contribution did Dr. Carl Jung make to A.A.?
people know that the first taproot of A.A. hit paydirt
some thirty years ago in a physicians office. Dr. Carl
Jung, that great pioneer in psychiatry was talking to
an alcoholic patient. This is in effect what happened:
The patient, a prominent American businessman, had gone
the typical alcoholic route. He had exhausted the possibilities
of medicine and psychiatry in the United States and
had then come to Dr. Jung as to a court of last resort.
Carl Jung had treated him for a year and the patient,
whom we shall call Mr. R., felt confident that the hidden
springs underneath his compulsion to drink had been
discovered and removed. Nevertheless, he found himself
intoxicated within a short time after leaving Dr. Jung's
Now he was back, in a state of black despair. He asked
Dr. Jung what the score was, and he got it. In substance,
Dr. Jung said, "For some time after you came here, I
continued to believe that you might be one of those
rare cases who could make a recovery. But I must now
frankly admit that I have never seen a single case recover
through the psychiatric art where the neurosis is so
severe as yours. Medicine has done all that it can for
you, and that's where you stand."
Mr. R's depression deepened. He asked, "Is there no
exception, is this really the end of the line for me?"
replied the doctor, "There are some exceptions, a very
few. Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have
had what are called vital spiritual experiences. They
appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements
and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions and attitudes which
were once the guiding forces of these men are suddenly
cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions
and motives begin to dominate them. In fact, I have
been trying to produce some emotional rearrangement
within you. With many types of neurotics, the methods
which I employ are successful, but I have never been
successful with an alcoholic of your description."
protested the patient, "I'm a religious man, and I still
To this Dr. Jung replied, "Ordinary religious faith
isn't enough. What I'm talking about is a transforming
experience, a conversion experience, if you like. I
can only recommend that you place yourself in the religious
atmosphere of your own choice, that you recognize your
own hopelessness, and that you cast yourself upon whatever
God you think there is. The lightning of the transforming
experience may then strike you. This you must try -
it is your only way out." So spoke the great and humble
For the A.A.-to-be, this was a ten strike. Science had
pronounced Mr. R. virtually hopeless. Dr. Jung's words
had struck him at great depth, producing an immense
deflation of his ego. Deflation at depth is today a
cornerstone principle of A.A. There in Dr. Jung's office
it was first employed on our behalf.
The patient, Mr. R., chose the Oxford Groups of that
day as his religious association and atmosphere. Terribly
chastened and almost helpless, he began to be active
with them. To his intense joy and astonishment, the
obsession to drink presently left him.
Returning to America, Mr. R. came upon an old school
friend of mine, a chronic alcoholic. This friend - whom
we shall call Ebby - was about to be committed to a
State Hospital. At this juncture another vital ingredient
was added to the synthesis. Mr. R., the alcoholic, began
talking to Ebby, also an alcoholic and a kindred sufferer.
This made for identification at depth, a second cardinal
principle. Over this bridge of identification, Mr. R.
passed Dr. Jung's verdict of how hopeless, medically
and psychiatrically, most alcoholics were. He then introduced
Ebby to the Oxford Groups where my friend promptly sobered
up. (N.Y. City Med. Soc. Alcsm., April 28, 1958)