm) as having objective reality. The subsequent realm of heaven (devachan) allows us to shed our projections and become immersed in the deeper reality beyond projection. In our clairvoyant consciousness, we can allow aspects of these realms into our psyche in the physical realm and thereby gain a more objective understanding of our current, past, and even future lives.

In a deeper and more genuine dialogue between spiritual psychology and psychoanalysis, we must go far beyond Steiner's caricatures of the founders and find room for phenomena he seems to he afraid of, namely, denial, negative transference (like his toward Leadbeater and Krishnamurti}, sexual stasis, and even esoteric projection. His lectures represent a one-sided approach that refuses to engage in the often distasteful work of probing into the shadow and the other non-self-caused aspects of the almost infinite unconscious. In this book, Steiner is as much a polemicist as a genuine explorer. I wish he had been fairer to his honored interlocutors, yet this is a beginning, and one that should be acknowledged for what it has accomplished.


January/February 2002