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In-depth analysis or Secret Committee

In the second volume of his monumental biography Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1955), Ernest Jones describes the creation of the Secret Committee in the summer of 1912, when Jung’s dissidence, added to Freud’s conflicts with Stekel and Adler, became a threat to the future of the psychoanalytic movement and of the IPA, presided over by Jung. Ernest Jones writes:

In July 1912 [... ] I was in Vienna and had a talk with Ferenczi about the situation. He remarked, truly enough, that the ideal plan would be for a number of men who had been analyzed by Freud personally to be stationed in different centers or countries.

Early in the 1910s, Ferenczi not only sent Elma, and even wanted to send Jung, to be analysed by Freud; before making the request on his own behalf, he had recommended personal analysis with Freud for all analysts. Anyone wanting to acquire knowledge or solid faith in the power of the unconscious has to go beyond the rigorous self-analysis advocated by Freud; he must, in Ferenczi’s opinion, undergo “thorough, in-depth” analysis with “full opening of the personality,” on Freud’s couch.

In the summer of 1912, Jones is the first to inform Freud of his conversation with Ferenczi and later with Rank. On July 30, 1912, Jones’s description of what took place is ambiguous:

Ferenczi, Rank and I had a little talk on these general matters in Vienna. They were rather disappointed with the whole Zurich attitude at the moment, and even thought that their faith in the cause was not what it should be. We all agreed on one thing, that salvation could only lie in a restless self-analysis, earned to the farthest possible limit, thus purging personal reactions away so far as can be done.

Based on this account, the notion of a secret committee is still very tentative, since the proposed deepening of analysis refers to self-analysis, not to veritable personal analysis. But in the next sentence Jones conveys accurately the very different proposition made by Ferenczi:

One of them, I think it was Ferenczi, expressed the wish that a small group of men could be thoroughly analysed by you, so that they could represent the pure theory unadulterated by personal complexes, and thus build an unofficial inner circle in the Verein and serve as centres where others (beginners) could come and learn the work. If that were only possible it would be an ideal solution.

Ferenczi proposes replacing self-analysis practised between well-meaning colleagues well-versed in Freudian doctrine with analysis on Freud’s couch. Properly analysed, these analysts would be able to transmit “the pure theory,” the very spirit of analysis. Although Ferenczi had not yet attempted to define the basic principles and aims of this analysis, was he going to designate as pure analysis this in-depth analysis he intended to generalise?

Given Jones’ ambiguous formulation, in his August 1, 1912, reply Freud was able to ignore the originality and radical nature of Ferenczi’s proposal, and orient the discussion in another direction: “What took hold of my imagination immediately is your idea of a secret council [...]” But Jones’s letter had, in fact, made no mention of a “secret” council. This term Freud thinks he saw in Jones’s letter is one he himself introduces a little father: “First of all: this committee would have to be strictly secret in its existence and actions.”

Tirus, it was Freud - and Jones - more than Ferenczi, who conceived of this “secret council” against the harm expected from the powerful position held by Jung, now openly a dissident, and President of the IPA. Pursuing his own thought, Freud deepens his misunderstanding of Ferenczi’s idea:

What took hold of my imagination immediately is your idea of a secret council composed of the best and most trustworthy among our men to take care of the future development of psycho-analysis and defend the cause against personalities and accidents when I am no more.

Here, Freud is clearly referring to the recruitment of the best analysts, that is, the small number of members who showed intelligence and creativity in defending the cause. But Ferenczi was proposing another mode of recruitment, different from one based on merit: recruitment based on the personal experience of a demanding personal analysis.

Neither Freud nor Jones took notice of this new ambiguity which led to another misunderstanding:

You say it was Ferenczi who expressed this idea, but it may be my own, shaped in better times, when I hoped Jung would collect such a circle around himself composed of the official headmen of the local associations. Now I am sony to say such a union had to be formed independently of Jung and of the elected presidents.

Clearly, Freud is confusing the idea of a secret committee with the previous proposal of creating an international association. Indeed, he was the one who asked Ferenczi in 1910 to think about the possibility of gathering together into an international association all those who practised psychoanalysis scientifically, and presenting the association at the Nuremberg Congress in March 1910. But in the summer of 1912, Freud is mistaken: Ferenczi is not proposing a new collective body - not even a secret one - but, on the contrary, is introducing the idea of a group of analysts composed of individuals who have engaged in more extensive personal analysis than the others. Their own experience of the unconscious should have freed them from the worship of a father - imaginary - invested with “overwhelming authority” whose “pronouncements would be blindly followed.”

This persistent misunderstanding led Freud to adopt Jones’s point of view rather than Ferenczi’s, which was dismissed out of hand:

This committee would have to be strictly secret in its existence and actions [...] I had better be left outside of your conditions and pledges; to be sure I will keep the utmost secrecy and be thankful for all you communicate to me. I will not drop any utterance about the matter before you have answered me, not even to Ferenczi.

In a letter Jones sent to Freud on August 7, 1912, the misunderstanding reaches its height. Jones refers to Ferenczi’s proposal once again, without noticing the extent to which it is the exact opposite of an inner circle surrounding the father of psychoanalysis:

In our conversation the only subject discussed, raised I think by Ferenczi, was the possibility of a few men being analysed by you, so that they could serve as representatives in different places to teach other beginners. The idea of a united small body, designed like the Paladins of Charlemagne, to guard the kingdom and policy of their master, was a product of my own romanticism [...]

What secret reservations prompted Jones to compare a small group of analysts charged with transmitting the spirit of psychoanalysis, based on their own experience of personal analysis, with a small battalion of men ready to defend the doctrine of the master - a master Freud, in truth, does not wish to be? He would soon state explicitly that what he wanted was the status of chief of staff of a small battalion, and to enjoy an enlightened authority like that of a professor of medicine in charge of a respected clinic.

Was it in order to dispel these reservations shared by Freud and Jones that Ferenczi seized the opportunity offered by the Jung episode at the end of 1912 to voice his own request for personal analysis? Perhaps. But Freud remained reluctant throughout the next year. Moreover, Ferenczi had to deal with his own unconscious resistance to his desire for analysis. But in the summer of 1913, he found an occasion to reiterate his faith in psychoanalysis and in the profound benefits of personal analysis. Thus, the ground was laid for the first segment of his personal analysis to be conducted a year later.

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