Jung’s reception in Death and Dying Studies in the USA
Dr Jelena Martinovic (Institut Universitaire d’Histoire de la Médecine et de la Santé Publique, Lausanne / UCL)
Jung’s work has had a noticeable impact on conceptions about death and the experience of dying, as well as on therapeutic methods that deal with anxiety, depression and terminal illnesses. This talk examines the reception of Jung’s work in the United States between 1960-80, looking at ways in which Jung’s concepts were applied by practitioners who worked in fields related to death and dying studies (thanatology, palliative care, suicide and near-death studies). It starts with a discussion on Jung’s ‘Americanisation’ in the 1950s and the reception of his commentaries on death, in particular on The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Four examples of the reception of Jung’s work are presented and discussed: 1) a psychiatric interpretation of Jung’s account of his near-death experience and its comparison with William James’ mystical states of consciousness; 2) psychedelic therapies conducted with LSD, in which ‘symbolic dying processes’ are provoked; 3) suicide studies done on suicide survivors; 4) parapsychological investigation of near-death experience. The clinical examples show that Jung’s work was pivotal, allowing psychologists to link it to concepts and approaches to terminal illness and positive or transpersonal psychology. Thus, within the period under consideration, Jung’s reception has to be read and understood in relation to the more general reception of James’ work, in particular his psychology of religion.
Burgh House & Hampstead Museum
New End Square