Toni Wolff: Women around Carl Jung

In an earlier post, some material about Toni Wolff was provided. (Additional historical material can be found at the end of this post.). In a comment to that post, Jungian analyst John Allan wrote:

I’ve read through the Red Book and am left with the feeling that Sonu does not honor the role that Toni Wolff played in it. In my conversations with Franz Jung in July 1983 in Kusnacht, he told me that Toni ‘more or less’ saved his father’s life and sanity. She was his lover and ‘therapist’-he took his dreams(ie written into his ‘black books’) to her,she did active imaginations with them(him) and then he later polished them and wrote and drew them into the Red Book. This was the period 1913-1919. She was his constant companion-not only the Wed lunches and evenings at her apartment,at his house but also at Bollingen and travels to Ravenna in 1914(immediately after the birth of Helene) and again in 1933.I am concerned that Toni is not given sufficient credit for her ‘major’ role in this amazing testament(Red Book) to the Soul.

It appears to me that it is not just Sonu Shamdasai who had difficulty acknowledging the pivotal role Toni Wolff played in Jung’s life, but a problem throughout much of Jungian history. There was initially a chapter about her in Memories, Dreams and Reflections; it was deleted, and as far as I know has not surfaced any where else. (The 50th anniversary of Jung’s death is coming up next summer, and more of his papers will be released — perhaps this will be part of it.).

Similar to my initial judgment about his affair with Sabina Spielrein, when I was a younger man, I thought less of Jung and his theories because of this unorthodox relationship. This is a bit like judging Einstein’s theories negatively because he gambled in Vegas, or Kennedy’s presidency negatively because he had a proclivity for numerous women outside his marital relationship.

(Of course, many people — mostly Americans — judged Clinton as a bad President because of a sexual relationship outside of his marriage. Didn’t the U.S. have an economic surplus during his Presidencies? I wonder which was more important?)

An anecdote about Lincoln captures this principle:

When Lincoln appointed Ulysses Grant as General of the Army in March of 1864, the selection bypassed over 200 senior generals. For the North, the Civil War was not going as well as Lincoln thought it should – Grant was winning battles, the other generals were not.

When one of the President’s aides pointed out that he had picked a man who was well known for his alcohol consumption, the President said “Find out what brand he drinks and send a barrel to all our other generals.”

Thomas Kirsch
International Dictionary of Psycholanls

Swiss analyst Antonia (“Toni”) Anna Wolff was born on September 18, 1888, in Zürich, where she died on March 21, 1953. Wolff was the oldest of three daughters born to Konrad Arnold Wolff and Anna Elisebetha Sutz. The Wolff family had resided in Zürich since the 1300s and was one of its most distinguished names. The family had been members of the Swiss Reform Church for many centuries. Konrad had been a merchant and a businessman in Japan prior to his marriage. Although the marriage was arranged, it has been described as a happy one. Wolff was her father’s favorite. When he died in 1910, her mother sent her to Jung for treatment of what today would be diagnosed as depression. Jung immediately sensed her aptitude for analysis, because in 1911 he invited her, along with his wife and several other women that showed promise, to the Weimar Psychoanalytic Congress.

When Jung began his nekyia into the unconscious, Wolff was the one he turned to. He shared his dreams and active imaginations with her, which he recorded in his Red Book. She became his soul mate for psychological matters in a way that Emma could not provide. She maintained this function for most of the rest of his life. Jung described her as his “second wife.” Jung’s relationship to Wolff was completely public, and all immediate members of the Jung family, including Emma, were aware of the situation. Emma and Wolff often sat on either side of Jung when he gave a seminar, and Toni frequently traveled with Jung on his lecture tours. This arrangement did not sit well with the children and grandchildren, but it was completely accepted by Jung’s analysands. It has been said that Jung, as he got older, turned to her less frequently.

She became a founding member of the Analytical Psychology Club in 1916 and was its president from 1928 to 1945. It was under her presidency that the tenper-cent quota on Jews was passed. From 1948 to 1952 she was honorary president of the club. The club, the only Jungian organization at the time, was her domain.

From the 1920s on she worked as a professional assistant to Jung. Most people who entered analysis with Jung also saw her. She was considered to be more practical and worked in the personal aspects with the analysand, whereas Jung dealt mainly with the archetypal issues. She favored the term Complex Psychology over any other name for Jung’s psychology, and when the Jung Institute was founded she wanted to name it the “Institute for Complex Psychology”. Her major paper was, “Structural Forms of the Feminine Psyche,” published in German in 1951 and translated into English by Paul Watziliwak. As of 2005 her other papers were being prepared for publication in English by Robert Hinshaw.

On a personal level she was always described as elegant, and dramatic in her dress; a chain smoker who liked her cocktails, but was never drunk. She never married, as Jung was the man in her life. There were rumors of other flirtations, but nothing has been verified. She suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis, which hampered her mobility toward the end of her life. She worked until the day she died. Gerhard Adler described having an excellent analytic hour with her the day before she suffered her fatal heart attack on March 21, 1953. (Source)

Additional Links

The Jungians; Thomas Kirsch

One Response to Toni Wolff: Women around Carl Jung

  1. “A point of support” Carl Jung’s letter to Freud decribing Tone Wolff, a former patient, lyric poet and later analyst: “A new discovery…a remarkable intellect with an excellent feeling for philosophy and religion.” ~Freud/Jung Letters p. 4 40

    “I shall always be grateful to Toni for doing for my husband what I or anyone else could not have done at a most critical time.” Laurens Van Der Post Jung: The Story of our Time; Page 177.]

    “Either she did ot love me and was indifferent cocerning my fate, or she loved me – as she certainly did – and then it was nothing short of heroism. Such things stand forever, and I shall be grateful to her for all eternity. ~Carl Jung speaking of Toni Wolff [Jung: His Life and Work by Barbara Hannah; Page 120.]

    “You see, he never took anything from me to give to Toni, but the more he gave her the more he seemed able to give me. ~Emma Jung [Jung: His Life and Work by Barbara Hannah, Page 119.]

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